DMU at 150: Leicester Comedy Festival


Leicester Comedy Festival has been part of the city’s calendar since 1994 when it began as a student project by then Leicester Polytechnic student Geoff Rowe.

Geoff came up with the idea as part of his final year practical project while studying Arts Management. He had Harry Hill, Matt Lucas and John Shuttleworth on the bill, ran 40 events over seven days and thought: ‘I could make this happen every year’.

Fast forward to 2020 and this year’s festival will see more than 800 shows across 90 venues. It regularly attracts arena-filling headliners, established acts and newcomers, bringing thousands of visitors to the city. Book your tickets for this year here.

DMU’s proud to have remained a part of the Leicester Comedy Festival through support and sponsorship. In turn, our students get to be part of the festival, whether it is Journalism students reviewing shows, Demon FM interviewing comedians on air or Arts and Festival management students running talent management and promotions. We delved into the archives to find some photographs of Leicester Comedy Festival through the years – enjoy!


Founding members of Leicester Comedy Festival – 1994


Bill Bailey brought his Part Troll show to Leicester in 1997


A very young Alan Davies, now QI stalwart, on stage at De Montfort Hall, 1997

Johnny Vegas, who won Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year in 1997

Sarah Millican

Eeee, it's Sarah Millican - chatting with Geoff Rowe. She first appeared at the festival in 2005


He's a Chatty Man now, but Alan Carr was just about to start The Friday Night Project for Channel 4 back in 2006

Josh Widdicombe LM
Josh Widdicombe here, competing - and winning - Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2010 


Yep, that is Roseanne Barr. The American comic appeared in Leicester in 2006 - her first gigs outside the US

Shappi Khorsandi had rave reviews from her appearance in 2014


Before comedy came calling, Romesh Ranganathan was a maths teacher in Crawley.
After three years on the stand up circuit, he appeared at Leicester
Comedy Festival where he won Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2013

Talent night at the Little Theatre, 2003. From the bottom of the picture to the top: Catherine Crosswell,
Simon Feilder, Faron Smith, Lindsey Warner, Reginald D Hunter, Robin Cousins, Matthew Reed, James Davies and Sheridan Strawberry


Katharine Ryan who came to Leicester Comedy Festival in 2015

Graham Norton, compere of the Pi (1)
Graham Norton, hosting The Pink Comedy Night at The Y Theatre

De Montfort University have anno

De Montfort University sponsors the Leicester Comedy Festival. Pictured are: Geoff Sarney (communications manager),
Delphine Manley (Festival manager), Andi Hodgson (De Montfort PR),
Asgoo Pirbhai (Love, Pirbhai and Prichard Design and Marketing), and Philip Szomszor ( DMU marketing officer) 

Geoff Rowe, programme and market

The man who started it all - Geoff Rowe, c1998

alexei (1)
Alexei Sayle, accepting the Legend of Comedy Award in memory of his pal, Rik Mayall

Nicholas 1997
The late, great Nicholas Parsons, signing for fans in 1997 at Leicester Comedy Festival

Posted on Thursday 6th February 2020

Search news archive

DMU Open Days
News target area image

DMU is a dynamic university, read about what we have been up to in our latest news section.

Events at DMU

At DMU there is always something to do or see, check out our events for yourself.

Mission and vision target area image
Mission and vision

Read about our mission and vision and how these create a supportive and exciting learning environment.