London SketchFest is back for its third annual programme this May and will once again be hunting out the most exciting alternative comedy sketch groups on the live circuit through its Best New Act competition.
Moving into the prestigious quarters of the Cinema Museum in Elephant and Castle, the festival can surely boast backing the right horse in last year's contest. Only yesterday, the troupe Gein's Family Giftshop won Chortle's best newcomer award through a public vote, another notable triumph after picking up a best newcomer nomination at last year's Edinburgh Fringe. And they'll be returning to the place where they were first noticed with a typically dark and surreal show at London SketchFest on Sunday 3 May.
Talking to Londonist from their Manchester base, Gein's Family Giftshop admits that this time last year the prospect of heading to London for the contest was daunting: "We had nothing and we were no-one."
They formed in 2012 and played their first gig in Sheffield but without their current eerie name (Ed Gein being a notorious serial killer and bodysnatcher). The group comprises of Ed Easton, Kath Hughes and James Meehan on-stage and with established stand-up Kiri Pritchard-McLean working as director. Of their Sheffield show they tell us, "We went on as Kiri Pritchard-McLean's Sketch Comedy or something."
One of the consequences of their snowballing success is that they've had such a workload there's been little time for them to think about it: "Its put us on bills all over the UK. The Sketchfest win definitely helped us receive attention in Edinburgh. Then on the back of our nomination there we've done things like the Soho Theatre run. It was always a bit of a dream to play Soho Theatre, a bit of a pipe dream at that. So to do it was mind-blowing."
The new acts hoping to emulate Gein's success last year will have to impress a panel of judges who'll watch proceedings with the appropriate amount of stern incredulity. Along with critics from The Times and The Telegraph the panel includes the most feared critic of the Edinburgh Fringe: The Scotsman's Kate Copstick.
And along with the Best New Act contest, SketchFest's expanding mini-programme now includes a Sketch Screen film competition and Sketch Scribe where aspiring writers can receive mentoring from more experienced hands.
The 3rd annual London SketchFest runs from 1-3 May at The Cinema Musuem, Elephant and Castle. Tickets: £14 (show) £25 (day) and £65 (festival) and can be purchased through the website.