A LOCAL company bringing comedy nights into towns and villages in and around Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge has helped to raise tens of thousands of pounds for schools.
Richard Minnis’s Out Of Bounds has worked with more than 60 schools of all types, playing in the school hall or, for smaller ones, the village hall.
Mr Minnis has been running comedy events since 2006. It all began when he was captain of Sevenoaks Town Golf Club and decided to organise a social event.
It was such a success that he started providing similar evenings at other golf clubs – hence the name, the result of a wayward drive. Then he was approached by a Parent Teacher Association to help them raise funds.
‘I have had a fascination with comedy for most of my life,’ said the 57-year-old from Wrotham Heath. ‘I organised what turned out to be the best social event we had ever had, and it went from there.’
He adds: ‘Eventually someone asked about running one for a school PTA. It was not what I had planned initially but we were also approached by some other sports clubs at the same time.
‘New schools are approaching me all the time. It is very much a growing area. School events have overtaken my regular club venues, and it’s a cracking way to raise money while doing something different to the normal quiz night etc.’
Out Of Bounds runs around 40 events a year for infant, primary and secondary schools. They were at Fordcombe in May and will be in Penshurst this Saturday.
They have also performed on behalf of the primary schools in Speldhurst and Bidborough, Chiddingstone Nursery, Fosse Bank in Hildenborough, Hilden Grange in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar, Tonbridge Grammar and Kent College Pembury.
‘New schools are approaching me all the time. It is very much a growing area’
Tara Davies, Co-Chair of the Fordcombe’s PTA, said: ‘It is a big up-front commitment and we had to sell 60 tickets to cover our costs but we did that easily. The acts were all excellent, a lot better and more polished than we expected.
‘It is a very easy fundraiser as, other than catering and selling tickets and setting up the hall on the night, everything is done by the company.’
Deborah Sharpe of St James’ Infant & Junior School PTA in Tunbridge Wells said they raised £1,200 and added: ‘It was a great evening , 95 attended, there was laughter, corks popping and plenty of bread and cheese. We thought the comedians were great.’
The PTAs tend to turn a profit of around £1,000 after Out Of Bounds’ fee of £900 is deducted – though the company can be ‘flexible to assist with smaller schools with limited audience numbers’.
‘Eighty per cent of my events are helping someone to raise money, whether it be a charity event or a school PTA or funding for children’s foreign excursions,’ said Mr Minnis.
‘This of course gives me great satisfaction. Leaving an event with a room full of beaming faces and a knowledge that someone is benefiting from it is a great feeling.’
Mr Minnis, who has two grown-up children, has become well known on the established comedy circuit and has worked with more than 200 artists, including some of the best known in the industry.
The likes of Bob Mills, Hal Cruttenden, the late Sean Hughes, Katherine Ryan, Milton Jones, Zoe Lyons, Angela Barnes, Tim Vine and Dominic Holland have all appeared.
‘I use some agents but mostly deal direct with acts. It is a community and as I am well known for running enjoyable events, I am contacted regularly by new acts wanting to work for me.
‘I am always looking out for the acts that people are talking about, and after watching them perform I decide how suitable they are for each type of event I run.’
The content varies according to the audience. ‘There are acts that will work all of my nights and some that will only do pub or club nights.
‘We always select acts that will not offend people, our aim is for everyone to enjoy themselves.’
Mr Minnis, who works full time in the telecoms industry, has ‘dabbled’ with doing stand-up himself but says it’s a hobby and adds: ‘I don’t have time to commit to making a full fist of it. I compere occasionally now but I’m really a promoter.’
PICTURE: FUNNY TURN: Richard Minnis (left) with comedian Alexander Armstrong
Penshurst cracks up
The Penshurst Comedy Night will be held in the Village Hall on Saturday [June 30] from 7pm. The event is raising money for Penshurst Primary School through the PTA. The headline act is Glenn Moore, and he is supported by fellow Mock The Week contestant Ben Norris and comedian-magician Danny Buckler with Paul Ricketts acting as the compere. Tickets cost £15 and are available from email@example.com