Back in Five Minutes, York Eighties’ band re-unite after 30 years for one night only

Five Minutes back together in 2020: from left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Fellow member Matthew “Duck” Hardy took the picture on February 22..

A BAND called Five Minutes had their 15 minutes in York in the late 1980s. Now they are re-uniting for a one-off gig at the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, on February 29.

The reason? “The singer and youngest member of the band still living here will be the last of us to turn 50 in February and in his words, ‘Let’s do it before one of us dies’,” reveals trumpet player Matthew “Duck” Hardy, now 50 and a professional musician.

“Our last gig was in January 1989 and most of us haven’t seen each other for 30 years. Now we want to get as many people from York’s late ‘80s music scene down to the gig for a huge reunion.”


In the soul and funk line-up on February 29 will be Hardy; business development manager Chris Turnbull, newly turned 50 next month, on vocals and guitar; IT consultant Sean Rochester, 53, on bass; cinema owner Nigel Dennis, 52, on drums, and retired police officer turned Criminology MSc mature student Mark Pearson, 52, on saxophone.

Not there, but there by the wonder of a video link, will be ex-pat trombonist and urban dog trainer Paul Shelbourne, 49, from his home in Brisbane.

Five Minutes in the 1980s, when they were four, before they became six, although they were never five!
From left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Matthew “Duck” Hardy and Paul Shelbourne joined later.

“We’ll be playing original, danceable, driving Northern Soul-esque music with hard- hitting catchy brass riffs and a couple of covers thrown in near the end,” says Matthew, .introducing a set list featuring The Party; Smile; Sequels; Merry-go-round; Bridge In Time; Happy Home; Casanova; Could It Be; This Innocent Kiss; Only A Fool; Soul On Fire; Cornflake Packet; Time Will Tell; B Derdela; All The Daughters and Heatwave.

Back in their day, Five Minutes played York Arts Centre and Harry’s Bar, in Micklegate; Temple Hall, York campus of the College of Ripon and York St John; Central Hall, University of York; the Gimcrack pub (now flats), in Fulford Road, and Bretton Hall (now the Yorkshire Sculpture Park), near Wakefield.

Come February 29, Five Minutes will be back in action for rather more than five minutes, preceded by a DJ set by Rocky from Sweatbox, but why were/are they called Five Minutes?

“I’ve absolutely no idea why, as it started off as a four-piece and ended up as a six-piece!” says Matthew. “When Paul joined, the Evening Press photographer took a photo of us in the courtyard of Ye Olde Starre Inn, on Stonegate, and the paper did a write-up under the headline ‘Six appeal for Five Minutes’.”

What’s in a name?

Five Minutes start their set or encore with the instrumental B Derdela, so named after saxophonist Mark Pearson asked how singer Chris Turnbull wanted him to play the sax line. Chris gave him the note and the rhythm: B…derdela!

Only one question for York tragicomic Pop artist Harland Miller…

York artist Harland Miller stands by his York, So Good They Named It Once mock book cover at York Art Gallery on Friday morning. Picture: Charlotte Graham

AS his biggest-ever solo show, Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named It Once, opens in his home city at York Art Gallery, what is Harland saying about York in that picture title on a retro book cover, now replicated on posters, mugs, key rings, fridge magnets and tote bags?

“People have thought ‘York, So Good They Named It Once’ must be satirical, comparing York to New York, whereas I thought I was riffing on York being first; being very important way before New York – and a Roman capital.

“It was also a place of so many firsts for me; where I did my first paper round, and through these streets I can go and remember things that happened to me. Like my first kiss on same old wasteland on Taddy Road [Tadcaster Road], that’s now a Tesco.

Back to front: Harland Miller walks towards his Pelican Books spoof cover York, So Good They Named It Once. Picture: Charlotte Graham

“And just round the corner from here, behind the library, I smoked my first joint. That’s why I got hooked on books…because I was by the library!

