The Great Yorkshire Fringe has always been about more than attracting a few big comedy names to York before they head up to Edinburgh for the summer.
Taking over Parliament Street and a few other venues besides, while the likes of Richard Herring and Simon Munnery are doing their thing, emerging stand-ups are taking a deep breath competing in the New Comedian of the Year competition.
This year the final was moved from its usual venue in the GYF’s pop-up Rotunda to the Grand Opera House. The latter is bigger and more impressive, but it’s also less intimate and if there’s a petition for moving it back to the sometimes overly sweaty but always atmospheric Rotunda can someone please pop my name on it.
The size of the venue, together with the £1,500 prize pot, may have explained some of the acts’ obvious nerves, but a few genuine talents did emerge from the wings.
Had I’d been on the judging panel, I’d have pushed for David Eagle or Umby Winters to take the crown. Eagle is a folk musician who began performing stand-up a year or so ago. He’s also blind, but it’s his natural rapport with the audience and comic timing which will hopefully get him noticed by the critics.
It’s also unlikely to be the last you’ve heard of Winters, a non-binary stand-up who confronts often uncomfortable issues of gender with a genuine warmth and honesty.
While Eagle and Winters were named runners-up, the top prize went to David Bawden who specialises one-liners delivered so slowly that there’s almost time for a quick nap before the punchline. I’m not a fan, but the reaction of the rest of the audience suggested I’m in the minority.
The beauty of the Fringe and this competition though is its diversity and hopefully we’ll all be back for more of the same next year.