Comedy club keeps closed Islington pub Mucky Pup at heart of community

Barry Ferns

Barry Ferns - Credit: Archant

A popular pub known for its live music gigs was put up for sale by its owner after struggling financially – so far, so familiar.

It seemed inevitable that Angel’s Mucky Pup would become luxury flats or an upmarket gastropub.

But against all odds, this local in Queen’s Head Street will soon be serving the community once again as a comedy club aiming to give aspiring comics their first foot on the stand-up ladder.

An extension of the Angel Community Club at The Camden Head in Camden Passage, the new club run by comedian Barry Ferns hopes to give people without means the chance to learn more about comedy while enjoying an affordable night out.

“We thought that maybe a gastro pub would buy the Mucky Pup but the owner liked our idea of helping the community,” says Barry.

“Our idea is to help comedians. Artists or dramatists can go to universities, but for comedians there isn’t really anywhere to train and hang out.

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“It’s nice to have this place filled with comedians who can learn from each other.”

Barry knows all too well how difficult it can be to live in London while trying to forge a career as a comedian.

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Performing stand up at night, he had to fund his ambitions by working at fast food chains by day and squatting all over the capital for 10 years.

Now a successful comedian, he wants to help others achieve their dreams.

“I know what it’s like to have nothing, so one of our cornerstones is to offer people a place where they can learn comedy and be entertained,” says Barry.

“You cannot really be a comedian unless you get a chance to perform, but we also have big acts like Russell Howard and other people that are quite famous.”

The club is not only helping aspirational young comedians, however.

Highlighting the borough’s high child poverty rate of roughly 38 per cent – one of the highest in the UK – Barry explains that the club is also offering free comedy courses to disadvantaged local children.

He also works with social enterprise Silver Comedy, which uses comedy to enrich the lives of older people.

“Comedy really helps elderly people – when you do a sketch with them it really makes them a lot more responsive.”

Though the comedy nights are mostly free, Barry is urging people to donate as much as they can at each event to help the club with renovations and to prepare for an official launch in mid-September.

Until then, the club is running “test nights.”

Barry is also putting himself at the mercy of the public by offering to change his name to the most-voted for option dreamt up by supporters if they raise £60,000 through an online crowdfunding campaign. Barry McBarryFace perhaps?

The choice of name is up to you – very apt for the club that’s aiming to be “the friendliest in London”.

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