National Theatre At Home to screen Jane Eyre on YouTube for free from Thursday

The National Theatre’s Jane Eyre: on the NT’s YouTube channel

THE National Theatre’s celebrated production of Jane Eyre will be shown on the NT’s YouTube channel for free on Thursday at 7pm.

This will be the second in the two-month series of National Theatre At Home screenings that was launched with One Man, Two Guvnors last Thursday, since when more than two million people have watched Hull playwright Richard Bean’s comic romp.

Cookson’s re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s inspiring Yorkshire story of trailblazing Jane was first staged by Bristol Old Vic in 2015 and transferred to the National in the same year with a revival in 2017.

In May that year, the National Theatre’s touring production visited the Grand Opera House, York, for a week’s run, winning the “Stage Production of the Year in York Made outside York” award in the annual Hutch Awards in The Press, York.

Cookson’s bold, innovative and dynamic production uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfilment on her own terms. From her beginnings as a destitute orphan, spirited Jane Eyre faces life’s obstacles head on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.

During this unprecedented time of the enforced shutdown of theatres, cinemas and schools in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, National Theatre At Home is providing access to content online to serve audiences in their homes.

Audiences around the world can stream NT Live productions for free via YouTube every Thursday at 7pm BST and each one will then be available on demand for seven days.

Coming next after Jane Eyre will be Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island from April 16 and Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig as Malvolio, from April 23. Further titles will be announced.

Alongside the streamed productions, National Theatre At Home will feature accompanying interactive content, such as question-and-answer sessions with cast and creative teams and post-stream talks. Further details of this programme will follow.

National Theatre Live turned ten on June 25 last year: the date of the first such broadcast in 2009, namely Phédre, starring Helen Mirren. Over those ten years, more than 80 theatre productions have been shown in 3,500 venues worldwide, reaching an overall audience of more than ten million.

NT Live now screens in 2,500 venues across 65 countries. Recent broadcasts include Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy; Noel Coward’s Present Laughter with Andrew Scott; Fleabag with Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Arthur Miller’s All My Sons with Sally Field and Bill Pullman; All About Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James; Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo; Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with David Morrissey and Ben Whishaw and Tennessee Williams’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Sienna Miller.

Here is Charles Hutchinson’s review of the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre when it played the Grand Opera House, York, in May 2017, published in The Press, York. Please note, the cast differed from the one to be seen in the National Theatre Live performance on YouTube from Thursday.

Nadia Clifford as Jane Eyre in the National Theatre’s touring production of Jane Eyre at the Grand Opera House, York, in May 2017

YOU will not see a better theatre show in York this year, and you won’t have seen a better theatre show in York since The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.

For those who want their National Theatre to be for everyone, and not only for London, then the Grand Opera House is doing a fine job of bringing the NT north, thanks to the pulling power of the GOH’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Your reviewer cannot urge you enough to see Sally Cookson’s remarkable interpretation of Charlotte Bronte’s no less remarkable novel. Yes, some of the ticket prices are on a Premier League scale, but this is Premier League theatre. What’s more, Jane Eyre is a Yorkshire story, back on home turf after Cookson’s premiere at the Bristol Old Vic and subsequent transfer to the South Bank.

Rather than being adapted for the stage with a plodding narrator, this is a devised production of vivid, vital imagination. Michael Vale’s set is rough hewn, gutted to the minimum, with wooden flooring and walkways, a proliferation of ladders, a sofa, and yet it evokes everything of Bronte’s harsh world.

Cookson’s cast is multi role-playing, aside from Nadia Clifford’s Jane Eyre, who never once leaves the stage in three hours (interval aside), changing costumes in full view with the assistance of fellow cast members.

The story hurtles along so fast, the ensemble company runs on the spot between scenes to the accompaniment of thunderous drums, and they even take a mock piddle at one point in the rush to crack on: one of the comic elements to counter the grimness up north.

Energy, energy, energy! And that applies not only to Clifford’s feisty, fiery Jane Eyre, whose accent may curve towards her native North West, but that in no way lessens her performance.

The cast as a whole is magnificent, be it Tim Delap’s troubled Rochester, Evelyn Miller’s triptych of Bessie, Blanche Ingram and St John; Paul Mundell’s austere Mr Brocklehurst and tail-wagging Pilot the dog; Lynda Rooke’s chalk and cheese Mrs Reed and Mrs Fairfax or surely-too-good-to-be-an understudy Francesca Tomlinson’s five-hand of roles.

There is so much more that makes Cookson’s production so startling, movingly brilliant: the sound design of Dominic Bilkey, the inexhaustible movement direction of Dan Canham; the beautiful, haunting compositions of Benji Bower for the on-stage band of David Ridley, Alex Heane and Matthew Churcher, who join in ensemble scenes too and never take their gaze off the action.

Last, but very definitely not least, is Melanie Marshall, the diva voice of Bertha Mason, a one-woman Greek chorus whose versions of Mad About The Boy and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy will linger like Jane Eyre in the memory.

May 2017

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY NINE

A screen-print collage by Kevin McNulty

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 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 urge.

Jill Ford: Her ceramics mirror the seasons

Jill Ford, ceramics

JILL began working as a potter in 2002, converting her garage into a studio and establishing her company Jill Ford Ceramics.

Her contemporary white porcelain encompasses innovative textural wall pieces, vases and bowls thrown on the wheel and a range of candlesticks, her work marked by richly textured decoration inspired by mountains and coastal rock formations.

Jill’s ceramics mirror the seasons, both in the processes she uses and the changing nature of her landscapes, with winter’s extreme temperatures making for a particularly impactful time of year.

Jill Ford at work in her studio

A year spent trekking and sketching in the Scottish Highlands has provided inspiration for a range of Mountain Edge pots that gives a sense of exposure and drama.

Jill, who is a member of the Northern Potters Association and East Riding Artists, exhibits widely in galleries and shops around Britain and abroad, including New York, and she shows work at ceramics and craft fairs too. She also delivers masterclasses to potters’ groups and teaches ceramics in workshop sessions. Find out more at

Cafe scene: a documentary-style photograph by Danny Knight

Danny Knight, photography

AFTER participating in York Open Studios in 2017 with works from Berlin, documentary-style photographer Danny was all set to feature his street photography collated from New York and his home city of York in the 2020 event.

“Old York/New York is a series of still images documenting the mundane events of the people who walk the streets of these two famous cities, while contrasting their similarities/differences.”

