Originally published at Women’s Views on News.
frockonI really can’t thank the Bristol Festival of Ideas enough for helping What The Frock! get started.’

Women’s comedy business What The Frock! will celebrate its first birthday this weekend, with a bumper comedy fest featuring, among others, funny women Tiffany Stevenson, Bethany Black and Jayde Adams.

The Bristol-based business was launched by Jane Duffus, a journalist and blogger, after her blog post about TV panel shows went viral in January 2012.

“There was a lot of tension at the time about shows like Mock The Week rarely booking any women, and there was a lot of discussion about the absence of women in comedy going on,” Duffus told Women’s Views on News recently.

“It made me realise that it was hard to see female comedians in clubs anywhere, and it became a case of putting my money where my mouth was and doing it myself.”

The first What The Frock! comedy night took place on 18 May 2012, as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas, and has since evolved into a full-time business venture.

Duffus said: “I really can’t thank the Festival enough for helping What The Frock! get started, and I’m very pleased to be doing an event with them on May 18 as part of their 2013 festival.”

The anniversary gig for the Bristol Festival of Ideas will take place at the Arnolfini, compered by Luisa Omielan, with sets from Tiffany Stevenson and Bethany Black.

But before all that, the celebrations kick off on Friday night with the What The Frock! birthday party at The Square Club, Bristol.

Hosted by regular Frock! compere Jayde Adams, the birthday party will feature performances from Viv Groskop, Alice Frick, Sophie Johnson and Charlie Benson, plus plenty of other treats.

Ms Duffus said: “We’ve got free birthday cakes, sweets, special “Frock! On” badges and tons of other stuff.

“There’s a birthday present for the first 15 people to arrive on the night, and we’re doing a raffle for Bristol charity One25, who we’ve proudly fundraised about £500 for in the past year.”

What The Frock! certainly has plenty to celebrate – in January, after three pilot comedy nights, Duffus began running it as a business, and the show took up monthly residency at The Square Club.

“It just seemed the natural progression. All the shows sell out, the events have had some national attention, the momentum is there, and people want to be a part of it,” Duffus said.

“There’s a lot of good will for What The Frock! locally, which is fantastic, and there’s a few faces who I’ve seen at every single event I’ve put on.”

Just two months later, in March, What The Frock! was profiled on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour and hosted a comedy show at the Royal Festival Hall in London as part of the Women of the World Festival.

Celebrating International Women’s Day with the Women of the World gig has been “the absolute highlight” so far for Duffus: “It was our biggest crowd, and when else am I going to be sandwiched on a line-up between Jenni Murray and Sandi Toksvig?!”

Despite the financial challenge of running a small business, and the geographical challenge of booking London-based comics for her shows in Bristol, Duffus has big plans for the future of What The Frock!, including more focus on nurturing up-and-coming women comics.

“We launched our Open Mic Award in March, and the competition night is June 5.

“I was staggered that all 17 places were filled within 24 hours, and I’ve sadly since had to turn a lot of people down,” she said.

In the autumn What The Frock! branch out to Exeter on 26 October, and there is the launch of a Live at St Georges series in Bristol, on 19 October, with a triple-bill of comedy from Sara Pascoe, Shazia Mirza, and one more act yet to be confirmed.

“There are a ton of other plans as well, some of which are so secret I can’t tell you about in print,” Duffus said.

“But rest assured that they are very exciting and will guarantee that people realise the wims can be a bit funny, and that comedy by women isn’t just for women audiences. Far from it!”

What The Frock!’s first birthday party is on 17 May, at The Square Club, Bristol. Tickets are £15 on the door or £12 when booked in advance.

On 18 May, What The Frock! will be at the Arnolfini, Bristol, for a showcase gig as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas. Tickets are £12 pounds. To purchase, click here.

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