Preview: Freerange Comedy Festival’s rock climbing, beer and chaos

Kate Feld
Barbara-Nice freerange comedy festival

Forget ordinary stand-up: Barbara Nice, Bob Slayer, Al Murray, Alun Cochrane, Jimmy Carr and friends go native in Kendal.

Brace yourselves: the Freerange Comedy Festival is back and it’s bigger than ever, extending over ten days and seeing a host of comedians converge on Cumbria, performing at festival hub Brewery Arts Centre as well as smaller venues and outdoor locations around the South Lakes. What makes Freerange different from other comedy festivals is the effort organisers make to programme events that really engage with the area, rather than just getting in a bus-load of comics to run through their any-city shtick. A case in point is Barbara Nice’s Magical Tour of the Lakes. Comedian Janice Connolly’s career ignited when Peter Kay spotted her in the finals of the Manchester New Act of the Year competition. He promptly asked her to appear on Phoenix Nights where she gave memorable performances as the devoutly religious Holy Mary. Other television appearances followed, as well as pantomime roles and a live tour in character as Barbara Nice, the cheerful mum of five from Stockport who travels the country dispensing warmth, wisdom and malapropisms. It will definitely be interesting to see her take on Lakeland.

This is al fresco comedy – audiences are told to wear clothes they wouldn’t mind getting muddy

Those looking for locally-grown laughs might also want to check out Bob Slayer’s Humphrey Head Bash. Slayer, a regular at Freerange, is known for his truly free-ranging antics; last year he presided over a comedy club atop Gummers Howe that involved the comedian attempting to paraglide. Audiences are told to expect “sea traversing, rock climbing, beer and chaos” and to come wearing clothes they wouldn’t mind getting muddy. Sounds invigorating, eh? The al fresco comedy will be followed by drinks at The Priory Hotel in Cartmel.

But if you’re more into the traditional comedy setup, rest assured there will be plenty of talented jokers appearing onstage over the course of the festival. The full line-up includes pub landlord Al Murray, Simon Evans, Alun Cochrane, Chris Ramsey, Jason Manford and up-and-comers Peacock & Gamble. This year, you also can take in a Father Ted-themed dinner show at the Castle Green Hotel, watch Jimmy Carr at Lakes Leisure, or ask What Would Beyonce Do? with Luisa Omielan. Unusually for a comedy festival, Freerange will also be catering to the younger members of the comedy audience with Comedy Club 4 Kids, a rowdy and silly cabaret show designed just for kids aged six and over. Sounds good to us. Why should grown-ups have all the fun?

Culture Guides

Image credit: Maryna Makarenko, Sun-Eaters, 2022


Classic pre-Code cinema, the Artist Film Weekender and the music of John Williams are amongst our highlights this month.


Pause in the hustle and bustle of festive prep to take in some inspiration from this month’s top exhibitions.

The Ocean at the End of The Lane at the lowry


It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Manchester is bursting with fun, family activities to keep the kids entertained in the run up to Christmas!

Poet Helen Mort. Photo by Jan Bella


There’s live literature and book-buying opportunities a-plenty as November unfolds and Manchester – celebrating five years as a UNESCO city of Literature – and the wider North region welcomes some great writers, both in real life and online.


The festive season is here, and whether you want to escape it or embrace it, we’ve got you covered.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Alongside radical sci-fi adaptations and free arts festivals, we take a look at some of the Christmas shows happening in the North.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North for autumn.

Tours and Activities

We’re deep into Autumn now but don’t let that stop you from finding a new tour or activity to get stuck into.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Compass Festival 2022
Activity Until 27 November 2022, FREE

Compass Festival 2022

sunny bank mills
Activity Until 27 November 2022, from £2.00

Sunny Bank Mills Christmas Art & Makers Market

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £20

Pottery at Earth Pig Pottery and Fine Art in Buxton

Visual Arts Until 1 December 2022, from £20

Graffiti at Zap Graffiti

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £95

Blacksmithing at Forge Four

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £15

Embroidery with Sara Dennis at Lancaster Castle

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £59

Making silver stacker rings at The Old Granary

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £13

Candle making at Cheshire Workshops

Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £60

Glass fusing at Glassmonkey Studio

Textile taxidermy
Activity Until 1 December 2022, from £80

Textile taxidermy with Jaki Bogg at Craven Arts Studios