Mixtape 90s: The Six Twenty

We all know I love theatre, I love a good old night out, buzz light years over a pub quiz and currently experiencing an intense nostalgic love affair with the 90s….. so Sunderland Stages bringing Mixtape by The Six Twenty to The Peacock in Sunderland is right up my street. Sunderland Stages is all about bringing theatre to unexpected places in Sunderland…..and of course, theatre in an actual pub is pretty unexpected and lush.

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Mixtape is an immersive performance pub quiz….. The Six Twenty have taken it to festivals, Live Theatre and other venues, all with sold out performances. I’ve heard rave reviews so I’m super excited to attend on 30th June…. (tickets are available now – bring a group, bring yourself and in typical 90s Nirvana style – ‘come as you areeee!’)

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It’s also a perfect opportunity to check out the newly opened Peacock venue – a beautiful independent pub within Sunderland’s thriving cultural quarter….. I’ve heard they do a corking Sunday lunch too.

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And, The Six Twenty are a Newcastle based theatre company that is growing and has big plans for the future so this is an opportunity to check them out and their work…..

I caught up with The Six Twenty’s Artistic Director, Creative Producer and all round absolute megababe, Melanie Rashbrooke, to find out more and all about 90s Mixtape….

Hi Melanie, right tell me about The Six Twenty?

The Six Twenty are dedicated to creating playful, entertaining and immersive theatre that’s ambitious and fun. We make new work and also produce re-imaginings of classic and contemporary plays. We tour throughout the UK to theatres, outdoor spaces and unexpected places. We hope to make theatre that inspires, moves and creates conversation and brings people together.

Now tell me about Mixtape?

Mixtape is our infamous comedy music quiz show. It’s a unique concept that was invented at The Six Twenty and is performed and created by a brilliant band of theatre-makers, comedians and musicians who we call Mixtapers. Basically The Mixtapers perform comedy sketches that are created entirely out of song lyrics; the song lyrics can be reordered and repeated but no additional words can be used. Plus the sketch can’t be longer than the running time of the track that inspired it.

The Culture Vulture: I literally feel sick with excitement at the thought of this already….. I know 90s songs inside out…….

The audience plays along in teams and tries to guess the songs, bands and artists that inspire the sketches. The team with the most correct answers at the end of the night wins one of our highly coveted Golden Mixtapes. Each of our shows is themed and the next one is The 90s so expect a mix of pop classics, Summer anthems, dance tracks and Brit Pop!  It’s a really fun relaxed show that’s great for music and pub quiz lovers as well as theatre fans.

The Culture Vulture: New life ambition is to own one of these golden Mixtapes…….

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What’s it been like getting rave reviews and sell out shows!?

It’s been great to see the show grow and build a real following. I’m particularly excited by the feedback we get from audiences – especially people who might not attend the theatre that much and who really enjoy the show.

The Culture Vulture: As someone who works on events and organize my own, feeding off the audience buzz and interaction is what feeds the want to do another event. It’s lush when people enjoy and champion what you’ve put on and of course, had a lush time!

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What was the show’s inspiration?

It was something I dreamed up whilst I was working on a writing project with Write on Tap (a group of writers based in Newcastle). The theme for the project was ‘Who I am with You, Who I Am Without You’. I decided to challenge myself by writing a short script using just the lyrics of the U2’s song…yes that one! And thus Mixtape was born.

Also, I love my music and who doesn’t love a good old pub quiz!

You’re bringing Mixtape to Sunderland 30th June, the Peacock….tell me about the show?

We’re bringing our new 90s show; the show recently premiered at Live Theatre (where we create all of our new shows) to a sell-out crowd. Expect a night crammed full of 90s tunes, comedy, crop-tops, dance routines, mayhem and fun!

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What can attendees expect on 30th June? Why should people come and get their tickets?

Comedy, quiz, fancy-dress, music, fun! A night crammed full of super fly hits. From boy bands to dance anthems, grunge and summer hits; this show’s gonna be off the chain. So dig out your 90s crop tops and Docs, brush off your Discman, and bring a team along and see if you can win the Golden Mixtape.

