“We’re celebrating the diversity of people and experiences.” | Quenby Harley on launching Biconography for Bi+ Visibility Month

Tell us about Biconography.

We’re a photography project working to increase bi+ visibility, while celebrating the diversity of people and experiences contained within our community.

What inspired you to launch the project?

Our co-founder Emily made an 8m long bi flag for Leeds Pride and the moment I saw it I wanted to wear it as a giant cape. Me and Emily started chatting about how to do that as a one off event, but it quickly became clear there was potential to do much more with it. 2 hours later we had a plan of how to use a fun idea to give people an affirming experience while raising bi+ visibility.

What particular challenges do the Bi+ community face?

Leeds Bi Group recently launched a guide covering this in more detail, but bi+ people frequently get erased by the queer community as well as straight people. This is reflected in the rates of mental health problems, being out, and abuse faced by our community.

How do you hope your project will address these challenges?

Biconography is focussed on raising bi+ visibility and celebrating the diversity of people and experiences that fall under bi+ identities. Our goal is to share peoples stories and improve awareness of bi+ people. At the same time we hope the pictures will be a positive, empowering experience for the subjects. 

How can people get involved in the project?

Liking and sharing our content on social media is a huge help, a way to let us reach a broader audience. We’re also looking for people to take part as subjects! We’ll be running photoshoots around Leeds and we welcome anyone who identifies as part of the bi+ community to get involved. You can find us on social media or email us at biconography@gmail.com. We have our first shoots planned in Leeds on 26th October and 14th November.

What kind of photos are you planning to include?

We want to work with our subjects to capture something of their identity in the pictures, and pair that with text or quotes about their experiences. Part of the concept has always been to use bold items of clothing and props to artificially elevate an aesthetic, to be so visible that we can’t be overlooked or erased. We’re also keen to include people within the bi+ community who face intersectional discriminations (e.g. trans, disabled, or PoC bi+ people).

What do you hope people take away from the project?

I hope everyone gets a better awareness of bi+ issues, and how many bi+ people there are around. Our goal is for the people who take part in the photoshoots to have an enjoyable and validating experience as well.

Do you plan to do more things like this in future?

It’s an ongoing project, we plan to continue taking photos and sharing them online for the next couple of years.

Are there any other Bi Visibility Day projects you’ve seen around that you’re excited about?

There were a few performance nights around Leeds and Manchester which were really awesome.

Do you have any advice for aspiring queer artists?

It feels weird being asked that question like I’m not one myself … Remember that we need to stick together. The industry, audiences, and fellow artists outside the queer community are unlikely to be supportive. Share and support each others stuff, find your queer arts community and work together rather than bitching or competing with one another.

You can find out more about Biconography by following the project on Facebook and Twitter.

“I’m talking about life stuff which we all experience, it’s just through a different lens.” | Rachel Creeger on bringing layers of identity to the Women in Comedy Festival

Tell us about your show, Hinayni!

Hinayni! is about the idea that we’re more than the sum of our parts, and how we can learn to accept the different aspects of ourselves without worrying about how other people perceive us. I’ve found it really difficult to come up with a humourous strapline for the show – which is ironic because it contains more jokes than anything I’ve ever written! 

Your show explores identity. How personal does it get?

I’d say that all of my work explores identity in some way, I think that’s true of a lot of intersectional writers and performers.

Sharing the personal is a way of communicating. One of the reasons I love stand up is that it’s raw communication because the dynamics are different every time. I’m myself and I’m in the room with you and we’re going through this experience together.

I’m very open about the layers of my identity and how they have been formed, and I think that’s a subject most people can identify with. 

Was it challenging putting so much intense personal reflection on the stage?

While I’m used to being very truthful on stage, I wasn’t prepared for the impact of describing my neurological disorder and the day that I became more obviously unwell.

I’d been symptomatic throughout my life but hadn’t realised that these things were abnormal until the full condition was triggered. Over a matter of days I lost my speech and my mobility and had to have a huge amount of physiotherapy and other treatment.

It was around 20 years ago but I have issues on a day to day basis and as it’s an “invisible” condition people aren’t necessarily aware that I might be struggling. It took quite a few years before I could be funny about my experiences with family and friends and I thought I was ready to take this public.

However, occasionally onstage in Edinburgh I found myself very overwhelmed by the memories and also by the fact that I felt that by choosing the elements of my disability that other people would find entertaining I wasn’t necessarily being true to myself. Ultimately I began to address this feeling in the show which helped a lot.

Has writing the show taught you anything about identity and self-reflection that you want to share with us now?

I think it’s brought home to me how much influence I’ve allowed other people to have over how I see myself. My primary school gave me a positive experience but my secondary education doled out a series of negative messages at such a formative time, and I’m now trying to unpick and undo that. 

You discuss your faith a lot in your act. What is the trick to sharing this with audiences who aren’t familiar with the nuances of Jewish culture?

