New DMU exhibition celebrates 25 years of laughter


The landmark anniversary of the Leicester Comedy Festival is being celebrated with an exhibition documenting its rich history.

Students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have helped to put together the 25th anniversary exhibition, which starts today (7 February) at the university’s Heritage Centre in the Hawthorn Building.

A Funny City exhibit.WEB

Elizabeth Wheelband, Curator of the Heritage Centre, with the 'A Funny City' exhibition

‘A Funny City’ celebrates the history of the UK’s largest and longest-running comedy festival, which has been a breeding ground for big-name and new comic talent since 1994.

Communication Arts students have been digging in local libraries and sifting through clippings, show brochures and programmes to put together the exhibition.

The exhibition celebrates the performers, volunteers and supporters who helped put the festival on the map. There have been a staggering 5,285 shows since the festival’s start.

It features archive footage, as well as comedians such as Michael Palin, Harry Hill, Sarah Millican and Matt Lucas talking about their festival memories.

The three-day exhibition opens today at the Heritage Centre (7 February) and continues until Friday (9 February). The Heritage Centre is open to the public from 12pm to 5pm.


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Geoff Rowe, director of the Leicester Comedy Festival, started the festival as part of his final year practical project when he was an Arts Management student at DMU.

He said: “The last 25 years have been incredible and archiving some of our stuff is really important so it’ll be around, and publically available, forever.

“There are some surprising clips and photos of comedians looking very young, in addition to a couple of clips of myself which make me feel really old!”

The ‘A Funny City’ exhibition includes a stage complete with red curtain and a microphone to imitate the stages that thousands of comedians have performed on in the city over the last 25 years.

Funny City exhibition1.WEB

Looking back in time: Leicester Comedy Festival memorabilia featured in the new exhibition

Elizabeth Wheelband, Heritage Centre Curator, explained how DMU students created the first part of the exhibition last year when they put together a huge timeline of the comedy festival.

She said: “The intention of part one of the exhibition was that it would lead the students to go away to do some research and I’m really excited about what they’ve found for the new exhibition.

"This new exhibition features graphic panels, video and digital content including a history of performances from previous years.

 “The festival is massive nowadays. It’s iconic for Leicester and a lot of people recognise it instantly”.

The exhibition was created with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “It is fantastic that Leicester Comedy Festival 2018 will not just be featuring the best of today’s comedians, but also the rich history of comedy in Leicester over the last 25 years.

“So many of the UK’s best and most successful comics have performed in Leicester over the years, and we’re delighted that National Lottery players have been able to support this celebration.”

The exhibition will move onto Peter’s Pizzeria from 10 to 12 February then Soft Touch Arts, in New Walk, from 13 to 25 of February.

Leicester Comedy Festival is launched at DMU today (7 February) and runs until 25 February with over 840 events in 69 venues across the 19 days. 

DMU is the festival’s Higher Education Partner. For more information and tickets, visit the website or call 0116 4566812.

Posted on Wednesday 7th February 2018

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