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90s fancy dress is also highly encouraged with the best dressed 90s team winning a special prize too!

The Culture Vulture: Well I’m going to be prancing around the place dressed as blossom with a side pony tail.

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As someone who is OBSESSED with the 90s….I dig the theme. Why did you go for the 90s music?

We’ve created a variety of Mixtape shows based on different music themes including North East bands, Alternative music, Rock ’n’ Roll 50s, Boy Bands vs. Girl Bands, 80s…the list goes on. So it was about time we tackled the most bangin’ decade. There are some seriously good tunes featured in the show.

The Culture Vulture: Right – I need to see every single show……love the sound of all of these!

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Your favourite 90s song of all time?

Ooooh tricky…there’s so many to choose from. I’m going to go with a curve ball option – I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred. Come and see the show and find out why……

The Culture Vulture: Now that’s a controversial and interesting choice – I need to know more. I’ve rediscovered E-17 recently – ‘House of Love’ plays on repeat currently…..

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Tell me a bit about some other The Six Twenty projects (fans!) and other things coming up?

In 2016 we won the Bridging the Gap award to create a new show called FANS which is part music gig and part theatre show and written by the brilliant Nina Berry and made with an awesome team of theatre-makers, musicians and creatives. It explores what it means to be a music fan. We’ll be redeveloping the show later this year and then re-touring the show in 2018.

We’re also working on a couple of new shows. One is with Mixtaper Lewis Jobson called Redcoat and explores what it means to be happy and what happens when you have an ‘off day’ and you tell Barney the Dinosaur to f***k off (in front of a load of kids)…at Butlins…in Bognor Regis.

The Culture Vulture: What a great concept for a show…..

The other show we’re working on is with Charlie Raine who performed in FANS. It’s called The Playground. For this we’re interviewing children aged between 4-7 years old about their lives and their views of the world. The final show will be performed by adults for adults as adults – using the words of the children we interview and collaborate with.

The Culture Vulture: This is brilliant – kids say hilarious and pure things.

And of course we’ve got loads more Mixtapes coming up!

To find out more about the projects we’ve got coming up and how you can get involved visit our website at www.thesixtwenty.com

Well thanks Melanie, this all sounds lush and brilliant………. I’m so passionate about theatre in and around the North East – love it! Get your tickets for 90s Mixtape everyone…….you’ll be greeted on the door by The Culture Vulture, manically happy, like some 90s super fan.

Big love from The Culture Vulture. xx

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GIFT 2017: The low down- what it is, why you need to go and get tickets immediately…..

I’m a big fan of theatre and performance – as someone who spent their childhood and teens doing drama related activity and in plays – I fell in love with it and it’s fair to say I have a leaning towards the dramatics in my everyday life; I’m certainly an animated personality and my face is the most expressive you’ve seen.

I absolutely love going to the theatre whether smaller productions or things at Northern Stage or Theatre Royal – it’s always a dream. Theatre is all about total immersion, escapism and storytelling. I love disconnecting from my life and my reality and being absorbed into watching someone else’s. Getting lost in a visual story…….

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And it’s not just about the acting and make believe – it’s one of those art forms into which everyone can engage and get involved. Whether it’s the writing, the costume designing, the lighting, the sound, the set design – a feast of visual, performance and digital arts.

Those who read this blog and follow The Culture Vulture, will know by now that I LOVE the undiscovered and the unfound – stepping outside of my comfort zone, seeing different things and new things. Something which embraces my love for performance and need for the new and unfound, is matched perfectly within GIFT Festival which is returning again (yahoo) for 2017 across Friday 28th – Sunday 30th April….. how exciting!?

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GIFT is an annual festival of theatre celebrating the new, unfound and experimental performance and theatre right here in Gateshead……last year, I attended and got to experience a performance as part of a wild hen party; disco, dancing, shots and crisps. And also, a version of Stand By Me with a soundtrack by the Eurythmics.