As the only practising orthodox Jewish woman currently on the UK comedy circuit I think people expect my material to be very niche, but of course statistically I perform for way more non-Jewish than Jewish people across the year. I’d say that I’m talking about life stuff which we all experience, it’s just through a different lens.

I’m not trying to represent all Jews or even British Jews, I can only represent myself! Once you’re talking about YOU, not the intricacies of a culture but you, yourself, as a kid, a parent, a student, a friend, we can all relate to that material.

Even if it’s said by a kosher eating, sabbath observant, hair covering Jewish mother.

What made you want to perform your new show at the Women In Comedy Festival UK?

The Women In Comedy Festival UK provides a fantastic platform for female identifying comedians – really putting us front and centre as funny acts worth seeing. It’s an incredibly supportive event and I had a really positive experience performing my last show as part of the festival. It’s great to see female promoters pushing women forward.

What do you hope people take away from your show?

I hope that people leave Hinayni! feeling positive and uplifted, it’s a show about being true to yourself and we can all benefit from peeling off a layer here and there. Most of all I hope they’ll have had a big old laugh because it’s really funny!

Are there any other shows at the Women In Comedy Festival UK that you’re excited to see?

Unfortunately for me, the festival falls amongst the Jewish Holidays so I won’t be able to see any other shows, I could just about get mine in! I’d love to see JoJo Sutherland and Thanyia Moore.

I saw the beginning of Susan Murray‘s a few times in Edinburgh when I had a show right before her and it sounded amazing. Pauline Eyre is delivering her first full length show and having seen the half hour version I can’t wait to see this.

I’d recommend the Funny Women Showcase too, they’re always fantastic.

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

I think we just need to keep building ourselves and each other up. Have each other’s back. Recommend each other if we know a woman who would be perfect for a particular gig or event. 

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?

The best advice I can give someone starting out is to prepare for a rollercoaster ride, it’s hard work with tremendous highs and horrendous loss. (I’m really selling it here!)

I’d always recommend staying to the end of every gig if possible, because you learn so much from seeing how different people work the same room. And keep listening to your own work and how it’s received so that you can continue to refine it.

Keep pushing and keep learning. I’ll be learning forever.

Rachel is performing her show Hinayni! on October 6th as part of the Women in Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Women in Comedy Festival here.

To keep up with other things Rachel has going on, you can check out her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

“I’m going to dedicate the show to all the maps of Tassie in the world” | Kath Marvelley on bringing the wonders of Australian wildlife to the Women in Comedy Festival

Tell us about your show, Aussie Wildlife Whisperer. What inspired the show?

I love animals! I like native animals outside in their natural habitat. I grew up with environmental parents who birdwatch and took me outside camping and hiking. They also made their house right next to the bush so we always had animals around on a daily basis – wallabies, cockatoos and others that are less tame!

What is this show bringing to the Manchester WICF that audiences won’t find anywhere else?

Laughs! (joke)…No that will definitely be in other shows! It’s a bit of a TED talk and comedy journey where you’ll learn a bit about animals you’ve never heard of… but mostly have some fun. I talk about my experiences and encounters with Australian animals and I let you ask me about any other animals I haven’t mentioned too.

Has putting this show together taught you anything you didn’t already know about your home country?

I did look up some stuff, but you have to come to the show to find out the rest [spoiler alert]. I’ve always been interested in science though so some stuff I already knew. Mostly it’s about my and my loved ones’ encounters though.

Is there anything you learned about the difference between Australia and the UK that surprised you?

You have killer birds too. Swans. And geese. They always looked so pretty you know..?

Is there anything that you think will particularly surprise audiences?

I find describing snakes does terrify the UK locals, but not any Australians that come!

What is your favourite ever fact about Australian wildlife?

Cassowaries will kill you, especially if you import them to the U.S.

Also, Tasmanian magpies don’t do the killer swooping of their Australian mainland cousins and scientists don’t know why. It’s like they know they’re not part of Australia – just jokes, Tasmanians – love ya! I’m going to dedicate the show to all the maps of Tassie in the world since it’s the Women in Comedy Festival. Especially those maps of the world that left of Tasmania.

Also if you’re bored later and you have a free moment, I recommend googling Tasmanian Devils and face cancer.

Has writing this show made you feel homesick at all?

No. In many ways it’s made me feel more connected and really I just have so much fun performing it. It has no agenda, it’s just meant to be fun. The main problem is promoting it – it would be so much easier if I could pose with Aussie animals back home for my Instagram!

Your show offers diversity to the fringe by introducing people to a culture that exists on the other side of the world. How does it feel getting to share your home country with so many people?

It’s a great culture, a culture that brought fairy bread to the world which I sometimes bring to the show for my audience. I think it’s a lot like the UK but with more big spaces, sun and skin cancer. I like that I can come to the UK and experience such a different culture (and animals!) in many ways but still get to use my language. My favourite part of the UK is the flowers. The worst part is the rain.

