South Holland Centre in Spalding hosts open mic night raising funds for charities Mencap and Blood Cancer UK
A charity open mic night held at the South Holland Centre in Spalding raised funds for two charities — and proved a platform for a host of performers.
The evening saw an audience of 140 entertained by a number of acts — some making debuts — plus Spaldingnurse-turned-comedian Zeph Churchill as MC and headliner Keith Farnan, a professional who stars on Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow.
It raised £190 in the bucket collection for Blood Cancer UK and Mencap, which are being supported by South Holland District Council’s chairman Andrew Woolf, with more raised from ticket sales.
The line-up was Jason Simmons, Craig Fowler, Jason Curries, Alan Simmons and Denny, Jenny Beake, Glenys Dawkins, Michael Hayward-Salvadori and Julia Burnett.
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Coun Woolf hailed the variety provided by the acts and said: “My very special thanks goes to Zeph for compering — obviously everybody was important but she was vitally important.
“I was thrilled how well it went. The timing worked out nicely at the end of January to get rid of those blues — and comedy is the best medicine.”
It included a ventriloquist, a Victoria Wood tribute, mind reading magician, and a musical comedian.
Michael Hayward-Salvad-ori made his debut. The South Holland District Council worker said: “It was an absolute rush and a real sense of achievement.
“The time on stage seemed to fly by and although you can never be sure how it went, the instant feedback from people back stage was amazing.
“I didn’t have knickers or bras thrown at me, which was disappointing, but I also didn’t get bricks thrown at me, so that feels like a win.
“There seemed to be laughs at the right points and that really helped with the confidence. I was lucky they were a lovely audience.
“The people I work with have been amazing, and my biggest cheerleaders. It’s a wonder my head still fits through the doors at work with all the positive feedback I’ve had.
“I’ve definitely caught the bug and can’t wait for the chance to do it again. It’s given me the confidence to believe that the thoughts in my head can be funny.”
Spalding Grammar School teacher Glenys Dawkins performed her set for the first time and said: “I loved every minute of it, the time shot past. When the audience started laughing it was a great buzz — I’ll have a few tweaks but definitely want to have another go.
“The real reason for taking part is that I am being treated for ovarian cancer and the chemo has made me feel a bit rubbish so I thought this would be a proper challenge and it has really been a wonderful pick me up.”
Organiser Samantha Bradley said: “The South Holland Centre was the perfect venue with a great mix of pro comedians and newer acts with a variety of material to keep the audience entertained.
“Highlights for me were Alan Simmons and his ventriloquist act, Jason Simmons and newbie Michael Hayward-Salvadori.
“We have received amazing feedback, and would like to thank everyone who supported the event.”
Mind-reading funnyman Jason Simmons had previously performed with Jenny Beake and was delighted to see her getting back in the comedy saddle and joining him on the bill.
He said: “I really hope that it has given her the bug to get back out performing again.
“Michael was very good. My particular favourite was Alan Simmons — not just because he is a namesake of mine but I liked his ventriloquist act!”
Zeph Churchill said: “The audience were really respon-sive and laughed a lot so I didn’t have much to do to keep them laughing.
“The night was fabulous — it really was, and all put together by Samantha Bradley.”
She hopes the night can be repeated – maybe with an all-female line-up next time.
Chris Jardine first started performing after a divorce in 2019 – and was invited to take part having known Zeph through the NHS.
He said: “Due to ill-health, this was my first gig for a while – my material is strong but I’m rebuilding confidence in my performance.
“The arts in general are very important as a mental health boost for everyone.
“I perform so I can rant in a safe place and it is the only time I may tell lies.”
Craig Fowler performed as a Jethro tribute act and said: “I perform comedy as I have a good sense of humour and I enjoy making people laugh and believe life shouldn't be taken too seriously.
“It's also good for dealing with stress, mental health and wellbeing also.”
Headliner Keith Farnan, who provided supportive encouragement to the performers, said: “It's always a gamble being the headline act on a night like this as it's impossible to know how the audience will feel after seeing nine different acts of varying degrees of experience but, thankfully, the quality was really good.
“The MC in particular did a great job of keeping things moving along and keeping the night warm and welcoming, which is the most important aspect for any of the acts on during the night.
“I don't want to single anyone out for praise. The standard was really good across the board. I hope everyone on stage enjoyed themselves as much as the audience did.”
The next chairman's fundraising event is on Friday, February 16 – with a quiz night at Cowbit Village Hall at 7pm £5 per person.
Anyone interested should email Samantha.Bradley@ sholland.gov.uk to secure a team place.