Nina fears for comedians’ futures

MOSSLEY comedian Nina Gilligan is facing up to a problem that is enough to wipe the smile from anyone’s face – as is every other act.

For without a date of when live comedy can resume in pubs and clubs, there is no sign of money coming in.

Nina Gilligan

And to make sure she is prepared for Government handouts ending and not being allowed to do her job, she has even enrolled on a course to retrain herself.

A full-time comic for 10 years, Nina’s last live gig came on March 14 as part of a tour by Phoenix Nights’ mind reader Clinton Baptiste.

Since then, nothing and even though pubs are allowed to reopen, there is no sign of when live music or comedy will be allowed to take place.

Even Government handouts for the arts – some £1.57 billion – is not making its way to many of the people who get crowds laughing and make for memorable nights.

And after being reticent on voicing her issues while hundreds were dying and the NHS was working overtime to cope, things are now coming into focus, as they are for just about every other industry.

“It’s hit me hard,” Nina, who lives in Top Mossley, told The Correspondent. “I’ve not talked about it much as the main point of the crisis was saving lives.

“But now we’re really starting to see the effects with things like redundancies that people are talking about – people don’t really see comedians as having jobs, while it’s really my livelihood.

“I’m already applying for other work but there’s not a lot of it about. There’s pages and pages of care work but in the hospitality industry there’s not a lot out there.

“I’ve enrolled on a course that starts on September to retrain myself. I’ve been a full-time comedian for 10 years after working my way up from things like open mic nights, so it could be a case of starting all over again.

“And so far, then Government has given no indication of when live comedy may start again. The industry was hopeful it would get a date but so far there hasn’t been one.

“I’m more fortunate in the sense I have a partner but we’re only now living off one income. I’ve relied on handouts from things like the Covid Arms, which was set up to support comedians, and the Trussell Trust as I did a gig for them.”

The Government’s fund for the arts was seen as a lifesaver for many venues but it was made clear by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that it would be primarily for the ‘crown jewels.’

So no money has yet made its way to Mossley, leaving Nina perplexed.

She added: “There’s also been a handout for the arts but that money isn’t coming to us, for some reason that I don’t quite understand.

“I’m not saying theatres shouldn’t get it and it’s fantastic that they are but it’s not trickling down to us
“It’s not trickling down to comedy venues, it’s going to the big bricks and mortar projects like national and regional theatres.

“I’m also self-employed, so I was able to use the Government scheme. However, that was based on your last three years’ income and mine had gone up year on year.

“I got a small amount but a lot of comedians are in the same position and come October, there’s nothing else.

“I’m not saying comedians are special but I am saying we’re like everybody else in terms of our job has gone.”

The re-opening of pubs on July 4 was seen as a day of celebration around the country – and it meant money finally going over a number of local bars.

However, there is still no sign of Nina and other comedians like Brennan Reece, who has recently moved to Bottom Mossley, being able to resume their trade.

And she feels bringing that back will also help the general public resume something like normality.

She said: “If you ask people in Ashton or Oldham what’s the one art form that gets people going in to pubs on a regular basis, it would be comedy.

“It’s so accessible for people, people love it on a night out and it’s one thing you don’t have to go into Manchester city centre to find.

“But despite that, it is a business and the Covid-19 pandemic has showed how things like comedy, live music and sport are industries – you can’t just switch them on and off like a tap.

“We’re all facing difficult choices, then there are venue owners like the people that have the Frog and Bucket and promoters like Rob Riley to consider.

“People just perceive comedians as people who just do it as a bit on the side to their day jobs and they’ll be fine when it restarts – but it’s not like that, we’re people with jobs and careers too.

“I love being a comedian so much and I have so much love for comedy and I hope that when it does come back, I’ll be able to gig again but it feels like I’m having to start again, it’s absolutely devastating.”

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