British-Asian stand-up Ahir Shah wins main Edinburgh Comedy Awards prize at the Fringe
The most coveted comedy prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been won by a British-Asian comic for the first time in its 42-year history.
Ahir Shah won the main Edinburgh Comedy Awards honour with a show hailed as “a hymn to British multiculturalism.”
The London comic recalls how his maternal grandfather moved to the UK from India in the 1960s and worked until he could save enough money to send for his wife and children.
His show draws parallels between his family’s story and that of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose parents are of Indian descent.
The 32-year-old, who was one of eight contenders for the £10,000 best comedy show prize, triumphed after being shortlisted for the third time with a show described by one critic as “a paean to the sacrifices made by his grandparents’ generation.”
Urooj Ashfaq, who travelled from Mumbai in India to appear at the festival, won the best newcomer prize in the awards.
The 28-year-old is performing for the first time in the UK this month after visiting the Fringe for the first time a year ago.
Shah and Ashfaq won their awards four years after the judges recognised Fringe of Colour, an initiative launched to tackle the “overwhelming whiteness” of the festival, with its annual panel prize.
Shah, who paid tribute to the influence of his director, Adam Brace, who died in the spring after suffering a stroke, said his winning show was “written in relative haste.”
He said: “I brought it up to Edinburgh as a work in progress and continued to work on it. The show has really become itself over the course of the month.
"There is nowhere else like Edinburgh where you can be doing your show absolutely every day and feeling you’re getting incrementally better every day and understanding the show more every day.
"It’s an extraordinarily exciting thing to be able to keep working on with an audience, even if the walk to the venue does feel as if it gets a bit longer every day. The response has been really lovely.
“My show really tries to pull back and take a look at the idea of social progress across multiple generations of the British-Indian community over the last 60 years through the story of my own family. It is considerably funnier than it sounds!
“I really want to talk about my maternal grandparents, the fact my maternal grandfather was the first member of my family to come to the UK In 1964 and the current inhabitant of Downing Street and how that shift happened over the last six decades. That was a really interesting story to me.
"It’s been really wonderful to tell that story to people from loads of different cultures and backgrounds who identify with so much of that story. There are generations of people who didn’t think that what they did was exceptional.”
Ashfaq, who has been performing for seven years, said: “I really just came to Edinburgh to check out the Fringe last year. I felt it would be an education and I would be able to learn something to take back home.
"It was extremely overwhelming and inspiring seeing the sheer number of shows that were on, the different angles people find to make shows and the dedication needed to do the whole Fringe.”
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