“This gallery is where I first saw paintings. Is it a dream to be back here? The answer is ‘No’, because, as a boy, it would have been foolish to dream of such a thing.

“But unless I’m about to wake up back behind the library, I sense this is the moment to thank so many people. I certainly wouldn’t be here without my mum [now 95], who’s travelled all the way from Dringhouses to be here tonight, but I want to thank everyone not once, but twice.”

Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named It Once, featuring his Penguin Book Covers, Pelican Bad Weather Paintings and Letter Paintings and Recent Work, runs at York Art Gallery until May 31.

York Community Choir Festival on song to celebrate friendship and harmony in March

Stagecoach Academy Senior Choir: taking part in the fifth York Community Choir Festival. Picture: Michael Oakes

THE fifth York Community Choir Festival will raise the roof at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from March 7 to 14

This annual event “celebrates the inclusivity of making music in groups of all ages and friendship across the generations” by bringing people together to share the joy of singing in seven concerts, each featuring at least four different choirs.

“Choirs will be coming from Easingwold in the north, Garrowby and Stamford Bridge in the east and Knaresborough and Tadcaster in the west and south, as well as from York itself,” says festival organiser Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s company secretary, fundraising and events director and trustee. 

York charity Musical Connections combats loneliness and isolation in older people by running regular music sessions in community locations across York, and their 40-strong pensioners’ choir, The Rolling Tones,will be taking part for the first time.

Performing too will be choirs from Wigginton Primary School, Robert Wilkinson Primary Academy,the secondary-age choir of Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, and the “younger” adults of Dunnington Community Choir in a special matinee on March 14.

Another group of primary-school age, appropriately named Starlings, from the Hempland area of York, will sing in the Friday (March 13) concert. Secondary school-age choirs taking part will be Tutti Amici and Stagecoach Academy Choir, who have both excelled in previous festivals, and two Huntington School choirs will appear for the first time.

Dunnington Community Choir: emotion in motion in the joy of singing. Picture: Michael Oakes

York singer and tutor Jessa Liversidge, who runs her Singing For All sessions every week in Clements Hall, South Bank, York, and in Easingwold, says: “Many singers who attend my groups testify that their lives have been transformed by our weekly sessions of informal singing, tea, cake and good company.

“Looking around the room at the happy faces and seeing everyone leave afterwards with a spring in their step is evidence enough for me of the wonderful power of a good old sing.”

York has workplaces with choirs that employers encourage as being good for morale, among them Aviva’s Vivace! Choir and York Hospital’s Wellbeing Choir, which combines staff, volunteers and patients in one lively group in weekly sessions. Vivace! will open the festival and the hospital choir will appear on the last night.

Graham says: “I’m particularly pleased that we can include both young and old and bring the generations together in the same concerts. The benefits of singing have been widely researched and findings show that communal singing has far-reaching benefits for health, happiness and general wellbeing.

“We’re so lucky to have such a variety of choirs in and around York, most of which welcome new members with open arms. No need to be able to read music; just a desire to join in and sing!”

Concerts will take place on March 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14 at 7.30pm; March 8, 4pm, and March 14, 2pm. The full list of who will be singing when can be found at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Tickets are on sale on 01904 501935, via josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or in person from the JoRo box office in Haxby Road, with savings if buying five or more tickets. All proceeds will be donated to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre charity to help to maintain and improve facilities at this community venue.

Blue Light Theatre Company raise £3,000 for York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease Association

The Blue Light Theatre Company members with representatives of York Against Cancer and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (York) at the cheque presentation at York’s Ambulance Station. All pictures:: Scott Atkinson

THE Blue Light Theatre Company took to the stage once again in January at Acomb Working Men’s Club, York, to raise money for York charities York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease Association (York).

“We’re thrilled to announce that we managed to match last year’s amount of £3,000 – despite our production costs rising,” says cast member Mark Friend, who played Pinocchio in Oh! What A Circus on January 24, 25 and 29 to 31.

