York Theatre Royal and BBC Radio York team up for York Radio Mystery Plays

A rehearsal on Zoom for the York Radio Mystery Plays

YORK Theatre Royal and BBC Radio York are collaborating in lockdown to bring the York Mystery Plays to life on the radio next month.

Four instalments will be presented as audio versions on the Sunday Breakfast Show with Jonathan Cowap on successive Sundays from June 7, the Sunday before Corpus Christi Day on June 11: the day when the plays were performed on wagons on the city streets from dawn until dusk since mediaeval times.

Working remotely from home, a cast of 19 community and professional actors has recorded the instalments, Adam And Eve, The Flood Part 1, The Flood Part 2 and Moses And Pharaoh, under the direction of Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster.

Juliet, incidentally, previously co-directed Anthony Minghella’s Two Planks And A Passion at the Theatre Royal in July 2011, a play set around a performance of the York Mystery Plays on Corpus Christi Day in midsummer 1392.

She and husband Kelvin Goodspeed have adapted Mystery Play texts for the radio series, drawing on material dating back to the 1300s that was resurrected after a long, long hiatus initially for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Ed Beesley, who would have been working on Juliet’s postponed production of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, has provided composition, sound design and foley artist effects.

Juliet Forster: York Theatre Royal associate director and director of the York Radio Mystery Plays

Margaret Hudson, musical director of the York Theatre Royal Choir, has given the choir and cast songs to perform.

“The York Mystery Plays are part of the DNA of this city,” says Juliet. “They belong to the people of York and have brought people together to create, perform, watch, laugh and cry since the 14th century.

“The longevity of these potent plays clearly demonstrates how vital the collective act of storytelling is and has always been to human beings, and how much we need to explore and reflect together on our experiences and understanding of the world.

“We’re determined to keep doing this in spite of the Coronavirus lockdown. So, these plays seem exactly the right choice to pick up, find a new way to create, communicate afresh and encourage one another with.”

Under the partnership between the Theatre Royal and BBC Radio York, the sourcing of the scripts, recruitment of actors and provision of music has been done by the theatre.

In keeping with the social-distancing rules, the production required the actors to record their lines on a smart phone from home, having done collective rehearsals for each play over the Zoom conference call app.

Juliet then selected the recordings to be sent to the radio station for mixing and pulling together into finished crafted instalments. 

BBC Radio York’s acting editor, Anna Evans, says: “It’s a privilege to work with York Theatre Royal and members of the city’s community to retain the tradition of the York Mystery Plays. During such uncertain times, it’s important that we can help maintain this cultural experience in a different way and I am so proud of what the teams have achieved in such difficult times.” 

The York Mystery Radio Plays form part of York Theatre Royal’s Collective Acts, a programme of “creative community engagement” taking place while the St Leonard’s Place building is closed under the Covid-19 strictures.

Special thanks are extended to the York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust and the Guild of Media Arts for supporting this project. 

In addition to the broadcasts on Jonathan Cowap’s Sunday show, the York Radio Mystery Plays can be heard on BBC Sounds at bbc.co.uk/sounds.

Christie Barnes recording her part as Angel in Adam & Eve

The cast for Adam & Eve is:

God: Paul Stonehouse

Eve: Taj Atwal

Adam: Kane Hutchinson

Satan: Rory Mulvihill

Angel: Christie Barnes

The Flood Parts 1 & 2:

God: Paul Stonehouse

Noah: Mark Holgate

Noah’s wife: Rosy Rowley

1st Son: Joe Feeney

2nd Son: Stan Gaskell

3rd Son: Matthew Dangerfield

1st Daughter: Charlotte Wood

2nd Daughter: Fiona Baistow

3rd Daughter: Taj Atwal

Moses & Pharaoh:

Pharaoh: Paul Mason

1st Counsellor: Maurice Crichton

2nd Counsellor: Claire Norman

Moses: Andrew Squires

God: Paul Stonehouse

1st Youth: Christie Barnes

2nd Youth: Oliver Joseph Brooke

1st Egyptian: Matt Simpson

2nd Egyptian: Rachel Price

Rory Mulvihill experiments with recording his role as Satan in his shower cubicle by torchlight with his script pinned to the wall

Actors

Paul Stonehouse (God): Credits include Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, Blenheim Palace.

 Rory Mulvihill (Satan): Credits include many leading roles for York Light Opera Company in more than 35 years as a member; a long association as a performer in the York Cycle of Mystery Plays; York Theatre Royal community productions including Two Planks And A Passion, In Fog And Falling Snow and Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes.

Christie Barnes (Angel): A core member of Out Of Character Theatre Company.  Recently performed in Less Than Human and A View From The Bridge at York Theatre Royal, directed by Juliet Forster.

Andrew Squires (Moses). Actor and musician based in York, recently at York Theatre Royal in A View From The Bridge. Other theatre credits include: Uneasy Dreamers at Greenwich Theatre, Mr Brown’s Directions at Burton Constable, Time Out Of Mind at Greenwich Theatre, Democracy Of Oaks at The Fan Museum, London.

Mark Holgate (Noah). Credits include Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s DreamShakespeare’s Rose Theatre, York

Rosy Rowley (Noah’s wife). Reprising the role of Noah’s Wife from the 2012 production of the York Mystery Plays. Other credits include Blood + Chocolate, In Fog And Falling Snow, Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes,York Theatre Royal.

Joe Feeney (1st Son). Credits include Heaven’s Gate, Cosmic Collective Theatre.

Charlotte Wood (1st Daughter). Credits include For the Fallen, Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, In Fog And Falling Snow, York Theatre Royal; Kiss Me Kate, Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company.

Maurice Crichton (1st Councillor). Came to York as a student, qualifying as a solicitor in the city. He has been performing in amateur productions here for ten years, mostly with York Shakespeare Project and York Settlement Community Players.

He has strong links with the York Mystery Plays and played Pilate in The York Mystery Plays, 2012, Herod in York Minster Mystery Plays, 2016, and Soldier 1 in The Crucifixion on the Butchers’ wagon in 2018. He is secretary of the York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust.

SJT and National Literacy Trust unite for young writers’ online project Your Stories

Author Saviour Pirotta. Online story creation adventure. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre and the National Literacy Trust are calling on young writers across North Yorkshire to tell Your Stories.

Children’s author Saviour Pirotta, actor and poet Nadia Emam and illustrator Simon Whittaker are on the team for this new project: an online story creation adventure for five to 12 year olds.

For six weeks from Monday, June 1, daily content will be released via the National Literacy Trust’s local Facebook page to encourage creativity through story creation and reading for young people along the North Yorkshire coast.

This will include exercises on how to create characters and settings, such as storytelling bingo, role-playing, drawing comic strips and sound recording, and using all kinds of everyday things to create the adventure.

There will be short vlogs from Saviour Pirotta, writer of children’s novels The Orchard Book Of First Greek Myths, The Ancient Greek Mysteries Series and The Unicorn Prince, and Nadia Emam, who has worked extensively at the SJT and with Slung Low Theatre Company, including playing Gloriana in the BBC’s televised version of the Leeds company’s Flood: Part 2.

The pair also will give dramatic readings of some of the submitted stories and recommended books in the form of accessible e-books and audiobooks.

Nadia Emam: Dramatic readings

At the end of each week, illustrator Simon Whittaker, from House Of Deadleg, will create drawings based on stories submitted. He also will give video tutorials on creating illustrations.

The SJT’s associate director, Chelsey Gillard, says: “Participants can choose to engage every day, or just dip in and out as they like. By the end of the six weeks, they will have all they need to create an exciting adventure set in their hometown.

“Our artist will create illustrations of the characters and settings of the stories, as well as drawing elements from them to create one brilliant mega story curated by Saviour Pirotta.”

Liz Dyer, Our Stories manager, says: “We can’t wait to hear your stories. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Stephen Joseph Theatre on this project. Having the tools to tell your own story builds confidence in young people that supports them at school, at home and in the future.”

To take part in Your Stories, simply visit the Our Stories website.

The National Literacy Trust’s local Facebook page is: facebook.com/Our-Stories-Whitby-Scarborough-Filey-115012336805179/.

Harland Miller’s tale as we enter what would have been the last week of his York show…

Harland Miller in a quiet moment of coffee reflection at the February 21 opening of his homecoming York Art Gallery exhibition, later curtailed by the Covid-19 lockdown. Picture: Charlotte Graham

THIS week should have been the last chance to see York tragic-comic Pop artist and writer Harland Miller’s largest ever solo exhibition in his home city.

Four years in the talking and curating, Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named It Once was due to run at York Art Gallery from February 21 to May 31 2020, but then Covid-19 determined that the shutters should come down in the latter pages of March’s diary.

All artistic eyes may now be on Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 Monday night series Grayson’s Art Club, but here is one last opportunity to hear Miller’s tale, if you alas never saw the show featuring his best-known series, the Penguin Book Covers and the Pelican Bad Weather Paintings.

These works directly refer to the 56-year-old artist’s relationship with York, the city where he was born and grew up before moving to London, as well as making wider reference to the culture and geography of Yorkshire as a whole.

The titles are all sardonic statements on life: for example, York, So Good They Named It Once; Whitby – The Self Catering Years; Rags to Polyester – My Story and Incurable Romantic Seeks Dirty Filthy Whore.

In these works, he marries aspects of Pop Art, abstraction and figurative painting with a writer’s love of text, using his own phrases, some humorous and absurd, others marked by a lush melancholia.

In addition to the dust-jacket paintings, Miller was showing works from his recent Letter Painting series: canvasses made up of overlaid letters to form short words or acronyms in a format inspired by the illuminated letters of medieval manuscripts.

“I wanted to go as far the other way as possible and use just one word, one short word at that, and see if that word would convey as much as a whole sentence,” he says.  “I hoped the answer to this would be ‘yes’. In fact that was one of the first words I painted. YES.”

Significantly, Harland has not done a NO: testament to all that positivity the new works exude.

“If you’re wondering why I’m wearing dark glasses inside in February,” he said at the launch, “It’s because these works are so bright!”

“If you wondering why I’m wearing dark glasses inside, it’s because these works are so bright,” says Harland Miller. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Here Harland Miller answers a series of questions on York, art and more besides.

What do you recall of growing up in Yorkshire?

“Well…for me…looking back on it, it seems like it was great! Idyllic even. But can it have been? Really? I dunno. I understand nostalgia – the way that works, because it’s one of the main themes in my own work – so, when I look back, I do try not to get caught up in it. I think it’s just inevitable that you do, though.

“I mean I think its counter-intuitive to reminisce about the bad times…isn’t it? I think the key phrase is ‘growing up’ because – yes, there were definitely things happening that were not great and must have worried my mum and dad… like, say, the power cuts for instance

“But as a kid – growing up I only remember the [Three Day Week] black-outs as being great! I even looked forwards to them and was sad when the power came back on and showed up all the cracks.

“I think it was because, y’know, mainly, it was a time when the family were all together. I was the youngest of three. My brother Baz was ten years older (still is), so when I was like eight, he was 18 and out on his motorbike with his gang of biker mates called The Ton Up Gang.

“The Ton was slang for doing 100mph and back in those days wearing a helmet was not yet compulsory… so pretty stressful for my mum, I think.

“My sister Helen, she was five years older than me (and sadly died at 46, so is now not still five years older – in fact I’m now ten years older than she will ever be – but in my mind she is still my big sister, just as she was when she was 13 and seemed like quite the grown-up,  going to discos and the like).

“The Bop, I recall, in New Earswick was one such spot. And the Cats Whiskers up Fulford Road way. Such evocative names. I used to think, ‘Wow, Cats Whiskers! The Bop…Thee Bop! Wow! Must be so wild!”

“Maybe it was. I never went. I was too young to even hang round street corners then. So, I’d be in watching telly. Watching one of the three channels, one of which was BBC2, which didn’t ever seem to really broadcast anything apart from the test card.

“A young girl with a toy clown, I think. She’ll be getting on now, I imagine, that girl. But a little like my sister, she’s frozen in time – not just at that age but frozen in an era.

“Anyway, the point is that as a family we were all doing different things, and so I remember the ‘black-out’ bringing us all together round the kitchen table, playing these never-ending games of Monopoly by candlelight.

Ace! Becky Gee, curator of fine art at York Art Gallery, stands by a work that sums up the public reaction to Harland Miller’s biggest ever solo show. Picture: Charlotte Graham

“I loved that but, like I say, that was my experience of it. If that were happening now, I’d spend the whole black-out thinking, ‘Where is this heading?’ and my younger self might be in a bad mood because he couldn’t charge his phone.

“There were unadulterated good times too though, like ‘Factory Fortnight’. My dad worked at Rowntrees on Black Magic and in the summer we would go to Scarborough for a week and take a chalet on the front. That really was magic.

“I feel so sad when I go back and see some of those chalets all boarded up or vandalised – I mean who’d vandalise a chalet? How tough do you have to be to vandalise a chalet? Go and vandalise the offices of the person who decided to concrete over one of the best Art Deco pools I’ve ever seen on the South Bay – that was a criminal act! It’s now a roller-skating rink and I’ve never seen anyone on there roller skating.

“Anyway, apart from that, it’s hard to summarise a childhood in a few words but if pushed, I’d say – on very careful consideration and without bias – Yorkshire was the best place to grow up in the solar system!”

What are your memories of your early life as an artist?

“It began when I was at school. I was in a kind of remedial class called Peanuts and the aim was just to get through it. There were only two of us in it and we both liked and had some aptitude for art, so the school at some level decided to make every lesson an art lesson.

“But because there had to be a practical application to everything, I was asked to turn my talents to making some ‘Keep Our School Tidy’ posters. This was the first commission I ever had and led to many more

“After the posters were put up all around school, they proved a big hit and the hardest kid at the school asked me…asked me! Ha!…told me he wanted me to paint ‘Shakin’ Stevens’ on his denim jacket, I did. No choice really.

“That was a big hit too and from that I got a lot more commissions, not just from Shaky fans but Mods, Rockers, Punks, Soulies (those into Northern Soul) and guys into CB Radio (these were all guys as well – no girls into CB for some reason) and many more types besides.

“The prices were five quid for a denim jacket; more for a leather. Tenner for a lid. £12 for a full lid. Pretty soon I was making more than the teachers and I saw that you could do the thing that everyone said you could not – which was make a living as an artist.”

Wall to wall Harland Miller at York Arty Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

How have York and Yorkshire influenced your work?

“I could best describe this in a way by talking, not about my art, but another artist’s work who’s also from Yorkshire: David Hockney.  When Hockney was in England, he made paintings about Typhoo Tea and when he arrived in LA [Los Angeles], he was amazed and enthralled – if they are not the same thing – to see that people had swimming pools in their back gardens.

“It was as commonplace a thing to them as his mother’s back yard was to him. Consequently, because they were commonplace, nobody had ever thought about painting the pools under their noses, so to speak!

“But it took a guy coming from Yorkshire to say, ‘Wow, I’m gonna paint this…this isn’t real…I must be dreaming’ and in point of fact, there is that surreal quality to those works, I think.

“I suppose I’m presenting that old cliche of ‘taking the Yorkshireman out of Yorkshire’.  How’s it go? Y’know what I mean though? You can take the Yorkshireman out of Yorkshire.

“Also, my dad Ned, was something of a self-styled Communist. I remember waking past a restaurant with him and him looking in and saying, ‘Some of these fellas think nothing about having a glass of wine’.

“I recall thinking to myself, ‘Yeah…I’d like to think nothing about having a glass of wine too, instead of listening to you talking about central planning’, and in the spirit of rebellion, I told him I was moving to London.

‘What you gonna do there?’, he said. “It’s a pound for a cup of tea!” I replied that I was quite done with tea and all that and was gonna be living it up…on wine!”

Exit Yorkshire, enter Chelsea School of Art. What happened?

“When I got to London, it was borne in on me – almost immediately – not just how much I missed tea, but just exactly who I was.  Suffice to say, if I’d stayed in Yorkshire, I don’t think I would have made the Bad Weather Paintings, which are many things…many things… but high among those things, they are clearly celebratory.

“They are satire too, sure, but I am – I’ve been told – unusual in that I like bad weather, within reason of course.

“A while back a doctor told me ‘one bit of good news’ was my body stored vitamin D to an unusual degree, so I can go for a long time without biologically missing the sun…so I guess that could account for being immune to drizzle.

“And, if it’s not stretching it too much to say it’s there, is also that sense of identity with Yorkshire. We could call it ‘Vitamin Y’ maybe, something I store and carry around with me.

“Of course, I need to see the sun every now and then and I need to come back to Yorkshire intermittently too – though actually I come back a fair bit. Most of my family are still here.”

Harland Miller: Back home in the city that inspired his spoof Pelican book title. Picture: Charlotte Graham

How and why do you use text so prominently in your work?

“I can explain that best in the series from which the York painting [York, So Good They Named It Once] comes because, in this series, more than the other book paintings, I’ve tried to paint them in a way that evokes the subject which is suggested in the title.

“With the Bad Weather theme of course that style pretty much suggests itself and the properties of paint can be handled to evoke the sense of rain running down window panes, heavy sea, heavy cloud, indeterminable drizzle.

“Artists often talk about ‘light’ and they follow the light to St Ives or Florence or somewhere, but these paintings are the opposite of that, I think. They are more about, I don’t want to say the dark internal stuff, but can I say that anyway? Maybe I actually mean introspection.

“And maybe that’s maybe why people have this personal connection to the work, because it provides a moment of introspection.

“Humour also can break a form of tension that arises when looking at a work of art in a formal space. And this is important, this laughter thing, because after that tension is broken, there is a freedom behind it, I think, and that happens very rarely. Indeed, most artists would be pretty affronted if you laughed at their work.

“People used to write me and ask me what my work meant:  this was when it was abstract, and actually they used to ask what the hell it meant, but since I’ve been making work in which there is text – words, a suggested narrative – people write me and tell me what my work means to them!

“This is great because it obviously saves me the bother, but moreover, these stories are often incredibly personal and intimate and I never would ever want to say anything that might spoil or override the meaning that they had given it.

“Was it Samuel Beckett who said, ‘It means whatever you want it to mean’ in relation to Waiting For Godot? I really loved that feeling of a stripped-back set of references, park bench, two guys… the way it elevates the mundane…and waiting and waiting and that sense of an endless beginning.

“I thought, when I saw it, which was admittedly when I was 15, it was very positive and I hope that’s a sense that these paintings have too: a suggested narrative, a starting point.

“I mean there’s an obvious reference here to the moment you’re holding a book in your hand and contemplating the cover and the title too…and the story waiting for you inside…but I’m also playing with scale as an implied comment on the content of the book.” 

Artist Harland Miller removes his glasses at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

How was this solo show in York curated?

“Though we discussed many approaches and different styles of work to be included, it was obvious to all of us that the show was always going to be hung around the Bad Weather Paintings about Yorkshire towns – and it is!

“This series has been collected internationally, which is just wonderful to think of. Some of them I hadn’t seen since they left the studio. I happen to know, for example, the Bridlington painting is on permanent display in Texas – arid Texas! – so it only seemed right that they at some point should be shown here in York at the York City Art Gallery, the place where I first encountered painting. It’s great to see that painting in York.

“I’m not even going to say it’s a dream come true to show here because, back then, when I was a kid sneaking round the gallery feeling like I didn’t belong, it was actually beyond my wildest dreams to be showing here.

“And I think it’s been curated in that spirit – in the spirit of celebration… but also of the future. Even away from even away from the Bad Weather Paintings, the works we have chosen have been more positive examples of what’s on offer.

“This is ironic, really, as the one place on Earth where the black humour in the work is understood and will not get me misinterpreted is here in Yorkshire, but maybe we’ve second-guessed that.

“Even the Hell paintings are positive, and I think, I hope, the visitor will leave with a kind of an UP feeling.

“In fact UP is one of the letter paintings from the latest series. The name I’ve given the series, Letter Paintings, is a bit flat, I must say, but it literally comes from the illuminated letters that you find in a medieval manuscripts, which seem to need no extra fanfare!

“These letters were painstakingly hand drawn and coloured by the monks, where the first letter of the first word in these manuscripts were always given this highly detailed embellishment. It works as an intensifier really. It gives a fanfare to the page, to the first line.

“When I left school, I happened to be one 0-level short of the five you needed to get into art school and so they asked me if I wanted to come on the course and while there go to night school and take the requisite qualifications to stay on the course.

“I said ‘yes’ and was amazed you could take an A-level in lettering. That was how and when I encountered the monks’ art in detail for the first time. I loved it and actually rendered one of these illuminated letters for my final exam, I recall.

“My background in copying all sorts of heavy metal type fonts on to the backs of denim jackets really stood me in good stead for making a painting on parchment and it gave me a practised hand for rendering lettering too.

“But the best thing was it gave me a life-long appreciation of type faces and the art of hand lettering, For a while, I wanted to be a sign painter: a guy who went around painting those swinging signs you get above pub doorways in the country.

“But the other the thing I wanted to do, in this new series, was to try and convey a story – encapsulate a narrative – but not in an aphorism or maxim but in a single word.

“I wanted to go as far the other way as possible and use just one word, one short word at that, and see if that word would convey as much as a whole sentence. 

“I hoped the answer to this would be ‘yes’. In fact that was one of the first words I painted. YES.”

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

What are you saying about York in that picture title on a retro book cover, York, So Good They Named It Once, 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 being a Roman capital too.

“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 some old wasteland on Taddy Road [Tadcaster Road], that’s now a Tesco.

“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.”

What was Penguin’s initial reaction to your York artwork and other Penguin Book Covers?

“I tried to get Penguin to come round to it, but they were talking of suing me. But then in came a new CEO, John Makinson, who was a bit groovier than the previous one!

“The new CEO had received a picture of the York painting, and when Stephen Fry said ‘what nonsense to sue him, we need to back him’, it made an impact, so I have to say thank you to Stephen.

“I thought I was being invited to Penguin to get sued, but it went from that to being invited to lunch and John said, ‘I’d really like to commission something from you’. I was there with my [art] dealer Jay Jopling, from White Cube, and it became a commission for 14 works for their foyers etc.

“It was great not to be sued, but then maybe I felt it lost its edge, but I enjoy doing them so much and I’ve never said I’ll not do another one.”

Death, What’s in it For Me?, by Harland Miller, oil on canvas, 2007, copyright Harland Miller, Photo copyright: White Cube (Stephen White)

Why is Blackpool included in your Bad Weather Paintings series when all the others feature Yorkshire places such as Whitby, Scarborough, Bridlington and Sandsend?

“Blackpool is the exception that proves the rule! As a child I just assumed Blackpool was in Yorkshire because we only ever went to Yorkshire!

“What inspired that series is I remember there was a kind of re-branding of Britain going on in the 1980s, and I wondered if it was all being done from London, as it was chronic, and I thought ‘why can’t it be done in-house?’.

“I set about re-branding Yorkshire seaside towns and villages, but to say it wasn’t necessary because they retained their charm and didn’t need a Balearic feel to their branding as it doesn’t suit these towns with all their rain! I remember sheltering under kagools in the 1970s, and that’s what these paintings are a homage to.”

Words first, then imagery?

“Once I’ve decided on the text, then I’ll decide on how to paint them, but once I’m painting, then I lose the sense of what the words say and I’m just making sure it works as a painting.

“In fact, I have a wall of text in my studio that I can’t use because I can’t make the words work graphically.

“But I also know that if people don’t like the words, they won’t like the painting.”

Why do you enjoy playing with words?

“I like how by changing one letter, or one word, you can change the whole meaning, like ‘Have Faith In Cod’ for Scarborough or ‘Something Tells Me Nothing’s Going To Happen Tonight’ for Bridlington.

“When I lost my sister Helen, she requested her ashes be scattered in Scarborough, and the next morning there was a sea fret, and I remember looking out over the sea, and on the sand was written Have Faith In Cod, and when a dog ran through it, it changed it to God. It seemed apt. Helen did have faith in God…and in cod.”

The Miller’s tale: Harland Miller is writing his memoir. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Aside from painting, what else are you working on, Harland?

“I’m writing a memoir at the moment. In fact I’m way behind with it; I’m currently nine years old dreading being ten.

“Some people turn pale when I say I’m writing my memoir, which at first wasn’t an encouraging reaction, but they later explained they thought this was something that one did when one was nearing one’s end,  when the doctor has told you to get your affairs in order or, y’know, ‘not buy an LP’.

“But I think it’s not a bad idea to start it around now. I’m 56 and I think I’ve still got really good recall but that could change at any time, and it would be pretty – make that  very – frustrating to write a life story if you couldn’t remember any of it. That’s the way my dad went – with the Alzheimer’s. So distressing.  

“That’s why it was originally titled I’ll Never Forget What I Can’t Remember, but as I’m chronically superstitious, I’ve changed it to One Bar Electric Memoir.

“When I left home 37 years ago, my mum gave me a one-bar electric heater. It had frayed pre-war wiring and no handle, which made it very hard to carry. She said ‘there was no mad rush to bring it back’. It’s the one thing that’s been everywhere with me and, actually, I’ve still got it. It’s very reassuring.

“I plug it in when I’m writing and, as the filament heats up, it gives off this smell of, well, of a filament heating up, but it takes me right back to a million bedsits, almost more than the reflective dish behind, which gives off this insane orange reflection. It actually does feel like I’m plugging into the past.”

Luv action: Charles Hutchinson and Celestine Dubruel at the Harland Miller exhibition launch

Did you know?

Harland Miller designed the wedding invitation for pop star Ellie Goulding and art dealer Caspar Jopling’s service at York Minster in August 2019. “I’m her favourite artist,” says Harland.

Your chance to make an impact in 99 seconds on George’s lockdown playlist

“You have 99 seconds, starting now”: George Reid’s lockdown playlist rules

YORKSHIRE musician George Reid is spending his lockdown collaborating remotely with fellow musicians on the new platform The 99 Second Playlist.

“The platform was launched at the start of quarantine in March with the intention to keep musicians creative during lockdown,” says George, from Penistone, Barnsley. “I also wanted to spread positivity and help to expand people’s ears to music they may not have heard of before.”

Every Thursday, a video is released at 6pm via George’s YouTube page and this Thursday, May 28, will mark the project’s tenth week.

“Over those ten weeks, I’ve created a weekly audience of 300 people that will tune in to listen to the videos. The catch is that every single video must be under 99 seconds,” he says.

Yorkshire musician George Reid: Hoping to run his playlist project for 52 weeks

“The challenge is to get the best parts of any song into 99 seconds. Not only is this quite a challenge for musicians, but in a world where people flick through social media feeds so quickly, you’ve got a very limited amount of time to capture someone’s attention.

“It dissuades musicians from making long, self-indulgent music videos that we know people won’t watch. The goal is to create projects that musicians and audiences can enjoy in equal measure.”

Since March, George has collaborated with actors George Griffiths, from The Book Of Mormon’s international tour, Eilidh Loan, from Frankenstein’s UK Tour, and Tom Berkeley, from Buddy The Musical, and professional musician Alex Barton.  

Songs from The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran, Bill Withers and Les Misérables have featured in bite-size form so far.

George Reid: Musician, actor , playlist enthusiast

“I have plans to work with even more musicians in the coming months, and I’m aiming to get to 52 weeks of the playlist” says George.

“To follow my journey, you can search for The 99 Second Playlist on YouTube. Any musicians interested, or anyone wanting to hear a specific song, please get in touch at george@georgereid.com.”

For more information, visit georgereid.com/the99secondplaylist or YouTube search The 99 Second Playlist.

Pen portrait: George Reid

GEORGE is an actor and musician from Penistone, Barnsley. He trained at Guildford School of Acting, graduating in 2018, and has performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, and in two international Shakespeare tours. He has been gigging since the age of 15 around Leeds, Sheffield, Barnsley and Huddersfield.

Could Jorvik Viking Centre, DIG and Barley Hall visitor attractions reopen on July 4?

Back on track? Plans are under way for Jorvik Viking Centre to reopen in July

JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG: An Archaeological Adventure and Barley Hall are developing plans for re-opening, as soon as government Covid-19 advice deems it safe to do so. 

So much so that bookings are being taken for time slots from July 4, subject to governmental rubber-stamping.

As the summer season looms ever closer, the team at the three York attractions is exploring ways to make them accessible within social-distancing guidelines, including a move towards pre-booked visits only and extended opening hours over the summer.

A tentative re-opening is being planned for York’s retail sector from the start of June, prompting the director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, Sarah Maltby, to hope there will be “the critical mass of visitors for attractions to open in July”. Albeit this would be a somewhat different experience for visitors, taking into account requirements for cleaning and social distancing.

“Nobody really knows how people will react post-lockdown, but the best guidance we’re getting from the industry suggests that local people will stay close to home, with those living in tourism hotspots welcoming friends and relatives for short breaks,” says Sarah.

“Our own research shows people keen to return as soon as it is deemed safe to do so, and also if they are confident that attractions can provide a socially distanced experience, so we’re adapting our operating plans accordingly to manage low levels of visitor flow where this can be maintained.

DIG: An Archaeological Adventure: Plans to introduce enhanced series of presentations, protective equipment in the digging pits and more to see within the gallery spaces

“It is challenging, especially with indoor attractions, but we are no strangers to challenging circumstances and have a brilliant team who come up with innovative solutions to maintain great visitor experiences.”

One important change will be a move towards pre-booked visits only, in order to help control visitor flow and numbers, as well as extended hours over the key summer months.  “We will do away with the famous Jorvik queue around St Mary’s Square with clearly designated time slots for a limited number of visitors every 20 minutes,” says Sarah. 

“Within the building, in Coppergate, free-flow areas like the galleries will be more structured with presentations delivered by our Viking interpreters, rather than video content or handling sessions.”

Sarah continues: “The ride experience around the reconstructed Viking city will stay the same, albeit with increased cleaning regimes, and capsules will be exclusive to groups that arrive together.

“So we’re confident we can deliver a great experience where visitors can learn just as much as ever about the Vikings in York – in fact, some people will certainly prefer the far quieter experience, making it a great time for locals to rediscover the heritage on their own doorstep.”

Similar operational plans are being developed for Barley Hall, in Coffee Yard,  and DIG, at St Saviour’s Church, St Saviourgate, including relocating the Barley Hall shop to another part of the building, allowing greater space at the entrance for those visiting to wait for their time slots and creating a useful one-way system around the hall.

Barley Hall: Relocating the shop and creating a one-way system around the building

DIG will introduce an enhanced series of presentations, as well as protective equipment within the digging pits and more to see within the gallery spaces.

All sites will have sanitising hand gel available at regular points in the attraction, plus sneeze guards and floor markings. In addition, they have been implementing increased cleaning programmes since the pandemic first breached British shores, in particular fully disinfecting the attractions during the shutdown.

“As a charity, we rely on the income from our visitor attractions to support much of our research programmes, so we will do everything we can to keep these attractions open, operating and appealing, but safety has to come first,” says Sarah.

 “We are watching how the pandemic plays out, and will continue to adapt to the latest guidance and recommendations, so our visitors can be reassured that they can visit safely.” 

As trailed earlier, bookings are now being taken for time slots at the three attractions from July 4, pending confirmation from the Government that attractions and museums can open. 

Any updates and changes will be advised directly to ticket holders and shared across social media channels. In the meantime, virtual visitors can enjoy Discover From Home experiences on the Jorvik website: jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/discover-from-home.

“I nearly predicted it correctly – I just got the wrong virus,” says Alan Ayckbourn after Corona crisis puts paid to Truth Will Out

ALAN Ayckbourn’s play number 83, Truth Will Out, will not be out this summer after Covid-19 intervened, but spookily another virus struck the Stephen Joseph Theatre world premiere. From within.

Let Ayckbourn explain. “Truth Will Out is concerned with another type of virus, a virulent computer virus, though, which brings the country to a standstill.

“A type of doomsday scenario piece and perhaps not too cheering in these darker days. Still, I nearly predicted it correctly – I just got the wrong virus.”

Truth Will Out may yet have its day at the Scarborough theatre. “I do hope it won’t get lost or forgotten,” says Ayckbourn. “The SJT have agreed that this was merely a postponement. Shame to lose it as it’s a lot of fun. Watch this space, as they say.”

Gilbert and Sullivan Festival confirms 2021 performances at Harrogate Royal Hall

The National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company in the dress rehearsal for The Pirates Of Penzance in July 2018. Picture: Jane Stokes

THIS summer’s 27th International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Harrogate has been scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the festival organisers have put next summer’s festival line-up in place already.

As is custom, the 2021 festival will run at two locations, the original home of Buxton Opera House from July 31 to August 7 and Harrogate Royal Hall from August 8 to 22.

Taking part will be three professional companies, the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, Charles Court Opera and Forbear! Theatre, and amateur performers from Abbots Langley G&S Society, Brussels Light Opera, Bus Pass Opera, Peak Opera, Ploverleigh Savoy Players, SavoyNet Performing Group and Trent Opera.    

Harrogate dates for the 2021 diary are:

August 8, The Mikado, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 2.30pm; H.M.S. Pinafore, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 7.30pm.

August 9, Iolanthe, Peak Opera, 7.30pm.

August 10, The Gondoliers, Trent Opera, 7.30pm.

August 11, Iolanthe, Charles Court Opera, 2.30pm; Ruddigore, Charles Court Opera, 7.30pm.

August 12, The Pirates Of Penzance, Brussels Light Opera, 7.30pm.

August 13, The Yeomen Of The Guard,  Forbear! Theatre, 7.30pm.

August 14, Patience, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 2.30pm; The Mikado, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 7.30pm.

August 15, The Pirates Of Penzance, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 2.30pm; H.M.S. Pinafore, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 7.30pm.

August 16, Ruddigore, Abbots Langley G&S Society, 7.30pm.

August 17, The Mikado, Ploverleigh Savoy Players, 7.30pm.

August 18, Patience, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 2.30pm; The Pirates Of Penzance, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 7.30pm.

August 19, The Grand Duke, SavoyNet Performing Group, 7.30pm.

August 20, Princess Ida, Bus Pass Opera, 7.30pm.

August 21, H.M.S. Pinafore, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 2.30pm; Patience, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 7.30pm.

August 22, The Mikado, National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 2.30pm; The Pirates Of Penzance,  National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, 7.30pm.

A night at the light opera: The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, in a past year

This summer’s festival run in Harrogate from August 9 to 23 would have featured five new National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company productions: The Pirates Of Penzance and The Sorcerer, directed by Richard Gauntlett; rising star Rachel Middle’s HMS Pinafore; Simon Butteriss’s Patience and Alan Borthwick’s The Emerald Isle (or The Caves Of Carrig-Cleena), a work staged only rarely.

Further highlights were to have been Charles Court Opera’s smart, stylish new take on The Mikado, directed by John Savournin, and their new production of Iolanthe, plus Rachel Middle’s production of The Yeomen Of The Guard for Forbear! Theatre.

After the cancellation of the 2020 festival, the organisers have launched a streaming service at gsopera.tv to show “the very best of the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company and festival productions at home and abroad since 1994, plus many other G&S classics”.

“There’s something for everyone and our content will be constantly updated with new, exciting films for you to enjoy from the best seat in your house,” says festival trustee Bernard Lockett. “There’s free content to watch there too.

“You can watch gsopera.tv on your tablet, laptop, smart TV, smartphone or PC: anywhere with the internet. It’s easy to use and your purchases can be accessed on all your internet devices forever.

“Keep an eye out for our new weekly podcasts and webinars starring your festival favourites and Gilbert and Sullivan experts. They are coming soon and we can’t wait to share them with you. We are also selecting some outstanding films for an eagerly awaited virtual festival in August, so this year you can simply stay safely at home and enjoy being entertained.

“Gsopera.tv lets you re-live treasured memories and enjoy those magical performances that have made the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival such an amazing and unique event.”

Heaven is a place at York Barbican on Belinda Carlisle’s The Decades Tour

Carlisle to York: Belinda confirms Barbican date for October 2021 on The Decades Tour

CALIFORNIAN singer, musician and autobiographical author Belinda Carlisle will return to York Barbican on October 14 2021 on The Decades Tour, marking her 35-year solo career.

Now 61 and living in Bangkok, Thailand, with husband Morgan Mason, she last played the Barbican in September 2019 on her Runaway Horses 30th Anniversary Tour.

To go to Carlisle next autumn, tickets will be on sale from Friday, May 29 at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Belinda made her name as the lead singer of The Go-Go’s, the all-female band formed in Los Angeles in 1978, and enjoyed solo success with 1987 chart topper Heaven ls A Place On Earth, I Get Weak, Leave A Light On, Summer Rain, Circle In The Sand, Runaway Horses, In Too Deep and Always Breaking My Heart.

In 2010, she charted her colourful life story in her autobiography Lips Unsealed. In 2021, on The Decades Tour, she will “celebrate her rich musical catalogue and chameleonic musical prowess”.

The itinerary will close with Carlisle’s second Yorkshire show, playing Sheffield City Hall on October 30.

Truth Won’t Out, but a new lockdown Ayckbourn play will, and he’s acting in it. UPDATED WITH INTERVIEW

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney: Re-uniting as performers for the first time in 56 years in Anno Domino. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic decreed Truth Will Out would not be out this summer in Scarborough, Alan Ayckbourn responded by unlocking a new play in lockdown, Anno Domino.

Not only has he written it, but he is performing in the audio recording too, marking his return to acting, 58 years after his last appearance on a professional stage, no less.

What’s more, the 81-year-old playwright has teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, his co-star in that 1964 production, to record the new show, his 84th play.

Billed as a Stephen Joseph Theatre production, the world premiere of Anno Domino will be streaming for free exclusively on the SJT’s website, sjt.uk.com, from noon on Monday (May 25) to noon on June 25. 

Ayckbourn had been due to direct the world premiere of Truth Will Out, from August 20 to October 3, alongside his revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy of four birthdays, Just Between Ourselves, in an SJT summer season completed by artistic director Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers.

The domino effect: The Stephen Joseph Theatre poster for Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play, Anno Domino, streaming from May 25

However, once the SJT’s summer was scuppered by the Corona crisis, former radio producer Ayckbourn and Robinson hatched a plan to create a play that Ayckbourn and Stoney could record and present online.

Hey presto, Anno Domino, Ayckbourn’s audio account of the break-up of a long-established marriage and the domino effect that has on family and friends.

“The inspiration for Anno Domino came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand!” says Ayckbourn. “And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”  

Anno Domino marks the first time Ayckbourn has both directed and starred in one of his own plays, even providing the sound effects too. Performed by Ayckbourn and Stoney, with a final mix by Paul Steer, it requires the duo to play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s: Ayckbourn adjusting the pitch of his voice to denote Ben, Sam, Craig and Raz; Stoney, likewise, for Ella, Milly, Martha and Cinny.

This SJT audio recording is the first occasion they have acted together since Ayckbourn’s stage exit left in William Gibson’s two-hander Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964.

Multi-tasking: Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney: are playing four characters each in Anno Domino

Ayckbourn subsequently has pursued a prolific, glittering writing and directing career, all the way to Olivier Award and Tony Award success and a knighthood; Stoney continued to act, appearing in many Ayckbourn world premieres. Her last full season as an actress was at the SJT in 1985, when she appeared in the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind. 

Now they renew their performing partnership, enjoying “just mucking about in our sitting room,” as Ayckbourn put it.

Here Charles Hutchinson puts questions to writer, director, sound-effects foley artist and performer in lockdown, Alan Ayckbourn

What prompted you to respond to such dark times with a “lighter” piece?

“It was written long before this virus decided to rear its ugly head! Actually, before the SJT new play Truth Will Out. But the latter was an altogether darker piece and was concerned with another type of virus, a virulent computer virus, though, which brings the country to a standstill. A type of doomsday scenario piece and perhaps not too cheering in these darker days.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre poster for this season’s postponed world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s 83rd play, Truth Will Out

“Still, I nearly predicted it correctly – I just got the wrong virus. Anno Domino, though, is altogether lighter and more optimistic. (Though, knowing me, it still has its dark corners!)  

You are well accustomed to the discipline of working in isolation, but has it been in any way different under the present circumstances?

“No, the past couple of months has been no different to any other year, really. Though the past few days, I have suddenly felt the difference as this was the week when I was scheduled to start for this season’s AA revival, Just Between Ourselves, which I had not directed since I premiered it back in the ’70s in our first home at The Library Theatre. I was really looking forward to revisiting that.” 

There’s ring rusty and then there’s you returning to performing after 56 years! How’s the “muscle memory” after all those years?! 

“Well, I’ve been writing and directing throughout the intervening years. When I’m writing, I tend to say everything out loud, in character; when directing, I tend to say everything silently, under my breath but, of course, NEVER out loud! Most off-putting that would be for the actors, poor things.”  

Heather Stoney and Alan Ayckbourn in William Gibson’s American two-hander Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964. “We were both totally unsuitable,” recalls Ayckbourn

What do you recall of your last stage appearance in 1964, again with Heather and again in a two-hander?

“It was a production of an American two-hander by William Gibson, in which we were both totally unsuitable. I played, whilst still in my twenties, a middle-aged businessman from Omaha, Nebraska, originally played by Henry Fonda. Heather did her version of Anne Bancroft’s performance as a young Jewish dancer from the Bronx. Hallo and goodnight Rotherham, Yorkshire!” 

What are the plus points of an audio recording, as opposed to a stage performance? What possibilities does it open up?

“Interestingly, audio and in-the-round stage performance are very similar. People always say with radio plays, that they enjoy them ‘because they ask you to use your imagination’. People say similar things when watching plays in-the-round. The only difference is that audio has no pictures!”

Any thoughts on what may now happen to Truth Will Out?

“I do hope it won’t get lost or forgotten. The SJT have agreed that this was merely a postponement. Shame to lose it as it’s a lot of fun. Watch this space, as they say.”

Lastly, how would you interpret the instruction to Stay Alert?

“Keep your eyes peeled, your head down and look both ways before sneezing!”

Game Of Thrones star David Bradley and comedian Rosie Jones become patrons for Theatre @41’s exciting plans post-Covid

York actor David Bradley: New patron at Theatre @41, Monkgate, York

GAME Of Thrones and Harry Potter actor David Bradley is among a host of new patrons pledging their support to Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

York-born Bradley, 78, who also starred in Broadchurch and played Jesus Christ in the 1976 York Mystery Plays, is joined by Bridlington-born Rosie Jones, a comedian, actress and scriptwriter, from 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Mock The Week, who has cerebral palsy, and New York playwright/composer Stephen Dolginoff, whose shows Thrill Me: The Leopold And Loeb Story and Monster Makers played in York in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Comedian Rosie Jones: Supporting Theatre @41’s plans for the future

Further names to wade in with their backing are actors Karen Henthorn, from the National Theatre’s War Horse, In The Flesh and The Trouble With Maggie Cole, and John McArdle, from Brookside, Emmerdale and Frantic Assembly’s Things I Know To Be True at York Theatre Royal in November 2017.

The board also welcomes Felicity Cooper, daughter of the theatre’s founder, the late John Cooper, and former chairman Jim Welsman, who worked tirelessly within the York arts scene, first as chairman of York Musical Theatre Company, then as founder and director of the York New Musical Festival, before retiring from the Monkgate theatre’s board last year.

New patron Karen Henthorn. Picture: Neilson Reeves

“Our new patrons have agreed to ensure this intimate venue not only survives but thrives through the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond,” says Joe Wawrzyniak, who succeeded Jim in the chairman’s post last autumn.

“The charity’s board of trustees approached them as part of an exciting development plan for Theatre @41, enlisting a host of patrons to get people talking about this hidden gem as we make ambitious plans for post-lockdown.”

Actor John McArdle: Pledging support to Theatre @41

Theatre @41 opened in 1998, under the inspirational leadership of John Cooper, who transformed the Victiorian building from scratch into a black-box theatre. Now, the venue, with rehearsal rooms and a dance studio to boot, plays host to York Stage Musicals, Pick Me Up Theatre, Once Seen Theatre Company, York Shakespeare Project and Rigmarole Theatre, among others.

Alexander Flanagan Wright’s cult-hit immersive jazz-age production of The Great Gatsby had a swell time there too, staged by The Guild Of Misrule in winter 2016 and 2018.

From New York to York: Playwright and composer Steven Dolginoff backs the way ahead for Theatre @41 from across the Pond

“Theatre @41 gives York an intimate performance space alongside bigger venues such as the York Theatre Royal and Grand Opera House, in much the same way London’s Menier Chocolate Factory and Southwark Playhouse are as vital to the capital’s arts scene as the big West End theatres,” says Joe.

“Looking ahead, we have a great vision for Theatre@41 and we want to shout it from the rafters. What better way to get started than to involve a high-profile group of patrons who are all passionate about the arts? Everyone is keen to get involved: we’re very lucky to have this wonderful new group on board.”

Jim Welsman: former chairman, now patron

Joe adds: “We’re home to Nik Briggs’s York Stage School, which encourages young people to get involved in performance; Robert Readman’s Pick Me Up Theatre, who regularly present new writing and premieres, and Once Seen Theatre Company, who specialise in working with adults with learning and physical disabilities. We can now boast patrons who represent some of the areas of the arts that we work in.

“It’s our mission to keep the vibrant, inclusive spirit of Theatre@41 going, and for this fabulous, versatile venue to continue to grow.  Our new patrons will be there to help us all the way.”

Nothing happening in these slightly loosened Lockdown limbo days. Everything called off. Here are More Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 6

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

EXIT 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future in Stay Alert, but still sort-of-inert, Baby-Step Britannia. Make do with home entertainment, wherever you may be, in whatever configuration that you interpret the Government’s green-for-go rules now permits in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. From behind his door ajar, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney in their Scarborough garden. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Arts event of the week ahead and beyond: Alan Ayckbourn’s Anno Domino, online from May 25 to June 25

WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic meant Truth Will Out would not be out this summer at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, Alan Ayckbourn responded by writing a new play in lockdown, Anno Domino.

And not only write and direct it, but perform in the audio recording too, marking his return to acting, 58 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.

What’s more, former radio producer Ayckbourn, 81, has teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, his co-star in that 1964 production, to record the new show.

His 84th play takes the form of an audio account of the break-up of a long-established marriage and the domino effect that has on family and friends, Ayckbourn and Stoney playing four characters each, aged 18 to 75. “We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says Ayckbourn, who also supplied the sound effects.

The world premiere of Anno Domino will be available for free exclusively on the SJT’s website, sjt.uk.com, from noon on Monday, May 25 to noon on June 25. 

York Musical Theatre Company in Off-Stage But Online 2, Sunday, 7.30pm

AFTER the success of the inaugural Off-Stage But Online! concert on April 26, York Musical Theatre Company return with a second digital performance on Sunday, live on the company’s YouTube channel from 7.30pm.

This weekend’s programme is compiled by musical director Paul Laidlaw again and features 25 numbers performed at home by Matthew Ainsworth, Jessa & Mick Liversidge, John Haigh, Eleanor Leaper, Chris Hagyard and Florence Taylor, among others.

Expect video recordings of numbers from Rent, Les Miserables, Heathers, A Chorus Line, Follies, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Company and Showboat.

Fieri Consort: Online concert from the National Centre for Early Music archives

National Centre for Early Music streamed concerts, May 30 and June 13

THE NCEM, in Walmgate, York, continues to share concerts from its archive on Facebook and online. The next will be on Saturday, May 30, featuring one of the last concerts by the European Union Baroque Orchestra, captured in March 2017.

On June 13 comes the chance to enjoy music by past winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, a double bill featuring Fieri Consort from 2017 and last year’s winners L’Apothéose.

To view these concerts for free at 1pm, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk.

Barbara Marten in the role of Heworth housewife and suffragette Annie Seymour Pearson in York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre’s community production Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes

Still streaming: Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, York Theatre Royal Collective Arts programme

YORK Theatre Royal is streaming the 2017 community play Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes for free on its YouTube channel until May 31.

Co-produced with Pilot Theatre, this outdoor and indoor production was performed by a community cast of 150 and a choir of 80, taking the form of a protest play that recalled how women in York ran safe houses, organised meetings, smashed windows and fire-bombed pillar boxes as part of the early 20th century Suffragette movement.

“Now the stage is dark and the streets are empty, but looking back to the way in which that show brought people together, inspiring them in so many ways, is a wonderful reminder of the power of theatre and community,” says playwright Bridget Foreman.

York artist Sue Clayton’s stairs, newly painted in rainbow-coloured trim

Activity of the week: Decorating your house in the bright spring light

BE inspired by York portrait artist Sue Clayton, whose painting of Sainsbury’s trolley attendant Andrew Fair, from her York Heroes series in 2018, appeared on the first episode of Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 show Grayson’s Art Club.

“The urge to paint left me temporarily, which frightened me, but home decorating began instead and my creativity was encouraged this way, from ripping up the stairs carpet and painting the stairs in rainbow colours to remember this period, through to painting a cupboard with a Chinese heron/crane,” she says.

Maybe a Chinese heron would be too ambitious as a starting point, but painting the stairs in rainbow colours…?

 Jeff Beck: New date for York Barbican show in 2021

Still keep trying to find good news

LEEDS Festival in late-August, cancelled. York Early Music Festival’s summer of Method & Madness in July, off. Jeff Beck at York Barbican this week, not now. The list of cancellations shows no sign of coming to an end, but always look on the bright side of strife by seeking out updates on websites.

Leeds Festival at Bramham Park will return in 2021; so too will York Early Music Festival. As for Jeff Beck: there is a hi-ho silver lining there too. The legendary Wallington guitarist and two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, now 75, has re-arranged his gig for April 22 2021.

Jonathan Williams’s stained-glass artwork for our Corona crisis times 

Clap for Carers

STAND by your doors, bang a gong, at 8pm every Thursday, no excuses. Theatre-goers, concert-goers, save your hand-clapping for our NHS doctors, hospital staff, carers, volunteers and key workers.

If one work of art encapsulates a city in gratitude, and in prayer, step forward Jonathan Williams’s stained glass window of York Minster and York Hospital in rainbow union.

Lips/ink: A pensive Simon Armitage, Yorkshireman of words, both spoken and written

And what about…

NEW albums by Badly Drawn Boy, The 1975 and The Dears. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s new series of interviews on BBC Sounds and his appearance and musical choices on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. Channel 4’s Gogglebox for weekly political insight. Going to a garden centre, where plant salvation awaits.

 

York Musical Theatre Company go online for second digital performance on Sunday

AFTER the success of their inaugural Off-Stage But Online! concert on April 26, York Musical Theatre Company return with a second free digital performance on Sunday, live on the company’s YouTube channel from 7.30pm.

This weekend’s programme is compiled again by director Paul Laidlaw and features 25 numbers performed at home by Matthew Ainsworth, Jessa and Mick Liversidge, John Haigh, Eleanor Leaper, Chris Hagyard and Florence Taylor, among others.

Expect video recordings of numbers from Rent, Les Miserables, Heathers, A Chorus Line, Follies, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Company and Showboat.

Musical director John Atkin opens Off-Stage But Online 2! with the Star Wars theme on piano, leading into Chris Jay’s Till I Hear You Sing, from Love Never Dies; Holly Inch’s It Means Beautiful, from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and John Haigh and daughter Sofia’s Don’t Rain On My Parade, from Funny Girl.

Peter Wookie performs Ol’ Man River; Sarah Pollard and Charly Wetherell, For Good, from Wicked; Mick Liversidge, Bless Your Beautiful Hide, from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers; Kaia Stainton, Lifeboat, from Heathers; Matthew Clare, King Of The World, and Eleanor Leaper, No-One But You, from We Will Rock You.

Matthew Ainsworth’s pick, accompanied by “And All”, is Seasons Of Love, from Rent; Amy Lacey, I Have A Dream, from Mamma Mia!; John Atkin and Cathy Atkin, By My Side, from Godspell; Sarah Pollard, Holding Out For A Hero, from Footloose, and David Martin, Only Love, from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Next, Charly Wetherell sings When Will My Life Begin?, from Tangled; Chris Mooney, Heaven On Their Minds, from Jesus Christ Superstar; Rachel Higgs, Taylor, The Latte Boy; Helen Barugh and Peter Wookie, Falling Slowly, from Once, and Jessa Liversidge, Losing My Mind, from Follies.

