North East comedy co-op expands after gaining social enterprise advice

An arts co-operative in the North East has set up a second comedy club in the region after securing support to develop its business model.

Felt Nowt – named after a slogan by cult North East comedian Wavis O’Shave – is a non-profit organization started by a group of local comedians who want to take comedy into new realms.

They worked with social enterprise experts from the North East Business and Innovation Center (BIC) to develop a business model that reinvests profits with the long-term goal of making comedy more accessible to different parts of the region.

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After opening a comedy night at Laurel’s in Whitley Bay, the band will soon launch a weekly event at the Dun Cow pub in Sunderland.

Comedian and Felt Nowt member Si Beckwith said: “Sunderland has been without a permanent home for comedy for too long. It’s amazing that a city of this size and comedic heritage doesn’t already have a comedy club and we can’t wait to share the talent that’s on our doorstep.

“The city is buzzing with regeneration and is ripe for a new comic scene that not only acts as a platform for comics, but also for other creatives, writers, producers and broadcasters.”

The Felt Nowt cooperative was created during the pandemic, when a group of unemployed artists came together to brainstorm ways to create new opportunities.

Although their original plan was simply to generate income after the places where they worked closed, they soon realized that their combined skills and experience could help create something bigger. They worked with social enterprise experts Kevin Marquis and Michelle Booth from BIC on business planning and securing funding.

Mr Beckwith said: “What we ended up with is something much more impactful. We all volunteer our time to keep Felt Nowt going, and it was all about generating work for talented comedians in the North East.

“Comedy has the potential to do amazing things in all kinds of settings to improve confidence, mental health and relationships. Our driving force is to bring these benefits to our community.

“Kevin and Michelle really understood that and helped us stay true to those goals. Their support meant we felt like we weren’t flying alone.

Kevin Marquis, Director of Social Enterprise at BIC, said, “Felt Nowt is a fantastic example of an ambitious organization with a social heart. By coming together in this way, they not only amplify what they do as individuals, but they can also reach new audiences and benefit new communities.

“We have seen a huge increase in recent months in the number of companies wanting to establish themselves in a way that helps them do good in the world and BIC continues to invest in services to help them do this.

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