Danny Knight: “Capturing the everyday moments in two amazing cities”, York and New York

His work seeks to capture “the everyday moments in these two amazing cities that are quite often missed due to the pace of life we live”.

As well as being a photographer, Danny works for the creative film production company Hewitt & Walker and is a city leader for Sofar Sounds York, the monthly venture that “reimagines live events through curated secret performances in intimate York settings”. For more info, seek out

Honesty, linocut, by Carrie Lyall

Carrie Lyall, printmaking

CARRIE is a self-taught printmaker, based in Stamford Bridge, from where she runs her Rose & Hen business.

Her linocut prints, illustrations and handmade books are inspired by nature. Using botanical themes, she creates delicate silhouettes and patterns in contrasting colours, employing oil-based inks. 

“I connect with nature while out walking, taking photographs or collecting subject matter, to be sketched and transformed into design ideas at home,” she says.

Carrie Lyall: Connecting with nature in her art…and her clothes

“My favourite part of the process is cutting the designs, and I often get completely immersed in creating marks and lines.”

Carrie is a member of York Printmakers and a volunteer team leader for Etsy Team York. 2020 would have been her first year as a York Open Studios artist. Check her out at

Between You And Me And The Gate Post, needle felting, by Alison Spaven

Alison Spaven, textiles

ALISON’S passion for needle felting started six years ago during a chance encounter with the craft.

“I’ve been painting and drawing for a lifetime, and even flirted briefly with ceramics, before a day out with friends to a felting workshop on a canal barge changed my creative drive forever,” she recalls.

“I was inspired to create and work with wet and needle felted wool by some great tuition from friends and professional tutors. Needle felting, in particular, rapidly became an obsession and the husband indoors insisted that new homes had to be found for things, as falling over yet another hare is not his favourite pastime!”

Alison Spaven: hare today, gone today, when her work sells!

Alison’s experience with sculpting in clay gave her the initial skills to work in 3D, before developing her own textural technique when painting with wool. Created with rare breed wool, using a single felting needle, Alison’s pictures consequently have a sculptural quality, a deliberate carry-over from her initial 3D work.

Alison, who trades as The Crafty Wytch from her Wytchwood Gallery and Studio, is a familiar face around Malton and beyond from her work as a stalwart of The Press and Gazette and Herald advertising team. Head to to discover more.

Compulsive printmaker Kevin McNulty

Kevin McNulty, printmaking

KEVIN describes himself as a compulsive printmaker, who explores themes such as identity and the human condition in his bold limited-edition printed collages, wherein he combines photography, arbitrary images, texture and abstract pattern.

“Experimenting with process and technique, I interweave modernity with the absurd to build complex and captivating designs,” he says. “I find inspiration in the everyday. I build layers for my prints using anything I can lay my hands on, including found items.” Even mobile phone parts and discarded teabags.

Millennium Bridge, York, by Kevin McNulty

Kevin’s working practice is underpinned by a desire to make “pure prints by pulling each image by hand and embracing the fortuitous accidents that evolve each design as it transitions from laptop to ink and paper”.

Those prints were to have featured for the first time in this month’s now cancelled York Open Studios. Find his work at

TOMORROW: Gail Fox; Jane Atkin; Amy Stubbs; Emily Stubbs and Elliot Harrison.

Pocklington Arts Centre crowdfunding appeal passes halfway mark

“During this period, it is critical that we continue to support our staff, artists and creative partners,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s crowdfunding appeal has raised more than half its target already.

Launched in the immediate aftermath of the Market Place venue closing its doors to the public on March 17, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the crowdfunding page has accrued donations of £3,060 towards the £5,000 goal.

What’s more, Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) has received £2,000 in ticket refund donations from customers for cancelled events.

Now PAC has thanked everyone for their support in helping the venue ride out the tempest and come back stronger than ever, with the hope of a good majority of shows being re-scheduled for the autumn and winter.

Director Janet Farmer said: “With the health and safety of our staff, visitors, artists and volunteers being of the utmost importance to us, Pocklington Arts Centre has temporarily closed its doors to the public while we weather this storm.

“During this period, it is critical that we continue to support our staff, artists and creative partners. We are working closely with our peers across the region, and indeed the country, and are determined that PAC will emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

Janet continued: “The crowdfunding appeal will play an important part in this re-emergence, so we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated so far. Your support is greatly appreciated and we look forward to seeing you all again when we re-open.”
To make a donation, visit:

CORONAVIRUS: Harrogate International Festivals cancel all the summer season

“Deep regret and sadness”: Sharon Canavar, chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals, announcing the cancellation of the 2020 summer season

THE Harrogate International Festivals summer season will not go ahead, a decision with “huge financial implications that place the future of the festivals at risk”.

The Coronavirus pandemic has put paid to the Harrogate Music Festival, Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Berwins Salon North, Spiegeltent and Children’s Festival, as well as several outdoor theatre and community events.

Announcing the cancellation with “deep regret and sadness”, chief executive Sharon Canavar said: “This difficult decision was made after carefully assessing several factors, but most importantly the health and safety of everyone involved: our audience, artists, suppliers, partners, volunteers, staff and the wider community.

“Many months of dedicated work went into planning this exceptional season and we share in the disappointment that will be felt by the many writers, musicians, thinkers, performers and festival-goers who were set to join us in Harrogate.”

Her statement continued: “As a not-for-profit arts charity, we are reliant on our events programme and ticket income, alongside sponsor support and donor philanthropy, and so the cancellation of our main season has huge financial implications that place the future of our festivals at risk.

“But despite the unprecedented challenge we now face, our mission to bring immersive and moving cultural experiences to as many people as possible remains unchanged.”

Harrogate International Festivals will continue “our unparalleled celebration” of crime fiction with the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, alongside an extensive online programme of author interviews and more besides ahead of the award announcement in July.

In addition, the HIF Player will be launched to allow everyone a virtual festival experience at home. This free online hub will bring together archive event recordings, digital book clubs, learning resources for children and activities for little ones, and it will be updated regularly with new content to keep audiences entertained.

The chief executive’s statement continued: “Since 1966, we have proved an artistic force to be reckoned with and a key cultural provider for the North of England with a diverse year-round portfolio that celebrates world-class artists, champions new talent and plays a vital part in the community with education outreach and inspiring activities.

“Art and culture help us understand what it means to be human and how to make sense of life, and festivals are a vital part of this ecology. When this troubling time passes, we will need – more than ever – the transformative power of the arts to bring communities together, to inspire hope, to lift spirits and change lives. We thank you for your support.”

The festival website,, now carries the request Please Consider Making A Donation: “Support our arts charity in this challenging time”.

Slung Low theatre company to launch street art gallery on Leeds lamp posts

The Slung Low team outside The Holbeck Slung Low in Leeds

LEEDS theatre company Slung Low are to open a new art gallery with a difference this month.

Based in Holbeck, South Leeds, the company will be setting up the LS11 Art Gallery to showcase the best paintings, drawings and photographs created and chosen by the people of Holbeck and Beeston.

However, instead of displaying the images on gallery walls, they will be placed on lamp posts for all to see.   

Slung Low have asked people from the two Leeds areas to email their image to the theatre company. Slung Low will then arrange to come around and take a copy of it and then print the images on special plastic board for display on lamp posts around Holbeck and Beeston.

Artistic director Alan Lane says: “Our instinct at Slung Low is always to be useful and kind. For the last few weeks that has primarily been about delivering food-bank parcels and helping people get their prescription.

“We know that a hungry soul will find it hard to be creative, to find joy, so the first part of our response has to be making sure that people have their basic material needs met: and we will continue that work until this is all over.

“But as theatre makers we also understand the importance of storytelling and that there are different ways to be useful.”

Alan continues: “LS11 Art Gallery is us telling the story that this area – like all parts of this nation – is full of creativity; that in every house are people who are brilliant, creative and capable of profound beauty. We need to make sure we keep telling that story in these challenging times. 

“We’re going to open an art gallery on the lamp posts of LS11 and the people who live here will make what we exhibit. Let’s cheer ourselves up a bit.”

Founded in 2000, Slung Low specialises in making epic productions in non-theatre spaces, often with large community performance companies at their heart. 

The company has relocated to The Holbeck in South Leeds, the oldest working men’s club in Britain.

There, they run the bar as a traditional members’ bar and the rest of the building as an open development space for artists and a place where Slung Low invite other companies to present their work that otherwise might not be seen in Leeds. All work presented at The Holbeck is Pay What You Decide. 

In Autumn 2018, Slung Low launched a cultural community college based in Holbeck; a place where adults come to learn new cultural skills, from stargazing to South Indian cooking, from carpentry to singing in a choir. All workshops, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, are provided on a Pay What You Decide basis.  

Slung Low are now volunteer guardians of the city wards of Beeston and Holbeck, taking referrals from the Leeds City Council Covid-19 helpline (0113 378 1877).

In turn, with help from the staff of other arts organisations in Leeds, including Opera North, they are delivering food and medicine to the vulnerable, elderly and those in isolation. 

How to take part in the LS11 Art Gallery: 

IF you live in the Holbeck or Beeston areas of Leeds and want your drawing, painting or photograph to be featured, please take a picture of it.

Then send it to Slung Low by email at or by text on 07704 582137. Slung Low will then arrange to come around to take a copy of it for you.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY EIGHT

York Minster, by Russell Bailey

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.

Toffee Tin, Elephant And Blue Glass, by Ruth Beloe

Ruth Beloe, painting

RUTH Beloe finds equal fulfilment in figurative sculpture and still life paintings in oil.

She trained for three years at Charles H Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy, a fine art school modelled on the ateliers of 19th-century Paris, where she studied portrait and figurative drawing, painting and sculpting, using the “sight-size” technique.

On opening her studio in Ely, she began accepting portrait commissions in both charcoal and clay and was appointed artist-in-residence at the King’s School, Ely. She then worked in an artists’ foundry to better understand the processes and practicalities of lost wax casting for bronze to inform her own work in bronze.

Ruth Beloe at work by the window in her studio

She returned to Florence in 2009 and 2010 to develop her oil-painting technique at Studio Santo Spirito. Now she works from a studio in York, taking inspiration from Chardin and William Nicholson as she explores the inherent beauty of everyday items and objects from nature. 

Note the reflective qualities of surfaces, the use of directed light to form appealing shadows and the play of refracted light in her paintings. Discover more at

“My aim is to awaken the feeling of wonder and awe,” says printmaker Milena Dragic

Milena Dragic, printmaking

BORN in Zagreb, Croatia, and now living in York, polymath Milena is a printmaker, animator and performing artist.

She studied printmaking at Zagreb’s Academy of Fine Arts, from 1971 to 1973, and combined arts at Brighton Polytechnic’s faculty of art and design, from 1973 to 1976. Residencies and placements ensued, along with more than 20 solo shows in Britain, Croatia, Germany and Switzerland and participation in print exhibitions in Britain, Poland, Brazil, Spain and South Korea.

“I perceive my work as a dynamic representation of forces underlying physical reality and their manifestations within everyday life,” says Milena, who prints on hand-made paper. “My aim is to awaken the feeling of wonder and awe that I have experienced during the process of gathering ideas and executing them in the prints.

“My colour prints are all relief prints: woodcuts, wood-engravings and linocuts. I like the simplicity of the process. I print without a conventional press. My colour prints are done by a reduction method, which means that all the colours are printed from the same block. At the end of this process there is no lino left, so the edition is truly limited.”

Her contemporary, colourful abstract work combines relief prints, animation and mixed media. Wearing her other hats, she has worked as an art director and animator at Leeds Animation Workshop, now works for Artlink West Yorkshire and is part of the York Dance Collective. Paint the full picture at

Expressionist interpretation of York Minster, by Russell Bailey

Russell Bailey, mixed media

RUSSELL invited putative York Open Studios 2020 visitors to expect “a range of expressionistic interpretations of York Minster in mixed media”.

“The main work results from over 12 months’ work on cathedrals – York Minster in particular – involving many site visits, plein air and studio-based work,” he says.

Favouring charcoal and mixed media, Russell embraces experimental ways of working and gestural mark-making. “Working expressively with freedom of marks with more considered drawn elements is key to how I process my experiences artistically,” he says.

“The work I do is often experimental, often part destroyed and then re-created,” says Russell Bailey

“The work I do is often experimental, often part destroyed and then re-created to produce a very personal interpretation. In that respect, the work tends to reside in the hinterland between the literal and pure abstraction. Mixing media seems to have become a natural way through which I express myself.”