Matthew Ainsworth returns for Bring Him Home; Flo Taylor performs Nothing, from A Chorus Line; Chris Gibson, Anyone Can Whistle; Jessa and Mick Liversidge, It’s The Little Things, from Company, and John Haigh, Somewhere, from West Side Story.

To watch Sunday’s online concert, tap in: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiTrGyeP93_to9uYOsvoS4w.

Mad Alice takes Bloody York Gin Tour online for nightmare nights in York shockdown

Gin up: Mad Alice may have vacated the streets of York in Coronavirus lockdown but now she is going online. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

AWARD-WINNING York tour guide Mad Alice is going online from Friday to offer free nightmares to people already suffering the torture of lockdown in Europe’s most haunted city.

Mad Alice’s Bloody York Gin Tour revels in stories of hangings, beheadings and poisonings, but comes with the antidote of being interspersed with gin tastings of York Gin’s Navy Strength Outlaw and the like in between her accounts of the horrible histories of York’s baddies, Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin et al.

Mad Alice – the alias of Alicia Stabler – won Best Experience at Visit York’s Tourism Awards last month and has decided to move her tour online to Facebook and YouTube while the city’s tourism industry is on hold.

“I’m normally run off my feet by this stage in the year but the Coronavirus pandemic has put paid to tourism for a while, so we’re going online,” she says. “I’ve been a tour guide in York for years and there’s not much horrible history I don’t know.

“History buffs, people with a morbid fascination with gruesome deaths, as well as gin lovers and people who just want to be entertained, love my tour. I hope they’ll enjoy it online. I know it’s not the same as actually being here, but you’ll definitely get a feel for York’s bloody awful history. And if you have a glass of gin in your hand, your nerves shouldn’t be too shot at the end.”

Ah, gin. That’s the tonic. Those who want the full experience, with gin tasting included, can buy a York Gin tasting collection, with free UK delivery, at https://www.yorkgin.com/product/tasting-collection-of-5-miniatures

York Gin directors and York tour guide Mad Alice Alicia Stabler at the York Gin Outlaw photo-shoot in bygone days before social distancing. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Looking forward to Mad Alice’s online shows, Emma Godivala, of York Gin, says: “The Mad Alice tour is legendary in York. It’s insightful, entertaining and ghastly but mostly lots of fun.

“York is an amazing place and we hope the Bloody York Gin Online Tour will give people a taste of what tourists can expect to experience when we’re back up and running.”

The first Bloody York Gin Online Tour takes place on Facebook at 6pm on Friday (May 22) with a recording available afterwards on YouTube. To register for the free tour, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1165414407136334/.

For a one-minute preview of Mad Alice’s tour, head to this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/Bd80ZWpxNR0

Did you know?

THE York Gin shop occupies the ground floor of a 16th-century Tudor building with links to Charles I in Pavement, York. Voted the city’s best shop at the 2020 Visit York Tourism Awards, the premises are closed under the lockdown prohibitions.

York Gin makes such gins as Best English Old Tom, featured at the World Gin Awards held in January this year.

2020 York Early Music Festival CANCELLED

The poster and brochure cover for the now cancelled 2020 York Early Music Festival

THE 2020 York Early Music Festival, Britain’s biggest event in its field, is off.

“Following current government advice on the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Centre for Early Music has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 festival, due to take place this July,” says administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin.

“Regretfully, we have finally had to take this decision for the safety of our artists and audiences. This is hugely disappointing for everyone involved, and indeed the hospitality industry in York. 

York countertenor Iestyn Davies’s Bach concert should have been a festival high point. . Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

“The festival, started in 1977, is the UK’s largest festival of its kind and is firmly established within the cultural calendar. I would like to thank our wonderful patrons, friends, funders and supporters who have helped us at this difficult time.  Many have donated and we are hugely appreciative of everyone’s kindness.” 

The 2020 festival was to have run from July 3 to 11 with a theme of “the Method & Madness of musical styles, from the wild excesses of the Italian Renaissance, through the soothing virtuosity of Bach, to the towering genius of Beethoven”.

Among the artists would have been York’s international countertenor Iestyn Davies, performing Bach: Countertenor Arias with Scottish instrumentalists the Dunedin Consort; The Sixteen, singing The Call Of Rome at York Minster, directed by Harry Christophers, and Barokksolistene, from Norway, with their vivacious festival opener, Alehouse.

Barokksolistene: Norwegians would have opened the 2020 York Early Music Festival. Picture: Knut Utler

Lined up to take part too were Rose Consort of Viols; Voces Suaves; Prisma; Profeti della Quinta; L’Apothéose; Hubert Hazebroucq & Julien Martin and The Society of Strange & Ancient Instruments, launching their Trumpet Marine project.

Further concerts in the festival diary were by the University Baroque Ensemble; harpsichordist Steven Devine and Consone Quartet. Festival stalwart Peter Seymour would have directed a performance of Handel’s opera Orlando, with Carolyn Sampson, Helen Charlston and Matthew Brook among the soloists.

Delma has confirmed the 2021 festival will run from Friday, July 9 to Saturday, July 17.  “Guest artists scheduled to join us next summer include The Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, Brecon Baroque, led by violinist Rachel Podger, and gamba specialist Paolo Pandolfo,” she says. Further highlights will include the 2021 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

L’Apothéose: Winners of the 2019 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, featuring in the June 13 online archive concert. Picture: Jim Poyner

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, York, will continue to share concerts from its archive on Facebook and online in its 20th anniversary year. Next up, on May 30 at 1pm, will be one of the last concerts by the European Union Baroque Orchestra, recorded in March 2017.

On June 13 comes the chance to enjoy music by past winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, a double bill of Fieri Consort from 2017 and last year’s winners, L’Apothéose.

To view these concerts for free, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Director of the National Centre for Early Music and administrative director of the York Early Music Festival

The 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival is still in the diary, with Delma working on the programme at present.

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust seeks director for December’s A Nativity for York

Babe in arms: Raqhael Harte’s Mary with the infant Jesus in York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s A Nativity for York at the Spurriergate Centre, York, last December. All pictures: John Saunders

YORK Mystery Plays Supporters Trust is seeking a director for its second production of A Nativity for York, planned for December 2020.

The launch follows the trust’s decision to keep the York Mystery Plays’ tradition alive by staging an annual nativity play.

The YMPST organisation has issued a briefing notice, asking potential candidates to apply before midnight on Saturday, May 30, sending initial ideas for the play on one side of A4 plus a CV.

Wise move: Stephanie Walker’s King seeks the infant Jesus in 2019’s A Nativity for York

In keeping with the existing performance traditions, the mission is to look at medieval nativity plays as a source for the production. 

An information pack is available and applicants are asked to send emails to the YMPST chair at linda.terry@ympst.co.uk. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview, probably via video link, on Tuesday, June 16.

Chair Linda Terry says: “Last year we achieved our aim to make the production both visible and accessible. We were delighted that A Nativity for York at the Spurriergate Centre appealed to so many in the community, to both residents and visitors to the city.

Stable relationship: Raqhael Harte’s Mary and Chris Pomfrett’s Joseph with the new-born Jesus in last December’s A Nativity for York

“The trust believes that we can build on the success of 2019 with another innovative production as part of the city of York’s Christmas festival.”

As demonstrated by last December’s debut, directed by Philip Parr, the objective is to keep alive the skills, support and enthusiasm generated through the many productions of the York Mystery Plays over the years.

The trust has confirmed that the Spurriergate Centre, in Spurriergate, will host the 2020 performances, starting in mid-December.

“In the event that this cannot take place because of the pandemic restrictions, all initial work will be rolled over to 2021 or an alternative medium for performance will be considered,” says Linda.

Are you ready to be heartbroken by Teddy Thompson’s break-up album and Pock gig?

Teddy Thompson: Joining the long-running break-up album club. Picture: Gary Waldman

TEDDY Thompson, the English singer and songwriter long resident in New York City, will play Pocklington Arts Centre on January 22 2021.

He will be showcasing his sixth solo studio album, Heartbreaker Please, set for release on May 29 on Thirty Tigers, a launch put back from its original April 24 pitch.

Teddy, 44-year-old son of folk luminaries Richard and Linda Thompson, will be supported by another artiste with a folk-roots heritage: Roseanne Reid, eldest daughter of The Proclaimers’ Craig Reid.

“Here’s the thing, you don’t love me anymore,” sings the frank Thompson on his new album. “I can tell you’ve got one foot out the door.”

From the off, Heartbreaker Please wrestles with the breakdown of love with wistful levity and devastating honesty. The songs are drawn from the demise of a real-life relationship, set against the backdrop of New York City, the place Thompson has called home for the better part of two decades, having left London for the USA at 18 and settled in the Big Apple five years later.

“I took a summer vacation that never ended,” he says. “In retrospect, I was trying to reinvent myself. It was easier to leave it all behind, go somewhere new and declare myself an artist. And you can actually re-invent yourself in America; step off the plane, say ‘my name is Teddy Thompson, I’m a musician’.”

Six albums have arrived since 2000, spanning rock and country, pop and folk. “Who do I sound like? I think I sound like myself,” Thompson says. “There’s a strong element of British folky in me, it’s in the blood, and I heard the wonderful music of my parents around me as a young child.

The artwork for Teddy Thompson’s new album, Heartbreaker Please

“Then there was the 1950s’ American pop and country that I fell in love with, plus the ’80s’ pop music that was in the charts at the time.”

From a young age, Sam Cooke, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry and The Everly Brothers made up the bulk of Thompson’s listening, along with select contemporary tunes heard on Top Of The Pops: A-ha, Culture Club and Wham.

“As a teenager, I couldn’t talk to my friends about Fifties’ rock’n’roll. I wasn’t cool enough to be that different. I’d say Crowded House was the first contemporary band I really found that I liked, that was socially acceptable,” he says.

“Today? I like to think my taste in music is catholic, I listen to whatever catches my ear, I don’t care about genre. There’s only two types of music, good and bad.”

On Heartbreaker Please,Thompson incorporates elements of Sixties’ doo-wop on Record Player and Eighties’ synth sounds on the epic No Idea, but his first musical love always will be rock’n’roll, country and pop.

“I’m completely enamoured with the three-minute pop song,” he says. “Maybe it’s conditioning if you hear enough of it, but the brevity of those songs, I always thought that was ideal. Trim the fat.

“Those songs are from a time when the song itself was important and would live on. If it was great, people would cover it. So, I still think that way, write a great song first. I try to be succinct and witty, but also cut to the heart in a matter of two or three minutes. I may never write a song as good as Chuck Berry’s Maybelline or The Everly Brothers’ Cathy’s Clown, but those are the touchstones for me.” 

Richard Thompson, Teddy’s father, was booked to play Pocklington’s now postponed Platform Festival this summer

In a departure for Thompson, at the [broken] heart of Heartbreaker Please are references to someone else doing the heart-breaking. “I’m usually the one who does that!” he says. “A defence mechanism, of course, but all of a sudden I was the one on the back foot. I was the ‘plus 1’, and I admit, I didn’t deal with it very well. But also, don’t date actors.”

The relationship ended just as Thompson was finishing writing the songs that would become Heartbreaker Please. “I tend to write sad songs, slow songs. It’s what comes naturally,” he says.

“So I tried to make an effort here to set some of the misery to a nice beat! Let the listener bop their heads while they weep.”

After releasing his self-titled debut in 2000, Thompson went on tour as part of Roseanne Cash’s band. Since then he has collaborated with good friends Martha and Rufus Wainwright and contributed to numerous tribute projects, most notably two songs for the Leonard Cohen covers’ collection, I’m Your Man, and two to the Nick Drake retrospective, Way To Blue, too.

Thompson has produced albums for Americana singer-songwriters Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne, Dori Freeman and his mother, Linda Thompson. Last year, he added Roseanne Reid’s debut, Trails, to that list: an album that featured a duet with Steve Earle, by the way.

Teddy’s father, Richard Thompson, was to have played the closing concert at this summer’s Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington, on July 15 but the event was de-railed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations are under way with all the acts, Thompson included, to take part in the 2021 festival.

Tickets for Teddy Thompson’s 8pm gig are on sale at £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Go compare! 2021 bill for Castle Howard’s music weekend will be exactly the same as 2020 postponed shows, Wynne Evans et al

Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, from the Go Compare adverts, performing at The Proms Spectacular at Castle Howard last summer. Picture: Charlotte Graham

CASTLE Howard is postponing this summer’s live music weekend until 2021.

Running from August 21 to 23, the 2020 bill would have comprised the al fresco Proms Spectacular with Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, Café Mambo Live and Queen Symphonic.

“The summer spectacular weekend was set to draw audiences from all over the country to enjoy a varied programme of music, from Land Of Hope And Glory to Ibiza chill to Bohemian Rhapsody,” today’s official statement says. “Now the whole weekend will be picked up and placed on the equivalent weekend next August.”

The North Yorkshire country house management team and event partners LPH Concerts have taken the decision after “much deliberation and careful consideration of the advice from the British government around the Coronavirus pandemic” and its prohibitive social-distancing measures.

The Hon Nicholas Howard, of Castle Howard, near York, says: “It is incredibly disappointing to have to cancel any events, particularly outdoor concerts for which people plan ahead for many months, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in current circumstances – the safety of our visitors and staff is paramount.

No fireworks at Castle Howard this summer after the postponement of the August live music weekend. Picture: Charlotte Graham

“The artists due to perform share our disappointment but have all agreed to come back next summer to delight the Yorkshire audiences at Castle Howard’s natural amphitheatre. Something to look forward to, if a little further into the future.”

LPH Concerts say: “While lockdown measures are being slowly lifted across the UK, it is with sadness that we are announcing these postponements. In the background, we have been studying guidance and taking advice from the industry safety professionals.


“As independent event producers, we have a passion for the music and events we produce, however the most important factor is you, our loyal customers. Many of you over the years have become friends and supporters and as such your safety and enjoyment of our events is our priority.

“We also have a loyal, hardworking team and suppliers to safeguard too and therefore we have made the difficult decision to postpone until 2021.

“The good news is that the artistes, Castle Howard and our suppliers are fully behind us and…we’ll be back with a heightened spring in our production for you all to enjoy. Stay safe and we hope we will see you before too long.”

All ticket holders will be receiving an email shortly from their point of purchase with further information.

Castle Howard and its grounds remain closed to the public, with the team closely following government advice so that it can reopen promptly with appropriate safety measures in place once lockdown is lifted.

We’re expecting the gardens and grounds to be first to open, as exploring the outdoors and getting lots of fresh air appears to be very much in line with recommendations for safe things to do,” says Nicholas Howard.

“We’ll continue to monitor when and how we might be able to re-open the house in due course. In the meantime, our farm shop continues to provide locals with fresh fruit, vegetables and butchery staples, while the garden centre has now also re-opened with social-distancing measures in place, so those staying at home can give their green spaces a bit of a boost.

“We would like to thank you all for your patience and support during these difficult times.”

For more information on the farm shop and garden centre, or to keep up to date with the latest Castle Howard news, stay alert at castlehoward.co.uk.

Jane Poulton travels from stardust to stardust for digital Scarborough gallery

Curl, by Jane Poulton, from her From Stardust To Stardust gallery

WELCOME to From Stardust To Stardust, a new Instagram gallery by artist Jane Poulton for Scarborough Museums Trust’s innovative series of digital commissions.

Poulton’s seven photographic and text-based images “consider how personal objects can bring to mind moments of deep emotion from our own private histories”.

One photographic artwork will be released each day on the social media platform @scarboroughmuseums for seven days from Tuesday, May 26. The gallery subsequently will be available on the website scarboroughmuseumstrust.com

The trust wants From Stardust To Stardust to be accessible to everyone, so the gallery will include image descriptions and audio files for those who might find them helpful. 

Poulton says: “During exploratory work for this project, I used cherished objects of my own to suggest similarities between museum collections and objects we hold dear ourselves.

Gryphaea, by Jane Poulton, from the From Stardust To Stardust series of seven images for Scarborough Museums Trust

“For example, a gryphaea fossil I found on my local beach gave me – the moment I held it in my hand – a flash of insight into the theory that every living thing on our planet comes from, and returns to, stardust. That brought me great comfort.”

“From stardust to stardust” was the phrase Poulton used to describe that experience. “It’s now the title for this project, which reflects on moments of personal uncertainty, fear or loss – my own and other people’s – through small objects that recall those times,” she says. 

“Though charms or mementos such as these have no measurable influence on the course of events, their power lies in what, or who, they represent.”

From Stardust To Stardust forms part of a series of digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust in response to the Corona crisis. The trust has asked Poulton, Kirsty Harris, Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat and Feral Practice to create digital artworks to be released online across social media platforms over the next four months. 

Originally trained in textiles, Poulton is a visual artist and writer who creates “socially engaged participatory projects that create a long-term impact and lasting legacy”. She has worked on many projects with members of the public, not least distinctly identified groups, particularly within community learning settings, where she aims to build confidence and give a voice to those whose views otherwise might not be heard.

Only One Question for…York portrait artist Sue Clayton on the art of painting faces

The eyes have it: Sue Clayton’s new portrait of Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal for #portraitsfornhsheroes

If eyes are “the window to the soul”, does that make them the most difficult facial feature to paint?

“FOR me, eyes are not the hardest things to paint but as a general rule – unlike many other portrait artists – I always paint the eyes last.

“To me they are the cherry on the cake and if I painted them first I wouldn’t give the rest of the face the attention it needs. 

“I can get very excited about skin/flesh, the colours there and how everything around a person reflects and changes the tone. Fascinating stuff…well, to me anyway!

“Arguably, I would say an open-mouth smile is the hardest part to paint: very hard to get natural looking.”

Sue Clayton has painted Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal for the #portraitsfornhsheroes project, from photographs sent by Rachel’s husband, Greg.

“One image particularly drew my attention: her smile beaming and her hands held up in a heart shape,” says Sue.

After York Heroes, Sue Clayton paints Covid ward nurse Rachel for NHS Heroes portrait as the heart and the art come together

“Vibrant, young, positive”: The qualities radiating from Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal in a photograph that inspired Sue Clayton to paint her for the #portraitsfornhsheroes” national project

YORK Heroes artist Sue Clayton is participating in the nationwide #portraitsfornhsheroes initiative.

Her subject is Rachel Beal, a “vibrant, young, positive” nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham, who Sue has never met but was struck by one photograph of her in particular.

“The initiative was created in early April by Tom Croft, an Oxford artist who was on the 2018 Sky Portrait Artist series,” says Sue, from Wigginton, York.

“The idea was to celebrate our NHS heroes in portraits, to which he invited artists to participate. On our social media sites we posted a green canvas to say ‘I’m offering a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to contact me’, and the finished portrait is then posted to the ‘model’ as a thank-you.”

Sue’s offer received an immediate response. “I was delighted that within two minutes I had a request from a chap who wanted me to paint his wife, who’s a nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham,” she recalls.

“The photos sent over showed Rachel as a vibrant, young, positive nurse. One image particularly drew my attention: her smile beaming as she held her hands up in a heart shape.”

Sue felt a spontaneous bond. “The first thing that struck me about Rachel was…this is the gal I would want by my bedside in ICU. She appeared to have a cheerful glint in her eyes and a smile to give hope.

Sue Clayton with her York Heroes portrait of Sainbury’s trolley attendant Andrew Fair, as featured in the first episode of Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4

“I felt a connection as two Yorkshire lasses whose glass is always half full. I also loved the composition, a wonderful triangulation. Finally, I loved her nose ring and tattoos set against a crisp uniform with the traditional silver filigree belt clasp.”

Sue’s response was to produce an expressive portrait, joyous even. “Perhaps strange considering these strange, sad times, when many fantastic portraits have been created showing masked nurses, fatigue and sadness etched in their eyes – really poignant and emotional to the viewer. 

“But, conversely, I wanted to show a time that has also shown the strength of human kindness and that hope still shines through, and here was a girl from Rotherham to prove it!

“My main focus obviously would be Rachel but I wanted her to be surrounded by free, bright, colourful brushstrokes symbolising her energy, vitality and hope.”

By necessity, Sue’s working practice differed from her York Heroes portraits of pantomime dame Berwick Kaler; motivational speaker, charity fundraiser, author and Huge frontman Ian Donaghy; “unsung hero” Andrew Fair, stalwart Sainbury’s trolley attendant at Monks Cross; York Against Cancer co-founder Steve Leveson; Nuzzlets animal charity driving force Mary Chapman and the late police constable Suzanne Asquith, who was awarded the Gold award for Inspiration at the North Yorkshire Police Annual Awards.

Unlike the 2018 series, there were to be no sittings this time, no voice, no chance to see facial expressions in motion “I worked solely from my response to Rachel’s photo without knowing anything about her, but the story that she sent me after seeing the painting assured me that I had captured her character,” says Sue.

“I painted purely from instinct, which was an interesting challenge for me and a new one. Usually, I will have met and chatted to a sitter and as a norm I find this important. 

York artist Sue Clayton with her son James, whose portrait to mark his 18th birthday features in her Downright Marvellous…At Large! series of 12 Down Syndrome studies

“I can build up a ‘feeling’ about someone, even down to what colour I feel portrays them. I will watch for quirks, their gestures, how someone talks: are they animated and excitable or quiet and reserved?

“These things I have in my mind and pre-form how I paint someone. In the case of a posthumous portrait, the loved one commissioning it will tell me about a person, what they were like, and it’s sometimes their response and feeling to their loved ones that come through when I paint.” 

For Rachel’s portrait, Sue decided to “just go with the flow and see how it developed”. “For instance, as I began the portrait, the background was plain aqua colour but, as I progressed, I knew vibrant colours needed to be there to suggest Rachel,” she says.

“She felt to me to be a buzzy, vital character. The bold, spark-like brushstrokes seem to come of their own accord, creating a dazzled aura and perhaps subconsciously giving a nod to the rainbow we’ve come to symbolise our NHS at this time.”

On receiving her portrait, Rachel sent a message to Sue to say: “This is so lovely! Thank you so much! It’s more than amazing!

“I’m a wife, mum and a nurse. I love Disney and creating a colourful, happy, healthy, fair world. I am passionate about helping people feel comfortable and empowered about their care and love working with patients to help them manage and maintain their overall health and well-being.”

Rachel said she was a firm believer in always having hope: “During these terrifying, unprecedented times, I find hope in the smallest of human gestures, which gives me the strength to keep smiling and caring and sharing positivity.

James and Lily – Sibling Love, by Sue Clayton, from her Downright Marvellous…At Large! series of Down Syndrome portraits

“I believe we will have our Victory over Covid and that our Victory will be beautiful! The NHS is something I cherish, I give my heart and soul to it. As staff we are family and I am extremely proud to be a part of that.”

Although Sue does not envisage meeting Rachel once circumstances allow, she says: “A lovely connection has been made with both her and Greg, Rachel’s husband, via social media. I think the ‘call and response’ nature of the initiative is great.”

NHS Heroes is a term often heard since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, hospital staff putting their life at risk for the good of others, even drawing comparison with the young soldiers sent into the trenches in the First World War. “We as a nation will be forever indebted to our NHS workers,” says Sue.

“I will be forever saddened and shocked that we asked them to go into a situation without adequate protection and that as a result people have died, saving others. How many other professions would find this acceptable, to know this and still go to work potentially risking their lives?”

First York Heroes, now NHS Heroes, what makes a hero for Sue? “Interesting question. I remember when I approached one of the ‘York Heroes’ to ask to create their portrait, they took some persuading.

“They did not consider themselves a hero, although all the nominations that came for them begged to differ!” she says.

Sue Clayton’s home work in lockdown: Painting a Chinese heron/crane on cupboard doors

“One of my final emails to persuade them was to just copy the definition of ‘hero’: ‘a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities’.”

Adapting to life in lockdown, Sue is “grateful to be home, safe with my two children, in acknowledgement that many are unable to be so”. “I’m missing my partner terribly as, due to vulnerable health in both our households, we have to be cautious,” she says.

“From an art point of view, the urge to paint left me temporarily, which frightened me. However, home decorating began instead and my creativity was encouraged this way, from ripping up the stairs carpet and painting the stairs in rainbow colours to remember this period, through to painting a cupboard with a Chinese heron/crane.

“There’s no real reason for the choice of a Chinese heron/crane, I just thought it might add interest to the cupboard, and as usual I went off piste and used black Sharpie pen to scribble in blossom…I liked the effect though!

“I’ve been through a real ‘make do and mend’ episode at home, revamping without cost: the fireplace has been made over too, using mountcard off-cuts and shed paint…as you do!”

“I knew straightaway I should send in the image of Andrew, one of the York Heroes,” says Sue, whose portrait of Andrew Fair featured on Grayson’s Art Club.

The NHS portrait project gave Sue the jump start she needed to paint again. “I tend to paint in the early hours now as the house is peaceful and as a mum I’m off duty!” she says.

This week Sue has conducted her first art workshop via the Zoom video app. “It worked OK  thankfully: such a huge relief to know I can deliver art sessions and still have some connection with people. I’ve so missed it,” she says.

“I’ll start two new weekly sessions in June, one purely portraits and the other, Clayton’s Art Club. If it’s good enough for Grayson Perry, it’ll do for me.”

While on the subject of Grayson’s Arts Club, Sue has played her part in Perry’s Monday night series in lockdown on Channel 4.

“My portrait of Sainsbury’s trolley attendant Andrew Fair appeared on the first episode. It was an absolute shock to me, but a bittersweet moment too, as I missed the original showing due to shocking news that a friend was unconscious and on life support fighting Covid,” she says.

“I had been making calls to friends to update them on the sad news and had taken a bath to just ‘be’ and reflect as the news had shocked me so. But my phone kept pinging and a friend phoned to say ‘Sue…I’ve just seen you on TV!’. 

“Grayson’s Art Club will introduce many to creating, both its power and how stimulating it can be,” says Sue Clayton in praise of Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 series

“So, the first time it was aired, I was in the bath, but I’m delighted to say my friend recovered and is now home…so it will always be a poignant moment for me.”

Grayson’s Art Club had asked for submissions of art for the show, accompanied by a video clip “telling him who you were and why you were submitting your painting”. “The first week was ‘portraits’ and I knew straightaway I should send in the image of Andrew, one of the York Heroes,” says Sue.

“As he works at Sainsbury’s, I felt it was an important nod to other key workers during this time but also because I love Andrew; he is such an amazingly, cheerful soul who loves his job. Getting to know him through the project was a happy time. 

“He had just turned 60 and he’s now shielding with his mother and I know he would be so proud to see his portrait on TV. 

“It was one of my most joyful moments painting Andrew. The delight and pride he had at being painted was so touching. He’s a prolific letter writer and has written to The Queen, Prince William and the chief exec of Sainsbury’s, to name but a few, to tell them he was selected as a Hero of York. He’s a very sweet, endearing man.” 

Sue Clayton’s staircase: Painted in lockdown in rainbow colours to show her appreciation of NHS staff and key workers

Sue is delighted by the impact of Grayson’s Art Club. “I think Grayson’s show will introduce many to creating, both its power and how stimulating it can be. It’s also a positive, uplifting show,” she says.

“I’ve loved seeing other artists appear too, both celebrity and world-renowned artists. So great to see Maggi Hambling on there, I love her. The exhibition at the end will be interesting too, a testament to this time…a time capsule, a snapshot of creations.   

“It’s interesting that as more cuts are made to the arts sectors, we are so lost without it. Where would we be now, in this period, without our music, the arts and museums’ online tours, the live theatre show streaming, movies, Netflix?”

Sue’s Downright Marvellous…At Large! exhibition at Pocklington Art Centre had to close early after the Coronavirus shutdown in March. “I was showing 12 new portraits in celebration of Down Syndrome, in part to mark my son James, who has Down Syndrome, turning 18 this year, this Friday in fact,” she says.

“I’m pleased to say that the exhibition will be shown at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford from November, then York Hospital in February 2021.”

David, by Sue Clayton, one of her portraits in the Downright Marvellous…At Large series

Coming next is Sue’s Double Portraits project, placing two contrasting portraits next to each other. “It’s still in its very early stages but the first portrait has begun,” she says.

“They will all be large and at least a metre. I want to challenge the viewer. For example, a large, colourful, brash, full in-your-face portrait of a man with facial paralysis will be shown against a sombre painted, full nude study of a confident man comfortable in his own skin. Do we at first glance acknowledge that they are the same person?

“Or a man in his prime, top of his game, delivering lectures to hundreds, assured, knowledgeable, performing…set against a desperate, sad portrait image of a ‘black treacle’ time – his words – when depression hits him. A monochromatic study, possibly painted in tar.

“As usual, I have nowhere to show these yet, nor thought to try and find funding, but it’s something I need to do. The ignition has been lit!” 

Did you know?

Two more York artists are taking part in the #portraitsfornhsheroes project: Lucie Wake and Karen Winship.

Yes rearrange Relayer gig at York Barbican for May 2021 on The Album Series Tour

Yes! Yes confirm new York Barbican date on The Album Series Tour in 2021

THERE will be no Yes show on May 29 at York Barbican after Covid-19 intervened, but, yes, The Album Series Tour has been rearranged.

All tickets remain valid for the new date, May 19 2021, when Yes will perform their 1974 album Relayer in its entirety, complemented by Yes prog-rock favourites.

Band member Alan White says: “Many things have changed in the world these past few months. My appreciation for the freedoms we’ve enjoyed in the past has grown, along with my gratitude for all the people caring for humanity throughout the world.

“I can’t wait to be on stage again in front of real audiences, playing Yes music. I’m hoping we can bring some joy and positivity back into our lives. Please take care and stay safe, we want to see our many fans and friends again in 2021.”

Believe in Yes tour day: The poster confirms the rearranged dates for Yes’s Album Series Tour 2021

The tour line-up features White, on drums; Steve Howe, guitars; Geoff Downes, keyboards; Jon Davison, vocals; Billy Sherwood, bass guitar and backing vocals, and Jay Schellen, drums and percussion.

The Album Series Tour format comprises two sets with full production and a high-definition video wall. The first will focus on classic numbers from Yes’s extensive catalogue; the second will be devoted to Relayer, the band’s seventh studio album.

Relayer marked a “slight change in direction” as Patrick Moraz replaced Rick Wakeman on keyboards, bringing an avant-garde feel to the recordings, typified by the Gates Of Delirium, almost 22 minutes in length, with Moraz’s keyboards and Howe’s guitar to the fore in the battle scene. The battle gives way to the beautiful ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.

Yes, yet not Yes but “Yes, Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, RickWakeman”. See below for the distinction…

Further highlights are Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment heavily influenced by Moraz’s style, and To Be Over, a calm and gentle album closer, based on a Howe melody.

Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer reached number four in the UK album chart and number five in the US Billboard chart.

York Barbican will be the only Yorkshire venue on the nine-date 2021 British and European tour. Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Didn’t Yes play York Barbican in June 2018? Yes and no. It was not this Yes, but the brand of Yes that has to call itself Yes, Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman, not Yes.

Truth Won’t Out, but a new lockdown Ayckbourn play will, and he’s acting in it

Alan Ayckbourn and his wife Heather Stoney in their Scarborough garden. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic meant Truth Will Out would not be out this summer in Scarborough, Alan Ayckbourn responded by unlocking a new play in lockdown, Anno Domino.

And not only has he written it, but he is performing in the audio recording too, marking his return to acting, 58 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.

What’s more, the 81-year-old Olivier and Tony Award-winning playwright has teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, his co-star in that 1964 production, to record the new show, his 84th play.

Heather Stoney and Alan Ayckbourn in his last professional stage appearance in Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964

The world premiere of Anno Domino will be available for free exclusively on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s website, sjt.uk.com, from noon on Monday, May 25 to noon on June 25. 

Ayckbourn had been due to direct the world premiere of Truth Will Out, from August 20 to October 3, alongside his revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy of four birthdays, Just Between Ourselves, in an SJT summer season completed by artistic director Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers.

However, after the SJT’s summer was scuppered by the Corona crisis, former radio producer Ayckbourn and Robinson hatched a plan to create a new play that Ayckbourn and Stoney could record and present online: “just mucking about in our sitting room,” as Ayckbourn put it.

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney: Re-united in a production for the first time in 56 years. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Hey presto, Anno Domino, Ayckbourn’s audio account of the break-up of a long-established marriage and the domino effect that has on family and friends.

“The inspiration for Anno Domino came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand!” says Ayckbourn. “And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”  

Anno Domino marks the first time Ayckbourn has both directed and starred in one of his own plays – and even done the sound effects too. Performed by Ayckbourn and Stoney, with a final mix by Paul Steer, it requires the duo to  play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s. This Stephen Joseph Theatre audio recording is the first occasion they have acted together since Ayckbourn’s stage exit left in William Gibson’s two-hander Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964.

“We can’t wait for our audiences to hear Anno Domino,” says Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director Paul Robinson. “It’s one of Alan’s ‘lighter’ plays, a hopeful and rather joyous piece”

Ayckbourn subsequently pursued a prolific, glittering writing and directing career, while Stoney continued to act, appearing in many Ayckbourn world premieres. Her last full season as an actress was at the SJT in 1985, when she appeared in the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind. 

Robinson enthuses: “We can’t wait for our audiences to hear Anno Domino. We were all hugely disappointed to have to suspend our summer season. We were so looking forward to seeing the brilliant Just Between Ourselves – ‘the one with the car on stage’ – and the world premiere of Alan’s up-to-the-minute satire, Truth Will Out.

“Anno Domino is one of Alan’s ‘lighter’ plays, a hopeful and rather joyous piece, which will provide perfect entertainment in these troubled times. This is a hugely exciting and very contemporary response to the current situation and shows yet again how Alan has always moved with the times.”

“All relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand,” says Alan Ayckbourn . How apt for a play written in Scarborough.

The now mothballed Truth Will Out was written by Ayckbourn in late-2019 as a satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation.

“Everyone has secrets,” says the tantalising synopsis in the SJT summer-season brochure. “Certainly, former shop steward George, his right-wing MP daughter Janet, investigative journalist Peggy, and senior civil servant Sefton, do.

“All it’s going to take is one tech-savvy teenager with a mind of his own and time on his hands to bring their worlds tumbling down – and maybe everyone else’s along with them. A storm is brewing.”

The Stephen Joseph Theatre’s artwork for this summer’s now-postponed world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s Truth Will Out

When that storm will now break cannot be forecast. Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website states: “It is not known what the future holds for Truth Will Out…”, but the truth will out on its path forward in due course.

The Delines to play Pocklington Arts Centre on February 23 with promise of new songs

The Delines’ Willy Vlautin and Amy Boone in a Madrid bar

YOU can’t make a beeline to The Delines at Pocklington Arts Centre on July 28, but jot down February 23 2021 for the Covid-enforced rearranged date.

Willy Vlautin’s retro country-soul band, from Portland, Oregon, returned from a three-year hiatus last year, enjoying two weeks at number one in the UK Americana charts with The Imperial, a record picked as Rough Trade’s album of the month and Uncut’s Americana album of the month.

The long lull in recordings was a result of lead singer Amy Boone’s need for three years of treatment and rehab after both her legs were broken severely in a car accident in Austin, Texas.

The artwork for The Delines’ 2019 album, The Imperial

The band vowed to “hang in there until the ship was ready to sail again”, their spirit sustained by knowing they had most of The Imperial’s material in the can already. Their sophomore record, the follow-up to June 2014 debut Colfax, surfaced eventually on January 11 2019 on Décor Records. A sold-out UK tour ensued that year.

The Delines are led by Vlautin, novelist and lead singer/songwriter for Richmond Fontaine, who disbanded in 2016, and Boone, co-founder with her sister Deborah Kelly of the Texan group Damnations.

In the line-up too are Freddy Trujillo, from Portland, on bass; Vlautin’s Richmond Fontaine cohort Sean Oldham on drums and multi-instrumentalist Cory Gray, rounding out the cinematic, late-night country-soul sound on keyboards and trumpet.

Amy Boone and Willy Vlautin: New songs in the pipeline

The band had been working on new material over the past months before the Coronavirus lockdown, those songs “set to be finished shortly” and sure to feature in next February’s gig.

That night’s support act will be Californian singer, songwriter and guitarist Jerry Joseph, who has just recorded his new album, The Beautiful Madness, with Drive-By Truckers, featuring Jason Isbell by the way, for August 21 release on Décor.

Ticket holders will be contacted by the PAC box office to offer them a transfer or refund. Tickets are on sale at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Courtney Marie adds to Pocklington Arts Centre’s raft of rearranged shows

Courtney Marie Andrews: June date at Pocklington Arts Centre put back by a year

AMERICAN country singer Courtney Marie Andrews is moving her June 17 2020 concert at Pocklington Arts Centre to…June 17 2021.

“All customers are being contacted this week to offer them a transfer or refund,” says venue manager James Duffy, whose 30th birthday falls today, by the way.

Courtney’s now postponed date next month with a full band was to have been a showcase for her new album, Old Flowers, originally set for release on June 5 on Loose/Fat Possum Records.

Phoenix-born Courtney, 29, is now rescheduling the album launch too, again in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Hello dear ones,” she says on the Loose website. “Unfortunately, I must push back the release to July 24th. In order to protect the safety of its workers, the vinyl manufacturing plant producing my record is temporarily closed for the time being, meaning it won’t be possible to meet the original release date.

“During these strange times, I think it’s important we work together, rather than trudge ahead alone and abandon those who have helped artists along the way. I can’t explain to you how much this record means to me personally, and I am so incredibly excited for it to reach your ears soon. It’s just showing up fashionably late, 2020 style.”

John Smith: November 3 date at Pocklington Arts Centre

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) continues to update its list of rescheduled shows for 2020/21, with the prospect of more being added in the coming weeks and months.

Inquisitive folk truth seeker John Smith has switched from May 21 to November 3; American singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, from June 27 to February 2 2021; retro country soul band The Delines, from July 28 to February 23 2021, and BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine will now ask “What the hell is going on?” on February 26 2021, rather than May 1 2020.

Billy Bremner & Me, comedian Phil Differ’s comedy-drama recounting his dream of eclipsing the fiery Leeds United and Scotland captain’s footballing deeds, has moved from June 5 to March 11 2021; Herman’s Hermits will re-emerge on April 22 next spring, and Mock The Week comedian Andy Parsons’ sold-out April 28 gig is re-booked for April 24 2021.

Led as ever by vocalist Maddy Prior, folk favourites Steeleye Span’s 50th anniversary celebrations of debut album Hark The Village Wait will have to wait until its 51st anniversary, their show now moved from May 3 2020 to May 7 2021.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Catrin Finch, from Wales, and Seckou Keita, from Senegal, will be joined by Canadian multi-instrumental trio Vishten on June 10 next summer, rather than June 13 2020 as first planned.

The Felice Brothers, from the Catskill Mountains, New York State, will be playing almost a year to the day later than their original booking. Ian and James Felice, joined by drummer Will Lawrence and bass Jesske Hume, are in the PAC diary for June 22 2021, replacing June 23 this summer.

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

The spotlight would have been on their 2019 album Undress, as well as their back catalogue from 2006 onwards, but now there should be new material too. .

All existing tickets holders for the rescheduled shows are being contacted by the PAC box office for ticket transfers or refunds.

PAC director Janet Farmer says the public response to the East Yorkshire venue’s prolonged closure, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has been “wonderful both in terms of financial support and well wishing”.

“To date, we have raised £8,660 from crowdfunding and customer ticket refund donations, a total well beyond our original target,” she reveals.

“We have been working with artists and agents to reschedule the whole of the venue’s spring and summer 20th anniversary season and most, if not all, shows are being transferred to late 2020 and into 2021.”

Shed Seven guitarist Paul Banks and singer Rick Witter: Acoustic headline set at Platform Festival 2020 at The Old Station cancelled. Hopefully they will be Chasing Rainbows next summer instead

July’s Platform Festival, organised by Pocklington Arts Centre, with a line-up including Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Shed Seven’s Rick Witter & Paul Banks, Richard Thompson and Omid Djalili at The Old Station, has been called off too, Again negotiations are on-going to feature as many of the 2020 artists as possible in the 2021 festival’s run from July 21 to 27. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

“It was heart-breaking to have to postpone the majority of the venue’s 20th anniversary celebrations but the safety of our audience members, performers, staff, volunteers and wider community has to come first. We intend to turn these events into 21st anniversary celebrations next year,” says Janet.

“During this period, we believe it is critically important that PAC continues to support its staff, artists and creative partners. We are working closely with our peers, across the region and indeed the country, on collaborative projects during the closure and we hope to announce a series of online events very soon.

“While we will be increasing the venue’s online artistic output, we are very aware there is no substitute to watching a live performance and sharing this experience with fellow audience members. We, like all of our customers, look forward to the time when this can resume.”

Pocklington Arts Centre remains in regular contact with Arts Council England, the Music Venues Trust and the Cinema Exhibitors Association. “All have been very supportive with advice and support,” says Janet. “PAC is determined to weather this storm and emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

“We are all braving this crazy storm, in different ships, but together,” says Courtney Marie Andrews

The last word, for now, goes to Courtney Marie Andrews: “We are all braving this crazy storm, in different ships, but together,” she says. “I am continuously inspired by everyone coming together, in so many ways, during this unprecedented time.”

What is invariably present but often overlooked in maritime paintings? The sea. Not so at May 26 online film night and Q&A

A still from Hondartza Fraga’s Upon A Painted Ocean, 2015

THE online tide comes in for The Sea Around Us, the latest film night at home from Scarborough Art Gallery, on May 26 at 7pm.

Six short films and audio recordings will be accompanied by a question-and-answer session with artists Daniel & Clara, Hondartza Fraga and Amy Sharrocks, from the Museum of Water.

Under discussion will be their depictions of the sea and its use more generally as an artistic subject.

Dutch Fishing Boats, by John Wilson Carmichael, 1860, Scarborough Collections, Scarborough Art Gallery

Among the films looking at the sea as an element of marine paintings will be:

Louis Lumière, La Mer/The Sea, 1895, 35 seconds: One of the first films ever screened to the public, shown at the first such screening in Paris in December 28 1895.

Hondartza Fraga, Upon A Painted Sea, 2015, 2.58 minutes: A film that seeks to bring a focus back to the sea that is “otherwise only a backdrop in paintings depicting the military and economic power of the Dutch republic”.

Daniel and Clara, Exterior Series, EXT. WAVES, 2017, 21 minutes: Part of a series that strips away as many other elements as possible to focus on the direct relationship between the recording device – in this case a VHS camera – and the natural environment.

“The sea as a subject in its own right is often overlooked,” says Gallery Screenings Online film programmer Martha Cattell

Martha Cattell, Scarborough Museums Trust’s guest film programmer, says: “Scarborough Art Gallery has a great many marine paintings in its collection. The sea as a subject in its own right is often overlooked and, more widely, often absent in discussions on marine-painted subjects.

“This screening will reconsider this and think about the main subject that is usually present in marine paintings, but so often overlooked: the sea. It will consider water through the personal, political and material.”

The Sea Around Us forms part of the Gallery Screenings Online series, held on the last Tuesday of each month, each night featuring films selected to give audiences a new perspective on both visiting exhibitions and the permanent Scarborough Collections, followed by a Q&A.

The Brig ‘Herbert’, ship portrait, by M Scurr, 1843, Scarborough Collections, Scarborough Art Gallery

Each gallery screening will have optional live captions from a stenographer; downloading the app version of Zoom is recommended for those wishing to use this function.

A visual guide, or “social story”, will be created too, with illustrations by Scarborough artist Savannah Storm, to explain the format and accessible elements of the screening.

Access to the Gallery Screenings Online event on May 26 is by password only, available, along with a link, by emailing Martha at Martha.cattell@smtrust.uk.com. Please email the same address for access to the social story.

Isabelle, ship portrait, by unknown artist, 19th century, Scarborough Collections, Scarborough Art Gallery

The Q&A and introduction also will be available post-event on Scarborough Museums Trust’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw

For further information on Hondartza Fraga, go to https://www.hondartzafraga.com; Daniel & Clara: https://daniel-clara.co.uk; Amy Sharrocks and the Museum of Water: http://www.museumofwater.co.uk.

The how and the why The Howl & The Hum have made THE album for our distant times

Keeping in touch across the socially distant mental landscape of Millennial life: York band The Howl & The Hum

THE Howl & The Hum, York’s most impactful band since Shed Seven, are in tune with these alienating, disconnected, socially distant, Corona-crisis times.

“Amid all the postponements and album delays elsewhere at the moment, we are happy to announce that our unfortunately-titled album Human Contact is still coming out on May 29,” says lead singer, songwriter and now soothsayer Sam Griffiths.

“Maybe that title is going to haunt us forever…but we haven’t literally predicted genuine events that have now happened, but we wanted to make a universal record and calling an album ‘Human Contact’ is universal.”

Chosen before the nation went into lockdown, and touch was shown the red card, the album sleeve depicts a severed arm. “Human Contact is about a very modern kind of loneliness, one which doesn’t allow us to forget,” says Sam. “These days, ever more than before, we are constantly reminded of our past: of intimate moments which have escaped us, whether these be via technology, or through a lack of personal interaction.”

The artwork for The Howl & The Hum’s debut album, Human Contact

Recorded in September 2019, when Corona was still but a pale lager, Human Contact was inspired by focusing on the minutiae of relationships: “all the strange objects, conversations, teenage bitterness and silences that permeate young love and loneliness,” as Sam puts it.

Now, eight weeks into lockdown, self-isolation is all around us (if that is not a contradiction in terms). “Hopefully it goes to prove our point of the importance of human contact in a digital age,” says Sam. “If you like, you can call us soothsayers, prophets, seers, much like The Simpsons’ writers, for predicting unfortunate future events. We WILL begrudgingly carry that mantle, but really it’s just a break-up album.

“Inspired in part by personal relationships, personal loss and the onset of dementia in someone close to the band, this album is in both parts a break-up record and a love letter to memory. It celebrates, and is wary of, various kinds of human contact in everyday life, and how everything fades over time.

“All we have now is our memoriesand that is all we are made of, so this album is a necessary exploration of trying to overcome our past, only to realise that in doing so we are losing what it is to be human.”

“Someone called it ‘goth pop’, and I can see that, but I just write pop songs,” says Sam Griffiths

The shadow of Covid-19 may further darken Human Contact, but the feeling of isolation has deeper roots. “A lot of people describe Millennials as being lonely, contacting each other through the façade of the internet, where they don’t have to see you as a real person,” says the Millennial Sam, a former University of York student.

“Originally, I came up with the idea for Human Contact as a sci-fi short story. I liked late-Victorian stories in that style, but now I was writing for the 21st century, starting it as a fear-driven story, but turning it into a story about a man whose depression overwhelms him.”

Human Contact was transformed into a song, brought to fruition by Sam, his Leeds flatmate, bass player Bradley Blackwell, drummer Jack Williams and guitarist Conor Hirons. “There was a slight fear and horror-show element to it that made it into a groove-driven song, and the song title came first before we picked it for the album title,” he says.

Sam is loath to pigeonhole The Howl & The Hum: “I’m still not sure of the genre. Someone called it ‘goth pop’, and I can see that, but I just write pop songs,” he says.

“The aim is not to shoe-horn yourself into one style, and the reason I asked Conor to play guitar in the band is that he makes it sound like anything but the guitar. He’s more like a set designer, so the guys are not just decorating a set; they all end up telling the story.”

“The guys are not just decorating a set; they all end up telling the story,” says frontman Sam Griffiths of bandmates Conor Hirons, Bradley Blackwell and Jack Williams

Citing everyone from hip hop queen Lizzo to modern folk artists Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, via  the classic lyricism of Leonard Cohen, as inspirations, Sam and co worked on the album with producer Jolyon Thomas at Big Jelly Studios in Kent.

“Our manager hooked us up with Jolyon, whose dad Ken worked with [Icelandic band] Sigur Ros, and I can definitely see that connection in how we sound,” says Sam. “Jolyon used to look after Slaves and Royal Blood, and we liked how he was able to capture how we are when we play live.”

One glaring omission from Human Contact is crowd favourite Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, the rousing anthem that always closes the band’s sets. “We feel we have sort of already released an album’s worth of material with all our EPs and singles,” says Sam.

“It was strange to release Godmanchester Chinese Bridge as our first single, as we were a country band until then, and maybe it has been superseded by Sweet Fading Silver.

“So, I’m fine with Godmanchester Chinese Bridge not being on the album, but I’m glad it’s a song that has a place in people’s hearts.”


The Howl & The Hum release Human Contact on May 29 on AWAL Records. AWAL, by the way, stands for Artists Without A Label.

Pending further Coronavirus measures from the Government, a tour is in place for September 7 to October 17, taking in two nights at Leeds Brudenell Social Club on October 6 and 7. Watch this space for news of a 2020 York gig at a later date.

York’s grumpiest publicans Fred & Sharon clash online in puppeteer Freddie Hayes’ fast, furious and funny Facebook film

York puppeteer Freddie Hayes with grouchy Fred, her puppet pub landlord

YORK puppeteer, performer and producer Freddie Hayes is to release her short comedy film, Fred & Sharon, online on May 29 to cheer up the city in lockdown.

“The ten-minute film involves my beloved puppets from Fred’s Microbrewery that I performed with during last summer’s Great Yorkshire Fringe in York,” says Freddie, whose filmic collaborator was Nico Jones from Hidden Door TV. 

“Gone are the days of Spitting Image, so here comes the York equivalent, for all your lockdown viewing pleasures.”

Freddie’s film depicts two unhappily married puppets, Fred and Sharon, owners of a dated York boozer. “But with a shift in British drinking culture, the business is now in jeopardy and Fred must venture into the dangerous world of ‘The Hipster’ to save the pub,” says the puppeteer. “But will there be strings attached?”

For the film, Freddie’s puppets popped out at diverse locations around the city, from Spark: York to Young Thugs Studios, True Story café to Coney Street. “Now, if you’re missing the pub during quarantine, tune into my puppet comedy on May 29 at 8pm,” says Freddie. “Join the live watch party via Facebook@FreddieDoesPuppets.”

Looking ahead, Freddie has submitted Fred & Sharon for the tenth anniversary Aesthetica Short Film Festival, to be held in York from November 4 to 8. “So, fingers crossed for that,” she says.

Fred takes to the streets of York

Charles Hutchinson puts the questions to puppeteer Freddie Hayes, no strings attached.

When and where did you make the film?

“Fred & Sharon has taken about a year to put together with Nico Jones, filmmaker from hiddendoor.tv.

“The film is divided into two different worlds: Fred and Sharon’s old-school social club and the hipsters of York.

“I attended a gig at Young Thugs Studios in South Bank and I thought that the South Bank Social Club bar downstairs would be the perfect oldie-worldie backdrop for Fred and Sharon’s pub. 

“For the hipsters of York, I decided to film at True Story café as well as Spark: York. Hotspots for the trendy youths of York.”

Forgive me for not knowing, or not being a hipster for that matter, but where and what is the True Story café? 

“True Story is a vegan café on Lord Major’s Walk. The café has been really supportive with my work and has allowed me to put on performances and events there.

“It’s a real hidden gem in York and is worth a visit for the delicious food and amazing views of the Minster.” 

Fears of a frown: Pub landlord Fred at his grumpiest

Who is Nico Jones and how did you meet?

“Nico is a York filmmaker who’s directed films such as the Fall In Love With Independents viral video, for Indie York, and Chicken On A Raft for York music heroes Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

“We started working together through the close-knit York art community and I’d seen his work through online videos. 

“Nico was the brains behind the making of the film. As the director and script writer, he managed to capture the essence of the garish characters, Fred and Sharon, and compressed all of that northern spirit into a ten-minute short film.” 

How does making a puppet film differ from a live performance?

“Puppeteering for film differs considerably from a live show. Mistakes can be covered up and re-made in film production, whereas in live performance you rely on improvised banter and having a connection with the audience.

