A timeline of laughs: students create first history of comedy in Leicester

Leicester's rich comedy history has been unearthed for a new exhibition by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students.

Along with hosting the famous Leicester Comedy Festival (LCF), the city has been a breeding ground for comic talent for decades, with a strong tradition of stand-up, satire, political sketches and more.

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For the first time, a team of DMU students, working with the Big Difference Company - which runs the LCF - has created an exhibition showing this history, which has opened at DMU's Heritage Centre.

After digging in local libraries and sifting through clippings, show brochures and programmes and digging through boxes of old props (rubber chicken included) the students assembled their findings into a timeline stretching from 1979 to the present day.

Natasha Saunders, studying Drama and Media, said they had chosen 1979 as a starting point because it was the birth of 'alternative comedy'.

She said: "Margaret Thatcher came to power and that started a new kind of comedy, which is where we can see Leicester start to crop up."

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Drama student Liam Cotterill said the team spent time in the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland records office.

He said: "We were looking through old copies of the local papers, like the Leicester Mercury. We found lots of old comic strips which started around the 1980s.

"There was a lot of humour about relationships, domestic life, money women. Using this we started to build the timeline."

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Together with the timeline - which features the birth of Leicestershire comedians like Monty Python's Graham Chapman and the creation of the Leicester Comedy Festival in 1994, and the publication of Leicester comic novels, like Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole series - the exhibition features props like the Comic Relief red noses, which are made in Leicestershire.

Chelsea Leggatt, studying Drama, said the group had thought laterally about sources.

She said: "Humour is subjective and it's used all over the place, really. So we thought outside the box a bit and looked at some old Leicester City programmes which featured great comic strips and writing."

Anna Peavitt, from the Big Difference Company, who oversaw the project, said: "It's been brilliant having the students work on this.

"They have brought an enthusiasm along with an academic rigour to the work. They think really creatively about areas of research."

Posted on Monday 6th February 2017

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