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This year the programme is jam packed with lots to see performance wise (for adults and children alike), workshops and discussion across Baltic , Caedmon Hall at Gateshead Libraries, St Mary’s Heritage Centre, The Central Bar and Prohibition Bar. And I’m even more excited that FINALLY this year, after a couple of years of no funding, GIFT was awarded their Arts Council funding, on top of running a successful crowd funding campaign….

I caught up with GIFT’s Programme Director and Queen of all things GIFT; Kate Craddock to find out about this year’s programme and what to expect. Kate is someone who I’ve known for many years now and who champions the up and comers in performance and empowers her students, at Northumbria University to reach their full potential……so by my standard, not just a mega talent and asset to the region but also an all-round cultural megababe.

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Hi Kate – last time we caught up was in Prohibition Bar over a G&T – this time, I want to hear all about GIFT 2017….so for those who haven’t been to GIFT before – what’s the low down?

GIFT is back for 3 days at the end of April – Friday 28th – Sunday 30th Aptil. GIFT is an international theatre festival based in Gateshead that aims to present new performances and the kind of that nowhere else in the region is able to put on. We are able to take a chance and do something new.

You are unlikely to see a traditional ‘play’ at GIFT; instead the work is more contemporary, visual, physical, conceptual, devised… .GIFT festival allows for a more experimental programme with less risk for the venue programming the same artists/work alone.

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GIFT offers a platform to showcase opportunity for NE based artists and theatre makers to show their own work in a lively festival context. It also brings International work to Gateshead and the region that we otherwise wouldn’t see. And of course, it brings performances and artists from across the UK who have never performed been here before to introduce North East audiences to new artists and ways of working.

Essentially GIFT is 3 days of artists and audiences coming together, forming a festival community whilst seeing lots of shows together; talking about the work they are seeing, networking and partying. A big feature of GIFT that makes it distinctive from some other festivals is that it is really personal, small scale and grass roots. It really tries to open up possibilities and opportunity for everyone participating.

What inspired you to start GIFT?

There were a number of factors that all came together at once.

I was one of the artists who was in the original SHED Artist studios on Gateshead High St, and I was living in Bensham-spending a lot of time in Gateshead at a time when there was lots of focus on regeneration and redevelopment…

I really wanted to do something that was about connecting the culturally regenerated quayside with Gateshead town centre and beyond – and knew that a festival had the potential to do this – acting as a catalyst. I realised that there wasn’t a theatre venue in Gateshead as such, but instead there were loads of really unique spaces and lots of very wiling supportive people who were happy to let me do things -like put performances in empty shops, or in church halls, or in the interchange.

I was also making some quite experimental performance work myself, but was finding that there was quite a limited number of platforms to show this  kind of work – and I realised I wasn’t alone in that.  – However, there was a community of artists really wanting to make something happen. I was also in a really lucky position where I was travelling and working at other European International festivals; these were hugely inspirational for me -and made me realise that we needed GIFT.

Why Gateshead? What venues have you selected this year?

When I founded GIFT in 2011, I was living and working in Gateshead and I got frustrated with the fact that for lots of people (in Newcastle) Gateshead meant a trip over the bridge to the Sage or Baltic and that was as far as they would venture. I wanted to do something that opened up other areas (some neglected, some beautiful) and connect performance to these areas.

Gateshead Council and Culture Team (formally the Arts team) have always been so supportive of the arts (Angel, Sage, Baltic, all the arts team work etc) and they were so supportive when I first approached them about it. For the first 3 years GIFT took place mainly in Gateshead old town hall, the Central, St Mary’s as well as other venues dotted around. In 2014 we relocated our main hub to Caedmon Hall, which is where we will be again this year for lots of our events. We will also be presenting performances at Baltic  this year for the first time – as well as Prohibition Bar, Central, St Mary’s , Caedmon Hall and our closing part will be at The Old Police House.

Tell me about the programme this year?

This year we have teamed up with 2 other UK festivals to present a programme of work from across Europe. On Friday night we will present the UK premiere of Possibilities that disappear before a landscape’ by El Conde de Torrefiel from Barcelona. This is being presented in collaboration with Transform Festival in Leeds where they are performing the partner piece Guerrilla a week before GIFT. Possibilities is stunning piece that works like a visual essay -so you are both reading and listening to spoken text while seeing multiple images played out on stage in front of you.

