No laughing matter: Comedian Sarah Millican boycotts Sunderland’s Empire theatre

Sarah Millican
Sarah Millican
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NORTH East comedy star Sarah Millican is boycotting a Wearside theatre in a protest over the booking fees customers have to stump up for tickets.

The South Shields comedian played the Empire in February on her last tour, but has decided to avoid performing at venues run by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG).

In addition to the High Street West theatre, it means she will not perform at its theatres in Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, due to her objection to the extra charges online bookers are forced to pay the company.

Writing on her website, she said: “Some of you will notice that I’m not playing some of the venues I played on my last tour,. Those venues are owned and run by The Ambassador Theatre Group.

“In my opinion, I don’t agree with the extra charges ATG put on top of the face-value ticket price to you the customer and a number of other restrictions they have in place, so that’s why I’ve avoided their venues this time round.

“We’ve booked alternative theatres though across the country so you will still be able to find somewhere close to you to come and see the show.”

Sarah, who was voted the Queen of Comedy at last year’s British Comedy Awards, added she would not advocate touts, prices which have been inflated on eBay or “dodgy websites” for those looking for tickets.

Her September 2013 Home Bird tour, which runs into May 2014, has already sold out its dates at The Customs House in her home town of South Shields and Durham’s Gala Theatre, with tickets still available for shows at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre, Middlesbrough Town Hall and Stockton Arc.

ATG became Britain’s biggest operator on 2009 when it bought Live Nation’s 27 theatres in a £90million deal.

Under its system, between £1.90 and £4.90 is added to the face value of each ticket bought online or by telephone in addition to a transaction fee of between £2.85 and £4.

Helen Enright, chief financial officer and commercial director for ATG told theatre industry paper The Stage the stand-up’s comments were “concerning” because the company does not want performers to avoid its venues.

She added: “The customer is our number one priority and it’s our objective to make any charges fair and as transparent as possible to the customer/

“We are always reviewing our charges to make sure they are fair and we are in the process of revisiting all of that/

“We will be in a position to make an announcement, hopefully within the next one or two months, to address those concerns.”

The company has said anyone buying tickets in person at the box office did not have to pay a booking fee on the majority of tickets.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham