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Going outdoors has enabled 57 Festivals to incorporate social distancing measures at the Greenwich Comedy Festival without reducing the audience capacity or impacting its economic potential. Christopher Barrett speaks to Nick Tearle at E1 Media Agency, about the planning of the five-day event.

Taking place on 23 – 27 September, the seven-show Greenwich Comedy Festival at London’s National Maritime Museum will feature a line-up of comedians including Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran, Sara Pascoe and Josh Widdicombe.

The event is run by 57 Festivals, which also operates the Bristol Comedy Garden and Brighton Comedy Garden events. 57 Festivals directors Will Briggs and Cass Briggs have been working on the Greenwich event alongside Tearle (pictured below),  who is marketing the event.

“On paper it is a financially viable event but there are a lot of unknowns”

Each show will accommodate an audience of 1,300, the same as in previous years, but while in the past the shows have taken place within a Big Top tent, this year it will be an open air event with the audience sat on chairs that are spread out on the lawn, in line with social distancing guidelines, in front of a domed stage with large LED screens either side.

Says Tearle, “Comedy is something that is traditionally fairly easy to manage, people are sitting down, they are not shouting at each other as there isn’t loud music –  it is a format that presents itself to working under the current guidelines.

“On paper it is a financially viable event but there is a lot of unknowns, the bar being a key one because we don’t know people’s appetite for ordering drinks on site. We will not have a bar, instead we are offering a pre-order service, via an app, with delivery to seats.”

Despite Covid-19 and the necessity for tickets to be purchased in pairs, with audience members socially distanced into couples at the venue, Briggs says a huge chunk of the 10,500 available tickets have been snapped up.

“Tickets have sold incredibly well, we have sold twice as many tickets as we had at this stage last year. It suggests there is a huge appetite out there for events like this,” says Tearle.

From a marketing perspective, Tearle’s role has been to communicate to the public that it is a safe event to attend. A large focus has been social media and he says the response so far has been positive.

In order to help attendees feel at ease before the event, the website has extensive information about what people can expect on site, including the audience area being split into four separate blocks – each  colour coded and including dedicated entrance and exit points, toilet and hygiene facilities, and  dedicated PPE-adorned staff.

Tearle says with it not possible to get insurance for cancellation due to Covid-19, it has been a matter of working closely with suppliers, including BES Systems, Colour Sound Experiment and Event Till Solutions to limit exposure and risk: “The show will go ahead rain or shine but if Government policy changes and we are not allowed to do progress we will provide refunds. We have been careful as to how we deal with production suppliers and have found them to be very supportive.”