Sunday, 20 March 2011

Big Red Hootenanny Write Up

Some of you may be aware that back in September of 2010, I hosted a charity party which raised over £300 for the British Heart Foundation and Marie Curie. It was a fun night, with live music, many drinks and people having fun. At the end of it, I decided that this was something which I wanted to keep doing. Holding an event like that, which so many people can enjoy, and which also raises money for a good cause, gave me a good feeling, and people seemed to be up for another one, so why not?

This Friday just gone (March 18th, 2011) gave me the perfect opportunity. It was Comic Relief night, and what better way to celebrate than a live comedy show? After scouting around for several possible venues (Callaghans had proven popular at the last party, but it was also pretty expensive), I eventually settled on O'Neill's at the end of St. Mary's Street in Cardiff city center. The function room in O'Neill's was of a good size (capacity of five hundred), had plenty of seating, a large bar and, best of all, it was free to hire. Sold!

In the weeks leading up to the party, I will freely admit, I got pretty stressed. I was firing off e-mails, text messages, facebook messages, tweets, phone calls and smoke signals to various acts, guests, helpers and possible prize doners left, right and center. There was the evening where I lost the venue (I got it back again), possible issues with acts, and the constant worry that no one would show up. The Big Red Hootenanny (as I dubbed it) proved a much trickier prospect than my previous event, and it was showing. Admittedly, it wasn't helped by my simultaneously being made to work overtime in work a lot of weekends, and also trying to get ready for the launch of our preview comic at Cardiff Comic Con, but if you saw me in the week running up to the party, you probably knew that I was more than a little stressed out. To the point where I was swearing blind that I wouldn't be doing another charity party ever!

I needn't have worried. More people than I ever expected turned up, and the night was a great success, despite two of the bands I had booked not turning up.

After an hour or so set aside for people to arrive, I took the stage to drum up some interest in the raffle, and to introduce our compare for the evening, Steve Mellor.

Steve hosted the evening wonderfully, displaying his dark brand of humour with jokes and songs about subjects which many comedians would shy away from, but which the audience were too busy laughing at to be offended by. Steve even extended his own set and gave us some extra songs when the other bands failed to show up.

The first comedian Seve brought on stage was Verity Smith. Verity, who is one of the funniest people I know anyway, had never performed solo on stage before, usually working with a troupe for improvisational shows. Her debut solo performance went really well, and I really hope she continues to pursue it. Verity's stand up routine was mostly about stand up comedy, and had the audience laughing throughout. Verity also came back on later in the evening to perform the unofficial Comic Relief single she and Steve had written and released together, All Red On The Inside.

Next up was my long time friend and Stiffs co-writer, Drew Davies. Unlike Verity, Drew had performed stand up solo before. He had the whole range of experience that comes with doing a show under his belt. And by a show, I mean exactly that. Drew had only done one stand up gig before. You wouldn't have known. Drew knocked it out of the park, with his self deprecating routine about his own stature, sexual encounters (solo and otherwise) and his admiration for Osama Bin Laden's beard. The laughs kept coming, and by the end of his set, Drew had the audience in his pocket.

I'm priviledged to count both Drew and Verity among my friends, I'm immensely proud of both of them for what they did, and I hope they both continue to play stand up gigs for a long time to come.

After Drew was someone who has plenty of experience with stand up comedy. I first saw Taylor Glenn when she hosted a burlesque evening back in October last year. She was hilarious, and I immediately took the opportunity ask her if she would headline the Comic Relief show. I'm hugely thankful that she agreed, as Taylor is an extremely funny comedian. With a mixture of prepared stories and improvised jokes riffing on the audience, Taylor had everyone in stitches from the beginning of her set to the end. She was also kind enough to help me draw the first raffle ticket of the evening.

We had a huge amount of raffle prizes, and I would like to take this moment to thank the following people who all very kindly donated:-, Anastasia Catris, Clutterfly Jewellery, Charli Cree, Dead Star Publishing, Drew Davies, Fresh Baguette, Joe Glass, Phil Jupitus, Jonathan Kyprianidis, Steve Mellor, Trevor Wayne

After the raffle, and once Steve and Verity had performed All Red On The Inside, we had an act who no one had booked. Being two bands down left us with a bit of a gap, which was very kindly filled by Lowri Williams, who took the stage and told the six jokes she knew.

After that, the wonderful JD Kelly took the stage, and performed a mixture of his own songs and cover versions of classic tracks such as Wicked Game and Faith. JD is a very talented musician, and his set went down very well.

Huge thank you to all the acts, Steve Mellor, Verity Smith, Drew Davies, Taylor Glenn, JD Kelly and, especially, Lowri Williams.

At the end of the night, we counted the money. We raised a very nice £508.52 for Comic Relief. And that's not the final total either. People who couldn't make it to the party are very kindly offering to donate money for their tickets after the fact, and the money raised from sales of All Red On The Inside will also be included. Once I have a final total, you will have one too. Having watched the Comic Relief footage on iplayer, I'm staggered at how far the money we've raised can go. It's a truly amazing thing we've done. Thank you everyone.

Please do visit and download the single if you haven't already.

And, despite my earlier protestations, I will definitely be doing this again. I'll let you know when.

Also, for more on the generous participants in Friday's shindig, please see the following links.

Bleeding Cool

Anastasia Catris

Clutterfly Jewellery

Drew Davies

Dead Star Publishing

Fresh Baguette

Joe Glass

Taylor Glenn

Phil Jupitus

Trevor Wayne