A couple who put smiles on the faces of tens of thousands of people every year have won the Business In The Community Award, sponsored by In Demand Radio, at the 2023 Pride Of Sefton Awards.
Brendan Riley and Val Brady host a variety of events through Big Comedy and through Comedy Bingo, through which they have entertained audiences while helping to raise large sums for a variety of charities and good causes.
They also run the annual Southport Comedy Festival, which hosts some of the biggest names in comedy as well as welcoming visitors from all over the region, providing a boost to local hotels, restaurants and other local businesses.
Thirteen years ago, Sefton Council took the difficult decision to axe the popular Southport Comedy Festival. Brendan and Val stepped in to rescue the event – and have made it bigger and better every year.
Their acts are a who’s who of the comedy world – Al Murray, Milton Jones, Jason Byrne, Ed Byrne, Russell Kane, Jo Caulfield, Reginald D Hunter, Simon Brodkin and many more.
They bring the biggest acts in comedy to Victoria Park in Southport but keep prices lower than elsewhere to make comedy affordable to local people.
Last year they held a Comedy Bingo Night for Queenscourt Hospice and a Disco Bingo Night for the Southport Flower Show charity, raising thousands of pounds.
They recently launched the new Comedy Bingo Spring Socials at Southport Market.
The Wednesday afternoon event is aimed at tackling social isolation with many people left isolated since the Covid pandemic, as they work with Age Concern, the Community Link Foundation, local businesses and local councillors to get people out of their homes and promote friendship and mental health and wellbeing.
The award was presented by In Demand Radio presenter Baz Todd.
Their prize includes a free 10 week In Demand Radio airtime campaign including advert production worth £3,000.
Brendan Riley said: “We can’t believe we have won!
“It was amazing. What a fantastic night.
“We were absolutely over the moon to win.
“This award is an acknowledgement of the huge support we have had from so many local businesses which have sponsored Southport Comedy Festival since we first organised it in 2011, from Barron Financial Solutions, to Anthony James Estates, to Halliwell Jones BMW in Southport, and many, many more. We would not have been able to stage these festivals without them.
“Each year we have reached out to local businesses to see who would like to work with us. Now the festival has grown so much, companies are approaching us and asking how they can be involved, which is fantastic.
“It has been a real team effort, working with the likes of Alan Adams and his team at Victoria Park and Southport Flower Show, Mark Catherall and his colleagues at Sefton Council Tourism, Mark Dilley and everyone at Elite Marquees, and others. It takes a lot of co-operation and a lot of goodwill to make everything come together.
“We’d also like to thank all the many thousands of people who come out to support live comedy every year. It is great for the town.
“We have also been enjoying staging our new Comedy Bingo Spring Socials at Southport Market over the past few weeks.
“The Covid pandemic has had a huge impact on increasing isolation and loneliness, and these events are a really enjoyable way of bringing people together and giving them a fun-filled day out at minimal cost. Thanks again to our sponsors for making these afternoons possible.”
Finalist in the Business In The Community Awards was Babyballet Southport, Formby & Crosby, owned by Jennifer Berrett, which has been supporting the community and raising thousands of pounds for charities in Sefton and nationally for the past 13 years.
The Babyballet classes themselves are taught by the most wonderful teachers who are so engaging. Nothing is too much for them and you always know you’ll be greeted with a smile.
The second Finalist was Nobody Left Behind CIC, which works in communities to get young people skilled and into employment.
It is funded by Merseyside Police to deliver sport, education and employment to under 25s.
VIP guests included Mayor of Sefton Cllr Clare Carragher and Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside Julie Lawson, while the night was hosted by In Demand Radio presenter Claire Simmo and TV presenter Fraser Dainton.
Entertainment was provided by Kelly Bond and Soul Jam.
Money was raised for the Steve Prescott Foundation and the ICU Steps charity, a cause close to Mikhail Hotel and Leisure Group Chairman Andrew Mikhail after his long battle in intensive care in hospital against Covid-19 during the pandemic.