“It’s a bit of gamble performing live and I get very nervous. When it’s a good gig, it feels amazing and the adrenaline is a bonus. But a bad gig can make you feel idiotic and in a pit of hell. Especially when you’re waving around a drunk-old-man puppet to 50 audience members! 

“But with film you get up close and personal with the puppets, seeing every expression and emotion behind the movement. It was a fantastic feeling being able to refine each moment to make sure it was perfect for the film. 

A moment of sobering reflection for Fred

“Seeing Fred & Sharon on the big screen really brings them to life, so much so that you forget half-way through that they’re puppets.

“I think that’s what’s so fantastic about puppets, especially adult puppetry, as it allows grown-ups to slip into a more child-like mindset but still enjoy a bit of rudeness.” 

How did you settle on the ten-minute format?

“We settled on ten minutes of material as it was long enough for viewers to see the emotional trajectory – and short enough to spark interest. “Nowadays, if an online video isn’t funny within the first ten seconds, you will turn it off. So, having something short and sweet was the perfect compromise.” 

How are you dealing with life in lockdown limbo? It must be so frustrating as a performer…

“I’m coping well and have been entertaining myself with a lot of bad TV and karaoke. (I was given a karaoke microphone for my birthday, so I’m feeling very sorry for the neighbours right now!)

“I’ve been making puppets for a theatre commission during lockdown, which has kept me busy too.”

“Wrong”, said Fred, as he makes a point

Are you writing new material in response to these discombobulating times?

“My big plan at the moment is creating a solo show for Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2021. This may include a new act I’ve been working on called Ms Potato Head about a potato called Charlotte from New York that dreams of a showbiz cabaret career.

“So, I suppose it will have nothing to do with Corona at all and I might avoid the subject at all costs.” 

What do you do with your puppets when not in use? Lock them away in their own lockdown or keep them around you to inspire new material?

“Fred and Sharon are currently living inside a laundry bag in my attic. I’m sure Fred has a few words to say about current affairs but for now I’ve zipped him up.” 

And finally, any idea what the new Government mantra Stay Alert means?

“Can’t help you with that one. I guess ‘Stay Alert’ to me means ‘make puppets, not friends’?” 

Puppet and puppeteer

PEN PORTRAIT: Who is Freddie Hayes?

FREDDIE is a York puppet maker and performer who has toured around the UK with her handmade puppets and original performances at festivals, pubs and schools. These include Strut Club Cabaret and the Great Yorkshire Fringe in York; the Edinburgh Fringe; Shambala Festival and Moving Parts Festival.  Freddie works closely in the York community to promote creative events such as cabaret, workshops and comedy events. 

York Musical Society embraces remote rehearsal revolution for singing therapy

Zoom with a view: York Musical Society members face up for Monday’s online rehearsal

YORK Musical Society’s online rehearsals are on song and on trend, as the Monday sessions on Zoom go from strength to strength.

Session host Lesley Peatfield says: “We’ve been running them from the start of the lockdown, and I’m especially proud as a lot of our older members have successfully navigated the software to be able to manage this.

“Some have even got their first computers for lockdown to be able to appear at our regular Monday night events.” 

As many as 80 singers join in, their ages ranging from an 18-year-old bass to 90. “We meet at 7pm for the sopranos and altos and 8pm for the tenors and basses, an hour each every Monday evening, when either David Pipe, our musical director, or John Bradbury, our accompanist, each take a session, leading from the piano, and swap over each week,” says Lesley.

“As well as hosting, I keep each session running technically and answer questions in the chat box.”

In the week the nation went into Covid-19 lockdown, York Musical Society was to have performed at York Minster. “That should have been a night of Faure’s Requiem, alongside a less well-known Michael Haydn requiem, which is so beautiful,” says Lesley.

“Thank you for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” said one York Musical Society member in the online chat room after a Monday rehearsal

“We had to cancel, of course, but we do hope to offer that programme sometime next year.”

Coming next, on Saturday, June 13 at York Minster, would have been YMS’s summer concert, Splendours Of The Baroque, a joyful programme of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Marcello’s Trumpet Concerto in D minor, Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba and Handel’s Coronation Anthems.

“We’ve had to cancel that concert too,” says Lesley. “The Corona-tion anthems – Zadok The Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart Is Inditing – and have never been more appropriate,” says Lesley, poignantly.

After one Zoom rehearsal, Lesley wrote on social media: “Over 80 members joined us for a bit of note bashing for Vivaldi and Handel. Even though we may never perform this, the feeling of the community coming together is priceless.”

Members’ post-session comments to Lesley on the chat line testify to the “virtual” rehearsals being such a breath of fresh singing air amid the pandemic. “Thank you – this is the highlight of my week in lockdown,” said one.

“A very big ‘thank you’ for the Monday evening rehearsals, which I am very much enjoying, and for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” wrote another. “Thank you to David [Pipe] and to John [Bradbury] for their patience and efforts and to Lesley for her expertise in enabling the sessions.”

Zoom for improvement: York Musical Society members gather for a “virtual” singing session

A third commented: “I’d just like to express my thanks to you all for organising these online rehearsals. I think David is too modest about how valuable they are musically. We can learn a lot at this stage.

“There is no doubt they are a huge boost to the morale of all the individual members, restoring our sense of community and connection to those we cannot meet in person.”  

A fourth enthused: “It is amazing how some proper singing, even over only half an hour, leaves one with such a good feeling inside.  Can’t wait for the next session.”

The Zoom uplift each Monday is best summed up by one member, who confessed to “enjoying it far more than I thought I would”, concluding that “Singing is pure therapy”.

Such a sentiment no doubt will be shared by so many other singing groups in York and beyond, now in the grip of the “remote rehearsal revolution”, be it Ewa Salecka’s “Prima Virtual Ensemble” or Jessa Liversidge’s myriad groups.

Looking ahead, Lesley says: “ We’re rehearsing with a view to an informal performance for friends and family at St Olave’s School, where we normally rehearse in the Shepherd Hall, whenever we manage to get back to face-to-face rehearsals.” Roll on that day.

Kevin Clifton must wait year longer to play dream role after Strictly Ballroom delay

Clifton suspension: Kevin Clifton’s dream role is put on hold for a year after postponement of the Strictly Ballroom tour. Picture: Dan Hogan

KEVIN Clifton will not be in Strictly twice over this year.

In March, the 2018 champion announced he was leaving the Strictly Come Dancing professional squad after seven seasons in annual pursuit of the BBC One glitter ball trophy, filling his diary instead with the 2020/2021 UK and Ireland tour of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, directed by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, no less.

The tour should have run from September 26 to June 26 2021, but the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated its postponement until a new starting date of September 27 2021 in Plymouth.

“Kevin from Grimsby”, 37, will play his dream role of Scott Hastings at the Grand Opera House, York, from November 15 to 21 2021, rather than November 23 to 28 this autumn.

Further rearranged Yorkshire dates are: Bradford Alhambra Theatre, November 22 to 27 2021, Hull New Theatre, April 25 to 30 2022, and Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, May 30 to June 4 2022, on a tour that will end in where else but the ballroom-dancing mecca of Blackpool on July 2 2022.

“You can still expect a simply fab-u-lous show for all to enjoy,” promises director Craig Revel Horwood

Announcing the tour’s postponement, the producers say: “To ensure everyone’s safety in these uncertain times, we had to take the difficult decision to reschedule the original tour dates.

“But the good news is that all of the shows in the touring schedule have been rearranged and tickets for each performance will be exchanged automatically, so fans will not miss out on this musical extravaganza. Details of how to exchange tickets will follow in the coming weeks.” 

Clifton says: “I’m really delighted that the Strictly Ballroom tour has been rescheduled.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s my all-time favourite film and Scott Hastings is my dream role, so I can’t wait to bring this musical to theatres across the UK next year.  In the meantime, please stay safe and keep well, everyone.”

Director Craig Revel Horwood enthuses: “I’m thrilled that our new production of Strictly Ballroom The Musical has been rescheduled for 2021/2022.  The tour may be a year later, but you can still expect those same sexy dance moves, scintillating costumes and a simply FAB-U-LOUS show for all to enjoy, starring the one and only Kevin Clifton.”

Clifton joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, performing in the final five times, missing out only in 2017 and 2019, and he was crowned Strictly champion in 2018 with celebrity partner Stacey Dooley, the BBC documentary filmmaker, presenter and journalist.

“I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings,” says Kevin Clifton, dressed a la mode as Hastings goes into battle on the ballroom floor

A former youth world number one and four-time British Latin Champion, Clifton has won international open titles all over the world. After making his West End musical theatre debut in 2010 in Dirty Dancing, he starred as Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer at Wembley Troubadour Park Theatre and as rock demigod Stacie Jaxx in the satirical Eighties’ poodle-rock musical Rock Of Ages in the West End, a role that also brought him to Leeds Grand Theatre last August.

Clifton last performed at the Grand Opera House, York, in the ballroom dance show Burn The Floor last May.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical tells the story of Scott Hastings, a talented, arrogant and rebellious young Aussie ballroom dancer. When his radical dance moves lead to him falling out of favour with the Australian Dance Federation, he finds himself dancing with Fran, a beginner with no moves at all.

Inspired by one another, this unlikely pair gathers the courage to defy both convention and family and discover that, to be winners, the steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom.

Featuring a book by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, the show features a cast of 20 and combines such familiar numbers as Love Is In The Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time with songs by Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect.

Rock on: Kevin Clifton as rock demigod Stacee Jaxx in Rock Of Ages at Leeds Grand Theatre last August

Strictly Ballroom began as an uplifting, courageous stage play that Luhrmann devised with a group of classmates at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia in 1984. Eight years later, he made his screen directorial debut with Strictly Ballroom as the first instalment in his Red Curtain Trilogy.

The film won three 1993 BAFTA awards and received a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. Strictly Ballroom The Musical had its world premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre in 2014, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, staged the first British production in December 2016 to January 2017.

When announcing his full-time move into the world of musical theatre only a week before the Covid-19 lockdown in March, Clifton said: “I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical. When I was ten years old, I first watched the movie that would become my favourite film of all time. This is my dream role.

“Plus, I get to work with Craig Revel Horwood again. I really can’t wait to don the golden jacket and waltz all over the UK in what’s set to be an incredible show.” Now, alas, he must wait for a year longer.

Tickets for the York run are on sale at atgtickets.com/york; Bradford, “on sale soon”;  Hull, from May 15, at hulltheatres.co.uk; Sheffield, “in the autumn”.

Joanne Clifton, Kevin’s sister, as Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show at the Grand Opera House, York, last June

Did you know?

KEVIN is not the only member of the Clifton dancing family of Grimsby to have graduated from Strictly champion into musicals. Sister Joanne, 36, appeared at the Grand Opera House, York, as demure flapper girl Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie in February 2017; combustible Pittsburgh welder and dancer Alex Owens in Flashdance in November that year and prim and proper but very corruptible Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show in June 2019.

Only one question for…Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

Kate Bramley: artistic director of Green Hammerton touring troupe Badapple Theatre Company

Question: In her opinion piece in The Stage, esteemed theatre critic Lyn Gardner speculated on whether rural touring shows would be the first to be released from the lockdown prohibitions. Could Badapple’s Theatre On Your Doorstep shows be back soonest, Kate?

“Unfortunately, I think Lyn has overlooked the [often older] age of the hall organisers and their community audiences and the latent fear factor, which I believe will make them unlikely to want to socialise in groups at all.

“I think she’s right about the flexibility of the seats, i.e. seats can be spaced apart to give social distance, and arts events that are ultra-local must be safer. But audiences would still have to move to and from the venue safely and, of course, the performers would have to be safe.”

“It’s just as complex for a small hall as for an arena when you start to break down the variables. Venues would still have to operate at 30 per cent of capacity for people to move around within them safely and certainly, for us, it doesn’t seem economically viable on that basis.”

Leeds Festival off. “Just not possible to go ahead in strange times,” say organisers

Cancelled: Oasis old boy Liam Gallagher’s headline slot at Leeds Festival 2020

LEEDS Festival is off. The last mighty oak on the summer’s rock calendar has fallen, bowing inevitably to the Coronavirus pandemic prohibitions.

Along with its southern marrow, Reading Festival, the open-air event at Bramham Park, near Wetherby, would have run over the bank holiday weekend of August 28 to 30, headlined by Liam Gallagher, Stormzy and Rage Against The Machine.

Organisers say Leeds Festival will return in 2021. Tickets bought for 2020 will remain valid for next summer’s August 27 to 29 festival run, while refunds will be available too.

The official statement says: “Leeds Festival will no longer be taking place this year. We’ve been closely monitoring this unprecedented situation and we were hopeful we could deliver the ultimate festival to you in August, something to look forward to in these strange and confusing times. However, it has become clear that it’s just not possible for this year’s festival to go ahead.”

Stormzy: Grime figurehead, pictured at last summer’s Glastonbury Festival, will not be heading north this summer

“We want to extend our gratitude to our teams, artists and partners who work so hard each year. And to our fans, we’re nothing without you. We thank you for your continued support and understanding.”

Leeds Festival joins a long list of Corona-cancelled music events, such as the inaugural York Festival from June 19 to 21, headlined by Madness, Westlife and Lionel Richie; Forest Live at Dalby Forest, with Kaiser Chiefs on June 26 and a James Morrison/Will Young double bill on June 27, and the summer season at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

Off too are the Platform Festival in Pocklington in July, headlined by Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Shed Seven’s Rick Witter & Paul Banks and Richard Thompson; Deer Shed Festival 11 at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, Thirsk, from July 24 to 26, featuring James, Stereolab and Baxter Dury, and Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on September 19.

York Racecourse is yet to announce the fate of its Music Showcase Weekend of race-day concerts by Pussycat Dolls on July 24 and Rick Astley on July 25. All seven meetings on the Knavesmire track up to June 27 have been cancelled, so watch this space for an update.

Madness: June 19 show at York Festival cancelled

Meanwhile, the Leeds Festival organisers are working closely with ticketing partners. “They will be in touch very soon to process your refund, or, if you prefer, you can retain your ticket and carry it over to next year,” the statement says.

“Look out for an e-mail from your ticketing agent and please only contact them if you have not been contacted after seven days as they are very busy at this time. If you purchased your ticket from a physical outlet, please contact that outlet to obtain your refund.”

Looking ahead to next summer, the organisers strike a positive note: “We’re already counting down the days to when we’re back in the fields we call home for the August bank holiday weekend,” the statement waxes lyrical. “We promise you that Leeds 2021 will be worth the wait.”

“Keep safe, keep healthy and look after each other,” the message ends.

Bowie, Barbra and Britney in your living room on Saturday? Yes, courtesy of diva Velma Celli’s online kitchen-sing drama

Dish of the day in her Bishy kitchen: Glam York drag diva Velma Celli is back on your telly or PC this weekend

VELMA Celli, York’ glamorous globe-strutting drag diva, will be Large & Lit in her latest lockdown concert streamed from her Bishopthorpe kitchen on Saturday night.

Ian Stroughair, the alter-ego of fabulous cabaret creation Velma, returned to self-isolate in his native York, rather than his adopted milieu of London, directly from a tour of Australia, and obeying government orders, he has stayed home since quarantine.

Ian, who presents The Velma Celli Show at The Basement, City Screen, York, each month, organised Velma’s first intimate kitchen gig for May 2, in support of St Leonard’s Hospice, in Tadcaster Road, where his late mother was a patient.

“I’d always wanted to find a way to support the hospice, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity,” said Ian, who raised £1,288 for St Leonard’s that night. “With so many conventional fundraising events postponed due to the lockdown, it was a great way for people to support the hospice while enjoying a fantastic, fun and fruity evening of live music in their own living room.” 

Ian’s glittering cabaret queen has starred in such self-originated shows as A Brief History Of Drag, Equinox – Something Fabulous This Way Comes and Me And My Divas, as well as The Velma Celli Show, and now he adds Large & Lit In Lockdown to his title list.

Diva Velma’s repertoire of impersonations of singers and their peculiar mannerisms draws inspiration from a multitude of the best female vocalists of the past 75 years, from Judy Garland to Lady Gaga and beyond. “And unlike many drag queens, Velma always performs live, adding her own special spin to familiar songs,” Ian says.

“This time we’ll have some Bowie, Barbra and Britney,” promises Velma

Charles Hutchinson asks Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli for quick answers to quick questions ahead of Saturday’s 8pm gig.

How did the first kitchen concert go? What was the highlight for you? 

“It was so much fun but totally bizarre not having an audience. Trying to navigate this new way of working was tricky but still fun. The highlight was telling my house mates to clap at the end of the songs! Bless them, they didn’t know if they were allowed. LOL!”

How did it work out singing a “remote” duet with York country singer Twinnie?

“I sang from the kitchen and she was out in the garden – which you can get to without coming through the house – on a radio mic. There was a rather fabulous patio door reveal! ‘Social-distant duetting’ is the new black!” 

Why have you chosen Large & Lit In Lockdown for the latest show title? Nice alliteration, by the way!

“I love alliteration and I am large. Mainly because it’s become custom in this house to fry EVERYTHING!” 

Where will you perform on Saturday? In the kitchen again or another room?

“Kitchen, better acoustics.” 

How will the set list differ from the first concert?

“It will be completely different. This time we’ll have some Bowie, Barbra and Britney! Ya welcome!” 

Choice of dress for the occasion?

“Whatever I can still fit into.” 

Any songs come to mind to perform in response to the Government’s new advice to Stay Alert?

“All By Myself, the Eric Carmen song.” 

When do you envisage being able to return to the world of the stage, the greasepaint and the live audience?

“I don’t want to think about that! Most likely 2021. Urgh.”

How do people acquire a ticket for the best seat in their house for the live stream from Case De Velma Celli?

“As per [usual], all you need to do is get ya tickets from the link below a.s.a.p. and a live link will arrive in your email inbox on the day of the show. Click on it at show time and BOOM! There she is.

https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-large-secret-york-venue-tickets/10581785.

Love and light, Velma.”

Please note: Saturday’s online event can be streamed on a PC or internet-enabled smart TV; tickets cost £7.

Black Swan Folk Club launches virtual club nights amid surge of revised gig dates UPDATED

Chris While and Julie Matthews: A special concert for the Black Swan Folk Club’s virtual folk club night

YORK’S Black Swan Folk Club is filling the void in the Coronavirus lockdown by organising a “virtual folk club night” on YouTube every Thursday.

Club co-organiser Chris Euesden says: “We started about a month ago and quite a few people seem to be tuning in. A new one is posted each Thursday at around 7pm, and so far we’ve included a special concert from Chris While and Julie Matthews, bluesman Brookes Williams and the late Vin Garbutt, among others.

“We aren’t deleting anything, so all the old club nights, which go back about six weeks now, can still be viewed on YouTube for the duration of our shutdown if you’ve missed any.”

To access the club nights, go to www.youtube.com and search for the Black Swan Folk Club York UK channel. The direct link is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0W_ARuVU2FtEGs5Kl9wiIQ

“There you select ‘Playlists’ and that brings up all the club nights,” says Chris. “Each one is listed as a separate Playlist.

“We’re trying to stick to the club format as close as possible with videos of a few songs from resident singers and then a main spot from whoever would have been the guest that night.

“The nights are made up from a series of clips, some especially recorded for the club night and others already available on YouTube, but specifically recommended by the performers themselves.”

Eliza Carthy: New date for postponed concert at The Crescent, York

Chris continues: “The familiar format is not always possible and there are some changes, but it’s close. Of course, the thing about a ‘virtual’ club night is that you can bring in some special guests who normally wouldn’t have been there.

“If you enjoy viewing the videos, please subscribe to the channel or ‘like’ the clips and that will give us a good idea of the audience we have.”

Coming next will be a guest set from Irish-influenced musicians Roisin Ban on Thursday (May 14), when they would have been playing the Black Swan under pre-Covid circumstances. Lined up later for the “virtual club” are American singer-songwriter Katy Moffatt and Australian duo Sadie and Jay.

“We’re also hoping to do something special to replace what would have been the City of York Folk Weekend – to be renamed The Roland Walls Folk Weekend from this year – which was to have taken place from June 5 to 7,” says Chris.

“It’ll be a Virtual Folk Weekend special with footage from many of the bands, singers and musicians who would have been involved.” 

Meanwhile, a few revised folk gigs in York have been confirmed, to be followed by “a review of where we stand at the end of this month,” says Chris.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman: NCEM concert moved to November 17

Dates for the diary are:

Drever, McCusker, Woomble, at The Crescent, York, August 24, 7.30pm; tickets from ents24.com.

Maz O’Connor, Basement Bar, City Screen, York, September 9, 7.30pm; tickets, wegottickets.com/event/497157.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 17, 7.30pm; tickets, ncem.co.uk. 

Eliza Carthy Restitute Live, The Crescent, York, January 24 2021, 7.30pm; tickets, seetickets.com.

Grace Petrie, The Crescent, York, May 18 2021, 7.30pm; tickets, seetickets.com.

Scheduled to appear at the Black Swan Folk Club later this year are: Anthony John Clarke, September 10; Christine Collister and Michael Fix, special club night, September 18; Sam Kelly & Jamie Francis, October 8; Lucy Farrell, October 15; Sam Carter, October 22; Charlie Dore & Julian Litmann, November 19, and Martin Carthy, December 3.

Could this be earliest photo of mysterious Scarborough landmark Hairy Bob’s Cave?

Hairy Bob’s Cave, behind the tank, in Marine Drive, Scarborough in 1919

WHAT may be the earliest photo in existence of the mysterious Scarborough landmark of Hairy Bob’s Cave has been spotted by an eagle-eyed Twitter follower.

The huge boulder, carved with a door and windows, stands on the resort’s Marine Drive in the shadow of the headland topped by Scarborough Castle.

The origins of this object of fascination for locals and visitors alike are uncertain,  but as part of Scarborough Museums Trust’s response to the Coronavirus-enforced shutdown, collections manager Jim Middleton is posting daily themed images from the trust’s collection of lantern slides, glass plate negatives, photographs and postcards on Twitter. 

When Jim tweeted a photograph of a First World War tank among a set of images on the theme of war and defence, Scarborough musician Anthony Springall was quick to make contact to point out that Hairy Bob’s Cave was in the background, suggesting it could be the earliest image of this curio.

Hairy Bob’s Cave, the mysterious Scarborough landmark, in May 2020. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Jim says: “No-one is really sure who created Hairy Bob’s Cave, or why, but the most plausible story is that it was made by the men who built the Marine Drive in the early 1900s; its location is exactly where the goods yard for the build was.”

Now he has declared a challenge: “We’d love to hear from anyone who thinks they might have an earlier image of it,” he says.

The tank was presented to Scarborough on July 18 1919 by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of York on behalf of the Treasury as a token of thanks for all the money raised by the town during the war.

“According to a contemporary article in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, by three special efforts Scarborough had raised over £300,000 and had invested war loans and bonds well over a million pounds, which was an enormous amount at the time,” says Jim.

The goods yard for the Marine Drive construction in Scarborough, early 20th century

He added that the first intention had been to display the tank in the Castle grounds, but it was thought the roads up to the castle might not be sufficiently stable for the heavy load.

“What became of it, we don’t know,” he says. “But exposure to sea spray and heavy storms would suggest that it probably rusted in a relatively short time.”

Magic lanterns were early image projectors that used a light source to magnify and project images on glass for both education and entertainment purposes, particularly during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Scarborough Collections contain more than 7,000 such slides and glass plates, in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust, which runs the Rotunda Museum, Scarborough Art Gallery and Woodend.

You can see the images that Jim is posting daily by following @SMT_Collections on Twitter. To view existing posts, search #lockdownlanternslides.

Badapple Theatre switch from theatre on your doorstep to desktop for podcasts. UPDATED with Kate Bramley interview

Badapple Theatre Company podcast duo Frances Tither, left, and Sarah Paine, pictured in Badapple’s 2018 touring show Amy Johnson

BADAPPLE Theatre Company’s Theatre On Your Doorstep van is parked up, the hand brake applied by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of travelling to Yorkshire’s smallest and hardest-to-reach village halls this spring, the Green Hammerton company is switching to Theatre On Your Desktop.

“At a time when arts projects of all kinds are on hold, we’re keeping spirits up by making freely available podcasts of one of our best-loved productions, Back To The Land Girls,” says artistic director Kate Bramley, who founded the grassroots touring company 21 years ago with the mission to “offer the best of new theatre in the most unexpected of places”.

“Now you can access relaxed readings of our popular World War Two comedy in a series of free ten-minute podcasts, starring Frances Tither and Sarah Raine.”

Explaining the rationale behind the Desktop initiative, Kate says: “For the past 21 years, we’ve been touring original productions to rural communities that do not normally get the chance to host shows locally.

“But the creative team decided the best way to keep the plays coming during lockdown was to bring them direct to people’s desktops and hopefully spread a little virtual cheer.”

Back To The Land Girls is an apt choice for Badapple’s debut virtual venture, given the parallels with the strictures of 2020 life in Covid-19 lockdown limbo. “This historic play of ours is surprisingly resonant at this time as our Land Girls are facing life-changing times head on, but are resilient and manage to triumph,” says Kate.

“The most resonant aspect of looking at the Land Girls play again is their uncertainty and trepidation about what’s going to happen, and then a decent amount of grit and determination as they turn their hands to learning new skills in a hurry.

“It seems that a lot of us are having to do that, albeit from the confines of our own homes, rather relocating to the country.”

Kate’s story follows the adventures of Buff and Biddy, two young women who volunteer for the Women’s Land Army in Yorkshire, played by Frances Tither, BBC docu-drama award winner for 2018’s Emmeline: Portrait Of A Militant, and Sarah Raine, whose credits include Wild Rumpus Theatre’s Colour The Clouds.

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre Company artistic director and playwright

“Expect a humorous look at Buff and Biddy’s experiences as they are bonded by hard physical work, back ache and plenty of banter,” says Kate, whose script is complemented by original songs and music by Sony award-winning singer-songwriter Jez Lowe.

The podcast episodes were recorded during April by Kate, Frances and Sarah via Zoom from their homes. “The quality reflects that, but there is a relaxed feel to the readings that our listeners have commented they are enjoying,” says Kate.

“Hopefully, as the series develops, we’ll be able to upgrade the recording process, as well as continuing to employ a number of freelance performers who are currently out of work.”

Looking ahead, Kate says: “We’re hoping to expand the series to include more shows from the Badapple back catalogue – we have more than 20 years of plays to choose from – and we’re already looking at the possibility of delivering The Thankful Village, as it’s very resonant for rural communities and also those who are missing family they can’t be with.”

What else? “Probably The Carlton Colliers, for the football feel-good factor, and also Eddie And The Gold Tops, our ultimate rural touring Sixties’ music show,” says Kate. “Anything upbeat and fun, so we can spread good cheer around our isolated audiences.”

There is the possibility of new material too. “Subject to funding, we hope to commission some new short plays for the podcast series,” reveals Kate.

She has been “surprisingly busy” in lockdown with a combination of home-schooling and various creative projects on the back burner. “We’re still preparing for our next live tour of Elephant Rock, which we’re delighted has received Arts Council support,” she says.

Until Covid-19’s pandemic strictures intervened, dates were in the diary for Badapple to tour Kate’s latest play to 30 venues from April 16 to May 31. The Elephant Rock tour has been rearranged for September and October, pending Coronavirus governmental policy updates.

“But many of our partners are now re-considering moving it again to Spring 2021,” says Kate. “It’s a case of wait and see, but the creative team are still working and the designs look wonderful, so that’s some good news for us.

“We’ve had a full read-through of the new play – done virtually – and a lot of good discussions about the ins and outs of the staging, so it’s moving along well.”

From theatre on your doorstep….to theatre on your desktop

Theatre journalist and esteemed reviewer Lyn Gardner wrote an opinion piece in The Stage on May 4 speculating on whether rural touring shows could be the first to be released from the lockdown prohibitions.

Kate, however, strikes a cautionary tone: “Unfortunately, I think Lyn has overlooked the [often older] age of the hall organisers and their community audiences and the latent fear factor, which I believe will make them unlikely to want to socialise in groups at all,” she says.

“I think she’s right about the flexibility of the seats, i.e. seats can be spaced apart to give social distance, and arts events that are ultra-local must be safer. But audiences would still have to move to and from the venue safely and, of course, the performers would have to be safe.

“It’s just as complex for a small hall as for an arena when you start to break down the variables. Venues would still have to operate at 30 per cent of capacity for people to move around within them safely and certainly, for us, it doesn’t seem economically viable on that basis.”

Seven weeks in lockdown, how has village life been for Kate in Green Hammerton? “It’s very quiet in our village at the moment, though our premises are shared with the Post Office, village shop and village Coffee Shack, so we’re able to see villagers cautiously passing by to run their household errands and grab a socially distanced beverage or two,” she says.

“It’s pleasant to see other people passing, even if we can’t interact! A number of community groups have sprung up to support older households as well, and it’s great to see people looking beyond their own four walls to help others.”

Days spent in lockdown limbo afford time for learning, discovering and appreciating anew. “I have learned that my allotment works better when I’m not working full time! And I realise how lucky I am to live and work in a rural area,” says Kate.

“It has been a very different experience for my family than it has been for many others, and one has to hope that the societal will is now present to give greater equality to families who are struggling for either economic or geographical reasons.”

For more details of how to download Back To The Land Girls via Podbean, go to badappetheatre.com.

Why Barber Shop Chronicles was “the hardest play” Inua Ellams had to write…

Inua Ellams: Writer of Barber Shop Chronicles

BARBER Shop Chronicles, the Leeds Playhouse co-production with the National Theatre, will be streamed on the National Theatre at Home’s YouTube channel from May 14.

Staged in the Courtyard at the Leeds theatre in July 2017 and filmed at the National Theatre’s Dorfman theatre in January 2018, Inua Ellams’ international hit play will be shown in a never-before-seen archive recording.

Barber Shop Chronicles tells the interwoven tales of black men from across the globe who, for generations, have gathered in barber shops, where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always cutting.

Co-produced with third partner Fuel, Bijan Sheibani’s production went on to play BAM in New York before a London return to the Roundhouse last summer and further performances at Leeds Playhouse last autumn.

The National Theatre at Home initiative takes NT Live into people’s homes during the Coronavirus shutdown of theatres and cinemas with free screenings, each production being shown on demand for seven days after the first 7pm show on Thursdays.

National Theatre at Home is free of charge but should viewers wish to make a donation, money donated via YouTube will be shared with the co-producing theatre organisations of each stream, including Leeds Playhouse, to help support the Playhouse through this period of closure and uncertainty.    

For more information, go to https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/at-home.

The Barber Shop Chronicles company on stage on the theatre-in-the-square set design. Production pictures: Marc Brenner

Here Nigerian playwright and performance poet Inua Ellams answers questions put to him before Barber Shop Chronicles’ return to Leeds Playhouse last November.

What inspired you to write Barber Shop Chronicles? 

“Back in 2010, someone gave me a flyer about a pilot project to teach barbers the very basics of counselling. I was surprised that conversations in barber shops were so intimate, that someone thought that barbers should be trained in counselling, and also that they wanted the counselling project sessions to happen in the barber shop.

“This meant that, on some level, the person who was organising this thought there was something sacred about barber shops.

“Initially, I wanted to create a sort of poetry and graphic art project where I would create illustrations or portraits of the men while they got their hair cut; writing poems based on the conversations I’d overhear.

“I failed to get that project off the ground but the idea just stayed with me for a couple of years, until I got talking to Kate McGrath from Fuel who liked the idea. Together we approached the National Theatre.”  

Cyril Nri as Emmanuel in Barber Shop Chronicles

You describe your plays as “failed poems”. Why was this idea better suited to a play? 

“The voices in my head just began to grow bigger and louder. When this happens, the poems become multi-voiced and turn into dialogue. Eventually this dialogue breaks away from the poetic form altogether.

“The idea of Barber Shop Chronicles was suited to a play because there were several voices feeding into the conversations within the sacred spaces that barber shops seemed to be.  

How did you create the show? 

“I began with a month-long residency at the National Theatre in London, then a week-long residency at Leeds Playhouse. I then had six weeks of research travelling through the African continent; in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana.

“I returned with about 60 hours of recordings, which I whittled down to a four-hour play and then, eventually, to an hour and forty-five minute show.”

Abdul Salis (Simon) and Patrice Naiambana (Paul) in Barber Shop Chronicles

How does it differ to write for other people to perform rather than yourself

“It’s not that different. I guess I just know from the get-go that I’m not going to be the performer of the text. The difference is when it comes to the rehearsal period. Up until then, when I’m writing, it’s just various shades of my voice speaking in my head, or various shades of me coming out in various voices in my head.

“Then, when I get into the rehearsal space and I see other actors take on the lines, it becomes something else. Initially there is just a story that I’m trying to find the best voices to articulate.

“Also, whenever I write poetry, I don’t always imagine I’m the one performing it because most people will first interrogate the poems in book form. They will read it with their own voices.” 

How does it feel to write the play and hand it over to others to bring to life? 

“It’s all about trust and that is mediated by the director. It can be very nerve-racking. It can also be very exposing for other people to take your words and do what they will with them.

“They can find that moments in the play are not as subtle as you imagined they were and critique and ask questions. But this is all conducive to creating better art. So, this has definitely been a positive experience with this play.” 

Peter Bankole and Anthony Walsh in a scene from Barber Shop Chronicles

Why is Barber Shop Chronicles so important today, and what do you hope people will take away from the play?

“In the past few years, images of black bodies being brutalised by law enforcement were everywhere. On Twitter. Shared in WhatsApp groups. On prime-time news. As a prequel to think pieces, from the New York Times to the Guardian. The images and stories were trending in the US and in the UK.

“I can’t speak about the importance of my work; that is an equation solved by an audience, but I can speak about the psychological violence those videos and images did, and the need for them to be countered somehow.

“Barber Shop Chronicles does that. It shows black men at rest. At play. Talking. Laughing. Joking. Not being statistics, targets, tragedies, spectres or spooks; just humans, breathing in a room.” 

The show has toured to Australia and New Zealand as well as having two sold-out runs at the National Theatre and playing Leeds Playhouse in 2017 and 2019. Did you envisage such success?

“No. Writing is an act of faith, a prayer. You sit before a sheet of paper or a laptop and pour into it your fears and wishes, conversations you have been having with yourself. At some point, you pass that on to the director and the actors and they have conversations with the script.

“You can feed into that and tweak things, but from that point on, it is largely out of your control. It is not a play until the audience have been invited into the room, until the lights go on.

“And every instance of the journey feels like a kamikaze mission or an impossible equation to hold in the mind, let alone arrive at some sort of suspicion of an answer. I could not have envisaged any of its success.”  

Patrice Naiambana as Simphiwe in Barber Shop Chronicles

What was the first play to make you want to write plays?

“It was a play called Something Dark written and performed by Lemn Sissay, who is also a poet, playwright and performer.”

What was your background to becoming a playwright?

“I began writing long poems, which I would perform myself with a little bit of theatrical language. I slowly began to write longer poems to be performed by other people, then for larger casts and from there I slid into writing radio plays and subsequently stage plays. Now I’m exploring screenplays.”

What was the hardest play for you to write?

“I think this one, the Barber Shop Chronicles. It’s been seven years in the making, 13 drafts. I had to travel to six different countries on the African continent and spend a lot of time in barber shops in London and in Leeds. I covered thousands and thousands of miles in order to write the play.”

Maynard Eziashi as Musa in Barber Shop Chronicles

Which playwrights have influenced you the most?

“I’m influenced mostly by poets, if I’m honest, more so than playwrights. William Shakespeare, Evan Boland, Elizabeth Bishop, Saul Williams, Major Jackson and Terence Hayes are my touchstones.”

What is your favourite line or scene from any play?

“I think it’s from Hamlet, the line,‘the substance of ambition is the shadow of a dream’Guildenstern says that in Hamlet; powerful, beautiful, delicate and barely there. Once you pry into that sentence, you realise how fragile it is.”

What’s been the biggest surprise to you since you have had your writing performed by actors?

“Seeing how much better they are at performing and delivering text than I am! Obviously, they’re actors, it’s their job. But as a poet and a performer of one-man shows, I thought I had a good and natural knack for things, but seeing the range, dynamism and depth they can bring to a single line, the humour, the intention, the discipline, the precision, the knowing; that has been incredible.”

Fisayo Akinade as Samuel in Barber Shop Chronicles

What has been your biggest setback as a writer?

“Time. More than anything else. I do a lot of different stuff, a lot of exciting stuff, and I’m excited by a lot of different kind of things and I want to do everything. Having only one of me is the problem, I wish I had a doppelganger.

“Money also plays a factor, but I’m a typical Nigerian: I make something out of nothing, and always figure out how to make things work.” 

 What is the hardest lesson you have had to learn?

“Something a lot of writers have to learn, which is to kill your babies. What works for you might not work for an audience or for someone else. You have to learn to be porous, to let go of things.” 

What would be your best piece of advice for writers who are starting out?

“Be yourself. Chase your own weird, multi-coloured, insecure, deranged, marginalised rabbits down the rabbit hole of your imagination and see what coughs up. See what you find. Enjoy what rabbit holes, what warrens, what mazes your own imagination and your idiosyncrasies lead you down and write yourself out of it.

“Your own world view, how your flesh and bones and blood enclose the machine of your mind, how it filters the world through your particular sense. These are the most precious things to you as a writer; you have to guard those things with your life because the longevity of your creative life relies on it. Be yourself, in a nutshell, that’s it.”

Anthony Welsh as Winston in Barber Shop Chronicles

Did you know?

INUA Ellams was the guest headliner at Say Owt Slam #22, York’s combative spoken-word forum, at The Basement, City Screen, in May 2019.

Black Swan Folk Club launches virtual club nights amid surge of revised gig dates

Eliza Carthy: Rearranged gig at The Crescent, York, next January

YORK’S Black Swan Folk Club is filling the void in the Coronavirus lockdown by organising a “virtual folk club night” on YouTube every Thursday.

Club co-organiser Chris Euesden says: “We started about a month ago and quite a few people seem to be tuning in. A new one is posted every Thursday, and we’re not deleting any, so they’re up there on YouTube for the duration of our shutdown if you’ve missed any.”

To access the club nights, go to www.youtube.com and search for the Black Swan Folk Club York UK channel. The direct link is: youtube.com/channel/UC0W_ARuVU2FtEGs5Kl9wiIQ

“There you select ‘Playlists’ and that brings up all the club nights,” says Chris. “Each one is listed as a separate Playlist. We’re trying to keep to the schedule as planned, so you can see videos of the guests and residents who would’ve been performing on that date.

“That’s not always possible and there are some changes, but it’s close. Of course, the thing about a ‘virtual’ club night is that you can bring in some special guests who normally wouldn’t have been there.

“If you enjoy viewing the videos, please subscribe to the channel or ‘like’ the clips and that will give us a good idea of the audience we have.”

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman: NCEM concert moved to November 17

Meanwhile, a few revised folk gigs in York have been confirmed, to be followed by “a review of where we stand at the end of this month,” says Chris.

Dates for the diary are:

Drever, McCusker, Woomble, at The Crescent, York, August 24, 7.30pm; tickets from ents24.com.

Maz O’Connor, Basement Bar, City Screen, York, September 9, 7.30pm; tickets, wegottickets.com/event/497157.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 17, 7.30pm; tickets, ncem.co.uk. 

Eliza Carthy Restitute Live, The Crescent, York, January 24 2021, 7.30pm; tickets, seetickets.com.

Grace Petrie, The Crescent, York, May 18 2021, 7.30pm; tickets, seetickets.com.

Scheduled to appear at the Black Swan Folk Club later this year are: Anthony John Clarke, September 10; Christine Collister and Michael Fix, special club night, September 18; Sam Kelly & Jamie Francis, October 8; Lucy Farrell, October 15; Sam Carter, October 22; Charlie Dore & Julian Litmann, November 19, and Martin Carthy, December 3.

York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Ryedale Voices keep singing in virtual world

Making room for Zoom: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Ryedale Voices singers gather remotely to record their parts for the Keep Singing video

MAY was supposed to be an exciting month for the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Ryedale Voices.

“The Phil” were due to travel to Germany and Holland, as part of the choir’s 95th anniversary celebrations, to sing alongside choirs and singers with whom they have a friendship that spans more than 50 years.

On the other hand, Malton’s Ryedale Voices, led by Alison Davis, have only just passed their first anniversary. This month should have entailed performing their first full concert with Alison’s other choir, Harmonia, and Richard Kay’s small ensemble The Sound Fellows.

In the Coronavirus clampdown, these events, like so many, have had to be cancelled for now. However, this does not mean the choirs have suspended all activity.

Richard Kay, the Phil’s assistant musical director and Ryedale choir’s conductor, took it upon himself to keep the two choirs going through the lockdown period, helped enormously by Alison Davis and Helen Smith, the Phil’s accompanist, as rehearsals by Covid-19 2020’s de rigueur modus operandi, Zoom, started six weeks ago.

“The primary purpose was to tackle any potential feelings of isolation by keeping the choir members connected, but I was also keen to keep us all singing and to keep repertoire fresh,” says Richard. “That’s why, inspired by many other choir leaders across the country, I began to lead rehearsals for the two choirs over Zoom.”

The “virtual choir” experience is very different to normal rehearsals. The time lag between different internet connections “doesn’t allow you to sing together” and so Richard has been recording the separate parts for each of the songs, combining them in Audacity, and using these to sing along to over Zoom.

Although many of the singers are not particularly tech savvy, these boundaries have been overcome, and regularly 40 to 55 singers have been taking part at the Monday and Tuesday virtual rehearsals.

Aware that choral singers gain the greatest satisfaction from hearing themselves singing together, Richard initially invited the members of each choir to send him audio recordings of their individual parts for songs with which they were familiar.

“Encouraged by the positive responses from the singers and followers of the two choirs, and by a very positive reaction on social media, I decided that the next challenge should be to write, learn and record a video of a brand new song relevant to the current situation we find ourselves in,” Richard says.

“I wanted to keep the feeling of this song positive and so I composed a piece called Keep Singing. Over the next few rehearsals, we learned this song and were joined by singers from other choirs to make this a joint York-Malton collaboration between singers from the Ryedale Voices, the Phil, Harmonia, The Sound Fellows and the Scarcroft Parents’ Choir.”

For a direct link to the Keep Singing recording, follow this link: youtube.com/watch?v=318cfczHMIk&feature=emb_title.

“Whatever trials we will continue to face through 2020 and beyond, I would encourage everybody to Keep Singing,” urges Richard.

Richard Kay: advocate of the Keep Singing philosophy in these Covic-19 times

Six key questions for Richard Kay, set by Charles Hutchinson

Everywhere you look, singers have been quick to adapt to lockdown days by going digital for Zoom sessions etc. What would you put that down to, Richard?

“I can’t speak for everyone but one of my first thoughts was to try to continue rehearsals online for the choirs that I am involved with.

“It just so happened that both Ryedale Voices and York Phil were coming out of a period of learning new music and coming up to some big events: a festival in Whitby and a tour to Holland and Germany for the Phil and the first ever concert for Ryedale Voices.

“Both choirs were, therefore, in pretty good shape and very excited at the prospect of sharing our music when lockdown began. It would have seemed a great shame to lose the ‘match fitness’ over the prolonged lockdown and so we were keen to find alternative methods of keeping ourselves singing and keeping new repertoire fresh. “However, there was a more important reason for me to look into this. For me, singing is a physical activity that greatly improves mental health. This, combined with the sense of togetherness that you get from being a member of a choir or group, was in danger of being severely impacted.

“With many members of our choirs needing to self-isolate and living in more remote areas, I wanted to get the choirs together to tackle those inevitable feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“Following on from that, I realised how many music groups were doing the same and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the ‘virtual’ musical performances that so many have put together, so I thought, ‘why don’t we try one ourselves’. It has given us something to work towards and something to feel proud of.”

What challenges has it thrown up for you personally, creatively, technically, emotionally?

“I am no Luddite but equally I am not hugely knowledgeable when it comes to technical matters. The practicalities of running a choir rehearsal over Zoom were initially very daunting.

“I followed the recommendations of other choir leaders and sought advice from Jessa Liversidge but ultimately you’ve just got to give it a go yourself. I have been learning as I go along, but I have had the support of choir members who have also been grappling with new technology.

“The need to support others to join in with Zoom and, further down the line, to record and share their videos, has been quite time consuming. Then there has been the learning of the software for recording and compiling different tracks. I now have a new-found respect for the work of sound engineers in recording studios. #

“All of this has taken time, which in turn has impacted on home educating and childcare responsibilities, but I think it has been worth it. At a time when all my other work came to a stop it has been a good creative project to focus on.

“The strange thing about Zoom is that the choirs cannot all sing together. The time lag means that they can only listen and sing along at home. This does make it something of a one-man show for the choir leader but it has been a nice way to utilise my performance skills!  For me personally, it has also been lovely to try out a spot of composition after many years.”

What repertoire has been rehearsed over the past six weeks? 

“Rehearsals for the Phil take place on Mondays; Tuesdays for Ryedale Voices. Both run from 7.30pm to 9pm, with a Facebook live “social” for the following half hour on Monday nights for the Phil.

“We have managed a mixture of learning new songs, practising songs that were new to us to keep them fresh and singing through old favourites for the sheer enjoyment. “For the Phil, this has included singing along to some of our CD tracks. For Ryedale Voices, I have been recording each part and combining them so that we have recordings to sing along to and singers are encouraged to highlight tricky bits for their sections – as  well as pointing out bits that I have got wrong in my recordings!

“I have been lucky to be able to use the recorded piano parts sent to me by two very capable pianists in Alison Davis and Helen Smith, as well as asking Helen to play certain lines on her piano during the Zoom sessions.

“We have also had some time for chat and to sing a few renditions of Happy Birthday. For this alone, I have left all the members’ mics on but with the different time lags, the cacophony of many different versions of the song make it pretty entertaining.

“Repertoire for both choirs includes some sacred music, some arrangements of pop songs, songs from musicals and some rousing spirituals and freedom songs. As well as the Keep Singing track, look out for the Phil’s Lily Of The Valley and Ryedale Voices’ Siyahamba, also compiled during lockdown, on our Facebook pages.”

Why is singing such a positive thing to do, both individually and collectively?

Singing is generally a joyful thing to do, and we need that kind of positivity at the moment. I am aware that singing regularly around the house is usually an indicator that I am in a happier place.

“Similarly, if we make ourselves sing, even singing along to the radio, it tends to make us feel better. We can’t sing collectively at the moment, but it lifts the heart to see everybody singing during the Zoom rehearsals.

“We were still missing out on hearing ourselves singing together so a virtual track like Keep Singing has enabled us to hear ourselves together once again.”

Keep Singing, as a title, sounds like it does exactly what it says on the tin: perfect for positivity in such strange times. Discuss…

“Yes! I wanted to ensure that we all kept singing first and foremost but this then inspired the writing of the song. There will be many creative people making artistic responses to the Coronavirus pandemic and while I wanted to write a song inspired by the current situation, I didn’t want to make it downbeat.

“As I say, singing is a joyful experience and so I wanted to make it a joyful song. The fact that we have made it a collaboration between different choirs is also very appropriate.

“The Ryedale Voices were due to perform a joint concert in May with Harmonia and a small ensemble I run called The Sound Fellows. While this didn’t happen, I realised that anybody from any choir could join the Zoom rehearsals – one of the advantages of being stuck in your own living room – and so why not open it out to more singers?

“I have been helped hugely by Alison Davis, who runs Harmonia, and the Ryedale Voices, Helen Smith (accompanist of The Phil), and Dave Todd from the Phil, who managed to compile all the separate videos into a Zoom-like grid for me.”

What would the singing groups be doing in the summer ahead, were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic?

“The Phil were due to be in Germany and Holland in May and then had a number of concerts lined up before their summer recess, including their ever-popular Summer Concert at the York Citadel. It seems strange that instead our minds are now turning to Christmas!

“The Ryedale Voices were hoping to capitalise on their first concert at the end of May with a recruitment drive – especially for any Malton-based men – and then who knows!

“To be honest, we just can’t wait to get back into a rehearsal room together but we are concerned about how long it may be before a large group of singers – many of whom fall into vulnerable categories – can all get together again.”

Seasick Steve strives for lockdown path to Love & Peace en route to July 24 album

Seasick Steve seeks a road to Love & Peace

CALIFORNIAN blues tornado Seasick Steve is keeping busy in lockdown as he builds anticipation for the July 24 release of his tenth studio album, Love & Peace.

“Since we all locked up, I was thinking about music,” says the 69-year-old singer, songwriter and builder of customised scrap guitars.

“I was supposed to be going on tour, but now I can’t do it. For me, music is all about y’all … it’s about playing for people. I surely miss you all and wish I could be out there playing for you.”

Seasick by the sea: Seasick Steve takes in the view

Instead, Seasick has taken to plugging in and blasting out his veteran boogie blues from his kitchen live on Facebook every Sunday night.

What’s more, he has released the homemade Live To An Empty Room concert video, available to watch at youtube.com/watch?v=5k3_-Iu0iGg&feature=youtu.be.

Seasick Steve’s blend of DIY inventiveness and dogged determination is present too in the video for his new album taster, Clock Is Running. Setting Seasick’s raw riffage to Dan Magnusson’s rollicking rhythms, the song’s message chimes with our lockdown times as he looks forward once more to  hitting the road and seeing the world, while urging you to take a chance while you still can. 

The artwork for Seasick Steve’s July 24 album Love & Peace

The video plays on that concept of making the most of things, in Seasick’s case when faced with trying to make a compelling visual in lockdown.  Seasick – real name Steven Gene Wold – filmed himself jamming the song on the porch and sent the footage to New Beach to work their magic in creating an imaginative animated video.  

It surely will be the only time he will be seen playing an imaginary guitar, as you can witness at youtube.com/watch?v=H9G2JSuvPIU&feature=youtu.be

Both Clock Is Running and the title track are available as instant downloads for those who pre-order the album from Seasick’s official store at seasicksteve.tmstor.es/, as well as on all streaming platforms.

Seasick note: Seasick Steve plucks his guitar

Seasick, who played a sold-out show at York Barbican in April 2015, has written an album full of hope for the future, against the tide of these troubled times, combining boogie, blues, rock, Americana and folk.

The track listing will be:  Love And Peace; Regular Man; I Will Do For You; Clock Is Running; Carni Days; Church Of Me; Toes In The Mud; My Woman; Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Boogie; Travelling Man; Ready Or Not and Mercy.

Released on the Contagious label, Love & Peace’s various formats will include a heavyweight clear vinyl, packaged with a signed print of the cover.

York Musical Theatre Company help VE Day 75th anniversary celebrations go with a swing in day of song on Facebook

Jessa Liversidge: In the mood for the 1940s

HOW are your VE Day 75th anniversary celebrations going on this beautifully sunny May holiday?

Should you be in need of musical accompaniment, York Musical Theatre Company members are on hand through the day with a rolling programme of 1940s’ songs on the company’s Facebook page.

Familiar Forties’ favourites have been recorded for the occasion by Jessa Liversidge (When The Lights Go On Again); Eleanor Leaper (From The Andrews Sisters…to The Eleanor Sisters! Bei Mir Bist Du Schon!); Flo Taylor (Lili Marlene) ; Marlena Kelli (a Rita Hayworth tribute) and Matthew Ainsworth (the ballad I’ll Be Seeing You, accompanied by Jessica Douglas).

Look out too for a heap of photographic memories from York Musical Theatre Company’s When The Lights Go On Again performances.

Go to facebook.com/yorkmusicaltheatrecompany. Make sure to check out Jessa Liversidge’s Facebook page too; she sang plenty more 1940s’ songs live from midday today as part of the VE Day 1940s Performers Extravaganza series of concerts from living rooms. You can still hear her performance at facebook.com/Jessasongsfromtheheart/.

Badapple Theatre switch from theatre on your doorstep to desktop for podcasts

Badapple Theatre Company podcast duo Frances Tither, left, and Sarah Paine

BADAPPLE Theatre Company’s Theatre On Your Doorstep van is parked up, the hand brake applied by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of travelling to Yorkshire’s smallest and hardest-to-reach village halls this spring, the Green Hammerton company is switching to Theatre On Your Desktop.