“The money raised has been split equally between the two charities. We’ve received fantastic support from many of North Yorkshire’s tourist attractions and businesses; without their generous support, we would not have been able to raise this amount.”

The Blue Light Theatre Company in Oh! What A Circus at Acomb Working Men’s Club

Oh! What A Circus was the seventh pantomime performed by The Blue Light Theatre Company, made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers, York Hospital staff and members of York’s theatre scene,  who have raised well over £10,000 over those years.

Writer and co-producer Perri Ann Barley says: “It’s great to see our audience come back year after year to support us, plus lots of new audience as the word gets around just how good our productions are.

“Work is already underway for Panto 2021 and the challenge is on to make it even bigger and better than the last. The title will be announced later in the year”.

Mark Friend, as Pinocchio, in Oh! What A Circus

Last Wednesday, the Blue Light company met representatives from York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease Association (York) MNDA at York’s Ambulance Station to present them with their cheques.

Julie Russell, from York Against Cancer, says: “Thank you very much for this generous donation. It will help us make a difference to cancer patients and their families’ lives. The Blue Light Theatre Company really do know how to put ‘fun’ into fundraising. Thank you.”

In the cheque presentation picture are Julie Russell, from York Against Cancer; James Chambers, Jen Dodd, Colin Pearson and Val Corder, from MNDA (York) and The Blue Light Theatre Company’s Zoe Paylor, Perri Ann Barley, Christine Friend, Beth Waudby, Mark Friend, Devon Wells, Mick Waudby, Craig Barley and Glen Gears.

All you need is extra tickets and a new venue for music film-maker Tony Palmer’s Harrogate Film Festival event

Film-maker Tony Palmer with The Beatles’ John Lennon

A RUSH of ticket sales has prompted a change of venue for The Rock Goes To The Movies evening with BAFTA-winning filmmaker Tony Palmer next month in Harrogate.

This exclusive Harrogate Film Festival event on March 12 will switch from RedHouse Originals art gallery to The Clubhouse at Cold Bath Brewing Co, on Kings Road, only five minutes from the original location on Cheltenham Mount.

“The evening sold out all its stickers at £12 a pop so quickly that we’ve have had to move to a bigger location,” says Harrogate Advertiser journalist and Charm event promoter Graham Chalmers, a stalwart of the Harrogate music scene, who will be hosting the Q&A with the legendary film-maker, now 77.

“That means extra tickets have been put on sale and are available via the box office at Harrogate Theatre.”

All existing tickets are still valid for the new venue for the 7pm event that will combine a film screening with the Q&A session about Palmer’s work with The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Rory Gallagher, Cream, Frank Zappa, The Who, Donovan and many more.

The London-born film-maker and cultural critic has more than 100 films to his name, ranging from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher (Irish Tour ’74) and Frank Zappa (200 Motels), to his classical profiles of Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn, John Osborne, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, Benjamin Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams and more besides.

Over the past 50 years, Palmer has received more than 40 international prizes, including 12 gold medals from the New York Film Festival, along with numerous BAFTAs and Emmy Awards.

The Beatles: rare screening of Tony Palmer’s film of the Fab Four will be a highlight of the Harrogate Film Festival event on March 12

Palmer, who served an apprenticeship with Ken Russell and Jonathan Miller, made the landmark film All My Loving, the first ever about pop music history, first broadcast in 1968.

He was responsible too for the iconic live film Cream Farewell Concert, shot at the supergroup’s last-ever show at the Royal Albert Hall: a memorable night with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in 1968.

Harrogate Film Festival founder Adam Chandler says: “Tony Palmer’s glittering career deserves such an event, so we can’t wait to welcome him. We’re delighted this film-making legend is so popular and are grateful to our venue partners, Cold Bath Brewing Co and RedHouse Originals, for enabling this exciting event to happen.”

Host Chalmers says: “Palmer is the greatest arts documentary filmmaker Britain has produced in the past 50 years and personally knew most of the greatest figures in the classical music world, as well as rock music.

