Behind the scenes of British comedy, two hard men fix the funny money

AVALON, THE comedy company at the centre of the storm when Frank Skinner fell out with the BBC this week, admitted yesterday that it is "ruthless and will stop at nothing" in pursuing its clients' best interests.

"As a management agent that is our job," said a company spokesman. "Our competitors in the industry say we drive a hard bargain but that is what our job involves - looking after the careers of our clients and nothing else." On Wednesdaythe BBC said Avalon was demanding pounds 20m for a five- year contract for Skinner to keep his chat show on BBC1.

Avalon was embroiled in a dispute at the Edinburgh Festival when another client, Al Murray, was excluded from the Perrier Prize shortlist because he was too well known. His agency protested and he was reinstated. Not only is Mr Murray, the eventual winner of the prize, a client, so too were two more of the six finalists.

Avalon was founded in 1988 by a former president of the Cambridge footlights, Jon Thoday. His first foray into showbusiness was promoting the West End show Nightclub Confidential. He lost pounds 400,000. To make money he then drifted into comedy, acting as an agent for a Spitting Image writer.

He was joined in the early Nineties by Richard Allen-Turner, a former entertainment manager at Middlesex Polytechnic, and the two decided on a strategy of promoting the shows that many of their clients appear in. They now run Britain's biggest live comedy promotions company, one of its biggest talent management agencies and a television production company.

This year Avalon Promotions will run close to 2,000 nights of live comedy, including the Carlsberg Ice Comedy Network, which operates in 40 venues around the country.

It was Avalon that took live comedy into the rock'n'roll age, promoting the Newman and Baddiel concert at Wembley Arena in 1994 and putting on Frank Skinner at Battersea power station in 1998.

The people on Avalon Management's books tend to be at a relatively formative stage of their career. As well as Skinner and Baddiel, clients include Harry Hill, Jenny Eclair, Stuart Lee, Richard Herring and Simon Munnery. It dominates the Edinburgh Fringe, while a rival agency such as PBJ Management, which handles the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Harry Enfield, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, has a stronger grip on more established talent. Avalon Television's big hits have been the Fantasy Football League on both BBC and ITV and Frank Skinner's chat show, which was getting a 40 per cent audience share by the end of its last run.

Despite all the headlines referring to Skinner's demands, there are some in the industry who believe the BBC's highly public falling out with Avalon was done to pre-empt the corporation attracting flak for losing another big star.

Television comedy costs about pounds 200,000-plus per show to produce and the pounds 20m Avalon was asking for included the cost of making the show - it was not all Skinner's fee. As such it was not much more than many other BBC stars receive.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine