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Martin Witts

Martin Witts

Founder of the Great Yorkshire Fringe


Martin Witts is the founder and director of the inaugural Great Yorkshire Fringe as well as London’s Leicester Square Theatre and Museum of Comedy.

Having moved to York to study at St John’s University in 1981 he found part-time work at York Theatre Royal, this led to a multi-faceted entertainment career spanning over 30 years. During his career he has worked on Seven Brides and Seven Brothers Musical around the world for York Theatre Royal and was the Company Stage Manager for York Festival and Mystery Plays under Jude Kelly, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Opera North and the Welsh National Opera, and worked as promoter for Ray Charles, BB King and Nina Simone, as well as Production Manager for Les Dawson, Paul O'Grady and Russ Abbot.

He reopened the Leicester Square Theatre, London in 2008 with his wife Lesley Ackland. The theatre soon established itself as one of London’s foremost comedy venues playing host to the major comedy talent of today including Bill Bailey, Michael McIntyre, Stewart Lee, Joan Rivers, Sean Lock and Richard Herring, as well as up and coming new comedy acts.

In 2014, he opened the UK’s first Museum of Comedy in Bloomsbury, London, housing one of the most comprehensive collections of Comedy memorabilia ever to be amassed in one place. The Museum includes a state of the art traditional performance space hosting all kinds of comedy performance, from theatre and stand up to silent film.

2015 saw the launch of the now inaugural Great Yorkshire Fringe, a 10-day festival on Parliament Street in the heart of York, turning the city’s well-known thoroughfare into a vibrant performance space. With over 120,000 visiting the site and nearly 30,000 event tickets sold, the festival will return in 2016.

Martin lives in York with his wife Lesley and Jack Russell Max. While not working he explores the Yorkshire countryside and is an avid conservationist.

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