Ladies Take Over

I don’t suppose you noticed, oh comedy lovers of Bristol, because we didn’t want to make a big fuss about it, but this week has seen more women on the bill in Bristol’s independent comedy scene than ever before.

Yes, it was on purpose.

It was an idea spawned from a drunken scheme to march on Bristol, microphones in one hand, lipsticks in the other and say “NO BOYS ALLOWED.” Cackling into our prosecco, we would prove that Bristol is awash with talented, funny women.

On sobering up we realised that if we organised an invasion, us women would end up doing all the admin so… no.

We decided to get the (all male, as it happens) promoters on side. In January, we mooted the idea: “Hey, how about doing all-women line-ups in the week before International Women’s Day?” we whispered, using feminine wiles and – well, just asking, actually, in a nice, clear voice.

The response was universally positive.

Next step – make a list. We sent promoters a list of women who would be happy to perform in Bristol that week and let them get on with it.

How did it go?

Well… something that started out as a plan to OVERTURN THE PATRIARCHY ended up being a great baseline test.

Did we achieve the goal of all-women lineups across Bristol for a week? Not quite.

Did we get waaaay more all-women lineups and woman-heavy bills than usual? Yes.

Did we discover new talent? Yes.

Did women get a chance to step up to MC, open  and headline their first gigs? Yes.

Did audiences have a good time? Yes, oh absolutely yes.

Three of the gigs that I personally went to were among the best editions of those nights I’ve seen. They were This Next Act (Sunday, the Kingsdown Vaults), Tilt at the Windmill (The Windmill, Tuesday) and How Lazy is He? (The Lazy Dog, Thursday).

This Next Act and Tilt benefited from a great new influx of talented young women from Bristol Uni who blew us away with their maturity and great jokes and How Lazy is He?’s headliner Alison Thea-Skot left audiences leaking from every orifice with laughter. Absolutely cracking stuff.

Those were some of the successes.

The challenges:

Some nights ended up importing their talent from out of town; some acts may have felt a little over-exposed (I heard one woman say “I’m going to lose my voice by the end of the week”). Some nights already had male headliners booked;  some nights are “open access” and guys turned up for spots. Fair enough.

That’s the thing. There just aren’t that many women on the scene in Bristol.

But why? Almost all the nights are working towards a 50/50 policy, or enacting it. Nobody is trying to book all-male lineups in Bristol’s independent scene. If you are a woman and you are doing comedy in Bristol, or even thinking about it, there are loads of opportunities out there for you. But you have to show up for them. If you turn up at an open mic that feels like a boys’ club, come back the next week with a friend. If  you go to a comedy night that feels too laddy, get in touch for a spot. And if you think you can run a better night, DO IT!

Please, my lovely lady friends, let’s make all-women lineups a Normal Thing. Keep gigging, keep writing, keep applying to gigs. We need you.

If you’ve enjoyed the all-women vibe, there are TWO nights in Bristol specifically geared for women and non-binary comics: Quipped and Funny Women Time of the Month South West. I hope to see you on the scene really soon.