“The fact he’s making the journey to Harrogate as a stand-alone event shows how highly regarded Harrogate Film Festival is nationally and shows that Harrogate, despite appearances, is a town with a genuine rock’n’roll pedigree.”

RedHouse Originals gallery previously has played host to Pop Art doyen Sir Peter Blake and still will be involved in next month’s event, hanging classic 1960s’ artwork and photography at The Clubhouse and curating the music playlist for the after-show party.

The sleeve artwork for All You Need Is Love, Tony Palmer’s 1977-1978 series on The Story Of Popular Music

Presented by Chalmers in conjunction with Harrogate Film Society, Rock Goes To The Movies will feature a rare screening of Palmer’s film about The Beatles that featured in his All You Need Is Love TV series, with a script by Fab Four insider Derek Taylor, plus clips from Palmer’s Cream Farewell Concert film.

Tickets available from harrogatetheatre.co.uk, on 01423 502116 or in person from the Harrogate Theatre box office. More information on the 2020 Harrogate Film Festival at harrogatefilm.co.uk.

Any profits from the evening will go to Harrogate Film Society and Harrogate Film Festival.



Tony Palmer’s ten music films
1. All You Need Is Love,1975-1976,17-part series on the history of American Popular Music from Bing Crosby to The Beatles.
2. Bird On A Wire, 1972, featuring Leonard.
3. All My Loving,1968, including The Who, The Beatles and more.
4. Cream Farewell Concert 1968.        
5. 200 Motels – Frank Zappa,1971.
6. Rory Gallagher – Irish Tour,1974.        
7. A Time There Was, 1979, profile of composer Benjamin Britten.
8. Tangerine Dream – Live In Coventry Cathedral,1975.
9. Ginger Baker In Africa,1971.
10. Wagner – By Charles Wood, music conducted by Georg Solti, photographed by Vittorio Storaro; with Richard Burton, Vanessa Redgrave and Laurence Olivier,1983.

Singer, PhD sociology student and artist, Alice Wilson has no time for slacking

Alice Wilson: Slack Habits finale tomorrow; solo album next month

YORK singer, artist and Ph.D student Alice Wilson will sing with Slack Habits for the last time at their Old White Swan debut in Goodramgate, York, tomorrow before focusing on her solo album.

For the February 22 gig, she steps in for departed lead singer, Marsha Knight, re-joining bassist Iain Marchant, drummer Martin Wilson, guitarist Andy Elmslie and keyboards player Josh Hill, with whom Alice used to perform in an earlier incarnation of the York band.

Alice and songwriter, guitarist and producer Andy Wilson – no relation – are progressing quickly with the album’s recording sessions at his home studio in Holgate, with Andy aiming to have it fully mixed and mastered in time for a March launch.

Alice, nearing 30, says she has “looked to music for escapism for even longer than she has looked to books or alcohol”.

I was heavily tricked into thinking theatre was not a career,” says Alice Wilson

“My first forays were into musical theatre when I was at Millthorpe School, then Fulford Sixth Form,” she reveals, recalling her favourite role being Tallulah in Bugsy Malone when she was 16.

“I did theatre through GCSE to A-level but was heavily tricked into thinking theatre was not a career.”

Instead, Alice has pursued a scholarly path, starting with joint degree honours in anthropology and sociology at Durham University, “so that I could do both science and arts,” she says.

Next came an MA in urban sociology at the University of York, specialising in housing. “I’ve blagged my way into pretty good educational institutions as a result of being a working-class queer,” she says.

Writing her thesis, creating her art, singing: all in a day’s passage for Alice Wilson

“I’m now doing a Ph.D over the next three years, again at the University of York, where I’m trying to make radically affordable houses available for the people who need them.”

As part of her Ph.D in sociology with “heavy fraternisation with environmental science”, Alice is building a tiny house in the garden of her Heslington home, 30 square metres in size.

