As I walked into The Comedy Station Comedy Club in Blackpool, I was greeted with a slightly different sight to what I saw ten months ago.
Last time I was there I was gigging; there was a crowd of happy, if slightly tipsy people filling the rows of seats in front of the stage; the venue bar was alive with merry punters and busy bar staff. Whilst skulking in a dark corner, a gang of comedians were chatting, scribbling new jokes on the back of their hands and getting ready to entertain.
Ten months later, I was faced with an empty bar, an empty stage and seats stacked up in rows.
I love the Comedy Station. I am always happy when I see The Station written in my gig diary and not only because is it a purpose made comedy club in my hometown, (the only purpose-built comedy club in Lancashire!), but it is also run by some of the nicest people in comedy who are passionate about what they do.
As a comedian that gigs all over the country, (and sometimes in Europe if I’m lucky) I get to see many different ways to set up comedy nights…and it is fair to say that The Comedy Station does it very well indeed. Better than most, it’s fair to say. This, along with the fact that Jen & Ryan Gleeson – the owners – (Ryan is also the resident MC) are lovely folk and good friends.
So it was greatly concerning when I kept seeing how the pandemic was affecting the comedy industry; both comics and venues alike. The Comedy Station has been hit hard; being forced to close all the way through the busiest months of the year. Blackpool makes 70% of its income during the summer season and The Comedy Station is no different. This year was going to be The Comedy Stations busiest year to date. Since moving to this venue in March 2019, they have built up a local audience that regularly come to see the line up of great comics each week.
Ryan started his comedy night back in 2002 at the West Coast Rock Café and since has been to a number of venues until finally getting the chance to find its own home in the basement venue behind the Tower.
The Comedy Station is run by Jen Gleeson. That is one thing I do love about Blackpool; we have a number of businesses run by strong women that take no nonsense and Jen is definitely one of them. Juggling a full-time job with the NHS during the day, then managing a venue full of audience members and demanding comedians at night. Not an easy task.
The Comedy Station was fortunate enough to receive money from the Cultural Recovery Fund and they have been putting it to good use. Replacing old flooring, making the whole place accessible for wheelchair users adding a lift and disabled toilets. Ryan is classed as disabled and knows how important access is on a night out, and he wants disabled people to be able to enjoy the shows just as much as anyone else. They aim to be as inclusive as possible but have been prohibited previously due to the structure of the building; the recovery fund means that they have been able to make those much-needed changes. They will also add a PodCast Studio that will be open for hire later in the year.
However, this money does not make up for the lost income and momentum of the venue. Luckily, they have been able to furlough their staff for some of the lockdown, but the cancelled tour shows, disappointed audiences and lost income for the venue and the comedians will be felt for a while to come.
But it’s not all doom and gloom and there will be laughs again.
Later in the year we will be able to go to the ‘Funniest Night Out in Blackpool’, (ranked number one on trip advisor), once more. It might just look a little different. You will be seated with your ‘bubble’, plastic screen dividers will be between you and the other audience member. The venue will be running at just under 50% capacity. The bar will be open depending on what rules are in place next year. All social distancing regulations have been put in place and your comedy experience will not be hindered by the changes.
The comedy circuit is a very small and supportive industry and we need places like The Comedy Station Comedy Club to remain open. Stand Up comedy is an art form like all others, and is accessible to all ages and classes in life. Losing a venue like this would be a great blow to the culture, economy and heart of Blackpool so we need to support it all we can.
So in short, when things are allowed to open again… SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL VENUES!
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