Russell has exhibited previously at York Open Studios, the Great North Art Show, Kunsthuis Gallery at The Dutch House, Crayke, and Blossom Street Gallery, York. His latest artwork also embraces small abstract pieces based on beliefs and others from art retreat locations. Take a look at

Barcelona skyline, by Anthony Chappel-Ross

Anthony Chappel-Ross, photography

ANTHONY is a familiar face behind the camera around York and beyond for his photojournalism for The Press, York, where he was an outstanding staff photographer, and other print media outlets too.

Since leaving journalism college in Sheffield in 2002, he has been shortlisted for more than 20 regional and national press awards: testament to his truly eye-catching talent.

Anthony Chappel-Ross: A face more often to be found looking through a camera lens

For the past few years, he has started to work for himself, choosing his clients and commissions. “This freedom has allowed time for my own personal photographic interests to be explored,” says Anthony.

For his second York Open Studios exhibition, he had selected photographic images, predominantly in black and white, that explore the contrast, form and pattern of Barcelona, Antoni Gaudi’s Catalan Modernist architecture et al.

Check out…and snap to it.

Silver stone, by Helen Drye

Helen Rye, jewellery

JEWELLERY designer and maker Helen Drye works full time from her studio south of York, her designs inspired by nearby Skipwith Common National Nature Reserve.

Establishing her Silver and Stone Jewellery Design business in 2012, Yorkshire-born Helen’s collections have their roots in this woodland, especially the birds and hares, her favourite mushrooms and the moonlight.

While much of her work is made in sterling silver, some is designed and carved in silver clay, adding unusual features to the jewellery.

“My imagination is sparked by the woodland and common beyond my studio, wondering what the ancient Bronze Age people did, or the farmers grazing their sheep on the common land, or the Second World War pilots who trained here before going off to fight their battles in the sky,” says Helen. 

“My imagination is sparked by the woodland and common beyond my studio,” says Helen Drye

“I try to imagine those people walking between the trees, through that same mist, in the morning light or the moonlight many years ago. I reflect this as though looking through my windows; ‘windows’ that look through the woodland, the trees and the birds and make you wonder what else is through there.”

Helen, by the way, also runs jewellery-making workshops and wedding ring workshops. More info can be found at

TOMORROW: Jill Ford; Danny Knight; Carrie Lyall; Alison Spaven and Kevin McNulty.

Easter activities stay at home as Scarborough museums put fun online

Easter activities organised by Scarborough Museums Trust are going online. Picture: Tony Bartholomew.

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust is taking its fun Easter activities online.

Amid the Covid-19 lockdown, the trust has had to suspend its usual drop-in activities at the Rotunda Museum, Scarborough Art Gallery and Woodend, instead making them available via its website,, and on social media.

From Thursday, April 9, you can have a go at making your own “Roarsome” Easter bonnet to wear with pride.

The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

From Wednesday, April 15, you can gain inspiration from the trust’s springtime artworks and make a flowery print to decorate your home.  

Scarborough Museums Trust’s learning officer, Christine Rostron, says: “All the activities are inspired by our collections and use everyday art materials. 

Scarborough Art Gallery. Picture: Tony Batholomew

“We hope you have fun making things at home and would love to find out how you’re getting on. Please share your creations with us on social media: @Scarboroughmuseums (Facebook), @scarboroughmuseums (Instagram) and @SMTrust (Twitter), using the hashtags #MuseumFromHome #loveScarborough.

“We’re really going to miss seeing all the families and children who normally visit our venues over the holidays. Sending us pictures is great way for us to keep in touch.”

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY SEVEN

Fox in the box, by Anna Cook

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.

Academia, by Zosia Olenska

Zosia Olenska, painting

ZOSIA finds inspiration in everyday landscapes, looking to find beauty in our daily surroundings. This translates into “optimistic representational art” across the mediums of pen and ink and acrylic painting.

“Most of all, I would like people to come away from looking at my work feeling in some way uplifted,” says this self-taught artist. “Painting, for me, is a self-reinforcing cycle of noticing the beauty around us, then looking more to find it.”

Zosia Olenska: Likes her art to be uplifting

The daughter of two artists, Zosia came to work as an artist gradually through illustration, developing her practice by experimenting in different media. She has exhibited at the New Light Prize exhibition in North Yorkshire and with the Society of Women Artists at the Mall Galleries, London, in 2018 and 2019. Last year too, she was a heat artist in the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2019 competition.

In another string to her bow, Zosia designs hand-drawn pen-and-ink illustrations for the eco-friendly Niche Snowboards. Head this way for more info:

Anna Cook: paper cut artist

Anna Cook, paper cuts

ANNA is a self-taught paper cutter with a background in design and printmaking, whose work captures the personalities of the natural world’s inhabitants.

Layering intricately cut sheets of paper that she folds and sculpts and presents in deep box frames, she continually challenges herself to achieve more detail with each piece.

When creating a new design, Anna seeks inspiration from contemporary surface and pattern design and old botanical illustrations, as well as “the magical world of nature”. Contact her via

Cloisonne enamel lotus bud earrings, by Leesa Rayton Design Plus

Leesa Rayton Design Plus, jewellery

AFTER many years of working in health research, Leesa has made the leap into becoming a full-time jewellery designer. Now a member of the Guild of Enamellers and British Society of Enamellers, she would have been participating in York Open Studios for the first time this month.

“I use time-honoured techniques to design and create unique pieces of jewellery from precious metals, vitreous enamels, gemstones and beads,” she says. “My designs are inspired by architecture and the natural world.”

Leesa Rayton: Inspired by architecture and the natural world

Leesa is always seeking to expand her knowledge and to learn new techniques at York School of Jewellery, where she has studied over the past 12 years.

She is also a director of the Beautiful Splint Company CIC, a Tadcaster business that makes orthotic splints for fingers. Check out

Blue topaz necklace, by Karen J Ward

Karen J Ward, jewellery

LOOKING to escape the world of finance and return to her passion for creating art, Karen finally found her calling six years ago, re-training with Nik Stanbury and Julie Moss at York School of Jewellery, where she is now based.

Jewellery designer Karen J Ward

Working with precious metals and gemstones and using traditional skills, she first takes elements from her drawings to then transform flat sheets of metal into “beautiful wearable art” inspired by nature’s textures, shapes and curves.

Like Leesa Rayton (see above), she produces orthotic splints for hands, wrists and fingers in her work as co-director of the Beautiful Splint Company.  Head to to discover more.

Mark Azopardi at work in his studio space

Mark Azopardi, painting

MARK works mainly in pure watercolour, on occasion incorporating other media to produce highly detailed paintings and drawings.

