Woman on stage dressed as a kangaroo

How’s My Festival Going?

I just did my show Donna Scott: Weird Sense of Tumour last night at Leicester Comedy Festival, presented by Jokes on Us Free Festival. Thanks to Alex Hylton for his sterling efforts at running THREE comedy venues at the festival in addition to being a full time pub landlord on top of also being an award-winning comedian.

This has been an incredibly tough week.

On Saturday morning, everything seemed so positive. I’d had a lovely bus ride into the city – the X7 route really is lovely, taking in some beautiful Northamptonshire and Leicestershire villages.

I really enjoyed seeing pals Frizz Frizzle and Tej Dhutia at Chris O’Neill’s show – A Political Breakfast – which ended up being much extended because not only was the room luckily free after, but due to mixed messages between the web and the ticketing service, most of the audience (a big family party who had all come in together for the mother’s birthday) had thought the show started later.

After trudging the streets in vain in search of a place open where I could get my wristband, I did a spot for Alex on Saturday at Jokes in the Afternoon, my first spot of the Leicester Comedy Festival. I was on with Rich Pulsford (who would later go on to win UK Pun Championships) as well as Andrew White and Chris Boyd. It was all fine, and I had some audience members come up to me smiling and saying they’d enjoyed my bit. After, I said a few hellos to Adele Cliff and Chris Norton Walker getting ready for their show. It had been a great morning and I was full of the buzz of being at festival with other comedians. A glass of Malbec warming my belly, I left the venue to do a quick bit of retail therapy before getting the bus home.

Then my husband Neil rang me. He was with our friend Emma and they had just had some terrible news. A good friend of ours, one of the bright shining lights of the Northampton music scene, Kate Coyle, had taken her own life. I screamed in the middle of the street when I heard.

Kate Coyle, singing on my birthday last year at The Black Prince open mic

It was only a week ago we had been laughing and joking in the pub together. We played a game of Cards Against Humanity (she won), she showed me her latest favourite memes and a video of her cat doing happy paws on her as they lay on the bed together. We sang along to the jukebox tunes, including the semi-operatic europop track “I’m Crucified” by Army of Lovers. She told me she loved me as she often did. Other friends saw her later in the week and it seemed like she was having an excellent time, doing her favourite karaoke numbers – she really did have an exceptional voice and she loved to sing. Plus she was very popular, well-known throughout the town, her quirks and foibles appreciated and loved – and in some situations forgiven. She was a whirlwind – full of energy and unpredictability. There has been an outpouring of shock and grief and it is like a dark vortex has opened up over the town, and everyone’s energy, joy and will is being sucked into it.

Only a few days have passed for us to try to process the news and the rollercoaster of emotions that has accompanied it: gratitude that we had Kate in our lives at all; anger; sadness; guilt; numbness – the numbness most of all. Trying to work on Monday was like trying to work through sludge. I felt so relieved that I had already booked a couple of days off work to focus on the shows I was doing at the festival. Ah… the shows.

I felt like the punchline to a joke by Alan Moore in Watchmen as I prepared all the rest of the weekend and yesterday to make people laugh. Relentless trudging and pacing to get the lines to lodge in my brain, wondering if being in front of the crowd would help me to sound less monotonous and sad.

So yesterday, I had focused on my solo show so much I did feel ready for it, but I had another show to do first. Dressed in my advertising hoody (with my show poster on it) I did my set at the New Act Showcase in Exchange Bar cellar. I was on with Kevin Daniel, Max Hallam, Mary Flanigan and Adam Flood. The little cloud was with me, I failed to not sound nuts talking to Max and when I went up, I could feel the sad face trying to take over as the crowd seemed very chilled. As I tried to fight it, I ended up speeding up like a noob and tripping over my words. It was okay, some people said they liked my poem, but that’s the go-to people think of when they have switched off the rest of the set. I know some people who had been planning to see my show changed their minds and watched Adam’s show instead – I don’t blame them – his show with Paddy Young had an earlier start than mine, plus it was in the same venue so they wouldn’t have to move. And comedy isn’t a competition, but he was really good – better than I had been. The crowd had also massively warmed up when Mary was on as she engaged them and energised them with her leftfield questions and crowd compliments. Not a disaster, could have done better, but at least I was warmed up ready for my show. I think doing the showcase first was a massive help.

Got to Manhattan 34 and bumped into Pete Prodge who had come to watch my show, then I went downstairs to get set up. I arranged my video camera, but alas had brought the wrong memory card and it was too full, so I only recorded the first ten minutes unfortunately. Unable to use the Spotify playlist I had cultivated for the show the other day, I got the crowd to kazoo-hum a tune which resulted in this gem. My brother had come to watch which was an excellent surprise – and I was also thrilled to see my pals from the world of SF James Worrad and Phil Irving! It was a decent sized crowd as well – not as full as Adam and Paddy’s but I’m just stoked that I had any audience at all. Notably, mostly chaps, too. One exception was a filmmaker who had said she “had to come and see my show” from the title, as she had her own experiences and had in fact been given an awful prognosis. I won’t say more about that now, but we are hopefully staying in touch.

Anyway, the show went really well! all the jokes landed; people seemed engaged and curious about my story. I’m hoping someone from the panel came to see me, because I really think it worked. I had people putting decent cash in the bucket and also picking up my ko-fi cards. Neil complimented me after by saying if it was very close to something he would like to see on Netflix, and I have to tour it, get it to more festivals. I will! Got to chat to Pete, James and Phil in the bar after and Neil bought me a St Lucia cocktail – yum.

We talked about the possibilities for the show on the way home, but never far from our thoughts was Kate, and we talked about her too. I’m hoping after my PUN show today to make it back to a specially dedicated open mic night at the Black Prince in Northampton, but we will see.

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