“At a time when arts projects of all kinds are on hold, we’re keeping spirits up  by making freely available podcasts of one of our best-loved productions, Back To The Land Girls,” says artistic director Kate Bramley, who founded the grassroots touring company 21 years ago with the mission to “offer the best of new theatre in the most unexpected of places”.

“Now you can access relaxed readings of our popular World War Two comedy in a series of free ten-minute podcasts, starring Frances Tither and Sarah Raine.”

Explaining the rationale behind the Desktop initiative, Kate says: “For the past 21 years, we’ve been touring original productions to rural communities that do not normally get the chance to host shows locally.

Badapple Theatre Company artistic director and playwright Kate Bramley

“But the creative team decided the best way to keep the plays coming during lockdown was to bring them direct to people’s desktops and hopefully spread a little virtual cheer.”

Back To The Land Girls is an apt choice for Badapple’s debut virtual venture, given the parallels with the strictures of 2020 life in Covid-19 lockdown limbo. “This historic play of ours is surprisingly resonant at this time as our Land Girls are facing life-changing times head on, but are resilient and manage to triumph,” says Kate.

Her story follows the adventures of Buff and Biddy, two young women who volunteer for the Women’s Land Army in Yorkshire, played by Fran Tither, BBC docu-drama award winner for 2018’s Emmeline: Portrait Of A Militant and Sarah Raine, whose credits include Wild Rumpus Theatre’s Colour The Clouds.

“Expect a humorous look at Buff and Biddy’s experiences as they are bonded by hard physical work, back ache and plenty of banter,” says Kate, whose script is complemented by original songs and music by Sony award-winning singer-songwriter Jez Lowe.

Until Covid-19’s pandemic spread intervened, dates were in the diary for Badapple to tour Kate’s latest play, Elephant Rock, to 30 venues from April 16 to May 31. The tour is now being rearranged for September and October, pending Coronavirus governmental policy updates.

For more details of how to download Back To The Land Girls via Podbean, go to badappetheatre.com.

National Theatre at Home to stream Barber Shop Chronicles co-production with Leeds Playhouse on YouTube from May 14

The Barber Shop Chronicles: Cheering on Chelsea in a Champions League match. Pictures: Arc Brenner

BARBER Shop Chronicles, the Leeds Playhouse co-production with the National Theatre, will be streamed on the National Theatre at Home’s YouTube channel from May 14.

Staged in the Courtyard at the Leeds theatre in July 2017 and filmed at the National Theatre’s Dorfman theatre in January 2018, Inua Ellams’ international hit play will be shown in a never-before-seen archive recording.

Barber Shop Chronicles tells the interwoven tales of black men from across the globe who, for generations, have gathered in barber shops, where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always cutting.

Co-produced with third partner Fuel, Bijan Sheibani’s production went on to play BAM in New York before a London return to the Roundhouse last summer and further performances at Leeds Playhouse last autumn.

The National Theatre at Home initiative takes NT Live into people’s homes during the Coronavirus shutdown of theatres and cinemas with free screenings, each production being shown on demand for seven days after the first 7pm show on Thursdays.

Patrice Naiambana as Tokunbo in Barber Shop Chronicles

Hull playwright Richard Bean’s comedy One Man, Two Guvnors kicked off the series, since when Jane Eyre, Treasure Island, Twelfth Night and Frankenstein have been streamed, drawing eight million viewers over the past month. Next up, from 7pm tonight, will be Antony & Cleopatra starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo as Shakespeare’s fated lovers.

Looking ahead, the Young Vic production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois, is in the diary for May 21 to 28; James Graham’s insight into the workings of 1970s’ Westminster politics, This House, May 28 to June 4, and the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston in Shakespeare’s political revenge tragedy, June 4 to 11.

Given that theatres are predicted to be at the back of the queue for re-opening under the gradual relaxation of lockdown measures, the future of the industry for artists and organisations remains uncertain. Consequently, the National Theatre has, in agreement with the actors’ union Equity, committed to pay all artists and creatives involved with productions streamed as part of National Theatre at Home.

Robin Hawkes, executive director of Leeds Playhouse, says: “We’re really pleased that Barber Shop Chronicles, which we brought back to Leeds last year after it was a huge hit with audiences here at the Playhouse previously, is going to be one of the first partner theatre performances accessible to such a wide audience through NT at Home.”      

Lisa Burger, the National Theatre’s executive director and joint chief executive, says: “I’m delighted that in this next collection of titles to be streamed as part of National Theatre at Home we are including productions from our NT Live partner theatres.

Cyril Nri as Emmanuel in Barber Shop Chronicles

“When we launched National Theatre at Home last month, we wanted to offer audiences the opportunity to engage with theatre during this time of isolation while we were unable to welcome them to the South Bank or into cinemas.”

Burger continues: “This initiative wouldn’t have been possible without the support of a great number of artists for which we are incredibly grateful. We have been absolutely thrilled by the response from viewers enjoying the productions from right across the globe, and we have also been surprised and delighted at the generous donations we’ve received since closure.

“While the National Theatre continues to face a precarious financial future, we now feel able to make a payment to all artists involved, as we recognise a great many are also experiencing a particularly challenging time at this moment.

“While theatres across the world remain closed, we’re pleased that we can continue to bring the best of British theatre directly into people’s homes every Thursday evening.”

National Theatre at Home is free of charge but should viewers wish to make a donation, money donated via YouTube will be shared with the co-producing theatre organisations of each stream, including Leeds Playhouse, to help support the Playhouse through this period of closure and uncertainty.

For more information, go to https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/at-home.

Barber Shop Chronicles playwright Inua Ellams

Charles Hutchinson’s review of Barber Shop Chronicles, Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, July 2017. Copyright of The Press, York.

BARBER Shop Chronicles is the first West Yorkshire Playhouse collaboration with the National Theatre, and sure enough it is a cut above the norm.

Leeds is mentioned only in passing – one character has links with the city – but a Chapeltown barber (Stylistics, should you be wondering) was one of the principal inspirations that led Nigerian playwright and poet Inua Ellams to write his joyous, illuminating play.

Barbers have not had a great press on stage, what with Sweeney Todd’s cut-throat business practices in Fleet Street, but that all changes with Ellams’ drama, a series of conversations with the barber often in the position of counsellor.

David Webber (Sizwe) and Fisayo Akinade (Sam) in Barber Shop Chronicles

In Britain, traditionally such conversations would normally not extend beyond asking where you might be going on holiday this summer, sir, or if you needed something for the weekend, or if you had any preferences, to which the answer once came “To sit in silence”.

Not much scope for a play there, then, but it is a different story in the African community, now in London (and Leeds), as much as in Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana, all of which Ellams visited to collect stories for his Chronicles.

The Courtyard has been transformed by Rae Smith into a theatre in the round, well, square, to be precise, with seating on all four sides, and the sign boards of barber shops in London and the various African nations displayed all around the perimeter beneath a globe with a mirrorball that lights up for each change of location, heralded by an a cappella song name-checking each city. In turn, a spotlight picks out the sign for the next barber to be featured.

Patrice Naiambana as Paul in Barber Shop Chronicles

This allows Bijan Sheibani’s ensemble production to flow and fly through its two hours without an interval, the momentum too thrilling to break. We begin and end in Lagos, and the focus then switches back and forth from a London barber shop to one-to-one encounters in Accra, Kampala, Harare and Johannesburg.

A family of barbers is at war in the London shop, although united in supporting Chelsea (in a Champions League encounter with Barcelona), and all manner of subjects come up for discussion: black men and white girls; Patrice Evra versus Luis Suarez; the “N” word and rappers.

There is much humour at play, but serious points too, not least about what it means to be a strong black man, and the family clash cuts deeper than a soap opera.

What’s more, the African chronicles throw you off your guard, reappraising the worth of Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe and Fela Kuti. Take a seat….

International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival launches opera TV streaming service after August event’s cancellation

A night at the light opera: The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, in a past year

THIS summer’s 27th International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, may have been cancelled, but the show must go on…online.

In response to the Covid-19 strictures, the festival is launching a new streaming service of past productions at www.gsopera.tv.

“We shall be streaming the very best of our National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company and G&S Festival productions at home and abroad since 1994, plus many other G&S classics,” says festival trustee Bernard Lockett.

“Unfortunately, there’s no International G&S Festival in 2020 because of Covid-19, but here, as is said in The Mikado, is our ‘substitute’: www.gsopera.tv. Full programme details will be available later.”

What delights lie in store, Bernard? “There’s something for everyone, and our content will be constantly updated with new, exciting films for you to enjoy from the best seat in your house. Sign in now on gsopera.tv and there’s even a ten per cent discount until May 14. There’s free content to watch there too,” he says.

“You can watch gsopera.tv on your tablet, laptop, smart TV, smartphone or PC – anywhere with the internet. It’s easy to use and your purchases can be accessed on all your internet-connected devices forever.”

What else? “Keep an eye out for our new weekly podcasts and webinars starring your festival favourites and Gilbert & Sullivan experts,” says Bernard. “They are coming soon and we can’t wait to share them with you.

“We’re selecting some outstanding films for an eagerly awaited virtual festival in August, so this year you can simply stay safely at home and enjoy being entertained. Our streaming service will let you re-live treasured memories and enjoy those magical performances that have made the Gilbert & Sullivan Festival such an amazing and unique event.”

Bernard also confirmed the G&S Festival will be “back in earnest” in 2021 at two locations: the festival’s original home of Buxton Opera House, from July 31 to August 7, and the Royal Hall, Harrogate, from August 8 to 22.

This summer’s festival run in Harrogate from August 9 to 23 would have featured five new National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company productions: The Pirates Of Penzance and The Sorcerer, directed by Richard Gauntlett; rising star Rachel Middle’s HMS Pinafore; Simon Butteriss’s Patience and Alan Borthwick’s The Emerald Isle (or The Caves Of Carrig-Cleena), a work staged only rarely.

Further highlights were to have been Charles Court Opera’s smart, stylish new take on The Mikado, directed by John Savournin, and their new production of Iolanthe, plus Rachel Middle’s production of The Yeomen Of The Guard for Forbear! Theatre.

Nothing happening in these Lockdown limbo days. Everything off. Here are 10 Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 5

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

Exit 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future in Lockdown hibernation. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether together or in self-isolation, in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Street protest: The Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes cast on the march from York Minster Plaza to York Theatre Royal in 2017. Picture: Anthony Robling

Streaming of Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, York Theatre Royal Collective Arts programme

YORK Theatre Royal is streaming the 2017 community play Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes for free on its YouTube channel until May 31.

Co-produced with Pilot Theatre, this outdoor and indoor production was performed by a community cast of 150 and a choir of 80, taking the form of a  protest play that recalled how women in York ran safe houses, organised meetings, smashed windows and fire-bombed pillar boxes as part of the early 20th century Suffragette movement.

“Now the stage is dark and the streets are empty, but looking back to the way in which that show brought people together, inspiring them in so many ways, is a wonderful reminder of the power of theatre and community,” says playwright Bridget Foreman.

Whispers From The Museum: the new mystery adventure from Scarborough Museums Trust

Whispers From The Museum, online mystery adventures for children

ADVENTUROUS youngsters can solve a new online mystery, Whispers From The Museum, set at Scarborough Art Gallery and Rotunda Museum, from May 12. The buildings may be closed under the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions but strange messages have been appearing inside. Who or what is making them and what are they trying to tell us?

For six weeks, young people – and their grown-ups – can uncover stories about assorted Scarborough Museums Trust objects by completing online missions and challenges from their own home, set by Scarborough artist Kirsty Harris.

The stream team: Your Place Comedy double bill Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam, performing from their living room to yours

Your Place Comedy, streamed from their living rooms to yours

AT the initiation of Selby Town Hall arts centre manager Chris Jones, here comes gig two of Your Place Comedy, a Sunday night when comedians stream a live show via YouTube and Twitch from their living room into yours from 8pm. There is no charge, but you can make donations to be split between the ten small, independent northern venues that have come together for this Lockdown fundraising scheme.

After Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson in the inaugural online gig, this weekend’s stream team will be Theresa May’s Tory conference P45 prankster Simon Brodkin and Harrogate’s Maisie Adam, as seen from home previously on last Friday’s Have I Got News For You.

Grayson Perry with his teddy bear Alan Measles on a visit to York in May 2014 to open the Meet The Museums Bears event

Inspired by Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4…

IF you have enjoyed Grayson Perry’s convivial call to art, Grayson’s Art Club, on Channel 4 on Monday nights, with portraits and animals as the two subjects so far, seek out the “Ultimate Artists’ Activity Pack”.

This downloadable artist activity pack is suitable for children and adults alike, with Grayson among the contributing artists. So too are Ampleforth College alumnus Antony Gormley, Mark Wallinger, Michael Landy, Gillian Wearing and Jeremy Deller.

The Art Is Where The Home Is pack is the creation of Sandy Shaw, director of the Firstsite Gallery in Colchester, who says the activities should be fun, done on A4 paper and ideally shared.

Drag diva Velma Celli’s poster for Large & Lit In Lockdown, her next online show

What next for Velma Celli, York’s drag diva?

AFTER last weekend’s concert streamed from a Bishopthorpe kitchen in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice, York’s international drag diva Velma Celli has confirmed another such online extravaganza.

Large & Lit In Lockdown will be large and live at 8pm on May 16. “All you need to do is get your tickets from the link below and a live link will arrive in your email inbox on the day of the show.

“Click on it at show time and BOOM! There she is,” says Velma, the spectacular singing creation of Ian Stroughair. Tap in: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-large-secret-york-venue-tickets/10581785.

Activity of the week: Rearranging your bookshelves

THANKS to Zoom and all manner of online visual services, placing yourself in front of your bookshelves is becoming the new normal, as tracked by the Bookcase Credibility Twitter feed, @BCredibility.

You may not go as far as J K Rowling, who re-arranged her books in colour sequences, but this is the chance to both gut your book collection and to find new ways to categorise those shelves, more imaginatively than merely alphabetically. This is spring cleaning with a new purpose.

Romesh Ranganathan: Rearranged York Barbican date

Still keep trying to find good news

POCKLINGTON’S Platform Festival in July, off. More York Races meetings, a non-runner. Deadpan comedian Romesh Ranganathan on Sunday at York Barbican, off; Whitby Fish & Ships Festival next weekend; the chips are down, alas. The list of cancellations grows like the wisteria adorning York’s houses this month, but you should keep visiting websites for updates.

Platform Festival? Negotiations are underway to move as many acts as possible to next summer. Romesh? His show, The Cynics Mixtape, is in the 2021 diary for May 15, still without an apostrophe in its title. Fish & Ships?  Sailing into harbour next May. York Races? Further updates awaited.

Woodland bluebells , Spring 2020

Venturing outdoors…

…FOR your daily exercise, be that a run, a cycle ride or a stroll near home, in a changing environment. If your route allows, check out the bluebells, now a glorious woodland haze, and the rhododendrons, bursting through too. In Rowntree Park, the ducklings are taking to the water, no need for armbands. Thank you, nature and the natural world, for keeping up our spirits.

Clap for Carers

STAND by your doors at 8pm every Thursday, no excuses. Theatre-goers, concert-goers, save your hand-clapping for our NHS doctors, hospital staff, carers, volunteers and key workers. How moving, too, to see familiar buildings bathed in blue light: a glowing tribute growing by the week.

Louis Theroux: New BBC radio series of interviews in lockdown

And what about…

NEW albums by The Strokes (the uncannily titled The New Abnormal); Lucinda Williams, Car Seat Headrest and Damien Jurado. Michael Henderson’s new state-of-the-nation book That Will Be England Gone, The Last Summer Of Cricket. The TV adaptation of Normal People, Sally Rooney’s story of complicated Millennial teenage love, directed by Room filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson on BBC Three, One and iPlayer. Louis Theroux’s lockdown interview series, Grounded, on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds. Parsnips, however you cook them.

Copyright of The Press, York

Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam are stream team for Sunday’s Your Place Comedy gig

Sunday service: The stream team of Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam, delivering comedy to your living room

PRANKSTER Simon Brodkin and Have I Got News For You panellist-in-lockdown Maisie Adam form the second Your Place Comedy double bill on Sunday.

The 8pm show will be streamed live from their living rooms to yours, looking to build on the success of the April 19 launch, when more than 3,500 people tuned in to watch Mark Watson, Hull comedian Lucy Beaumont and compere Tim FitzHigham.

Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer and manager of Selby Town Hall, is again co-ordinating this weekend’s online fundraising show, working in tandem with nine other small, independent arts centres and theatres from across Yorkshire and the Humber during the Covid-19 shutdown.

Brodkin and Adam’s show will be free to watch on YouTube and the Twitch video live streaming service, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. All money raised will be distributed equally among the supporting venues, each being faced with navigating their way through these challenging Coronavirus days.

Compere Tim FitzHigham and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson on screen during the inaugural Your Place Comedy online broadcast

Joining together in this rolling initiative to put the fun into fundraising are Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and  Rotherham Theatres.

“In a nutshell, at a time of huge uncertainty and upheaval in the Coronavirus lockdown, including for the live entertainment industry, I got these venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to come together to provide our audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times, each chipping in a small amount of money to put on each live stream,” says Chris, who was up until 4am on Tuesday morning putting everything in place for Sunday’s gig.

“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years.”

Watson and Beaumont’s April show raised £3,500 in donations for the venues. “We were overwhelmed by the response to our first ever broadcast,” says a delighted Chris, who was interviewed about Your Place Comedy on BBC 5 Live on Tuesday.

Prescient move: Simon Brodkin handed a P45 to Theresa May at Tory party conference

“The fantastic audiences, who are the absolute lifeblood of the ten venues involved in this project, watched and donated in their droves. Drawing more than 3,500 viewers was considerably more than the venues’ combined capacities, so the show went even better than we had imagined, to say the whole project was put together from scratch in the space of two weeks by three people with no live streaming experience.” 

Come Sunday, compere Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge, will introduce Brodkin and Adam’s sets from their homes, from his.

Prankster and character comedian Brodkin, 42, is best known for his alter-ego Lee Nelson and, latterly, as the man who handed Prime Minister Theresa May a P45 during the 2017 Conservative Party Conference. North Yorkshire-born comedian, writer and actor Adam, 26, has made her mark on Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats and appears regularly at the Harrogate Comedy Festival.

“It’s a distinctly different style line-up to the first show,” says Chris. “Simon is a truly fascinating performer. A former doctor turned character comic, he’s reinvented himself as one of the best pranksters the UK has ever seen. Listening to him spill the beans on how those daring exploits are pulled off is remarkably compelling.

One giant leap for Maisie Adam: From Pannal to the Have I Got News For You panel

“Maisie is destined to be omnipresent on our TV screens. Originally from Pannal, just outside Harrogate, she played her first ever gig at Otley Labour Club in 2016. She’s since had a pretty meteoric rise, winning the best new act competition in the country, So You Think You’re Funny?, in 2017; being nominated as Best Newcomer in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards a year later, and now appearing regularly on prime-time panel shows.”

Maisie, a former head girl at St Aidan’s School in Harrogate, appeared from her home in Brighton on last Friday’s home-alone edition of BBC One’s long-running satirical quiz show, Have I Got News For You, partnering team captain Ian Hislop.

Reflecting on the comedic impact of the first show, Chris says: “Both Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont were fantastic. Mark is relatively experienced when it comes to live streaming and was comfortable enough with the format to perform in his pyjamas.

“For Lucy, it was a first foray into ‘audience-free’ comedy, but her set was pitch perfect – even featuring a rather bizarre bedtime story! – and broadcast live from the pub that her husband, [comedian] Jon Richardson, has built in their house.”

Lucy Beaumont: A “pitch-perfect set, even featuring a rather bizarre bedtime story”

How did the format work, Chris? “We were very aware that one of the limitations of live streamed comedy was a lack of audience interaction, so we devised a function that allowed viewers to send messages directly to the acts,” he says.

“This worked incredibly well and really gave the show that extra feeling of intimacy and warmth that you get from watching comedy in a small venue environment.”

Before the April 19 debut gig, Chris had said: “If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”

Now he is projecting an initial run of five shows. “We hope that, for as long as our doors have to remain closed, we can continue to connect with audiences and bring them big laughs from some of the UK’s best performers through the Your Place Comedy project,” he says.

“At a time when so many life-affirming social connections have been lost, and a great number of performers have had their livelihoods taken away overnight, it is brilliant to be able to support artists, audiences and independent venues in this way.”

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the show, visit yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

From York’s Snow White to London’s Musical Theatre Academy, Louise Henry vows to take next step

Louise Henry: From Liesl and Snow White to the musical theatre diploma at MTA in London

“FINALLYYYY the day has come that I can say this… I got into drama school!!!!!” So read Louise Henry’s ecstatic Facebook announcement that she has been accepted for the fast-track diploma course at the Musical Theatre Academy (MTA), in London, from October.

Louise, you may recall, made her professional debut in December as “York’s very own” Louise Henry – in reality from Knaresborough – playing Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House, York. From 30 auditionees, she had landed the part while working at the Hoxton North café bar in Royal Parade, Harrogate, 

In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, she secured her MTA place through a Zoom audition – “how bizarre,” she says – and now comes the challenge of raising the finance for her two years of musical theatre studies in Tottenham Green.

First, however, let 22-year-old Louise celebrate her good news. “Anyone who knows me will know this has been my dream forever,” she wrote at https://www.facebook.com/louise.henry.311/posts/.

“Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are centred around shows and performing, the earliest being chosen to play Whoops A Daisy Angel in Year 1 – a role I played with absolute conviction, I’ll have you know.

Louise Henry as Shelby in York Stage’s Steel Magnolias at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, her last role before securing her place at MTA

“If I were to ask you what your wildest dream was, beyond all imagination, what would you say? Genuinely, what would it be? Mine would be to perform for a living. My heart is so happy on stage.”

Now, the bad news. “To attend this phenomenal school and receive the training I have long yearned for, I must fund the £32,000 fees with no government funding,” she revealed on Facebook.

“The MTA is not linked with a university and therefore I cannot apply for a student loan in the same way other courses can. Yes. I know. BUT, and humour me here, if every one of my 1,481 Facebook Friends generously donated £20 (or £21.70 to be precise), I would make the amount in full.”

Louise understands that such a proposal is “wishful thinking on my part”, but her Facebook post added: “However, if, by chance of incredible generosity, half, a third, or even a quarter, of said friends donated anything possible, I would be in a much more promising position to be able to attend this school.

“If people kindly donated even £1, I’m £1 closer! If you could share it to reach your friends and family further afield, my chances are immediately increased.”

Louise Henry, back left, in her role as Liesl von Trapp in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music at the Grand Opera House, York, in 2019

CharlesHutchPress is delighted to spread the word, having enjoyed Louise’s performances in such York Stage Musicals roles as 16-year-old Liesl von Trapp in The Sound Of Music and 40-year-old Jane in Twilight Robbery, as well as a young Australian woman, Gabrielle York, in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s When The Rain Stops Falling last November.

Since then, there have been her dark-wigged Princess Snow White in pantoland and her latest York Stage outing as plucky, resolute but physically fragile Louisiana bride-to-be Shelby in Steel Magnolias in February.

“We are living in such strange, difficult times,” her Facebook open letter continued. “Everything is uncertain for everyone I know and the world is suffering every day. I’m hoping, by this point in the post, that you can appreciate that I simply have to continue as if we aren’t in the middle of a global pandemic.

“Please believe me, I wish I wasn’t asking for help at a time like this. I understand and agree that there are far more worthy and important causes but I feel I have to consider the potential of my future career.

“Of course, I have spent every minute since I received my offer considering how I could logistically, carefully and respectfully raise money under the current circumstances. But making sure I abide by the Government’s restrictions is leaving me with little I can offer by way of help in exchange.

Louise Henry after she learnt she had been picked to make her professional debut as Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, last winter’s Grand Opera House pantomime .Picture: David Harrison.

“Saying this, if there really is anything – walking dogs with my gloves on, helping in the garden, an online singalong or bedtime story for your children – I will help in any way I can! Equally, if you have any suggestions, please send them my way! Once these restrictions are lifted and we are all much less at risk I will, of course, help in any way possible.”

Summing up her situation, Louise says: “I have to be optimistic in that I don’t know who’s hands/Facebook timeline the post might fall into. I’m doing all I can to make this dream a reality, and that means, for me personally, asking kindly for any help I can get.”

To assist Louise, go to gofundme.com/f/mta-musical-theatre-training.

“My first love has always been musical theatre,” says MTA-bound Louise

Charles Hutchinson puts the questions to Louise Henry as she chases her acting dream and the means to secure that future

WHAT attracted you to MTA in particular? How long will you be studying there and what are your hopes and expectations with this course, Louise?

“MTA’s diploma is only a two-year course and so your training is intensified throughout this time.  

“The school only accepts 22 students per year and, therefore, you’re in a very elite group of performers, and the contact time, as with many drama schools, is incredibly high at 40 hours per week.

“Equally, the course is split 50/50, 50 per cent focused on stage and 50 per cent on screen acting, which is always something I have wanted to study alongside musical theatre. Everything I read about MTA made me feel as though the course would fully prepare you to be a triple-threat musical theatre performer, but also be trained thoroughly as a screen actor.” 

Louise Henry as a young Australian woman, Gabrielle York, in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s When The Rain Stops Falling at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, last autumn

What steps did you have to go through to land a place at MTA?

“The audition process was obviously very different to that I’m used to: the lockdown implemented by the Government on the outbreak of Covid-19 meant that travelling to the audition would be impossible and potentially very dangerous.

“I soon received an email from Annemarie [Lewis Thomas], the school’s principal, who stated that the auditions would go ahead regardless and instead be held over Zoom, which I was actually very excited about as it would be a totally different experience!

“When the day came, I set up my laptop in my bedroom and had prepared the monologue and song I’d have taken to the audition anyway and from then on it was actually very simple!

“It felt much less daunting than actually being in the room, and I suppose if that translates through people’s auditions it would make the panel’s decision much easier in that it’s based off a very true and honest performance.

“We were even able to do some improv over Zoom with the other auditionees, which was such an interesting experience, led by their head of acting, Tilly Vosburgh, and a group vocal workshop with the head of voice, Josh Mathieson.

“They work very quickly there and so once I had sent in a dance audition – to a song of my choice – I heard back within about 24 hours actually! It was record timing and meant I didn’t spend two anxious weeks refreshing my emails – a feeling I’d grown used to over the past few years’ auditioning.”

Louise Henry playing Liesl von Trapp in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music

Over the past year, you have done a variety of roles on the York stage – musicals, a pantomime, an Aussie play, an American play – showing an all-round talent. Why pick a musical theatre course?

“My first love has always been musical theatre and was initially what I wanted to study straight out of A-Levels. However, it felt as though my dance ability was always letting me down and so I spent a few years going to dance classes with Lyndsay Wells in Harrogate and instead chose to audition for a few years for straight acting. “That being said, singing and acting have always been my strong point and so musical theatre was always my preference.

“Working with Nik Briggs’s York Stage has been invaluable and being able to perform in a few predominantly acting roles has been a great opportunity to exercise that skill without relying on song and dance.

“Equally, working in the Grand Opera House pantomime over Christmas only intensified my drive to pursue musical theatre and so, on being recommended the MTA, I felt led to audition.” 

Louise Henry’s Princess Snow White lies prone after biting the poison-drugged apple in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House, as the distraught dwarfs and Martin Daniels’ Muddles, right, look on. Picture: David Harrison.

What did you learn from making your professional debut in the 2019-2020 Grand Opera House pantomime?

“Performing in the pantomime was such a brilliant insight to the kind of life I could be working towards. Every day I would try to remind myself that actually soon it would be over and everyday life would assume, and in actual fact you don’t go through every day singing and dancing and dressing up!

“I constantly allowed myself to feel grateful for each performance and despite the intense hard work put into every show, I never tired of performing it. In fact, I really wish we could’ve had more shows somehow crammed into that mad month!

“It taught me that performances can be put together under your very nose and all of a sudden your show is ready and you’re opening. It also taught me that the illusion of a show is one of the most magical and fulfilling experiences for both the performer and the audience member.

“There was no better feeling than getting to the end of the show and being able to see our audiences dancing in the aisles and singing along with us. I’m just really grateful I had that experience and insight to what my life could be like – with a lot of hard work and luck obviously!”

Louise Henry as Princess Snow White, before the dark wig was added, at the press day to launch Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Picture: David Harrison

How did it feel playing the title role in your professional debut in Snow White?

“Playing the title role was a little bit of a shellshock experience every day really; everyone else I was working with – even the incredible children playing the dwarves – had worked a panto run previously, so I was a total newbie.

“The cast and crew made me feel so welcome and I learnt so much from the friends I made. There was also something pretty lovely in that, because I wore the black wig, which was in total contrast to my hair at the time, very few people recognised me leaving the stage door. This was nice as it kind of protected the magic of the show for the kids who had come to watch.” 

Louise Henry, right, front, with fellow Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs cast members Mark Little, left, Steve Wickenden, Martin Daniels, Jonny Muir and Vicki Michelle at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture by David Harrison.

Did you pick up any good tips from the old pros in the company such as Vicki Michelle, Martin Daniels and Mark Little?

“Working so closely with Vicki, Martin and Mark was incredibly insightful and I got so many opportunities to chat with them about their experiences with performing and acting.

“Mark and I were interviewed by BBC Radio York at the same time and so we had a good chat that morning about his career and I spoke to him about how different things are now, in terms of getting into performing.

“Everyone was so encouraging and supportive, they were always spurring me on to try and keep working for this career. It was incredible watching the show being put together and acting with them was a real joy.” 

Louise Henry as Shelby in Steel Magnolias: “Probably my favourite show I’ve ever been involved with,” she says

How had your year gone before lockdown, on stage and off?

“Before lockdown, I was applying to any auditions I could find via the National Youth Theatre member’s board, having been a member since 2015 when I was lucky enough to be invited to attend their intensive summer-school course.

“I sent off applications for a film in which I was cast as an extra, so drove down to London to film for a couple of days in February. That was a fab experience and something I’d never done before.

“I auditioned to attend a workshop with Katie Greenall, a National Youth Theatre associate, and was asked to go down and work for three days on an idea of a performance she is devising.

“I had a couple of auditions and recalls for National Youth Theatre’s REP company, and throughout all the trips to and from London I was working on Steel Magnolias back in York with York Stage.

“This was probably my favourite show I’ve ever been involved with, from the incredible cast I was lucky enough to work with, to the direction and production of the play.

“I just feel so grateful that it came together and we could perform before this  lockdown was implemented. So, actually, I had quite a busy few months!”

“I’ve been training my family in ‘bootcamp’ sessions three times a week, then one big workout on a Sunday morning,” says Louise of her lockdown routine

How are you coping with lockdown?

“Lockdown has been a little bizarre and definitely an adjustment. But I really do love a routine, so once I’d established my routine at home, I got comfortable very quickly! “I love exercise and training in different ways, so I’ve been training my family in ‘bootcamp’ sessions three times a week, then one big workout on a Sunday morning.

“I’ve been creating workouts for three friends separately and doing many Zoom dance classes and yoga sessions. It’s probably the most active I’ve ever been! “Alongside this, I’ve been trying to learn a new song each week, focusing on songs that I wouldn’t usually go for. I try and sing these when my family are out walking, so I don’t deafen them with a loud belt!

“Obviously, I had a lot of preparation for my audition and also was asked by Nik [Briggs] at York Stage to get involved with his Songs From The Settee, singing Doctor’s Orders from Catch Me If You Can.

“I’m really glad to have the offer from MTA, so it feels like I have something to work towards once this is all over.”

Louise Henry, top left, in a promotional picture for York Stage’s Steel Magnolias

What would going to MTA mean to you after all the work you have put in already to develop your skills?

“I’m not going to lie… it’s been a long few years, auditioning to train at drama school, and it has always felt really gutting to have not secured a place despite usually getting to final recalls.

“Every time you feel so close and then can’t help but wonder what it is you were lacking? Or if they already have ‘x’ amount of 5’6 females with brunette hair? You hear that it can be down to issues that small, and it becomes really frustrating trying to pinpoint what it was about you that they didn’t want.

“So, this year, to finally secure a place, in the middle of so much uncertainty, I really feel overwhelmed by it! I know it is so clichéd but this is really my one dream to try and achieve making a career of performing, so the place at MTA, I believe, is the first step towards that dream becoming reality.

“I can’t put into words what it was like finally seeing ‘we are delighted to inform you…’ on my acceptance email. I ran downstairs screaming; I feel bad for my neighbours!”

“Your whole chest is just full and you feel like you might just ‘Mary Poppins’ it at any second and take off,” says Louise Henry, describing her love of performing

It may be an obvious question, but what makes you want to be an actor?

“Not at all an obvious question as I have absolutely had moments over the years of ‘oh god, why am I doing this?’. ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’. But quite simply, there’s no better feeling to me than being on stage and performing.

“I don’t know how I can describe this concisely, but there’s a feeling I get when I’m taking my bow or at the end of a run or in the ‘big bit’ of a song and it’s just like you’ve won the marathon or the lottery or you’re reunited with someone, and your whole chest is just full and you feel like you might just ‘Mary Poppins’ it at any second and take off.

“And that feeling to me makes everything else worth it. It’s massive lows but MASSIVE highs and for some peculiar reason the highs make you forget all the lows.

“It’s all I could ever see myself doing, and I would regret it forever if I didn’t throw myself at it and give it everything I have.” 

Grim question: If you can’t get the money together, what happens to your plans to go to MTA?

“Interesting. I suppose I can’t really answer this, as that simply isn’t an option for me. I will, and am, doing everything I possibly can, given the current circumstances, and I truly believe I will make this work.

“To me, there is really no alternative: this training is all I have longed for over the past four years. Obviously, so far, I have received some wonderful and incredibly generous help from friends and family, and alongside that I’m saving every penny and plan to work alongside my course.”

No turning back: Louise Henry, pictured in the promotional shots for Steel Magnolias, is determined to take up her place at the Musical Theatre Academy in London in October

“I plan on creating a series of videos, mini-performances of songs or spoken word to post online hopefully for the viewer’s enjoyment – which might encourage people to donate whatever they can.

“The payments are termly and so that breaks down the sum, and I’m incredibly lucky as the MTA are very keen on not letting money be an issue between you attending the course.

“As I said, they choose only 22 students per year and so they have spent a lot of time in selecting who they truly want to train. Not only is this a real honour to have been offered a place, but it also reassures me that the school wants me there. There’s no better feeling after working so hard over the years.” 

Gregory Porter calls for “All of us rise” on new studio album set for August release

“All Rise,” urges Gregory Porter…from his seated position

AMERICAN jazz singer and songwriter Gregory Porter will release his new album, All Rise, on August 28 on Decca Records/Blue Note Records.

Porter’s last studio album, 2017’s Nat King Cole & Me, was a dedication to his life-long idol, built around cover versions.

All Rise marks a return to the two-time Grammy Award winner’s original song-writing template: his heart-on-sleeve lyrics imbued with everyday philosophy and real-life detail, set to a stirring mix of jazz, soul, blues, gospel, and pop.

“You could say that I went big,” says Porter, 48, of a record produced by Troy Miller that combines the talents of his long-time bandmates, a hand-picked horn section, a ten-strong choir and the London Symphony Orchestra Strings.

“But, quite frankly, the way I write in my head, it all happens with just voice and piano first, and it’s built up from there. It feels good to get back to the rhythms and the styles and the feelings and the way that I like to lay down my own music from start to finish.”

The artwork for Gregory Porter’s August 28 album, All Rise

Sacramento-born Porter has just released his latest single, the suitably soaring Phoenix. “The song is about the undying, irrepressible spirit of love,” he says. “Love can fall, can suffer some great blow, but it can rise from the ashes and keep going.”

Phoenix follows the gospel-infused lead single Revival, the ballad If Love Is Overrated and Gregory’s dedication to his fans, friends and family, Thank You.

As he worked out the album’s direction, he looked inward, upward, and around him, arriving at a raison d’être found in the title, All Rise. “We hear that phrase when presidents or judges come into the room, but I’m thinking ‘all of us rise’, not just one person being exalted,” says Porter, who played York Barbican in October 2014 and Leeds First Direct Arena in April 2018.

“We are all exalted and lifted up by love. This is my political thought and my real truth. It comes from my personality, my mother’s personality, the personality of the blues and of black people. It’s this idea of making do with the scraps, of resurrection and ascension, and of whatever the current situation is, it can get better through love.”

Did you know?

GREGORY Porter won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Liquid Spirit in 2014 and Take Me To The Alley in 2017.

Spot the difference as Tom Wood adds to online crow show at Lotte Inch Gallery

Water & Seeds, 2020, acrylic and collage, by Tom Wood

LOTTE Inch Gallery’s first online-only exhibition, Tom Wood’s The Abstract Crow, is becoming even more abstract.

“The exhibition catalogue is still available to view online, but some of the more eagle-eyed browsers among you will notice a few changes,” says Lotte Inch, owner of the gallery at Fourteen Bootham, York.

“In a true insight into the daily goings-on of the artist’s studio, Tom has revisited three of the works that form part of this exhibition.”

Explaining his decision, Tom says: “Sometimes I feel compelled to revise things. It’s dangerous having things at home. Starts off a portrait…ends up a bunch of flowers! Still, it will give future conservators something to puzzle over.”

Drawing A Dahlia, by Tom Wood

Lotte rejoins: “So, here’s the perfect excuse to revisit Tom’s exhibition once more and to see if you can spot the changes. If you have any questions about any of these works or others in the show, please feel to drop us a line at lotte@lotteinch.co.uk.

“We’re always more than happy to deliver works for you to look at them if you’re based within the York area.”

Running from April 17 to May 16, Wood’s solo show pays homage to this Yorkshire artist’s love for the natural world, while displaying his imaginative and allusive abstract approach to painting.

Since graduating from Sheffield School of Art in 1978, Wood has exhibited his work worldwide. For example, his celebrated portraits of Professor Lord Robert Winston and Leeds playwright Alan Bennett, both commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, London, have been shown at the Australian National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.

An abstract crow from Tom Wood’s The Abstract Crow online show at Lotte Inch Gallery

Wood has held solo shows at the Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, and Schloss Cappenberg, Kreiss Unna, Germany. Among his commissions are portraits for the National Trust, Warwick University and the Harewood Trust, for whom his large double portrait of the late 7th Earl and Countess of Harewood is on permanent display at Harewood House, near Leeds.

“We look forward to re-opening soon but, in the meantime, we continue to encourage you to browse online,” says Lotte. “Alongside Tom’s newly revised works, we also have a selection of new ceramic works and jewellery and will keep adding new items to our online shop, so do check back with us from time to time.

“Do note that if you live in the York area, we’re pleased to be able to offer a free and safe delivery service. Just select ‘Collect In Store’ and we’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your items.”

Rapper Snoop Dogg moves I Wanna Thank Me tour gig in Leeds to next February

Snooping around: The Doggfather announces rearranged dates for 2021

WEST Coast rapper Snoop Dogg is moving his I Wanna Thank Me tour date at Leeds First Direct Arena to February 17 2021.

The Covid-19 restrictions put paid to the 48-year-old American’s six-date 2020 British and Irish tour in support of his 17th album, I Wanna Thank Me, and documentary of the same name.

Released last August, they marked 25 years of the Doggfather, chart-topping rapper, film and television actor and businessman.
 
Joining Snoop Dogg on the rescheduled tour will be a posse of his key collaborators: West Coast rap luminaries Warren G, Tha Dogg Pound, Obie Trice and D12, plus Irish rap duo Versatile.

Tickets are on sale at https://nvite.com/community/snoopdogg
 

Why are strange messages appearing in lockdown at Scarborough museums? You can provide the answers. Here’s how…

Whispers From The Museum: The online mystery for children that can be solved from May 12

ADVENTUROUS youngsters can help to solve a new online mystery, Whispers From The Museum, set at Scarborough Art Gallery and Rotunda Museum, from May 12.

The gallery and distinctive circular museum are closed under the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Nevertheless, strange messages have been appearing inside, but who or what is making them and what are they trying to tell us?

For six weeks from next Tuesday, young people – and their grown-ups – can uncover stories about assorted Scarborough Museums Trust objects by completing online missions and challenges from their own home. 

Created by Scarborough artist Kirsty Harris, Whispers From The Museum will feature a fictional young girl called George whose older brother, Sam, works at the gallery and museum.

Kirsty Harris: Artist, designer, maker and now woman of mystery

“George can’t visit Sam: like everyone else, she’s staying home,” says Kirsty. “But Sam still sends her videos and photos of what he’s been up to. Recently some very strange things have been appearing overnight in the museum.

“To find out what’s been going on, participants are invited to take part in exciting weekly missions. They can open the missions on their screen or print them if they prefer.”

Each mission will include simple creative projects, such as art or writing, and when finished can be shared on social media. To access each new mission, those taking part will need to answer a simple question or solve a puzzle.

Kirsty says: “Objects and paintings are sitting quietly within the walls of the museum. With no visitors to look at them and think about why they’re so special, their meaning may begin to fade. But they’re still there, full of stories and meaning and purpose. They can reach out to us, asking us to keep their stories alive.

The Tree Of Lost Things: An earlier project by Kirsty Harris

“In a few short weeks, the world we know has become unrecognisable in so many ways. Hundreds of thousands of children are facing months of staying at home, with little real-life contact with the outside world and the inspiration it brings. It’s a lonely prospect, and one that may leave many wondering about their place in the world.”

Scarborough Museums Trust’s learning manager, Christine Rostron, says: “We’re so pleased to be working with artist Kirsty Harris, who has created a brilliant story using our buildings and collections as inspiration.

“This adventure will help children to reach out to and connect with the world beyond their front doors, into a world full of amazing objects and stories that will be waiting for them to explore physically again in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

“To take part, families will need to be able to access the internet, so it’s probably best if an adult helps! Families will be encouraged to keep the things they make until the end of the project.”

Kirsty Harris’s Shhh, Did You Hear That? at Sutton House, near York. Copyright: National Trust

Whispers From The Museum is aimed primarily at children aged seven to 11, although younger and older children will enjoy the challenges too. Free to take part in, the first mission launches on Tuesday, May 12 at scarboroughmuseumstrust.com.

Mystery adventure creator Kirsty Harris is an artist, designer and maker who specialises in installation and performative works. “I make immersive worlds and experiences in found environments, landscapes and theatres,” she says. “I make work for babies aged six months and all the ages that come after.” 

Kirsty has led design-based community projects for The Old Vic, the National Theatre, the National Trust, the V&A, Kensington Palace and Manchester Jewish Museum. 

Kirsty Harris’s Almost Always Muddy, presented by Likely Story Theatre. Picture: Rachel Otterway

She has collaborated with or been commissioned by Wildworks, Punchdrunk, The Young Vic, Coney, Likely Story Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre, Southbank Centre, The Discover Centre, London Symphony Orchestra, National Theatre Wales and the National Trust.

Whispers From The Museum is the first of a series of new digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust as part of its response to the Coronavirus crisis. The trust has asked Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Wanja Kimani, Jane Poulton, Jade Montserrat and Feral Practiceas well as Kirsty Harris, to create digital artworks for release online across assorted social media platforms over the next four months.

These are the platforms:

Website: scarboroughmuseumstrust.com

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw

Twitter: @SMTrust

Instagram: @scarboroughmuseums

Facebook: @scarboroughmuseums

Calling York musicians! Here’s your chance to play on Melody Gardot’s lockdown single From Paris With Love…but hurry, hurry

Melody Gardot and the Paris skyline from her home

AMERICAN chanteuse and songwriter Melody Gardot has marked International Jazz Day with a call-out to musicians to collaborate on her new single, From Paris With Love.

In a case of adding music to Melody, she “wants to contribute something unique to this new movement of “connection despite distance”.

“During this complicated time, we miss essential connections with one other,” she says on Instagram. “We miss hugs, we miss our family, our friends…in short we miss love. So, I want to make a love project to help break the feeling of isolation between us.”

Now living in Paris in lockdown, Gardot is asking musicians confined to their homes across the globe to perform in place of a standard orchestra on her new single on Decca Records to benefit healthcare workers and other musicians via the charity Protégé Ton Soignant.

Amid the constraints of the Coronavirus pandemic, Gardot, 35, has been forced to put the recording of her new studio album on hold, but the situation has inspired her to launch her collaborative initiative.

The principle is simple: bring together an orchestra of string and wind instrument players at present unable to work and pay them as if they were in the studio together.

“There are so many magnificent artists and musicians on the planet who are not able to live their art or exercise their profession right now,” says the New Jersey-born singer and multi-instrumentalist. “I am at home in Paris waiting like everyone else.

“I realised we can try to do something beautiful all together and come out ‘virtually’ from our confines to continue producing. I hope this project will give love and hope.”

Musicians should apply via www.melodygardot.com and will be sent musical charts, backing tracks and instructions on how to record and film themselves performing the piece at home.

From these submissions, individual parts for the final recording will be chosen by Gardot and her long-time collaborators, producer Larry Klein, conductor, arranger and composer Vince Mendoza and engineer Al Schmitt.

Any musician chosen and featured in the final recording will be paid a fee relative to a standard UK union recording wage.

“I hope this project will give love and hope,” says Melody Gardot

The single, once assembled, will be accompanied by a video, featuring all participating musicians, performing from their homes, dotted around the globe. From Paris With Love will be a taster for the direction Gardot is heading on the album, whose further details will be announced soon.

In waiving their profit on the track, Gardot and Decca will pay a minimum of 50p to the charity Protégé Ton Soigant for each download sold in the UK and 20p for each permanent download sold outside Britain or for every 150 streams.


In her Instagram message, Gardot provides a step-by-step guide for musicians to take part in the project.

1. Film a five-second “video-portrait” of yourself. “Film it horizontally, make sure we can see enough of you, chest to head, and with a fixed camera. It’s like taking a picture but five seconds long and in video format.

“Don’t move too much. Just pose and record in some natural light in front of a neutral background, wearing a solid black or white T-shirt.”


2. Handwritten horizontally, using a large black Sharpie or black crayon on a white piece of paper (standard A4 format suggested), say “From (wherever you are) With Love”.

“Scan or photograph the paper (highest quality possible) and send both items (your photo scan and your video) to the email address: frompariswithloveproject@gmail.com,” says Gardot. “In your email, please include your Instagram handle (if you have one), so we can find you later.

“After receiving these things, we’ll put together a surprising collaborative video clip featuring all your submissions alongside a new piece of music called From Paris with Love.

“A large portion my royalties from this song will be donated to a Covid-19 relief charity to help medical workers during this time. This way, we share as much love as we possibly can together.”

Gardot adds: “Please remember, if you send this along, it means you’re OK for me to use your image in this project, so think about breaking the ‘quarantine pyjama’ uniform if you don’t want everybody to see you that way! Your mom and mine will see this.” Full terms and conditions can be found at https://decca.lnk.to/termsandconditions.

“We’re only collecting these over the next few days, so please don’t wait too long,” advises Gardot. “Feel free to pass this message along. This is just the first step of this collaborative journey, so stay tuned…With love, from Paris.”

Pocklington’s Platform Festival in July is cancelled in ‘heart-breaking decision’

No Saving Grace: Robert Plant: was to have headlined Platform Festival this summer

POCKLINGTON’S 2020 Platform Festival, headlined by Robert Plant’s new band in July, is off.

Run by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) at The Old Station, the annual festival has “very sadly has been cancelled for Covid-19 health and safety reasons”.

The organisers, PAC director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy, are working on transferring all the 2020 programme to July 21 to 27 2021 and will keep festival-goers updated over the coming weeks.

“We will weather this storm and return in 2021 stronger and more vibrant than ever,” they vow.

Omid Djalili: Booked to open Platform Festival on July 8

The 2020 line-up would have opened with comedian Omid Djalili on July 8, followed by Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant’s Saving Grace with Suzi Dian on July 10, and a Saturday bill on three stages, featuring Shed Seven Acoustic: Rick Witter & Paul Banks, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Ward Thomas, Lucy Spraggan and York country singer Twinnie on July 11.

The BBC Big Band on July 14 and folk-rock stalwart Richard Thompson on July 15 would have completed the festival line-up.

In a joint statement, heartbroken Janet and James say: “Following the continuing developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Platform Festival.

“The safety of our audience members, artists, staff, volunteers and wider community has to come first and we did not want to put additional pressure on the health and emergency services at this time.”

Shed Seven’s Paul Banks and Rick Witter: Topping Platform Festival’s Saturday bill with an acoustic set

Janet and James continue: “Platform is a labour of love, for PAC staff, and being unable to share it with you all in the venue’s 20th anniversary year is heart-breaking. It is, of course, the choice we had hoped we wouldn’t have to make.

“We looked at the possibility of staging the event at a later date in 2020 but the most important thing for us, other than your obvious safety, is to give our customers certainty and so we have made the decision to move this year’s festival to July 2021.”

Praising Platform’s regular festival-goers, they say: “Platform is nothing without our audience, you make it the great festival that it is. We want to thank you for your patience, support and understanding with us, while we have been working to reschedule the festival for you. We will weather this storm and return in 2021 stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

Dealing with housekeeping matters, they confirm: “If you have already booked your tickets, rest assured these are secured. You will be offered the choice of a refund or the chance to hold on to your tickets for the 2021 edition.

Richard Thompson: July 15 gig would have climaxed the 2020 Platform Festival

“We plan to carry as much of the programme as possible forward and, so far, almost all artists have agreed to work with us on this, which is amazing. We will, of course, keep you updated and we hope to have this all finalised in the coming weeks.

“Please be patient and wait to hear from us. Our box office – and external ticket agencies – is extremely busy and we will contact you in due course.”

Janet and James conclude: “Platform 2021 will take place on July 22 to 27 and we would love to see you all there for our biggest party yet. Stay home, stay safe and look after each other. For urgent enquiries, please email info@pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

“If you are in a position to support Pocklington Arts Centre and Platform Festival, we have set up a crowdfunding page via https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/pac.”

Mary Coughlan: Pocklington concert moved to September 23

Meanwhile, Pocklington Arts Centre has released an updated list of rescheduled shows for 2020/21, with the prospect of more being added in the coming weeks and months.

The Wandering Hearts, winners of the 2018 Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at the UK Americana Awards, move their sold-out In Harmony, An Intimate Tour show from April 14 to August 27 2020.

Mary Coughlan, “Ireland’s Billie Holiday”, switches her April 21 gig to September 23; inquisitive folk truth seeker John Smith, from May 21 to November 3, and American singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, June 27 to February 2 2021.

Andy Parsons: Comedian re-booked for April 24 2021

BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine now asks “What the hell is going on?” on February 26 2021, rather than May 1 2020.

Billy Bremner & Me, comedian Phil Differ’s comedy-drama recounting his dream of eclipsing the fiery Leeds United and Scotland captain’s footballing deeds, moves from June 5 to March 11 2021; Herman’s Hermits re-emerge on April 22 next spring, and Mock The Week comedian Andy Parsons’ sold-out April 28 gig is re-booked for April 24 2021.

Led as ever by vocalist Maddy Prior, folk favourites Steeleye Span’s 50th anniversary celebrations of debut album Hark The Village Wait will have to wait until its 51st anniversary, their show now moved from May 3 2020 to May 7 2021.

James Felice, left, Will Lawrence, Jesske Hume and Ian Felice of The Felice Brothers, now to play Pocklington on June 22 next summer

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Catrin Finch, from Wales, and Seckou Keita, from Senegal, will be joined by Canadian multi-instrumental trio Vishten on June 10 next summer, rather than June 13 2020 as first planned.

The Felice Brothers, from the Catskill Mountains, New York State, will be playing almost a year to the day later than their original booking. Ian and James Felice, joined by drummer Will Lawrence and bass Jesske Hume, are in the PAC diary for June 22 2021, replacing June 23 this summer.

The spotlight would have been on their 2019 album Undress, as well as their back catalogue from 2006 onwards, but now there should be new material too.