His main inspiration comes from the colours and textures of all elements of the natural world, sometimes finding beauty in the simplest of things. Discover him via

A fleet of feathers, by Mark Azopardi

TOMORROW: Ruth Beloe; Milena Dragic; Russell Bailey; Anthony Chappel-Ross and Helen Drye.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY SIX

Emma, photographic portrait, by Claire Cooper

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.

Analogue photographer Claire Cooper

Claire Cooper, photography

CLAIRE’S work explores women represented through the medium of analogue photography, screen print and intaglio printmaking techniques.

“Portraits are special because, by definition, there are at least two people involved in their making: the artist and the sitter,” says Claire.

“Neither has complete control over the other; portraiture becomes a negotiation between parties, a dance of wills that results in a collaboration of sorts.”

Trudy, Hove, 2012, photographed by Claire Cooper

Claire, who completed an BA in Photography in 2000 and an MA in 2013, uses sitters both known and unknown in her experiments with different formats of photographic portraiture.

She has shown work in group shows across the country, and away from photography, she has a background in the community arts sector, predominantly with  DARTS in Doncaster. Find out more via

Portrait Of A Friend, by Zoe Catherine Kendal

Zoe Catherine Kendal, painting

ZOE is a multi-disciplinary artist and jewellery maker from a family steeped in artistic pursuits.

Great-granddaughter of Bernard Leach, “the father of British studio pottery”, she  attained a BA in jewellery design from Central Saint Martins, in London, the city where she was raised before moving to York.

Her York Open Studios show would have focused on her paintings: works that combine experimental, abstract approaches with colourful, contemporary representations of portraiture, seascapes and cultural heritage, capturing feeling, narrative and identity across varied material and media. 

Zoe Catherine Kendal: Capturing feeling, narrative and identity

Overall, her experimental practice is material-led, combining pastel and paint on canvas, paper and wood; precious and non-precious metals, ceramics and beads with leather and yarns.

Zoe’s paintings have been exhibited at According To McGee, York, and Bils & Rye, Kirkbymoorside; her jewellery at CoCA at York Art Gallery, Lottie Inch Gallery, York, and Kabiri, Marylebone, London. Cast an eye over her work at

Flying Low, by Cathy Denford

Cathy Denford, painting

BROUGHT up with wild nature in New Zealand, Cathy trained and worked as a director in theatre and television in England.

Since settling in York in 1998, fine art has been her strong focus, shaped by initial study in printmaking with Peter Wray and painting with Jane Charlton at York St John University and later at Chelsea College of Arts and the Slade.

First exhibiting at York Open Studios in 2006, she creates oil and mixed-media paintings suggestive of movement, set against stillness, often of birds in landscape.

Cathy Denford: “Movement, set against stillness”

Combining figurative and abstract styles, with elements of Cubism, her work explores space and time passing.

Cathy’s paintings have been shown at galleries in Leeds, Scarborough and Leeds, Zillah Bell in Thirsk and the Norman Rea Gallery and music department at the University of York. More info at

Milet plate, by Hacer Ozturk

Hacer Ozturk, ceramics

HACER is a Turkish ceramics and iznik tiles artist from Istanbul, now settled in York, where 2020 would have marked her York Open Studios debut.

Her work combines traditional and contemporary free-style Turkish ceramics, both formed with the same techniques that were first applied thousands of years ago.

Hacer Ozturk: artist and researcher

Latterly, she has started painting, drawing on traditional iznik tile motifs. Aside from her ceramic creativity, she works as a researcher in Istanbul. Seek out

Yorkshire, by Chrissie Dell

Chrissie Dell, printmaking

CHRISSIE is a printmaker inspired by the environment, making multi-layered monoprints, monotypes, collagraphs and Moku-Hanga (Japanese woodcuts).

She uses such techniques as collage, chine collé, viscosity, stencils, natural pigments and materials to create textural prints that interpret the forms, colours and textures of the natural world.  

Chrissie Dell at work in her studio

Growing up in Edinburgh and on the west coast of Scotland, Chrissie first studied printmaking in the early 1970s at the Froebel Institute, London, but only set up her studio in 2013 after further study at Leith School of Art and Edinburgh Printmakers, her studies taking in painting, drawing, artists’ books, printmaking and creative textiles.

Chrissie has exhibited in Edinburgh, as well as at Blossom Street Gallery and Pyramid Gallery in York, and she is a member of York Printmakers and York Art Workers’ Association.

2020 would have been her third participation in York Open Studios. Still in the diary, however, is the York Printmakers Autumn Print Fair at York Cemetery Chapel on September 26 and 27.

TOMORROW: Zosia Olenska; Anna Cook; Leesa Rayton Design; Karen J Ward and Mark Azopardi

RIP Bill Withers….

ALAS, Bill Withers has withered on the vine of time at 81. Truly, there Ain’t No Sunshine anymore when he’s gone.

Thank you, Bill, that was THE song for days of darkness. I know. I know. I know, I know. I know. I know.

Seriously Seventies’ sideburns too.

Your baritone-blue soul music always made for a lovelier day. RIP.

OFF. Kaiser Chiefs and Will Young/James Morrison gigs at Dalby Forest cancelled

I predict a quiet night: Kaiser Chiefs will not play Dalby Forest after all on June 26

DALBY Forest’s summer concerts, featuring Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs on June 26 and a double bill of Will Young and James Morrison the next night, are off.

Indeed, the entire Forest Live series presented by Forestry England nationwide, has been cancelled, yet another summer calendar regular chalked off by the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Ticket holders will be refunded automatically.

A Forestry England statement released today explains: “We are sorry to disappoint the Forest Live fans who were hoping to see bands in the nation’s forests this summer, but we have cancelled Forest Live 2020 to keep everyone safe, in line with recent Government guidance on the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. 

“We really hope that everyone’s support to fight COVID-19 means the situation will have improved by the summer. However, as well as our valued customers, we work with a large number of volunteers, artists and contractors, to make these concerts happen and have taken this decision in the interest of safety for everyone involved.” 

Will Young: double bill with James Morrison

 The statement continues: “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to reschedule our concerts. Ticket holders will be contacted by their point of purchase and will be automatically refunded. We ask for your patience and understanding at this busy time.

“We would like to send our deepest apologies to everyone who was hoping to see a Forest Live 2020 show. We were very excited to welcome you into forests across England to see some incredible live music.

 “Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to welcoming you back to Forest Live in 2021.”   

