Celebrating Aisling’s 25th anniversary in comedy
We began to raise money for Aisling with fundraising comedy benefit gigs in London over 20 years ago and Ardal O’Hanlon was one of the first acts we booked for it (immediately after he offered to be our patron). Fr. Ted had just come out on Channel 4 and most people still didn’t know what to make of it. Most people still thought of the characters of Ted, Dougal, Jack and Mrs. Doyle as real and Ardal particularly had a hard time convincing people he wasn’t an eejit. Back then Ardal suffered badly with stage fright and he was also very nervous before gigs and he would pace up and down backstage cursing to himself. The first show was at the Irish centre in the McNamara hall, which we used to get at a discount price. The centre made a fortune on the bar though.
We tried many different venues around London over the years including the Bloomsbury Theatre, the Shaw Theatre and a hidden gem, the Bloomsbury Ballroom, an art deco wonder near to the British Museum, owned by Irish promoter Vince Power who also gave it to us at a knockdown price. When we booked the venue we didn’t realise that there were no chairs and we had to hire 1,000 of them and cart them off a truck and down 2 flights of stairs and back up again after the gig. It’s at times like this that having a good few volunteers to call on comes in useful. It can’t have been too bad as we booked it again the following year.
In the last few years we seem to have eventually settled on the rather magnificent Union Chapel in Highbury which the comics love to play. I think the thrill of telling rude stories in filthy language from the pulpit of a church is an added pleasure. Thanks to Ardal being our patron for all these years we have had some of the best Irish and British comics on the circuit performing for Aisling for free: Dara O‘Briain, Dylan Moran, David O’Doherty, Aisling Bea, Roisin Conaty, Jimmy Carr, Lee Mack, Tommy Tiernan, Kevin Gildea…..etc.
This year we sold out the 900 seat Chapel on a rainy night in December with guest performers, David O’Doherty, Dara O’Briain, Joe Wilkinson, David Johns (I Daniel Blake) and our new MC Jarlath Regan (check out his great podcast, An Irishman Abroad). Also with us was Ardal, exhausted at the end of a three-month tour still doing his bit for Aisling. Part of his current hilarious act is about him still being mistaken for someone who is really thick. Is he or isn’t he? You will have to catch his live act to find out.