What do you hope people will take away from the show?

That you should never relax when there is an Australian animal in the room, especially if she’s a comedian.

Kath is performing her show Aussie Wildlife Whisperer on October 10th as part of the Women in Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Women in Comedy Festival here.

To keep up with other things Kath has going on, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Blizzard comes around and I’m more determined with comedy than ever. ” | Jonny Collins reflects on Blizzard Comedy six months in

How do you feel Blizzard has gone over the past six months?

Honestly it’s gone far better than I could’ve hoped for. I was not expecting to be getting this level of community engagement this early on into the show’s life.

We’ve got a handful of dedicated regulars, and at the last two shows in particular loads of people who’ve been showing up last minute off the back of shout outs from Manchester Wire, Manchester Evening News, and Gullivers itself. Everyone from the acts, to the audience, to the people involved behind the scenes seems really enthusiastic about the existence and success of this night.

I’m so proud of myself and everyone else involved in the creation of Blizzard.

How was the most recent show?

Excellent. One of our lowest ticket pre-sales shows, yet one of our fullest and loveliest rooms! We had a superb line-up as always, that was only improved by the last minute special guest appearance of Kiri Pritchard-McLean, an act who’s been a mentor to me in a literal and metaphorical sense. Huge inspiration, and the fact that she approached me to do some new stuff at Blizzard is a huge indication at just how well this night’s reputation is spreading.

Has Blizzard gone the way you expected it to?

It feels so long ago, I can’t quite remember the way I expected it to go! I’d say no in the sense that it’s far more successful than I anticipated, but yes in that it is most of the things that I set it out to be.

My one goal that I feel I’m letting people down on is the diversity of line-ups. Even then people keep reminding me that even something as simple as having three women of different backgrounds on a line-up is far more than you see a lot of clubs making a conscious effort to do, and something we have done on multiple occasions. I’d like to push the POC and disabled representation more than we currently are, but I’m confident we’re at a good starting point and heading towards the right direction.

How has Blizzard changed since you first conceived of it?

Depends if you mean from the first actual night or from when I first formulated the idea for it. In case of the latter, the sticker system that I borrowed from Quantum Leopard was quite late in the development for it.

In terms of the structure of the night we’ve gone from six acts to five, with two short sets, two slightly longer and a headliner. I’m thinking of changing that again in the new year, but still in early days.

In terms of the core values though, they’ve been fairly constant throughout – safe space, anxiety friendly, free entry with optional donations, diverse mixture of acts and as accessible as possible. 

How have you changed as a performer since you started running Blizzard?

I’m a lot more confident riffing on stage. Having an audience like Blizzard who enable me to waffle about nonsense and politics helps me devise a lot. It lets me know that with the right crowd I can pull it off. It’s not something I always attempt at other gigs. But I used to be far more rigid in my sets and scripts, whereas now I’m less scared to go off script if the gig is going that way. 

What has been your favourite thing about running Blizzard?

The sheer number of acts I look up to who’ve expressed interest in doing my gig. I won’t spoil names here, but there’s been some really iconic names in the comedy circuit who’ve approached me asking to do Blizzard, despite its modest pay and small audience capacity.

Also seeing acts I already know and like smash Blizzard, and seeing how much their confidence soars. At the risk of sounding arrogant, we’ve had a number of acts who’ve been feeling disillusioned with comedy, but have a brilliant time at Blizzard and are visibly more motivated and excited about stand-up than ever before.

I won’t take full credit obviously, but it’s nice to play a part in that. I even get it with myself, I’ll be feeling low all week, then Blizzard comes around and I’m more determined with comedy than ever.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced running Blizzard?

I’m gonna be boring and say finances. We’re still not at the point we’re breaking even, and at times it is definitely a strain to keep putting the night on. However we do have several dedicated Patrons, as well as plenty of people who will chuck whatever they can afford at us on the way out of our gigs, so we’re not completely out of pocket.

It is true that we do have to make up the difference ourselves though, and if it wasn’t for the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve had from acts and audience alike, I probably would’ve given up by now.

Now? I’m gonna keep at it as long as people want to come. I’m more than happy to fund this night, I believe it’s a genuinely great addition to the comedy circuit, and I want it to exist. 

What has surprised you most about Blizzard?

I’m probably repeating myself here, but I’d say the thing that’s most surprised me is just how much the acts we book enjoy playing here and praise us. Obviously our main priority is to make sure the audience are safe and having a good time, but it’s nice when we can provide a space that comedians love to play as well.

It might sound silly, but comedy is emotionally draining work at times, especially the bigger clubs that actually help acts pay the bills. I’m really happy that we can both give acts a bit of cash for their time, and provide them a room they genuinely enjoy playing. 

What are your hopes for Blizzard in the future?

Increase venue size once we can afford to, and off the back of that increase our act budget. There’s so many great acts who’ve had to turn down Blizzard spots because they can’t justify the journey from wherever they’re based for the fee we can afford. So I’d like to be able to offer more to everyone.

Improving accessibility as well. We’ve been toying with ideas such as BSL interpreters at our shows, which is way out of our budget, but would be such an awesome thing to do to become even more inclusive.

Also I want to diversify the line-ups even more, which having a higher budget will make infinitely easier too.

Apart from that, I just want to carry on providing a great comedy night that makes everyone feel welcome and safe, and doesn’t punch down.

You can follow Jonny’s work by checking out their Facebook and Twitter.

You can help to support Blizzard by coming to a show or inviting your friends. We also accept donations via PayPal and anyone who wants to offer ongoing support can visit our Patreon page.

“My perspective happens to be an ill woman who bleeds and shits and shags.” | Amy Vreeke on bringing The Year My Vagina Tried To Kill Me to SICK! Festival

Tell us about your show, The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me

The show is a solo comedy theatre show about my experience of living with the chronic condition, Endometriosis. 

Endometriosis is a disease that affects the lining of the uterus. The cells that usually line the uterus migrate to other parts of the body, mainly around the pelvis and the organs in that area. The symptoms of this vary, they include infertility, pain during sex, bowel problems and very painful periods. The average diagnosis time for the disease is 7 years, it affects one in ten women yet is barely recognised.

The show explores living with the symptoms as well as wider issues surrounding women’s health, women being ignored, unheard and shamed.

What made you want to make a show about such a personal topic?

I first realised I had the disease through reading a book by a woman with endometriosis. She gave a personal account on how she felt living with it and that really resonated with me. It was the first step towards a diagnosis. If I can do that for one other person through discussing this personal topic I’ll be happy.

When it comes to comedy, I’ve always written about personal experience, at least that’s the starting point for it. I think writing about something you’ve lived means you can really do it justice.

Twelve years of misdiagnoses is an awful thing to have to go through. What’s your process for making something like that funny?

I naturally turn to comedy when I’m experiencing any kind of difficulty. I’ve always looked for the humour in any situation, it’s what gets you through these things. ‘If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry’ is a phrase I am well acquainted with.

So I wrote jokes about my experience because that is how I dealt with it in the world too. I’ve actually struggled more with the moments of vulnerability in the show, because that’s not my comfort zone.

Was it ever difficult to encourage other people to laugh about it?

No. People who suffer have mostly been glad of the relief of laughing about it.

I hope the show has created a space where people laugh together about it. It’s not making fun of it, it’s finding the funny in it. I have some times walked into a comedy club and looked at the audience and thought ‘these guys don’t look like they’d be a fan of a joke about bleeding after sex’ but they have always suprised me. Never underestimate your audience!

Obviously there have been a few people who don’t enjoy that kind of comedy, but each to their own.

This isn’t the first time you’ve incorporated taboos about women’s health into your comedy. Why do you think it’s important to talk about topics like this on stage?

To be completely honest, I’ve always just written about the world from my perspective, and my perspective happens to be an ill woman who bleeds and shits and shags.

The funniness and quality of the work has always come before a need to discuss certain topics. Having said that, I did not realise until I started talking about it, how much it is needed.

The fact that endometriosis affects one in ten women and takes an average of SEVEN YEARS to diagnose points to the fact that we aren’t talking about this stuff enough. It’s important that women feel like they can discuss things with each other, their partners, their doctors, and maybe hearing a relatable experience and laughing with your mates might encourage that. 

The show includes “toilet-based mishaps and failed one-night stands”. Just how graphic does it get?

This is going to make me sound like Sandra from the office who everyone hates but I guess I just tell it how it is.

What is your personal preference when it comes to graphic humour – the toilet stuff or the sex stuff?

If it’s funny, it’s funny. I think doing it for the sake of it can be a bit shit (lol) but if it’s come from experience it’s usually great. 

What do you hope audiences take away from your show?

I hope they have a laugh. I hope they learn a bit about endometriosis and the crisis going on with women’s health. I hope they will feel more like they can chat openly (if they don’t already) about their and/or their friends’/family/partner’s health, even if it does involve their fanny.

Why did you choose to debut the show at SICK! Festival?

I applied for a catalyst commission with SICK! Festival last year. I was in a show (There is a light: Brightlight) that was a part of their last festival and was aware of the great work they do showcasing work about topics that aren’t widely discussed in theatre or generally.

Their programme is always really diverse and exciting and I really wanted the opportunity to be a part of that, I feel very lucky that I am!

Amy will be performing The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me at SICK! Festival on October 2-3rd at the Martin Harris Centre.

You can find out more about the show and book tickets here.

You can find out more about SICK! Festival here.

You can keep up with other things Amy has going on, as well as future dates for The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me, by following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Trust you have something to say. Trust your voice.” | Pernilla Holland on telling society’s expectations to fuck off at the Women in Comedy Festival

Tell us about your show.