Nationwide,Forest Live 2020 would have featured headline performances by Madness, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Keane, Jack Savoretti and Rag’n’Bone Man, as well as Kaiser Chiefs, Morrison and Young.

James Morrison: No Forest Live return after June 27 cancellation

These June concerts would have been spread between Dalby Forest, near Pickering; Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent; Cannock Chase Forest, Staffordshire; Sherwood Pines Forest, Nottinghamshire; Thetford Forest, Suffolk, and Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire.

Income from Forest Live concerts helps to sustain Forestry England’s woodland for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and trees to grow.

Forestry England, an agency of the Forestry Commission, manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, welcoming 230 million visits every year and shaping landscapes as England’s largest land manager. For more information, visit; for further Forest Live details, go to

Did you know?

KAISER Chiefs previously played Dalby Forest in 2016; Will Young in 2012 and James Morrison in 2007.

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY FIVE

A cyclone of cyclists rushing by in Tim Pearce’s painting

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has had to be 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 ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles.

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.

Tim Pearce with one of his sculptural ceramics

Tim Pearce, mixed media

AFTER a fulfilling career in art education in South Yorkshire schools, Tim latterly has expanded his own creativity to include ceramics as well as painting, all supported by academic degrees in the history of art and the visual arts at MA level.

His paintings and sculptural ceramics are both informed by a Cubist sensitivity to form, colour and rhythm, displayed in studio, house and garden.

Since moving to York eight years ago he has held four solo shows, in addition to exhibiting regularly across Yorkshire with Leeds Fine Artists. Head to for more info.

Fuselage, by Linda Harvey

Linda Harvey, textiles

INSPIRED by frequent trips to the Yorkshire Air Museum, at Halifax Way, Elvington, York, Linda’s latest work explores rustic textures and pattern in framed textile art pieces, wall hangings and handmade cards.

Linda Harvey: Gaining inspiration from days out at the Yorkshire Air Museum

Linda, who studied textiles and surface design, graduating in 1994, often will work on several pieces at a time and enjoys an expressive and experimental way of working. She layers, rust-dyes, prints and distresses her fabrics and adds embellishments to create abstract one-off pieces.

Linda has taught textiles for more than 20 years and is a member of York Textile Artists. Contact her at or via

Furniture maker John Watts in his workshop

John Watts, furniture

JOHN has been designing and making contemporary furniture since 1996 for both private and corporate clients.

Working from a 3,000 sq.ft workshop on the outskirts of York, he uses a wide range of materials, predominately sustainably forested hardwoods from both England and abroad, while often incorporating glass, metals and resins too.

Garden furniture by John Watts

Undertaking domestic and commercial projects, he hand-builds pieces of furniture of longevity and value. “My main aim is to create interesting, individual and well-crafted furniture that satisfies customer requirements,” says John, who has a bespoke service available.

“My design influences are many, having a history in antiques, fashion design and design education,” he adds. To knock on wood, head to

“Design should be fun,” reckons furniture maker Wilf Williams

Wilf Williams, furniture

DESIGN should be fun , interesting, practical and beautiful, says York furniture maker and designer Wilf Williams.

Bristol-born Wilf studied furniture design after moving to York in 1996, since when he has produced hand-made furniture inspired by traditional cabinet making, Scandinavian furniture, contemporary clean lines, modernist architecture and minimalist sculpture and art.

Walnut sideboard, by Wilf Williams

Wilf has worked on all manner of commissions, designing and crafting distinctive, bespoke free-standing and fitted furniture, using a diverse range of materials, predominantly sustainable forested hardwoods. Visit his website at

Galilee No 3937, collage, by Jerry Scott

Jerry Scott, collage

JERRY constructs small and medium-sized abstract collages from printed paper originated by the artist, then pasted on to cartridge paper, using conservation-grade wheat starch paste. Sometimes, he applies hand-colouring too.

“I started making collages about five years ago, in parallel with painting,” he says. “I’ve always been interested in surface pattern and all sorts of decoration. With the freedom and sophistication of modern digital technology, it is now possible to produce single sheets of high quality, crisp and colour-rich printed papers.” Cue collages.

Collage artist Jerry Scott

Jerry moved to York 33 years ago. Earlier he had studied theology briefly at Cambridge University, then fine art at Norwich School of Art and St Martin’s School of Art, London, where he lived and worked before heading north.

He has a variety of abstract prints for sale too. View his work at

TOMORROW: Claire Cooper; Zoe Catherine Kendal; Cathy Denford; Hacer Ozturk and Chrissie Dell.

Keep on Trucking as Hull theatre sets up activities aplenty for playing at home

Hull Truck Theatre: building closed, but the theatre invites you to be creative at home

CREATIVITY cannot be closed down, says Hull Truck Theatre, as it launches an At Home community hub from April 6.

Over the coming weeks, Hull Truck will run a programme of drama and creative activities to keep audiences and communities entertained and inspired during the Coronavirus lockdown.

This will involve a stream of “engaging and accessible content”, ranging from A Play A Day and Writing Workouts to 3 Minute Theatre, Educational Resource Packs and Screening past shows, all to be found on the new page  

The theatre’s statement says: “Hull Truck Theatre are passionate about the positive and transformative power of theatre and believe that having the opportunity to take part in creative activities is good for everyone’s wellbeing, outlook and self-esteem. 

“The team have prepared activities to help with home schooling; opportunities for all ages to learn and develop writing skills, and we’ll be streaming some of our past shows to be enjoyed from the comfort of your sofa. 

“Hull Truck Theatre hope that taking part in them will help participants to feel creative, connected and part of our online community hub.”  

Matthew Wilson and Nicola Stephenson in Jim Cartwright’s Two at Hull Truck Theatre

Here is a guide to the Hull Truck Theatre At Home programme:

 A Play A Day: Play-reading activity for all ages 

EVERY weekday from April 6 to 24 at 10am, a short play will be released, written by local playwrights. The plays were commissioned by Hull Truck for various projects over recent years; the theatre is delighted to share these with a wider audience now.  

Participants can read these plays on their own, out loud with the people in their household or with friends by phone or a video-conferencing platform. Each play will come with notes to help the reader, so, even if they have never read a play before, they can enjoy it as much as a theatre professional.  

First up will be Lydia Marchant’s 2009, written as part of a youth theatre project, Ten, and performed in March 2019 by 55 members of Hull Truck Theatre’s Young Company.

Ten celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Hull Truck moving to Ferensway and featured ten ten-minute plays, each based on a year in the decade 2009 to 2019.

