Look out Edinburgh, Jason Manford is behind a comedy festival which he hopes will one day rival the world famous annual event in Scotland.

Next Saturday, Jason will host an evening at Blackpool Opera House, the flagship event of Manford’s Comedy Festival in the resort which will also feature Dara O’Briain, Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Paul Sinha

“I’ve been to Edinburgh many times and when I got to pricing it up it struck me how expensive everything was. I thought if I’m noticing it, what must it be like if you are just starting out in comedy?

“It got us to thinking if there’s a world in which we can set up our own comedy festival and that’s what we are in the process of doing. Blackpool is the perfect place, it’s got an infrastructure, accommodation, transport links - it’s even got a comedy carpet. It’s got that entertainment heritage.”

Jason was behind a comedy event in Blackpool in 2019 but then Covid struck.

Jason Manford

“That knocked everything back,” he said, “but we’re trying again now.”

Jason and his team are building on the experience they have gained in establishing comedy clubs at venues all around the country.

From the first Manford’s Comedy Club which was actually held at Oswaldtwistle Civic Theatre, there are now 28 active clubs across the UK.

“We set it up to create a bit of an industry standard I suppose,” said Jason. “There are so many clubs that don’t look after the comics, don’t look after the audience, where comics are not getting paid on time if at all. We just though we’d try and create something which would hopefully bring everybody else up to the right level.

“I guess because I’m a comic as well who has played the circuit, I’m used to being treated in a certain way so I just want to make sure that the comedians and our audiences get treated that way as well. It seems to have worked so far.”

Jason has done far more than just put his name to the comedy clubs. He is heavily involved in the running of the shows.

“I’m pretty involved,” he said. “All the comics who plays the gigs I’ve either gigged with them, have them support me on tour or I’ve seen them work. I’m in contact with the guys in the office on a weekly basis and ay new venues I’ll go and take a look at them.”

Having your own comedy clubs will certainly prove a bonus over the next couple of months as Jason prepares for a 72-date UK tour, a Manford for All Seasons, which is due to conclude in October 2025 at the Co-op Live in Manchester.

“I may well be turning up at my own clubs to practice my material,” Jason said. “That’s always good fun.”

For many people the idea that a huge tour has been announced, venues booked and tickets are selling fast and yet the show itself does not yet exist might be terrifying but Jason takes it all in his stride.

“That is the weird part,” he said, “but you always pull it out of the bag. The last six of seven times I’ve been on tour it seems to have gone all right.

“You just have to trust the process. I always tend to panic a little bit at this stage and think I’m going to have to spend the whole summer writing and getting the show up to scratch. But then I know I’ll be doing 60 or 70 work in progress dates where it all comes together.

“I’ve always got a few ideas floating around. It might be half an idea which you parked and come back to or something that cropped up on the previous tour which you didn’t progress because you already had the show sorted.

“When you’ve got a funny family and funny friends there is always something that comes up.

Dara O’Briain will be part of Manford’s Comedy Festival in Blackpool next weekend

“I just make notes on my phone which if anyone ever went through them they’d think they were the ramblings of a mad man but that’s where you park your thoughts and ideas and every so often one comes out and works.

“It’s funny when you find a routine which has done really well; it might be a talking point of the tour and people quote it to you afterwards or goes viral years later then you find the original one-line you wrote down which turned into that little bit of magic

“It’s a fun process. It’s also hard but that’s why not everyone is a comedian.”

Jason is a huge fan of trialling material at informal shows even though he accepts he’s often not going to make the audience laugh.

“There is stuff that will make its farewell debut at a work in progress gig and you’ll never say again out loud,” he laughed. “Then there are bits which make people chuckle and you take them and work on them.

“In a way I wish I could tour the work in progress gigs, they are very exciting. Also as an audience member you are getting something that no-one ever got before and will not get tomorrow. The audience turns up knowing not everything will work and they actually revel in that.”

Having started out as a stand-up Jason has gone on to become one of the country’s most popular entertainers with a wide and varied CV. He’s starred in West End shows, been a TV presenter and in December will once again return to pantomime in Manchester.

But comedy remains his first love. His last solo tour Like Me began in 2021 and took in an incredible 280 venues.

“I think stand-up is the thing I’m most comfortable with,” he said. “I always feel like this is my proper job. You’ve got no-one to answer to when you are stand-up. You’ve got no one telling you what to do or where to stand or what to say. That is a bonus

“Having said that you’ve also got no-one to blame if it goes wrong but I love it.”

Manford’s Comedy Festival is at Blackpool Opera House on Saturday (www.wintergardens.co.uk). A Manford For All Seasons is at Lancaster Grand on October 2; King George’s Hall, Blackburn on October 9; Blackpool Opera House on November 15; Manchester Apollo on November 25 and the tour ends at Co-op Live on October 24, 2925. For details and work in progress shows visit www.jasonmanford.com