It’s a silly exploration of the taboo, weird and awkward stuff that happens sometimes. Or maybe too many times… told from the perspective of your favourite Norwegian comic – me!

Your show jumps straight into the personal stuff, centring on friendships, sex and love. What made you want to share usually private stories with rooms full of strangers?

Personal stuff can be quite universal. I want the audience to know they are not alone and we all are a bit messed up so it´s better to laugh! I believe truth is a good thing.

Your show explores and challenges society’s expectations. What inspired you to do this through a comedy show?

I wasn’t really abiding by society’s expectations so I have no other choice. I think we can all pretend to be something we aren’t, I just can’t be bothered, I am 30 – this is it. My eggs are dying, so this is it!

Has writing the show taught you anything about life and relationships you can share with us now?

I poke fun at myself because it teaches me not to take things so seriously. So I think it’s taught me to be more authentic.

What do you hope people take away from the show?

Nothing much, I just want them to laugh and enjoy themselves. I don’t have a message or a hidden agenda, just jokes that happen to be personal.

What made you want to perform the show at the Women in Comedy Festival?

I really wanted to be part of a platform that supports women and gives a chance to new comics.

Are there any other shows at the Festival that you recommend people catch?

I don’t know, I just think pop along and risk seeing someone new cause you might find it really good.

I am doing a few, Hull festival, Prague festival, Hastings festival, Brighton Fringe and Edinburgh of course.

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

I guess more females on comedy lineups, please!

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy

Trust you have something to say. Trust your voice and keep writing as well as doing as many gigs as you can.

Pernilla is performing her show on October 13th as part of the Women in Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Women in Comedy Festival here.

To keep up with other things Pernilla has going on, you can check out her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

“The more you try every day to be confident and genuine, it does get easier.” | Allyson Smith on why now is the best time for women in comedy

Tell us about your show, The Self Confidence Trick.

The new show is a work in progress. It’s about self confidence and my search for it. I think I’m just exploring why it is that people struggle with developing self confidence and feeling good about who they are.

I delve into why I think I’ve struggled. Obviously as a child I was picked on so we chat about that. I love being able to talk to the audience about whether anyone has ever been bullied because there’s not a person out there who hasn’t… and if someone doesn’t raise their hand, well, we’ve found the bully!

So yeah it’s touching base with that.

What made you want to make a show about self confidence?

I think being a stand up, I never really thought about it until much later into my career.

As a child I was always insecure and picked on. Once I found theatre and drama, I really started to figure out who I was and what I was about. Stand up, I think, was the final step in making me realise that this was my subconscious getting me to do something to do something that requires a lot of confidence. I think that’s why I want to do a show about it.

To be very honest, I’ve been doing stand up for twenty years, but I was a little nervous about making a one woman show particularly, a solo show to take to Edinburgh. I don’t know, it’s a scary place to be, when you put yourself out there in front of audiences and reviewers and people that are critiquing and looking at things with a fine-toothed comb. That’s really scary.

In a way I’m challenging myself to do this, to push past that fear and to have the confidence to do it no matter what the outcome or what other people’s opinions of me might be.

What do you say to people who would think you need a lot of self confidence to do comedy in the first place?

I would say yeah I guess you do. But standing up and chatting in front of an audience is always something I’ve loved to be good at. And I think it’s because it’s me standing in front of a mass of people, performing at people.

Although yeah it requires confidence, it’s also a very safe place to be. You’re very removed from the audience. You’re your own entity on stage. It requires confidence but for me it was kind of a way to shy away from direct communication.

It sounds silly but for me I think this will be a bigger step towards opening up about some of those vulnerabilities I have.

You are a self-confessed over-sharer. How personal can we expect this show to get?

This show has given me a chance to share experiences that maybe late night club audiences wouldn’t want to explore.

This is me, this is my show, this is what I want to do, as opposed to performing in clubs, which is what I do almost all the time. In those shows of course I’m myself and I’m sharing my own stories, but this is a bit more personal and more the way I want to do it. I have the final say in what is going to be said on stage, instead of trying to navigate my way through a group of drunk adults.

Has writing this show taught you any secrets about self confidence you’re willing to share with us?

Well it’s early days, so let’s say that I think the more you try every day to be confident and to be genuine, to not be afraid of what others might think, it does get a bit easier. Am I there? Absolutely not. Will I be by the end of the show? Probably not.

But I can definitely say that it’s getting a lot easier to even answer the question ‘What is this show about?’

What made you want to perform the show at the Women in Comedy Festival?

The Women in Comedy Festival, I think, is such an amazing thing and I’ve been a part of it since it began, when Hazel started it.

I just thought this is a great venue and a great time, because there’s a real push for new voices in comedy and in the stand up community. I think if I can get my message out to maybe some younger comedians or some girls in the audience, this might encourage them to also not be so afraid and to pursue what it is that they want to do, whether that be comedy or other things.

