Have a laugh this Father’s Day

With Father’s Day just a couple of weeks away, we have the perfect way to treat your dad with this year’s Pun Run Charity Special which is raising funds in aid of Scope. An evening of fun and laughter, the Southbank event will feature some top-rated comedians including Lost Voice Guy, Andy Zaltzman, Felicity Ward and many more, all in the name of charity.

Below we caught up with Bec Hill, founder of Pun Run, who told us a little more about the event, what the audience can expect and why the organisers chose Scope as their charity to support this year.

Can you tell us a bit about Pun Run? How long has it been going on?

Pun Run started in 2011. It was supposed to be a one-off show where myself and other comics could purge all of their pun-based material which never worked in normal comedy clubs. But then the show sold out and I was inundated with requests by audience members wanting another one and comedians wanting a spot. I’ve been putting on Pun Runs throughout the UK, Ireland and Australia ever since!

What can the audience expect at one of your events?

The clue is in the name. We love wordplay and actively encourage it. I found that often, if you’re at a normal comedy club and a comedian does a pun, it doesn’t get the love it deserves. But if you are in a big room full of people who want to hear puns, there is a comradery everyone has. The atmosphere becomes giddy. Our motto is, “A groan is as good as a laugh!”

Why have you chosen to host your next Pun Run in aid of Scope?

We’ve been putting on special Pun Runs in aid of Scope once a year since 2012. We usually do it in Edinburgh, during the Fringe, but due to other commitments, it made more sense to hold it in London this year, at the Udderbelly on Southbank. The co-creator of Pun Run, Gavin Innes, is the brother of ex-Paralympian Caroline Baird. He mentioned how supportive Scope had been with her Cerebral Palsy throughout her life and we thought it was important to show some support in return.

As Scope continues to exist to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else, the visibility of disabled ambassadors in the public eye is of great importance as we work towards this objective.

Scope supporter and one of Pun Run’s comedians for this year’s charity special, Lost Voice Guy believes that “the visibility of disabled comedians has improved over the last few years. A lot of this being down to programmes such as The Last Leg and the last Paralympics which raised the profile of disability issues within mainstream media.”

He also adds that “most people’s perceptions of disabled people have changed because of media developments and they don’t feel as awkward any more. I think that has helped disabled comedians a lot. There’s still a long way to go though. It might help if every comedy club wasn’t so inaccessible!”

The Pun Run Charity special is on 19 June at the Southbank Centre, London. Book your place on the Pun Run Charity special today!

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Francesca, the theatre star

Francesca Mills is a 20 year old actor who has achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. She is currently on tour with a Ramps on the Moon production,of the Government Inspector where she plays Maria.

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about inclusiveness in the industry and her top tips for breaking into the world of theatre.

Kids who are interested in performing arts and children who have gone to drama school are much more open-minded and much more accepting. They just love anything diverse. So this meant that breaking into the industry was never an issue for me. No-one has ever been like ‘you can’t do that because you’re disabled’, my family and friend are always 100% behind me.

Changing attitudes

I think roles in theatre for disabled people are very important in changing attitudes towards disability.

Audiences are very accepting without realising it. If you’re out on the street just living everyday life, you’ll get stares and people don’t quite understand but if you walk on stage playing a character, it’s different. Maybe in the first two minutes an audience member might be thinking ‘oh that’s a little person’, but then they’ve completely forgotten and they’re completely on board with what you’re doing.

It may also make them think ‘why do I over-think this? Disability really isn’t a big thing, it’s fine’.

It’s also really important for kids to see disabled actors represented in roles of authority. In the show I’m doing now we have a deaf judge, who’s also a woman, which is brilliant.

A group of disabled actors perform on stage. Fran, a young woman with dwarfism, smiles as a man with a cane kisses her hand.

How the industry has changed

I’m growing up in a time where people are starting to realise they should do projects that are inclusive. I’m lucky in a way that I’ve mainly seen the positive. People older than me have memories of a lot more prejudice. They’ve had a much more tough time which is good to know about because people can appreciate how it’s changed and how things are getting better.  It’s on the way up.

From my experience, a lot of casting directors are becoming more versatile and opening their gates to disabled actors for parts that aren’t specifically disabled parts. If they have a brief for a blonde haired girl with blue eyes, they might open it up to someone with an impairment and it’s not an issue.

I think we’ve still got a long way to go but it’s better than what it was.

Advice for others

If you really want to do it, just go for it, even if people question it. My motto is ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish’. If you want to get into acting think about how you’re going to do that.

Get involved in local amateur productions just to get some confidence, like I used to do. See if local theatres are auditioning. If you’ve got an appetite for it just go for it and everything else will fall into place.

Just have fun and enjoy it because it really is the best job in the world.

Top tips for breaking into the industry

Enjoy yourself

Have fun and let people know that you’re having fun, it’s really nice to see! I did Peter Pan in Wimbledon. I was playing Tinkerbell and there were kids playing the Lost Boys. Just seeing their faces when they were in the theatre and how excited they were was amazing. It’s just a really nice quality to have.

Go to the theatre

It’s important to go to actual shows and enjoy shows and see as many as you can.

Learn from everyone

Watch people and learn from them. With the amount of actors that you come across, make sure you ask questions. Watch their technique and etiquette. You can pick up a lot from people.

Never be late!

I’m ridiculous with how early I am. It makes you more relaxed when you get to the theatre and have plenty of time. Never leave anything until the last minute. Give yourself time to settle ahead of a brilliant day.

A large group of disabled actors perform on stage in a theatre. They are looking out to the audience with shocked faces.

Francesca is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read more from our #30toWatch on our website.

Watch Francesca perform in one of our End The Awkward shorts from last year.