Komedia

At the time of writing, I remain confident that a solution will be found but it will be painful. A great Brighton institution is under threat and only through tact and understanding will it survive.

The North Laine began as one of five open arable fields in Brighton (the others were West, Hilly, Little and East Laines). It was developed in sections and Gardner Street was laid out in the early 1800s by John Furner on the site of his market garden. “Now spoilt by the oppressive Jubilee Shopping Hall, formerly Tesco,” wrote Timothy Carder in his Encyclopaedia of Brighton in 1990. He was referring to the building now occupied by the Komedia!

Carder did have a point. In its previous guise as a supermarket, the building would have been remarkably ugly. It certainly now stands out – it doesn’t match its neighbours and is covered with brightly-lit ‘Komedia’ signs. Numbered 44-47 Gardner Street, it would be safe to assume that the three storey (plus basement) structure replaced four 19th century buildings that were built in a similar style to the rest of the area. Its wide corrugated façade and canopy are not features common to the North Laine but are quirky nevertheless. I do recall it as a Snooper’s Paradise-style flea market selling clothes, records and even food at a café. It was a fun place to rummage but, ultimately, underutilised.

The Komedia’s work needs no introduction as pretty much every famous comedian has performed there. It was founded by Colin Granger, Marina Kobler and David Lavender and started out in 1994 in the old billiards hall on Manchester Street in Kemp Town (later the Joogleberry Playhouse, today Latest MusicBar). Expansion was rapid and the logical move to Gardner Street took place in 1998. In 2006/7, the piece of land on Regent Street behind was purchased. Amongst other things, this allowed the upstairs to become an adaptable performance space with a standing capacity of 500. The Komedia brand has spread too and a second venue was opened in Bath in November last year.

The details are unimportant but the Komedia’s recent problems ultimately boil down to the withdrawal of Arts Council funding. Debts have accrued and finance is currently difficult to obtain. Such goodwill exists  though towards this local success story. I am sure that everybody, creditors included, will do all that they can to help at this difficult time.