Sir Billy Connolly unveils plans for new 'Spirit of Glasgow' comedy award
Sir Billy Connolly has revealed he is to launch a new comedy award in his name in his native Glasgow.
The legendary stand-up, actor and musician has joined forces with the Glasgow International Comedy Festival to launch the new prize.
The “Sir Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award” will be open to any performer, group, show or venue involved in the festival, which will stage its 20th edition in 2023.
Acts who are based ouwith the city will be eligible for the honour, which Sir Billy has announced ahead of his 80th birthday next week.
An independent judging panel will decided the winner, which will be unveiled at the end of next year’s event at the festival closing gala at the King’s Theatre in April.
The award was instigated by Karen Koren, founder of the long-running Edinburgh Festival Fringe venue Gilded Balloon, as part of a shake-up of the event, which was scrapped just over a year ago then brought back to life under new management.
Sir Billy said: “Glasgow defies description. Many great men and women have tried to describe its spirit and failed miserably.
“What do you say about a town that dances, sings, plays and jokes differently from everybody else? The winner of this award will have to be a nutter like me.”
Koren said she had known Connolly and his wife Pamela thanks to their visits to the Gilded Balloon and her first club, McNally's, Edinburgh’s west end.
She said: “We feel incredibly privileged to be able to introduce the Sir Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award to the festival.
“We hope the award will add to the celebration and really shine a light on some of the incredible hard work by acts and individuals within the comedy industry.”
Gilded Balloon has joined forces with the operators of The Stand comedy clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow and production company Illicit Still to revive the festival.
It had previously been run by the Scottish Comedy Agency, a sister company of Salt 'n' Sauce Promotions, operators of The Stand.
When it pulled the plug on the event last autumn, previous director Sarah Watson said: “It's not a decision we've taken lightly. Live comedy is facing serious challenges and we need to explore fresh ideas and new ways of working.”
However a salvage operation to bring the event back saw the 2022 event go ahead with a programme of more than 120 events, which attracted an audience of more than 20,000.
Katherine Ryan, Susie McCabe, Jim Smith, Larry Dean, Stewart Lee, Mark Nelson, Steward Lee, Fern Brady, Jerry Sadowitz, Jack Docherty and Craig Hill were among those to take part.
Krista MacDonald, who took over the running of the festival for this year’s edition, said: “It is the beginning of a new era for the Glasgow International Comedy Festival and we are very proud to have Sir Billy Connolly’s support in celebrating the spirit of the city shown through the immense comedy talent on display during our three weeks in March.
"No one more personifies both that spirit and that talent than Sir Billy.”
Next year’s Glasgow International Comedy Festival will run from 15 March till 2 April.