Courtney Marie Andrews: Watch this space for an upcoming new date announcement

A new date for American country singer Courtney Marie Andrews’ now postponed June 17 concert with her full band should be confirmed in the next week. Her new album Old Flowers will be released on Loose/Fat Possum Records on June 5.

All existing tickets holders for the rescheduled shows are being contacted by the PAC box office for ticket transfers or refunds.

Badly Drawn Boy to mark turning 50 with first studio album in a decade on May 22

The artwork for Badly Drawn Boy’s new album, Banana Skin Shoes

BADLY Drawn Boy, alias woolly-hatted Damon Gough, will release his first studio album in a decade, Banana Skin Shoes, on May 22 on the AWAL label.

Trailered as a “truly personal and heartfelt collection that skips between musical idioms and emotional extremes”, the 14 tracks were completed last year by Gough at Eve Studios, Stockport, with producer Gethin Pearson, who also mixed the recordings.

Earlier, Gough had worked on tracks for the album with legendary producer Youth at his London studio; Keir Stewart (ex-Durutti Column) at Inch Studios and Seadna McPhail at Airtight Studios.

Badly Drawn Boy last released a studio set, It’s What I’m Thinking Pt 1, Photographing Snowflakes, in October 2010, since when he has composed the soundtrack for Being Flynn, Paul Weitz’s 2012 American film starring Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore.

This month’s album spans the opening blast of forthcoming single Banana Skin Shoes, with its riotous Beck-meets-Beastie Boys “cartoony” hip hop throw-down, to the immaculately tailored closer I’ll Do My Best, a nod to Gough’s failings, a prayer to his partner and a lyrical tip of the hat to his hero Bruce Springsteen. Take a look at the animated video for the single by award-winning film directors Broken Antler at https://badlydrawnboy.lnk.to/bss-vid

Badly Drawn Boy, alias Damon Gough

In between the two bookends are the retro-futurist pop of Fly On The Wall, evoking the Eighties’ pop-soul of Hall & Oates; the lush piano-and-strings ballad Never Change and the Motown-echoing soul stomper Tony Wilson Said, a celebration of the late, great fixer of the Manchester music scene.

I Need Someone To Trust begins with a nod to Chicago’s soft-rock 1976 chart topper If You Leave Me Now, branching into a spiritual song of salvation-seeking, while the beautiful, loving I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness sees 50-year-old Gough “dig deep to alchemise the trauma of a break-up into a song of salutation to his ex”.

The track listing on Badly Drawn Boy’s eighth studio album will be: Banana Skin Shoes; first single Is This A Dream?; I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness; I’m Not Sure What It is; Tony Wilson Said; You And Me Against The World; I Need Someone To Trust; Note To Self; Colours; Funny Time Of Year; Fly On The Wall; Never Change; Appletree Boulevard and I’ll Do My Best.

After his sold-out London show at The Roundhouse in January, the 2000 Mercury Music Prize winner will announce more live dates over the coming months. He played Yorfest at York Racecourse in September 2017.

Christine swaps making panto costumes for sewing wash bags for frontline workers

The Blue Light Theatre Company pantomime costume maker Christine Friend turning her hand to sewing wash bags for NHS frontline workers

CHRISTINE Friend normally would be making costumes for The Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime in York. Now she is turning her skills instead to sewing for frontline workers in the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

She is among a group of volunteers from York, Harrogate and Knaresborough that has come together via Facebook to make uniform wash bags out of anything from pillowcases to old duvet covers.

“They’re making the bags for all our Blue Light Theatre NHS friends and their colleagues,” says Christine’s husband, Mark, actor and publicist for Blue Light Theatre, a company made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers, York Hospital staff and members of York’s theatre scene.

“The idea is that after a shift, frontline workers can remove their uniform at work, put it straight into the bag, then close it tight and pop it into their washing machine when they get home to prevent cross-contamination.”

In the bag: Joanne Halliwell and her daughter Abbey, who set up the Bag The Bug group for York, Harrogate and
Knaresborough

The Facebook group Bag The Bug – Covid 19 – York, Harrogate & Knaresborough was set up a couple of weeks ago by Joanne Halliwell and her daughter Abbey. “They were wanting something to do during lockdown and found a group called Bag The Bug, based in the north west, who were making the bags for NHS staff in Bolton.

“They decided to make some bags too and after talking to the group’s coordinator, they set up a group locally.”

They had an immediate response, from people asking for the bags, others offering to donate material, sew, help to coordinate Bag The Bug and to drive for the group.

In a fortnight, more than 300 North Yorkshire members have sent 1,850 bags to care homes, NHS staff, GP surgeries, ambulance stations and hospitals.

Adrian Deligny: One of the frontline workers who has received a Bag The Bug wash bag

Co-organiser Joanne says: “I think it just shows how, in times of need, everyone can pull together and do their bit. The community spirit has most certainly come out, which is wonderful. Whether people have sewn ten pillowcases or 100, or have donated one duvet cover or ten, every little helps.”

As the demand for the bags continues to grow, Adrian Deligny is among the care workers who have received bags. “The uniform bag is an excellent idea in order to help stop the spread of the virus at home,” he says.

“Before this, I was putting everything in a bin bag, which wasn’t the best. It is important that during these difficult times everybody is united. This project has shown an unparalleled demonstration of solidarity and generosity. My wife and I are extremely grateful.”

If any organisation requires bags, or if anyone wishes to donate material (it must be able to be washed at over 60c), or can help in any other way, please contact Joanne Halliwell. Do this either via the group’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/groups/240401817107890/ or by email to bagthebugyhk@gmail.com

Milton Rooms face closure “for good” unless crowdfunding appeal succeeds

The Milton Rooms: The community hub of Malton

THE Milton Rooms, Malton, are launching an urgent crowdfunding appeal to help the community centre through the Coronavirus-enforced shutdown. Otherwise, closure “for good” could be around the corner.

In a stark statement, chairman Paul Andrews forewarns: “We need to raise £10,000 by the end of September to safeguard the future of the venue. Should the Coronavirus crisis extend for a further three months, that figure will rise to £20,000.

“Without these funds, our wonderful arts and community facility may have to close for good.”

The Milton Rooms offer a wide variety of entertainment, play host to theatre companies and Malton groups and provide a central hub for the Malton Food Festival and monthly markets.

Over the past few months, the Milton Rooms team had been “working hard to put together a programme of events and activities for the whole community”. However, the Covid-19 emergency necessitated the building’s closure to the public for as long as required under the Government strictures to beat the virus.

Flashback: The Milton Rooms in concert mode before the Coronavirus shutdown

The Milton Rooms are registered as a charitable limited company, run mostly by volunteers. Now, with no revenue coming in, the need for financial support to pay outstanding bills, such as utilities and insurance, is urgent.


“It has been amazing to see how the community has pulled together to support one another during the crisis,” says Paul. “Many people have great memories of events at the Milton Rooms, whether it be watching family and friends at the pantomime or Ryedale Youth Theatre, attending dances or musical performances, or taking part in community activities such as yoga, Musical Memories or Vintage Dance.  

“Please support us at this very difficult time, so that we can maintain the venue and then thrive as a centre when life returns to normal. If 300 people give £30 each, we will have £9,000 and have almost reached our appeal target.’’

To donate, visit the crowdfunding site: https://www.gofundme.com/f/milton-rooms-covid-19-appeal.

Slung Low turn another page with dystopian short film The Good Book streaming online from tomorrow

Riana Duce as Avalon and Angus Imrie as Geraint in a scene from The Good Book, streaming online from tomorrow

PIONEERING Leeds theatre company Slung Low will premiere their new short film The Good Book from 12 noon tomorrow, streaming online for free.

Set in a future Leeds, James Phillips’s story depicts a society divided between loyalists of the powerful Queen Bear and radical followers of Galahad.

Avalon, played by Riana Duce, is a young woman desperate not to take sides, but as civil war begins, she must undertake a dangerous mission to rescue a precious relic from destruction.

Riana, from Bradford, is joined in the cast of invited actors by Angus Imrie, from Fleabag, Emma and The Archers, Katie Eldred and more than 100 members of the Holbeck community.

Directed by Sheffield filmmaker Brett Chapman, filming took place in late-January at Slung Low’s base, The Holbeck Social Club and at Holbeck Cemetery, Leeds Central Library and Leeds Town Hall.

Slung Low cast members Riana Duce and Angus Imrie in a scene from The Good Book in Holbeck Cemetery

The Good Book forms the first production for the newly formed Leeds People’s Theatre, created by producers Slung Low with support of Leeds 2023, the city’s upcoming international cultural festival, Leeds City Council and the Arts Council.

The film continues writer James Phillips’s future dystopia, a series that began with The White Whale at Leeds Dock in 2013, followed by Camelot, a Slung Low and Sheffield Theatres outdoor co-production in 2015.

Next came Flood, the epic centrepiece of Hull, UK City of Culture 2017’s performance programme that also featured on the BBC.

Project number four represents a departure for Slung Low: the film The Good Book, at once self-contained but also drawing on the world of Camelot.

“I think the plan was to launch it in Leeds and do a little festival run, but after the Coronavirus lockdown it seemed better and more useful to put it out there now online,” says James.

Katie Eldred , centre, as Vivian in The Good Book

“We were lucky that we got the filming done in the last two and a half weeks of January, and the penultimate day was ‘Brexit Day’. Not that long ago, but that now seems a world of somewhat different concerns.”

The Good Book finds Phillips working once more with Slung Low artistic director and executive producer Alan Lane. “The work Alan and I do together is different to the other work Slung Low does,” says James.

“For pieces like Flood, a full-blown epic for Hull’s City of Culture year, it’s a ‘future present’ that we create that allows us to play with big political ideas and look at things in a slightly different way.

“Camelot was done with a massive cast of 127 on Sheffield’s streets in 2015, and again it was a prescient piece where I became obsessed with the thought of a dangerous nostalgia, that need to look back to look forward, which has caused so many problems.

“That play was about a young girl who saw visions of the future of Arthurian Britain, and then ten years later, people come along who have taken those visions seriously but are utterly more dangerous. This re-birth of ‘purity’ becomes so destructive that a civil war starts.”

Angus Imrie as Geraint in Leeds Central Library in The Good Book

James continues: “This was just before Trump’s presidency, Brexit and the Corbyn revolution, so something was in the air. Like ISIS being a nostalgic organisation looking back to something that never existed…and I wondered about Christian fundamentalism too.”

The Good Book is set ten years into that new world, now in Holbeck, as a counter-revolution starts in Leeds, whereas Camelot was set and made in Sheffield.

The switch of location was a “very logical step”, says James: “When I wanted to make this film, it was good to tie it in with the idea that Leeds was the last place that Sheffield would want a counter-revolution to start, and whereas Camelot was about heroes, this story is about a small revolution.”

In The Good Book, an old man caught between two opposing factions gives a young girl a piece of paper with a reference number for a book at Leeds Library. “She has to decide whether to risk herself to save the book, and she wonders what meaning the book might have,” says James.

Is “The Good Book” the Bible? “No. It’s something more than anything to do with what’s going on in the world now,” says James.

Riana Duce as Avalon in The Good Book

A short film may suggest a more intimate work than Camelot, but “it is and it isn’t more intimate”, the writer says. “I made the decision to push the envelope, so it’s not a typical short film. It has a big cast of 100, so technically it’s too long for a ‘short film’.

“At the end, there’s a big riot involving 90 people, and we had lots of recruits wanting to do that scene!”

How does James expect viewers to react to The Good Book? “Hopefully they will be surprised. It’s different. I’ve done screen things before, like the Flood project having a short film and a piece for the BBC, but The Good Book was always, deliberately, conceived to be a short film,” he says.

“I think we’re on to a good thing with this film, so it would be great to do more of them.”

Slung Low’s The Good Book will be available to stream online for free from 12 noon tomorrow (May 1) at www.slunglow.org/TGB

Slung Low’s film poster for The Good Book

Did you know?

LEEDS People’s Theatre has been created by Slung Low as a dedicated division for large-scale professional arts projects with communities in Leeds at the heart of them.

This involves the community working in tandem with professional artists and creative teams, offering an opportunity to learn, gain more experience or simply be part of a community. 

The Good Book will be the first of several projects Slung Low are planning for Leeds People’s Theatre. Watch this space.

York Theatre Royal goes digital for Suffragette stream of Everything Is Possible protest play

Suffragette city: Women on the protest march in Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes on the York Minster Plaza in June 2017. Picture: Anthony Robling

YORK Theatre Royal will stream the 2017 community play Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes for free on YouTube from May 6.

Co-produced with Theatre Royal company-in-residence Pilot Theatre, this large-scale production was performed by a community cast of 150 and a choir of 80 from June 20 to July 1 that summer.

Set in early 20th century York, Juliet Forster and Katie Posner’s production began with Suffragette protest scenes and rallying calls on the plaza outside York Minster before moving indoors to the Theatre Royal’s main stage.

Leading professional actress Barbara Marten, who lives in York, played the lead role of Annie Seymour Pearson, a Heworth housewife who risked her life in 1913 to fight for women’s right to vote as women across the country, outraged by inequality and prejudice, began to rise up and demand change.

Barbara Marten as York Suffragette campaigner Annie Seymour Pearson at York Theatre Royal in June 2017.
Picture: Anthony Robling

Annie began her involvement in the Suffragette movement as an ordinary, middle-class housewife in a church-going family with a middle-management husband and three children.

She also was part of the Primrose League, who went out canvassing among women like themselves to influence them into urging their husbands to vote for certain candidates for election.

Yet you would struggle to find outward acknowledgment in York of Annie Seymour Pearson’s place in the city’s social history. “The house in Heworth Green, where she ran a safe house, no longer stands and there’s no blue plaque,” said Barbara at the start of rehearsals in late-May 2017. “Even her obituary made no mention of her having been a Suffragette.

“It’s interesting to choose Annie as a central character because she was such a genteel, respectable woman who didn’t start out as a militant, but various events propelled her forward.”

Barbara Marten, the one professional in the community cast of 150, in rehearsal for Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes

Not least, Annie was arrested in January 1913 when a union deputation of York Suffragettes headed to London as thousands of women converged on the capital to protest at the poverty that many women were living through.

“Annie was arrested for obstruction, just for walking on the pavement, and the charge was ‘obstruction’ simply because there were so many women there,” said Barbara.

“She was charged 40 shillings for her offence or three weeks in prison and she wrote to her husband to say that she would not pay her fine, but she would serve her sentence and was prepared to be imprisoned again.

“She’s there in prison for two days, when her husband comes down to London and pays the fine – and you can imagine the scene when she got home.”

Barbara Marten as Annie Seymour Pearson: wife, mother, Suffragette. Picture: Anthony Robling

Everything Is Possible highlighted how the Suffragette movement was not solely a London movement. “Instead, it was made up of women from all over the country, like in Manchester and Leeds, where lots of women worked in factories, and in York as well,” said Barbara. “Scarborough was very militant too.”

The 2017 “protest play” recalled how women in York ran safe houses, organised meetings, smashed windows and fire-bombed pillar boxes, the production telling the story of their dangerous, exhilarating and ground-breaking actions for the first time.

York playwright Bridget Foreman, who wrote Everything Is Possible, says of the timing of next month’s streaming: “It’s really poignant, in the midst of isolation and social distancing, to think about the making of Everything Is Possible; the extraordinary coming together of hundreds of local people, and the staging of huge crowd scenes both on the York Theatre Royal stage and outside York Minster.

“And now the stage is dark and the streets are empty. But looking back to the way in which that show brought people together, inspiring them in so many ways, is a wonderful reminder of the power of theatre and community.”

Playwright Bridget Foreman at the read-through for Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes. Picture: John Saunders

Bridget continues: “We saw participants and audience members getting involved with theatre, politics, activism, local history, family research. Now, I really hope that people watching the production digitally will find their own inspiration, their own vision and energy for engaging with and changing the world when we come through this crisis.”

Directed by Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster and Pilot Theatre associate director Posner, now co-artistic director of Paines Plough in London, Everything Is Possiblewaspart of the Theatre Royal’s 2017 season Of Women Born, curated by a team of women to focus on work made and led by female artists, built around women’s stories.

Everything Is Possible can be streamed online on the Theatre Royal’s YouTube channel from 7pm on Wednesday, May 6 to Sunday, May 31. In the run-up to the streaming, the Theatre Royal will be sharing messages on social media from the volunteers who helped bring this production to the stage.

“These responses from the theatre’s community, promoted by the question ‘What does ‘everything is possible’ mean to you right now?’, aims to spread messages of hope and courage to the wider York community during the Coronavirus pandemic,” says marketing officer Olivia Potter.

The full cast and choir for Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes on the York Theatre Royal stage in June 2017. Picture: Anthony Robling

The Theatre Royal is asking viewers to support the stream by making an online or text donation, “so that York Theatre Royal can continue to engage and entertain the York community in the future”.

The Everything Is Possible online stream is part of the theatre’s Collective Acts programme of creative community engagement, taking place while the building is closed under the Coronavirus pandemic strictures.

Further details on the Everything Is Possible online stream and Collective Acts can be found at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Deeds not words: Suffragette protesters leave the York Minster Plaza to make their way to York Theatre Royal in the 2017 community play Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes. Picture: Anthony Robling

REVIEW: Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, York Theatre Royal/Pilot Theatre, at York Theatre Royal and York Minster Plaza, from The Press, York, June 23 2017.

DAMIAN Cruden has no hesitation in naming his greatest achievement in his 20 years as artistic director at York Theatre Royal: the rise and rise of the community play.

The city already had the York Mystery Plys, the street plays staged in myriad forms through the centuries, and when Cruden and Riding Lights’ Paul Burbridge directed the 2012 plays on their return to the Museum Gardens, a template was established for the series of community productions that has ensued.

Each has told a chapter of York’s history: the chocolate industry in the dark shadow of the First World War in Blood + Chocolate on the city streets; the rise and fall of the Railway King, George Hudson, in In Fog And Falling Snow at the National Railway Museum, and now the York Suffragettes in Everything Is Possible, outside the Minster and in the Theatre Royal’s main house.

Street protest: One of the modern-day protesters in the opening scenes from Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes. Picture: Anthony Robling

A rabble noise swells from the Minster Plaza, a canny way to make the city aware that a major production of political dimensions involving more than 300 people is taking place in their midst at a time when the political landscape is more divisive and more inflammatory than for years. The scene, a throng of rebel songs and impassioned speeches, replicates demonstrations of yore, suddenly suffused by placard-waving Suffragettes in 1913 attire, followed by policemen forcibly breaking up the crowd.

The likes of Sophie Walmsley on her acoustic guitar need to placed higher above the crowd, but where Barbara Marten’s Annie Seymour Pearson takes her place on the Plaza steps is a better sight line.

“Deeds Not Words” say the placards: a mantra that wholly applies to how these community plays are mounted, volunteers to the fore on and off stage, this time under the guidance of a professional production team led by the Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster and Pilot Theatre associate director Katie Posner

Juliet Forster: York Theatre Royal associate director, co-director of Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes

Once we are ushered by the coppers to the theatre, there is a little lull for chatter and drinks refuelling before Bridget Foreman’s account of the previously untold story of York’s involvement in the Suffragette movement circa 1913 has its day and has its say.

Marten and Suffragettes historian Professor Krista Cowman have played significant parts in bringing the story to the stage, so too have Foreman and a research team, and now at last the role of Annie Seymour Pearson and her Suffragette safe house at 14, Heworth Green, next to the home of anti-Suffragette campaigner Edith Milner, has its rightful place in the city’s history.

Barbara Marten might strike some in the audience as being a little old for her role as a mother of four young children, but Foreman places her as much in the role of a narrator looking back on the events of a century ago as that of protagonist in the drama, and all of Marten’s passion for the story, as well as her celebrated acting skills come to the fore.

A scene from Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes. Picture: Anthony Robling

York, it must be said, played rather less of a central role in the Suffragette drive for votes for women than it did in this year’s General Election with its visits by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

Yes, it played not even second fiddle to London and Leeds, but Emmeline Pankhurst (Liz Elsworth), leader of the British suffragette movement, made a speech here that forms the climax of the first half; leading Leeds campaigner Leonora Cohen (Loretta Smith) visited too, as did Lilian Lenton, the wild-card London arsonist, played by the breakthrough new talent of this show, University of York student Annabel Lee. A firecracker indeed, a professional career surely awaits.

Annie’s arrest in London for obstructing a policeman – when he had been the one to inflict a bloody nose – and the militant activities of the Women’s Social and Political Union in York, led by Jo Smith’s Violet Key Jones, are prominent in the play, A silent movie-style film sequence linked to live action shows the full horror of the prison practice of force-feeding hunger-strikers, showing off Sara Perks’s set to best effect too.

Rallying call: Two protesters on the York Minster Plaza at the outset of Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes. Picture: Anthony Robling

Men have their place in the piece in the form of Mark France’s Arthur Seymour Pearson (rather reminiscent of the husband figure in Brief Encounter) and Rory Mulvihill’s stentorian Home Secretary.

A choir of 100 is tucked away out of sight in the gods, assembled by Madeleine Hudson to perform Ivan Stott’s folk-rooted campaigning compositions, but rightly they have their moment in the spotlight on stage at the finale.

Forster and Posner’s very lively, highly committed, educational and resolute production, peppered with anarchic humour as much as political zeal, forms the pinnacle of York Theatre Royal’s Of Woman Born season of women’s words and deeds. In straitened times for funding for the arts, Everything Is Possible affirms that anything is possible when a community comes together and turns York into Suffragette City.

Review by Charles Hutchinson. Copyright of The Press, York.

Kentmere House Gallery may be shut but owner Ann Petherick rallies around artists

Man at easel: David Greenwood painting in his garden

KENTMERE House Gallery owner Ann Petherick is determined to champion “great art from troubled times”.

Her gallery doors in Scarcroft Hill, York, may be shut amid the Coronavirus lockdown, but nevertheless Ann has issued a rallying call to support artists still busy being creative.

“Artists are not quitters – and in any case have to eat, pay rent, buy materials, etc. – so it’s likely that all of them are hard at work in their studios in enforced isolation,” she says.

Rosie Dean outside her studio

“Artists need to sell, so for those of you who are indoors and bored with looking at bare walls, or at the same old images, the gallery is open online and you’re very welcome to browse kentmerehouse.co.uk.”  

Ann has original paintings and artists’ prints by more than 70 artists, all unique to the gallery, at prices ranging from £30 to £2,000, as well as illustrated books by artists, priced £10 to £30, again unique to Kentmere House.

Gallery regular Susan Bower lives near Tadcaster, where she works from a spacious studio built by her husband, a former GP-turned-joiner and restorer of old fire engines. “The studio is lined with around 100 paintings: finished work waiting to be sent to galleries all over the country, work in progress, and postcards and cuttings for inspiration,” says Ann. “Dogs and grandchildren are banned but manage to sneak in nevertheless.”

John Thornton in his garden studio

John Thornton has a garden studio, self-built and looking on to a delightful sheltered garden. “Prevented from making his usual regular trips to the coast, he’s contenting himself with re-creating the scenes he loves,” says Ann.

“Likewise, Rosie Dean, always one of the most popular artists from York Open Studios, is working on her impressive seascapes from her terraced house in York.”

Suffolk artist Tessa Newcomb paints at her cottage near Aldeburgh. “Cats are always in evidence, and it’s necessary to pick your way carefully across the floor as paintings are everywhere!” says Ann. “It is perhaps fortunate that most of her work is fairly small.”

Ann Petherick surrounded by art at Kentmere House Gallery

David Greenwood now lives in Keighley, where he is lucky to have a garden to paint in, says Ann. “The ongoing cancellations of race meetings are a disappointment to him but he can still enjoy the canal walks that give him much inspiration,” she enthuses. “Like so many artists, he has plenty of sketches from previous visits to work on, along with the ideas in his head.”

Rosemary Carruthers always enjoyed her visits to York, where on several occasions she was artist-in-residence at the York Early Music Festival. “She’s now based in a new house in Holt in Norfolk, where she has a new garden to occupy her considerable gardening skills but retains time for painting her exquisite oils of musicians too.”

Ann updates her website, kentmerehouse.co.uk, regularly and frequently posts on Twitter @kentmere_h_gall. “One day I may even figure out how to deal with Instagram,” she says.  

York drag diva Velma Celli’s on your telly for online fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice

Velma Celli: Adding more than a little sparkle to lockdown

VELMA Celli, York’ very own globe-strutting drag diva, will host a special fundraising concert for St Leonard’s Hospice live from her kitchen on Saturday night to “add a little sparkle to lockdown while helping this great cause”. 

Ian Stroughair, the alter-ego of fabulous cabaret creation Velma, returned to self-isolate in his native York directly from a tour of Australia, since when he has joined a host of fellow West End performers to create a season of online streamed concerts from their own homes. 

In the wake of Velma’s successful Leave A Light On concert, when viewers tuned in from York, London and even as far afield as New York, Ian decided to organise an intimate gig in support of St Leonard’s Hospice, in Tadcaster Road, York.

“Unfortunately, too many of us have seen the amazing work of the team at St Leonard’s Hospice first hand, as loved ones, including my mum, spent time there as cancer was making life increasingly difficult for them,” says Ian, who presents The Velma Celli Show at The Basement, City Screen, York, each month.

“I’ve always wanted to find a way to support the hospice, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. With so many conventional fundraising events postponed due to the lockdown, this is a great way for people to support the hospice while enjoying a fantastic, fun and fruity evening of live music in their own living room.” 

Ian’s glittering cabaret queen has starred in such self-originated shows as A Brief History Of Drag, Equinox – Something Fabulous This Way Comes and Me And My Divas, as well as The Velma Celli Show.

Diva Velma’s repertoire takes inspiration from many of the best female vocalists of the past 75 years, from Judy Garland to Lady Gaga and beyond. “So there’s something for everyone – including hilarious impersonations of the voices and peculiar mannerisms – of some of pop music’s most famous stars,” Ian says.  “Unlike many drag queens, Velma always performs live, adding her own special spin to familiar songs.”

Tickets for Saturday’s event are available from https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-is-live-in-secret-york-venue-tickets/10574895, priced at £7.  “With all proceeds going to St Leonard’s Hospice, we’re hoping that each person watching will buy a ticket, rather than one ticket for the whole room!” requests Ian.

Online audience members will receive a link to watch the performance 30 minutes before the 8pm show, which can be streamed on a PC or internet-enabled smart TV.

Velma Celli: From her kitchen to your living room on Saturday night

Charles Hutchinson asks Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli for quick answers to quick questions in the build-up to Saturday’s gig.

Where are you playing this online show? In York or are you back in London now?

“Darling, I’m in Bishy Bishopthorpe. I came up a week before lockdown.”

Why did you choose a kitchen as the performance space for Saturday’s stream?

“It’s the biggest room and better acoustically.” 

Describe your kitchen. Colour scheme? Favourite kitchen gadget?

“We are white and grey in our kitchen. Gadget? Bottle opener (obvs!).”

What do you most like about kitchens?

“I love kitchens ’cos I’m a mean cook. Not a bitchy one, just very good! I actually wanted to be a chef, that was the plan. I love to bake.”

What’s your favourite dish you make? 

“At the moment, my favourite thing is a custard cake. It’s my great friends Eliza and Suzie’s grandma Dot’s recipe and it’s heavenly.”

Any tips for cooking in lockdown?

“Get creative with what’s in and try not to over-shop.”

How have you been coping with lockdown in York? What are you doing to fill your days?

“I’m coping well. I have my moments because I travel so much with work. I’m cycling a lot and writing.”

Are you good in total isolation? 

“NO.”

What are you missing most in lockdown?

“Being with my friends and family.”

What had you been doing this year before lockdown struck?  

“I toured Australia with my latest show, which was amazing. I also went on the Atlantis Gay cruise around New Zealand and just lots of fabulous gigs in the U.K.”

What was in your 2020 diary that you now can’t do?

So many gigs – and I was supposed to open and star in Funny Girls in Blackpool for a few months.” 

Why are you doing this concert for St Leonard’s Hospice?

“St Leonard’s Hospice cared for my Mum in her last days. It’s a fantastic facility in York that – since Mum’s passing – I try to support as much as I can because they are utterly fabulous.

“The staff are like living angels. I am in awe of them.”

How did the Leave A Light On show go?  When was it broadcast?

“I did it as a solo show on April 2 and it was so much fun. Special shout-out to Eliza and Jamie at Lambert Jackson Productions for their involvement. They’re awesome.”

What songs will you be performing this weekend and why?

“Ooooo, don’t want to spoil the surprise! There’ll be some Queen, Gaga, Judy [Garland] and many more.”

Will there be any special new additions on an isolation theme?

“Yes! A Nirvana classic but re-written lyrically.”

Which one? Maybe that new President Trump Covid-19 favourite Smells Like White Spirit?

“That’s it. Bang on the sentiment.”  

What length will the show be? Any guests?

“One hour. I’ll have the insanely talented Twinnie joining me, though safely apart. She’s up in York at her Mum’s for lockdown. Her album Hollywood Gypsy just came out and it’s amazing!

York country singer Twinnie: Velma Celli’s special guest on Saturday

“She hasn’t decided on what else she’ll performing yet, but most likely we’ll do an album track together too.”

I know just the song! May I suggest her candid yet candied single Better When I’m Drunk?

“Perfect. That’s the one. Whoop!”

Finally, how will you celebrate when you can perform on a stage again, in front of an audience?

“By being ready and raising my game.”

To listen to York country singer Twinnie’s debut album, Hollywood Gypsy, last week’s BBC Radio 2 album of the week, go to: https://twinnie.lnk.to/hollywoodgypsyWE

Copyright of The Press, York

NCEM goes online in May with inspirational archival recordings and fancy footwork

Palisander: Watch out for spiders in all that foliage

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, will continue to reach out from behind closed doors to provide inspirational music online with a series of concerts throughout May.

Confirmed for next month are Palisander, Beware The Spider!, on Saturday (May 2); Rumorum, Medieval Music for voices and instruments, May 16, and European Union Baroque Orchestra, Handel & Bach, May 30, all starting at 1pm.

To view these concerts for free, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk, where you also can find details of the Cuppa And A Chorus community singing sessions, now on Zoom, plus other NCEM news and more concert footage.

Palisander’s fancy footwork

In Beware The Spider!, first performed at the NCEM in March 2019, the young recorder quartet explore the Tarantella, the effects of a venomous spider bite, and the curious world of folk medicine. 

Fast moving and fun, with some fancy footwork to boot, the Palisander programme combined music by Vivaldi and many others with an entertaining narrative.

Like Palisander, Rumorum first played Medieval Music for voices and instruments at the NCEM in March 2019. These 12th to 15th century music specialists turn back the clock to the time of Medieval Europe when musicians travelled across the continent, gathering stories, sharing knowledge of love, pain and exile.

Rumorum: Rebec,, harp, flute and voice ensemble

This youthful ensemble formed while studying medieval performance at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland and took York classical audiences by storm when winning the York Early Music Festival Friends’ Prize in the 2017 festival competition.  “If you can’t quite visualise a rebec, harp, flute and voice ensemble, this is your chance,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.

European Union Baroque Orchestra’s concert recording dates from March 2017, led by director and harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen, who was joined that day by soloists Maria Keohane, soprano, Bojan Cicic, concertmaster,and Neven Lesage, oboe.

The concert was performed to celebrate Early Music Day 2017 on the birthday of JS Bach. “Entitled Betrayal And Betrothal, it features music by Bach and Handel and provides an exciting opportunity to hear this outstanding group again, presenting one of their last ever performances on stage,” says Delma.

“Keeping in touch with our audiences is so important to us in these difficult times,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

As an added bonus”, harpsichordist extraordinaire Steven Devine will “help you beat the blues” with Bach Bites – bite size chunks to inspire and uplift – every Wednesday evening at 6pm.

Delma says: “Keeping in touch with our audiences is so important to us in these difficult times and we’re delighted to be able to bring you this eclectic selection of archival recordings from concerts recorded over the past couple of years.

“We’re also continuing our Cuppa And A Chorus event, where people can meet regularly to sing in a relaxed environment. We’re now meeting virtually on Zoom, so even though we can’t be together, we can all try and stay in touch.” 

Prima Vocal Ensemble transform into Prima Virtual Ensemble by making room for Zoom

Prima Vocal Ensemble transform into Prima Virtual Ensemble for an online rehearsal on Zoom

ZOOM. Boom! What a boon this now ubiquitous electronic embrace is for singers, artists, musicians, whatever.

Musical director Ewa Salecka and her Prima Vocal Ensemble are a case in point. In a year when the York choir’s tenth anniversary celebrations “haven’t quite turned out as we expected”, nevertheless as many as 90 singers are still rehearsing weekly, gathering remotely, virtually, every Tuesday night to “sing and socialise”.

Tonight will be the latest such opportunity to make room at home for a Zoom session, led as ever by the exuberant Polish-born Ewa, who settled in York in 2009. “I’ve been using Zoom for five years now,” she says. “I started by doing vocal teaching that, whichever technique, was possible through this form of media, and I now do one-to-one sessions on Skype and Zoom.”

Ewa, by the way, had been spending the day teaching university students online before doing this interview. Turning her thoughts to her mixed voice choir Prima Vocal Ensemble, she is delighted with how the members have taken to the Zoom sessions.

“I remember hearing the Government’s announcement shutting down non-essential activities and thinking ‘what can we do now?’, but we didn’t waste even a week,” she says.

“The day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the Coronavirus lockdown, with everybody largely confined to their homes, I launched the Prima Virtual Ensemble.”

She wrote to choir members to say: “We all need human contact to maintain our mental health, and so this is the time to embrace the technical world”.

“I just hoped they would embrace this technology that so many people had never heard of – and they have!” says Ewa.

Prima Vocal Ensemble musical director Ewa Salecka

“It’s not straightforward to set up Zoom for 90 people – whereas with one-to-one sessions it’s easy – and so I was a bit cautious with a large group where everyone’s internet plays to different rules.

“On the Friday, I had my first test session, then on the Saturday we did a rehearsal ‘as normal’, but remotely, sorting out the technical options for everyone, with help available for the less technically minded. Since then, we’ve reverted to Tuesday rehearsals from 7pm to 8.30pm, and the response has been really positive.”

Through their first decade, Prima Vocal Ensemble have sung at Carnegie Hall, New York, and the Royal Albert Hall, London, atop Alpine mountains and in European cathedrals and “underground” churches.

They have performed world premieres and collaborations with choirs from Europe and the United States; taken part in competitions, concerts and festivals in the UK, USA, Italy, Poland, Spain and Hungary, and sung with tenors Russell Watson and Aled Jones and The X-Factor’s 2013 winner and musical actress Sam Bailey.

As part of the tenth anniversary celebrations, Ewa had organised a June concert at the Riley-Smith Hall, Tadcaster, and a trip to Berlin later that month, both now scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead, Ewa has put together a special repertoire for the Zoom rehearsals, comprising old favourites, new material suitable for on-line sessions and topical works, such as Lean On Me to mark the March 30 death of American composer Bill Withers.

“Choir members were thrilled,” says Prima Vocal Ensemble’s Christine Kyriacou. “Many said that in these difficult times it was extraordinarily comforting to see one another on screen and be able to chat and rehearse together from home.

“One member wrote to Ewa to say: ‘So good to see everyone last night. It is massively morale-boosting for people like me who live alone, and I think what you are doing at the moment is not only amazing but absolutely vital. When this is all over, we will look back on the efforts people like you have made to keep connected and treasure the moments.

Prima Vocal Ensemble performing in competition in Manchester earlier this year , with the judges’ feedback

“I’m saving all the photos you are taking of Prima Virtual Ensemble, hoping I can say, ‘Do you remember when none of us could meet up for rehearsals, yet we kept on singing!”

Ewa shares that enthusiasm. “I miss seeing everyone; we’ve built some really strong connections and we do miss making music together under one roof, but the feedback has been fantastic, and now I’m thinking of gathering the comments I’ve received and putting them into a piece of music,” she says.

The June concert programme will form the basis of a tenth anniversary celebration provisionally re-arranged for the Riley-Smith Hall on October 3. “We’re definitely going to produce something new for that concert from the Zoom rehearsals,” promises Ewa.

“Over recent years, people have played with this technology, producing virtual sessions, but it’s a massive thing to do, putting videos together, but I’m now thinking about how to put the resources together for the concert, though it’ll be more about celebrating still being together.”

Later this year, Ewa still hopes that Prima Vocal Ensemble will be able to support Russell Watson on tour, and two concerts with orchestra and soloists are in the pipeline too.

In the meantime, she reflects proudly on how Prima Vocal Ensemble have been transformed into Prima Virtual Ensemble. “Prima still meet online to support each other. We keep singing, keep rehearsing and we’ve even created our Prima support group for those who may need it as time progresses,” she says.

“At the end of the day, I’m sending a message of hope and creativity. We’re like-minded York residents sticking together, helping each other and not letting the lockdown beat our cultural spirit.”

Scarborough museums to commission digital works from artists in lockdown times

Feral Practice: Queenright, Ant-ic Actions, 2018-2021, work in progress

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust is introducing a dynamic approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming with a series of new digital commissions from artists nationwide in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

The trust, in charge of Scarborough Art Gallery, the Rotunda Museum and Woodend, has been working with Flow Associates to develop a new way of working across the organisation.

This will involve using a method called the “Story of Change”; in a nutshell “defining the change you want before choosing the tools to achieve or measure it”.

Homecoming, A Place, by Estabrak

Andrew Clay, the trust’s chief executive, says: “We want our work to make an impact. Defining that impact before we plan our exhibitions and wider programme means we can ensure we are relevant and responsive to our communities all the time.”

Key to this progression is a commitment towards diversity, inclusion and equality of access, leading to the trust finding innovative ways to promote this message.

A wide range of artists, among them Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice, have been asked to create digital artworks, to be released online over the next four months across myriad social media platforms.

Dust, mixed media, by Wanja Kimani, 2019

Clay says: “It’s so important to have access to the arts and culture at this difficult time: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Simon Hedges, the trust’s head of curation, collections and exhibitions, says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before.

“We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Ave Maria Gracia Plena, by Jane Poulton

As part of its commitment to access, the trust has been working with artistic producer Sophie Drury-Bradey and disability activists Touretteshero to ensure people with diverse minds and bodies can become more engaged in its work.

Hedges says: “Before the lockdown, we started to explore how access can be a creative stimulus for our projects and how to extend a warm welcome to our disabled communities.

“We’re now looking at the lockdown as an opportunity to continue this work and find creative and imaginative ways of ensuring people can access our digital content.”

Shhh, Did You Hear That, by Kirsty Harris. Picture: © National Trust, Sutton House

The trust has committed to embrace a range of access “tools” to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm, for example, will create visual guides, or “social stories”, to provide audiences with downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content.

Alongside this, subtitles will be used wherever possible, with audio descriptions to follow. The first Gallery Screenings Online event this evening at 7pm will incorporate a live Q&A session being accompanied by live captioning.

Audio descriptions will support children and families with visual access requirements for the first digital commission by Kirsty Harris, narrated by 11-year-old Ruby Lynskey, from Scarborough.

Shadowing Revue – Ecclesiastes v Watercolour, gouache, ink and pen on paper, by Jade Montserrat, 2017. Collection of York Art Gallery

Supporting children and families to access content is important to the trust’s learning manager, Christine Rostron: “We’re looking at a range of ways to help families engage with the learning activities we’re about to launch online in fun, age-appropriate ways,” she says. “Using a local child to produce audio descriptions is much more relatable than the voice of an adult BBC presenter!”

The trust’s intention is to continue this work for the long term, as Clay reasons: “Being inclusive and accessible is not an add-on: it’s becoming part of our DNA.”

The artists involved in the New Digital Commissions project all will be participating in exhibitions at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda in 2021.

“We want our work to make an impact,” says Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Lucy Carruthers will explore how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Her interest in the relationship between inside and outside is all the more pertinent during lockdown, wherein she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming is a multi-layered touring and participatory project using community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges built around home, identity, and displacement.

The project started in 2019 in Hull and Brighton and now Estabrak will conduct the social experiment Homecoming: A Placeless Place, inviting honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Estabrak, left, and Jade Montserrat, who will be among the artists taking part in Scarborough Museums Trust’s New Digital Commissions project. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Kirsty Harris is constructing a new digital project for children and families during social distancing that imaginatively will bring to life objects in the trust collection to connect with children struggling with social isolation.

Wanja Kimani will be creating walking journeys from a child’s eye view as she spends more time noticing the world around her and her sensory experiences become amplified.

Jade Montserrat will consider the socio-political impact of lockdown and “encourage us to discover new ways of being based on mutual support, rather than a model that exacerbates existing social inequalities”.

Floodproof, Travelling Series, by Lucy Carruthers

Jane Poulton’s series of photographs and text will focus on personal objects she owns in order to consider whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they bring.

Feral Practice will develop a digital artwork leading to a major commission on the theme of extinction for 2021.

The new digital works will be available to view shortly via Scarborough Museums Trust’s:

Website: scarboroughmuseumstrust.com

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw

Twitter: @SMTrust

Instagram: @scarboroughmuseums

Facebook: @scarboroughmuseums

Scarborough Art Gallery to launch series of online screenings on Tuesday nights

Great Bustard, from the Scarborough Collections. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

SCARBOROUGH Art Gallery will begin a series of online film nights with When Species Meet this evening (28/4/2020).

Gallery Screenings Online, on the last Tuesday of each month from 7pm, will feature films selected to give audiences a new perspective on both visiting exhibitions and the permanent Scarborough Collections, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The series will have features aimed at making them as accessible to as many people as possible. Each event will have optional live captions from a stenographer; downloading the app version of Zoom is recommended for those wishing to use this function. 

Artist and designer Lucy Carruthers and collections manager Jim Middleton: an image from the social story, illustrated by Savannah Storm

A visual guide, or “social story”, will be created too, with illustrations by Scarborough artist Savannah Storm, to explain the format and accessible elements of the screening. 

The first screening, When Species Meet, will look at captive and extinct animals and how film has been used to represent them, opening with Bert Haanstra’s nine-minute documentary Zoo, followed by Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ 20-minute interactive film Bear 71. 

Filmed in 1962 and nominated for a 1963 BAFTA Award for Best Short Film, Zoo compares the behaviour of animals and humans, using a hidden camera to capture the true nature of both man and beast.

Great Auk egg, from the Scarborough Collections. Picture: David Chalmers

Bear 71 explores the life of a grizzly bear in Banff National Park, monitored by wildlife conservation offices from 2001 to 2009. The film “gives viewers the experience of ‘being’ a bear”, exploring how one animal’s life is interlinked and affected by the movements of humans and animals around it. 

The screenings will be followed by a 30-minute Q&A with Jim Middleton, collections manager at Scarborough Museums Trust, who will discuss the natural history collections within the archive, and with artist and designer Lucy Carruthers.

Andrew Clay, Scarborough Museums Trust’s chief executive, says: “Increasing access to our events, whether they are online or in our venues, is really important to us. No-one should feel excluded. We hope the visual guides and subtitles will support more people from our communities to participate in our activities.”

Film programmer Martha Cattell: email her for access to Gallery Screenings Online. Image: Susannah Storm

Film programmer Martha Cattell says: “Scarborough Museums Trust has a large collection of taxidermy animals locked away in the stores. Some of the species represented – the great bustard, the great auk, of which we have a rare egg, the passenger pigeons, Captain Cook’s bean snail – are now extinct largely due to human intervention.

“Their bodies now rest, static and captive in the archives. They are ghosts of species lost and haunted by the human actions that led to their demise.”

Simon Hedges, the trust’s head of curation, collections and exhibitions, says: “ We launched the Gallery Screenings programme at Scarborough Art Gallery in early March and then, of course, had to cancel it after the first one because of the Coronavirus lockdown.

Chatscreen: another illustration from the virtual guide by Susannah Storm

“We’re absolutely delighted to be able to continue these fascinating events online. They will return to the gallery once we reopen to the public.”

Access to the Gallery Screenings Online event this evening is by password only, available, along with a link, by emailing Martha.cattell@smtrust.uk.com   

The social story for When Species Meet can be downloaded at https://bit.ly/2W0oOe6. The Q&A and introduction will be available post-event on Scarborough Museums Trust’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw.

Ford and Dickenson’s collaborative gig at The Crescent rearranged for September

David Ford and Jarod Dickenson: “Not ‘I’ll headline, you support’, not a co-headliner , but a collaboration”

DAVID Ford and Jarod Dickenson should have been playing their double bill of exquisite songwriter fare and soulful Americana tonight at The Crescent, York.

Instead, the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown has enforced a switch to September 17, pending any further Government social-distancing strictures, with tickets valid for the revised date.

Ford, from Eastbourne, has known Dickenson, from Waco, Texas, for “years and years”. “The first tour we did together, I invited him to be my tour buddy for my album Charge [released in March 2013] and he’s been coming over ever since,” says David.

“I’ve been wanting to do this joint tour for ages, where it’s not ‘I’ll headline, you’ll support’, or even co-headlining, but instead it’ll be a collaboration, taking our catalogues of songs and combining our talents, and seeing if we can make an interesting show out of that.”

Until Covid-19 intervened, Ford and Dickenson’s plans were to make a long list of songs on either side of The Pond, then meet up a few days before their spring tour to knock the show into shape.

That still will be the case, whenever the shows are confirmed for take-off. “I’ve got an idea of what songs of mine will fit with Jarod, and I’m a big fanatic of his songs, sometimes jumping on stage to join his band, so we’ll be thinking about what songs will work best,” says David.

They will just have a longer time to think about those choices now.

Grayson Perry launches Art Club on Channel 4 as York Art Gallery awaits lockdown fate of Pre-Therapy Years show

Grayson Perry: Battling the boredom of lockdown, armed with art

TURNER Prize winner Grayson Perry launches Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the Coronavirus lockdown through art, on Channel 4 tonight.

The Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer will be taking viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in a six-part series of themed shows designed to encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation.

This was the year when Perry’s “lost pots” should have been the centre of attention in York from June 12 to September 20 in the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition at York Art Gallery.

Watch this space for any update on what may yet happen. In the meantime, York Museums Trust is in discussion with its partners for The Pre-Therapy Years, an exhibition that is scheduled to move on to other venues.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, whose opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, was in the diary for June 12 2020

Back to Grayson’s Art Club. Through the magic of video call, in tonight’s first episode broadcast from his London workshop at 8pm, 60-year-old Perry will address the theme of Portrait with large-scale figurative painter Chantal Joffe and comedian and campaigning presenter Joe Lycett, who has taken to trying his hand at portraiture during lockdown.

For episode two, focusing on animal art, Grayson’s online guests will be British painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling and comedian and TV show host Harry Hill.

Ampleforth College alumnus and Angel Of The North sculptor Antony Gormley and comedian and comedy actor Jessica Hynes will pop up in episode three.

Episode four will feature artist Tacita Dean and comedian cum surrealist artist Vic Reeves, aka Jim Moir, creator and curator of the £500,000 Vic Reeves’ Wonderland for the 2012 Illuminating York festival of light and sound.

Vic Reeves, aka Jim Moir, at the opening of Vic Reeves’ Wonderland, his surrealist 2012 Illuminating York creation

Further guests will be announced later for an interactive series that will climax with an exhibition of works made by both the public and Perry’s celebrity guests as a “chronicle of Britain’s mood and creativity in isolation”.

Whenever it does run in York, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years comprises his earliest works and “lost pots”, including 70 ceramics crowd-sourced after a national public appeal.

Presented in York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA), this exhibition will be the first time these lost Perry creations have been assembled for display together, a cause for celebration for the Royal Academician Grayson.

“This show has been such a joy to put together, I am really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties,” he says.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, one of his Three Graces, exhibited at CoCA

“It is as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man; an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said York Museums Trust’s curator of ceramics, Dr Helen Walsh, at the time.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

In its Familiarity Golden, one of two “everywoman” tapestries from Grayson Perry’s The Essex Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope, on display in 2020 at Nunnington Hall

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Earlier this year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley.

Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born 2003 Turner Prize winner.

Blue Tree Gallery goes online for first time for lockdown exhibition in aid of NHS

Dedicated To Lord Byron, mixed media, by Paolo Lazzerini

BLUE Tree Gallery, in Bootham, York, is holding its first online exhibition, amid the Coronavirus lockdown, in aid of the NHS.

“Due to the temporarily closure of our gallery on March 20, we have now made the gallery and purchase of our artworks available online – with our thoughts for the concerns of frontline NHS staff, ” says Blue Tree’s Gordon Giarchi.

Margaret Clitherow Of York, by Sharon Winter

“This is why we’re starting with a very special exhibition of a variety of our gallery artists’ paintings entitled NHS Charity Exhibition Online – Raising Funds for the NHS. We got in touch with https://www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk/ and signed up to the cause, and the online show then began on April 20, one month after lockdown, since when we’ve been selling quite a few paintings to date with more to follow.”

Taking part in this inaugural online show are Kate Boyce; Deborah Burrow; Colin Carruthers; Colin Cook; Giuliana Lazzerini; Paolo Lazzerini; Neil McBride and Sharon Winter.

Open Road, mixed media, by Kate Boyce

A minimum of ten per cent of the retail price from every original painting sale will be donated between the gallery and the artists to the NHS Covid-19 Appeal for York Hospital.

“Running until the beginning of June, this exhibition will offer all our customers the opportunity to support the NHS, the artists and, of course, the gallery in these trying times,” says Gordon.

Under The Skylarks II, by Deborah Burrow

All work for sale on the website, bluetreegallery.co.uk, will be posted free of charge in Britain, although charges will apply overseas.

“We really hope you enjoy this exhibition, in the safety and comfort of your own home,” says Gordon. “Stay safe and take care of yourselves.”

No York Open Studios this weekend, but all that art and craft still needs a new home… DAY 28

TODAY should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home, on weekend two of York Open Studios 2020.

From tomorrow, art will be on the nation’s TV sets as Grayson’s Art Club “battles the boredom of Coronavirus lockdown by taking viewers on a journey of art discovery” in a six-part Channel 4 series.

From his London workshop, anything-but-grey artist Grayson Perry will encourage the British public to create their own art while in isolation, built around six themed shows that will climax with an exhibition of viewers’ art.

Been there, done that, will continue to do all that art-making, might well be the resourceful attitude of the 144 artists and makers at 100 York locations after the Covid-19 pandemic strictures turned York Open Studios into York Shut Studios.

Over the past four weeks, CharlesHutchPress has determinedly championed the creativity of York’s artists and makers. Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios have been given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home.

The last five are being profiled today, when you also can visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own Virtual Open Studios tour, wherein artists show their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answer your questions, and display pictures of their new work.

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more,” advises the YOS website.

Anyway, time to discover more about…

Meg, oil on linen, winner of Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize 2018, by Marcus Callum

Marcus Callum, painting

MARCUS is a British-Australian contemporary figurative painter and digital artist who specialises in realist portraiture.

“Fusing traditional techniques with a contemporary aesthetic, my work conveys a sense of psychological insight and is designed to provoke an emotional response,” he says. “Buddhism, meditation, hypnosis and our understanding of the subconscious mind are influences on my process and subject matter.

“Characters reflect on increasing anxieties over impending global crises and wonder if, by each of us becoming more conscious, we may discover individual and collective hope.”

Self-portrait, by Marcus Callum

Trained in Sydney and New York, Marcus won the Dame Joan Sutherland Award in 2014; Australia’s third richest portrait prize, the Black Swan Portrait Prize, in 2015 and the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize, Australia’s premier award for realistic portraiture, in 2018, when he also was a finalist in the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year.

Marcus previously worked between Sydney and London; now York has come into his life. He was long-listed for the Aesthetica Art Prize, whose 2020 exhibition opened at York Art Gallery before the Coronavirus lockdown, and he would have been exhibiting in York Open Studios for the first time. Visit marcuscallum.com for more info.

Bratislavian Folk Memory, by Rob Burton

Rob Burton, textiles

ARTIST and academic Rob tells stories in textiles, fibres and cloth, utilising print and found objects in narratives of people, lives and things.