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The company are one of the most exciting to emerge from Spain in recent years and are in huge demand. I first saw this company in 2012 and have been trying to get them to GIFT since then – so I am totally thrilled they will be here! I also think they will really appeal to people who love visual art but might not be so sure normally about going to the theatre. We have also teamed up with BE Festival Birmingham to host Best of BE Festival – 3 amazing shows from across Europe. I have seen the work and can’t recommend it enough. Best of BE (or BE @ GIFT) is always a great fun night, and the work always rich and varied.

Also we have Julia Taduevin from Glasgow with ‘Blow Off’ described as one of the most memorable shows of the year by the Scotsman – and it is, completely unforgettable and completely stunning. All female punk band – music, spoken word, feminism – very loud! Would definitely appeal to people interested in live music but don’t think theatre is for them!

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One of the shows coming from Leeds is ‘Something Terrible Might Happen on Saturday’ by Uncanny Theatre at The Central – it will be hilarious and it looks at how obsessed we are with things going wrong. Enjoy the show while having a pint!

Other fab things are we have teamed up with Chalk to host Noise Lab -lots of young children working with a sound artist to turn their tantrums and crying into art, at Baltic.

Who are you most excited about seeing? I know it’s difficult to choose……

Literally all of it; one of the best things for me too is seeing the artists actually meeting each other, talking to each other and their audiences about their work – that is always so brilliant and rewarding; when this happens and works well, I know I am doing a good job.

Is there anything for families?

Yes –Noise Lab by Chalk on Friday morning – this is the strand of GIFT called Little GIFT and is for early years and their parents. On Sunday there is also a rolling programme of live performance and dance work at Baltic that is all free to attend.

Zoe Murtagh will also be at St Mary’s on Friday all day peeling potatoes and inviting audience members to help her discover her Irish heritage -there will be some dancing and laughs involved. Altgif7hough these events are not strictly for families as such, they will definitely appeal to a curious adventurous audience member of any age!

What should someone who has never been to GIFT before expect?

Expect to be surprised by each performance you encounter – and to take risks with what you go see. Expect to be welcomed by the GIFT crowd, to get involved and to throw yourself into opportunities – to chat and to meet new people.

You’ve had challenges this year with funding (again!) and you’ve set up a crowdfunding page – can you tell me a bit more about this and why people NEED to donate? 

Yes, we have really struggled to secure enough funding to make the festival happen this year – but Arts Council Funding has come through at the last minute after a lot of hard work resubmitting applications We also have a crowdfunding page on the go at the moment to help raise money towards supporting a lot of the infrastructure around the festival enabling the festival to happen – like paying technicians at the venues, to support the artists and also to be able to offer artists some support with their shows – towards their production budgets and costs involved in performing at GIFT like travel -and feeding them while they are here!

What would advice would you give to an aspiring performer, or script writer, set designer etc?

See as many performances and different types of performances as you can – and take every opportunity that is offered to you to network and meet people. But of course, the best advice I can give you at the moment is to get yourself along to GIFT between 28 – 30 April!

Thank you Kate…..

And that’s what I love about the Cultural sector at the moment- it’s all about feeling empowered and being the change you want to see; she wanted an experimental theatre and performance festival in the region and made it happen!

Well you can expect to see The Culture Vulture at every single event and performance for GIFT – I’m obviously most excited for ‘Blow Off’, Pug Party anddddd GIFTed: Late Night Lip Sync CabaretBonnie and the Bonnettes and GIFTed guests

Check out the full GIFT 2017 programme in all its glory.

If you see me, feel free to say hello

 

Jesterval North East Comedy Festival 2017; Summer with a side of hysterics.

So it’s that time of year, where I eagerly sit planning my Summer, wishing the Springtime away – I rarely take holidays or take time off, but yet I still manage to cram as much as possibly into the Summer time…. The light nights make everything seem possible and the realities of real life so far away……..always time for one more drink, one more song, one more festival and where going out on a Wednesday was laughable mid-December, suddenly becomes essential.

