When Bea moved to Thamesmead to become a Dot Dot Dot guardian she was keen to meet new people and become an active member of the community. But she quickly noticed a lack of community engagement and local events for adults.
Until she took matters into her own hands.
Thamesmead is Funny
A lover of stand up comedy, Bea organised a six week long comedy workshop for Thamesmead’s local residents which culminated in the ‘Thamesmead is Funny’ open mic night, sponsored by Peabody and Dot Dot Dot.
Bea’s idea was born from frustration: “It was the same people who were attending different community events again and again. I realised that most people in Thamesmead were not active members of the community. There wasn’t much in the way of events for adults; most things were children or family focused.
I wanted to engage people who hadn’t engaged with the community before. I wanted to take people out of their comfort zone.”
Winning the community fund
At first, Bea was hesitant. She’d had some exposure to event planning, however, putting on a comedy event was completely uncharted territory. “Then I met a fellow guardian, and we quickly became friends,” says Bea.
“When I told her about my idea she said it was brilliant, and agreed to help me. We both have very different skill sets so we were able to work well together. She’s an artist so she was instrumental in designing much of the promotional material like flyers and promotion for the event.”
With her friend on board, Bea submitted and won a bid for funding from Thamesmead Community Fund. From there, things moved quickly. They recruited a professional comedian to run the six workshops, sought out local participants and started planning for the open mic night.
On running the workshop, Bea says “we had a mix of participants – their ages ranged from 20 to 70! At first, no one spoke to each other. I was worried about them getting up on stage. But seeing everyone bond through the weeks was the best thing about this experience. I was overwhelmed by everyone’s eagerness to perform in front of an audience at the end.”
The big night out
Organising the open mic night presented several obstacles. Not only had Bea been warned that Thamesmead residents were notoriously hard to engage, she also struggled to find a venue willing to host them.
“We were doing something that hadn’t been done in Thamesmead before, and there were some particular concerns around licensing,” she explains. “It was important that we could serve alcohol because comedy doesn’t really work without it.”
It took a lot of negotiation and reassurance from Bea before The Moorings agreed to host the ‘Thamesmead is Funny’ event, which turned out to be a resounding success.
Bea tells us that “the best thing about the whole night wasn’t that the venue almost reached capacity despite our anxieties. It was at the end of the evening when an older lady came up to me. She told me that tonight was the first time she’d been out in the evenings for three years! She’d decided to come because she had attended a comedy event 10 years previously and enjoyed it.”
Long lasting impact
As property guardian, Bea is a meanwhile resident of Thamesmead. But her impact on the community and its individual residents is lasting.
One workshop participant told Bea that learning comedy brought playfulness back to her life after a difficult few years. Other attendees are planning to perform comedy at this year’s Thamesmead festival – a local community festival at which comedy has never been performed before.
Bea achieved exactly what she set out to do: engage local people by driving them out of their comfort zone.