“You might think it’s a glorified shed, but it’s not that glorified,” she says. “It’s a timber-framed structure with super-insulation made from re-claims from demolition sites.

“Ideally it does inform my Ph.D, so I want to film it in progress, as well as writing a thesis, doing my art and singing all the while – though it all leaves minimal time for singing.”

Alice Wilson “hopes you enjoy the ear feel of her voice”

The tiny house, once complete, will have three rooms downstairs – a main living room, a tiny kitchen and tiny bathroom – and a stepladder will lead to the mezzanine level above: a crawl floor where you can sleep, says Alice. “It qualifies for recreational use, like a summerhouse, so I’ll use it mainly for painting in.”

As her official profile says: “Alice draws and paints @neither.both.illustrations and post pictures of herself at the gym @neither.both. Alice recycles, votes left, and worries about how productive she is being, like all other millennial snowflakes. She hopes you enjoy the ear feel of her voice.”

As Slack Habits’ songwriter, Andy most certainly enjoys that “ear feel of her voice”. “Alice sang with Slack Habits for a while, playing the Blues Bar in Harrogate, the National Harley Davidson Convention, pubs, festivals, Lendal Cellars and the Little Festival of Live Music in York,  and being featured on BBC Introducing, before abandoning us to go into academia,” he says.

“But I didn’t want to let her talent go, so ten months ago we started working together again.”

Andy Wilson and Alice Wilson working on Alice’s album at his Holgate studio in York

The result is such songs as The Other Woman, Put That Down and Cabaret Queen. “There’s also a mash-up of Led Zep’s Whole Lotta Love that turns into Whole Lotta Last Waltz,” says Alice. “That turns it into being a song about domestic violence.”

Andy adds: “I’ve happened to write and produce for three or four female singers in recent years and the songs on Alice’s album tell stories about all kinds of different fictional women,  good, happy, sad or bad.

“When I started working with Alice, I was stunned by her talents and charisma but I was also excited by her ability to ‘become’ the characters she sings about.  So, it was obvious that she would be the perfect musical partner in an album project that had been brewing for a while.

“Luckily she agreed and now it’s nearly ready. I hope people are going to be moved and entertained by Alice’s ‘other women’.”

All being well, that opportunity should come next month. In the meantime, watch her singing Slack Habits’ “absolute bangers”, ranging from rock and electric blues to smoky ballads, reggae and funk, from 9pm tomorrow (February 22) at the Old White Swan, Goodramgate, York.

City Screen to celebrate Federico Fellini’s films with Vintage Sundays season

Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita

ITALIAN film director Federico Fellini will be the focus of a Vintage Sundays retrospective season at City Screen, York, from March 8.

Dave Taylor, City Screen’s marketing manager, says: “We’re delighted to present five films from the maestro of Italian cinema on Sundays at midday throughout March and stretching into April.”

First up, on March 8, will be Fellini’s first international success, 1953’s I Vitelloni (PG), a nakedly autobiographical film, set in his hometown of Rimini, that follows the lives of five young vitelloni, or layabouts.

1956’s Night Of Cabira (PG), on March 15, bridges the transition between Fellini’s early neo-realist period and his later more fantastical works. His bittersweet and eloquent glimpse into the life and dreams of an eternally optimistic prostitute in Rome later provided the inspiration for the musical Sweet Charity.

La Dolce Vita (12A), from 1960, is an era-defining sensation that chronicles seven nights and seven dawns in the life of gossip journalist Marcello in a vast widescreen fresco of the glitterati of Rome at the height of Italy’s post-war economic boom. Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg star.

Fellini’s 1963 film, 8½ (15), on March 29, is a semi-autobiographical portrait of creative block and one of the great films about film-making. Beleaguered auteur Guido is unable to finish the film he has planned, luxuriating in his inner conflicts.

The Fellini finale will be 1965’s Juliet Of The Spirits (15) on April 5. His first colour feature is an exercise in the neuroses and fantasies of a woman, played by Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, who suspects that her husband is betraying her.

