Comedy war ought to be a real laugh

Anne Gould Fans of stand-up comedy are in for a treat this summer as two rival festivals in Norwich compete for their attention.

Anne Gould

Fans of stand-up comedy are in for a treat this summer as two rival festivals in Norwich compete for their attention.

The Unthank Arms, in Newmarket Street, will be hosting three nights of comedy this July at The 3rd Unthank Comedy Festival. Big names including Paul Tonkinson, Roger Monkhouse, Ben Norris and Jeff Innocent are among the acts lined up for the festival, held in association with The Comedy Store and staged in a marquee in the pub's beer garden.

And in August, rival promoter The Red Card Comedy Club, which has been running a successful comedy night in the city for seven years, will stage its own festival over five nights in Chapelfield Gardens in a joint promotion with Southwold-based brewer Adnams. The bill for its event - The 3rd Annual Norwich Comedy Festival - includes Robin Ince, Sean Meo, Mickey Hutton, Bob Mills and Sully O'Sullivan, as well as Red Card regular John Mann, who are all scheduled to appear in a 400-seater big top.

Red Card, which hosts monthly club nights at Norwich City FC'S Norfolk Lounge, was behind the Unthank Arms festival over the last two years, but is now going it alone. Its event will feature a bar selling the full range of Adnams beers, a Loch Fyne oyster bar, a gourmet burger stand run by city deli Logans and ice creams from local firm Ron-aldo.

Derek Robertson, of Red Card, said: “It's going to be bigger and better than ever.

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“We established stand-up comedy in Norwich and The Comedy Store followed us. Now we're moving on and they have taken our place. You can't get any higher accolade than The Comedy Store so it shows we're doing something right.

“We wanted to make it more accessible for everybody and not be restricted by numbers. Fingers crossed, the weather will be fine and we should have a fantastic summer festival - one that Norwich can be proud of.”

The Unthank's festival is offering pre-show suppers, a barbecue and an outside bar.

Landlord Nick De'Ath said: “I'm delighted that we've been able to collaborate with the UK's best known comedy booking agency and have their backing and support and I look forward to another excellent festival. Last year left us with aching sides and the determination to make it an annual event. Our place in the heart of the local community means that we can make comedy accessible to everyone.”

Commenting on reports that the pub trade was in decline, he added: “It gets harder every year to keep giving customers a reason to go out, but there are plenty of pubs offering something extra and they will continue to make themselves the first place people think of for a great night out.”

The 3rd Unthank Comedy Festival, Unthank Arms: Tuesday, July 22: Rob Rouse, Jeff Innocent, Paul Tonkinson; Wednesday, July 23: Roger Monkhouse, Zoe Lyons, Markus Birdman; Thursday, July 24: Ben Norris, Hal Cruttenden, Steve Williams. Tickets £12.50, available from the UEA Box Office on 01603 508050.

The 3rd Annual Norwich Comedy Festival, Chapelfield Gardens: Tuesday, August 5: John Mann, Robin Ince, Al Pitcher; Wednesday, August 6: Jarred Christmas, Alistair Barrie, Ron Vaudry, Sean Meo; Thursday, August 7: John Mann, Jeff Innocent, Stephen Carlin, Bob Mills; Friday, August 8: Mickey Hutton, Gordon Southern, Daniel Townes, Ross Bennett; Saturday, August 9: Sully O'Sullivan, Mitch Benn, Paul Sinha, Rainer Hersch. Tickets £12.50, available from 01502 727225.