Sian Davies is a comedian from the North West of England who is bring her third show ‘Band of Gold’ to the Fringe, following the success of her excellent 2023 hour ‘This Charming Man‘. As well as her solo stand-up, she is also the mastermind and driving force behind ‘Best in Class’. An initiative that pools together a different lineup of talented working class comedians every year, it won the Panel Prize at the Comedy Awards in 2022. We spoke to Sian about her new show, the importance of ‘Best in Class’, and the surreal experience of winning that Comedy Award.

Can you tell us a bit about ‘Band of Gold’?

‘Band of Gold’ is my third solo show. And it’s about all of your mistakes and how you deal with them and owning them. So everything from bad tattoos to bad relationships, and sort of everything in between, really.

Have you felt any pressure to follow up ‘This Charming Man’ from last year, which was a very very well regarded show?

Not really. I think there’s always pressure in some elements but I think it’s I just like to make what I want to make, you know. There’s always a story behind what I want to tell. For me, there’s not really pressure from from industry. I feel like it’s just pressure from myself. But I realised I had a good year last year. I had a good year the year before. You know, every year you want to better it. And so yeah, I think the biggest pressure comes from myself.

For anybody who might not have seen you before, could you describe your approach to comedy and performance?

I’m pretty much a straight stand-up. My show last year [‘This Charming Man’] had more theatre elements and sketch bits in, but this year it’s kind of back to stand-up again, And I’m quite autobiographical. Most of the stuff I talk about are things about general life; like my family, my friends, and just normal sort of comings and goings and stuff.

As you said, this will be your third full show at the Fringe. What for you are the best and the worst things about the festival?

I think the best thing is being surrounded by creativity. You’ve got to remind yourself how how lucky you are sometimes to be in the biggest arts event festival in the world. You can can see something on the hour, every hour for 24 hours, and you’re just surrounded by creative, exciting people. And I think for me, that’s the magic of it. You can come out of your show and then walk into a magic show, or a dance show, or another comedian’s show and it’s the nonstop creative buzz that’s around all the time. That I love.

In terms of the worst things, I think maybe the competitive nature. Because of the way the industry is set up, and because of the way you the Comedy Awards are, it sort of pushes a competitive nature on everything. So you you’ve got to be really careful not to let yourself get bogged down with that and not get sucked into, ‘Well, he’s had a better review than me, or she’s been nominated for this. And, well, they had five people in their show. They’ve had 10!’ There’s just a competitive edge that can make people a little bit uneasy.

You’re also bringing ‘Best in Class‘ back this year. Can you tell us a bit about this year’s roster?

We’ve got some great comedians on ‘Best in Class’ this year. We’ve got Tasha Clusky, who’s fantastic. She’s based in London. She’s like a proper Essex Girl. Gary Grubb as well. He’s another Essex lad; an Essex lab that drives an HGV, but he’s also married to a man and they’ve just adopted two kids. So you know it’s what ‘Best in Class’ is all about; finding unique perspectives on working class life. And I think that’s the sort of voice we haven’t heard before on the show.

We’ve got Shawn Gorman, who’s another fantastic act. Amanda Hursy from Glasgow. She’s brilliant, really good, really funny. And there is also Sam Ayinde, who’s based in Manchester, and there is Louis Etienne, who’s based in Bradford. We’ve also got Kelly Rickard, who is Northeast-based and originally from Wales. And there’s also Maxine Wade who is based in Leeds.

What’s the selection process for for ‘Best in Class’? Are these acts that you’ve come across while you’ve been out on tour, or do they apply?

There’s an open application process and I put it out on all of the comedy forums; all of the regional ones and anyone’s welcome to apply to it. All viewed videos are viewed at face value. But obviously being on the circuit, you meet people, and there might be people where you say, ‘Why don’t you apply for this?’ But that doesn’t mean that they are a shoo-in to get it. Tasha Clusky, for example. She had a show last year in Edinburgh. She was doing a split bill and I’ve met her a few times and we were chatting and I said, ‘That could be the next step for you, to do ‘Best in Class’.’ And she applied the same as everyone else and got through the selection process. The bottom line really is, when myself and all the other alumni that do it look at the videos, we’re looking for funny. The bottom line is funny. Then the next thing we’re looking for is unique perspectives and different voices; being aware that working class people are not just one homogenous group. I always say my perspective of being working class will is going to be totally different from someone that grew up in Liverpool or Wales or London or wherever, you know? So it’s about trying to find different voices that are coming out things from different angles.

Have you have you had any particularly memorable fringe experiences good, bad, or bonkers?

I think the year we won the Comedy Award for ‘Best in Class’ [2022]. That was good, bad, and bonkers all in one. Because they don’t tell you that you’ve won it. So I got a phone call the day before. And basically, because with all of the other awards, there’s six, seven people being nominated or whatever, people find out they’ve been nominated and they’re invited to the awards. With the panel prize, it’s slightly different. So they’re really cagey about it. Like, [director of the Comedy Awards] Nica Burns rang me up the day before and she was asking me all these questions and said basically, ‘We’re putting you forward for the Panel Prize, and you’ve got a good chance of winning it. So I think you should come tomorrow, bring some friends, and write a speech.’ And I was totally confused by it. What does this mean? I’ve won it or does this mean there’s other people [nominated]? I didn’t have a clue! So remember, like going into going into Tom Mayhew‘s bedroom, because we were living together in Edinburgh, and just being like, ‘Wake up! I think we might have won a prize!’

I had to tell like the guys that were from ‘Best in Class’ to come along with me without really telling them what was going on. And I remember John Mayo was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to see a play, so I don’t think I’ll bother’, and I was like, ‘John, you can’t go and see the play. You need to go to the awards!’ I was just trying to get the message to him that I’m 99% sure that we’ve won an award, but I’m not allowed to say. Then obviously, we got to the awards. Really bizarre experience because I do remember at the time I had a broken leg. So I was scooting around everywhere on an electric scooter. I’d just got got there and someone just grabbed me. I got dragged along a red carpet. Russel Kane’s doing a TikTok Live in my face.

And then Tamsyn Kelly came and grabbed me and told me, ‘You need to come and stand at the front’. So by this point I’m like, ‘Okay, this is 99.9% certain I’ve got to give a speech.’ So I’d started to get a sweat on a bit. Oh, and then obviously it got announced that we won and I went up and gave a speech and it was well received. And it was just such a bizarre experience. Even afterwards coming out of the venue and walking around Edinburgh, people were stopping me in the streets because it had all been streamed on TikTok Live. Yeah, it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.

Apart from your show, will you be performing elsewhere at the Fringe? Do you have any other slots lined up?

‘Comedy Queers’, that’s another show that I run, which is a queer showcase that I’ve been running  since 2018. So I’ll be emceeing that most nights – sometimes I give myself a night off and let someone else emcee when the pressure gets to me doing three shows a day!

What I love about doing that show; I always feel I’m always kicking myself: ‘Why am I doing three shows?’ And then once the show starts, it’s so much fun because it’s just it’s just chaos. It’s a mixed bill of different LGBT performers from across the Fringe, and we just have a really fun time. The audience are really up for it, and it’s just lovely. I know we get a lot out of it like… I was gonna say spiritually. It invigorates me. At the end of the day, when I just want to go home and sleep I do that show and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s a great way to end the day.’

I’ll be running around doing different spots as well. I know I’m  emceeing and a ‘Best of the Fest’. I think I’m doing doing one of the mixed bills at the Pleasance as well. I might be doing ‘Fast Fringe‘. I emceed some of them last year. That was really good fun. I enjoyed that.

I suppose a lot of them will be almost impromptu; a few days in advance.

That’s it, particularly as I’m doing three shows a day, sometimes I’m hanging out in between so if someone’s like, ‘Come and do a spot’, it’s like ‘Well, how far do have we go or what? You want to get a sandwich on the way? Yeah, sure. I’ll come do a spot’. Because you know, the way it works, you exit flyer it when you go do a spot. You do well, that’s where you get your audience so it’s important.

Are there any other acts at the Fringe that you would recommend that we go and check out that perhaps don’t get as much attention as they should?

So there are two fantastic acts that are ‘Best in Class’ alumni that are doing their debut hours this year. And that’s Hannah Platt and John Meagher. I think Hannah’s at the Pleasance [Courtyard] at [20:10]. John is at Gilded Balloon [Patter House at 16:20]. They are acts that I’ve worked with for a long time, and they’re both fantastic. I’m really excited to see their shows.

This year for the first time, we’ve done a big shared poster for ‘Best in Class’. Some of our alumni and some of the working class acts that we know are at the Fringe chipped in to do  – you know the way the big agents and promoters will do like a big poster? We’ve done that basically. So there’ll be there’ll be some posters up with… I think we’ve got about 19 or 20 working class acts on there, or shows from working class people. So I recommend any of them.

It’s even more important now, given those figures that came out that suggest there’s less than 10% of people working in the arts from from that background.

Every year something comes out and every year it’s getting worse and worse and worse. Just to get that foothold is is really difficult. And then once you’ve got it, maintaining it is even harder. Trying to find a little corner to do your thing and be creative when you’ve got financial pressures, and you haven’t got the contacts and things like that, which is why we do ‘Best in Class’.

Band of Gold‘ is at Laughing Horse at City Cafe – Las Vegas from Thu 1 Aug until Sun 25 Aug 2024

Best in Class‘ is at Laughing Horse at the Three Sisters – Maggie’s Chamber from Thu 1 Aug until Sun 25 Aug 2024

Comedy Queers‘ is at Laughing Horse at Bar 50 – Garden Room from Thu 1 Aug until Sun 25 Aug 2024