Today a group of the brightest rising talent from the School of Arts and Media and I would have been on a train, travelling to Edinburgh. This would have marked SalFUNNI’s third year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing a mixed-bill comedy show as part of the Free Festival. I can’t begin to express the disappointment and heartache that the cancellation (understandably so) of this year’s project has brought us all. For the past three years, this project has been an absolute highlight and honour for me to produce alongside Lecturer in Comedy Writing and PerformanceBron Edge. When we piloted this project back in 2018, we had no idea how successful and life-changing it would be for our students. So, rather than feel sad that this year has been postponed, let’s look back at the stories, the incredible experiences and achievements of our first two SalFUNNI cohorts, and look forward to our third project. When that might be, and what it might look like, we don’t yet know. But what we do know is that each year the talent, determination and personal growth of these aspiring comedians goes from strength to strength.  

Back in early 2018 Bron approached me about potentially taking a small group of students to Edinburgh Fringe to do a comedy show as part of the Free Festival, which Bron and her Improv Company ComedySportz UK (CSzhave done annually for 13 years. I, of course, jumped at the ideaAnd sowe set about organising a call out for auditionees from Media and Performance, Theatre and Performance Practice and Comedy Writing and Performance students with the support of lecturer and legend Dr Ian Wilkie. The calibre of work that the students brought was fantastic. From stand-up comedy to musical comedy to sketch! We wished (as we do every year) we could take everyone, but we had to select a variety of comedians to represent and showcase Salford’s talent! 

And so, the SalFUNNI legacy began, with (L-R) Elsie, Beth, Maisy, Sian, Mari, Harry, (me) and Will! 

As a pilot project, we were given a small pot of seed funding from the university and had to fundraise and self-fund the restThere were plenty of opportunities to sell cakes to busy staff and students in between all of the brilliant events happening that SpringThe support was amazingwith one colleague donating £5 for a little cupcake! (Edinburgh is pricey, and so it was hugely appreciated). 

We could feel straight away that this project was going to be something special, with the sheer dedication and commitment that was shown from that very first day of auditions. 

Professional comedian Kate McCabe joined our SalFUNNI journey that year by hosting a stand-up master class, with feedback and support from academics in performance. 

Elsie appeared on BBC Radio Humberside to promote our show and Mari and I filmed an interview with Belinda Scandal and Lecturer in Journalism at MCUK, Michelle Eagleton for their YouTube ChatshowYour MCR! 

We also received support on social media from friends, family, staff, students and comedy legendsalumni Steve Edge and Jason Manford! 

As August drew closer the team busied themselves rehearsing, planning and fundraising alongside their studies, whilst I arranged rehearsals for artist and material development, accommodation, travel, tech, itinerary etc.

In the May we shared the stage with CSz at the last New Adelphi Comedy Night of the academic year, so that the students could test material and get feedback from their peers. And in the July we hosted a preview show at the Old Pint Pot Pub! Will hosted (for the first time in his career – he was so great we popped him on the line-up to MC in Edinburgh too!) and the brilliant Tony Wright headlined the gig 

And then we were ready… 

We couldn’t do our first Ed Fringe on our own, so we enlisted some absolutely crackin’ multiawardwinning comedians, who kindly MC’d our show; including alumni Tom ShortJames Meehan and Jack Gleadow, alongside our CSz friends Sean Mason and Lukus Kirkby! The students performed 10 shows back to back, alternating between performing, filming and running front of house. Alongside flyeringseeing shows, hiding from the torrential rain and performing at other gigs. Harry even got a job with James Meehan doing tech for his gig at Just the Tonic, The Caves 

Lecturer Wilkie and some students popped up to see us, to show their support and Salford student Bexie Archer WON the Chortle Student Comedy Awards! 