I thought the Women in Comedy Festival will be great for me because I really want to share this message with women right now. I mean, also everyone, and audiences are a mix. But it focuses on women in this industry and I think that is really important.

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

From my perspective – and again I am just one human being, but I am a female stand up and I have been for twenty years now. I was in Canada, I started my career there, and then I came to the UK. I have to say, in my twenty years of comedy, I feel like there have been massive changes in the last couple of years. I feel like the world of comedy is actually trying to make it more supportive and inclusive for women and for other diverse voices.

I feel like it’s already getting miles better than it was even a few years ago. I really believe that. I can feel it in even audiences.

When I first started comedy, it would be interesting because a man would step on stage and the audience would be like “oh I wonder what he’s going to say”. And then I would step on stage as a woman and you can audibly see people going “ugh, the woman”.

I feel like we always started in the negative no matter what. We were prejudged. I feel like now I step on stage and I can feel audiences being like “yes! It’s a woman on stage!” which is something that was a rarity for all of my comedy career so far.

So this is a really big time in the comedy world, I think.

Are there any other shows at the Festival that you recommend people catch?

Oh I mean there are so many wonderful acts. Kate McCabe is doing some shows. I know Lou Conran is an excellent comedian who is doing some shows.

There are loads of shows that I know people have heard of that those shows will sell out, so I’m trying to think of some acts that I really want to recommend. Rachel Fairburn, who is fantastic. Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Desiree Burch will be around. There are some really heavy hitters.

I would say to people, just take a read. Take a chance on some shows, on someone that you haven’t heard of. Maybe look for some content that you want to hear about because that’s the beauty of this festival. It’s a bunch of people being able to do stand up but also tell their stories, which sometimes we don’t always get a chance to do completely.

So I’d say go and read about the shows and take a chance on something you think might appeal to you.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?

Yeah. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Don’t spend too much time worrying or planning. If you want to try it, just find an open mic somewhere and try it. Your first time is your first time, it doesn’t count, it’s the moment where you know, do I want it or do I not?

I cannot encourage women enough to stop procrastinating and give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose. And like I said I feel like this is the most supportive time ever.

And on a side note – audiences get out there and support women. Women get out there and support women because that’s everyone’s argument. I feel like people need to realise that the support is what will encourage others to get involved as well.

Allyson is performing The Self Confidence Trick on October 11th as part of the Women in Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the Women in Comedy Festival here.

To keep up with other things Allyson has going on, you can check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

“It’s the most honest and messy and daring and risky I’ve ever been.” | Zahra Barri on not being special at the Women in Comedy Festival

Tell us about your show, Zahra Barri’s Special.

Yes, I’d love to talk about my show, it’s one of my favourite things to do! Okay, so it’s an ironic title because I recently found myself in a devastatingly raw existential crisis; I realised that I’m not special. But it’s fine, because even though I’m not special, I’m a comedian, so I can make my comedy Special.

Your show is described as honest and blunt. What kind of home truths can people expect from the show?

As a kid, my Mum was constantly telling me off for not thinking before speaking. I’d constantly embarrass her by saying (and doing) really inappropriate things (which I talk about in the show). But I wasn’t really being naughty, I was just being honest!

My comedy show is based around the fact that I’m still that naughty little kid who would say things I shouldn’t say and (do things I shouldn’t do). And even though I’ve spent my life getting told off for it, I’ve reached a pivotal moment of realisation and enlightenment; that actually I shouldn’t try to cover these thoughts and feelings up. Everyone should try to revert back to their childhood innocence, that’s when you were the most honest and truthful after all.

And the truth will set you free, I mean unless you’re Bill Cosby.

Where does this dry, brutal style of humour come from?

I lived in Saudi Arabia where women don’t have a voice. (I was there when they said that women couldn’t drive, that was a law, now it’s just an opinion). I think when you’re oppressed so much, it makes you rebel. I don’t want to be silenced anymore.

I want to be honest and open and authentic and not feel like I need to cover up any part of myself (or put an Instagram filter on). If I look like a dog on Instagram it’s because I’m hungover not because I put a puppy nose filter on my face.

What inspired you to write a show with truth as its core theme?

I see a lot of things on social media that aren’t truthful and I see a lot of people living their life in denial about things. Hey! I’m Egyptian I know all too much about denial (sorry, that’s the only pun I’m going to do, I promise).

You took your show as a work in progress to Edinburgh. How was your Edinburgh run? How much has the show evolved since Edinburgh?

Most people go to Edinburgh with a polished, rehearsed, astutely written, neatly structured show. Not me! My run at Edinburgh was essentially me throwing shit at the wall and seeing what stuck.

