Beyond A Joke

Every year Big Difference Company produce a series of talks and events exploring contemporary issues in stand-up comedy. These events provide an opportunity to go beyond the laughter with contributions from comedians, industry professionals and academics.

The series is delivered in partnership with organisations such as Centre for Comedy Studies Research (Brunel University), De Montfort University, Equity and

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The A-Z of Management

Big Difference Company are often brought in to help other organisations address serious issues using comedy, humour and a lightness of touch. We have a long standing relationship with Managers in Partnership, the trade union organisation for senior healthcare managers, and were commissioned by them to design and deliver a creative intervention for their annual conference in November 2016.

The focus for the conference was ‘great managers, great workplaces – a positive vision for NHS culture’. Bullying is identified as being of huge significance in healthcare workplaces, specifically NHS, and we were brought in to address this issue in an engaging way, through promoting awareness of what makes a positive workplace culture. Using comedy as a platform we devised a film called The A to Z of Management. The short film brings together words, in the form of an A to Z list, which are significant for managers in healthcare. In doing so the film allows for mangers to consider some of the main stressors for those working currently in healthcare and aims to promote a vision of good working relationships to tackle these issues.

A lead-out workshop programme will take place throughout 2017 to build on the messages contained in the film.

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Loving Laughing

Big Difference Company, in partnership with Leicester’s School Development Support Agency, were awarded £9,000 funding from Awards for All Lottery programme to facilitate 12 city primary schools being involved in Leicester Comedy Festival 2017. The SDSA have worked with Big Difference Company to promote a series of after- school creative word play and joke writing sessions which will enable pupils to enhance their language and communication skills, and help them to increase their confidence and self-esteem. Professional comedians will work with schools to mentor and train the young people in joke telling. The young people will write their own jokes on subjects they select and will then go on to have “gag battles” with partner schools. 3 final schools will then take part in the finale, telling their jokes to a selected audience of children, school staff and family members. One school will be announced as the winner of the inaugural Leicester Joke Battle!

Big Difference Company has a long tradition of working with partner organisations to encourage wide participation in the annual Leicester Comedy Festival. Previous projects include workshops using improvised comedy and cartooning to develop young people’s confidence and language skills. In 2016 the festival hosted a school’s project, in partnership with the British Council which won the main “child centered teaching” award at the 2016 UK eTwinning Awards. In 2017, the festival is hosting a Schools Showcase at Regent College, featuring performances developed by young people from schools and colleges across Leicester & Leicestershire.

Loving Laughing

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Procession of Light - Lancashire Encounter

Big Difference Company were awarded the contract for Procession of Light Producer as part of the Lancashire Encounter 2016. A national tender process was launched after Preston City Council were awarded £70,000 from Arts Council England to develop the festival. Building on the tradition of the Preston Guild torchlight procession, the Procession of Light has been designed to bring together communities, organisations and businesses from across Lancashire and showcase the region’s diversity, creativity and innovation.

Linked to celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the illumination of Preston by gas light, the Procession of Light (Saturday 24th September 2016) helps shine a light on Lancashire’s Spirit of Invention. Big Difference Company will work with local artists and creatives to engage community groups, businesses and individuals in the procession. The company will also add value to the procession with the introduction of largescale fire sculptures and installations.

Lancashire Encounter is being supported by key partners and funders including Preston City Council, Arts Council England, University of Central Lancashire, Preston Business Improvement District and Marketing Lancashire. Lancashire Encounter is a partner in the Without Walls Associate Touring Network, a group of festivals working together to extend the reach and benefits of the existing Without Walls programme in areas where there is low engagement with the arts, bringing high-quality outdoor work to diverse audiences across England.

Torchlight Procession

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Theatre of Light 2015 – Highcross Leicester

Highcross, Leicester, commissioned Big Difference Company to deliver their very first largescale Christmas event. This was the latest event BDC have produced for Highcross, having organised the public launch event for the centre in 2009. Theatre of Light was designed to bring a bit of Christmas magic for visitors to the centre at the beginning of the Christmas shopping period.

BDC linked the event to the wider Leicester Christmas lights switch on festivities happening on the 22nd of November, to help provide a really special event for the 15,000 people that make their way in to the city centre.