The next four plays lined up were part of Ten too:  Ellen Brammar’s KidnappingNick; Lydia Marchant’s 2011; Josh Overton’s 2012 and Marchant’s 2013.

Writing Workout with Tom Saunders: Daily tasks for writers of all ages and abilities 

NEW writing is a core part of Hull Truck’s artistic programme, the theatre working with writers at any stage of their career and regularly staging or presenting world premieres, new adaptations and cutting-edge new writing from around the country.   

From April 6, associate director Tom Saunders will post a daily blog with a writing activity for people to complete at home. Writers of any age will be encouraged to complete the task, and, if they wish, can share footage of themselves reading their work on social media. 

“Even though our doors may be closed, we hope to continue inspiring people to enjoy the arts from their own home,” says Hull Truck Theatre artistic director Mark Babych

3 Minute Theatre

FOR those still needing their “fix of great theatre”, Hull Truck Theatre is asking some of its associate artists to record a short monologue from a play of their choice, to be shared across Hull Truck’s online channels.

Nicola Stephenson, from the cast of Jim Cartwright’s Two, Hull Truck’s 2020 co-production with Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, and writer-performer Hester Ullyart have shared their monologues already.

These can be found on the or the Hull Truck YouTube channel,  

Education Resource Packs

HULL Truck has made all its Education Resource Packs from past productions available for downloading online for use by teachers and home-schooling families.

For packs from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan and Two, go to:

These packs include plot synopsis, character breakdown, information about authors and classroom activities to inspire teachers or home-schooling families.  

Hester Ulyart in Paragon Dreams at Hull Truck Theatre in April 2019. Picture: Sam Taylor

Screening past productions

HULL Truck is digging through its archives and is excited to share recordings of favourite shows over the years. 

First up will be a screening of Paragon Dreams from 2019, written and performed by Hull artist Hester Ullyart, directed by artistic director Mark Babych.

This tense thriller about a woman returning to Hull to face the ghosts of her past will be streamed on YouTube on Wednesday, April 8 at 7pm.  Watch Hull Truck Theatre’s social media channels via @hulltruck for the viewing link.

To engage on social media with these activities, tag @hulltruck for all platforms and use the relevant hashtags: #PlayADay, #WritingDaily, #3MinuteTheatre, #HTTEducation and #HTTStream.

Launching Hull Truck Theatre At Home, Mark Babych says: “In this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to feel alone. As a theatre family we are stronger together, with Hull Truck Theatre At Home we are hoping to reach out to our local communities – while still complying with Social Distancing.

“Even though our doors may be closed, we hope to continue inspiring people to enjoy the arts from their own home while also connecting with each other. Whether people are hosting their own online viewing parties or using video calls to go through the exercises together, we hope to start a conversation and help us all feel a lot better in these times. Stay well, stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.” 

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY FOUR

Vasilisa the Wise, by Sarah K Jackson

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has had to be 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 will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home addresses will not be included at this time.

Sarah K Jackson: Love of Russian design

Sarah K Jackson, textiles

SARAH specialises in transforming aged fabrics and precious items into original “keepsake” artworks. For York Open Studios 2020, she assembled Headstrong, a series of new pieces inspired by old photographs of Russian women in national dress.

Why Russian women? Sarah has a special affinity for Russian design from studying the language and literature at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and she both lived and travelled there extensively during the 1990s.

After completing a City & Guilds’ qualification in creative techniques in 2013, she set up her vintage and handmade textile art business, Winifred Taylor, named after her grandmother, who taught her to sew.

Sarah presents workshops and is a member of York Art Workers’ Association and two textile and mixed media groups, exhibiting with them regularly. Find out more at

Kate Pettitt: Painting en plein air. Picture: Olivia Brabbs

Kate Pettitt, painting

KATE’S paintings and drawings on paper explore the natural environment and the human form and are often elemental, instinctive and textural.

She works from life and en plein air, then referencing her sketches, studies, notes and collected objects when back in the studio, where she uses oils, graphite, acrylic and watercolour.

Inspired by movement, emotion, shifting light and changing weather conditions, her work aims to capture the character and uniqueness of people and place.

Rain Over Littendale, by Kate Pettitt

Kate’s background and training is in graphic design and illustration, and she has worked as a designer for more than 20 years, running her design practice, Bivouac, for 12 years.

This year’s York Open Studios would have been Kate’s chance to introduce visitors to her new studio in Holtby. Instead, in the Coronavirus lockdown, she is now working from home. Take a look at her work at

Reg Walker: Yorkshire Sculpture Park played its part in his artistic development

Reg Walker, sculpture

REG crafts abstract sculptures, sometimes contemplative, sometimes playful, mostly in Corten steel, together with small pieces for the hand in bamboo and distinctive collages in natural materials.

He took up sculpture when inspired by volunteering at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, where he then took part in hot and cold metal courses.

Originally from Ireland, Reg settled in Yorkshire in 1988, working in social research and organisation development. He had a studio at Kildale on the North York Moors before moving last year to a studio in Holtby, where he would have been making his York Open Studios debut. Seek him out at

Connie Howarth, Constance Isobel jewellery maker

Constance Isobel, jewellery

CONNIE Howarth, of Constance Isobel, uses gold, silver and high-quality gemstones, sourced from ethical UK retailers, in her handmade jewellery. Traditional techniques are applied to create her exclusive precious metal work, also informed by her interest in ancient adornments and artefacts. 

Connie had formal, workshop-based training in traditional jewellery-making techniques. Earlier she studied fine art, which now seeps into her metalwork with use of colour drawing on her love of the natural world. Delicate pattern work and organic shapes decorate her jewellery throughout each collection. Her jewel of a website is at

Chris Utley, ceramics

CHRIS creates hand-built pots, carved, scraped and polished, then painted with slips and underglaze colours. The finished work is fired several times to achieve a strong depth of colour.

One of Chris Utley’s ceramics

She studied ceramics for three years in college and has been making pots in her stable workshop for many years. She has taught adults, been artist-in-residence in primary schools and run many workshops, as well as exhibiting widely in both Britain and Norway.

Look at for more details.

TOMORROW’S FIVE: Tim Pearce; Linda Harvey; John Watts; Wilf Williams and Jerry Scott.

Byrne and Nordberg’s Early Music Day concert at NCEM goes online on Saturday

Swedish lutenist Jonas Nordberg and Irish viol player Liam Byrne in concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, in 2019

LIAM Byrne and Jonas Nordberg’s 2019 concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, will be streamed online on Saturday at 1pm.

