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Worker Bee: meet Jessica Toomey, the managing director of The Frog and Bucket comedy club


The Frog and Bucket is something of a Manchester institution. It was opened by Dave Perkin in a room above the Britannia pub in 1994, just round the corner from its current premises at the top of Oldham Street. It was the city’s only dedicated alternative comedy venue and is still one of only two.

His daughter Jessica Toomey, who is also co-director of the annual Women in Comedy Festival, took over the The Frog and Bucket last year after spending many years managing the venue.

The club has always tried to develop raw talent as well as showcase established acts. Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas honed their skills there. So did Chris Addison, Jack Whitehall, Sarah Millican, Lee Mack, Lucy Porter, Dave Gorman and Jason Manford.

John Bishop famously did his first ever gig there nearly 20 years ago after wandering in to an open mic night and deciding to have a go.

The semi-finals of this year’s competition to find the best new act of the year are currently taking place. The winners of this year’s open mic nights are competing against each other every Monday night in October for a place in the final when this year’s Top Frog will be crowned.

What got you started in your field of work?

My father set the club up 25 years ago and I joined 15 years ago. I probably had little choice than to help him carry the business on but now I wouldn’t choose any other job over the one I have now.

Who has been your biggest influence in life?

Probably my nanna. Seven kids and ran a business from dusk till dawn and managed it all whilst smiling and dressed with such style plus the occasional naughty joke

What has been your proudest achievement so far?

For the business, there was one particular award we won which was the I Love Manchester award where the general public had to vote on what one place would they recommend a tourist visit to get a real sense of what Manchester is and The Frog and Bucket won. That meant a lot.

What does your typical day involve?

Being a mother of two my day takes strategic planning and buckets of coffee.  After the school run it’s straight to the drive thru for coffee then into the office to deal with tour enquiries and programming shows, booking acts, corporate enquiries and co-ordinating the box office and marketing team.

Afternoons are spent either in business development meetings, working on partnerships or extra business interests such as the Women in Comedy Festival or the Manchester Pub and Club Network.

Late afternoons are spent with the front of house team and planning how events will run in the evening and dealing with anything thats required to run a venue.  I work right through and stay for the show a few nights a week.  To balance it all I work from home on a Friday and very rarely work Sundays.

How do you relax on your days off?

Most of my spare time is spent with the kids and I cherish lazy Sundays where I’ll spend the afternoon in the kitchen cooking a roast whilst watching a film and drinking red wine.  I have a weekly dose of weightlifting and boxing with my personal trainer to keep me sane and I like to see a lot of live music and ensure I fit in a city break with my mates once a year.

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?

Just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you can do everything. Roy Cropper actually said that to Carla Connor but it’s still great advice and you’ve got to love Corrie.
I also love the saying ‘Love many, trust few and always paddle your own canoe.’

If things hadn’t worked out what could you see yourself doing?

I’ve got a degree in Architectural Conservation so would be working with property one way or another.

Red or Blue?


Tell us one thing about yourself that people might be surprised to hear

I have a RAF Marksman badge and was offered a RAF pilot scholarship which was probably due to my 20/10 vision.

Name your three favourite places in Manchester

If I’m not allowed to say The Frog and Bucket then the Apollo for all the amazing music memories, Central Library and Fletcher Moss Park.

If you could change one thing about Manchester what would it be?

Immediately, future homelessness and in the long term more green spaces

What do you love the most about Manchester?

I love northern humour – there’s warmth and sincerity to it. Also the politics of the people and what they’ve campaigned for such as the Pankhurst sisters or Peterloo.  In Manchester they do things differently because ancestors showed that they could break the mould and change the path and our heroes are working class.

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