Formed by a group of comedians who came together virtually during lockdown, Felt Nowt Productions is a co-op working to create a thriving comedy scene in the North East of England.
“There’s not lot of comedy in the North East, so comics based here have to travel to other areas for most of their work,” says stand-up and Felt Nowt Productions director John Gibson. “A few of us put our heads together during lockdown – and came up with a plan to make the North East a place where comedians can make a living without having to leave the region.”
What began as online gigs to give comics work during lockdown, has now turned into live comedy nights in several venues across the North East. It’s already proving popular and demand is growing.
“We always thought we’d have to do a lot of work, but people are finding us now – I’ve got more and more venues that want to run regular comedy nights,” says John. “We plan to buy our own equipment, and when we get that, we can change any venue into a comedy venue.”
The fledgling co-op was created with other aims too: To integrate comedy into the wider community, using comedy skills and knowledge to help with people’s mental health and wellbeing. “We provide comedy workshops – there’s a lot to gain from applying stand-up skills to life,” says John.
“If you’ve stood on a stage in any way and performed you are going gain self-confidence and self-esteem. If you participate, create and are working with others to find humour, it builds a connection – and all of that is valuable.”
Felt Nowt also wants to be recognised as the champion for the North East’s comedy heritage. They give talks and have started a podcast to celebrate what comedians from the region have achieved.
For John, the advantages of being a co-op are many. Bringing comedians together with a range of different skills has enabled Felt Nowt to quickly find its feet and make an impact. “No individual could have done this by themselves, not to the scale we’ve already achieved and aim to achieve.
“We have people with web building skills, PR skills, tech skills for our online shows – and I have project management experience. It was the pooling of all that knowledge that meant we could move so quickly and effectively in delivering this.
“We also believe it’s important to be a co-op because we want to change the lives of comedians in the North East – so we want them to have full ownership and complete buy-in to what we’re doing. It’s about having shared values and goals.”
John and his colleagues received support from The Hive – the co-op business support programme delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank.
This enabled Felt Nowt to get expert input from the North East Business and Innovation Centre. “It helped us establish a complete business plan, which had been drafted but wasn’t fully finished because there were areas we didn’t know how to address,” he says.
“We weren’t sure how best to represent our financial forecasts. They took what we had and came back with a new template that helped us represent it in a more financial accounts view of the world. They also helped us better describe the social impact of our community outreach work.
“Thanks to the support from The Hive, our business plan was given a level of polish that took it from being an explanation of we what do – to being an inspiring document that’s an effective sales tool for our organisation.
“It’s invaluable because we now have something slick, professional and compelling to present to potential funders. Thanks to The Hive’s support, we can move forward confident that our business is backed with a solid plan that will help us achieve our goals.”