All the films will start at 12 noon. Bookings can be made on 0871 902 5747, at picturehouses.com or in person at the Coney Street Picturehouse cinema. 

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Opera North’s hellish The Turn Of The Screw

A scene from Opera North’s The Turn Of The Screw. Picture: Tristram Kenton

REVIEW: Opera North in The Turn Of The Screw, Leeds Grand Theatre, February 18. Further performances on February 21, 25 and 27, then touring until March 19. Box office: 0844 848 2700 or at leedsgrandtheatre.com

PART of the fascination of any ghost story – and Henry James certainly intended The Turn Of The Screw to be one – is its dabbling with a world that we can never fully comprehend or understand.

We are frightened, as James was himself, by his own creation, by the horrors that our imaginations are led to conjure. The sky – or hell – is the limit.

Myfanwy Piper’s libretto retains most of James’s ambiguities, while Britten’s music wonderfully clarifies their existence but offers no definitive answers to the questions they pose.

We know of Britten’s own obsession with the corruption of innocence. We also have plenty of recent examples of the terrors that may befall children put into care, like Miles and Flora here. The question for a director of the opera is how unambiguous to be.

Alessandro Talevi’s production was certainly probing when it first appeared in the autumn of 2010. This time round, he opens up new possibilities: he hardly misses an opportunity to interpret and he has schooled all six of his cast into finely honed acting, without exception.

In Sarah Tynan’s Governess we have a minutely judged, sexually repressed ingénue: she is as surprised as we are by a lonely Mrs Grose’s fondling attentions. She is equally puzzled by Miles’s come-hither kiss, delivered just before he climbs into her bed: this boy may be in thrall to Quint, but is also prey to rampaging hormones.

So, which of these signals leads up an emotional cul-de-sac? Or are they merely figments of the governess’s fevered imagination? The fact that such questions need to be asked at all is a sure indication that Talevi knows exactly how to provoke.

He also views the tale from the children’s point of view. At one point, we are shown a Narnia-style, fairy-tale landscape – easily taken for a Victorian orangery stocked with exotic flowers – in which younger versions of Miles and Flora can be seen frolicking.

In Madeleine Boyd’s majestic set, Bly is a Victorian pile in need of more than a spring clean, with Quint glimpsed in the tower behind its tall, murky windows. The building itself is part of the oppression all its inmates feel, doubtless compelling them into aberration.

Her costumes are regulation late Victorian, shading into Edwardian, but her hair-styles are notable: the Pre-Raphaelite cast of Miss Jessel’s Titian tresses, Quint’s bright orange thatch and side-burns, Flora’s Alice-curls, all contrast firmly with the governess’s prim blonde bun.

The props are carefully selected too: a manic rocking-horse, a giant four-poster, from whose roof Flora dangles her puppets, a school desk, and a large horn above a turntable, on which Miles “plays” parody Mozart; all bask in Matthew Haskins’ shadow-laden lighting.

After an exceptionally clear prologue, Nicholas Watts fashions a menacing Quint, likely to cause many a nightmare, while Eleanor Dennis’s pregnant Miss Jessel finds an unearthly tone equally guaranteed to spook. Heather Shipp’s seemingly phlegmatic Mrs Grose flashes into emotion more than once. 

Tynan’s keenly-observed governess is a study in bafflement as she steadily loses her marbles to guilt and self-reproach. Jennifer Clark’s lively, mischievous Flora suggests someone much younger than she looked, while Tim Gasiorek’s well-tuned, light-voiced Miles acts his socks off.

All have reason to be grateful for the exceptional clarity with which Leo McFall’s orchestra paints their various motifs; one could hardly imagine their playing being more finely nuanced. Talevi’s revival may raise more questions than it answers, but it unquestionably held this audience in rapt appreciation.