The event transformed Highcross outside retail space, with projection, light and street performance. The main projection piece illumined St Peters Square, and played throughout the evening. It was accompanied by Light Cycle - a mobile projection unit, with live digital art, enabling members of the public to write names on walls. We worked with collective Urban Projections to achieve this transformation. The event enabled Highcross to achieve a 20% increase on numbers of people visiting the centre.

Theatre of Light

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Leicester Glows

Big Difference Company were commissioned to produce the free, public event ending the week of events marketing the historic reinterment of King Richard III. Leicester Glows took place across public squares and spaces in Leicester city centre and involved over 8,000 firepots, fire installations, pyrotechnics and a participatory “crown of flames” which members of the public lit throughout the evening. We worked with the brilliant Fireworxx to produce the event, with additional support from Bright Spark Fireworks.

We were commissioned to produce the event by Leicester City Council, on behalf of the King Richard III Partnership, which was managed by Leicester City Council, Diocese of Leicester, University of Leicester and Leicestershire County Council. We produced the overall Event Safety Plan, and worked with ShowSec Security to ensure public safety was maintained throughout the event.

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Comedy in the Dark

"Comedy in the Dark is a lovely, quirky idea with excellent ecological credentials" The Scotsman

"Destined to be one of the most talked about shows of the fringe" Time Out

Comedy in the Dark is an innovative show which features top comedians performing in the dark. It's the most fun you can have with the lights switched off. Since the show premiered in Leicester 2008 it has visited Edinburgh Fringe, London and Denmark and toured the UK. The show features a rolling line up and past acts have included Marcus Brigstocke, Dan Antopolski, Jon Richardson, Shappi Khorsandi, Reg D Hunter, Josie Long, Phil Nichol, Kevin Bridges, Lucy Porter, Sarah Millican, Andrew Ryan, Seann Walsh, Marcel, Lucont, and Patrick Monahan. The show has been used to highlight a number of environmental campaigns including The Big Switch Off and Climate Week, a programme supported by Paul McCartney, Al Gore and Kofi Annan.

At Comedy in the Dark, the audience's senses are heightened. In addition, the performers are forced to utilise entirely new skills as the gig is performed in the pitch black. Things look and sound very different in the dark.

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Sing Leicestershire

Sing Leicestershire is a project supported using public funding by Arts Council England

The project launched in January 2014, leading into the annual Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, and has provided an opportunity for people across Leicestershire and beyond to take part in and benefit from singing for health and wellbeing. Sing Leicestershire was a core part of the festivals 21st birthday celebrations.

There is an ever increasing amount of evidence that demonstrates the many ways that participating in music and singing is good for individual and community health and wellbeing. As individuals, it has been evidenced that there are positive benefits for heart and lung health as well as benefits to our mental well health derived from participating in something creative and positive. There is also evidence around social gain derived through such participation

The programme enabled us to showcase other Big Difference Company projects that had an emphasis on music and singing so that we could better evidence the benefits. The programme included singing and musical performance at venues such as De Montfort Hall, The Musician Pub, Curve Theatre and Duffys Bar. It led in to a Gala evening at Leicester Cathedral that celebrated the best of British comedy song. Hundreds of people performed and thousands of people benefited from watching, hearing, singing and joining in!

Sing Leicestershire Arts

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Silver Stand Up Competition

“I am delighted to lend my support to the Silver Comedy competition. Anything that provides an antidote to all the young upstarts taking over the comedy scene has to be a good thing.” Alexei Sayle

Big Difference Company are proud producers of the annual Silver Stand Up Competition. The competition takes place each February as part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival and is a unique search for the UK’s best seasoned stand-up talent, in association with Silver Comedy.

Entry to the competition is for both new and experienced comedians strictly over the age of 55. The competition grows each year; in 2013’s winner Marc Lucero and Best Newcomer Sarah Maloney were featured on BBC Breakfast News and in Saga Magazine’s August issue.

