Working class comedy collective Best in Class has announced new 2024 projects and issued a call out to the TV industry for support.
Best in Class is a crowd funded profit sharing initiative, which champions working class performers, enabling over 30 working class comedians to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2018 on their mixed bill showcase. Since 2022 they have assisted a further 30 performers with the costs of performing at the festival, via a bursary scheme.
Best in Class has found huge success at the Edinburgh Fringe, with the showcase selling out daily. Those who have taken part include Jordan Gray, who was nominated for Best Show; Micah Hall, who went on to perform in the Pleasance Reserve; Tamsyn Kelly who embarks on her debut tour this year and has just written a radio show with Dawn French; Lindsey Santoro, who was nominated for Best Newcomer; and Anna Thomas, who wrote and starred in Lady Bigfoot.
While there’s now a clear record of success, founder Sian Davies, runner up in the 2019 Funny Women Stage Award who has herself recorded for Comedy Central and has a special on Next Up, says, “Since starting Best in Class in 2018, we have seen even more working class performers being priced out of the arts.
“I refuse to stand by while the biggest open access arts festival in the world becomes only affordable to people with private wealth. Working class performers deserve the opportunity to experience the fringe, to perform, to succeed and to fail in that environment. With podcasts and social media there are more routes into the industry now. But why should the fringe route be closed to working class people? Why should they miss out on that experience?”
Best in Class is holding a workshop in February, funded by a BBC Comedy Grant, with the aim of upskilling performers by demystifying some of the jargon around the industry, providing writers room experience and giving the chance to make industry connections. Production company Tiger Aspect are hosting the workshop and Best in Class wants other industry professionals to come forward and get involved.
“We’re putting 25 working class comics in a room with the hope of furthering careers and making connections”, explains Davies. “I strongly believe the next great sitcom or topical comedy could come from this room. Time and again, working class performers turned writers have shown their unique experiences and talent – all they need is the opportunity. Think of The Royle Family, Phoenix Nights, Almas Not Normal: real stories told by people with lived experience.
“It’s time the industry really got behind the talent we have been supporting through Best in Class. I’m calling out to production companies, TV channels, industry gatekeepers and kingmakers to come down to our workshop. Be in the room with us and work with us to create projects showcasing diverse working class talent. Because isn’t that what you are always saying you need?”
In 2022 Best In Class were awarded the Panel Prize at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. They redistributed the £5000 prize money to other working class performers in smaller £500 bursaries. Of those awarded bursaries, two were nominated for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, with one of the winners of the newly established (ISH) Edinburgh Comedy Awards also being a Best in Class bursary recipient and five recipients being long listed.
Applications are now open for the 2024 Best in Class Edinburgh Fringe showcase, with a fundraising page now live to help cover the costs. Any surplus funds raised will be put towards bursaries for working class acts in 2024.
“We want to support as many working class acts as possible” says Davies. “With rising energy bills, inflation and the cost of living crisis, even more working class performers risk being priced out of the arts. Everything we do is driven by donations and ticket sales. All of our schemes are oversubscribed, but when the money dries up we have to draw the line.
“We want to support as many people as we can, we can only do this with support from the public and the industry. Any donation is hugely beneficial. but if you are unable to financially contribute, please consider sharing our campaign or coming to one of our shows. Crowd funding is a lot like unionism. One voice can’t make much of a difference, but when we join together, we have the power to change the world!”