THE comedy show which has brought big names like Bill Bailey, Arthur Smith and Ed Byrne to Tiverton has switched to a new venue for 2013 amid hopes stars will return to the town.
The Tiverton Community Art Theatre (TCAT) based within Tiverton High School will host the town's popular comedy club from next month.
Following months of speculation about a possible move or the show leaving the town altogether, comedy promoter Steve Lodge has confirmed the departure from the New Hall which had hosted an abundance of top name acts since the event's inception more than five years ago. While demonstrating the growing confidence in the community theatre as Tiverton's foremost performance venue, the move is likely to be a setback for Tiverton Town Council which currently subsidises the loss-making New Hall by tens of thousands of pounds.
Last year, the expense of running the New Hall was more than £30,000 greater than the income it generated. One of the authority's own councillors even described the venue's bar as resembling a "coconut shy". Some members of the council are keen to make the hall run more commercially, but the loss of a regular high profile booking is likely to be seen as a snub for the venue. Amateur dramatic groups and pantomime bookings have largely remained loyal to the New Hall but for touring theatre companies at least, few look beyond the newer venue when arranging dates in Tiverton.
Julian Morgan, chairman of TCAT, said: "The increasing popularity of Comedy Hall together with a growing awareness of TCAT, Tiverton's newest and largest performance venue, means that together we can accommodate bigger audiences and higher profile acts in our well-equipped theatre.
"With great plays, music, dance and now comedy, TCAT is proud to be offering an amazing variety of entertainment."
Steve Lodge, who has committed to running eleven monthly shows at the school venue, said: "TCAT has a great room and will give us much more scope in bringing top acts to Devon.
"Firstly it offers much more capacity with 300 seats, as well as a state of the art sound and light system which has had considerable investment. But above all TCAT has a thirst to bring the arts to Mid Devon, as this is really important for us. We can work together to promote comedy and bring different and exciting acts to the region, running more effective promotions and working together to promote live entertainment."
Mr Lodge said Tiverton would be hosting the finals of a major new act competition, the Last Minute Comedy Newcomer Awards, in May, and said more established names were also in the pipeline. "We are talking to some major names in comedy who have expressed an interest in coming down to Devon this year," he said. "This is a very exciting time for us."
The first Comedy Hall show of the year will be on Monday, February 4, with a line-up yet to be confirmed. Tickets cost £10 from www.comedyhall.co.uk.