Last summer I was in my local branch meeting when someone brought up the issue of holding a fundraiser. There was some discussion about having a meal with a raffle, ‘like the last one’.
As someone who had recently rejoined the Labour Party, I thought it sounded dull. Without thinking about the possible repercussions of any words I uttered, I said: ‘what about a comedy night?’
A councillor at the meeting raised his eyebrow, turned to me and said: ‘Tell me more…’
Somehow I blurted out that I had connections with the comedy world and it would not be too difficult to arrange. This was fanciful as my only connections were with my having been a comic a few years previously and having no experience of promoting or running comedy nights. Before I knew what was happening I had committed myself to organising a comedy night for the Isleworth and Brentford branch.
One year on, I have now organised, promoted and compered three comedy fundraisers.
The basis of these nights has been a combination of four comics and two guest speakers. So far, Steve Pound MP, Seema Malhotra MP, Lisa Homan (the GLA election candidate), Andy Slaughter MP and Ken Livingstone have appeared as speakers. Many of the comics have not been household names but, for the last show, Arthur Smith appeared. The combination of Arthur Smith and Ken Livingstone on the same bill attracted the local media’s attention so not only was it good for party funds (over £700 was raised), but it has attracted people who were not members of Labour (nearly 200 people attended the show). It was also good for the party as shop windows across the constituency proclaimed ‘Stand up for Labour’ even when it is not election time.
I am planning to keep the momentum going with another show in the autumn and I’ve also heard from members who are interested in putting on the same event in their constituency. I’m hopeful that the concept of Stand up for Labour can become a concept across the country and engage members and non-members in politics. It has been harder to organise than a raffle but I’m pleased I opened my mouth at that branch meeting last year.