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The Award-winning Birmingham Comedy Festival returns with a free online programme. Including newly commissioned works, discussions, streamed shows and more.

While many other arts festivals have been decimated by the current pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Birmingham Comedy Festival is proud to announce it’s alive and kicking with a series of unique interventions and excursions – taking place (mostly) online between Friday 2 and Sunday 11 October 2020.

These include a series of especially commissioned radio shows, podcasts, live streams, and more.

Fresh from releasing his acclaimed sixth album, Dreamland Tomorrow, Black Country musician Dan Whitehouse creates his first film soundtrack by providing a new and very contemporary sounding score for Charlie Chaplin‘s silent 1916 masterpiece, The Vagabond (from Oct 5). Combining comedy with pathos, the ‘silent’ film marked a turning point in Chaplin’s career.

Dan Whitehouse, credit Pete Millson

Accompanying the commission, the festival also looks at the theory that Chaplin was born in a Smethwick park – an idea popularised by TV’s Peaky Blinders (from Oct 3).

Objectivity finds broadcaster James Sandy asking BBCWM Breakfast host Daz Hale, as well as comedian’s Josh Pugh and Maureen Younger, to select various highly personal objects for an intriguing new series which airs on Switch Radio (Oct 4, 6 & 11).

Maureen Younger

Prior to the much anticipated release of King Rocker, comedian Stewart Lee’s film documentary about Brum’s cult post-punk misfits The Nightingales, frontman and founder Robert Lloyd discusses how the film came about, the band’s longevity, and new album, Four Against Fate – which is proving to be the most popular release of their 40 year career! (from Oct 10).

The Birmingham Comedy Festival Sketch Show features contributions from some of the West Mids’ best comics, including Craig Deeley, Josh Pugh, Linda Hargreaves and Harvey Hawkins, as well as improv’ troupe Jumprov. The first online episode officially kicks off the festival on Friday 2 October.

Josh Pugh

Meanwhile, Mrs Barbara Nice returns with a new episode of her iTunes-charting podcast, James Cook challenges comedians Laura Lexx and Carl Donnelly for the live streaming Board Game Smackdown, Maureen Younger hosts a MY Comedy Chats special, featuring Brum-based acts, and Mary Flanigan and Richard Dadd host a ‘spooktacular’ interactive comedy adventure via Twitch.

Alongside the online activities, the festival is also launching its own line of T-shirts and merchandise, with several designs inspired by the city. Proceeds go to supporting the festival, which is volunteer led.

Shyrell Torks aka Linda Hargreaves (The BCF Sketch Show)

A spokesperson for the festival said: “We began the year on such a high, with so many shows booked for what was set to be one of our biggest ever festivals. We also won two What’s On Readers’ Awards – for Best Midlands Arts Festival and Best Birmingham Arts Festival – for the second consecutive year, which was so amazing and very humbling. But sadly, the pandemic then hits, and participating venues, clubs and acts are deeply and adversely affected.

“Facing such a punch, it’d be easy for us to just take a break. But we didn’t want to let the year simply vanish. So we’ve commissioned, created and programmed a series of free events and activities, available to stream online over the festival’s 10-day period (Oct 2-11, 2020), that we hope will amuse, entertain, and also surprise.

“We’d like to thank everyone who helped make this revised festival happen, as well as those who worked so hard in programming our ‘lost’ festival pre-pandemic. We’ll be back in 2021 for what we hope will be a very special fest’, as next year marks our 20th anniversary!”

For full day-to-day listings, including details of how to catch-up on key streamed activities, see: bhamcomfest.co.uk

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