The QT

Saturday 18 May 2024

Jesterval interval comes to a happy ending

It was known for bringing the funny to Tyneside and now Jesterval is back doing its thing after a few years under the duvet. Sam Wonfor talks to the North East comedy brand’s co-founder, Della Hadingham.
Jesterval is standing back up

For a good few years in the 2010s, the sight of a massive tent plonked between The Sage (as it was then, Glasshouse pedants) and Baltic meant one thing… lots and lots of laughs.

The Jesterval comedy festival, which usually ran for around 10 days, brought a steady stream of top drawer stand ups to Tyneside with the likes of Chris Ramsey, Gary Delaney, Catherine Bohart, Daniel Sloss, Dave Johns, Lauren Pattison, Sara Pascoe, Paul Foot, Luisa Omielan and many, many more taking to the stage.

In 2018, organisers moved proceedings inside for the festival’s seventh incarnation — specifically to Live Theatre on the other side of the river — for another crowd of gigs spread over a couple of weeks.

And that was pretty much the last we heard of Jesterval, until earlier this year when it popped up on the What’s On section of the Gosforth Civic Theatre for a series of one-nighter line-ups sprinkled throughout 2024.

“It feels great to be talking about Jesterval again,” says co-founder Della Hadingham.

“We were sad when we stopped it, but I just didn’t have the time to pull it together any more — I was working full time and it really took a lot of effort — plus, it was getting harder and harder to get any funding.

“So we decided to put it to sleep for a bit… but there was always a thought that we might bring it back under the right circumstances.”

The first set of right circumstances came around in 2019 when Della started talking to the team at Gosforth Civic about how the Jesterval brand might lend itself to being the venue’s new comedy provider.

Jesterval comedy festival brought top notch comics to Tyneside

“We were talking about the prospect of an indoor festival — based on what we’d done at Live Theatre — but then obviously Covid put that idea to bed.”

Conversations were struck up again last year, and it was decided that a slow and steady approach was the best way forward — translating to the Jesterval team (basically Della and her stand-up husband, Dave) programming a night of comedy every other month.

“We wanted to do it in a way where we could build up a regular audience for comedy in that space,” says Della.

Dave Johns was among the comics on the Jesterval comeback lineup in February

“The first one was in February and it was really good. Loads of people came who had been to Jesterval events over the years. We had Catherine Young, Dave Johns, Mark Maier and John Mann, who are all fantastic.”

Taking advantage of the Civic Theatre’s flexible space following its big refurbishment, Della has opted to create a bit of a comedy club vibe for the layout, mixing some cabaret tables with the fixed seating.

“It feels like a really good space for comedy,” she says, “and we’ve been delighted with who we’ve been able to book so far.”

Sounds like a good time for an upcoming gigs rundown.

The next Jesterval gig is at Gosforth Civic Theatre later this month (April)

April 27 is the next date for the diaries of Tyneside comedy fans and will bring David Hadingham, Karen Bayley, John Fothersgill and George Zac (fresh from the Melbourne Comedy Festival) to the stage.

Then in May there’s a collaboration with Curious Arts. Hosted by Cal Halbert, the Jesterval is Curious line up features Newcastle stand-up (and Edinburgh Fringe best newcomer nominee) Louise Young, Bethany Black, Nicola Mantalios as Zoe and Connor Read.

The June 29 roster is expected to be incoming any day and there’s a couple of gigs booked for August and September too, with exciting names — shared off the record — on the horizon.

“We really want the same quality of line-ups that we were known for bringing to the festival as well as giving opportunities to up and coming acts who we really think more people should be seeing,” says Della.

Louise Young will be performing as part of the Jesterval is Curious gig in May. Credit: Macauley Cullen

“I think our reputation for what we did with Jesterval has certainly helped with this and we want to build on that.

“We’re definitely looking to develop stuff for the future and would like to put together a series of Edinburgh previews for next year. I think Gosforth Civic is such a great space for comedy. We love the venue and the whole ethos of the place. I can see us being very happy here.”

Tickets for all the Jesterval gigs are available from Gosforth Civic Theatre’s website.


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