Review by Martin Dreyer

James Swanton to tell M R James tale at York Ghost Merchants’ storytelling evening

Gothic York ghost storyteller James Swanton

THE York Ghost Merchants, at No. 6, Shambles, York, will hold their inaugural storytelling evening on March 1, hosted by the ghoulish James Swanton.

At 6pm (sold out), 7pm and 8pm, he will read M R James’s ghost story Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book, written in 1894 and published in his first collection, Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary Of 1904.

In James’s story, a scholar travels to a small French town for a kind of working vacation and there he discovers a small, rather dissolute old cathedral. On entering, he meets with the sacristan, who guides him around.

Eventually, they make their way to the church library where the sacristan shows him all sorts of old and antiquarian books that peak the scholar’s interest. One in particular, the sacristan seems especially eager to show off.

The York Ghost Merchants: “the world’s first spook shop”, set up by David Bloodworth and Snowhome’s Angus McArthur

The scholar is captivated by the book, the personal scrapbook of one Canon Alberic, and duly offers to buy it. The sacristan sells it to him for a pittance and his desperation to release it from his possession is palpable.

On his way out, the scholar is given another gift, a crucifix, by the sacristan’s daughter, who insists he takes it free of charge.

Later that same night, as the scholar is studying his new-found treasure, he encounters a page with a disturbing illustration that is central to the story’s suspenseful narrative.

Actor, writer and storyteller James Swanton was born in York, the ghost-infested city that informed his lifelong passion for the macabre. Winner of the 2018 York Culture Award for Outstanding Performing Artist, he has been described as “remarkable” by Simon Callow, as “extraordinary” by Miriam Margolyes and as a “horror star of the future” by Kim Newman.

Gateway to the ghoulish: James Swanton on the ghostly streets of York

Whether playing Dracula or Lucifer in The York Mystery Plays in the Shambles Market or performing his one-man shows Irving Undead and Charles Dickens’s winter stories at York Medical Society, Stonegate, he continues to drive his critics to raid their Thesaurus. In times past, they have dismissed him as “a tattily dressed raven”; “a young Boris Karloff”; “positively stunning in his grotesqueness”  and “lanky”.

The £25 ticket price includes the 45-minute storytelling session and a limited-edition Canon Alberic ghost. Please note, these ghosts are available only to those attending the event and not without the ticket.  

“Use the word COLLECT at checkout if you would like to collect your ghost and ticket, rather than having them posted to you,” says Angus McArthur, of The York Ghost Merchants.

Tickets can be booked at yorkghostmerchants.com or on 01904 896545. Opening hours for The York Ghost Merchants, sited in the former Via Vecchia and Pinder and Scott’s bakery shop, are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm-ish, and Sundays, 11am to 5pm-ish.

York gig of the week? Stand up for Portico Quartet at The Crescent on Tuesday

Portico Quartet: The Crescent looms on Tuesday

PORTICO Quartet play a standing show at The Crescent, off Blossom Street, York, on Tuesday night.

Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and minimalism since forming in London in 2005, these Mercury Prize nominees have created their own singular, cinematic sound over the course of five studio albums and one EP.

In the line-up are Duncan Bellamy, drums and electronics; Milo Fitzpatrick, bass; Taz Modi, hang drums and keys, and Jack Wylie, saxophone.

Portico Quartet made their breakthrough with 2007’s Knee-Deep In The North Sea, followed by the John Leckie-produced Isla in 2010, the self-titled Portico Quartet in 2012 and Art In The Age Of Automation in August 2017, plus its companion EP, Untitled, in April 2018.

Each album has seen Bellamy, Fitzpatrick, Modi and Wylie expand their palette or explore new trajectories, a modus operandi continued with last October’s Memory Streams, released on Gondwana Records.

Ouroboros presents Portico Quartet at The Crescent, York, on Tuesday (February 25). Tickets cost £18.50 from The Crescent or Earworm Records, in Powells Yard, Goodramgate or at seetickets.com or more on the door from 7.30pm.