Whilst I’m busy planning my Summer and my diary is looking jam packed full of lushness – I’m also thinking of festivals; my perfect job would be one I could take 2months off and festival my heart out. I do try to attend at least one a year now either abroad or in the UK away from the North East and as many as possible in the region; this year I’m off to Festival of Thift, Lindisfarne Festival, Q Festival and of course, an annual fave not just for me and my friends, but also Mama Culture Vulture – Jesterval North East Comedy Festival!

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Jesterval has now become so entwined in my Summer holiday planning mostly down to the fact I was absolutely furious a few years ago when I booked a holiday over half the festival. It was so devastating and serious, that I was tempted to cancel….. hehe. But now, in my Summer planning, the question is always first – “right, so when is Jesterval?” – making sure it has prime position and such an oversight never occurs again.

I attend as many of the Jesterval days and nights as possible and I love it for so many reasons; obviously I get to see lush comedy in a brilliant atmosphere from some of comedies bigger hitters before they head off on tour or to the fringe. I also, get to discover some hidden gems, up and comers and lots of people I get to tick off my comedy list who I’d always wanted to see. All of this within an amazing programme, which I love; walking into the Jesterval tent discovering someone brilliant.

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I love the Jesterval community vibe too – you see lots of regular festival goers and there is something so brilliant and uniting, over a beer or G&T, from absolutely laughing your socks off, eye liner crying down our faces, with a laughter stitch causing such pain that I’m a million percent sure I will have a six pack the next day – so much so, I’d go and have been many times, to nights on my own, laughing like a cracker on my own, feeling part of the Jesterval furniture. I also have friends who do the comedy rounds at The Stand and others and it’s great to see them get the opportunity to perform on my door step…… and of course, I’m sure it’s great for them, to have a proud friend wailing, jeering and cheering from the back…friends are the worst hecklers – especially after a gin or two.

But my biggest love for Jesterval, is the fact that it is unrivalled as a festival with such a brilliant programme; I can and do attend things with my really diverse friendship groups, people from work, Mama Horts, people who haven’t really been to comedy gigs before, comedy regulars and my friends with families of little tinkers. This is why I go so much….. so much to do and see – may as well camp on site.

Those eagle eyed of you will have noticed that Jesterval tickets have gone on sale and that this year, it is part of the bigger Q Festival event on Baltic Quays, 14th July – 6th August in a lush Spiegel tent.  Well, I thought it was the right time to catch up with Jesterval programmer Della and get this year’s low down….and find out, who I should be seeing……

Hi Della, Jesterval is back for 2017, I’m buzzin’ obviously as always…..for those who haven’t been before or unsure what Jesterval is, can you explain what it’s all about?

It is a festival of comedy with jesters and val….; hehe not really it’s an amalgamation of jester and festival. And it’s about to go off on the Gateshead quayside, over 45 comedy shows in one space.  Bringing together some of the best UK and International Comedy performers.

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Gosh……I was excited to meet this Val for a second…. That might be my 2017 Jesterval heckle “where’s bliddy Val, I came to see Val?!!!” So how did the idea for Jesterval start – why did you launch a comedy festival here in the North East?

There has been a comedy festival in the north east for a number of years we inherited it 7 years ago. Previously all the shows were hosted in different venues around Gateshead and Newcastle, we wanted to centralise it and make a single fun destination where people could hang out and enjoy a festival atmosphere. We run up here because I am a local lass and therefore save a fortune on travel and why would you want to go anywhere else!?

My favourite memory of Jesterval so far, was a Sara Pascoe show a few years back – on one side of the front row we had a step Dad desperately trying to bond with a teenage step son and a very middle class first meeting of future in laws on the other side…… I’m not sure if I laughed more at Sara’s show or the social awkwardness of these two groups refusing to laugh or look each other in the eye during each rudey joke….it was brilliant! Do you have any fond memories or favourite shows from years gone by?

Too many fond memories too many great shows always enjoy Ed Byrne who has been an ardent supporter of the festival, Luisa Omielan who never fails to smash it and also Lee Kyles’ various shows are always a riotous unpredictable laugh fest!