Alongside the hard work, developing new material daily and refining their stage craft, there was also loads of fun! Maisy and Beth saw Russell Howard in Nandos, Will met one of his comedy heroes Gary Delaney, the team made friends with a student from China named Han (who became SalFUNNI’s biggest fan) and the stage backdrop fell down in the middle of a show revealing (a very startled) me to the audience, so I lay down behind the sound desk and operated the rest of the show from the floorI was dragged to see multi BAFTA-winning Dick and Dom perform at Underbelly by the group (which made me feel super old, as Dick and Dom is not really my generation) – it turned out to be hilarious, and raucously good fun! We had Wonderwall by Oasis serenaded to us by a fellow comedian in the street, we ate far too much junk food and the team built lifelong friendships and professional connections. 

And then came the end of our Edinburgh Adventure… or so we thought. 

When we returned to Salford, the team coordinating the New Adelphi Welcome Week for the 2019 freshers requested SalFUNNI to perform alongside ComedySportz UK – in the New Adelphi Theatre. We’d gone from a 30 seater in Edinburgh to over 200 bums on seats back home in Salford! Jack Gleadow (who also recently hosted the online Create Awards and who is a much better comedian than he is a photographer!) hosted, and the SalFUNNIans performed an incredible show to a packed out room!  

The response was phenomenal! Not surprisingly of course – what a bunch of superstars! I feel so lucky to have had my first Ed Fringe adventure with this bunch. 

 

A snapshot of what SalFUNNI have they been up to since Ed Fringe 2018. 

Will graduated just before our trip and has since started a successful Comedy Sketch YouTube Channel with fellow alumnus Tony Wright. 

Harry graduated in 2019 and has since been on tour with All Roads MeetNew Dawn Fades: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester and has been recently working in television.  

Sian, Maisy, Beth, Elsie and Mari were all due to graduate last month; the upside of the postponement is that we can hopefully have a little SalFUNNI reunion in 2021! 

You might remember from July’s blog that Sian’s student film was selected as part of a festival and she is also Production Manager on an Amazon Series. 

You might also remember that Maisy won a Create Award this year and has set up production company GhostCow with Beth. 

Beth has also written a blog about Autism for Purple Door, a brand new inclusive and accessible theatre coming to Liverpool in Spring 2021.  

I chatted with Elsie this week as she reflected on her time at university. She told me “My trip to the Edinburgh Fringe has had a profound impact on my work, as it allowed me to see the different ways comedy could be performed. Watching how stand-up, theatre, clowning, and multimedia can be used and combined helped me find my voice as a performer.” 

And to round up our SalFUNNI 2018 news, I’m delighted to announce that we have our first mini-SalFUNNIan! Since Edinburgh, I have swapped my scarves and stand-up for engagement rings and changing nappies. 2020 has been a year like no other with an engagement, the birth of my Freyja Jean, and finishing my degree, all within the space of 3 months. My time in Edinburgh feels like a wonderful dream and I would love to think that I will get a chance to perform there again someday.” A huge congratulations to you, Mari! 

 

Fast forward to December 2018launching SalFUNNI 2.0 was a no brainer! After the significant impact the fringe had on the confidence, creativity and professionalism of the students, we had to ride the success, especially since the project had perked the interest of even more supporters and even more auditionees!  

With the support of the New Adelphi Theatre, the Alumni Team and our partner University, Humber College, Canada we designed a bigger project which included a Crowd Funding campaign and nightly guest spots for Humber students! 

Meet SalFUNNI 2019 – swipe to reveal (if you don’t know them already) 

(It’s funny to think that back in December 2018, we found it very odd and awkward that Callad had to video call us to be a part of the first company meeting. It’s the practice we didn’t know we needed for lockdown 2020!) 

In early 2019 the New Adelphi Theatre Team were supported with the addition of three Graduate Business Associates, two of which were able to support the Ed Fringe project and one of which, Georgia, is now officially part of our team!  

In the March, our friends Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Gein’s Family Giftshop and Goose brought another incredible line-up of comedians to our main stage and gave SalFUNNI a shout out! (we’re so gutted to not have this lovely lot gracing our stage this year, but do check out the live-streamed Comedy at the Covid to get your Kiri fix!) 

