There are two main groups on Facebook populated and used by the UK comedy circuit: Facebook Comedy Forum and The Comedy Collective. Acts – stand-ups, sketch acts, musical comedians etc – as well as bookers are members in the group, and use it to communicate easily.
For example, an act whom has rarely performed outside of the London comedy circuit but is keen to perform in Manchester, might make broad enquiries on one of these Facebook groups; leaving their request open to comments from acts and comedy clubs alike. This allows people to contact a huge number of industry fellows at once. Other acts might tag bookers they’ve worked with in the past; or when a booker requires a ‘female open spot’; a new headliner because someone has dropped out; or if a comic is looking for a fellow comedian to be driver from A to gig – these groups allow cross-industry communication on a vast and immediate scale.
Last summer in the run up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the booking rights to a free venue fell into dispute; leaving numerous acts who had assumed their rooms booked and sorted suddenly without a performance space. Platforms like the Comedy Forum and Comedy Collective subsequently provided the opportunity for acts to seek new venue spaces.
The groups are fabulously useful, then, in this way. However as many social media forums are, they are open to complaints and passive-aggressive comments about members of the industry who are most likely also part of the group. In the case of #cowgateheadgate – the Edinburgh venue dispute – acts expressed annoyance, anger and upset towards bookers and festival companies, but in an indirect manner. Equally, people bitch about the quality of a gig someone might be running; or claim a comic is stealing their jokes. Of course, all of these are reasonable issues that any worker might seek to air. With social media, however – even though there is no anonymity in a group like this – the feeling of security void of consequences online media provides leads comments and complaints to become petulant and destructive. Perhaps social media cannot work effectively as an industry forum. Perhaps this is why Sara Pascoe is establishing a union.