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Ed Byrne having a Jesterval bev in 2015

You’re announcing the programme bit by bit (sneaky!) – what and who can people expect this year for 2017?

They can literally expect something for everyone, we have the master of one liner’s Gary Delaney, Surrealist Paul Foot, too many comedy award winners to mention, but here are a few Sara Pascoe, Phil Nichol, Brendon Burns, Zoe Lyons, Glenn Wool, Mick Ferry and the list goes on…..

What are you most excited about for 2017?

We are always excited by the idea that people will come along and take a punt on an act that they have no knowledge of but trust our booking instincts; for example last year we hosted Scott Gibson with his show that then went to the Edinburgh festival and won the best newcomer award. He is back again on the 20th of July which like all nights has a stunning line up, with solo shows from Scott, Mike Gunn and Matt Reed.  We are also super pleased to welcome Tom Binns back fresh from filming his new BBC Comedy Series Hospital People.

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Jesterval is known for championing new comedians and comedians experimenting with new material before heading up to Edin – who or which show is your one to watch for this year?

Desiree Burch is relatively new to the UK circuit and most definitely one to watch out for. Because we select the shows for Jesterval we believe that every one of them is as good as the next, but just different.

Right onto the important stuff…..Jesterval is for all kinds of people and I usually go multiple times, can you suggest some shows this year for me…..

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  • For me and my best mate Kate – we like crime dramas, anything ridiculous, lots of gin and crisps, nothing too cheesy or preachy.

I would suggest salt and vinegar crisps as they are definitely not too cheesy. Go and see Lee Kyle and his show “The Best Comedy He Can Do Without Swearing” and Paul Foot’s ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Piglet’.

  • For me and my Mum – Mama Horts LOVES Sara Pascoe, humour taking the mick out of real life things, women stuff etc.

Well as you will know Sara Pascoe is back, so thats a no brainer and as I know your mum loves Hal Cruttenden as do I, then that is Mama Horts sorted.

  • For me, my friend Carla and her little boy Beck – he’s two, likes puddle stamping, bright colours, food (me too) and going up and down stairs?

The Gunge show or Yukfest sounds like it would be perfect for Beck and of course the big kid in you and Carla.

  • For me and my friend Laura with her family- all under ten and a grown up husband…..?

There are so many fantastic family shows and the best part is that they are fun for adults too, believe me, I have seen them.   The Kagools are hilarious and we have even added some circus comedy into the Jesterval family programme this year with “Arr We There Yet“ and “Arthurs Odyssey”. Families will be spoilt for choice.

  • For me and my friend Lucy – we want to check out the undiscovered, someone new?

Sophie Willan is back this year with her Edinburgh preview show ‘Wild’; Sophie is most definitely one to watch out for.  Johnny Pelham and George Zac are also ones for the undiscovered list.

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Right, so the all-important question now – where can I get my tickets for shows? Are they on sale now?

Tickets are on sale now and you can buy them from our website

Jesterval is part of a bigger festival this year, on Baltic Square Gateshead called Q Festival……..can you tell your loyal audience (like me) who go every single year, a little bit more about what to expect?

We are absolutely thrilled to be collaborating with Gateshead Council on Q Festival, the programme is so varied and is such an awesome addition to Jesterval Comedy.  Some of the events you can expect are a Gin festival brought to you by local guys Steampunk Gin, gerrin!, Immersive Cinema from the absolutely talented Screenage Kicks, craft sessions galore, an 80’s party (get your leg warmers ready), a baby rave with Chalk, yes that’s right a blooming rave for the bairns and much more.  I am so excited for this festival and can’t wait to see the people of the North east down on Baltic Square from July 14th to 6th August.

Thanks Della……

Well that sounds proper lush……..and I’m properly excited now and need to get tickets for everything immediately…..for those that love Jesterval as much as I do, get your tickets before shows start selling out and for everyone else, go go go and cherry pick some shows and embrace the Jesterval Comedy Fest vibe.

(All Pictures are used with permission from Jesterval and courtesy of picturesbybish, a fantastically talent photographer!)