Edinburgh Comedy Awards in call for new sponsor as TV channel Dave backs out

A sponsor’s decision to pull its funding for the influential Edinburgh Comedy Awards has thrown its future into doubt and forced organisers to issue a plea for other potential sponsors to come forward.

The appeal comes after the main sponsor of the last two series of stand-up shows, television comedy channel Dave, announced it was withdrawing its financial backing to focus on other initiatives within the comedy industry.

Following the announcement, the team behind the awards, formerly known as the Perrier Comedy Awards, said they recognised they would have to change their funding model so as not to rely so heavily on one large title sponsor, especially in the post-Covid, commercial landscape.

They are in the process of setting up a charitable trust so they can put syndicates together to raise smaller sums of money and apply for funding to secure the future of the event, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.

The late Sean Hughes won the award in 1990 (PA)
The late Sean Hughes won the award in 1990 (PA)

The awards have previously recognised comedy acts who have gone on to become household names such as Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, Frank Skinner, Steve Coogan, Harry Hill, Dylan Moran and The League of Gentlemen.

Other winners whose careers have soared since carrying off awards include: the late Sean Hughes – the youngest ever winner aged 24; Lee Evans; Richard Ayoade; Al Murray and Jenny Eclair.

Past nominees have included the likes of Romesh Ranganathan, Sarah Millican, John Bishop, Jimmy Carr and Eddie Izzard.

Director Nica Burns, who has run the awards since 1984, commented: “I am a passionate advocate of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the vital role it plays in acting as a springboard for many careers, including my own.

“I remain committed to the awards which I have fought for and grown over the last four decades and I am proud of their role in spotlighting outstanding comedy talent.

“As the comedy section has expanded to become such a significant genre of the Fringe, so have the costs of running the awards.

“Having stepped in and personally sponsored them twice over the years, I will be the first to put money on the table for 2023, but post-Covid can no longer do it on my own.

“I am therefore inviting the comedy industry and all potential partners to get in touch immediately to help make the awards happen this year.

“There are a number of possibilities including contributing to sponsoring each award and/or the presentation.”

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, added: “The Edinburgh Comedy Awards have been a really important part of the Fringe landscape for the last 40 years, providing crucial funding for the winners and a major opportunity to comics taking part in the festival.

“Comedy is critically underfunded, but a huge part of the Fringe, and we know that artists, venues and the wider comedy community will want us to work collaboratively to support the ECA in any way we can, in redeveloping and securing a sustainable future for the awards.

“Nica has worked tirelessly to make these awards happen every year, with so much personal investment along the way.

“The awards have become an institution in their own right now, and we look forward to them continuing to evolve and grow in the years to come.”

Interested donors can get in touch with organisers by emailing support@comedyawards.co.uk