FEATURE: Jesterval | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Annual comedy spectacular Jesterval returns to BALTIC Square for a third year running and – what do you know? – it looks set to be bigger, bolder and more guffaw-inducing than ever. Over a short space of time the event, set in a pop-up 300-seat marquee, has established itself as a dependable local fixture.

“We think it’s amazing that we have had such support from the local community that has enabled us to run into a third year,” enthuses festival director Della Haq. “We always planned for this to grow organically, and that is exactly what is happening. I think when Geordies believe in something, they get behind it and support it 110%.”

The line-up is varied as ever, with a plethora of acts getting ready to tickle our funny bones from Friday 5th to Sunday 14th June.

So what are some of Della’s personal highlights? “Sara Pasco, Luisa Omielan, Andrew Maxwell, Ed Byrne, George Egg, Boy With Tape On His Face, Markus Birdman…I could keep going and name every one. It is so difficult to choose!”

Luckily no such indecision should plague comedy connoisseurs. The most expensive gig is priced at a very reasonable £12 (for Mock The Week’s Ed Byrne), with many of the top events coming in between £5-£7. “We always hope the cheap tickets encourage people to come along. It’s in no way a reflection on quality; you are guaranteed to get more than what you are paying for!”

This year’s line-up has a slightly broader feel, with acts including circuit-staples Jimmy Cricket and Catchphrase icon Roy Walker (with Mr Chips indisposed, Walker’s son, fellow stand-up Phil, is stepping up to the plate). “We hope this might introduce a younger audience to some legendary comedians,” says Della. “After all, you don’t get to be performing this long if you haven’t got something to offer.”

“We pride ourselves on bringing to the festival, along with high profile comics, lesser known acts who we feel are excelling at their craft”

As ever, there’s plenty of local talent (“It must be something in the water!”), with free shows from the likes of Lee Kyle and Matt Reed, and shows for only a fiver from Patrick Monahan, Kai Humphries, Seymour Mace and Lost Voice Guy. “We pride ourselves on bringing to the festival, along with high profile comics, lesser known acts who we feel are excelling at their craft,” Della says.

“We have loads of ideas on how to grow and increase the entertainment. We are a very small group of people and despite all the support we get both locally and nationally, the infrastructure can take some time to get into place.” Of course, the festival has exceeded all expectations, building a loyal audience over a couple of years. “We are self-funded and therefore depend heavily on the great team of volunteers that work extremely hard to make Jesterval happen, and of course the public who come along and support us.”

So far it seems the people of Tyneside are happily tapping into this comedy goldmine, long may it continue.

Jesterval takes place at BALTIC Square, Gateshead from Friday 5th to Sunday 14th June.

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