I experimented, I said things on stage I’ve never told anyone before. It was the most honest and messy and daring and risky I’ve ever been. I think when you’re writing a show about honesty, you need to be able to try, fail and expose flaws. That’s what its all about really isn’t it? But don’t worry, the show is a bit more polished now after 25 days of experimenting.

What do you hope people will take away from the show?

I want them to walk away saying, ‘wow that was a funny show, I mean she probably should go easy on all the Bill Cosby jokes, but other than that, funny and honest stuff!!’ Or something of that ilk.

What made you want to bring the show at the Women in Comedy Festival?

I am a woman. I am a comedian. I like festivals. If I’ve learnt anything from venn diagrams…

Are there any other shows at the Festival that you recommend people catch?

I think basically everyone! Sadia Azmat and Nobumi Kobayashi, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Rachel Fairburn, Sasha Ellen, Laura Monmoth, Sian Davies, Rachel Creeger, Desiree Burch, Jen Kirkman, Madeline Campion, Harriet Dyer, Kath Marvelly, JoJo Sutherland, Thanyia Moore, Celia Byrne, Kathryn Mather, Amy Gledhill, Gabby Killick, Pauline Eyre, Pernilla Holland, Allyson June Smith, Charlie George and Jennie in Charles and Jen.

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

Tampon machines in green rooms please.

Also – I think that the industry is doing loads to support women in comedy THESE DAYS. Diversity quotas are all the rage and quite rightly so because “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

I think it’s the audiences that need to evolve. Every female comic has had THAT audience member that comes up to you and says, “Now I don’t normally like female comedians but you were actually really funny!” (Side note: several women have said this to me after shows so there’s a great deal of internalised misogyny, unfortunately). Or you have the blokes that sit in the front row with stony cold faces and their arms crossed. But these people will eventually evolve with the times or die.

All we have to do is keep being funny because essentially funny’s funny. That’s undeniable.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?

Whatever you do, do NOT go into a hotel room with Louis CK.

Also FYI – all my favourite comedians are women. I think women are fucking funny. Any group who have been oppressed throughout history create the best art. Which is why if there is any black, Jewish, female, gay, trans comedian out there – make yourself known!

No, but seriously, just get on stage. That’s really the only thing you can do. You learn the rest as you go.

Zahra is performing Zahra Barri’s Special on October 13th at the Women in Comedy Festival.

Book your tickets here.

Find out more about the Women in Comedy Festival here.

You keep up with other things Zahra has going on by checking out her website or following her on Twitter and Instagram.

“Life is there to be lived and I’ve always done it unapologetically.” | Thanyia Moore on coming to the Women in Comedy Festival from her own angle

Tell us about your show, Bully. What made you want to write a show about bullying?

My life experiences.

How does your show differ from the stories typically told about bullying?

My angle isn’t the typical angle – it explores all sides of bullying

Was it difficult looking back of times in your life that can’t have been all that fun to go through and make them funny?

Nope! Life is there to be lived and looking back on my life confirms that that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And I’ve always done it unapologetically.

You took a version of the show on a split bill to Edinburgh this year. How did the run go?

My run at Edinburgh was amazing. It was my first time there so I didn’t know what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised with everything. The venues, people, atmosphere, energy, the love! It was just the best. I can’t wait for next year!

The full show is due to go to Edinburgh in 2020. Do you see it developing much over the next year?

Well, of course! I only did half an hour this year and in order for me to get to an hour, one must develop it!

What made you want to perform the show at the Women in Comedy Festival?

I was offered a spot, is the first reason. I also think it’s wise to perform in as many locations as possible – it means you don’t become a one trick pony.

Are there any other shows at the Festival that you recommend people catch?

I’m not sure what shows are in the Women in Comedy Festival, sadly. But if Jess Fostekew and Jayde Adams are about, then watch them!

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

Less men.

Mostly, I think having female only events helps with the hindering – it keeps us separated. On the other hand, if we didn’t have these events we wouldn’t be seen.

So yeah, less men.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?

Don’t! Nah, I’m playing – just enjoy it hun. Seriously, the only thing I can say is, live in the moment and enjoy it. Comedy is just like life, you have ups and downs and at the end of the day, you go home and have a cup of tea. You got this babes!

Thanyia is performing her show Bully on October 11th as part of the Women In Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the festival here.

You can keep up with other things Gabby has going on by checking out her website or following her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

“It’s important to start thinking what could go right rather than what could go wrong.” | Gabby Killick on bringing the bitch back for the Women in Comedy Festival

Tell us about your show, Girlfriend From Hell – The Bitch Is Back.

Girlfriend From Hell – The Bitch Is Back is a solo sketch comedy show offering life hacks on today’s dating and partying scene. The show is very physical I use my body, facial expressions and range of accents to create scenes and characters.

GFHBIB is a unique insight into the mindset of today’s girls and guys about town, offering useful advice on everything from how to end your love affair with Chardonnay to how to handle an anxious App threatened with deletion. It also looks at the pressures of social media and how we’re all in a very personal and dangerous relationship with our phones.

