Bishop's Stortford open-air comedy weekend: Paddy Lennox lays on the perfect pick-me-up for comedians and audiences
Meeting up with old mates and standing on stage looking out at a sea of faces is what Paddy Lennox is looking forward to when he hosts his open-air comedy festival next weekend.
The Bishop's Stortford comedy baron has lined up arguably the finest collection of comedians ever assembled in the town – including TV and BBC Radio 4 talents, award-winners, Edinburgh Fringe Festival regulars and a comic who has appeared in a film with Robin Williams.
The two-day festival, billed as "A Field of Laughter", is being held on The Bishop's Stortford High School's (TBSHS) pavilion field at its London Road campus on Friday and Saturday (June 25-26).
"The company, the event... it's just going to be a lovely evening," said Paddy, who ran Laughing Bishops Comedy Club from the Water Lane United Reformed Church hall in Stortford before the coronavirus pandemic struck and hopes to resume it in the near future. He also runs Dunmow Comedy Club and stages comedy nights at the Sawbridgeworth Memorial Hall.
The festival will have a full bar and there will be Vietnamese street food plus grills from Bishop's Stortford's own The Secret Sausage Shop delivered straight to audience members' camp chairs and picnic rugs set up on their designated spots on the pavilion field. Drinks and food can be ordered via the Round app.
Relieved Paddy, who will be compering both nights, said the Covid-secure event was unaffected by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement on Monday (June 14) that the easing of lockdown restrictions is being delayed. "We're doing it outdoors to take away the Covid risk," he said.
He echoed the view that people were desperate to attend live performances and the response from audiences so far had been positive.
"I've done a few gigs back and the reception's just been incredible," he said. "It's tapping into the familiar – people thinking 'Oh, that's how we do this'!"
So who's on the bill?
Friday's line-up features Irish headliner Andrew Maxwell, a TV and BBC Radio 4 News Quiz regular who appeared in the 2019 version of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! and narrates MTV's Ex on the Beach.
He will be supported by master craftsman Ben Norris (Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks) and comedy music acts Christian Reilly and Glastonbury stalwart Mitch Benn (BBC Radio 4's The Now Show).
Saturday sees another Irishman, Neil Delamere, topping the bill, supported by Ria Lina, Steve Bugeja and American comic Scott Capurro.
Comedian, actress and writer Lina was born in High Wycombe to a Filipina mother and German father, was educated in California and the Netherlands and worked for the Serious Fraud Office as an IT forensic investigator before becoming a comedian. She has appeared on Yesterday Today and The Day Before, Mock The Week and The Now Show.
She has a BSc in experimental pathology from St Andrews University, a PhD in viral bioinformatics from University College London and, after a short break, during which she had the first of her three children, an MSc in forensic science and technology at London South Bank University.
Ex-TBSHS student Bugeja won the BBC New Comedy Award in 2013, following in the footsteps of the likes of Marcus Brigstocke, Paul Foot, Alan Carr, Nina Conti, Rhod Gilbert, Tom Allen and Angela Barnes.
San Francisco-based Capurro – who won the 1994 Perrier Award for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Festival – will shock some of the audience with his material about gay life and culture, politics, race and racism. He was the voice of Beed Annodue in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and appeared with Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire.
The gates open both nights at 6pm. The shows begin at 7.45pm and end at 10.45pm. There will be free parking.
Tickets, with a 25% discount for NHS and care staff, are £25 a head but could be as low as £16 a head if you go with up to seven friends or family. There are discounts for group bookings: 4 tickets for £80 (£20 a head), 6 for £108 (£18 a head) and 8 for £128 (£16 a head). They can be bought online at www.paddylennox.com.
The event is for over-16s only.