“I explore themes of memory, loss and transformation through fibre, fabric making, print techniques, drawing and broad approaches to image making,” he says.

“My artworks cross the threshold of disciplines in a conceptual dialogue between the innovative use of analogue, contemporary and emerging techniques.”

Rob Burton: Themes of memory, loss and transformation

Rob’s work has been shown all over the world in solo exhibitions, biennial and group exhibitions, whether in Britain, the United States or Eastern Europe. Last year, he exhibited in Ivano-Frankivs’k, Ukraine; Vilnius, Lithuania; Madrid, Spain, and Haachst, Belgium.

He regularly collaborates with the international screendance collective WECreate to produce costumes for video, dance and installations. Find out more at robertburton108.myportfolio.com.

Inspired by horizons: Jo Walton’s artwork

Jo Walton, painting

ARTIST, upholsterer and interior designer Jo’s paintings are abstract, inspired by horizons, whether rust-prints on paper and plaster, combining rusted metal with painting, or seascapes on gold-metal leaf.

Her artwork reflects her childhood in Australia and her days as a young woman spent sailing oceans, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

After many years of travelling, Jo returned to England, studying fine art at Bradford University and now exhibiting all year round from her York studios, Rogues Atelier, an old tannery in Franklins Yard, Fossgate, that she shares with jeweller and fellow York Open Studios exhibitor Emma Welsh and stained glass artist Elise Bikker.

Jo, whose work features regularly at Terry Brett’s Pyramid Gallery in Stonegate, would have been taking part in York Open Studios for a sixth successive year.  

Jo Walton: Artist, upholsterer and interior designer

In her “other life”, Jo is an upholsterer, initially learning her skills from making cushions and sail covers for yachts in her time living in Greece. She gained her City and Guilds qualification in modern and traditional upholstery and has taught the subject for many years for City of York Council.

“Occasionally, my skills have the opportunity to blend into a ‘huge blank canvas’: interior design,” says Jo, whose first public design commission was the Space 109 community arts centre in Walmgate.

Her second was to convert three empty shops on Bishopthorpe Road into Angel on The Green, a bar and café and home to comedy nights and exhibitions that had to “flow with a solid theme throughout”. “It was quite a step to move on to a bar from a community bar,” she says.

In between, Jo created the Rogues Atelier studios, where she takes on upholstery commissions and runs upholstery and cushion-making workshops. Her latest design was for the interior of the Bluebird Bakery, in Kirkgate Market, Leeds. Complete the picture at whatjodidnext.com.

Handmade Bismark Chain, by Emma Welsh

Emma Welsh, jewellery

EMMA, a professional jewellery designer with 11 years’ experience, is now a resident artist at the Rogues Atelier studios.

She designs traditionally made silver, gold and platinum pieces, her latest work exploring jewellery with a practical use in the form of vessels with various purposes.

Emma has a keen interest in developing her skills, embracing ancient principles as a means of deepening her relationship with the materials and tools she works with.

She completes bespoke commissions, repairs and re-modelling of existing jewellery into new designs and offers bespoke tuition in York, most notably her  wedding-ring workshops. Head to emmawelshjewellery.uk for more details.

Deranged Poetesses, by Northern Electric’s Peter Roman

Northern Electric, multi-media

NORTHERN Electric received a York Open Studios 2020 multi-media bursary to present a tale of loss at the Arts Barge, Foss Basin, York, over the two weekends.

The bursary “enables artists to create experiences such as digital works, installations, films or performances as part of the Open Studios”.

Presented by York storyteller, performance poet and theatre-maker Katie Greenbrown and artist Peter Roman, with a score by Christian Topman and Chris Moore, their latest multi-media presentation “takes us back to when the Ouse teemed with working barges, you knew your place or else – and jazz was the devil itself”.

Artist Peter Roman and storyteller, performance poet and theatre-maker Katie Greenbrown

“We specialise in creating and delivering multi-media storytelling pieces that combine spoken-word poetry, art and live music,” says Katie. “Our recent work includes Magpie Bridge for Apples & Snakes to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing in July 1969; Green In Our Memory, for City of York Council’s First World War commemorations, and Rust for the 2019 Great Yorkshire Fringe, in collaboration with Arts Barge and York Theatre Royal.”

After the cancellation of York Open Studios 2020, what will happen next to the new Northern Electric piece? “We’ve completed it, so we’re thinking of trying to do a digital screening,” says Katie. “We just need to chat with Hannah [West] and Christian [Topman] from the Arts Barge about the possibility of doing that.” To keep on track, visit facebook.com/northernelectric.

TOMORROW: After York Open Studios/York Shut Studios 2020, the CharlesHutchPress art focus switches to the Blue Tree Gallery, in Bootham, York, now hosting an online exhibition in aid of the NHS.

Looking ahead, York Open Studios 2021 will run on April 17 and 18 and 24 and 25, with a preview evening on April 16.

No York Open Studios this weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 27

Shambles At Night, by Greg Winrow

TODAY and tomorrow should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home, for weekend two of York Open Studios 2020.

On Monday, art attention will turn to episode one of Grayson’s Art Club, a six-part Channel 4 series wherein artist Grayson Perry promises to battle the boredom of Coronavirus lockdown by taking viewers on a journey of art discovery.

From his London workshop, Perry will encourage the British public to create their own art while in isolation, built around six themed shows that will climax with an exhibition of viewers’ art.

Grayson Perry: Launching Grayson’s Art Club series on Channel 4 on Monday

Been there, done that, will continue to do that, might well be the resourceful attitude of the 144 artists and makers at 100 York locations after the Covid-19 pandemic strictures turned York Open Studios into York Shut Studios.

Over the past four weeks, CharlesHutchPress has determinedly championed the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills this month.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios have been given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. The last ten are being profiled over this weekend, and again home and studio addresses will not be included at this lockdown time.

York Open Studios 2020: The lost weekends that found diverse alternative ways to reach out beyond the closed doors

York Open Studios artists have responded to the shutdown by filling their windows for #openwindowsyork2020, while plenty are showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online via their websites.

This weekend, you can visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour. The YOS website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studios, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends.They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work.

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are five more artists and makers for you to discover. The final five will follow tomorrow.

Mim Robson: Exploring themes of memory, transition, loss, family, identity and womanhood

Mim Robson, printmaking

MIM is a multi-disciplinary artist now working primarily in printmaking and textiles, with a background in community arts engagement and land art.

“My current project uses mono-printing techniques, natural dyes, eco-printing and patchwork to explore themes of memory, transition, loss, family, identity and womanhood,” she says.

She also is working on a set of illustrated zines, small books and tiny stories, their subjects varied but “generally an expression of an idea, thought or small observations of people or notable moments”.

Mim Robson: a polymath who adds up to a multitude of artistic pursuits

Having grown up in the Yorkshire countryside, the natural world inspires her diverse artistic portfolio, whether land art and ephemeral artworks using materials from nature, such as delicate yet vibrant floral mandalas, or her short-lived beach artworks.

Inspired by sand artist Andres Amador, Mim began making large-scale sand art on the Yorkshire coast in 2016. “Using rakes to make patterns in the sand, these usually take at least three hours to complete…and a few miles of walking,” she says. “I use photography to capture these creations at their peak; they last for the rest of the day until the tide washes them away.”

Mim Robson with one of her out-with-the-tide beach artworks

Since completing a national diploma in 3D design craft at York College, she has taken assorted craft courses, learning wood carving, stained glass work and willow weaving; worked and studied in community and youth work and undertaken a degree in Creative Expressive Therapies from the University of Derby.

“This now underpins all of the creative events, Crafty Socials and art, craft and creative expressive workshops I run, as well as my art-making,” says Mim, whose making extends to darkroom and alternative photography techniques, stop-motion videos and henna tattooing at festivals and events. She even finds time for an environmental beach-clean project.

Head to mimrobson.com for more info on this PICA Studios artist.

Pickles Snoozing, drypoint mono, by Lesley Shaw

Lesley Shaw, printmaking

ARTIST and printmaker Lesley works primarily in charcoal, dip pen and ink and traditional printmaking techniques, such as linocut, mono and drypoint.

“Life drawings form the basis of all my work,” she says. “I work quickly and instinctively to capture the beauty and simplicity of the form, looking at the shape and line the body takes.”

Whether figurative or animals, her illustrative line drawings are bold, simplistic and striking, inspired by such artists as Egon Schiele, Toulouse Lautrec and Sybil Andrews of the Grosvenor School artists, who captured the spirit of 1930s’ Britain with iconic vibrant linocuts.

“I work quickly and instinctively to capture the beauty and simplicity of the form,” says Lesley Shaw

Lesley, who has a degree in illustration, lived and worked in London for more than 20 years before settling in York. She has sold work at the Mall Galleries, in London, and to the BBC and takes part in both York Open Studios and Art& in York, where she is a member of York Printmakers and the York Art Workers Association.

She works from PICA Studios, set within an 18th century printworks, now home to the workshops of around 25 artists and makers. Discover more at lesleyshaw.me.

“Suddenly everything made sense,” says Elena Skoreyko Wagner, after finding her way to illustration

Elena Skoreyko Wagner, collage

CANADIAN illustrator Elena makes bright, intimate, intricate, hand-cut paper collages.

“Using recycled bits of paper imbued with their own histories, I assemble poetic images to illustrate personal stories and emotional experiences,” she says. 

Elena completed a BFA in studio art from York University in Toronto, Canada, in 2006, then spent a decade winding her way through odd jobs, a masters in occupational therapy, a couple of overseas moves and motherhood times two en route to illustration.

“I found my way to illustration when some former professors asked me to illustrate a paediatric assessment and suddenly everything made sense,” she says.

Elena Skoreyko Wagner: “Touching gently on social issues, finding magic and uncovering meaning in the mundane”

“I now work as a freelance and make zines, as well as the colourful hand-cut collages pieced together from collected paper snippets. My work is often autobiographical, depicting women and children to touch gently on social issues, find magic and uncover meaning in the mundane.”

Elena lives in York with her economist husband and two children. “I can be found most days nestled in a nook, manifesting a rainbow tornado of paper snippets, or making equally impressive messes with my two small protégés,” she says.

Now working from PICA Studios, she would have been making her York Open Studios debut. Take a look at elenastreehouse.com.

A sculptural textile by Ealish Wilson

Ealish Wilson, textiles

EALISH has lived and worked in many places around the world, spending the past 15 years in the USA before making her way to York and now joining the PICA Studios arts hub.

However, Japan was where her work was transformed. “Japan taught me that art exploration and practice is a lifelong journey from which we constantly learn,” she says.

“Experience informs the creative process over time, enhancing and developing an artist’s expression. It’s about seeing creativity in the everyday.”

She brings this philosophy to making her sculptural textiles, using a variety of substrates and techniques, including print, drawing, photography and stitching.

Goodbye USA, hello York: Ealish Wilson after her move to Yorkshire

“I repeat this process to create multiple iterations and layers to my designs,” she says. “Much of my process investigates pattern and its transformation through surface manipulation. I use many traditional hand methods of stitching such as pleating and smocking to physically alter my original designs.

“Frequently my work starts in the digital realm: whether photographing an object or one of my own paintings, it serves as inspiration for new work. Many of my images are everyday scenes or objects of purpose that appear mundane but feature a beautiful shape or colour that’s a perfect jumping-off point to create a textile.”

2020 would have been the first year in York Open Studios for a textile designer who sees the craft of making as “my form or meditation”. Visit ealishwilson.com to see her work.

A window to Winrow ….

Greg Winrow, printmaking

GREG splits his time 50/50 producing silk screen and linocut prints covering a variety of topics in his York studio, where he uses a Hawthorne press for his lino work.

Earlier, he studied art and design in York and photography and design in Harrogate before acquiring his interest in printing techniques.

Greg Winrow at the York River Art Market

Now a keen member of the York Printmakers, taking part in their annual fair, he has exhibited too at the York River Art Market and York galleries. 2020 was to have been his second year in York Open Studios.

And finally, tomorrow: Marcus Callum; Robert Burton; Jo Walton; Emma Walsh and Northern Electric (Katie Greenbrown).

York Musical Theatre Company may be off stage, but tomorrow night they go digital

YORK Musical Theatre Company will present a digital concert, Off-Stage But Online!, tomorrow night on YouTube.

The 7.30pm show will feature 20 home-made videos from company members performing songs from the world of musical theatre, including Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Guys And Dolls, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cabaret and more besides.

Company member and publicist Anna Mitchelson says: “People suggested what they’d like to sing and director Paul Laidlaw put the concert programme together.”

The digital concert will open with a lovely instrumental on the piano by musical director John Atkin: Music In The Night from The Phantom Of The Opera.

To follow will be: Amy Lacy singing Over The Rainbow (The Wizard Of Oz); Dave Martin, If I Can’t Love Her (Beauty And The Beast); Jessa Liversidge, Take Me To The World, and Matthew Clare, Out There (The Hunchback Of Notre Dame).

Jessa Liversidge: Two contributions to Off-Stage But Online!

Rachel Higgs will perform Someone To Watch Over Me from George Gershwin’s Oh, Kay!; Jessa and Mick Liversidge, Anything You Can Do (Annie Get Your Gun); Eleanor Leaper, Maybe This Time (Cabaret); Matthew Ainsworth, This Is Not Over Yet (Parade) and Holly Inch, The Spark Of Creation (Eden).

Chris Gibson’s choice is Poisoning Pigeons In The Park; Heather Richmond, I’d Give My Life For You (Miss Saigon); Mick Liversidge, Luck Be A Lady (Guys And Dolls); Marlena Kelli, I Don’t Know How To Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Chris Mooney, Hold Me In Your Heart (Kinky Boots).

Next will be Charlotte Wetherell’s rendition of What I Did For Love (A Chorus Line); John Haigh’s Who Should I Wake Up? (Cabaret); Chris Gibson and Marlena Kelli’s You’re Just In Love (Call Me Madam); Flo Taylor’s I Dreamed A Dream (Les Miserables) and Peter Wookie’s Stars (Les Miserables).

To watch online, type in the link: youtube.com/channel/UCiTrGyeP93_to9uYOsvoS4w?view_as=subscriber.

No York Open Studios this weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 26

York Theatre Royal, illustration, by Ric Liptrot

LAST weekend should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. This weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, they will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, a handful of artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this lockdown time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows for #openwindowsyork2020, while plenty are showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour.

The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studios, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work.

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are six more artists and makers for you to discover…

Birds Heart, by Sarah Raphael-Balme

Sarah Raphael-Balme, painting

SARAH makes figurative work spanning interiors, gardens, portraits and decorative motifs usually involving figures or creatures, painted mainly in oil, sometimes in gouache.

Sarah Raphael-Balme: Painting in oil and gouache

A graduate of Chelsea College of Art, Sarah has shown her work widely in the UK and USA. Her illustrations are published by IPC magazines, BBC publications, Heinneman and countless others.

She is exhibiting solo with House of Hackney concurrently in New York and London. Go to instagram.com/raphael_balme for more.

The Enchanted Forest, depicting the sacred and spiritual nature of trees, from Lesley Seeger’s 2020 series, Whispers Of Spring

Lesley Seeger, painting

INSPIRED by the natural world, Lesley paints landscapes and abstract florals, her lyrical work marked by an exploration of the emotional impact of colour.

“Although all my work begins ‘in the field’ with observation, ‘painting what I see’, I realise that it quickly becomes, ‘how what I see makes me feel’. How trees and hills and furrow sit together in the language of light and dark,” she says.

“I’m interested in the significance of place. This might be somewhere well known, such as Ripon Cathedral or the White Horse at Kilburn, or a random field or view in which the way things are placed in the landscape makes it out of the ordinary.”

“I like to think of my paintings as talismans,” says Lesley Seeger

Lesley is a self-taught artist, whose work over 23 years now has been inspired by sculpture studies at York College, as much as by the art of Gillian Ayres, Howard Hodgkin, Elizabeth Blackadder, Mary Fedden and Ivon Hitchens.

“At a certain point, the painting takes over and I become interested in pattern, mark making, colour and texture as vehicles of expanding what I see,” she says. “The work becomes intuitive…. a hybrid between the observed and imagined, the seen and felt.’

Born in Newcastle in 1958,Lesley studied English and Media at Southampton University, then worked in theatre and publishing and qualified as an art therapist at Sheffield Hallam University. She worked for several years in community arts in York, most notably a six-year residency at York Hospital, where she ran art projects in the renal unit. 

Ripe Corn Before The Storm, by Lesley Seeger

Last year she was artist-in-residence at the Yorkshire Arboretum, near Castle Howard; this year, she holds the same post at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall.

Lesley, who runs painting workshops, published the art book Coming Home, A Contemporary Colourist’s Approach To English Landscape in late-2016, and also designs cards and linen cushions. Upcoming shows pencilled in for 2020 are Art for Youth North and Art& York, both in October.

“I like to think of my paintings as talismans,” she says. “They will reveal themselves over time with their rich histories of place, layers and colour.” Time to visit lesleyseeger.com.

Bangle Pair, by Evie Leach

Evie Leach, jewellery

EVIE decided to follow her creative passion by studying jewellery and silversmithing at the Birmingham School of Jewellery.

There, her basic knowledge, learned from her jeweller parents, transformed into traditional skills.

Evie Leach at work

Her trademark is angular designs with inspiration taken from geometry found in nature and architecture, while more recent designs include semi-precious gemstones set beside angled clusters of gold and silver to create dynamic, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Not only would PICA Studios jeweller Evie have been taking part in York Open Studios, but also her husband, self-taught artist Mick Leach, would have been making his YOS debut. Cast an eye over her designs at evieleach.co.uk.

The Hairy Fig and Kiosk, in Fossgate, by Ric Laptrot

Ric Liptrot, illustration

FREELANCE illustrator Ric captures everyday life in York, depicting its distinctive and much-loved sites in acrylics, pencils, collage and mono-print.

“I’m inspired by the architecture and scenes of York,” says the PICA Studios artist. “I combine my passion for these buildings with my support for the independent businesses York has to offer.

Ric Liptrot: Inspired by the architecture and scenes of York

“I’m an ambassador for these shops, bars and cafés and believe they’re important in helping communities grow.”

Take a look at Ric’s illustrations that “capture the places loved by the local community” at liptrotillustration.co.uk.

Ursa Major And Minor, by Katrina Mansfield

Katrina Mansfield, painting

KATRINA creates vivid, fascinating “fluid art animal inks”, using alcohol ink on synthetic Yupo paper to depict the animals, birds and insects.

The paper allows a longer working time with the ink, “the most intriguing medium and at the same time the most frustrating”.

“It can produce magical results that you get lost in for hours and hours, but it can also destroy the most striking pattern in the blink of an eye,” says Katrina. “It is exactly like nature itself, devastatingly beautiful.”

“Ink is the most intriguing medium and at the same time the most frustrating,” says Katrina Mansfield

In turn, this is why she chose the subject of animals. “The creatures of this Earth are both fragile and unbreakable, they are flawless and yet also imperfect. They add colour to our human lives, yet they are increasingly in danger of becoming extinct through our actions. This series of works is a reminder to all that we need the diversity, beauty and intelligence of these creatures in order to survive.”

Now a PICA Studios artist, Katrina trained in fine art and scenic art at York College, Lincoln University and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She worked in television, film and theatre for a decade, latterly in the West End and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, before returning to York in 2018 to focus on developing her new process of fluid art animal inks.

“The paintings take anything from one to four weeks to finish and are principally made without the use of a paintbrush,” she says. “I only use a brush if I have no other option or to place the white in the eyes; everything else is formed from the natural flow of the ink.” Animal ink magic awaits at katrinamansfieldartist.co.uk.

Wall hangings from Kitty Pennybacker’s textile range

Kitty Pennybacker, textiles

KNITWEAR designer Kitty combines cording, knitting, weaving and felting to create a textile collection of super-soft homeware items, such as wall hangings, neckerchiefs, baby blankets and knee throws.

“The work re-imagines the tartan and tweed fabrics of my childhood in North Yorkshire,” says Kitty, who gained an MA in Fashion Design and Society from Parsons School of Design, New York, after her BA in Fashion Textiles Design at the University of Brighton.

She has worked within the fields of fashion and television in New York and London and is now part of the PICA Studios art and design hub. Learn more at kittypennybacker.com.

Kitty Pennybacker : Knitwear designer

TOMORROW: Mim Robson, Lesley Shaw, Elena Skoreyko Wagner, Ealish Wilson and Greg Winrow.

No York Open Studios this weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 25

Land, sea and Freya Horsley

LAST weekend should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. This weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, they will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, a handful of artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this lockdown time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour.

The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studios, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work!

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are six more artists and makers for you to discover…

Student artist Monica Marshall

Monica Marshall, mixed media, student

EMERGING artist Monica is a fine art student at York St John University, where her practice centres on coping with life and the psyche, and how this is affected by Asperger Syndrome.

“I explore the complexity of emotion and the subconscious through the use of text and expressionist mark-making in a variety of media, primarily through drawing, painting and printmaking,” she says.

In her experimental art, she plays with scale, distortion and using colour to convey certain emotions. “My work is mostly monochromatic, combining text alongside self-portraits and other characters,” says Monica. “The results communicate a powerful message while retaining elements of humour.”

“The results communicate a powerful message while retaining elements of humour,” says Monica Marshall of her art practice

She takes inspiration from German Expressionism, Surrealism and outsider art. “In regard to media, I am very open-minded and experimental. My preferred medium is usually printmaking, using a colour scheme consisting primarily of red, green, black and white, as well as oil painting on a large scale,” says Monica, who divides her time between York and Brighton.

“When I’m not scribbling, painting and/or hiding in the print room, I enjoy finding and photographing monkey puzzle trees – otherwise known as Araucaria Araucana, penury, Chilean pines and an assortment of other aliases – as well as writing poetry, prose and short stories.”

This was to have been Monica’s first year as a York Open Studios artist. Discover more at monicamarshallblog.wordpress.com.

Past And Present, by Richard Barnes

Richard Barnes, painting

RICHARD’s distinctive, dazzling work in York and London has focused on drawing and photographing the cities as the light fades.

“I record the sounds, movement, architecture and atmosphere of the ancient buildings within a modern context,” he says of his cityscapes. “Our brains are bombarded with digital information; the resultant paintings explore a reality beyond this facade.”

His cityscapes are ever evolving. “I am looking to highlight the sensations of life and light, movement and stillness, the changing and new juxtaposed with the permanent and prevailing history.”

“I am looking to highlight the sensations of life and light,” says Richard Barnes

For contrast, he paints Yorkshire landscapes. “In my landscapes, the idea is to escape the noise and to respond to a natural but often equally dramatic environment,” says Richard.

Living in York since 1984, working as both an artist and art teacher, he completed his PhD in 2006, exploring the use of digital intervention within a traditional, intuitive painting practice.

Now, the development of Richard’s images often involves drawing; photographing; printing; working on top of this print; re-photographing; re-printing; re-working, many times over, “until a final image is arrived at that captures the visual and tactile nature of the experience of being in a particular place, at that particular time.” Visit richardofyork.com for further insights.

Overlapping, by Emily Harper-Gustafsson

Emily Harper-Gustafsson, painting

BOOTHAM School art teacher Emily creates delicate and contemplative paintings that seek to capture small moments in space and time.

“Familiar objects are transformed by the use of negative space and subtle subversions of traditional perspective,” she says.

Emily Harper-Gustafsson: “Subtle subversions of traditional perspective”

“My paintings attempt to render the apparently everyday and mundane a matter for epiphany, contemplation and reflection.”

Emily can be contacted via e.a.harper@hotmail.com.

Glancing Light, mixed media on canvas, by Freya Horsley

Freya Horsley, painting

TAKING landscape and seascape as her starting point, whether in Yorkshire, Europe, the Himalayas or Canada, Freya’s abstract paintings focus on transient effects of light and weather and the changes they bring to the face of land and sea.

Whether drawing on the spot outside in the landscape or painting larger works back in the studio, she uses a wide variety of materials and experimental processes to create her surfaces and atmospheric effects.

“I’m increasingly exploring in greater depth the relationship between what is being painted and how it comes about, how much is real place and how much painted space,” Freya says.

Freya Horsley: Focusing on transient effects of light and weather

“In the first stages of a painting, I pour and drip very liquid paint, manipulating it by tilting and moving the support on the floor and easel. Gradually I refine this process, responding to the marks and to my own sense of the space that emerges.

“I also often use wax, collage and other media, alongside the veils of thin acrylic and oil paint, to explore these different levels of looking and ways of experiencing a place and space.”

Based in York, Freya exhibits in Yorkshire, London, the North West, Lancaster and Cornwall. She was to have shown her work at Bootham School, as usual, at York Open Studios, and still in her diary is Coast, at Porthminster Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall, from June 13 to September 5. Take a look at freyahorsley.com.

“I aim to push ideas through a range of unorthodox methods to create a new body of work,” says Benn Jackson

Benn Jackson, painting

BENN’S practice involves experimenting with a range of processes that never end or finish, pushed through different methods to create something different.

“The ‘process’ refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions,” says Benn.

Benn Jackson at work on his process

“’Process’ explores the way the artist forms decisions. With my practice, I aim to push ideas through a range of unorthodox methods to create a new body of work.”

That work, spanning print, collage and painting, would have been exhibited at York Open Studios for the first time. Check him out at instagram.com/jelly-benn.

Jelena Lunge: Drawing inspiration from people, emotion and nature

Jelena Lunge, drawing

JELENA’s work is concept and progress driven. “Using pen and ink, I draw inspiration from people, emotion and nature,” she says. “Mostly I create drawings that are thought provoking and illusory.”

Jelena graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts, in Lithuania, with a BA in sculpture and qualified as an art teacher. Her drawings have been shown at international exhibitions in the Baltic States, Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Germany, the USA and the UK.

Jelena Lunge at one of her many York exhibitions in 2019

“I now live and work in York, where I display and sell my work from creative spaces and galleries,” says Jelena, who last year exhibited at City Screen; York Explore library; Angel on the Green; Naburn Lock; Spark: York; Clements Hall and the Golden Ball pub.

“My drawing combines portrait form with the abstract, incorporating symbolism with touches of fantasy,” she says. More info at jelenalunge.com.

TOMORROW: Sarah Raphael-Balme; Lesley Seeger; Evie Leach; Ric Liptrot; Katrina Mansfield and Kitty Pennybacker.

Be Alarmed! Mike Peters’ New Wave musical Oxy to be streamed on Facebook

Oxy & The Morons: re-formed but not reformed in the punk-spirited New Wave musical Oxy. Pictures by: Mike Kwasniak

NEVER mind the lockdown, here comes Oxy, a night of Alarming virtual theatre on Saturday night, presented live on Facebook by musician Mike and Jules Peters.

This “life-saving New Wave musical”, co-written by The Alarm frontman, Steve Allan Jones and Paul Sirett, will be streamed from 7pm as part of the weekly Big Night In With The Alarm broadcast at facebook.com/theofficialalarm.

“Turn your home into a theatre for the night,” comes the invitation. “Get dressed up, prepare the pre-show dinner and chill the drinks for the interval. Play the music loud and pogo along from the best seats in the house – your front room – and help save lives.”

Molly-Grace Cutler as Sheena in Oxy

The Big Night In broadcast also will feature live interviews with cast members, writers and production staff and the chance to join in the live commentary and interact with theatre and music fans from all over the world.

In Oxy, when a routine check-up leads to a startling diagnosis, Andy decides this is the time to put the band back together, to crank up the amps and party like it’s 1978!

Why not re-form the legendary Oxy & The Morons, who burned fiercely before exploding in a riot of rivalry, jealousy and bitter betrayal?

The publicity poster for Saturday’s Facebook streaming of Oxy

Andy’s mission involves twisting arms, healing wounds and putting his family and friendships back together, but can that New Wave spirit of DIY defiance be rekindled more thirty years later? Will they play their trademark version of It’s Not Unusual as an encore?  Can you still pogo when your knees go?

Driven by a machine-gun playlist of a dozen new Peters and Jones songs and a powerful message, Oxy’s affectionate look-back at the days of teen spirit suggests “we could all do with some of that garage band power right now”.

The life-affirming theme of Peters, Jones and Sirett’s fast, furious and funny musical helped to save someone’s life during its first production run at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich.

Robbie Jarvis (Andy) and Mark Newnham (Oxy) in Oxy

Now, Peters and co hope the online premiere during the Coronavirus lockdown “might just save even more lives”. Through Mike and Jules Peters’ association with the cancer charities Love Hope Strength and DKMS, an online bone-marrow donor drive will be taking place throughout the evening.

Recorded on film by All Media Works, Saturday’s online premiere features a cast of Robbie Jarvis, Janet Fullerlove, Sean Kingsley, David Rubin, Mark Newnham, Matthew Durkan, Molly Grace Cutler, Adam Langstaff and John Hasler, directed by Peter Rowe.

The Big Night In With The Alarm has been broadcasting throughout the lockdown, attracting 100,000 viewers each week.

Nothing happening in these Lockdown limbo days. Everything off. Here are 10 Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 4

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

EXIT 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future in our now extended Lockdown hibernation. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether together or in self-isolation, in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Celebrating Shakespeare’s 456th birthday: Tamsin Greig as loyal servant Malvolia in the National Theatre’s Twelfth Night, screening on YouTube from tonight

Shakespeare’s birthday

WILLIAM Shakespeare’s 456th birthday falls today. The Bard, by the way, was no stranger to writing under debilitating duress, working in London amid the bubonic plagues of 1592 and 1603, when more than 30,000 Londoners died, and a third plague in 1606.

That year alone, Bill quilled three of his mightiest works, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra. Tonight is a chance to celebrate on a lighter note, watching the National Theatre in the NT At Home YouTube streaming of Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig as loyal servant Malvolia, at 7pm for free. Twelfth Night will be available for seven nights and days on demand.

No Morris dancing in York on St George’s Day under lockdown rules

St George’s Day

TODAY is not only the Bard’s birthday but also St George’s Day, in principle another cause for English celebration, given the dragon-slaying, princess-saving Roman soldier’s status as this nation’s patron saint. However, if outbreaks of Morris Dancing and Punch & Judy shows are the best we can throw at it in usual circumstances, maybe Lockdown is a chance for some home schooling instead.

Today’s task: Find out in more detail who St George was; why he is England’s patron saint and why the English flag is a red cross on white. Oh, and come up with your own way of celebrating at home; surely it must be better than dancing with bells on.

York Shut Studios…but artists embrace the virtual to compensate for Coronavirus-enforced cancellation

York Open Studios going virtual

THIS should have been weekend number two for York Open Studios, the chance to see work by 144 artists and craft makers in 100 locations in and around York, whether in their homes or studios.

Instead, as with last weekend, it will be York Shut Studios but that does not mean York’s artists have put their brushes into lockdown. Creativity demands improvisation, and so you can head to yorkopenstudios.co.uk for the “Virtual Open Studio”, where you can still bring their home work into your home.

Stream team: Compere Tim FitzHigham, left, and comedian Mark Watson in their living rooms for the first Your Place Comedy online show

Your Place Comedy, streamed from their living room to yours

AT the initiation of Selby Town Hall arts centre manager Chris Jones, here comes Your Place Comedy, a Sunday night when comedians stream a live show via YouTube and Facebook from their living room into yours. There is no charge, but you can make donations to be split between the ten small, independent northern venues that have come together for this Lockdown scheme.

The first one, featuring Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson, drew 3,500 viewers last Sunday. Chris is planning the second 8pm online gig for May 3 at yourplacecomedy.co.uk; acts to be confirmed.

Puppet Theatre: the third Lockdown Legends Challenge set by York  Theatre Royal

Lockdown Legends Challenge, set by York Theatre Royal

EACH Monday morning, York Theatre Royal will post a theatrical #LockdownLegendsChallenge on its Twitter and Facebook pages for the whole family to take part in, just for fun. Even the participation of pets is “actively encouraged”.

After One-Minute Plays in week one and Costume Creation in week two, this week’s challenge is Puppet Theatre, or pup-pet theatre if your pooch partakes. “Re-create a scene from Shakespeare with household objects,” comes the invitation. “Then send your responses to lockdownlegends@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and we’ll share these on our social media pages throughout the week.”

It’s time for Bingo in the street

Vintage game of the week: Bingo…in your street

BINGO is all about houses, and Lockdown Limbo is the chance to shout “House” in a game conducted with neighbours in our sunny springtime streets at Bruce Forsyth’s favourite social distance: “Nice two metres, two metres nice”.

What is bingo, should you never have ventured to Mecca Bingo or Clifton Bingo Club? Bingo is “a game in which players mark off numbers on cards as the numbers are drawn randomly by a caller, the winner being the first person to mark off all their numbers and exclaim ‘House’.” Repeat. Bingo.

The Boomtown Rats: Re-arranged York Barbican gig

Still keep trying to find good news

DEER Shed Festival, off. Courtney Marie Andrews at Pocklington Arts Centre in June, off. The Boomtown Rats at York Barbican, off. Jack Dee, Off The Telly, Barbican too, off. The list of cancellations grows like the spring grass, but do keep visiting websites for updates.

Deer Shed, at Baldersby Park, Thirsk? Definitely returning in summer 2021. Boomtown Rats? October 26. Jack Dee, October 1. No news on Courtney, yet, alas.

Venturing outdoors…

…FOR your daily exercise, be that a run, a cycle ride or a stroll near home, in a changing environment. Amid these disconnected, alien, strange days, your senses heightened, there is the chance to appreciate the previously unexperienced: the bird song in excelsis, a chorus no longer impeded by traffic; the bluer, bigger skies; the fresher air, the pollution levels so noticeably dropping.

York actor Mick Liversidge has taken to reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets in the fields, exercising mind and body alike. Why not Shake up your routine too?

York’s city walls lit up in blue for the NHS

Clap for Carers

STAND by your doors at 8pm every Thursday, no excuses. Theatre-goers, concert-goers, save your hand-clapping for our NHS doctors, hospital staff, carers, volunteers and key workers. How moving, too, to see familiar buildings and landmarks bathed in blue light: a tribute growing and glowing by the week.

Play at home: York country singer Twinnie’s new album, Hollywood Gypsy, released on April 17

And what about…

NEW albums by Laura Marling, Ron Sexsmith, Cornershop and York country singer Twinnie. Interior design books. Cerys Matthews and Guy Garvey on Sundays on BBC 6Music. The return of BBC One’s Killing Eve on Sunday nights and iPlayer. A themed new recipe of the week, whatever reason and seasoning grabs you.

Catching Rick Witter’s improvised home version of Shed Seven’s Chasing Rainbows on social media:. “I’m just staying home all the time”. Well, you are, aren’t you.

Copyright of The Press, York

How artist Lesley Birch spent 21 days in isolation after York Open Studios shutdown

Perfect Day Crocs: One of Lesley Birch’s 21 Days In Isolation artworks in oil, inspired by Cornwall, in harmony with her paint-spattered choice of footwear and garden pebbles

YORK Open Studios 2020 must be York Shut Studios 2020 instead, after the Government’s orders to stay home put paid to visiting other people’s homes.

In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, however, York’s resourceful artists and craft makers are still finding ways to share their wares, whether online in the Virtual Open Studios showcase at yorkopenstudios.co.uk, on their own websites or by filling their windows with artworks.

This weekend, as with last weekend, 144 artists would have been exhibiting and working at 100 locations, among them landscape painter Lesley Birch at her home studio in Clifton Place, York.

Far from downing brushes, she decided to undertake the one-off 21 Days In Isolation Project, her progress documented on Instagram, #lesleybirch21days.

Lesley’s latest paintings for her Romantic Landscapes series hanging up to dry in her home studio

“I set about the project almost immediately at lockdown,” says Scottish-born Lesley. “I’d always thought about filming my painting in a time-lapse and had never got around to it.

“So, I set up the clamp and my camera on my easel and away I went. The first few time-lapses worked out well. Then I thought, ‘why not do this for 21 days? – a time-lapse a day and a painting a day – and see what happens’.  

“Why 21 days? Well, that just came into my head, but I realise that was actually the initial lockdown time [set by the Government], so it must have gone in subconsciously.”  

Setting her artistic boundaries for the project, Lesley decided to work in oils. “I’ve been trying to develop my skills in this medium, and I decided to base the paintings on my trips to Scotland and Cornwall, working from my sketchbooks,” she says. 

Artist Lesley Birch, pictured in the studio in earlier times before 21 Days In Isolation

“I filmed a painting every morning, because the light was good, and painted into the afternoons. Every day I had a fantastic routine: breakfast; set up the oil palette and paper. Ensure camera OK. Then away!

“Morning break coffee and assessment of the painting. Another painting maybe. Lunch. Then photographing the paintings and uploading them to my Instagram feed.”

Under the #artistsupportpledge initiative set up by artist Matthew Burrows, Lesley could sell her 21 Days works as part of the pledge. “The deal was if I reached £1,000 worth of sales, I’d buy another artist’s work. So really, it was artist supporting artists – worldwide.”

Lesley worked from her studio in her garden. “Usually it’s for printmaking and large acrylic paintings, so it was a change to restrict myself to oils. I had to gather my materials from PICA studios in town [in Grape Lane], bring them home and order paper and new oils online”.

Lesley assessing the first few days’ work on the studio floor

How did the working experience contrast with Lesley’s painting trips to Italy, Spain, Cornwall and Scotland? “I wasn’t feeling the wild wind or soft sun on my skin and I wasn’t by the sea, so I used my sketchbooks as inspiration. And my head. I revisited these beautiful places in my head. It was great!” she says.

Painting at home contrasted too with the busy environment at PICA, a shared space where others work around her. “I was alone…with my IPod music – I’m not I’m not sure my music is to their taste!” says Lesley, a former musician with Hue & Cry in the 1980s.

“My PICA friends commented on Instagram on what I was doing, so there was still that support. And I chatted to my studio mate Mark [fellow artist Mark Hearld] most days on the phone.”

What did Lesley learn about herself as an artist working in isolation? “I think many artists already work in isolation – and indeed, this is the way I worked before I got together with the PICA crowd,” she says.

Such A Rugged Day, memories of Scotland, by Lesley Birch, from the 21 Days In Isolation Project

“So, I just reverted back to that way of working: alone, with my music. I challenged myself with the focus; I never thought I’d be able to create so many pieces.”

Comparing how she felt on Day 1 and Day 21 of her “mammoth task”, Lesley says: “Well, Day 1 was a bit of an exploration. I had no idea that I was planning going on for 21 days until the end of Day I, where I felt exhilarated and in no doubt that I could produce one or more paintings each day.

“By Day 21, I was utterly exhausted. The creative energy to ensure I was happy with each piece was a challenge. The Instagram messaging system went mental with paintings selling in seconds by the last few days! I even had to send one to New Zealand.

“I was collecting addresses, bank transfers, and then I had to go online and order a whole lot of packaging for sending out the paintings, which still had to dry. I was overwhelmed.”

Pale Green Sea on the easel  as Lesley painted in isolation

Lesley had decided to sell her uplifting landscape paintings at only £120 a pop, including shipping, “because we are in difficult times at the moment and everyone should have a chance to buy original art”.

“I’ve really enjoyed painting in the alla prima style [a direct painting approach where paint is applied wet on wet without letting earlier layers dry] and plan to create a new collection,” she says.

“Will there be more paintings from 21 Days In Isolation? Yes, though not on a daily basis. My 21 days are over. I feel on a bit of a roll at the moment, but I don’t want to put myself under the pressure of daily filming, so I’m just gonna take my time. These paintings will be more of the same as I have lots more sketchbooks for inspiration.”

More of Lesley’s new Romantic Landscapes paintings pegged out to dry on her studio washing line

She is calling the series her Romantic Landscapes. “That’s how this series seems to have developed in the time of Covid-19. I want an idealised view of reality,” Lesley reasons. “I think at the moment people want to escape into nice things: beautiful colours, soft skies and even a storm or two in a painting isn’t too bad.

“I know I want to escape, so I’m just following my intuition.  These paintings will probably go to my galleries, but a small collection will go online for sale.”

As for how Lesley will spend this weekend, she concludes: “York Open Studios has been in my head this past week and I shall continue to be creative.” 

Did you know?

After the cancellation of York Open Studios 2020, Lesley Birch is putting a selection of her YOS pieces online at lesleybirchart.com at £200 each, framed and ready to hang.

Copyright of The Press, York

No York Open Studios next weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 24

Turning the base: Phil Magson removes excess clay with a bladed tool

LAST weekend should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. Next weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, they will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, a handful of artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this lockdown time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour.

The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studios, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work!

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are six more artists and makers for you to discover…

Philip Magson at work in his studio

Philip Magson, ceramics

AFTER taking a degree in 3-D design at Loughborough College of Art, Philip began making and selling terracotta garden pottery.

On moving to York, he developed the production of colourfully decorated domestic earthenware at his workshop on Micklegate.

Finished with white opaque glaze: Philip Magson’s ceramics

Alongside teaching art, his skill on the wheel is now employed in exploring an interest in contemporary ceramics. His influences range from the abstract work of Franz Kline and Peter Voulkos to the simplicity of classic Japanese pottery.

His pots are hand thrown on the wheel, using a stoneware clay. Mostly domestic-ware, simple and modern in style with contrasting surfaces, they are finished in white opaque glaze. Take a look at philipmagson.co.uk.



Carrier Pigeon, by Becki Harper

Becki Harper, illustration

BECKI’S illustrations are inspired by behaviours and narratives within nature, alongside botanical forms and patterns, with an exploration into the appreciation and sustainability of the natural world.

“My observational drawing is often the source of an idea, character or composition, and they greatly inform the visual language within my work,” she says.

Becki loves nostalgic colour palettes and vintage graphics, especially the imagery featured on old dress patterns.

Becki Harper: Favours traditional techniques

“I favour traditional techniques such as watercolour painting, which is the process used to add colour to my drawings. This passion for creating things by hand has led to exploration into other media such as textiles, craft and ceramics,” she says.

“Sometimes I work by myself, and at times I work with other artists and community groups on all kinds of projects and commissions.” More info at beckiharper.com.

Selkie Child, by Sophie Keen

Sophie Keen, illustration

SOPHIE is an established children’s book illustrator of 15 years’ standing, with a bold yet traditional style that utilises watercolour, concentrated watercolour ink, fine-liner and pencil.

Since graduating from Liverpool John Moores University in 2003, she has been represented by The Organisation agency, her work being published in such titles as: The Selkie Child (Oxford University Press); My First Bible for Marks and Spencer; My Favourite Michael (Little Tiger Press) and The Christmas Wish, The Lonely Chick and The Best Dog In The World (Scholastic).

Sophie Keen: Flying high in the world of illustration

Last year, under the name Sophie Humphreys, she provided the illustrations for Carolyn Robertson’s Two Dads, read as a CBeebies bedtime story by pop singer and musical actor Will Young as part of LGBTQ History Week.

“Inspiration for my work has become much easier since having children myself, although time and energy has become ‘strangely’ hard to come by,” she says. “But I’m never short of ideas, even if they have to be written in haste on the back of a shopping list at 2am.”

Sophie, who also makes murals and bespoke pieces for bedrooms and nurseries, would have been taking part in York Open Studios for the first time. Discover more at sophiekeenillustration.com.

Charmian Ottaway: A love of ancient history and the natural world

Charmian Ottaway, jewellery

CHARMIAN has been a jeweller and goldsmith for more than 25 years, working mostly to corporate and private commission, although her work in high-carat gold, platinum, pearls and silver can be found in selected galleries and exhibitions too.

A love of ancient Greek and Roman history and the natural world is reflected in her designs.

“I am passionate about sourcing beautiful semi-precious and precious stones,” says Charmian Ottaway

“I am passionate about sourcing beautiful semi-precious and precious stones and incorporating them into my pieces, and I’m committed to using fairly traded and mined metals and certified stones,” says Charmian, who favours classical  techniques, having discovered her love of fine jewellery while working for Cartier.

Her most prestigious commission to date is a replica Richard III Boar Brooch for the Yorkshire Museum in York, where she also has done pieces for the Jorvik Viking Centre and York Archaeological Trust. Among her private clients is “York’s very own” Dame Judi Dench. Learn more at charmianottaway.co.uk.

A semi-abstract oil painting by Lesley Williams

Lesley Williams, painting

LESLEY produces semi-abstract oil paintings based on aspects of the landscape, gardens and ponds, where the translucent colour and shades move around one another creating a visual magic.

“My works based on ponds show an interest in spatial dynamics, as well as the reflective qualities of water within the plant forms,” she says.

“They suggest the feeling found in the moment. They show intrigue in what lies beyond the immediate surface and in spaces around a subject.”

Lesley Williams: Intrigue in what lies beyond the surface

Born in York, Lesley gained a degree in textile design at Nottingham Trent University and later an MA in fine art from Leeds Metropolitan University.

More details can be found at lesleywilliamsartist.co.uk, where her work is divided into Pond Reflections (new work for 2020); New Work; Water Gardens; Pools: Ponds; Waterlilies and Garden Borders.

“I want to provoke responses,” says K. Eliza

K. Eliza, multi-media

STUDENT K. Eliza is an ambitious and multi-sensory artist, influenced by how “aesthetics interact with the natural world and emotions”.

Her present work focuses on rebirth, protection, death and life cycles and she delights in expressing herself in different media, whether wearable sculpture, digital print making, drawing or photography.

Student artist K.Eliza

“I use tights, wire and plastic, moulding them into depth and form to represent the obscure and body parts,” she says. “I want to provoke responses from audiences, intrigued by the potential of material and the impression they leave on us.”

K. Eliza, who would have been participating in York Open Studios for the first time. Her contact details are k.eliza.art@gmail.com.

TOMORROW: Monica Marshall, Richard Barnes, Emily Harper-Gustafson, Freya Horsley, Benn Jackson and Jelena Lunge.

Expect peak performance from Sir Ranulph Fiennes at York Barbican next March

SIR Ranulph Fiennes’s destination on March 24 2021 will be York Barbican, his mission to deliver his live show Living Dangerously for the third time in the city. 

Named by the Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer” and in Burke’s Peerage as Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet of Banbury,  he has spent his life in pursuit of extreme adventure, risking life and limb in “some of the most ambitious private expeditions ever undertaken”.

Among his many record-breaking achievements, he was the first explorer to reach both the North and South Poles, the first to cross the Antarctic and the Arctic Ocean, and the first to circumnavigate the Earth’s surface along its polar axis.

In Living Dangerously, Sir Ranulph, takes a journey through his life, from his early years to the present day. Both light-hearted and poignant, the show revisits the 76-year-old explorer’s childhood and school misdemeanours, his army life and early expeditions.

He will share insights into his transglobal expedition and his present global reach challenge:  his goal to become the first person in the world to cross both polar ice caps and climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.

Sir Ranulph presented Living Dangerously previously in York at the Grand Opera House in July 2018 and June 2019.

Tickets for his 2021 return go on sale on Friday, April 24 at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Your Place Comedy debut is a stream dream of a Yorkshire living room hit

Stream team: Your Place Comedy compere Tim FitzHigham, left, and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson on screen during April 19’s online gig

REASONS to be cheerful part one. The first Your Place Comedy night, streamed live from Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont’s living rooms to yours, was a big success.

Compered by Tim FitzHigham, Sunday’s online fundraiser for ten small, independent northern venues in Coronavirus shutdown drew more than 3,500 viewers.

“That’s considerably more than their combined capacities,” says a delighted event co-ordinator Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer, who manages the Selby Town Hall arts centre.

“The show went even better than we had imagined, to say the whole project was put together from scratch in the space of two weeks by three people with no live streaming experience!” 

Reasons to be cheerful part two. “The show was free to watch on Facebook and YouTube, with an option to donate. We received £3,500 in donations, which will now be split between the venues,” says Chris.

Joining together in this rolling initiative to put the fun into fundraising are Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and  Rotherham Theatres.

“In a nutshell, I was frustrated that the traditional relationship between venue, artist and audience – the venue providing the artist with income and the audience with entertainment – has been has been eroded for the foreseeable future by Covid-19 and I wanted to find a way to re-create that,” says Chris.

“So, at a time of huge uncertainty and upheaval in the Coronavirus lockdown, including for the live entertainment industry, I got these venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to come together to provide our audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times, each chipping in a small amount of money to put on Sunday’s live stream.

Lucy Beaumont: “Rather bizarre bedtime story”

“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years.”

Reasons to be cheerful part three. “Both Lucy and Mark were fantastic. Mark is relatively experienced when it comes to live streaming and was comfortable enough with the format to perform in his pyjamas,” says Chris.

“For Lucy, it was a first foray into ‘audience-free’ comedy, but her set was pitch perfect – even featuring a rather bizarre bedtime story! – and broadcast live from the pub that her husband, [comedian] Jon Richardson, has built in their house.”

How did the format work, Chris? “We were very aware that one of the limitations of live streamed comedy was a lack of audience interaction, so we devised a function that allowed viewers to send messages directly to the acts,” he says.

“This worked incredibly well and really gave the show that extra feeling of intimacy and warmth that you get from watching comedy in a small venue environment.”

Before Sunday’s inaugural show, Chris said: “If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”

Reasons to be cheerful part four. “We’re now planning a second show, tentatively scheduled for Sunday, May 3, with two new acts on the bill,” he says. “Watch this space.” Then watch www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk when the line-up is confirmed.

Should you still be wondering what exactly was Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont’s “rather bizarre bedtime story”…..no, you should have been watching!

No York Open Studios next weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 23

Goshawk In Flight, by Jo Ruth

LAST weekend should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. Next weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, they will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, a handful of artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this lockdown time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour.

The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studio, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work!

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are six more artists and makers for you to discover…

” I hope always to never take myself too seriously,” says ceramicist Chiu-i Wu

Chiu-i Wu, ceramics

CHIU-I’S functional and sculptural gas-fired stoneware pieces are all individual and hand-built, with no moulds being used.

“I hope always to never take myself too seriously, but to just have a simple honesty with my ceramics,” she says.

“When I was little, it was with pen and paper that I felt expressive: drawing and drawing without thought. The feeling never left me, and I graduated to paint, then finally to ceramics.”

Chiu-i developed her art and ceramics in her home country of Taiwan, exhibiting her first work in Taipei. “I loved it, but always had a hard time when asked about my work,” she says. “I have no deep meanings. Not ones that I recognise anyway. I just produce from my heart, sensing when what I’m creating begins to feel right.”

She studied hard to be able to create the feeling she wanted in clay and glaze. “When I moved to England in 2003, I brought many glaze recipes, but soon discovered a new range of English clays to explore. I can feel my love of English summers, blackbirds and sheep touching my heart and influencing my work,” says Chiu-i, who now exhibits in both Britain and Taiwan.

As well as York Open Studios, Chiu-I’s 2020 diary includes Potfest at Scone Palace, Perth, and Earth And Fire, at Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, both In June; Potfest In The Park, Penrith, in July, and Art In Clay, Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, in August. Find out more at chiuiwu.co.uk.

Amy Butcher: Applique-based hand embroidery

Amy Butcher, textiles

FOR Amy’s applique-based hand embroidery, a collage of intricately cut fabric shapes create a foundation. This is then stitched and embellished to create illustrative pieces rooted in nature and animals.

“My love of art and textiles started at school and has been a passion ever since,” says the largely self-taught Amy, from Stillington. “The support and inspiration from an embroidery class enabled me to continue to develop my work and confidence, and in 2014 I was fortunate to get the opportunity to work with the greetings card company Bug Art.”

Clover Meadow, by Amy Butcher

She now works on developing her own range of greetings cards, prints, cushion panels, coasters and embroidery stitch kits, printed from her original textile art for Beaks & Bobbins.

This would have been her debut year of exhibiting at York Open Studios. More info at beaksandbobbies.com.

Carol Coleman: A lifetime of creativity

Carol Coleman, textiles

CAROL uses dissolving fabric and a wide range of found, manipulated, painted or dyed ingredients with any creative technique she can master to produce wall-hung, 3D and wearable art.

