As we approach the August Bank Holiday weekend, and therefore the conclusion of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, let’s travel back in time to 31 years ago. It was a time when the festival had more of a reputation for weird and wonderful variety acts than a focus on stand-up comedy, when multi-channel television was in its infancy in this country, and when Norman Lovett still had hair.

These three states of affairs combined to form episode seven of Up Yer Festival, a daily show broadcasting live from the Fringe to an audience of tens on BSB, an early satellite service that was very briefly on air from March to November 1990, when it merged with fellow fledgling broadcaster Sky Television to form the more familiar BSkyB. Produced by Noel Gay Television, at the time the parent company of both Paul Jackson Productions and the newly formed Grant Naylor Productions, the show combined a sample of acts from the festival with specially shot sketches, all linked together by a guest host, including on one occasion, recent Edinburgh migrant Norman Lovett.

It’s an obscure show on an obscure channel that aired on an obscure satellite service over thirty years ago, but thanks to the magic of the internet (and also to our good friend Jonsmad for pointing us towards it), the full series is available on YouTube, uploaded by the show’s producer Richard Hearsey.

Norman had already left Red Dwarf at this point, so as you’d expect he appears on stage to rapturous applause from the audience, and reels off some of his classic deadpan observations. Some of his biggest laughs come from his fourth-wall-leaning back references to the sketches, which are performed by Kate Copstick, Dave Cohen, Caroline Quentin, Paul Shearer and Chris Emmett. In the studio, there’s music from Some Like It Hot (twice, plus this upload ends with a clean version of their second performance) and Yothu Yindi, an Australian folk band who Norman unfortunately-in-retrospect describes as having “perhaps just a hint of Rolf Harris” about them. There’s also stand-up from a young Kevin Day; you’d expect a modern equivalent of this show to be almost all stand-up, so the proportion here is a nice reflection of the state of the Fringe as it was at the time.

If you need further Red Dwarf connections, this being a Noel Gay production means there are some familiar names in the credits, such as Mike Agnew, Jeff Jeffrey, Graham Hutchings and Keith Mayes. Plus, BSB were of course headquartered in the now sadly demolished Marco Polo House, best known to the likes of us as Legion’s space station. The full series is worth exploring if you have the time, featuring as it does early appearances from the likes of Frank Skinner, Jack Dee, Jenny Eclair, Sean Hughes and Dwarf alumnus Mark Steel, plus one episode is hosted by Craig Ferguson. Thanks again to Jonsmad for pointing it our way.

3 comments on “G&TV: Up Yer Festival

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  • Presumably this was some kind of spin-off of, or sister program to, Up Yer News? (A nightly satirical news show that had loads of soon-to-be famous people on it, like Chris Morris doing vox pops bits four years before The Day Today)

  • It was indeed an Edinburgh version of Up Yer News. I believe Lee & Herring used to write for that show too.

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