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Rutland and Stamford area venues to host Road to Leicester Comedy Festival as comedians warm up for Leicester Comedy Festival

Gags and one-liners are heading to pubs and community venues in the new year thanks to the launch of a roving five-day comedy festival.

The Road to Leicester Comedy Festival will feature 30 comedians in eight venues from January 31 to February 4. It’s the first such event run by Rutland promoter Hats Funny Comedy, AKA Ian Hayes.

It will be a proving ground for established comedians and exciting up-and-coming performers as they test out material and fine tune their routines for the Leicester Comedy Festival in February.

South Luffenham promoter and stand-up Ian Hayes
South Luffenham promoter and stand-up Ian Hayes

The idea for the festival came to Ian when he ran an open mic night at the Boot Inn in South Luffenham and was inundated with requests to perform, mostly from ‘full-time’ comedians.

“Leicester Comedy Festival was happening very soon after, and the comedians were using my night to hone in their material and promote themselves a little bit,” he said.

“Then I thought ‘I have a whole bunch of venues in counties bordering Leicestershire, why not use a group of them to put on a festival?’.

Comedy Store regular Jon Pearson heads to Ryhall
Comedy Store regular Jon Pearson heads to Ryhall

“In the summer I ran a number of festival preview shows for Edinburgh to give me a bit of practice and they were really successful so I started preparing for this.

“I hope to grow it next year and maybe bring in more promoters.”

Sarah Johnson headlines at Oundle
Sarah Johnson headlines at Oundle

The headline acts will perform an hour-long set, preceded by shorter support slots.

“It’s going to be great fun,” he added.

“There aren’t many chances for comedians to have a full hour-long set to practice their shows, and equally it also gives up-and-coming comedians a chance to perform alongside them.”

Kirsty Munro performs in Oakham
Kirsty Munro performs in Oakham

The festival opens on Wednesday, January 31 with two shows.

The Angler, in Oakham, will host Kirsty Munro, supported by Griff and Just P, while Sarah Johnson headlines over at the Ship Inn, Oundle, supported by Autumn Unwin and Jacob Nussey (both 7.30pm).

The pre-festival festival moves onto the Sun Inn, Cottesmore, on Friday, February 2, featuring headliner Sally-Ann Fellowes with support from Judith Barrass and Hitz Unadkat (8pm).

SallyAnn Fellowes comes to Cottesmore
SallyAnn Fellowes comes to Cottesmore

Ketton Sports and Community Centre hosts Mad Ron, and supporting acts Ian Whitcombe, Kate Robb and Dylan Dodds on Saturday, February 3 (8pm).

And it draws to a close on Sunday, February 4 at the Millstone Inn, Ryhall, when Melton comedian and Comedy Store regular Jon Pearson headlines, supported by Quang Tran, Vix Leyton and Alexis Roy (7pm start).

The festival also visits Peterborough, Rushton and Thrapston, featuring performers such as fast-rising Leicester funnyman Kevin Daniel and Oakham-born performer Katie Brown.

Visit https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/hatsfunnycomedy for full schedule and tickets.

“It’s good to bring this level of comedy to rural locations and it puts money into these establishments as well,” Ian added.

Ian, from South Luffenham, is a construction site manager by day and comedian by night, although his own stand-up ambitions have had to play second fiddle to his rapidly-growing role as a promoter and compere.

While Stamford venues host big name comedy acts, he set out to give grassroots performers a stage here, but one day hopes to go full-time with his comedy work.

“With the growth of Hats Comedy, I’ve taken a step back from performing and handed it over to other people,” he said.

“It’s all about supporting grassroots comedians and giving them more opportunities.

“The Midlands comedy scene is thriving, it really is, but stopped at Leicester and Nottingham and hasn’t come across this way as quickly, so now I’m filling this void.”

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