By Maryam Philpott
For 14 years the Funny Women Awards has been championing comedy performers, writers and film-makers in a celebration of the artistic contribution of female entertainers. Launched in 2003 when the world was worrying about military dictators in the Middle East, major global health scares and rising summer temperatures it’s easy to think that nothing has really changed. In fact, for women things have begun to shift and there is considerable topical interest in gender equality and the contribution of women in the media and business in particular.
Leading female comedians Bridget Christie, Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe and Sarah Millican have all benefitted from the Funny Women Awards and the search for the next batch of funny women was launched at an event at Soho’s Groucho Club on 15 March. Founder Lynne Parker explained that entries had risen from 70 in the first year to over 400 for the 2015 competition, and with this year’s registration process opening on International Women’s Day last week, there are already over 100 applications for this year’s new-look competition.
Parker announced a change to the established process with four regional finals of 10 acts replacing the old semi-final held at the Lowry in Manchester, The Hospital Club in London, the Big Cave at the Edinburgh Fringe and a round in Dublin. From here, four finalists and two wildcards will go forward to the Grand Final help at KOKO in Camden on 28 September. And in an addition to the programme all six finalists will be mentored by established comedians including Ellie Taylor and Sara Pascoe.
Registration is now open in four categories; The Stage Award for best new comedy performer (deadline 1 June), The Comedy Writing Award (deadline 15 August), and The Comedy Shorts Award for a 1-3 minute film (deadline 31 August) all offering a £2000 prize plus career development support.
The final category is a new one for Best Show that recognises excellence in full-length comedy shows nominated by the public and industry judges.
The Awards have two sponsors: Benefit Cosmetics and Refuge who announced their fourth year as sponsors,with all revenues from the box office at all heats and the final being donated to the charities.
Benefit also announced their forthcoming take-over of the R S Hispaniola on the Victoria Embankment opening on 9 April as a beauty venue but tying into the Funny Women Awards with London Pro Nights, Comedy Cabaret and an Edinburgh Preview Season.
With considerable pop culture momentum, the organisers hope this year’s Funny Women Awards will be bigger and better than ever before, encouraging nominations for any emerging comedy talent creating a community of comedy professionals to support and promote each other. The political and international situation may seem much the same as 2003 but there are more funny women than ever before and the search is on for the next big name.
For more information on how to enter, visit www.funnywomen.com