New stand up night in Islington features comedians with mental health conditions

Head Held High founder Tash Alexander

Head Held High founder Tash Alexander - Credit: Ezra Alexander

A comedy night organised by a motivational social enterprise backed by Comic Relief for amateur comedians with mental health conditions is taking place in Islington on Monday evening.

The event, titled Virgin on Funny, will be hosted at Radicals and Victuallers on Upper Street at 7.30pm. It will include nine participants who have partaken in the Stand up for Yourself comedy course run by Head Held High, a social enterprise specialising in motivational workshops.

Head Held High founder Tash Alexander, 47, said of the Islington Council-funded event: “We wanted to help people use humour to deal with challenging times - as a healing tool. It shows people’s strength when they can get up and laugh and share.

“This event is a tangible result of the course, which is important for us because it encourages participants to tackle other challenges in their lives once they’ve realised they can do this - be it setting up a business or something in their personal life.”

Participant Zeynep Suner, 36, who has a long-term mental health condition and is an NHS mental health peer coach by profession, told this paper that she had always wanted to be a comedian and this course had given her the confidence she needed to try it out.

Zeynep said: “This has helped because it has given me so many opportunities, such as doing workshops with the famous comedian Tom Ward. I couldn’t make it into acting school when I was younger and my writing never got recognition, but this course has made me feel unlocked.”

Virgin On Funny features comedy newbies.

Virgin On Funny features comedy newbies. - Credit: Ezra Alexander

Tash wanted to use her experience in comedy and of dealing with mental health situations in her family and so she started Head Held High in 2013 to help people who “didn’t have everything served up to them on a plate”.

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Since then the social enterprise has held more than 60 programmes with young people at risk of inclusion, care leavers, long-term unemployed, lone parents and ex-offenders. 

Looking towards the future, Tash said the goal was to find long-term funding as although she has received backing from organisations such as Comic Relief and Islington Council in the past, she stressed the difficulty of achieving consistency because of the constant need to apply for funding for each programme.

Doors open at 7.30pm. Entry is free. 

More information of Head Held High can be found at: