INTERVIEW: Felt Nowt | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Lee Kyle, performing for Felt Nowt

Like everything else in the creative world, comedy has taken a bit of a battering. Seemingly never-ending lockdowns and social distancing has meant live stand-up is forced online, with often mixed results. Much like the endless parade of songwriters performing from their bedroom, virtual comedy (aside from the excellent output from Newcastle club The Stand) has suffered a similar lack of originality.

However, if the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that where there’s a bunch of creative and talented souls, there’s a way out of the awkward online hole we find ourselves in. North East comedy agency Felt Nowt is a not-for-profit community interest company, run by comedians for comedians.

Local comedy stalwart Lee Kyle is one of the company’s founders, alongside Gavin Webster, Hal Branson and Lauren Pattison among others. “The idea came from desperation to be honest! We realised that we’re very lucky in the North East as there are enough good comedians that, if we work together, we can generate more work. It also helps that we broadly all get on pretty well.”

The name, Lee explains, has its roots in North East comedy legend.The name came from the character The Hard, who was played by Wavis O’Shave on The Tube in the early 80s. ‘Felt Nowt’ was his catchphrase. He was a parody of hard men, taking it to ludicrous extremes. We chose it because we wanted something that reflected the history of North East comedy without being too ‘Eeeeh! Aren’t Geordies all dead canny!’ about it.”

comics can see that we’ve done things properly and that the non-profit co-operative model is the way out of this

Felt Nowt’s aim is to provide quality gigs for local comedians, and to offer the audience an experience as close as possible to being at a real-life performance. The comedians perform on stage at Alphabetti Theatre, professionally lit and filmed, and they interact with the audience online. For Lee, the medium provides not just the audience with high quality entertainment, but regional comedians with a much-needed source of income and a pathway to sustainability. “Luckily, comics can see that we’ve done things properly and that the non-profit co-operative model is the way out of this.”

Off the back of a series of highly successful New Year shows, Felt Nowt are branching out into fortnightly ‘weekend club’ style shows and solo shows from well-known local acts, with highlights including solo sets from Carl Hutchinson (Friday 5th), Lee Kyle himself on Tuesday 16th February, Scottish comedian and actor Rachel Jackson presents her Slutty Little Goldfish show on Friday 19th, also on Friday 19th there’s late night chuckles with Gavin Webster. Felt Nowt Fridays offer up a plethora of talent all in one place, making it the perfect option for alternative weekend entertainment, Friday 19th sees sets from Lost Voice Guy, John Whale and Julian Lee among others, hosted by Hal Branson.

There’s a lot in the pipeline for Felt Nowt, as Lee explains. “Once ‘all this’ is out of the way, we have some huge news about a permanent venue somewhere in the North East. We are also launching a membership scheme where comedy fans pay a fiver a month and receive discounts and free tickets as well as access to a subscription channel (tentatively called Nowtflix), with loads of shows that will be both a source of funny stuff and a way to help North East comedy thrive.”

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