Frequently she uses digital photography with image manipulation to create working designs.

A lifetime of creativity, followed by specialising in free-machine embroidery, led to Carol being invited to teach and talk about her work to organised groups.

Phoenix, by Carol Coleman

She became a professional textile artist in 2003 and in 2015 was presented with the gold award for textiles by Craft & Design magazine. As well as exhibiting locally, nationally and internationally, she writes. Oh, and she designed the Dire Wolf Crest for the Hardhome Embroidery for HBO’s Game Of Thrones.

Next up in her diary is Art In The Pen, in Thirsk, on July 18 and 19, “currently still going ahead”. Check carol@fibredance.co.uk for an update.

Jo Ruth at work in her studio

Jo Ruth, painting

JO specialises in intricate stencils cut from original drawings layered with painted surfaces. She sprays and sponges her imagery, reinterpreting the relationship between the natural and the urban world. 

Jo trained in fine art at the University of Reading, followed by post-graduate studies at Birmingham City University, and then developed her creative, illustration and design practices alongside her extensive lecturing and teaching career in London and the Midlands.

“Fascinated by wildlife but a lifelong city dweller, I’m inspired by elements of both worlds: chance encounters with the birds we see sharing our urban lives and those in more rural settings,” she says.

Turtle Dove, by Jo Ruth

“The majority of my imagery is based on our native and visiting birds, those we see in and around our homes and gardens, but I use techniques such as stencilling and digital technologies more associated with urban life.”

As a painter-printmaker, Jo’s work is experimental in its creative process, employing a variety of media to explore qualities of mark-making, texture and colour. “I draw inspiration from the linear qualities of Chinese brush painting, calligraphy and the colours and patterns of my local environment,” she says.

Her website, joruth.com, divides her work into Urban, park and garden; Hedgerows and woods; Wetland, lake and sea and Works on brown paper. Her first major solo show was at the Scottish Ornithologists Club in Aberlady, Scotland, and she exhibits regularly at the International Bird Fair in Rutland.

Luisa Holden: “Painterly yet sensitive semi-abstract style”

Luisa Holden, paintings

LUISA favours expressive and atmospheric landscapes and seascapes, woodland and contemporary still life in her artwork, painting in mixed media and acrylics in a painterly yet sensitive semi-abstract style. 

“I enjoy capturing light and atmosphere, simplifying forms and reducing areas of a picture to blocks of light,” she says. The North York Moors, the Dales and the Yorkshire coastline are prominent in her paintings, “but I also enjoy abstracted, edgy still lifes, often incorporating a window backdrop and geometric forms,” she adds.

Luisa, who is of British-Italian roots, grew up in North Wales and studied fine art at the North Wales Institute of Fine Art but she has since spent most of her adult life in Yorkshire.

“I enjoy capturing light and atmosphere, simplifying forms and reducing areas of a picture to blocks of light,” says Luisa Holden

She has exhibited throughout Yorkshire, such as the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull; the Great North Art Show at  Ripon Cathedral and a solo show at the Helmsley Arts Centre, as well as at the Mall Galleries in London with the Society of Women Artists.

Luisa is a member of Leeds Fine Artists and her work can be found at the Blossom Street Gallery, York; The Blake Gallery, Haxby; The Leaping Hare Art Gallery, Easingwold, and the Look Gallery, Helmsley.

“I like the challenge of intuitive creativity: taking risks, de-constructing and re-constructing to simply allow a painting to evolve,” she says. “I consider the creative process to be a journey of self-discovery, learning to be spontaneous, free and not fearing ‘messing up’.” Discover the results at luisaholdenart.co.uk.

“I find both the process of creating an object and applying my designs most satisfying,” says ceramicist Anna-Marie Magson

Anna-Marie Magson, ceramics

ANNA-MARIE’S simple, contemporary ceramic vessels are hand built using stoneware slabs and decorated with layers of coloured slips.

“The flattened surfaces of the vessels provide a canvas on which to work,” she says, “I create fine detail by revealing shapes, lines and marks through wax resist and sgraffito. I use a muted palette of soft-hued colours to evoke a sun-bleached effect and a satin glaze to give a tactile, silky finish.” 

Originally, Anna-Marie studied fine art painting at Liverpool College of Art, but when the opportunity to work in a pottery studio arose, she began to explore her love of surface decoration and textured pattern on clay tiles. Ultimately, this led to adapting her ideas to hand-built ceramic vessels.

Inspired by ancient structures: Anna-Marie Magson’s ceramics

“I find both the process of creating an object and applying my designs most satisfying,” she says. “I find inspiration in the world around me, such as ancient structures, their weathered surface and the evidence of human mark-making.”

Anna-Marie’s stoneware ceramics can be found at The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, Number Four Gallery, St Abbs, Scotland, and Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery. More immediately, cast an eye over annamariemagson.co.uk.

TOMORROW: Philip Magson; Becki Harper; Sophie Keen; Charmian Ottaway; Lesley Williams and K. Eliza.

No York Open Studios next weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 22

Maria Keki: Applying veils of colour in her paintings

LAST weekend should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. Next weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, they will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour.

The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studio, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work!

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are five more artists and makers for you to discover…

Lesley Birch at work on one of her paintings

Lesley Birch, mixed media

BORN in Glasgow, former Hue & Cry musician Lesley’s Scottish roots feed into her love of wild and remote places and in turn into heartfelt paintings notable for their sense of colour and composition.

“I’m interested in expressing my personal response to time and place,” says Lesley, whose work ranges from large, atmospheric landscapes to small/medium works on paper and boards in oils, pigments and acrylics from her travels to Italy, Spain and Scotland.

Earlier this year, Lesley launched her Marks & Moments show at Partisan, the boho restaurant, café and arts space in Micklegate, York, where she filled two floors with more than 50 paintings from her Musical Abstract Collection.

Little Pink Shore, by Lesley Birch

Lesley has just completed 21 Days In Isolation, a one-off project in Covid-19 lockdown offering paintings at exceptionally low prices. “Will there be more paintings? Yes. Though not on a daily basis. My 21 days are over,” she says.

Why did she undertake such a “mammoth task”? “Because we are in difficult times at the moment and everyone should have a chance to buy original art,” she says. “I’ve really enjoyed painting in the alla prima style and plan to create a new collection.”    

Coming next will be her Romantic Landscapes series. Meanwhile, after the cancellation of York Open Studios 2020, Lesley is putting a selection of her YOS pieces online at lesleybirchart.com at £200 each, framed and ready to hang.

Frances G Brock: Expressive portraits and landscape paintings

Frances G Brock, painting

FRANCES paints both expressive portraits in mixed water-media and landscape paintings in water-media and oils.

By training and profession a music teacher, Frances has a second string to her bow as an artist, and this month she would have been taking part in her fifth successive York Open Studios.

A portrait by Frances G Brock

Her work shows a broad artistic vocabulary and can be seen at the Dee Alexander Gallery in Epping and Silo Art Gallery in Cawood. In particular, she receives many commissions for her domestic animal paintings.

She has tutored courses at Old Sleningford Hall, North Stainley, near Ripon, for the past two years and leads workshops by request. Learn more at jacksonartsites.com/francesart.

Maria Keki with two of her artworks

Maria Keki, painting

AFTER fine art studies in Manchester and post-graduate study at the University of Leeds, Maria enjoyed a fulfilling career as a teacher of art, craft, and design, alongside creating her own work.

She continues to be passionate about working with young people through the arts. 

In her paintings, remembered and imagined places are evoked through veils of colour. Such works have been exhibited at York Open Studios in previous years and in other local shows too, as well being sold privately. More info at maria_keki@yahoo.co.uk.

Ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel

Beccy Ridsdel, ceramics

BECCY completed her BA in contemporary 3D crafts at the University of York in 2008, achieving first class honours.

Since then, she has taught ceramics and kiln-formed glass at York College, as well as making sculptural, hand-built, stoneware ceramics from her workshop in York.

A stoneware ceramic by Beccy Ridsdel

In addition to exhibiting in York, Hull, Thirsk, Sheffield and Sleaford, Beccy has shown work at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and the Houston Centre for Contemporary Crafts in Texas. Her ceramics have featured in magazines and art journals too.

She took part in York Open Studios from 2013 to 2018 and would have resumed her involvement in 2020. More details at beccyridsdel.co.uk.

Dawn Ridsdel: Maker of cheerful, colourful ceramics

Dawn Ridsdel, ceramics

DAWN creates colourful and cheerful ceramics to enhance and brighten the home, applying a sculptural aesthetic while exploring surface and form in her use of layers of slips, underglazes, lustres and glaze.

She went back to college in her thirties to study craft and has been working in arts education as a technician ever since, 23 years now, at York College, where she also teaches ceramics.

“I was very happy helping others, but I decided I needed to take a different direction and took a further course of study, which has given me new confidence,” says Dawn. “After a lot of hard work, I was awarded a first class honours degree in contemporary craft from York St John University in July 2017.”

“I’m fascinated by colour and the way it can affect us and how we perceive it, ” says Dawn Ridsdel of her ceramics

Based in a garden studio on the outskirts of York, Dawn specialises in hand-building techniques to make vessel and cloud forms and develop the clay surface to hint at open spaces, skies, seas, stars and planets. “I’m very moved by the decline in natural habitats and species and believe that we must do more to celebrate and protect our wildlife,” she says.

“I’m also fascinated by colour and the way it can affect us and how we perceive it, so my work also uses contrasting colours which, when brought together, can enhance each other and cause them to vibrate. In this way I hope to bring life and vitality to my work.”

Dawn has exhibited at Art& York at York Racecourse, Sunny Bank Mills Gallery, Farsley, and various galleries in Yorkshire. Seek out her work at dawnridsdel.co.uk.

TOMORROW: Chiu-i Wu; Amy Butcher; Carol Coleman; Jo Ruth, Luisa Holden and Anna-Marie Magson.

2020 New Light Prize Exhibition to go ahead with end of May deadline for entries

Sir Tom Courtenay, by Isobel Peachey, an entry for a past New Light Prize Exhibition

THE New Light Prize Exhibition has been given the green light for 2020.

Turning the spotlight on northern art, this prestigious biennial event will be held this autumn, despite the Coronavirus pandemic that has forced many arts organisations into temporary closure. 

Rebekah Tadd, development director at New Light, says: “We’re very fortunate that the way our exhibition is organised means we’re able to go ahead as planned.

“The submissions process all takes place online – artists are invited to submit their works via our website by May 31 – and the judging process takes place online during the summer.

“The physical exhibition, which launches at Scarborough Art Gallery before going on tour to Carlisle, Newcastle and London, isn’t until mid-September, so we hope that, by then, we can go ahead without any changes.”

Andrew Clay: Chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2020, the exhibition will start at Scarborough Art Gallery for the first time, running there from September 19 to January 10 2021.

Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust, says: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the New Light Prize Exhibition to Scarborough Art Gallery.

“This exhibition’s policy of shining new light on northern artists is one we firmly believe in, so we’re thrilled to be involved and to able to support in this way.”

Artists who were born, live or have studied in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Westmoreland, County Durham and Northumbria can submit their work online at: newlight-art.org.uk/prize-exhibition/all-you-need-to-know/.

Judging this summer will be done by a panel of Royal Academy printmaker and artist Anne Desmet; RA Magazine editor Sam Phillips; Huddersfield Art Gallery curator Grant Scanlan and New Light chair Annette Petchey.

Scarborough Art Gallery, where the 2020 New Light Prize Exhibition will be launched in September. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

The prize winners will be announced at a private view at Scarborough Art Gallery on Friday, September 18.

Those prizes are:

The £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award: open to all artists aged over 18 with a connection to the north, whether through birth, degree level study or residence.

The £2,500 Patron’s Choice Award: presented on the night of the private view; all exhibited works are considered.

The Saul Hay Gallery Emerging Artists Prize: offering mentoring, professional advice and exhibition opportunities, including a solo show.

The Zillah Bell Printmakers’ Prize: all forms of original printmaking are eligible; the winner will be offered a solo exhibition at the Zillah Bell Gallery in Thirsk.

The Visitors’ Choice Award: visitors are asked to vote for their favourite work.

New Light Purchase Prize: the selected work is purchased by the charity to add to its collection.

Caravan Of Love, oil on canvas, by Christopher Campbell, an entry for a past New Light Prize Exhibition

The New Light Prize Exhibition will move on from Scarborough to Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, and finally The Bankside Gallery, London.

Established in 2010, New Light runs not only the biennial open exhibition for established and emerging artists, but also the New Light Art For All education programme of talks, workshops and school projects.

This spring, the New Light Collection is being launched with the aim of making “the best in northern visual arts” available to more people by loaning pieces, free of charge, to public bodies and charities.

The common thread that runs through everything New Light does is a “deep belief that the visual arts matter and the north of England deserves to be celebrated”.

New Light is run by a dedicated group of people with a passion for northern art and relies entirely on donations and sponsorship. For more information, go to newlight-art.org.uk.

Pyramid Gallery’s virtual exhibition for these Strange Days in lockdown is growing daily

The Pyramid Gallery poster for the Strange Days virtual exhibition

IN response to York Open Studios 2020’s cancellation, Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett is stepping in with a lifeline to artists, offering the Stonegate gallery’s website as an online showcase at a much-reduced commission.

Its name prompted the lyrics of The Doors’ song from 1967, Strange Days is an “Art behind the doors” show that aptly is growing through springtime with new additions each day, trailed on Terry’s blog at pyramidgallery.com.

“We’ve opened the show to all York Open Studios artists and any York artists who already do business with the gallery, and I’ve lowered my commission to just 20 per cent, plus VAT, to make it work for them,” says Terry.

Delivery Creature, by Chiu-I Wu, one of the York Open Studios 2020 artists

“This enables York artists to show their new work to our customers, without a selection process, and allows them to earn more from each sale.

“The gallery is closed and my staff are furloughed, so I can operate with lower overheads during the Coronavirus lockdown, hopefully maintaining contact with my customers who are confined to their homes.”

For those living at a YO postcode, there will be free delivery of artworks, subject to the present lockdown restrictions. “So, delivery might be in a few weeks if the items cannot be sent through the post,” says Terry.

Terry Brett, on Stonegate, outside Pyramid Gallery

To complement the Pyramid virtual gallery, he has addressed the challenges presented to galleries by the Covid-19 pandemic in a candid piece on his blog.

Among the York Open Studios artists taking part in Strange Days are Kate Buckley; Peter Park; Jo Walton; Chiu-I Wu; Lesley Birch; Colin Black; Linda Combi; Zoe Catherine Kendall; Michelle Hughes; Sally Clarke; Adrienne French; Hacer Ozturk; Jill Tattersall; Karen Thomas; Kate Pettitt and Ruth Claydon. #

The second weekend of the 2020 event would have taken place on April 25 and 26.

No York Open Studios this weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 21

Autumn Birds, by Gerard Hobson

TODAY should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. Next weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, this weekend and next weekend will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Holtby studio painter Kate Pettitt, for example, is penning a daily blog at facebook.com/katepettittartist/. “Visit the YOS website and take your own virtual tour at yorkopenstudios.co.uk,” she advises.

Good advice! The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studio, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work!

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are five more artists and makers for you to discover…

Harriet McKenzie: Artist and foster carer

Harriet McKenzie, ceramics

HARRIET’S 2020 mission is to “examine drawing in the interface between the two- dimensional picture plane and the three-dimensional object”.

To do so, she creates ceramic Circles: enclosed forms, in black clay with engobe and sgraffito painting.

Her Circles reflect how relationships, interplay and suggestion are the bedrock of her art practice in her home studio. Harriet, or Hatti as she is known, is both an artist and a foster carer, a role that fundamentally informs her work as “a multifaceted influence revealed over time,” she says.

Harriet graduated with First Class honours from her Bradford School of Art fine art degree in 2007, first participating in York Open Studios in 2008 and she has since done so in 2009, 2011 and 2015 to 2018, when she was a bursary award winner.

Rounded up: A selection of Harriet McKenzie’s Circles

Her formal art education had a gap of 20 years as, first, she took time out to travel and live in America, before making a home and raising her daughter in York.

“I found it impossible to do both art and earn a living as a single parent,” she says candidly. “With my art, I got so focused and involved with each project, my poor daughter suffered, but with age comes a better balance.

“Now, I only do work to show in galleries or Open Studios once a year, as this can fit round my sometimes challenging life as a foster carer.” Seek out Harriet’s work at hattimckenzie.com. 

Harriette Rymer at work

Harriette Rymer, painting

HARRIETTE creates abstract paintings, vibrant and playful in character, often featuring a geometric context, that she presents as original wall art panels, digital artworks and installations.

“By employing a range of mediums, I explore conflicting and harmonious relationships within colour and texture,” she says.

Harriette first studied art and design at Leeds College of Art in 2013, later taking a science degree in Newcastle. After graduating, Harriette returned to her artistic passion and now combines her love for precision with design in her paintings, screen-prints and cards (where she uses block-printing and stamping techniques).

Energy, by Harriet Rymer

Her fascination with colour manifests itself throughout her vivid work, curated under such collections as Confetti Collection, Hues, Colour Overlays, Milieu, Pattern Postcards and Expanse.

“I want the viewer to make personal connections with each composition, just as I have, whether it’s a reminder of a place they know well or a visualisation of a memory, thought or feeling,” says Harriette, who uses acrylic, gouache, watercolours and pastels.

This year she has exhibited in the York Printmakers show at Pairings wine bar, Castlegate, York, and in A First Glimpse at the Inspired By…Gallery, Danby, and she would have done so too at this month’s cancelled British Craft Trade Fair, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate.

Take a look at harrietterymer.com.

“I’m an instinctive painter,” says Steve Williams

Steve Williams, painting

STEVE’S strikingly vibrant and original paintings in acrylics are inspired mainly by North Yorkshire’s landscapes and coastline.

“I’m an instinctive painter,” he says. “My pictures take form through the process of painting, not through adherence to a fully formulated plan. Exploring my emotive response to my subject matter, I allow my paintings to develop as a result of my mood or subconscious mindset. They stem from an original idea, image or situation and then come together of their own accord.”

Whitby At Night, by Steve Williams

Using acrylics, palette knives and brushes, Steve seeks to infuse his pictures with fluidity, energy, colour and texture. “My aim is to achieve a balance, a cohesion, harmony and completeness, in all of my pictures,” he says.

“I work spontaneously to convey my emotional energy into a painting. I believe this is the only way to ensure authenticity.”

Steve exhibits regularly with contemporary galleries throughout Yorkshire, in London and further afield. Commissions are welcomed via stevewilliamsart.moonfruit.com.

“My inspiration comes from nature’s wonders,” says Sam Jones

Sam Jones, jewellery

SAM is self-taught in the art of lampworking, otherwise known as glass-bead making.

She works with various materials, such as glass rods, clear resin and metals, making her own glass beads and combining these with silver, copper and semi-precious stones in her jewellery since 2006.

She graduated with a degree in jewellery from Sheffield Hallam University in 2000 and works within the creative industries as a scenic painter. “I’m drawn to colour, pattern and texture,” she says. “I enjoy experimenting with processes and like working with various materials as I find each has its own qualities.

Handmade glass-beads necklace, by Sam Jones

“My inspiration comes from nature’s wonders, from the nebulas within our galaxies, to the weird and wonderful inhabitants of our oceans.”

Should the non-scientific among you be wondering, a nebula is a giant interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionised gases.

Some nebulae (the Latin plural) come from the gas and dust thrown out by the explosion of a dying star, such as a supernova. Other nebulae are “star nurseries”: regions where new stars are beginning to form. Science home-schooling lesson of the day, at your service.

Discover more at samjonesjewellery.com.

Gerard Hobson with his wren installation beneath the Clock Tower at Beningbrough Hall, near York. Picture: Sue Jordan

Gerard Hobson, printmaking

GERARD has had a love of birds, animals and art since childhood, a wildlife bent that saw him qualify as a zoologist from Bangor University and work for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a botanist and illustrator.

On relocating to the north, he worked for Yorkshire Wildlife while continuing to develop his own work on a freelance basis, turning his hand to woodcarving and studying print-making in York.

Gerard now works from his garden studio in Clifton, producing limited-edition hand-coloured linocut prints of birds and animals, much of his work being inspired while out walking his dog on the Clifton Ings.

His repertoire has expanded to take in cushions and lampshades, mugs and chopping boards, produced in tandem with Georgia Wilkinson Designs, and cut-outs of birds, animals, fish and mushrooms.

Leaping Hare, by Gerard Hobson

Gerard branched out still further earlier this year for his Winter Wildlife In Print show at the National Trust property of Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, where he combined multiple prints in the Hayloft gallery with 14 sculptural scenes/installations in the outbuildings, gardens, grounds and parkland, inspired by creatures that make Beningbrough their winter home.

“I hope my art may stir people to become more interested in the wildlife around them, to feed the birds and join their local wildlife trust,” he says. “To share this with their children and their children’s children, and hopefully generations of young people will become more interested in the birds and woodlands around them. Maybe some will go on to be environmental campaigners – who knows!”

More info at gerardhobson.com.

TOMORROW: Lesley Birch; Frances G Brock; Maria Keki; Beccy Ridsdel and Dawn Ridsdel.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY TWENTY

Gin Anyone? A sketch for our times by Geraldine “Geri” Bilbrough

TODAY should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying safe at home. Tomorrow too.

This is not a call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, this weekend and next weekend will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Holtby studio painter Kate Pettitt, for example, is penning a daily blog at facebook.com/katepettittartist/. “Visit the YOS website and take your own virtual tour at yorkopenstudios.co.uk,” she advises.

Fran Brammer: Founder member of York Textile Artists

Fran Brammer, textiles

FRAN left behind Worcestershire for Yorkshire to teach art and design, then textiles, until succumbing to the allure of a historical costume-making course.

She now works as a textile artist and tutor, specialising in personal landscapes “drawn” using freehand machine stitching that she produces for sale, exhibitions or private commissions.

“My work is created by building, then cutting away layers of found fabrics and stitching,” says Fran. “The images explore individual experiences and histories both large and small.” 

In her teaching capacity, she hosts workshops, demonstrations and talks focusing on freehand machine work and creative textiles.

“The images explore individual experiences and histories both large and small,” says Fran Brammer of her textile work

Fran, a founder member of York Textile Artists, writes on her latest blog: “If you are a bored creative, feeling a bit isolated and frustrated, try out the York Textile Artists public Facebook page.

“We are planning to post challenges and projects for you to get involved with, some as daft as a brush, others more proper and ‘textiley’. If you don’t do Facebook, go on to our website, yorktextileartists.com, and sign up for newsletter. We have plans.”

As for how Fran’s artwork is responding to the Coronavirus shutdown, she writes: “All of the current pieces are tied to opportunities lost due to social distancing…so time to start anew and work with the restrictions.

“This has no deadline, no purpose or goal, it just is. It is about being in the landscape, about being alone with that landscape and how perception shifts, given time and space. Interpretation and response rather than fact.” Read more at franbramm.wordpress.com.

Geraldine Bilbrough at work on an illustration

Geraldine Bilbrough, illustration

INSPIRED by music, film, stories and human emotions, using pencil and sometimes watercolour, before re-touching digitally, Geraldine tries to capture beauty and feeling within her thought-provoking images.

This York illustrator and designer has been drawing all her life and considers art her biggest passion, creating detailed illustrations, often based around portraiture with an occasional hint of fantasy.

A portrait by Geraldine Bilbrough

“I enjoy nothing more than finding inspiration for new work and discussing ideas with other creatives,” her website profile says. “When I’m not drawing, I love to travel and explore new places, eat my way around cafés and restaurants, visit art galleries and learn French.” Learning French will have to hold sway for now, but roll on a return to those other joys, Geraldine, whenever that day may come.

2020 would have marked her York Open Studios debut. Cast an eye over geraldinebilbrough.com.

“The thing about jewellery is that it’s never practical,” says Ruth Claydon

Ruth Claydon, jewellery

HOW would Ruth Claydon sum up her jewellery? “Old, found, turned around,” she says, picking the title Moth And Magpie for her brand of re-purposed cast-offs mixed with ancient treasures, in acknowledgement of how her instincts match both.

“My ideal Magpie-upcycler scenario is discovering a vintage or antique piece of jewellery and taking it back to my studio whilst I’m still giddy with excitement to create new jewellery from it straight away,” she says on her mothandmagpie.com blog.

Sharp-eyed Ruth sees the potential in re-working cast-off old jewellery, making a virtue of the unwanted by merging it with heirlooms and ancient finds such as salvaged Roman glass beads and metals. In doing so, she makes old into new, modern designs, enhanced by techniques such as hammering, melting and enamelling.

“Old, found, turned around”: Ruth Claydon’s definition of her jewellery

“Because the thing about jewellery is that it’s never practical,” her blog contends. “It’s not about what will ‘do’. You absolutely have to love it. It’s emotional. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s as personal as perfume. It’s about how it looks, but even more it’s about how it makes you feel.”

A light carbon footprint sparks joy for Ruth. “Because I want to wear things that have also made other women feel special,” she says. “Because I want to create value from individuality, exclusivity from design, and if an Elizabeth Taylor diamond winks at me across a room, I can twinkle right back knowing that pinning down my glamour is as complex as the history entwined in the piece I am wearing.”

Find out more at mothandmagpie.com.

Jacqueline James with her large and sturdy Swedish floor loom

Jacqueline James, textiles

JACQUELINE creates one-of-a-kind, custom-dyed, hand-woven rugs and wall hangings, mainly contemporary in style, using natural and durable materials in geometric patterns and stripe rhythms.

Born in Dumfries, Scotland, she grew up in the Pacific Northwest, USA, before moving to York in 1982. From 1985 to 1988, she studied woven textile design and construction at Harrogate College of Art and Technology, where she focused on rug weaving.

In 1989, Jacqueline established her weaving studio in York, since when her textile work for commission and exhibition has blended traditional techniques with contemporary design style.

“Everything is made by hand on my large and sturdy Swedish floor loom,” she says. “Inspiration for new designs comes from everywhere, especially all the colours and patterns I see in nature, landscapes and architecture.”

Geometric patterns by Jacqueline James

Jacqueline’s work is in public and private collections in Britain and North America and her major commissions include weaving for York Minster, Westminster Abbey and the British Library. “I particularly enjoy designing and weaving bespoke commissioned work from private clients, interior designers, architects and places of worship,” she says. 

“For me, weaving is a lifestyle occupation which gives me a great sense of purpose. I adore the tactile qualities and the rich colours of the threads I use and find the action of weaving very engaging. 

“Rug weaving is the perfect vehicle for my visual interpretation and expression. As a rug weaver, I feel privileged being part of the international weaving community and continuing an important heritage craft tradition.” Discover more at handwovenrugs.co.uk.

Jean Drysdale: Designing sculptural objects, wall pieces and items to wear

Jean Drysdale, textiles

JEAN has worked in felt textiles since leaving modern language teaching in 2007.

“I was drawn firstly by the apparent simplicity of a process that produces wonderful results,” she says.  “Then I looked further, researching the great history, breadth and the depth of the felt-making tradition.”

In 2011, she completed a City and Guilds course and since then she has developed her felt-making process to create highly textured sculptural objects, wall pieces and items to wear.

Textile with style: The work of Jean Drysdale

“Now I delight in achieving a contemporary result through use of wide-ranging and ever-evolving techniques,” says Jean. “I work with unspun sheep’s wool fibre, ranging from British and European rare breeds to fine Australian merino. The felting process bonds the wool with silks and other natural fibres.”

She likes to explore texture, form and colour. “I use traditional and contemporary wet-felting and hand-dyeing techniques and enjoy contrasting colours which migrate and transform during the process,” says Jean, who has exhibited in York, Leeds, North Yorkshire and Scotland, including at Helmsley Arts Centre and Kunsthuis Gallery at The Dutch House, Crayke. More info at jdrysdalefelt.co.uk.

 TOMORROW: Harriet McKenzie; Harriette Rymer; Steve Williams; Sam Jones and Gerard Hobson.

NCEM presents vocal group Voces Suaves in Facebook streaming premiere today

Voces Suaves: Madrigals At Your Service streaming today (April 18)

THE National Centre for Early Music series of Facebook streaming premieres presents vocal ensemble Voces Suaves this afternoon at 1pm.

Over the coming weeks, the York music venue, at Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, will be streaming a line-up of past performances from the NCEM archives.  

In today’s Facebook concert, Voces Suaves perform Madrigals At Your Service, focusing on the musical treasures of the Italian Renaissance and re-creating the magnificence of the courts of Ferrara and Mantua, with music by Monteverdi, Gesualdo and Wert.  

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “This group of nine professional singers are graduates of the Creative Europe EEEmerging programme and have performed at major European concert venues and festivals, taking audiences and critics by storm. 

Palisander: Online concert coming next on May 2

“This performance, recorded at St Lawrence’s Church in York, was a highlight of the 2018 York Early Music Festival and it forms the third in a series of NCEM Online concerts designed to welcome audiences from across the world into the extraordinarily rich world of early music.”

Future streaming concerts include a 2019 performance by the recorder ensemble Palisander on Saturday, May 2, at 1pm. “The group have been part of the EEEmerging programme too and their debut album, Beware The Spider!, released in 2017, received outstanding reviews from the critics,” says Delma.

Palisander’s concert was recorded in the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, at the 2019 REMA Conference. 

To join the merry streaming throng, simply click on to the NCEM’s Facebook page @yorkearlymusic. Alternatively, log on to the NCEM’s website, ncem.co.uk, and click on the news section. 

Future concerts and streaming dates will be announced at ncem.co.uk.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY NINETEEN

Giraffe Whispers, by Ian Cameron

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, should have started with a preview this evening, but the annual event has been cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with doors sadly shut for the April 17 to 19 and April 25 to 26 event, CharlesHutchPress wants to champion the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios will be given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead.  Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

More Alike Than Different, by Lu Mason

 Lu Mason, multi-media

IN her latest work, Lu is looking at how we connect as human beings, using the theme that we are all cut from the same cloth.

“My installation consists of one long series of paper figures, all connected to each other, all cut out from the same roll of paper: More Alike Than Different,” she says.

Lu has had an unusual journey to where she is now as an artist. She worked for many years as an occupational therapist, but she always painted patterns for her own enjoyment and had a small business making rag rugs.

Lu Mason: Unusual journey

Fifteen years ago, she started making cut-paper mobiles, since when she has  enjoyed putting her work in public places in the form of installations, as well as creating mobiles using Perspex shapes over the past year.

“I make site-specific work, in collaboration with clients,” she says. “I’m interested in doing installations, residencies and workshops and I’m now producing a range of brooches made out of Perspex too.”

Lu was one of the 2020 York Open Studios multimedia bursary recipients in a scheme set up to enable artists to create experiences such as digital works, installations, films or performances for the annual event. Take a look at madebylumason.weebly.com.

Andre, by Nick Kobyluch

Nick Kobyluch, drawing

NICK’S pen and ink drawings explore line, form and colour through both landscape and portraiture work, most of his final pieces originating from drawings initially done in his sketchbooks.

Born in Bradford, he moved to London to work as a freelance illustrator for design, editorial and advertising clients, from the Observer and the National  Lottery to Barclays Bank and Oxford University Press, after completing his BA in graphic design at Hull College of Art in the 1980s.

Over the years, he has moved away from commercially commissioned work to pursue his own interests in drawing, motivated by a desire to experiment and evolve as a line artist, favouring the pen, “the most unforgiving of mediums”, over pencil and charcoal.

Nick Kobyluch: Motivated by a desire to experiment

The urban environment inspires Nick. “I love cities and the way they represent in complex physical form the many ways we interact as individuals and as a society,” he says. “It’s all there in the odd juxtapositions, hidden corners and strange compromises.”

He names Frans Masereel, George Grosz, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious, Richard Diebenkorn and David Gentleman as artists he “comes back to time and again”. “All share a mastery of line and form,” he says.

This would have been his first year as a York Open Studios exhibitor: the latest affirmation of his desire to “keep moving forward” as an artist. Contact him via nickkobyluch2@gmail.com.

Hole Of Horcum, by Michelle Hughes

Michelle Hughes, printmaking

MICHELLE is a printmaker and graphic designer, creating linocut prints inspired by nature and the great British countryside.

“I love exploring the countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for my next prints,” she says.

Once back in her garden studio, Michelle makes simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, then cuts these shapes into lino. She hand-prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour.

Michelle Hughes: Artist and workshop tutor

For 25 years, Michelle designed homeware and fashion ranges for large corporate companies such as Disney, George Home at Asda, Arcadia and Shared Earth. In June 2016, she took the leap of faith to set up her own business, initially in graphic design, then printmaking, bringing together her love of craft, photography, colour, nature and exploring.

“I’ve always loved working with my hands and making things,” says Michelle, who also holds workshops in her Holgate studio. “I like the spontaneity of making marks with the tools, the quality of line and the graphic style of the final print. It enables me to distil the landscape down into simple lines.” 

Michelle has designed a series of a dozen linocuts, A Landscape Speaks, for the National Trust property Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. Learn more at michellehughesdesign.com/.

Oil on canvas by Lucy McElroy

Lucy McElroy, painting

AFTER 15 years as an art teacher, Lucy balances her time between the “joys and challenges of being a mother, teaching part-time at All Saints RC School and spending time developing her own practice in her home studio”.

“Traditional techniques enable me to create a true likeness of my subjects, while exploring ways to capture beautiful and emotive moments on paper and canvas,” says Lucy, who studied fine art at the University of Leeds. 

Lucy McElroy: Capturing beautiful and emotive moments

She works in pencil, pastel, charcoal and oil on canvas and finds time for a few portrait commissions each year, undertaken in between her own creative projects.

This would have been the first year that Lucy had participated in York Open Studios. View her work at lucymcelroy.co.uk.

The Blue Bell, in Fossgate, York, one of 30 new works Ian Cameron made for York Open Studios 2020

Ian Cameron, painting

IAN’S artwork is created using crayon wax rubbings, vibrant Brusho-coloured washes and Indian ink drawings, embellished with collage and watercolours to create a multi-layered effect.

“I love to draw in my sketchbook,” he says. “I usually draw with a black gel pen and often use watercolours. Sometimes I rub over embossed surfaces such as manhole covers with a wax crayon and then paint over with a colour wash to create a resist effect. The final picture has a great deal of depth brought about by the different layers or levels.”

Ian Cameron in the wooden studio he built in his garden

Ian developed an interest in art “quite late in life”, at 50 to be precise, in 2003 when he attended GCSE Art evening classes. A-level studies and an art and design foundation course at York College ensued.

2020 was to have been his seventh year in York Open Studios, exhibiting 30 new works created in the wooden studio he built in his back garden. For more info, visit ifcameron.tumblr.com.

TOMORROW: Fran Brammar; Geraldine Bilbrough; Ruth Claydon; Jacqueline James and Jean Drysdale.

Yorkston Thorne Khan re-arrange Selby Town Hall concert for November 24

Suhail Yusuf Khan , left, JonThorne and James Yorkston: new album, new tour date in Selby

YORKSTON Thorne Khan, the first gig at Selby Town Hall to fall foul of the Covid-19 shutdown last month, has been re-arranged for November 24.

Tickets for the postponed March 20 show remain valid for the new date, with further tickets still on sale at selbytownhall.co.uk.

Yorkston Thorne Khan are Scottish songwriter James Yorkston (guitar, nyckelharpa, voice); Bishop’s Storford  jazz musician Jon Thorne (double bass, voice) and Delhi-born eighth generation sarangi player and vocalist Suhail Yusuf Khan.

The trio will be touring in support of their third album, Navarasa: Nine Emotions, a January 24 release on Domino Recordings that followed 2016 debut Everything Sacred and 2017’s Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars after they first met by chance backstage in 2015 and played together ever since.

On the latest recording, they tackle Robert Burns and Sufi poetry, via Dick Gaughan and Amir Khusrow Dehlavi, traditional Scottish songs, ragas and their own spidery compositions.

At the heart of Yorkston Thorne Khan’s transporting new album is the subcontinent’s navarasa: the nine (nava) emotions or sentiments (rasa) of the arts. This “unifying underpinning” is a centuries-old organising principle, wherein the individual artistic emotions range from Shringara (love, beauty), through Hasya (laughter, mirth, comedy), Raudra (anger), Karuna (sorrow, compassion or mercy), Bibhatsya (disgust), Bhayanaka (horror, terror), Veera (heroism, courage), Adbutha (surprise, wonder), to Shanta (peace, tranquillity).

The artwork for Yorkston Thorne Khan’s Navarasa: Nine Emotions

Each song is connected to one of these emotions; for example Westlin Winds is paired with Adbutha, opening with the life-destroying Act I of Robert Burns’s poem Now Westlin Winds (And Slaught’ring Guns).

Then it deliciously transplants its disjoined, nature-extolling and life-affirming Act II on to Indian soil with a composition in Purbi, a dialect of old Hindi. “I learnt the song by listening to various qawwali [Muslim devotional song] singers singing at Hazrat Nizammuddin’s dargah [shrine] in Delhi,” says Khan. “Its source is Hazrat Amir Khusrau.”

In this way, Yorkston Thorne Khan unite one of the key spiritual visionaries and architects of Hindustani art music, the poet-philosopher Hazrat Amir Khusrau, with the key literary visionary of Scottish culture, Robert Burns. 

This bricolage of diverse cross-cultural elements is apparent across Navarasa: Nine Emotions.  Yorkston weaves in Scottish folk, sangster and literary strands; Thorne is grounded in jazz and groove. Then add New Delhi-based Khan’s feast of northern Indian classical, light classical and Sufi devotional musical and literary influences. “What binds these diverse musical strands together is a dark happiness,” says Yorkston.

Looking forward to the re-arranged show in the autumn, Selby Town Hall manager Chris Jones says: “Sadly James, Jon and Suhail’s show was the first in our calendar to fall victim to the lockdown. They are such a phenomenally talented trio, and the feedback I had heard from the early gigs on their tour was amazing, so it was desperately disappointing not to be able to give the Selby audience that experience.

“Thankfully though, we’ve been able to reschedule the show for November 24, and this is definitely one that’s worth waiting for.”

The end of a Dream as Hull Truck stays shut until July 31 in Coronavirus lockdown limbo

Hull Truck Theatre: Lights still out until the end of July

HULL Truck Theatre will remain closed until July 31, putting paid to this summer’s big Dream of a community show…for now.

Today’s board and management decision “continues to follow Government guidelines about Coronavirus”, enforcing the postponement of all spring/summer season shows, most prominently Tom Saunders’ community production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream from July 4.

The statement says: “We are working with partners and visiting companies to re-schedule all shows, so that audiences who have missed performances during the closure period still get to enjoy the great programme of entertainment that had been planned.

“The box- office team are working hard to contact all audiences who have tickets booked for shows affected by the closure and bookers do not need to do anything at this time. Details of individuals shows and information about rescheduled dates can be found on the Hull Truck website, hulltruck.co.uk.

“The theatre is looking to the future, developing flexible plans for when we can reopen, including a programme of inspiring and joyful entertainment that will celebrate the very best of theatre, bringing people together in a safe and positive environment to enjoy and share a unique collective experience.”

In the meantime, Hull Truck at Home offers a programme of drama and creative activities to keep audiences and communities entertained and inspired while at home in lockdown.

On April 8, more than 700 people watched a screening of Paragon Dreams on Hull Truck’s YouTube channel. Written and performed by Hester Ullyart and directed by Mark Babych, the show was presented last April and May as part of the theatre’s Ten Years On Ferensway anniversary celebrations. Further announcements for the Hull Truck at Home programme will follow next week.

Mark Babych: Hull Truck Theatre artistic director

Hull Truck’s joint chief executive officers, executive director Janthi Mills-Ward and artistic director Mark Babych, say: “Protecting our team, audiences and communities is our upmost priority during this period. The theatre building may be closed except for a security team, but a small core team continue to work from home to ensure that when it is safe for us to reopen, we are able to bring you the very best theatre.

“We miss the wider team who have been furloughed as part of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but we look forward to welcoming them and you back. We want to take this opportunity to thank everybody, from staff and audiences, to artists, partners and donors, for their continued and invaluable support during this time.”

What happens next to A Midsummer Night’s Dream? “We are deeply disappointed to have postponed our community production, which would have seen up to 100 members of our local community come together to create, perform and have fun,” they say. “But we are determined that this project will happen in the future, celebrating our fantastic community and the collaborative art of theatre.”

As for Hull Truck’s financial wellbeing: “We can reassure everyone that we have a sustainable financial plan in place for the closure period,” say Mills-Ward and Babych. “We are now looking to the future and how we can continue to play a vital role in the cultural landscape of our city and the lives of our communities, as we all emerge from this challenge.

“We are exploring all financial and funding options open to us to ensure we continue to present great theatre, to work with and support talented artists – writers and performers – at all stages of their career and offer creative opportunities to local communities, for generations to come.

“We are hugely grateful to those Hull Truck heroes who have either donated the cost of their tickets or made independent donations to support the work we want to continue to do when we reopen, via the Hull Truck Theatre Future Fund.”

Donations can be made at hulltruck.co.uk/support-us/hull-truck-theatre-future-fund/.

R.I.P. Norman Hunter, mega-biter of legs

I LOVED a tackle because you loved a tackle. I loved your hunched-shouldered walk of innocence. I loved your Clough riposte. I loved your gantry talk on match-days, still full of Norman bite. I loved that when I arrived at your driveway to interview you, you were tackling a flat tyre…with that famed left foot of course.

Charles Hutchinson, LUFC, 1969-sine die

Watson and Beaumont’s Sunday fun-day for your place from their living rooms

Come Hull or high water, Lucy Beaumont will be streaming online from her living room on Sunday

MARK Watson and Lucy Beaumont will star in the first Your Place Comedy night in a streamed show live from their living rooms on Sunday at 8pm.

At a time of huge uncertainty and upheaval in the Coronavirus lockdown, not least for the live entertainment industry, ten small, independent venues across the north have come together to “provide their audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times”. 

The driving force behind the online venture is Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer, who manages the Selby Town Hall arts centre. “In a nutshell, I was frustrated that the traditional relationship between venue, artist and audience – the venue providing the artist with income and the audience with entertainment – has been has been eroded for the foreseeable future by Covid-19 and I wanted to find a way to re-create that,” he says.

“So, I’ve got ten venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to chip in a small amount of money to put on a live stream comedy gig this Sunday (April 19), featuring Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont and compered by Tim FitzHigham.”

Joining together in this venue-focused initiative are Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and  Rotherham Theatres.

What’s on at home: Mark Watson , live from his living room

“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years,” says Chris.

“The show will be free to watch on Facebook and YouTube via www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk, but with an option to donate. All monies raised will be distributed evenly among the ten supporting venues, each of them now having to navigate their way through some challenging financial times.”

Mark Watson is an Edinburgh Comedy Award winner, television panel show regular and ever innovative performer. Lucy Beaumont, from Hull, is a BBC New Comedy Award winner who writes BBC Radio 4’s To Hull And Back and stars in the Dave channel’s Meet The Richardsons. Compere Tim Fitzhigham writes and stars in BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presents CBBC’s Super Human Challenge.

Summing up the living-room comedy initiative, Chris says: “In these trying times, when the wonderful audiences who make the work we do possible are unable to visit our venues in person, and when the performers who rely on us for their livelihoods have had many months’ worth of shows cancelled, the organisations involved in Your Place Comedy want to help support those who make live entertainment happen, bringing a little bit of joy to the audiences we miss so much.

“If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”

Compere Tim FitzHigham

For full details of Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the show, visit www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY EIGHTEEN

Out Of The Woods, by Adele Karmazyn

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, should have started with a preview evening tomorrow, but the annual showcase has been cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with doors sadly shut for the April 17 to 19 and April 25 to 26 event, CharlesHutchPress wants to champion the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios will be given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead.  Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

A work from Sharon McDonagh’s Fragments series: An exploration into the fragility of life

Sharon McDonagh, painting

SHARON is drawn to painting the “darker side” of York, in particular to its derelict buildings, against the backdrop of her high-profile past career as a police forensic artist.

That work required her to draw dead bodies, creating artist’s impressions of unidentified fatalities from mortuary photographs and crime-scene information, and you can make the psychologist’s leap between death and decay if that is your Freudian wont.

“It might seem mad going from being a forensic artist depicting bodies to doing paintings of decay, but I suppose it’s all an organic path of death and destruction,” she says of her detailed, intriguing work, marked by unconventional themes and, in particular, a love of architecture, York’s forgotten buildings and items left behind.

Sharon McDonagh with her Fragments works at the Blossom Street Gallery’s Urban Decay exhibition earlier this year

Earlier this year, she exhibited her new Fragments series in the Urban Decay exhibition at Blossom Street Gallery, and works on that theme would have featured in her second York Open Studios show too.

“Fragments is an exploration into the fragility of life,” Sharon says. “The vintage light switches and sockets symbolise the person, while their last moments and memories are represented by the fragments of wallpaper and tiles. The last glimpses of life, the last remaining fragments before they die.

“I thought of light switches and sockets, because of the act of switching on and off lights and then life finally being switched off.” Discover more at sharonmcdonagh-artist.co.uk.

Autumn Hedgehog, linocut, by Jane Dignum

Jane Dignum, printmaking

JANE creates colourful linocut prints and also makes collages out of pieces of her prints, her subject matter spanning wildlife, the Yorkshire coast and the city of York.

“I like experimenting with different techniques of printmaking and enjoy the sometimes surprising results that occur,” she says.

Jane Dignum in her studio

Jane studied fine art at Leeds College of Art, where she started to investigate printing. She always carries a sketchbook and camera and creates designs from photographs that she has taken. Take a look at janedignum.com.

Filey, by Carolyn Coles

Carolyn Coles, painting

PAINTING impressionistic seascapes and landscapes, Carolyn’s use of palette gives her work identity and life. She paints mostly on bespoke, stretched canvasses in oils and acrylics, applied with palette knives and flat brushes.

“I like to capture atmosphere, usually with a leaning towards dark and moody and generally on a larger scale,” she says.

Carolyn’s formal artistic education began with studying art and design at York College, then specialising in illustration at Hereford College of Art and Design, earning distinctions in the early 1990s.

Carolyn Coles: Specialising in seascapes and landscapes

After a career taking in marketing art materials and graphic design and illustration in journalism, Carolyn now devotes her time to painting, exhibiting and selling work both on the home market in York, London, Derby, Manchester and Leeds and internationally too.

Carolyn’s love of the seaside and nature in general is reflected in her new collection. “The impressionistic style allows the viewer to interpret their own story and pull their own memories back into play,” she says.

“I’m interested in re-creating a feeling, an essence. I love being by the sea or in the hills. It’s a tonic. The noise, everything, just soaks into me. I like to be playful, bold and subtle in my work.”

A regular participant in the annual Staithes Art and Heritage Festival, she also exhibits at various galleries in York. More details at carolyncoles.co.uk.

Adele Karmazyn: distinctive mix of techniques

Adele Karmazyn, digital prints

ADELE’S mostly self-taught process involves scanning 19th century photographs, textures and her own paintings to create digital photomontage artwork, often with a hand-finished element using inks, oil paint and gold leaf.

Her love of antiques and oddities, old doors and weathered surfaces are the foundations of her work. Bringing people from the past back to full colour and intertwining them with creatures big and small, coupled with delicate foliage, she creates images both sophisticated and playful. Often she uses idioms, metaphors and musical lyrics for inspiration and to add narrative.

Forest Boy, by Adele Karmazyn

Adele studied for a textile art degree at Winchester School of Art, worked briefly for an interior magazine in London and then set out to see the world. Many years later, she settled in York and returned to her first calling, completing a diploma in children’s book illustration in 2015, gaining a distinction.

It was then that she then turned to using her camera and photoshop, but still picking up her paintbrushes regularly and drawing on most days too. “Creating textures, drawing animals and getting the composition on paper is where each image begins,” says Adele.

More info can be found at adelekarmazyn.com.

A North Eastern scene by Nathan Combes

Nathan Combes, photography

NATHAN photographs urban landscapes, working primarily in black and white as he captures the sense of isolation and decaying beauty found in the places that he visits.

“I use a variety of modern digital and vintage film cameras to photograph places, locations and objects that are often overlooked and deemed unworthy of attention,” he says.

Recording life in black and white: Photographer Nathan Combes

Inspired by photographers such as Robert Frank, Chris Killip and William Eggleston, his work is thought provoking, challenging and humorous.

His York Open Studios debut would have featured work from his most recent project, focusing on the North East. He can be contacted via nathancombesphoto@gmail.com.

Tomorrow: Lu Mason; Nick Kobyluch; Michelle Hughes; Lucy McElroy and Ian Cameron.

Zombie alert! Imitating The Dog’s Night Of The Living Dead – Remix re-surfaces online

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in their shot-for-shot remix of Night Of The Living Dead

“THEY’RE coming to get you, Barbara”… from tomorrow morning at 10am when Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse launch the online premiere of their hit 2020 co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix.

In 1968, Night Of The Living Dead started out as a low-budget George A Romero indie horror movie telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh-eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse.

Fifty years on, seven performers enter the stage armed with cameras, a box of props and a rail of costumes. Can they recreate the ground-breaking film, shot for shot before our eyes, using whatever they can lay their hands on?

Set the task of re-enacting 1,076 camera edits in 95 minutes, they face an heroic struggle. Knowing success demands wit, skill and ingenuity, what could possibly go wrong?

Imitating The Dog’s poster for their Leeds Playhouse co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

In their 2020 stage production, Leeds masters of digital theatre Imitating The Dog create a love-song to the cult Sixties’ film in a re-making and re-mixing with a new subtext that attempts to understand the past – the assassinations of JFK, MLK and Robert Kennedy – in  order not to have to repeat it. 

Staged in the Courtyard at Leeds Playhouse from January 24 to February 1, their version is in turns humorous, terrifying, thrilling, thought-provoking and joyous. Above all, in the re-telling, Night Of The Living Dead – Remix  becomes a searing parable for our own complex times.

Presented by courtesy of Image Ten, Inc, Night Of The Living Dead– Remix can be watched online at imitatingthedog.co.uk/watch from 10am tomorrow (April 17). For a behind-the-scenes video, go https://vimeo.com/386234875

York Music Hub shares online platforms to keep young talent on song in lockdown

In sunnier times: York Music Hub musicians playing outside the Spurriergate Centre, York

YORK Music Hub is responding to the Covid-19 lockdown by launching an online sharing site, #YMHShare.

The idea is to build an online forum featuring music making and creativity by the young people of York, celebrating the fantastic talent within the city. 

The site has been put together by Squeegee Design, the York web design company based at Lancaster House, James Nicolson Link, and is monitored and updated regularly with content sent in from families, individuals and groups.

“The #YMHShare initiative is for anyone who had a concert cancelled, a festival pulled, an exam postponed or indeed anyone who’s using this time to work on being musical,” says Molly Newton, York Music Hub’s strategic manager.

“So much hard work has gone into school productions, concerts and all kinds of events, and #YMHShare offers a virtual alternative. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far, as many of York’s young musicians have uploaded digital performances and video-link collaborations, and groups have taken this opportunity to showcase previous triumphs in absence of planned concerts.” 

York Music Hub had two major events cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic: the Schools Choral Festival in March and the upcoming city-wide showcase Hubfest2020, now in its second year.

Molly Newton: York Music Hub strategic manager

“The Schools Choral Festival usually takes place at the University of York in March,” says assistant strategic manager Craig Brown. “This year would have seen nine primary and five secondary schools perform.

“Hubfest2020 would have built on the success of the inaugural festival last year, featuring 15 primary and eight secondary schools. The festival is a showcase of all youth music within the city; last year’s festival attracted more than 1,000 young people to make music as part of the event.”

The hub’s response to 2020’s cancellations has been to curate the hard work in a virtual space, as young people, families, groups of friends and bespoke online collaborators come together for this initiative, drawing on the many providers and musicians in a “central area of celebration”. Cue #YMHShare, a sharing platform for a “whole host of music making from any and all young people in and around York”, aged five to 21.

