I feel incredibly proud!
When deciding the programme for the 2017 edition of Slapstick, our thirteenth, I hoped that it would bring light and laughter to Bristol after a year that seemed doomed to be defined by the unprecedented and untimely loss of so many great artists, such as David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Alan Rickman and Ronnie Corbett amongst many, many others. In addition, whatever your politics, a political upheaval ensued revealing deep, deep divisions both in the UK and globally. So laughter, however modest, promised to be the best antidote to this and ‘Seriously Funny’ seemed an appropriate title for the five-day celebration.
26 events in five days was quite a task for a relatively small team mostly made up of volunteers and to have delivered them with such passion and spirit is a testament to the team’s commitment and skill.
I also feel proud because Slapstick is only possible because of this commitment from the staff, the public, volunteers, musicians, venue partners and, of course, the increasing array of special guests who give up their time (and their usual fees) to support what they see as a passionate celebration of this incredible and much-maligned art form. Proud also because this joint effort from our committed team is often beyond the call of duty, with many people giving beyond our expectations to support the festival guests and attendees.
And what an incredible five days it was! We saw classic silent comedies, rare comedies, unique celebrations of visual comedy (with Roy Hudd and Graeme Garden), lost film screenings (Unseen Bonzos & Accidentally Preserved) and even the world premiere of Samuel Beckett’s prologue for his only film – FILM.
92% of people attending (from our exit questionnaires) described the festival as Excellent or Very Good and over 90% or people saw a film they’d never seen before.
In addition, our three events at Colston Hall’s massive Hall 1 over the festival weekend attracted an incredible 3000 people in two days, clearly demonstrating the relevance of Chaplin and Silent Comedy in the 21st Century.
Other highlights included our sell-out Gala with a live orchestra, as well as The Young Ones, Victoria Wood and Rik Mayall events – all passionately celebrating classic comedy of the past and building new audiences for them. The photo gallery reveals the diverse nature of the events and the fun we were having.
So, I feel privileged to be bringing Slapstick to Bristol and the South West each year and I am delighted to see that an incredible 10,000 people bought tickets to Slapstick events in 2017, a massive 30% increase on 2016.
But whether we’re about building a silent comedy empire (is that even a thing?) or growing endlessly, retaining quality is paramount to us. After 13 years perhaps we need to change a little, or even a lot? Should we screen more silent films or less; have more or less classic comedy events and guests; focus more or less on the smaller or larger events? All of the questionnaires will be processed, analysed and reflected upon and from the results a new, brighter, Slapstick will emerge. More than anything we want to keep things fresh and exciting for you!
This may have been our most successful festival, but we’re not about to rest on our silent comedy laurels! Instead, we’ll be exploring what we can do to improve and develop Slapstick to enable us to bring the best festival ever, once more, to Bristol in 2018!
We’ve had some lovely comments and we’ll put some of these on the website soon, but on the final Monday morning I bumped into someone in the hotel who had travelled to Bristol from Manchester to attend the five days and she said to me…
“I’d rather be here (Slapstick) than anywhere else in the world”. Quite an endorsement! See you in 2018!