“Untroubled by the need to visit night clubs or ‘be cool’, the old survey the world at a longer perspective and are funnier than the screaming youngsters. Who is funnier – Barry Cryer or Jedward? The old repeat themselves, the young have nothing to say – the boredom is mutual. The old repeat themselves, the young have nothing to say – the boredom is mutual.” Arthur Smith

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Don’t Worry, Breathe Happy

We were commissioned by Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to produce a humorous song about lung health. Project funding was secured through the Health in your Hands programme, aimed at involving the community in decision making around addressing health priorities. The CCG brought together people from across Leicester to an event where they would vote for their favourite projects that would tackle issues around C.O.P.D – or, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Our Big Difference Company Ukulele group performed at a public event to pitch for monies to fund the project and were successful.

Big Difference Company commissioned Leicester based performance poet and comedian Rob Gee to create lyrics to a new song – Don’t Worry, Breathe Happy – lyrics that would help raise awareness of the signs and causes of C.O.P.D as well as sharing the benefits of singing for health, wellbeing and for lung health. The song was premiered - supported by facilitator, Alison Dunne at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival at a charity fundraising event as part of Sing Leicestershire, a programme of comedy festival events showcasing how singing and music are an important contributor to individual and community wellbeing.

The project was delivered by an innovative partnership. Big Difference Company managed and produced the song and delivered the film. The project was made possible through invaluable support of Peepul Centre and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, through bringing together and supporting their Ukulele group to learn and perform the song. The final song was performed by LookALady Ukulele and Flukes.

Sing Leicestershire was supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

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Paralympic Flame Festival

We were contracted to work as Producer for the Flame Festival in Aylesbury, the first stop for the Paralympic torch after it left Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The festival included performances which took place on 2 stages in the town centre. Performers included top UK folk artist Eliza Carthy, and Robert Hollingworth, Director of internationally renowned solo-voice ensemble I Fagiolini, who formed a community choir and led them in performing celebratory Welcome Songs for the torch. The festival also included a performance of Starting Line, a performance inspired by the spirit and vision of Paralympic athletes performed by disabled and able-bodied young people from around the globe, as well as performers from Candoco Dance Company and disabled artist Rachel Gadsden.

The festival finale was a projection onto the Courthouse building, unfolding the story of the Paralympics, interspersed with human tales of courage and achievement. Flame was a collaboration between Shared Space and Light and pyrotechnic wizards The World Famous. It combined video mapping techniques and precise pyrotechnic synchronisation, with the timeless attraction of fire, to explore the imagery and meaning behind the Paralympic flame.

Our brief was to liaise with all the performance and production companies, to produce a complete festival programme throughout the day. We also worked with Aylesbury Vale District Council, Arts Council England, LOCOG, the event management company and others to ensure the event was delivered in a safe manner. Over 8,000 attended the event.

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Highcross Leicester

We were awarded the contract to manage the official opening of the new centre, alongside Spirit Marketing Group. Developed in a 60:40 joint venture by Hammerson and Hermes, the £350 million scheme opened in 2008 and more than doubled the retail provision in Leicester. Highcross Leicester comprises a refurbished shopping centre, formerly known as The Shires, and the creation of an additional 60,000 m2 of new retail, leisure, restaurant, and residential accommodation on an adjacent 10 hectare site.

Our brief was to engage with members of the local community and encourage participation in the opening celebrations. We designed a comprehensive programme of activity which took place across launch day, involving hundreds of people in street arts, circus and community performances. We provided all the relevant health & safety materials to our client, attending compliance meetings throughout the process and ensuring all performers and contractors adhered to internal policies and procedures.

Our work extended from the initial launch into a Christmas programme for Highcross Leicester which included producing a series of specific films shown across the scheme.

"Highcross is a special project which I am hugely proud to have worked on, and in turn, I could not have wished to be working with a better events team in both Spirit and Big Difference Company. I have been hugely impressed with your creativity, passion, organisation and sheer hard work over the last 6 or so months, and I will forever be in debt to you all."

Karl Boyce, Marketing Manager Hammersons

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SO Festival

Big Difference Company were awarded the contract to produce the inaugural SO Festival in Skegness, alongside sinfonia ViVA. The festival was funded by Arts Council England together with support from the local authority East Lindsey District Council. The festival was awarded to coincide with the switching on of the Skegness Illuminations and featured a weekend of performances and activities. The weekend culminated with a live opera performance, broadcast live on a big screen on the beach, followed by a performance by pyrotechicians The World Famous which attracted an audience of 20,000+ people.

Big Difference Company advised the local authority on the production of the Event Safety Plan for the festival, and worked with partners to ensure the safe delivery of the activities.

