Thorner comedy festival raises laughs and cash

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Thorner’s highly popular comedy festival hit the funny bone and the high spots of fundraising.

The two-day event started in 2005 to raise money to fix the roof at the Victory Hall in the village.

That done, the laughs resounded from the audience last weekend in a bid to raise cash to repair the flooring and heating system.

Key organiser Alex Foster, said: “It’s been another great two evenings for us in Thorner but it would not have been possible without the support from Festival Republic, and Leeds Brewery, and a team of volunteers who make the shows possible.

“The Festival now has an enviable reputation, so much so that Friday’s tickets sold out in 36 hours.

“Our fund raising started in 2005 to help mend the roof here at the Victory Hall. We’ve done this and a lot of other work beside to create a super venue.

“Our next task though is to fix problems with the floor and heating system so, our fund raising work continues.”

Headline act was Seann Walsh who made a return to Thorner, recalling that in 2012 he’d appeared with a heavy cold.

Other acts included compere Kiri Pritchard McLean and Ivo Graham who made much of his Eton and Oxford University education.

For John Calvert’s full review go online at

Pictures by Steve McNiven Photography.

Friday’s show was compered by Kiri Pritchard McLean, a glittery-shorts-wearing Welsh girl now living in Manchester who was quick to admit that the Thorner audience was clearly a cut above what she’s grown used to on the North west comedy circuit.

Despite her Lancastrian links she wasn’t prepared to sink to Wars of the Roses based point scoring.

She gently lured the audience into response mode and made much of feedback on the length of marriages and their basis.

Kiri was delighted to find another Kiri within the audience - a rare event. She was challenging and the audience responded to her confiding approach.

She’d personal anecdotes relating to her work, and shamefully admitted to a recent misuse of NHS Direct.

Kiri’s cheerful and down to earth manner endeared her to the audience. Her two energising spots were all too soon over, before she departed over the Pennines, no doubt with a late night stop at her favourite fast food takeaway en route.

In contrast Ivo Graham made much of his Eton and Oxford University education, stressing that he had indeed played posher venues than Thorner – including stately homes.

His boarding school upbringing, he claimed, made him insecure, and depressed, but fluent in ancient Greek, and provides him with a wealth of comedy material, including reference to allergy based bullying techniques.

He’d hilarious observations about a fellow old Etonian who as an actor stooped so low as to make capital out of a role confined to a wheelchair, then reappears in his next role as a woman.

Travelling the country by rail makes him an expert in finding on board phone charging facilities, and he’d some astute comments on upgrading mobile phones and over- use of emoticons.

Igo’s set was skilfully crafted, with a slick delivery, and at only 25 years he clearly has a bright Comedy future ahead of him.

Headline act Seann Walsh was making a return to Thorner - recalling that in 2012 he’d appeared here with a heavy cold.

He’d no posh educational qualifications to his name, and had even been sacked from a retail job for falling asleep.

He was brought up on a diet of chips and beans, and so living with a vegan partner was opening his eyes to foods he’d never heard of – quinoa for example, and butternut squash that at first he thought was three separate items.

His partnership also continues to provide comedy material for his lack of interest in washing up, his approach to guests, and his ability to rise cheerfully each morning.

He’d scathing observations to make about the nation’s addiction to wifi. Much of his set was visual- he has a rare ability to portray drunken facial expression, or the disapproval of eating bread with a nod or flick of the eyebrows.

Far from being a planned and structured delivery, there were pauses that suggested Sean was feeling his way through an improvised delivery.

The audience were so receptive, that at a first attempt to finish his act, he was persuaded to add more, though both finishes lacked flourish of a build-up and that leaves the audience reaction on a high note.

Saturday’s lineup for the first time in Thorner presented three female comedians. Again they offered contrasting styles that delighted the audience.

Lovable and down to earth Angela Barnes acted as a colourfully dressed compere - anxious to explain that her fashions were bought in charity shops - not Oxfam for that was too expensive.

There was also an admission that she dare not have kids as she doubted her ability to keep them alive, though was happy to take on the role of god mother or benevolent aunt.

She breezed through her sets with hilarious tales of call centres, internet dating, shopping in Lidl, and Milk Tray adverts.

She confidently fed off audience interaction. Black humour surfaced in her images of the elderly introduced to hard drug taking. Angela hit it off with the audience, and she’d be welcome back on the Thorner stage.

Taking the sophistication up several levels came Tiff Stevenson, launching with easy material about Irish chat up lines, and bingo wings, progressing to a more provocative discussion on whether female oppression was greater in the West or the Middle East.

She used her interaction with an audience member to explore current addiction to social media. There was thoughtful satire with troubling significance in her portrayal of the imagery of Jack Daniels and San Miguel adverts.

Audience reaction was appreciative and, and maybe laughter was curbed by some of the thought processes required to absorb subtly portrayed messages.

Kerry Godliman justifiably headlined Saturday’s show. Another lovable live wire, she launched her act at a breath-taking pace that was maintained through the set. She had wry comment to make on fashion, what’s achieved in having a hair-do, the need for an “eye cream regime”, and the difference between male and female friendships.

She comfortably drew on audience participation, observing that the shooting of pheasants around Thorner had parallels in the existence of guns in her part of South London.

Being a mother of two has given her hilarious material on choice of pasta shapes, naming kids, school photos and the school run, and coping with choices in shopping and wash cycles.

Kerry skilfully built a rapport with the audience, who responded enthusiastically to her quick fire wit. Here’s another to book for a return.