Big Comedy UK, which organises events including Southport Comedy Festival, the Salt & Tar Comedy Weekender in Bootle and the Comedy Bingo Winter Socials, was a Finalist in the Business In The Arts Award category. Brendan Riley with his award

The Directors of Big Comedy UK say they are honoured to have been recognised as a Finalists in the 2024 Liverpool City Region Culture and Creativity Awards. 

Brendan Riley and Val Brady have worked hard to bring some of the world’s best comedians to Sefton, including Ben Elton, Al Murray, Seann Walsh, Henning Wehn, Simon Brodkin and many more at the annual Southport Comedy Festival and the Salt & Tar Comedy Weekender in Bootle. 

They also organise the vibrant Comedy Disco events and the Comedy Bingo Winter Socials, which have played an important role in tackling isolation and bringing people together. 

Big Comedy UK was among three finalists competing for the prestigious Business in the Arts Award alongside Liverpool BID Company and winners Future Yard CIC. 

Big Comedy UK won the Sefton Business In The Community Award in the 2023 Pride Of Sefton Awards at The Grand in Southport. 

Big Comedy Awards UK Director Brendan Riley said: “The awards were ace! We haven’t been to many of these events, so it was a tremendous honour to be recognised this year. 

“It is something else to be really proud of, after we won the Sefton Business In the Community Award at The Grand Pride Of Sefton Awards last year.

Volunteers at Southport Comedy Festival with festival directors Brendan Riley and Val Brady

Volunteers at Southport Comedy Festival with festival directors Brendan Riley and Val Brady

“It was a really big deal for us to be recognised in the Liverpool City Region Culture and Creativity Awards. 

“It was a privilege to be in that room amongst all those amazing nominees. 

“There is a huge wealth of talent in our region, the Liverpool City Region really leads the way for the UK when it comes to culture and creativity. 

“It was such a well-run event and we really enjoyed it. 

“We would like to congratulate Future Yard CIC which won our category and to our fellow finalist, Liverpool BID Company. 

“We have been busy! This year’s Southport Comedy Festival is well on its way with a superb line-up that already includes Dan Nightingale and Friends, Henning Wehn, Ben Elton, Jimeoin, Omid Djalili and Jason Byrne, with more to come, which we’re working on at the moment. Watch this space! 

The Salt and Tar Comedy Festival in Bootle with host and organised Brendan Riley from Big Comedy UK

The Salt and Tar Comedy Festival in Bootle with host and organised Brendan Riley from Big Comedy UK

“We can’t wait for this year’s Salt & Tar Comedy Weekender in Bootle in May, which features some of the biggest names in comedy including Seann Walsh, Gary Delaney, Hal Cruttenden, Brennan Reece and rising stars Peter Rethinasamy and Liverpool’s own Katie Tracey.

“Our Comedy Bingo nights continue to attract fantastic audiences while our Comedy Bingo Winter Socials, kindly sponsored by local businesses including Halliwell Jones, have helped to tackle social isolation and bring people together.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has supported us; all the local businesses which sponsor our events and festivals and make them possible; all our volunteers and our team; and everyone who comes to enjoy our events. 

“We love putting smiles on people’s faces! 

“It’s a huge team effort to do what we do that makes it possible to make a positive difference in our local community.” 

Brendan Riley Director of Big Comedy UK with radio legend Roger Phillips and Andrew Brown Director of Stand Up For Southport at the 2024 Liverpool City Region Culture and Creativity Awards

Brendan Riley Director of Big Comedy UK with radio legend Roger Phillips and Andrew Brown Director of Stand Up For Southport at the 2024 Liverpool City Region Culture and Creativity Awards

Thirteen years ago, due to funding cuts, Sefton Council took the difficult decision to axe the popular Southport Comedy Festival. 

Brendan and Val of Big Comedy stepped in to rescue the event – and have made it bigger and better in the years since then. 

Their acts are a who’s who of the comedy world – Ben Elton, Omid Djalili, Al Murray, Milton Jones, Simon Brodkin, Jason Byrne, Paul Sinha, Ed Byrne, Russell Kane, Jo Caulfield, Reginald D Hunter, Jen Brister – they bring the biggest acts in comedy to Southport but keep prices lower than elsewhere to make comedy affordable to local people. 

The couple originally held the festival in venues across Southport, in theatres, restaurants, pubs, bars, cinemas, community spaces and more, bringing customers and business into dozens of local businesses. 

They worked with Southport BID to stage Children’s Comedy Festival events which were free to local children. 

The festival is now held in a giant heated, seated marquee in Victoria Park. 

They work with a series of local businesses to make the event possible. 

Their social values and support for local charities is immense. They have helped to raise tens of thousands of pounds for local charities. Last November they held a Comedy Bingo Night for the Community Link Foundation charity and a Disco Bingo Night for the Southport Flower Show charity, raising thousands of pounds. Previous beneficiaries have included the likes of Queenscourt Hospice, Southport Lifeboat and many others. 

They provide a vital platform for up and coming comedy talent with their Southport New Comedian Of The Year competition at the festival. This year they received over 100 entries, with eight performing in the final in front of an audience and a panel of judges. It’s invaluable experience and a real leg-up for the winners and finalists. 

Last year they launched the massively popular Comedy Bingo Socials at Southport Market – again working with local companies to make the events both possible. These Wednesday afternoon events are aimed at tackling social isolation with many people left isolated since the Covid pandemic, as they work with charities such as Age Concern, and sponsors including Halliwell Jones, to get people out of their homes and promote friendship and mental health and wellbeing. 

During the Covid pandemic lockdowns, Brendan and Val launched online Comedy Bingo via Zoom, putting smiles on the faces of hundreds of isolated people during challenging times. 

They also stage regular comedy events across the Liverpool City Region and many fundraising events for a wide variety of charities and good causes. 

Their themed bingo nights are a huge success – themes include 80s, Abba. and even Country and Western!

Africa Oyé, Roger Phillips and actress Elsie Kelly were among the winners at the 2024 Liverpool City Region Culture and Creativity Awards.

Africa Oye 1 People’s Choice for Outstanding Contribution to Culture

BBC Question of Sport captain and Olympic gold medallist Sam Quek MBE took to the stage at St Helens Rugby League Stadium to host the glittering ceremony honouring the creative talent and achievements of people in the city region.

Music festival Africa Oyé took the People’s Choice Award for Outstanding Contribution to Culture, after more than 3,000 votes were cast by the public.

Actor and comedian Johnny Vegas presented his ‘Benidorm’ on-screen mum – Liverpool born actress Elsie Kelly – with a Judges Inspiration Award (Lifetime Achievement) while Roger Phillips was commended for his 42 years of service to the BBC.

Sir Phil Redmond said:

“Culture and creativity are the foundations of most projects. It’s implementing an alternative way of doing things or a lateral way of thinking. These awards were created to recognise those approaches in whatever sector people work in, however big or small the organisation.

“I hope we continue to celebrate the contribution of culture and creativity in bringing a fresh and inspiring look at even the most common things in life. It creates new opportunities, new inventions and enables people to make a real impact.”

Established in 2019 as part of the Mayor Steve Rotheram’s pledge to invest 1% of the Combined Authority’s budget into cultural activities, the awards honour the contribution the cultural and creative sectors bring to the region and the difference they make to people’s lives.

The 2024 event was sponsored by The ACC Liverpool Group Ltd, Davies Partnership, The Manufacturing Technology Centre Limited, Liverpool One, Novotel Liverpool Paddington Village, Sedulo, Glass Futures, World of Glass and Charity Bank.

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