Why I’m doing a UK comedy tour without money or transport
Damian Kingsley tour

Comedian Damian Kingsley is touring from Lands’ End to Edinburgh without using money, a car or public transport, all in aid of charity.

Here he explains the method behind his audacious madness. 

I’m s***ting it. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

I’ve gone and told everyone that I’m going to do a 120 night stand-up comedy tour, from Lands’ End to Edinburgh, for the homeless charity Shelter, without using any money or transport.

I’ve announced it to friends, family, the comedy industry and the media, so I can’t really back out of it now without looking like a right dick.

And don’t think I haven’t tried a bit of sneaky backtracking. I’ve tried “tweaking the concept” so I can take my car and credit card, but unanimous feedback, from people I once thought of as friends, is that it would then just be a leisurely driving holiday rather than an actual challenge.

I’d be “a cheating coward”, apparently.

So the idea is that people along the way will donate any food, accommodation or lifts in exchange for jokes, or because they’re kind and feel sorry for me dying on my arse like an unfunny wandering minstrel.

But as daunting a prospect as it is, I’m determined to do it properly. I don’t want to back out. I want to raise at least the target of £7,000 for Shelter, from donations at the gigs, and raise awareness of the work Shelter does to prevent homelessness.

I’m going to be well out of my comfort zone, but no matter how much of a whinging little crybaby I’m going to be about having to traipse from gig to gig, with no food, money or place to stay, I’ll need to remember that it isn’t anywhere near as bad as facing even one night of genuine homelessness.

I’ve chosen to do this and I’m lucky enough to have a support network of family and friends (and now hundreds of pub landlords and arts centre teams) to fall back on. I’m doing it for people that don’t have that and had no choice.

And you might think I’m trying to portray myself as some sort of altruistic, saintly legend – and you would be right – that’s definitely what I am trying to do.

I’ve been told I can actually come across as a bit self-absorbed and grumpy but that’s just the superficial me, the constructed stage persona. Look deeper, or ask the people that know the real me, and you’ll find a whole new level of horrible self-centred, irritable pr**k.

I do try to deal with it. I sometimes have a relaxing bath to calm me down, but it’s a risky approach. If I put a bit too much hot water in, I get all hot and bothered and come out furious.

If I can lose my temper surrounded by scented candles and Peruvian pan pipe music, how am I going to cope with lugging a 100-litre rucksack through hundreds of miles of the Cornish wilderness? And why don’t I ever just put a bit more cold water in?

I’ll need to change – think about myself a bit less. My ex-girlfriend suggested that a lot last year during the break-up that led to me leaving the flat and having to move back in with my parents. She also said I need to take a long hard look at myself, so I think we can take her silly, inconsistent suggestions off my to-do list.

Since learning more about the experiences of the homeless, I’m incredibly grateful I had the option of going back to my parents, and “having to move back in” seems like the wrong phrase. I was made redundant from my day job around the same time, and this gave me some insight into how quickly you can lose everything.

Luckily, my parents always told me not to rely on the admin job and to make sure I had some jokes to fall back on. I’d been a comic for six years, alongside the day job, and I was able to go full time. I also realised that it was the perfect, and probably the only, time to do the tour for Shelter – an idea I’d had a couple of years before.

Preparing it is a logistical nightmare and I’ve done more admin in the last six months than I ever did when it was my actual job (which probably explains why I lost it).

I haven’t got a tour manager or an agent helping me to coordinate it. It’s just me and my mum plus a mate who works in PR who sneakily does my press releases when he’s meant to be dealing with finance related crises (rather than my mid-life one). Oh, and my friend Frank, who helps out with IT when he’s meant to be running a computer software company.

The support I’ve had from fellow comics and comedy promoters has been phenomenal, with acts offering to do guest spots at shows, or on the tour podcast, which will feature some well known faces like Nick Helm, Romesh Ranganathan, Nish Kumar and Jess Fostekew to name-drop but a few.

Romesh Ranganathan

The housing crisis affects all of us who aren’t lucky enough to be landed gentry or have massive property portfolios.

It affects anyone who pays out most of their salary to rent a total s**thole, and people who lose their benefits in the middle of personal crises and can’t break through the deliberately labyrinthine administrative barriers to social housing. It affects anyone who has struggled their whole life to pay off a mortgage on an over-inflated property, without the prospect of a decent pension or a stable NHS to fall back on.

We’re inundated with programmes like Homes Under the Hammer which exist purely to show us how “add value” to property, but overlook the fact that a lot of these auctioned-off houses have tragic backstories. It should be called “Lost Property”.

Homelessness is a huge problem and it’s getting worse.

The solution obviously isn’t some twat with a rucksack and a few jokes gigging his way to Edinburgh, but if even a few of the hundreds of people involved in the tour – audience members, comics, pub landlords, theatre staff, Twitter followers, podcast listeners – get behind the fundraising and campaigning of Shelter, we may be able to help change the status quo and every step towards Edinburgh will seem worthwhile.

Damian will be documenting his experiences on the road for WOW247 with monthly update blogs. 

You can also follow Damian’s progress on Twitter or his official website, and donate to Shelter via his fundraising page.

Catch Damian Kingsley on tour at the following initial dates:

March 25: The Star, St Just
March 26: The Star, St Erth
March 27: Salt Bar, Kitchen Hayle
March 28: The Royal Standard, Gwinear
March 29: Queens Arms, Breage/Helston
March 30: The Shipwrights Arms, Helford
March 31: Seven Stars, Stithians
April 1: Toast, Falmouth town
April 2: The Norway Inn, Perranarworthal
April 3: Zafiros, Bar Truro
April 4: The Barley, Sheaf Gorran
April 5: The Ship Inn, Pentewan
April 6: Bystro, St Austell
April 7: The New Inn, Tywardreath
April 8: Sterts Theatre Café, Upton Cross
April 9: Saltash Football Club, Saltash
April 10: The Tamar, Inn Calstock
April 11: The Ordulph Arms, Tavistock
April 12: Countryman Inn, Launceston
April 13: The Clovelly Inn, Barton Clovelly
April 14: The Highwayman Inn, Okehapton
April 15: The Copper Key Inn, North Tawton
April 16: The Lamb Inn Sandford, Near Crediton
April 17: The Lamb Inn, Silverton
April 18: The Globe, Sampford Peverell
April 19: The Beambridge Inn, Wellington
April 20:The Walnut Tree, North Petherton
April 21: King Alfred Inn, Burrow Bridge
April 22: The King Arthur, Glastonbury
April 23: Wunderbar, Midsomer Norton
April 24: Pilton Working Mens Club, Pilton
April 25: The Talbot Inn, Mells
April 26: The Three Swans, Frome
April 27: The Tolgate Inn, Bradford upon Avon
April 28: The Rondo Theatre, Bath
April 29: The Royal Oak, Corsham