Punch-Drunk Blyth – reigniting a community?
Lauren Douglass takes a punt on a new comedy club opening at the bottom of her street.
When some friends asked me a while ago if I wanted to go to a comedy gig at the social club at the bottom of my street, I thought it sounded like a good laugh (hardy-har). It was being hosted by a local lad whose sister I was good friends with at school and still keep in touch with, and I’d heard about how well he was doing.
So I asked my friend to reserve a ticket for me and I forgot about it. Because I didn’t reserve my ticket myself, I hadn’t joined the Facebook group or even looked it up online.
I didn’t know who the acts were, how the ticket sales were going, or even what time the doors opened. Seriously, I think I asked my friends about 4 times the week before while we were arranging who was getting lifts with who etc, what time I had to be there.
The point is, I didn’t realise it was actually a pretty big deal.
So I went down – running late as is to be expected with me – and met my friends who were already there and wondering where I was. We found some seats and watched the place fill up.
10 minutes before the show started, people were apologising as they squeezed past the uniform rows of chairs laid out for the event, to sit on the sofas that run along the walls. It’s fair to say the room was packed and there was a definite buzz in the air.
As the host took to the stage it was clear that he was nervous. This was his home crowd after all and they were clearly expecting a lot. Many of them had followed his career more closely than I had and they knew he was certainly no amateur.
I was expecting Kai Humphries to be good and he didn’t disappoint, warming the room up with his unique and hilarious take on growing up in our hometown.
What I wasn’t expecting – as like I said I hadn’t looked into it at all – was the calibre of acts that he had convinced to play a gig in our tiny Northumberland mining and port town on a Monday night, at the social club.
When Kai introduced the first act I recognised the name and when he came on stage I realised that I had seen him a few times on TV. It was a young Scottish comedian called Daniel Sloss, who is quite simply far too successful to be the same age as me (no bitterness there, I swear).
He’s had six majorly successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been on TV in the US as well as at home in the UK – but I still reckon Newsham Side Club has to be a highlight.
The second act was Matt Reed, a comedian from Sunderland who has played major comedy clubs across the UK. Wisely he elected to break the ice very early on by assuring the room of die-hard Newcastle United supporters that he couldn’t give a flying you-know-what about football.
He went on to crack everyone up and by the time Kai came back on to introduce the headliner, I was having a whale of a time (and was also on the right side of tipsy).
Somehow I still hadn’t looked at the line-up, or overheard anyone talking about it, so I still had no idea at that point that the headliner was Andrew Maxwell, a massively successful and well-known Irish comedian who I’ve watched on TV countless times. He too was hilarious.
As well as having a great night with some old friends and seeing some great entertainment, I was blown away by the effort that had gone into a comedy night at my local social club.
The work put into the whole thing by the host and the promotions team, as well as the willingness of successful comedians to get involved in bringing something new and exciting to a small community that isn’t exactly in the middle of its heyday, was an amazing thing to be a part of.
Local charity Princess Ellie’s Trust – set up by a local family who lost their 2 year old daughter to septicaemia as a result of meningitis to raise awareness as well as funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Paediatric Intensive Care unit at a Newcastle hospital – raised almost £500 through ticket contributions and selling/collecting at the event.
The charity will continue to be associated with the Blyth Punch Drunk events, which will be held once a month.
The second show on 16 February has sold out, but there has been so much demand that the organisers have put on a second night on Tuesday 17. I’ve roped in all of my family and eight of us will be going. For £7 a ticket, it’s a pretty decent way to spend a Tuesday night.
This is big news for a town of our size that has a less-than-great reputation. The buzz from the first event has everyone wanting to help make this a long-running thing and people are excited to see where it could go.
As for re-igniting the community, I’d definitely say they’re making a damn good go of it.
This article originally appeared on Lauren Douglass’ blog.