Tuesday 23 April 2019

BBC boss launching foundation to nurture British comedy

Shane Allen’s new body will be backed by the corporation’s director-general Tony Hall.

BBC boss to launch foundation to promote and nurture British comedy (Nick Ansell/PA)
BBC boss to launch foundation to promote and nurture British comedy (Nick Ansell/PA)

By Lucy Mapstone, Press Association Deputy Entertainment Editor

A venture to develop a British Comedy Foundation – to endorse the genre and find the next Fleabag or Monty Python – is being launched by the BBC’s comedy controller Shane Allen.

In a bid to open the doors to new voices and to further the impact of British comedy, Mr Allen plans to cultivate a comedy community-backed advocacy group.

It will be supported by BBC director-general Tony Hall and director of content Charlotte Moore, who has described British comedy as “one of our greatest cultural triumphs”.

I want us to explore what a comedy foundation might look like, who it could unearth, what it could achieve and who’d get behind it. I want it to be valued as an art form and for arts body funding to be opened up to benefit comedy Shane Allen

Mr Allen has said he wants it to be valued as much as other art forms, and for arts funding for the genre.

One of the aims of the group is to focus on engaging, enabling and enriching the under-represented and under-privileged in the industry.

It will also act as a catalyst for industry opportunities, challenges and partnerships, and will celebrate the heritage and promote comedy’s role in British culture.

Mr Allen said: “We need a body to give dedicated focus and nurture to this crucial part of British cultural life which captures, defines and reflects our national character, identity and soul. Our strength and weakness, all our oddity and individuality.

“And we are brilliant at it. We’re famous for it all over the world. From Chaplin to Python, The Office to Fleabag, our comedy travels everywhere and brings us back love and respect, friends and influence.

“So the question I find myself asking, time and again, is: If comedy is loved and adored by audiences why isn’t it afforded its dues to the same extent as other areas of culture?”

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge is one of the UK’s best-loved comedy writers for her work on Fleabag (Ian West/PA)

He added: “I want things to change. I think it’s time for the comedy industry to feel its value and exert its influence and potential throughout society.

“I want us to explore what a comedy foundation might look like, who it could unearth, what it could achieve and who’d get behind it. I want it to be valued as an art form and for arts body funding to be opened up to benefit comedy.”

Ms Moore said the BBC wants to “lead the way in creating opportunities for new creative voices and supporting fresh talent – whether on or off screen – wherever they are and whatever their background.

“We believe this project will result in real benefits for the creative industries and Tony and I are very keen to support Shane in his work.”

Mr Allen will continue his role of controller of comedy commissioning while developing the foundation, which he will work on for three months from April.

He will receive additional support from BBC comedy commissioning editor Kate Daughton and Emily Allen, a member of the BBC’s Youth Panel.

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