Angela Barnes wins BBC New Comedy Award

Angela Barnes, the winner of BBC Radio 2′s New Comedy Award, has said she feels “vindicated” by her success, claiming some critics complained she had only made the final because the Corporation needed a female in the line-up.

The final of the award, which is aimed at unearthing new comedy talent, was broadcast live on Radio 2 at the weekend.

Six finalists, of which Barnes was the only woman, performed before a panel of judges, including comics Sarah Millican and Stephen K Amos, with listeners at home then calling in to choose their favourite.

Speaking to The Stage after being announced as the winner, Barnes said she had heard people commenting about her being the only woman left in the competition out of 600 entrants, and added: “You get tired of hearing it. I hope this vindicates me.”

She added: “I have done gigs in the past where I have got up on stage and heard people in the front row say, ‘Christ, it’s a woman’ before I have even opened my mouth. It’s like, give me a chance to be rubbish. And winning this is great.”

The comic, who works in social care for her day job, said she now hopes to work in comedy full-time. Barnes has been gigging on the comedy circuit for 18 months, and said: “It’s always been my dream to be a full-time gigging comic and hopefully this will open those doors.”

Comic Millican, speaking to The Stage, said she was “absolutely thrilled” for Barnes. “She thoroughly deserved it and absolutely earned it,” she added.

The BBC New Comedy Award first appeared in 1995 and ran until 2005, with finalists over the ten years including Lee Mack and Justin Lee Collins. This year, Radio 2 brought the competition back, with 100 out of the 600 entrants shortlisted to appear in one of ten regional heats.

A judging panel selected one act from each heat to go to the semi-finals, with a further two selected to go through to the semi-finals by an online public vote. Barnes was one of the two chosen online to be part of the semi-finals.

After Saturday’s final, the comic has now won the opportunity to perform a slot on Radio 2′s Comedy Zone and will also receive advice from BBC Radio Comedy.

The other five finalists were Pat Cahill, Chris Turner, Tez Ilyas, Joe Lycett and Mark Restuccia.

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster