Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award: How it's judged, who's nominated, where to see the shortlisted acts

The prestigious award will be handed out for the second time this year.
Billy Connolly will choose the winner of the award that's named in his honour.Billy Connolly will choose the winner of the award that's named in his honour.
Billy Connolly will choose the winner of the award that's named in his honour.

The Glasgow International Comedy Festival got underway this week with its biggest programme to date - with more than 560 shows to be performed by the end of March.

Launched in 2002, it has grown to be the largest event of its type in Europe with shows taking place in venues across the city - from tiny pub basements to the cavernous King's Theatre.

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Last year saw a prize being awarded at the festival for the first time, named after Glasgow's favourite comedy son, Billy Connolly.

Here's everything you need to know about the prize.

What is the Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award?

The Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award is presented annually to a comedian (venue staff or promoter) who is appearing at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival. It is open to everybody - including people who are not from Glasgow, or even Scotland. It is not awarded for a particular show and the judges do not go to see the acts at the festival - it's very much about the person and the positive traits they demonstrate.

How is the award judged?

Comedians enter themselves into the competition, with the deadline for submissions in mid-January. They are invited to submit as much content as they like, including writing, performance clips and video and audio recordings. The only stipulation is that they include a video or audio recording of them "informally chatting through the criteria and how you meet this.

The entries are then whittled down to a shortlist by the judges, which this year include former winner Janey Godley and Barbie star Sharon Rooney. The shortlist is revealed at the start of the festival, with the Big Yin himself selecting the winner.

What are the criteria for the award?

Other than having a show in the Glasgow International Festival programme, comedians must demonstrate the following attributes:

  • Resilience – being as warm as we are tough
  • Open – accessible for all
  • Unapologetic – proud and unpretentious; curious and challenging; mould-breaking
  • Gallus – bold and brave; self-starting
  • Funny – above all else, an ability to make people laugh

When is the winner announced?

The winner of the Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award will be announced at the Festival’s Comedy Gala event at 2pm on Saturday, March 30. Acts appearing will include Susie McCabe, Janey Godley, Raymond Mearns, Stuart McPherson, Zara Gladman and Kiri Pritchard-McLean . You can get tickets for the gala here.

Who has been shortlisted?

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Here's who is up for the award at this year's festival, and what they have said about their nomination.

Craig Hill

"I’m absolutely thrilled to be nominated for this award, not only because it’s about the Spirit of Glasgow, which definitely feeds into the way I look at life and the things I laugh at, but it’s in the name of Glasgow’s comedy hero Billy Connolly. It’s an honour to be nominated for an award in his name. When it comes to awards, this is the Big Yin!"

Raymond Mearns 

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"Surprised and delighted to be nominated for this award. To make my living as a stand up is already a dream come true and coming from Glasgow with Billy Connolly as my inspiration, I was able to stand on the shoulders of a giant."

Rosco McClelland

"The spirit of Billy visited me in a dream to tell me that I’d been shortlisted for this award. Then he started licking my face which was strange but oddly comforting. Then I woke up and it was just my dog who needed out. I’m very proud to be shortlisted for this!"

Susan Riddell 

"I’m absolutely buzzing to be shortlisted for this award! I’m biased but Glasgow is one of the funniest cities in the world and to be in the running for an award endorsed by the Big Yin is the biggest honour!"

Susie McCabe 

"To be nominated for the Sir Billy Connolly Spirit of Glasgow Award is a massive honour - not only an award with the Godfather of modern stand-up comedy associated with it, but a man who defined this city. And what a wonderful city it is! If you're from this city you have been blessed (maybe not so much with the weather though...)."

Zara Gladman 

"I am in complete shock. For Sir Billy Connolly to even read my name on a piece of paper is a huge honour. My Glasgow West End mum will be boasting about this for years to come."

When can I see the shortlisted acts?

Here's when the shortlisted acts are performing at the festival. You can get tickets here.

Craig Hill plays the Oran Mor on March 15 and 16

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Raymond Mearns plays The Stand Comedy Club on March 30 and April 3

Rosco McClelland plays The Stand Comedy Club on March 17

Susan Riddell plays The Stand Comedy Club on March 31

Susie McCabe plays The King's Theatre on March 15 and 16

Zara Gladman plays the Oran Mor on March 26 and 28.

Who are the previous winners of the award?

The award was presented for the first time last year, so only one person has won it to date.

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The shortlisted nominees were Scott Agnew, Paul Black, Janey Godley, Craig Hill, Kieran Hodgson and Susie McCabe.

The winner was Janey Godley, who will this year help judge the contest to find her successor.

What has Billy Connolly said about the award?

Sir Billy said: “Glasgow defies description. Many great men and women have tried to describe its spirit and failed miserably. What do you say about a town that dances, sings, plays and jokes differently from everybody else? The winner of this Award will have to be a nutter like me…” 



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