“From next Monday (April 20), when school term would be restarting, we’re launching YMH Online Learning,” says Molly. “This will be a dedicated section of #YMHShare where downloadable resources, YouTube live and Zoom music-making sessions will be posted for anyone to get involved with.”

These sessions will kick off with the York Music Hub Zoom Choir, led by York singer and entertainer Jessa Liversidge, the ubiquitous driving force behind so much online singing activity in York and beyond at present, on Mondays at 2.15pm.

Open to any singer aged eight to 18 -18 from York and the surrounding area, the Zoom Choir offers the chance to connect with other singers, take part in fun vocal warm-ups to develop your vocal technique and learn songs in a range of styles: a “fantastic way to wind down and interact with others in these strange times”.

” I’m raring to go with the young singers of York,” says online-singing driving force Jessa Liversidge

“I’m hoping to attract young people who are missing the inspiring feeling of connecting with others through song,” says Jessa. “I can’t wait to see who signs up for a Monday afternoon, after a day of doing work at home (or at school); those who would enjoy seeing and hearing other melodious youngsters on screen. All young singers are welcome, whatever their previous singing experience.”

Jessa adds: “How the York Music Hub Zoom Choir evolves and what we can achieve depends very much on who gets involved, and how long the lockdown continues.

“I have all sorts of fantastic songs planned to work on with the group, as well as some lag-resistant experiments, and I’m really looking forward to getting going. After a short, self-taught crash course in Zoom choirs these past few weeks with my adult groups, I’m raring to go with the young singers of York.”

Singing For All @TheHub will take place on Fridays at 11am. All are invited to tune in to these lively singing sessions suitable for all ages, again led by Jessa Liversidge. “We want to get everyone involved and lift your spirits with songs and singing games, from well-known school assembly songs, partner songs and rounds to classic pop tunes and even some new songs to learn,” says Molly. “Tune in every Friday at 11am, live on the York Music Hub YouTube channel.”

Ukulele Stars tuition will be open to all ages on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am, with these fun and interactive YouTube sessions being led by Steven Hawksworth, of Hawkulele fame. No previous ukulele experience is necessary.

Curriculum-based GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition sessions for Key Stages 4 and 5 will run throughout the summer term, led on Wednesdays from April 22 at 11am by York Arts Barge Project co-founder, workshop leader, teacher and bass player Christian Topman.

York Music Hub GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition session tutor Christian Topman

These tutorials will be delivered via Zoom but also will be available every week to catch up on via York Music Hub’s YouTube channel. They are aimed at students in Year 9 to 13 who will need to access the Zoom app to join in with the live sessions. They can contact Christian directly at christian@yorkartseducation.org.uk with any composition ideas 

Those needing more information regarding the sharing site or any of the online sessions should contact info@yorkmusichub.org.uk.

Summing up the importance of music-making at this time, Molly says: “It seems to me that music is our salvation. It’s what we turn to in times of celebration and sadness; it keeps us calm or builds us up, it helps us relax, escape, endure, survive.

“It’s the medium through which we express and share our feelings. As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music.

“The internet is now flooded with “virtual” responses to current events: isolation compositions; play-off challenges; streamed concerts and Broadway shows; balcony performances and quarantine choirs.”

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating,” says Molly Newton of her love for musical interplay

Molly’s passion for music oozes from her whenever she leads a project or performance. “I was lucky enough to have hugely supportive parents and inspiring music teachers in my youth and grew up believing that anyone can achieve musically, regardless of their perceived ability or intellect,” she says.

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to see hundreds of young people flourish and grow through music-making opportunities.”

Why is music such a good educative tool, Molly? “I’m going to draw from Plato, who said: ‘I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning’.

“However, regardless of how much music can support the learning of other subjects, music is important in its own right in that it’s a fundamental aspect of all societies.

“Music is a truly collaborative subject, a universal language, and learning it enables a global communication with others that transcends borders and cultures. It’s a subject that teaches creative thinking, discipline, confidence, resilience, patience, perseverance, diligence, achievement and joy, to name but a few!”

“As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music,” says Molly Newton, as she builds up the York Music Hub online sharing forum

In these strange, alien, disconnected days, Craig has noted our power still to be creative and musically resilient. “The #YMHShare site has really embodied a public celebration of the arts,” he says. “Within this feed, we see so much of the appreciation, value and celebrations of music.

“We speak to many of the city’s instrumental teachers, who are continuing to give private lessons through video links, and it is clear that pupils and parents really value the role that music is playing, offering an escape, opportunity of relaxation, or providing a welcome challenge.”

Looking ahead to when musicians can meet up again, how may York Music Hub celebrate? “We’re already planning a ‘Post-Lockdown’ celebration and are hoping that we will be able to bring as many schools, providers and young people together in a truly collaborative and inclusive way,” says Molly.

“Given the uncertainty and challenge we’re all facing, we’re hoping that when this is all over, we will be able to bring people together through music and remind ourselves how joyful it feels to play and sing together.”

Roll on that day. In the meantime, make a home for music at home.

York Theatre Royal sets up Collective Arts to keep you busy, arty and digital at home

Let’s play: York Theatre Royal is encouraging theatre activities at home while everyone is in the grip of lockdown limbo

YORK Theatre Royal is to run the Collective Arts programme of “creative community engagement” during the Coronavirus pandemic shutdown. 

The St Leonard’s Place theatre is planning a series of digital activities and events to bring together York’s creative community of all ages until the building reopens.

Associate director Juliet Forster says: “We’re all finding the current circumstances challenging and are missing the joy of social gatherings, external stimuli and shared experience.

“But challenges can also be a great spur to creativity, and we’re really keen to find as many ways as possible to bring people together, to inspire creative responses and enjoy what we make together.”

Juliet Forster: York Theatre Royal associate director

One activity up and running already and open to all is the Lockdown Legends Challenge, a weekly creative project that invites people to submit responses to challenges such as filming one-minute plays (week one), designing costumes (this week) and creating production model boxes (coming next).

A new challenge is released every Monday morning on the theatre’s social media channels and submissions are then posted on these channels during the week.

The Theatre Royal is also adapting the delivery of the nationally recognised Arts Award, now to be undertaken from a home setting. The new guide is specially designed to be used by children and young people aged five to 25 years old, supported by their parents/guardians, to keep them busy, engaged and inspired by the arts at home. 

Another project aimed at engaging young people during this time is the Coronavirus Time Capsule. Working with a group of 20 young people, week by week the Theatre Royal will create a cumulative video time capsule, recording teenage experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic.

York Theatre Royal : Out of bounds but stretching the boundaries of theatre. Picture: Matthew Holland

“The Coronavirus Time Capsule is a new international project run by Company Three and youth theatres across the world will be taking part and making capsules of their own,” says Juliet.

In addition, the Theatre Royal is organising the In Focus photography competition, open to all ages and abilities who are invited to send in their photos that show the realities of life in Coronavirus Britain.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, May 8. All entries will then be judged by a team from the theatre’s photography group.

Over the next few weeks, York Theatre Royal will release more projects and opportunities to take part in. All details on how to be involved can be found on the theatre’s website, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

The Magnificent Six ride on as Pilot Theatre stream teen turf drama Crongton Knights

Nigar Yeva, left, Zak Douglas Aimee Powell, Olisa Odele and Khai Shaw in Pilot Theatre’s Crongton Knights. Picture: Robert Day

YORK company Pilot Theatre will webcast the online premiere of their 2020 co-production of Crongton Knights for free from April 22.

The webcast stream will start at 6.45pm that night when Esther Richardson and Corey Campbell’s Covid-19-curtailed production would have been opening its London run at Theatre Peckham.

Emteaz Hussain’s adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s award-wining young adult novel will be available to stream online at  pilot-theatre.com/webcast until Saturday, May 9, the day that the tour’s final curtain would have fallen at Theatre Peckham. 

To coincide with the webcast, Pilot, resident company at York Theatre Royal, will put online a series of talks and question-and-answer sessions with the creative team behind Crongton Knights.

The first Pilot Connects event will be a Q&A with the show’s composer and musical director, Conrad Murray, hosted by Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson on April 23 (time to be confirmed).        

Kate Donnachie, left, Nigar Yeva, Douglas Aimee, Olisa Odele and Khai Shaw in Crongton Knights. Picture: Robert Day

Performed at York Theatre Royal from February 25 to 29, Crongton Knights takes its audience on a night of madcap adventure as McKay and his friends, The Magnificent Six, encounter the dangers and ultimate triumphs of a mission gone awry.

In this story of how lessons learned the hard way can bring you closer together, the pulse of the city is brought to life on stage with a Conrad Murray soundscape of beatboxing and vocals laid down by the cast of Kate Donnachie; Zak Douglas; Simi Egbejumi-David; Nigar Yeva; Olisa Odele; Aimee Powell; Khai Shaw and Marcel White.

Wheatle, a writer born in London to Jamaican parents, said he was “very proud” of Pilot Theatre adapting his novel for the stage: “It’s a modern quest story where, on their journey, the young diverse lead characters have to confront debt, poverty, blackmail, loss, fear, the trauma of a flight from a foreign land and the omnipresent threat of gangland violence.

“The dialogue I created for this award-winning novel deserves a platform and I, for one, can’t wait to see the characters that have lived in my head for a number of years leap out of my mind and on to a stage near you.” And now on a webcast stream.

Co-director Esther Richardson said of the teen quest story: “For us, this play is a lens through which to explore the complexity of young people’s lives, open a platform for those concerns and show what they have to try to navigate fairly invisibly to other members of society. It’s the context in which they live that creates the problem, and these kids go under the radar.

Esther Richardson: Co-director of Crongton Knights and artistic director of Pilot Theatre. Picture: Robert Day

“Alex is writing about how the world is stacked against teenagers; how young people have been thrown to the dogs; how they to negotiate this No Man’s Land they live in, when their places have been closed down; their spaces to express themselves.

“They have been victims of austerity – as have disabled people – so it’s no surprise that there’s been a rise in knife crime, with kids on the streets and no youth workers to go to, to talk about their feelings.”

Crongton Knights is a co-production between Pilot Theatre, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Derby Theatre and York Theatre Royal, who last year formed – together with the Mercury Theatre, Colchester – a partnership to develop theatre for younger audiences.

During the four-year cycle, 2019 to 2022, the consortium will commission and co-produce four original mid-scale productions. 

Such co-productions are becoming all the more important against a backdrop of Esther being concerned by the cuts in arts funding and the potential negative impact of Brexit too. “Theatre is not seen as an opportunity to thrive in, especially in this post-Brexit landscape where it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” she predicted.

“That’s why we will further shift into co-creating pieces, Pilot creating work with communities, Pilot co-creating with teens, which we do already do, but we can do it better and do it more.”

For more information on forthcoming Pilot Connects events, visit pilot-theatre.com/performance/current/pilot-connects/.

On yer bike: A tense stand-off in Crongton Knights

REVIEW: Crongton Knights, Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal, February 25 to 29

EVER since Lord Of The Flies, York Theatre Royal resident company Pilot Theatre have made theatre that speaks directly to young audiences.

Now, Pilot are in the second year of a four-year creative partnership with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Derby Theatre and the Theatre Royal, their reach spreading ever wider.

Last year’s gripping adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s radical Noughts & Crosses is followed up by another topical story, Emteaz Hussain’s stage account of Crongton Knights, a young adult novel by Brixton Bard Alex Wheatle, a London writer of Jamaican parentage.

Co-directed by Corey Campbell, artistic director of Strictly Arts Theatre Company, and Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson, it is a play with music, not a musical, but has the punch of West Side Story, the exhilarating beatbox and vocal score by Conrad Murray setting the story’s pulsating rhythm.

The Crongton Knights of the title are the self-styled Magnificent Six, caught up at a young age in the gangland turf wars of the Crongton Estate, divided into “North Crong” and “South Crong”, their homestead.

Into the dangerous Notre Dame estate they venture on a teen quest, a mission to rescue the mobile phone of Venetia (Aimee Powell, the show’s best singer), in the possession of her ex-boyfriend with incriminating photographs she needs to erase.

Leading them is big-hearted McKay (Olisa Odele); alongside are Jonah (Khai Shaw), Bit (Zak Douglas), Saira (Nigar Yeva) and, along for the ride, and desperate to be their lookout, Bushkid (Kate Donnachie), on her bike.

What follows is a story of “lessons learned the hard way” at the hands of those more experienced, more streetwise, more ruthless, more desperate, as represented by Simi Egbejumi-David’s ensemble roles.

In Wheatle’s words, the Magnificent Six must “confront debt, poverty, blackmail, loss, fear, the trauma of a flight from a foreign land and the omnipresent threat of gangland violence”, but the tone is not suffocatingly grim. Even in a world stacked against teens, there is hope; there is positivity; above all there is the bond of friendship.

Pilot’s press release talked of a madcap adventure, and Simon Kenny’s graffiti-painted, rainbow-coloured, scaffolded set design plays to that spirit, especially when garage lock-up doors open up to show the Magnificent Six running in slow motion. Imagine a cartoon crossed with the black comedy drama of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.

Not all the dialogue is as clear as it could be, and nor is the story’s passage, but the highly energised performances, especially by Odele and Powell, are terrific, and special praise goes to Dale Mathurin for stepping into the role of Nesta with only two hot-housed days of rehearsals.

Richard G Jones’s lighting and Adam P McCready’s sound design are important too, both complementing the urban wasteland of troubled teens trying to find their place when so much is barren.

Not the end for Crongton Knights: The tour had to be curtailed but now the Pilot Theatre co-production can be streamed online from April 22 to May 9

Review by Charles Hutchinson

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY SEVENTEEN

Here Be Monsteras ceramicist Kayti Peschke at work

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has been cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with doors sadly shut for the April 17 to 19 and April 25 to 26 event, CharlesHutchPress wants to champion the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios will be given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead.  Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Camera Obscura, by Jill Tattersall

Jill Tattersall, mixed media

THIS would have been Jill’s second York Open Studios since she and her The Wolf At The Door art enterprise moved north from Brighton.

Before turning to art, she taught mediaeval French literature, leading to her fascination with the creation myths: Norse, Eastern, European and Aboriginal. “I’m overawed by early cave and rock art, made long ago with the simplest, most elemental means. People looked up into the night sky, just as we do, and must have asked the same questions about their place in the universe.”

Coasts and maps have inspired her too. “I used to live as far from the sea as you can get on this island but, like most of us, I was fascinated by coastlines and the sea,” says Jill. ”I moved, and till recently lived on the south coast, where the light is fabulous. I try to avoid trite seaside scenes and ration myself to a few sea-related pieces a year.”

Jill Tattersall: Left Brighton for York

Town and country are key influences as well. “Subjects just crop up: loaves of bread, a stretch of pavement, a passing scene, reflections in a train window,” she says.

“Often I use my own hand-made cast or moulded cotton paper. I then apply washes of paints, inks, dyes and pure pigments to build up intense, glowing colours, combining gold and silver leaf with recycled elements. Labour intensive, highly individual.  The paper has a seductive, unpredictable surface: I like the danger and uncertainty this brings. You can wreck a promising painting at any moment.”

Jill’s paintings are in collections from Peru to Tasmania. Since moving north, she has exhibited at Kunsthuis Gallery, The Dutch House, Crayke. Discover more at jilltattersall.co.uk.

Here Be Monsteras: Ceramics created in a garage studio in a Wolds garden

Here Be Monsteras, Kayti Peschke, ceramics

KAYTI creates ceramics under the name of Here Be Monsteras from her garage studio in her garden in the Wolds east of York.

Her background is in photography and magazine design, but a year ago she started making pottery and now she has converted full time. “It has become an obsession,” she says.

Kayti makes wheel-thrown ceramics with stoneware clays to create functional objects for the home. “A collection of special pieces that bring a bit of extra joy to the ordinary,” as she put it ahead of what would have been her York Open Studios debut.

“It has become an obsession,” says Kayti Peschke of her conversion to making pottery

She has been working on new collections, including screen-printing ceramics with artist Jade Blood, creating travel cups and a full dinnerware set, as well as collaborating with restaurants and cafés that serve their menus on her tableware.

“A cup of tea in a handmade cup really does taste better, maybe because the process feels more special or you take more time over it? I’m not sure why, but it’s true,” she says.

In her home studio, the cups of tea flow and her puppies hang out in the sunshine as she listens to BBC 6Music or podcasts. “I absolutely love being out there, creating, and hopefully this shows in the things I make.”

As testament to that, her ceramics can be found in York at Kiosk, Fossgate; Sketch By Origin, York Art Gallery; Walter & May, Bishopthorpe Road; Lotte The Baker, SparkYork and Botanic York, Walmgate. Take a look at herebemonsteras.com.

Gold needle necklace, by Joanna Wakefield

Joanna Wakefield, jewellery

DESIGNER jeweller Joanna’s work combines her two passions, jewellery and textiles, with the third essential element of her memories, observations and musings.

Joanna creates silver and gold jewellery inspired by textiles, haberdashery and her vintage collections and found objects.

Her work invokes a sense of nostalgia. Alongside button-inspired pieces is a delicate interpretation of handcrafted bobbins, thimbles, measures and needles.

Joanna first trained in design, specialising in textiles, having grown up in a family environment of three generations of needlewomen.

Joanna Wakefield: Switched from textile designs to jewellery designs

She travelled the world as a Fair Trade designer, but after more than ten years she could no longer ignore her desire to develop further creatively, leading her to re-train at York School of Jewellery.

“A huge part of my jewellery designs is influenced by textiles and haberdashery, stemming from a fascination that grew from admiring my Grandma’s talents and fond memories of sorting through her button stash,” says Joanna, whose work was to have featured in the MADE shop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, from March 7 to June 21.

Take a shine to Joanna’s jewellery at joannawakefield.com.

” I’ve always had an interest in natural history and the British countryside,” says Mark Hearld

Mark Hearld, collage, printmaking and ceramics

MARK studied illustration at Glasgow School of Art and an MA in natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art in 1999 before breaking into the artistic world with exhibitions at Godfrey & Watt in Harrogate and St Jude’s in Norfolk and in London’s arty Lower Sloane Street.

He specialises in bright collages, paintings, limited-edition lithographic and lino-cut prints and now hand-painted ceramics, his work often involving animals and birds, flora and fauna.

“I’ve always had an interest in natural history and the British countryside,” says Mark, 46, who is strongly influenced too by mid-20th century art and design. “I like the idea of the artist working as a designer rather than making images to stick in a frame,” he reasons.

Mark Hearld: Birds, beasts, flora and fauna

He undertook a set-design commission for the 2005 film Nanny McPhee and has done design projects for Tate Britain – cups, jugs, plates and scarves – and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, where he held a solo show, Birds and Beasts, from November 2012 to February 2013.

In 2012, Merrell Books published Mark Hearld’s Work Book, the first book devoted to his work, and he has illustrated such books as Nicola Davies’s A First Book Of Nature (2012) and Nature Poems: Give Me Instead Of A Card (2019).

He curated the Lumber Room exhibition at the re-opened York Art Gallery from August 2015 after its £8 million development project, as well as a re-imagining of the British Folk Art Collection at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park. Contact him via mark.a.hearld@googlemail.com.


Lauren Terry, Lauren’s Cows, painting

Out in the fields: Lauren’s Cows artist Lauren Terry

LAUREN has moved out of Bar Lane Studios, not too far away, to a new studio workspace overlooking Micklegate Bar and Blossom Street, where her focus remains on creating vibrant cow paintings, prints and homeware.

Lauren’s Cows had began with a one-off painting of a cow that she painted while working as a waitress and actress in the heart of London. 

Growing tired of city life, she craved a window to her country childhood. What better view than a curious cow peering in on her kitchen table?

Scarlet, by Lauren Terry

The framer in North Yorkshire was so taken by the characterful cow that he offered to host an exhibition if Lauren agreed to paint 20 more of her beautiful beasts.

The response this debut show generated gave her the confidence to change career tack by launching her art business and brand, and so Lauren’s Cows was born in 2012: a daughter-and-mother partnership where Lauren paints character-filled cattle in heavy-bodied acrylic paint and designing items for the home in her York studio and Jude takes care of business from the family home at Crackenthorpe, Appleby-in-Westmoreland.

Lauren Terry in her new studio in York

“I love what I do,” says Lauren. “Cows have such a curious nature and humorous personality that they just make me smile, and I take great pleasure in passing that smile on through my vibrant paintings. It’s all about capturing all the character while still remaining true to the breed.”

Lauren’s Cows can be found at laurenscows.com.

TOMORROW: Sharon McDonagh; Jane Dignum; Carolyn Coles; Adele Karmazyn and Nathan Combes

Filmed at York Theatre Royal, Emma Rice’s Wise Children is streaming on BBC iPlayer

Showgirl memoirs: Katy Owen, left, Etta Murfitt and Gareth Snook in Wise Children. Pictures: Steven Tanner

YORK Theatre Royal’s co-production of Angela Carter’s Wise Children, made with Emma Rice’s company Wise Children and The Old Vic, is now available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

Adapted and directed by Rice, ever-innovative former artistic director of Cornish company Kneehigh Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the show marked the debut of her new Bristol company.

Wise Children was co-produced with The Old Vic, London, where the world premiere opened in 2018, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Oxford Playhouse and York Theatre Royal.

In March 2019, a performance of Rice’s exuberantly impish, musical vision of Carter’s last novel was filmed live at the York theatre with support from The Space.

The 138-minute play will be streamed for free for two months on BBC iPlayer as part Culture In Quarantine, the BBC’s arts and culture service to “keep the arts alive in people’s homes”. A screening on BBC 4 in May will be confirmed at a later date.

Billed as a big, bawdy tangle of theatrical joy and pain, Wise Children is a celebration of show business, family, forgiveness and hope as Nora and Dora Chance, twin chorus girls born and bred south of the river, celebrate their 70th birthday in Brixton.

Wise Children artistic director Emma Rice

Across the river in Chelsea, their father and greatest actor of his generation, Melchior Hazard, turns 100, on the same day. As does his twin brother Peregrine. If, in fact, he is still alive. And if, in truth, Melchior is their real father after all.

“When I set up Wise Children, I knew I would open with an adaptation of Wise Children after calling the company that name, presenting Angela Carter’s open love letter to theatre in all its aspects, its power and glories,” said Rice.

“I was a great fan of Angela Carter in my 20s. She has had a magical impact on people’s lives; she’s breath-taking in allowing the unimaginable to happen, so we fit together well!”

To create her adaptation, Rice read Carter’s novel, then wrote down the story or “what I remember of it”, she said. “I then started working on it with the actors, using their collective imaginations, so that they can pass on their own experiences in theatre.”

Rice has a track record for picking unconventional casts, typically so for Wise Children. “The actors I’m drawn to over and over again, and the way I tell stories, reflect how I always like to open up to diversity, expanding on my own experiences of humanity, especially in these polarised times, by looking at people who have had different experiences to your own,” she reasoned.

Against the 2019 backdrop of so much drabness, division, enmity and lost hope, Rice was determined to champion showbusiness, family, forgiveness and hope. “They represent a lot of my life,” she said. “When I talk of family, I mean not only blood family, but how we connect as humans.”

Emma Rice’s company Wise Children in Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers at York Theatre Royal last September

Now, Rice is delighted that Wise Children is being streamed from this week on BBC iPlayer amid the Coronavirus lockdown. “I dreamt about adapting Angela Carter’s Wise Children for years before it became a reality, and, when I finally did make it, it was the first piece I made for my new company,” she says.

“It’s a show I carry deep in my heart; a love letter to theatre, to survival, to family and family of choice. When The Space commissioned us to film it for the BBC, I almost burst with pride!

“I delight in the fact that we now get to share this glorious story with so many others, and hope that the fun, truth, love and generosity poured into it will find its way into sitting rooms across the country.”

Reflecting on Wise Children being part of the BBC’s Culture In Quarantine programming, Rice says: “What feels even more perfect is that we’re releasing it now. Today, more than ever, we need joy, resilience, hope and love of life, which runs through the veins of Wise Children. As Nora and Dora Chance tell us: ‘What a joy it is to dance and sing!’. Never has this been more true. We hope you enjoy.”

Last September, Rice and Wise Children returned to York Theatre Royal for a second co-production, Enid Blyton’s “original post-war Girl Power story, the naughty, nostalgic and perfect for now” Malory Towers: her “happy Lord Of The Flies”, as Rice called it.

Wise Children and the Theatre Royal are to complete a hattrick of collaborations in 2021, this time in tandem with the National Theatre for Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

The butterfly effect: Emma Rice’s Wise Children company in Angela Carter’s Wise Children

Charles Hutchinson’s review of Wise Children at York Theatre Royal, March 2019. Copyright of The Press, York.

IMAGINE a Victorian vaudeville troupe or a circus travelling across Europe picking up performers, musicians, speciality acts, en route.

It would look not unlike Emma Rice’s new Wise Children company, set up since she left the artistic directorship of Shakespeare’s Globe and more in keeping with her 20 years leading Cornish company Kneehigh.

Do not take it the wrong way when I say Rice’s Wise Children are a modern-day freak show, not in the overt manner of the Circus of Horrors, but in how Rice celebrates, liberates and embraces beauty in all forms: a message for this age of Brexit intolerance for “outsiders” and fashion magazine photo-shopped “perfection”.

Vicki Mortimer’s design echoes circus in its lighting, while the set is dominated by a caravan, again recalling travelling troupes in Rice’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s last novel: a “celebration of showbusiness, family, forgiveness and hope” that receives a big, bold, bouncy, exuberant, darkly imaginative, saucy interpretation.

Opening on the 75th birthday of The Lucky Chances, Brixton showgirl twins Nora and Dora Chance, Rice’s hyper-production jumps around in time to tell their life story.

On the way she employs puppetry; glorious live music; theatrical in-jokes; old Bob Monkhouse and Max Miller gags; Shakespeare quotes; much mischief making, scabrous scandal and mistaken identities; men playing women, women playing men, and multiple versions of the same character at different ages.

Fabulous show, fabulous performers, fabulous butterflies too.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY THIRTEEN

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has been cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with doors sadly shut for the April 17 to 19 and April 25 to 26 event, CharlesHutchPress wants to champion the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios will be given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead.  Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Fiona Kemp: Depicting northern cities

Fiona Kemp, painting

FIONA’S paintings and prints depict northern cities, wherein she finds unusual perspectives and uses reflections as a device to encourage viewers to reassess their surroundings.

“I’m interested in the decay and renewal of urban spaces,” says Fiona, who employs diverse media, such as watercolour, acrylic, lino-print and etching.

“My work records the changing face of the city environment: the demolition, the re-building, the restoration and the altered skylines. I’m fascinated by the transient moments where reflections shimmer and fracture in the windows, puddles and canals.”

York Minster Reflections, by Fiona Kemp

She continues: “The distortions and blurring created in this way create a mysterious and unusual view of these everyday scenes. At dusk, the scene transforms into an explosion of lights and colour.”

Fiona studied fine art in Sheffield, later gaining an MA in printmaking from Bradford College, and has exhibited at Saltaire Open Houses, Bradford Industrial Museum, Sheffield University and Tokarska Gallery, London.  Since moving to York, she has started a series of paintings of the city that would have featured in her York Open Studios debut. Find out more at fiona2349@gmail.com.

Almond Tree, by Chris Whittaker

Chris Whittaker, painting

CHRIS is a polymath: artist, poet, writer, cartoonist and former art lecturer, who managed further education colleges in Cheshire and Yorkshire.

Once the head of the School of Design in Scarborough, he started painting in earnest after he retired. Now he paints in the mountains of southern Spain, where he has a house in a remote village, and draws in studios in York, where he is a member of several drawing groups. He spends roughly half his year in each place.

He favours using a wide range of media in his drawings of rural landscapes, personalised still lives and scenes of York and Spain, his art marked by a bold and fluid style.

Chris Whittaker: Started painting in earnest once he retired

Chris, who trained at Manchester School of Art in the 1960s and later attended university in London and Leeds, says: “For me, drawing is a focus, a way of looking at the world so as to translate a confusing array of surfaces into marks on paper.

“Other artists remark that I look as if I am ‘fencing the canvas’. Working on a large drawing or painting is certainly an intense experience and quite physical. Even after all my years of experience, an evening’s drawing will leave me drained, triumphant or disappointed.”

2020 would have been his first year as a York Open Studios artist. Take a look at goggleme.co.uk instead.

An abstract geometric piece of jewellery by Laura Masheder

Laura Masheder, jewellery

LAURA trained originally as a classical singer, attending Leeds College of Music, and left to raise a family and work in catering management for a decade.

On rekindling her creative ambitions, she studied an Access to Higher Education course in art and design, leading to her degree studies in contemporary craft at York College, where she is in her final year.

Laura Masheder in her studio

In her hand-crafted hallmarked silver jewellery, she specialises in chasing and repoussé techniques, while also experimenting with wax casting and silver clay.

Her jewellery is a mix of figurative nature studies and abstract geometric pieces, as can be seen at boochica.com.

Henry Steele relies on his eye to give a sense of aesthetic in his ceramics

Henry Steele, ceramics

A DIAGNOSIS of autism gives Henry an unusual vision of the world around him. From an early age, he refused to conform to numerical concepts. Instead, he relies on his eye to give a sense of aesthetic.

In his art, he uses mixed media, focusing primarily on ceramics. “I’m particularly interested in ancient manufacturing techniques that favour sustainable methods and I often employ discarded items as tools for decoration,” he says.

Henry Steele: “Often employs discarded items as tools for decoration “

Through his work, Henry questions the traditional boundaries of historic styles and fashions, with the intention of prompting the viewer to say to themselves “what if”, “why not” or even “that’s impossible because”. 

Like fellow student Laura Masheder, 2020 was to have been his York Open Studios debut. Contact him via henrygeorgesteele@hotmail.co.uk.

Chunky ceramics: The work of Sarah Papps

Sarah Papps, ceramics

SARAH is in the final year of a contemporary craft degree, where her primary focus has been on experimenting with form and colour.

In her York Open Studios debut, she would have been exhibiting hand-built and wheel-thrown chunky pots and tableware.

Sarah Papps at the wheel

By compressing and manipulating the clay, her work takes on an identity of its own, producing a contrast of swirling bright colour against the depth of clay. Visit sarahlpapps@gmail.com.

TOMORROW: Kate Buckley; Kay Dower; Claire Morris; Emma Whitelock and Peter Donohoe.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY TWELVE

Self-taught abstract artist Mick Leach

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has been cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with doors sadly shut for the April 17 to 19 and April 25 to 26 event, CharlesHutchPress wants to champion the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios will be given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead.  Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

A textile work by Caroline Utterson

Caroline Utterson, textiles

CAROLINE combines her two great loves, photography and fabric, in creating one-off embroidered, appliquéd and felted artworks influenced as much by her imagination as by the landscape around her.

After graduating from university with a degree in textiles, she worked for North Yorkshire Police for eight years before travelling to Thailand to teach English.

On her return, using the tools she had to hand, Caroline taught herself freehand machine embroidery, a craft she likens to drawing with a sewing machine.

“The environment is important to me, so I use many recycled fabrics in my work,” says Caroline Utterson

“I’m greatly inspired by animals, nature, my northern roots and my love of travel and photography,” she says. “Forever taking photos of anything that catches my eye, I then convert my pictures into textile artworks, using fabrics, buttons, beads and bits that I have collected over the years. The environment is important to me, so I use many recycled fabrics in my work.”

Caroline launched her It’s Cute textile shop in September 2013. “The name was coined as a result of a happy acronym of my name and what I do: Caroline Utterson Textiles and Embroidery,” she says.

She would have been participating in York Open Studios for the first time this month. Contact her via itscuteshop@yahoo.com.

Furniture maker Marcus Jacka

Marcus Jacka, wood

MARCUS specialises in furniture and objects in wood, usually practical, sometimes only for contemplation.

After many years studying, teaching and researching in Physics, he has, for the past decade, been a full-time woodworker.

The common thread is design and experimentation, in thought, process and materials, as Marcus tries to achieve a spare lightness in what he creates. For more info, go to marcusjacka.com.

“Structure, containment, balance”: Ruth King’s pots

Ruth King, ceramics

RUTH’S slab-built pots explore structure, containment and balance, articulated and enhanced by the passage of vapours in the final salt-glaze firing.

Trained at Camberwell School of Arts and Craft, she moved to York after four years living and working in London. A leading figure in York’s art world, with books to her name too, she is a member of the York Art Workers Association and a Fellow of the Craft Potters Association.

Ruth KIng in her studio

Unexpected yet hauntingly familiar, Ruth’s distinctive ceramic vessels have been exhibited widely and are represented in the collections of York Art Gallery; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; Royal Ulster Museum, Belfast; Nottingham Castle Museum and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.

Her work is available by commission, through exhibitions, at onlineceramics.com and the Contemporary Ceramics Centre, London. More details can be found at ruthkingceramics.com.

Elaine Hughes: Collages occupying the imaginary, whimsical world of Oh Golly Gosh

Elaine Hughes, collage

ELAINE creates stitched collages using vintage papers and ephemera to depict scenes from an imaginary, whimsical world she calls “Oh Golly Gosh”.

The paper is first coloured and manipulated with a variety of techniques to then illustrate an imaginary patchwork scene.

The text and graphics of old printed papers, along with a love of the character of old buildings and boats, provide inspiration.

“I have a love of the quirky vernacular buildings found in market and seaside towns, as well as ancient cities such as York,” Elaine says. “The charms of bygone eras of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s also play an important part in the aesthetic language of the work.

“Creating patina and pattern”: Elaine Hughes’s collage work

“I use text, fonts and graphics from vintage ephemera, such as old tram tickets, maps and dress-making patterns, to create patina and patterns.”

Elaine, a graduate in embroidery from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001, has exhibited in galleries across Britain and since launching her Oh Golly Gosh label in 2009, her work has made its way to homes around the world, as well as finding a permanent home in The Written Gallery in York. Take a look at ohgollygosh.co.uk.

Mick Leach’s paintings take inspiration from Russian artists El Lissitzky and Maleyich

Mick Leach, painting

AS a self-taught artist and full-time worker, Mick’s side-career in painting has been taking shape steadily since early 2016.

He works mainly with acrylic paint and chalk powder, along with other media, that he applies to MDF board to achieve a layered, industrial aesthetic in his abstract paintings.

He draws inspiration from El Lissitzky, the Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect, and Kazemir Malevich, the pioneering fellow Russian avant-garde artist and art theorist.  

MIck Leach: geometric composition

“My work aims to abstract the modern, decaying landscape with textures and geometric composition,” says Mick, who won the 2019 Art& York Best Raw Talent award.

Last May to July, he took part in Pyramid Gallery’s Abstract Paintings exhibition; this month would have seen his York Open Studios debut. Check out mickleach.art.

TOMORROW: Fiona Kemp; Chris Whittaker; Laura Masheder, Sarah Papps and Henry Steele.

Rufus Wainwright unfollows the rules on new album ahead of York Barbican gig

The tour poster for Rufus Wainwright’s Unfollow The Rules show at York Barbican

RUFUS Wainwright will follow the summer release of his new album Unfollow The Rules with an autumn tour booked into York Barbican for October 27.

The American-Canadian baroque, operatic and indie pop singer-songwriter was the first guest for the Royal Albert Hall’s free special isolation sessions, #RoyalAlbertHome, last night.

Out on BMG on July 10, the typically fearless, mischievous and honest Unfollow The Rules will be Wainwright’s ninth studio album and his first set of new compositions since Out Of The Game in 2012.

“I consider Unfollow The Rules my first fully mature album,” says Rufus, 46-year-old son of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. “It is like a bookend to the beginning of my career.”

“I consider Unfollow The Rules my first fully mature album,” says Rufus Wainwright. Picture: Tony Hauser

Wainwright will be joined on the road by a new band, featuring Los Angeles guitarist and producer Brian Green, who has worked previously with John Legend, and Phoenix singer-songwriter and keyboardist Rachel Eckroth, erstwhile collaborator with KT Tunstall.

Looking forward to performing a setlist of Wainwright old and new post-Lockdown, Rufus says: “For me, thinking about this tour is like a light at the end of this dark tunnel that we are all in together. It gives me hope and confidence that we will rise above this collectively.

“And while it might seem that we are not moving forward swiftly in this dark long tunnel, I know that we will reach the light again and be able to be together. I cannot wait to be part of that moment for my fans and share this music live with them.”

Tickets for Rufus Wainwright: Unfollow The Rules at York Barbican go on sale on April 17 at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk. 

No Joker: York Barbican’s film screening with an orchestra has been cancelled

MEANWHILE, York Barbican has announced that Joker: Live In Concert on May 17 is off.

“It is with great disappointment that we can confirm our Joker: Live in Concert performance will no longer go ahead due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” the Barbican statement said. “All tickets will be refunded, and please contact your point of purchase if you have any questions.”

The show would have have featured Todd Phillips’s award-laden film being accompanied by an orchestra performing Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score live to build a “vivid, visceral and entirely new Joker viewing experience”.

Never too late for Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival 2020, now in 2021

Stile Antico: Taking steps to play Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival in 2021. Picture: Marco Borggreve

THE 2020 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival is off…until next year.

The postponed event will now take place over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 28 to 30 2021, with many of this year’s artists already re-booked for next spring.

“The good news is that Stile Antico, La Serenissima, Alva, Matthew Wadsworth – sadly not Julia Doyle, but I’ll work on a ‘new’ soloist – David Neave and Vivien Ellis have all been able to work with us to re-create the festival next year,” says festival director Dr Delma Tomlin.

They will be joined by others yet to be announced. “All will be working to re-create the festival and to open up new opportunities to be involved,” says Delma.

“Our festival team has already begun the huge task of re-booking tickets for next year and issuing refunds. They are asking for patrons to bear with them at this difficult time as they work through hundreds of requests, processing re-bookings and refunds as quickly as possible.”

“Given the current circumstances, postponement will not be a surprise,” says Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin

Explaining the decision, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, Delma says: “Regretfully, we have had to take the heart-breaking decision to postpone the festival until next year. We would like to thank our audiences for their continued support.

“Given the current circumstances, postponement will not be a surprise, but we know how disappointing it is for our audiences and supporters; for the many school children who would have been involved with our Vivaldi extravaganza, and of course, for the artists themselves.”

Delma continues: “Hopefully, the postponement is better news than ‘just’ a cancellation. So, we look forward to seeing you again as soon as possible: in Beverley in May 2021, if not before. 

“I would also like to say a huge thank-you to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Arts Council for their continuing support, which has made all the difference to the artists involved and has helped secure next year’s festival.”

La Serenissima: Now Beverley bound in 2021 rather than 2020. Picture: Eric Richmond

Beverley Early Music Festival began in 1988 and takes place every year in the churches and historical buildings of the East Yorkshire’s market town, where the festival weekend comprises performances, walks, talks and workshops.

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Early Music, in York, is helping to keep music alive “at this critical time” by broadcasting concerts from its archive online. “To enjoy the concerts, visit ncem.co.uk and click on to the link in the news section marked NCEM Facebook page,” says Dema, the NCEM’s director. “Concerts are free and a Facebook account is not needed.”

Confirmed concerts at Beverley and East Riding Early Music Festival 2021:


Stile Antico: Friday, May 28 2021, 7.30pm, Beverley Minster.
Choral Workshop with members of Stile Antico: Saturday, May 29, 10am, Toll Gavel United Church.
Alva: Saturday, May 29, 12.30pm, St Mary’s Church.
Ballad Walk: In and around Beverley Minster: Saturday, May 29, 4pm.
La Serenissima: Saturday, May 29, 7.30pm, St Mary’s Church.
Ballad Walk: It All happened In Beverley: Sunday, May 30, 10am.
Ballad Walk: In and around Beverley Minster: Sunday, May 30, 1pm,
Matthew Wadsworth: Sunday, May 30, 7pm, St James’s Church, Warter.

Honor Blackman, Bond Girl, Avengers star… and York Theatre Royal repertory player

Honor Blackman as Amanda Wingfield with Helen Grace as disabled daughter Laura in The Glass Menagerie at York Theatre Royal in November 1999

HOW did Honor Blackman come to star in a repertory play at York Theatre Royal in 1999?

As news broke on Sunday of her peaceful passing at 94, thoughts turned back to when The Avengers’ Cathy Gale and Pussy Galore, the “Bond girl” – a term she never liked – played American southern belle Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’s Depression-era play The Glass Menagerie.

Seventy-four at the time, it was a role the London-born actress had long craved, as Damian Cruden, the artistic director in his second year of cutting a swathe through the Theatre Royal, discovered.

“It all came about because I knew Honor’s agent,” Damian recalled this week. “We had a conversation about the agent’s clients. Various names came up, one of them, Honor Blackman.

“I’d been thinking about doing The Glass Menagerie, and so I said, ‘What about Honor playing Amanda? Would she be interested?’.”

The answer was affirmative, whereupon arrangements were made for Damian to meet Miss Blackman at her London abode. “I can remember going to see Honor at some place in Mayfair, and her instructions were very particular.

“She said, ‘you’ll need to ring the bell, I’ll buzz you in. Then, when you get in the lift, you’ll arrive at what it says is the top floor. The doors will open…but don’t get out. They’ll close again and the lift will bring you up to my flat’.”

What happened? “Exactly that! When the doors opened, I found I was inside her flat! Getting there was just like something out of a Bond movie!” Damian said. “It was a beautiful apartment too.”

Before rehearsals started in the Theatre Royal’s old Walmgate rehearsal rooms – now home to Brew York ­– Damian had another memorable Honor experience. “I went to see her in her one-woman show, Dishonourable Ladies, in Wales on the Sunday night before we were due to begin, and the deal was I would drive her to York…as it turned out, in her sports car, me driving, while she enjoyed a bottle of champagne! Glorious!”

Damian has fond memories of Miss Blackman’s time in York in autumn 1999. “She was enormously gracious and generous. She had friends coming to her dressing room each night, and liked to have a bottle of champagne in the fridge, but that dressing room didn’t have a fridge until she bought one for it and then gifted it to the theatre. It’s still there in dressing room one, as far as I know!”

As was his custom in his 22 years as artistic director, Damian liked to host meals for his casts at his home. “I cooked a meal on a couple of evenings when The Glass Menagerie cast came round,” he said. “Honor was very straightforward. There were no airs and graces to her.

Damian Cruden: York Theatre Royal artistic director drove Honor Blackman to York in her sports car; Honor sipping champagne by his side

“I can recall her sitting by the window with my son Felix, who was only three at the time. “My neighbour was standing watching, and I remember him saying, ‘Was that Pussy Galore in your window?’. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘My god, a Bond girl next door,’ he said.”

Damian spoke highly of Miss Blackman’s working relationship with The Glass Menagerie company. “She was great fun and very supportive of young actors, and there were a lot of young cast members in that company,” he said.

“Her performance was great too. Very intelligent, sensitive, mature. There was none of that ‘being starry’ thing about her. She wasn’t aloof. Instead, she enjoyed being part of a group. That was important to her.”

Honor Blackman would return to the York stage in February 2005 in the surprise guest role in The Play What I Wrote, The Right Size comic duo Sean Foley and Hamish McColl’s celebration of Morecambe and Wise. The Press review recorded how Honor’s role was “to be subjected glamorously and good humouredly to humiliation and mockery” at the hands of both the script and comic interjections in the playful Morecambe tradition. She handled it all with elan, of course.

Miss Blackman will forever be remembered for Pussy Galore, from the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. “It is extraordinary. The damned film goes on marching, it doesn’t go out of fashion,” she told the Northern Echo in June 2004, going on to distance her role from the Bond girl stereotype.

“I hate being a Bond girl, because Pussy Galore was a character you would like to play in anything. She was not one of those who fall on their backs straight-away.

“But it was just a part I played, and that is all it was, and it queers your pitch in lots of ways, because people think of you as some sort of femme fatale; they don’t see you as a Shakespearean actress.”

Before Pussy Galore, there was Cathy Gale in The Avengers, and there was more of her in Cathy than in many of her other roles, she suggested.

“When we started, I was the first woman who had ever dared to be equal to a man, intellectually and physically, and the guys who wrote the script were used to writing about women waiting by the kitchen sink or wicked women in black satin,” she said.

“I couldn’t help but be aware of the impact it was having from the fan mail, because women loved it – at last a woman was standing there doing it all herself ­– and men loved it from quite a different point of view.”

Raise a glass to those memories, whether of Cathy Gale, Pussy Galore or cut-glass Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie in York in 1999.

Copyright of The Press, York

WHAT DID THE PRESS, YORK REVIEW SAY OF HONOR BLACKMAN’S PERFORMANCE IN 1999?

The Glass Menagerie, York Theatre Royal, until December 4

IN the long, distinguished, purring career of Honor Blackman, Amanda Wingfield was a role she still craved. Likewise, Roger Roger star Helen Grace believed The Glass Menagerie to be the best Tennessee Williams play and she “just can’t tell you” how much she desired to be cast as Amanda’s disabled daughter, Laura.

The Glass Menagerie, a memory play as subtle as silk, absorbing as cotton wool, unexpected as a midnight phonecall, has a habit of hooking you like that, such is its sentimental enchantment: an enchantment that masks a sting as potent as a drowsy wasp in autumn. Williams called it truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

The Glass Menagerie, inspired by Williams’ own circumstances, is set in the Depression era St Louis of the 1930s, where former southern belle Amanda is the domineering matriarch, smothering as much as mothering her son Tom (Keith Merrill) and Laura.

Deserted 15 years earlier by her telephone-salesman husband, she clamps her children in the past with her suffocating memories, her fantasies, her anachronistic belief in the tradition of the gentleman caller (Douglas Cockle) and her impossibly romantic hopes of perfect marriages.

Her husband had sought his escape, so too her children – they are in their 20s – but with very different routes in mind. Tom, the narrator and effectively the mouthpiece for Williams himself, is the dreamer, the poet who goes to the movies and drinks “for adventure” and plans a Merchant Marine passage out of working at the dead-end shoe warehouse. Shy Laura, more emotionally crippled than physically disabled (she has a limp), seeks an inward path to safe, fairytale isolation, locking herself away at home with her glass menagerie to avoid the judgement of others.

Theirs is a claustrophobic, unreal world out of step with the times, a contrast emphasised in the superb jagged score of cellist Christopher Madin who juxtaposes the neon brightness of the jazz age with the dimly-lit mournful cello he plays to the side of Liam Doona’s revolving, spinning stage.

Doona’s design adds to the all pervasive presence of Amanda Wingfield, with its see-through walls of muslin drapes allowing you to see into the next room, enhancing the sense of there being no escape from her stifling ways.

Where Sonia Fraser’s Cherry Orchard dragged last month, when there should have been the sense of the sands of time tumbling ever faster, Damian Cruden’s beautifully weighted production captures slow movement, emphasising each nuance of Williams’s subtly shifting writing. He is blessed too with superlative performances: Honor Blackman, a picture of grand illusion; Helen Grace, frail, pale and shyly expressive; Keith Merrill suitably poetic yet pent-up; Douglas Cockle, charming and too worldly for their world.

The finest cut glass indeed.

Charles Hutchinson, November 16 1999

Copyright of The Press, York

Exit Bake Off, re-enter Sandi Toksvig in tour two of National Trevor at York Barbican

Goodbye to Bake Off but back on the road for Sandi Toksvig on her National Trevor travels

AFTER her back-out from Bake Off to “focus on other work projects”, Sandi Toksvig will return to York Barbican on September 22 on her second National Trevor tour.

In January, the Danish-born presenter, 61, announced she would be leaving The Great British Bake Off after three years of co-hosting Channel 4’s cookery contest with The Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding.

Filmed last September, Sandi’s last episode of The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer was broadcast on Tuesday night.

She first performed National Trevor at York Barbican on January 28 2019 as part of a sold-out winter tour, when the News Quiz, QI and Bake Off host brought her trademark warmth, grounded nous and authority to a show that was part stand-up, part lecture as she discussed what unites us in a Toksvigian celebration of all that is weird and wonderful in the everyday.

Back on the road this autumn, the show’s publicity talks of “Sandi realising some people harbour an ambition to be a National Treasure, but following a misunderstanding with a friend, she has decided to become a National Trevor: half misprint, half Danish comedian”.

“Expect tall stories, fascinating and funny facts, silly jokes, a quick-fire Q&A and even a little quiz,” says Sandi of a show that embraces anecdotes, potted histories, family connections and darker topics handled with levity. “You certainly won’t be getting tap-dancing, leotards or a forward roll,” she promises.

Sandi launched her career in 1982 on Number 73, a long-running children’s Saturday morning show, since when her CV has taken in such shows as Call My Bluff and Whose Line Is It Anyway? and hosting BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz.

In 2016, she took over Stephen Fry’s seat as host of BBC2 quiz show QI, followed by her joining The Great British Bake Off team on its switch to Channel 4 in 2017.

Exit Sandi from Bake Off. Re-enter Sandi Toksvig: The National Trevor Tour, a show whose parting wisdom last time was a plea to “enjoy life and seize the day”. Oh, and to seize the biscuit too. “Did you know eating biscuits was dangerous,” she said. “And you still do it, you wonderful risk-takers.”

Tickets for September 22 are newly on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY ELEVEN

Closed doors, but open windows: the way forward for York Open Studios 2020

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has been cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, with doors sadly shut for the April 17 to 19 and April 25 to 26 event, CharlesHutchPress wants to champion the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, five artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios will be given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead.  Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Cushions by Rosie Waring

Rosie Waring, textiles

ROSIE creates handwoven textiles using fine yarns and intricate patterns to produce interior products for the home and personal accessories with a natural colour palette.

She specialised in handwoven textiles for fashion and interiors in her studies at Bath Spa University, graduating in 2013, since when she has made handwoven cushions, lampshades and other small woven items.

Rosie often takes her inspiration for colour, texture and structure from nature and her surroundings: the rich and varied Yorkshire landscapes of the dales, the North York Moors and the coastline.

“Weaving in fine cotton yarns and moving into my wool collection, I create vibrant fabrics to brighten up the home, bringing the outside inside,” she says. 

” I create vibrant fabrics to brighten up the home, bringing the outside inside,” says Rosie Waring

Rosie knew early on that her strength was working with colour. “When I discovered weaving during my studies, I saw the potential to work directly with colour on the loom,” she says. “I found I could express myself through colour and texture, creating cloth from the individual yarns.”

She is interested in how weaving can affect mental health positively and has studied its benefits on mood and a general sense of well-being.

As well as York Open Studios, she has exhibited at Art In The Pen, Danby Christmas Market and the summertime York River Art Market. Find out more at rosiewaring.co.uk.

A mixed-media work by Colin Black

Colin Black, mixed media

COLIN’S mixed-media work has varied from a series focusing on York Minster at night to national identity and the refugee crisis.

He describes his art as being primarily landscape based, always enjoying the use of colour to convey mood.

His last two exhibitions used the landscape motif in very different ways. The first, Imagined Landscapes, conveyed a seemingly idyllic beauty; the second, We Have Chosen A One-Way Road, saw landscape as “a place across which refugees made their escape and away from the place they called home”.

Colin Black: Moved to York in 2018 to set up Seek Art School

“The work was about borders, boundaries and restrictions,” says Colin. “They were a response to Britain’s dilemma about Brexit, hard or soft, independence and interdependence, Trump’s wall. We seem to be becoming insular in our thinking as a fearful means of self-preservation. How do we square our fears of invasion with humanitarian aid?”

Colin studied visual communication at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London and taught for many years in further education in London and Edinburgh.

In 2018, he moved to York to set up Seek Art School, in Haxby Road, to teach  people “the fundamentals of looking and the development of your own visual voice through personal ideas”. Courses include day and evening classes and Saturday workshops.

Discover more via colin@seekartschool.co.uk.

Apothecary Jar, graphite on newsprint, by Nicola Lee

Nicola Lee, drawing

NICOLA’S work on paper combines drawing, folding and photography.

“My visual interest lies beyond the object,” she says. “I’m drawn to line, pattern and shape occurring in peripheral space. A space that is fluid, ambiguous and lacking in definition. A space in which the