The next evening we hosted the annual Chortle Student Comedy Awards in our studio theatre and Erika won the heat! (Could it be… might Salford win again?) 

Then in April, we hosted our obligatory New Adelphi Comedy Night Takeover, in which CSz kindly donated their ticket sales to the SalFUNNI funding pot!  

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FANTASTIC first preview at @newadelphitheatre as part of the New Adelphi Comedy Night with @cszmanchester! 🌟 . A big shout out to #SalFUNNI 2018 alumni Maisy, Elsie and Sian for performing. And thank you to Beth and Mari for being fantastic audience members👏 . @cszmanchester donated their Box Office to us, which means we're a little closer to reaching our fundraising target. We'll be launching a Fund US page soon, so watch this space. A heartfelt thank you to Bron, Sean, Lukas and Laura ❤️ . And finally a HUGE thank you to you, our audience. We had an amazing night, we hope you did too! 🤓 . Edinburgh Fringe Festival here we come!! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 . . . . #edfringe19 #edinburgh #edinburghfringe #edinburghfringefestival #freefestival #comedy #comedysportz #newadelphitheatre #NewAdelphiComedyNight #standupcomedy #standup #salforduniversity #salford #thankyou

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Throughout the year, SalFUNNI member BenBron and I worked behind the scenes with the lovely Lauren from the Alumni Team to build and launch a FundUS Campaign. Less than 24 hours after launching, we had a huge boost thanks to Salford alumnus and comedian Jason Manford, who pledged his financial support! By June we had smashed our FundUS goal, meaning that we were able to cover accommodation and travel costs for all eight students! 

Charlotte took charge of our social media accounts and created a fantastic marketing campaign and we received so many messages of support from SalFUNNI 2018, staff, friends and family – and HOME MCR who also came to see the show in Edinburgh! 

We hosted a second masterclass with Kate McCabe and had advice sessions with Maisy Whipp (who had gone on to become the chair of the Comedy Society), and other members of last year’s project! 

We hit the ground running (well, slow uphill walking) when we arrived – having learned a lot from the previous year. I had quite a bit of wisdom to share, which is probably the reason why the group started calling me their “momager”. 

We had 13 backtoback shows scheduled with special guests Bria Hiebert, Adam Gourlay and Connor Gordonfrom Humber College. We also had MC support from Kate McCabe, John Cooper, Chris Tavner and Lukus Kirkby of CSz. And our old pal Jack Gleadow, plus Calladpulled it out of the bag and jumped on to MC for a few shows – he was a natural! Students Helen Varey and James Ormrod attended shows, as did Sian, Elsie, Mari and Maisy – who hosted our last performance!  

Lecturers Wilkie, Denise, Rowland and Lisa also came up and were blown away by how much the show and performers had developed! 

Alongside performing we also dodged the rain, had a day of rest at the beachate Iron Bru ice cream, saw countless performers
(including Alfie Ordinary and Nathaniel Hall – who we programmed into the New Adelphi Theatre in February this year), and met comedian Nick Helm! 

AND Salford WON again, for the second year running!

 

Finally, we climbed Arthurs Seatto breathe in the Scottish airreflect on our incredible journey and film some much-deserved thank yous to all who pledged and supported.  

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THANK YOU, EVERYONE! 🎉 To those who have supported us financially, creatively and digitally! We celebrated the end of our Edinburgh Fringe Festival run by climbing up to Arthur’s Seat! Our legs were exhausted, Charlotte was terrified of heights but nevertheless we persisted and made it ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP! 👏🏻😁 We also met the lovely @alfieswalks on the journey up which gave us the motivation to keep going! 💪🏻 Swipe left to see the moment where a lovely photo was ruined by an friendly bee trying to boop Callad on the nose 🐝😂👈🏻 #arthursseat #salfunni #salforduni #salfordalumni #salforduniversity #salfordstudents #followthechicken #freefestival #makeyourfringe #edfringe #edfringe19 #edinburghfringe

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Upon our return to Salford, we were invited again to perform as part of ‘Welcome Week’with SalFUNNI 2018 in the audience supporting and our new first years clapping and cheering along. The show was absolutely wonderful and had inspiring consequences 

 

A snapshot of what SalFUNNI have they been up to since Ed Fringe 2019. 