Plus, guidance on the best flirty filters to use when you want your ex’s new partner to clock how good you look and top tips on how to walk when you’ve taken too much ketamine. Remember it’s never too early to start stalking your ex…

How much does it relate to your last show, Girlfriend From Hell?

It’s majority a new show but similar themes like jealousy, bitchiness and partying occur throughout both shows. The few sketches that I have kept in the sequel have all been developed so they feel fresh and revamped.

Girlfriend From Hell was a show about a girl who is obsessed with her ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend. The character Gabby is constantly stalking her on Instagram and is always directly comparing herself to her. In the new show The Bitch Is Back you actually meet Instagram herself and she tells us what she thinks of the new girl and she’s very Sassy!

What made you want this show to be a sequel, rather than something completely new?

The old show was working. And I felt as a writer and as a performer I had only skimmed the surface with it. I had more in me to say on the topics that I had already written about. And it didn’t feel right to put a show to bed that I felt still could grow.

However, I know it’s important to keep shows fresh, so I went back to the script and just edited it like mad. The best sketches I kept and developed. And for the remaining stage time I had to fill, I had loads of new and exciting stories just pouring out of me that fitted in nicely with the themes already within the show. So, the two things combined created the sequel Girlfriend From Hell – The Bitch Is Back.

Centring on love, this show must be quite personal. Is it difficult talking about things that are usually private in rooms full of strangers?

I’ve never had an issue with being embarrassed on stage and I think that’s because my show is narrated by a character that I invented. I use that as a coping mechanism, if I ever think “oh god, this is really cringe…” I just remember it’s not me telling a personal secret of mine, it’s Gabby the character showing off to people who want to listen and want to be entertained so just GO FOR IT!

Has writing this show taught you any secrets about love and relationships you’re willing to share with us now?

HAHA I wish! No, I’m sorry I can’t say I’ve got a book of secrets on securing you a dazzling romance. But maybe I can offer a tip … GET OFF YOUR PHONE!!!

We’ve become so spoiled with technology that starting a conversation with stranger that you like the vibe off has somehow become terrifying.

We all need to become old school again. Think about how our grandparents would have lived. We need to normalise approaching someone when we’re out and just saying ‘hi’ and seeing what happens.

I think everyone around the world has wished at some point they took the leap and said to ‘hi’ to the person they liked the look of at the bar, or in the park, on the tube or wherever and we miss those opportunities because we’re frightened of rejection. Remember someone not being that into you is not as embarrassing as you think!

We are so attached to the idea of finding someone but totally glued to our phones. So rather than checking Instagram 1000 times a second when you’re out just look up and see what’s actually going on right in front of you. It could be someone really special.

Take a risk… say hello… in person!

What made you want to debut the show at the Women in Comedy Festival?

I was so excited to be asked to perform in the festival. There are so many talented women on the circuit and we all have different and unique styles. And for us all to be celebrated in the Women in Comedy Festival is a real honour to be a part of.

Are there any other shows at the Festival that you recommend people catch?

Go and see Desiree Burch – Desiree’s Coming Early. It’s hilarious and she’s totally captivating on stage!

How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?

The comedy industry is changing. It’s important that comedy clubs, theatres and open mics always mix it up and offer audiences variety.

It’s so boring when you watch the same 4 males acts do the same thing over and over again. Audiences are unique and are growing bigger and bigger, it’s vital that everyone watching can find something they relate to. However, sharing the same gender isn’t enough. Yes, more and more women are getting on line-ups each night which is fantastic to see but why stop there?

The comedy industry on a much wider scale needs to start showcasing comedy acts that aren’t just your standard ‘joke tellers’. The comedy circuit offers so much more than that – you’ve got sketch acts, character comedy, magic comedy, mime act’s, street performers, etc.! And whatever gender they identify as we all share a passion for comedy and we’re all itching to perform. So, my message to the comedy industry is give everyone a platform to shine!

Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?

It’s important to just got for it. I get a lot of people saying to me they’ve always wanted to try stand up but they’re too scared. My advice is always the same – you’ve got to want it more than you’re afraid of it.

There’s a great quote about failing that I really love. It reads “What if I fall? Oh, my darling but what if you fly!” I always think of that every time I perform especially if I’m feeling a bit nervous. It’s important to start thinking what could go right rather than what could go wrong. And I really believe that.

Upcoming tour dates for Girlfriend From Hell – The Bitch Is Back
Frog and Bucket – Manchester – 12th October
Drink Art Bar – Newcastle – 14th October
Basement Bar – York – 16th October
Yellow Arch – Sheffield – 17th October
Hope to see you there!

Gabby is performing her show Girlfriend From Hell – The Bitch Is Back on October 12th as part of the Women In Comedy Festival.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about the festival here.

You can keep up with other things Gabby has going on by checking out her website or following her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.