Eavan King knows a lot about comedy - and she isn't afraid to use that knowledge to help promote the burgeoning comedy scene in Derry. The brain behind Masons Comedy Club, the only comedy venue in the City of Culture elect, King is at the forefront of bringing established stars, and new faces, to an eager local audience.
King's enthusiasm for the club, which has been open for three years, is infectious. 'What I love about it is that it has given people who have never been on the stage before a chance to perform. And we have already uncovered some gems. John Coyle, from Derry, who got on stage and did a set about growing up in Galliagh brought the house down - and he had never done stand up before!'
With a mix of new and established acts, Masons is establishing itself as a reputable and respected comedy venue. King thinks that much of this is down to the atmosphere created within the club's four walls. 'It's a great venue - intimate, with a friendly crowd who are there to have fun, not to heckle or find fault. I tend to find that once you get the venue right everything else falls into place, including having bigger names eager to play to the local crowds.'
King says that for a truly great comedy night, nothing beats the intimacy of the smaller venue. 'That's why places such as the Empire in Belfast are doing so well,' she argues. 'Arenas and larger venues have their place, but in my experience comedians get much more out of playing to a more intimate crowd.'
King has worked with numerous comedians throughout her career. With a background in production and event management, in recent years she was the co-ordinator of Derry's Big Tickle festival. She has been involved in a number of cultural and arts projects throughout the north west and last year was involved in the production of the Nerve Centre's iconic Voices video, which helped Derry-Londonderry secure the coveted City of Culture 2013.
Over the years King has helped bring the likes of Michael McIntyre, Jimmy Carr, Reginald D Hunter, Dara O'Briain, David O'Doherty, Phil Nichol, Stewart Lee, Rich Hall and Frankie Boyle to north west audiences. She has also overseen a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for Derry's own comedy troupe, Love the Concept.
She admits, however, that one of her biggest thrills is bringing new talent to the fore. 'What we have seen over the last year in particular is a real emergence of the comedy scene in Derry. We didn't have a comedy club for a long time and now so many people are getting their chance to have their material heard.
'Four months ago we introduced our open mic night, Gagging Order, due to increasing demand from artists to get on our stage. The main comedy club night had been going so well that we were inundated with people of all abilities and experience looking for a slot. The open mic evening gives comedians the chance to try out new material, get some experience and to perform to a wider audience.
Local names making an impact at Masons include the folk from Love the Concept, Bobby Best, Julie Lecky, Danny McCrossan, Adam Loughlan and Raymond McCrossan. 'Our MC, Mickey Bartlett, who just this week MC-ed at the Empire, started off his comedy career in the Student's Union in Magee and is now making a name for himself on the comedy circuit throughout the North,' adds King. 'It's a real treat to see him doing so well and I don't say that lightly. Genuinely, this is what makes it all worthwhile.'
Passionate about the arts, King believes that comedy clubs like Masons make the arts more accessible and encourage a thriving and creative cultural community in the city. 'To really tap into what we have here, the arts have to be accessible and affordable,' she confirms.
'For a couple of quid you can come along to Masons, have a great night, see some of the best names in comedy and support your local community. We are lucky in Derry - there is a real energy, and a real support for upcoming acts and for trying new things with the arts.'
To find out more about Masons Comedy Club, including details of future line-ups, visit King's website at www.kingofcomedypromotions.co.uk.