Traditionally, when you think of Irish comedy you think of Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys. But there is a new era of Irish comedy emerging from the streets of London today. At the forefront of this is Maria Schweppe, the woman behind the London Irish Comedy Festival and the new Irish comedy tent at this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations.
You set up the London Irish Comedy Festival in 2012. What inspired you?
I moved to London in September 2010 to take up a position with the Clore Leadership Programme, where I still work. My background is in arts management/producing and events production, and in September 2011 I produced the UK premiere of an Irish play, Waiting For Ikea at the New Diorama Theatre.
I wanted to tap into an Irish audience for the play and had heard about the London Irish Centre, so I arranged to meet Gary Dunne, their Director of Arts. I pitched the comedy festival to him last January. Just nine months later we put the first festival on. Now we’re bringing it to Trafalgar Square and I’m really excited.
What can visitors to the comedy tent expect on the day?
We have four hours of top notch comedy lined up and it’s all free. We’ve brought back some of the acts who performed at the Festival last October. I’m really excited about seeing Aisling Bea again. She’s a really excellent storyteller.
There’s also Maeve Higgins and Barry Murphy who are household names back home in Ireland, Fred Cooke, a brilliant musical comedian, Reuben, who uses mime and the up and coming Rory O’Hanlon. It’s a nice mixture of acts and I’ve programmed it so there will be a nice flow to the day.
How do you usually celebrate St Patrick’s Day?
I haven’t really celebrated St Patrick’s Day properly since I came to London. I worked for St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin during my teens, so this feels like coming full circle to be honest. I think it’s a great way to celebrate Irish creativity, talent and culture.
There’s also something very special about being with your tribe when you’re away from home. I’m really looking forward to the craic and the banter.
Are you running another London Irish Comedy Festival this year?
Yes. The festival is happening at the London Irish Centre from 11-13 October. Hopefully it will be even bigger and better this year. We’re also looking at the possibility of doing a bi-monthly comedy club, curated by a different Irish comedian for each event, at the London Irish Centre too.
Find out more about Irish comedy at London's St Patrick's Day Parade & Festival.