"The brilliantly atmospheric music provided the perfect accompaniment to the beautiful and varied fireworks which delighted the stunned crowds for 45 minutes." Skegness Standard

"I would like to congratulate the organisers of Saturday's event for trying something bold and different. What a refreshing change from D list celebs switching on the lights. I hope these innovative ideas can be repeated next year." Andsled

"The performance, hosted by Heartbeat's Jonathan Kerrigan, was screened live on the beach so people and families could enjoy the music for free in the blazing sunshine. Hundreds of people set up camp, bringing drinks and picnics, and settled in for the two-hour show." Skegness Standard

"Having worked with Big Difference Company over the past 6 month on a highly complex project bringing high quality culture activity to the East Coast I can safely confirm that the company is flexible and well led and on a partnership basis is simply excellent. The product that the company delivers is of the highest quality and the delivery is simply superb. In regard to creativity the company have an excellent array of skills and thinking that we as organisation have found an inspiration. In short we hope to continue the relationship that has prospered over the past months and continue working with BDC and would recommend their work to others without hesitation." James D Brindle, Heath, Arts and Events Manager, East Lindsey District Council

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Special Olympics Leicester – Social Director & Games Village

Big Difference Company were awarded the contract to deliver the social programme and Games Village for the 2,400 visiting athletes, 1,200 coaches and support staff and 6,000 family members visiting the Special Olympics Leicester.

Special Olympics Great Britain (SOGB) is the major provider of sporting opportunities for people with a learning disability and provides equality of opportunity for all athletes regardless of ability or degree of disability. In February 1988, the IOC, the umbrella organisation of the Olympic movement, officially recognised Special Olympics as the third Olympic movement alongside the Olympics and Paralympics.

The Opening Ceremony for the Games took place at King Power stadium and was attended by Sarah Brown, wife of Gordon Brown and Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, and son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who founded Special Olympics in the USA in the 1960’s. Sarah and Tim were also joined by Lawrie McMenemy MBE, Chairman of Special Olympics GB, Games Patron Martin Johnson and Special Olympics GB ambassadors Ossie Ardiles and Leicester FC legend Alan Birchenall.

The main brief was to develop the Games Village, located on the site of King Power Stadium, home of Leicester City Football Club. The village was the central hub for the Games and featured entertainment for athletes and their guests, as well as being the base for the medical team providing free health checks.

The contract also involved designing and delivering a programme of activities across the Games, including the Festival for Families which took place in the Games Village and involved an evening of street entertainers, side shows, music and games set in a carnival environment.

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Diwali Flashmob

Our work with Highcross Leicester extended with a new contract to develop a contemporary celebration for Diwali. Popularly known as the "festival of lights," Diwali is a festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-December by different communities. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha or nirvana by Mahavira in 527 BC.

Diwali Celebrations in Leicester are one of the biggest outside of India, with up to 35,000 people attending the switch on of the lights on Belgrave Road and even more attending Diwali day itself in the heart of the city's Asian community. Highcross Leicester wanted to develop a different approach to celebrate Diwali Day, one that particular linked in with their social media campaigns.

Big Difference Company worked with Addict Dance, crowned winners in the Midlands Best Dance Crew in 2010, to devise a flashmob event to take place in Highcross on Diwali Day. The event was filmed and uploaded to Youtube; the film received 1,000 views in the first 24 hours of being online.

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Andrew Lansley rap

We were commissioned in Spring 2011 to produce an online film as part of UNISON’s contribution to the public discussion of the issues around the governments proposed NHS reforms. The film was to be launched in advance of the UNISON national rally and encouraged a debate of important healthcare concerns across the UK.

As part of its focus on the promotion of good health and wellbeing through the Arts, Big Difference Company devised the idea of producing a rap examining the policies proposed by Andrew Lansley MP, Secretary of State for Health and the views of local people. We created a team of people to work on the project including MC NxtGen (a young rapper), poet and performer Rob Gee and film maker Tom Walker. The rap was written, the music video was filmed and uploaded to Youtube.

The film received nearly half a million hits in the first few months of being available, in addition to national media coverage in The Guardian, The Times, BBC Radio 4 and was featured on national TV programmes including Question Time and Have I Got News For You.

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