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The Comedy Trust project which aims to find out how laughter helps us heal

11 months ago

The Comedy Trust project which aims to find out how laughter helps us heal
The Comedy Trust

They say laughter’s the best medicine – and The Comedy Trust in Liverpool is setting out to find out whether that’s actually true. 

With the help of ACC Liverpool, who are volunteering 125 members of its staff, The Comedy Trust is out and about across the city today letting people know more about its Laugh It Off project and asking people about humour, their favourite jokes – and whether the city really is funny. 

Kev Coogan, project and administration manager for the charity, says: “It’s part of a three-year project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund who gave us £98,500. 

“The tag line is the historical role of humour and Liverpool resilience, and it’s loosely talking about how people use comedy, laughter, and humour to cope with difficult times. 

“It’s something that me and Sam Avery, our artistic director, have wanted to do for a long time, born out of the recognition that laughter can help and can heal.” 

The ACC Liverpool staff will be split into 14 teams across Liverpool from the city centre and the Baltic Triangle to Hope Street, Anfield, and Everton, and going out to Sefton Park, Allerton in the south, and to the north, in places like Waterloo and Crosby. 

They will be handing out flyers about Laugh It Off and the Laugh It Off Club which the trust is hoping to start later this year; conducting questionnaires and vox-pops of people’s favourite jokes, what makes them laugh and asking why Liverpool is a funny city. 

The information gained will be used for a Laugh It Off Exhibition which will tour community centres across Liverpool City Region, and for a Laugh It Off Club The Comedy Trust, launched in 2002 to ‘Create Happier, Healthier People’ through the platform of comedy and humour and support people’s mental health and wellbeing, is hoping to set up. 

Kev says: “We used to have a youth club for 11-18 year-olds and we are looking to re-establish that from September. 

“We are hoping the information we get will be used for the Laugh It Off Club which will look at all aspects of comedy from production to scriptwriting, videography, filming, editing, and all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes. 

“Part of today is about promoting that, and it is going to be a safe place for people to come and share experiences with like-minded people. Comedy is quite niche and those who get into it might not be into football, or music, or other mainstream things, so it’s giving people another outlet and somewhere to socialise. 

“They will use the questionnaires and vox-pops, films and stuff, and all that rich data, for workshops we’ll do with them. And there’s going to be a film of today and what we are doing which they will edit as part of the exhibition. 

“We are partnering with The Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation and Knotty Ash Productions, and it was Ken Dodd who said Liverpool was funny because it was a port where people from all over the world came together, learnt how to enjoy, laugh, and connect with each other. Historians discovered that when newcomers from Ireland, Wales and Eastern Europe were thrown into the melting pot of Liverpool’s backstreets with locals already influenced by years of foreign ports, it inspired a new era of culture. People were tough, sharp witted, exuberant with a sense of humour and spirit that can only be inspired by adversity and hardship.

“Ultimately, we have this reputation of being a funny city.” 

And Kev adds: “We also have an ongoing partnership with Liverpool Hope University, and Dr Laura Waite has produced this questionnaire for us. The programme that we have going with them is called Comedy for Social Change, so we are going to be using the information in an academic arena as well. 

“It’s difficult to measure what is wellbeing, or if someone is feeling better after an hour’s comedy session, so that’s the other element of it.”

The Comedy Trust
The Comedy Trust

Dr Waite, Senior Lecturer, Public Health and Social Care at Hope University, explains: “Volunteering on this project means people will be contributing to an important study which is examining how humour and laughter can be used to build resilience for dealing with difficult life experiences.” 

Faye Dyer, chief executive of The ACC Liverpool Group – operator of the M&S Bank Arena, ACC Liverpool, and Exhibition Centre Liverpool, says: “Engaging with our communities and supporting local charities are key aspects of our Social Value Impact Plan.

“In addition, as part of our ‘People’ focus, our aim is to provide opportunities for young people through our apprenticeship programme. Wellbeing is also really important to us and our wellbeing strategy helps us to create a supportive workplace.

“Our staff teambuilding day allows us to get together as one team, have fun but above all contribute to creating something worthwhile.

“The Laugh It Off initiative is therefore very much aligned to our own priorities of community, charity, people, and wellbeing and, as a venue that hosts brilliant comedy shows within a city rich in humour, it really is the perfect fit for us.”

Kev concludes: “Comedy is a real coping mechanism.  We all have tough times and laughter is free, humour is accessible to everyone, you don’t have to go through the NHS or private health care. 

“You can always find a way to put a smile on your face, even if it’s just a silly word, or a joke, or a memory. It’s escapism, and it’s just so powerful. It will be fascinating to find out what people think: is Liverpool a funny city or are we just biased? 

“We couldn’t have done this without ACC Liverpool and what they are giving us is unbelievable, Lady Anne Dodd has been fantastic as has Laura at Hope University, and we want to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund too. 

“What we find out from this will be invaluable.” 

For more info on The Comedy Trust click HERE.

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