Erika graduated just before our triphas since returned to Canada and has recently written for the upcoming fourth series of Comedy Central’s Roast Battle. 

Cerian and Dave were due to graduate last month (again… upside… reunion in 2021!Cerian went through to the Funny Women ‘Stage Award Virtual Heats’ and Dave has set up a Sketch Comedy YouTube Channel with fellow alum James. The pair, aptly named Not the Francos have also been collaborating with Will and Tony! 

Fortunately, we have Callad, Charlotte, Joe, Brady and Ben for a little longer and I’ll hopefully catch up with them soon and I’ll tell you all about what they get up to! 

The end of 2019 came around quickly and so Bron and I excitedly began planning the Ed Fringe 2020 Project. We met with so many studentsbefore the Christmas break, who’d seen and loved our previous shows so much that they all wanted to be a part of the next project. We had an overwhelming amount of applicants, who had all seen (and heard) first-hand the impact this project had on our up and coming comedians. 

 And so our trilogy of top-notch troupes was complete. With another semi-finalist of the Chortle Student Comedy Awards – we were ready for and raring to go! 

But it was over before it began…. 

 

CharleyClaireDanJimOli, HarryJoshDoniaOwen and Ryan – your moment will come and I know from working with you all for just three short months that you’ll absolutely smash it!  

I spoke to Oli earlier this week and he told me: This year is easily my most progressive in terms of creativity and self-expression through comedy.  There’s no doubt that this was also majorly propelled by my inclusion in SalFUNNI. Being around like-minded, forward thinking comics allowed for such more of an ease of expression and an entrance into the professional world of comedy. Therefore, hearing that this year would not be possible was a huge blow. But I can also honestly say that while I would have loved to experience the Fringe this year, I’m truly excited for the rest of the group and my own development in the lead up to SalFUNNI 2021. 

Not only has this project been a gigantic achievement for the students involved, but a hugely proud moment for the University of Salford and the academic department who lead the longestrunning fulltime comedy degree. It has also been an incredible personal milestone for me in so many ways. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you  SalFUNNIThank you for trusting me to be a part of your creative development, for making me laugh so hard my face ached, for sharing this incredible experience with me. Thank you for humouring me when i mother you, thank you for saving me from the swarms of wasps. Thank you for introducing me to new comedy, thank you to those of you who joined our front of house team and made our audiences feel welcome.  

Everyone here at the university are so proud of you and we can’t wait to see what you do next, as you continue your journey into the world of comedy and join the star-studded line up of Salfordgrown comedians! (no pressure!) 

Speaking of which, check out SalFUNNIan Ben, who has been selected to be CSz’s Guest comedian for their online shows, as part of the Free Festival Online Programme for Ed Fringe 2020! Head over to YouTube to stream the best of the Free Festival into your living room from today! More info here. 

Also, have a look Ed Fringe’s reimagined live-streamed line-up, which includes our mate Jayde Adams! 

If you feel like you want to creatively respond to your Lost Summer (whether that be the fringe, time with friends and familyan adventurea creative project…) head over to Contact’s Website and check out the Lost Summer projectproduced by alumnus Roxy Moores. 

We’ve been thinking about the impact the pandemic has had on people at the junction of big life moments (including finishing year 6, 11, 13 and University). Summer is so often the time of new milestones and experiences in our lives. Here at Contact we want to preserve and share stories of Lost Summers, and we would love to hear yours. 

Solidarity to everyone and your Lost Summers. 

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Until the next blog, take care of yourself and each other. 
Ash and the New Adelphi Theatre Team 

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Header photo credit(s): Bron Edge
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