Derry Girls effect sees record number of NI performers at Edinburgh fringe

The massive success of hit comedy Derry Girls has raised the profile of Northern Ireland comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, according to the CEO.

As the Guardian reports, this year’s festival will feature a record 17 playwrights, comedians and artists.

Many of the cast members have said that the success of Lisa McGee’s Channel 4 comedy has opened new doors for them.

Festival executive director Shona McCarthy, originally from Northern Ireland, said it was now the biggest performance ever for her home country.

“It’s really exciting to see so much work in theater and comedy. There’s more than I’ve ever seen,” she said.

NI contributors have commended Ms. McCarthy’s support, along with a collaborative spirit in the arts community and renewed interest from international audiences.

They also warned that the UK’s lowest per capita arts funding could stifle progress.

A boom in comedy from Northern Ireland, with local comedians selling out top arenas previously reserved for international acts, and a growth in comedy clubs have also contributed.

Joe Dougan, who manages most of the local comedians who perform on the fringes, told the Guardian: “The Northern Ireland comedy scene has really exploded in recent years but the current generation of outstanding talent has been in the making for 10 to 15 years . Since 2019, an almost fully-fledged industry has emerged.”

Comedian Ciaran Bartlett said that as a post-conflict nation, Northern Ireland acts had the benefit of a “darker and edgier” voice.

He added that the national sense of humor means NI comedians are trying harder to make “a lot of people who are comedians themselves” laugh.

Belfast comedian Paddy Raff said audiences are now more aware of Northern Ireland’s similarities to other parts of the UK and Ireland.

He said Derry Girls also introduced the audience to the Northern Irish brogue.

“People are more open to it instead of asking, ‘Is this guy Scottish? Is he drunk?’”

Adding that local comedians no longer lack the confidence to show off, he said it’s “not common to get up behind a mic and be funny.

“We get to the fact that we’re just as funny as everyone else and it’s a bit of a revelation.”

Niamh Flanagan is the director of Theater and Dance Northern Ireland which organizes a presentation of NI theatre.

She said shows are now being made that would never have been considered 20 years ago, as projects were often assumed to focus on the issues.

Instead, new works deal with universal themes such as sexuality, class and gender politics.

Despite the increased profile seen in Edinburgh this year, she warns a serious funding gap remains.

“Funding for the arts has been decimated since about 2011,” she said.

“We still have to work a bit together so that hopefully in the future the art here will be better appreciated by the decision-makers. But there is no government or an agreed budget, so it is very difficult, there is still a lot of political instability.” Derry Girls effect sees record number of NI performers at Edinburgh fringe

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