This follows the NCEM’s live stream of two Early Music Day 2020 concerts, performed behind closed doors at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, by harpsichordist Steven Devine, playing Bach Preludes and Fugues, and later by The Brabant Ensemble in an evening programme of A Monk’s Life: Music From The Cloisters, 1550-1620.

Those concerts drew more than 63,000 views from across the world. “Messages arrived from Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, from people in lockdown in Italy and others waking up to wonderful music in the United States,” says NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin.

Liam Byrne: viol player with the hipster look

This Saturday’s streaming will feature the 2019 Early Music Day concert by virtuoso Irish viol player Liam Byrne and Swedish lutenist Jonas Nordberg. “The delicious sonic combination of viol and lute from 17th century France made for an incredible evening last year and was also broadcast by BBC Radio 3,” says Delma.

“Now, music lovers can join us again for this fabulous feast by simply logging on to our Facebook page @yorkearlymusic.”

Described by the New York Times as “defying expectations with an obscure instrument and a hipster look”, Byrne is no stranger to the NCEM, where last year he collaborated with the Walmgate venue on the NCEM Young Composers Award 2019, working with the finalists and later performing their work at a concert in Bristol.

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

Byrne, professor of viola da gamba at the Guildhall School in London, is regarded by many as the leading viol player of his generation; lutenist and guitarist Nordberg has performed all over the world, with many recordings to his name.

“Last year’s concert at the NCEM was one of the highlights of York’s cultural calendar, with electrifying performances by both musicians,” says Delma.

“Now, in these strange times, we are discovering more and more how the power of music is bringing us together and lifting our spirits. We hope you can join us for this wonderful concert by these two extraordinary musicians. Our doors may be temporarily closed but we will continue to bring a selection of fabulous music over the coming weeks.”

Imitating The Dog shows go online for fortnightly streaming from tomorrow

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in the 2020 co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix. Picture: Edward Waring

INNOVATIVE Leeds theatre company Imitating The Dog are responding to the Coronavirus restrictions by going online with a fortnightly streaming.

Their cutting-edge work from the past 20 years will be made available through their website,, kicking off tomorrow (April 3) with projection project Oh, The Night!.

Every fortnight on Fridays for the foreseeable future, Imitating The Dog will release the next in a selection from their theatre performances and sited work.

Look out, in particular, for 2020’s Night Of The Living Dead – Remix, a shot-for-shot stage re-creation of George A Romero’s cult 1968 zombie movie, made in co-production with Leeds Playhouse, streaming on April 17.

Further performances will include Arrivals And Departures, a strange and fantastical bedtime story, commissioned in 2017 by Hull: UK City of Culture to look at the East Yorkshire port’s legacy of migration, on May 1, and 6 Degrees Below The Horizon, a macabre and playful tale involving sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers, on May 15. Projection project Yorkshire Electric, on May 29, uses clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Further productions will be announced through social media in the coming weeks. Each will remain on the website and can be viewed on a Pay-What-You-Like basis.

Imitating The Dog’s Yorkshire Electric at the Spa Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

The resulting income will go into a development fund to facilitate the company supporting freelance artists and practitioners to create new work.

Co-artistic director Simon Wainwright says: “With the end of our own Night Of The Living DeadRemix tour being cancelled and so, so many events and performances now postponed, we thought we’d make some of our past shows available for people to watch online.

“We’re in a lucky position to have some fantastic recordings of past work, mostly filmed by our friends Shot By Sodium. It’s obviously no substitute for the real thing but in these isolated days, and until we can get together in a room again, we hope these videos will provide joy, thinking and entertainment in equal measure.” 

Fusing live performance with digital technology, Imitating The Dog’s two decades of ground-breaking work for theatres and other spaces has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people at venues, outdoor festivals and events across the world.

Among other past productions are Hotel Methuselah, A Farewell To Arms and Heart Of Darkness, while their sited work has included light festivals.

For more information and to watch productions from April 3, go to

6 Degrees Below The Horizon: Imitating The Dog’s macabre and playful tale of sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers

 Here are the upcoming productions:

Friday, April 3: Oh, The Night!

ONE wintry night, a bedtime story is being told, but it’s late, time for the light to go off, time for the story to pause until tomorrow night.

However, one child starts to wonder… one child at first, but then another… and another. It might be bedtime and it might be late but without the end to the story how can they possibly sleep?

What’s happened to the characters? Where have they gone? Are they just stranded there, waiting for earth to turn its circle, so their story can carry on the next night?

The children decide to find out. They creep past the grown-ups, out of the house and to who knows where to find out what happens and how their story ends.

They find bears and foxes, monsters and ghouls, elves and wizards all stranded in the night, hiding or hunting, not knowing who to scare or where to run. All stuck in a place between.

Together, they go on a journey through the night, to the morning and to the safety of the light.

Performed in Hull, Oh, The Night! combined elements of bedtime stories gathered from around the north of Europe to create a new fable for 2018. The work was commissioned by Absolutely Cultured for Urban Legends: Northern Lights and featured a community chorus and soundtrack from Finnish composer Lau Nau.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix: Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse match George A Romero’s film shot for shot

Friday, April 17: Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

IN 1968, Night Of the Living Dead started out as a low-budget independent horror movie by George A Romero, 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 and undertake the seemingly impossible?

Requiring 1,076 edits in 95 minutes, it is an heroic struggle. Success will demand wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix is an Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production, presented by courtesy of Image Ten, Inc.

Friday, May 1: Arrivals And Departures

IMITATING The Dog’s work for Hull: UK City of Culture 2017 put a poetic spin on the history of arrivals in and departures from the city. The piece looked at the past of migration from a contemporary perspective, exploring the journeys that have gathered a population and moulded a landscape.

Using The Deep, in Hull, as both canvas and building blocks, Arrivals And Departures pulled together strands of the complex and universal issues of migration as a wider subject matter.

The work was created as part of the Made In Hull opening celebrations for Hull: UK City of Culture.

Imitating The Dog’s Arrivals And Departures for the Made In Hull opening to Hull: UK City of Culture at The Deep, Hull, in 2017

Friday, May 15: 6 Degrees Below The Horizon

THIS macabre and playful tale of sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers is a startling and visually stunning work, where the audience views the action through windows and moving frames. In doing so, they piece together a modern fable of failed dreams, lost love and the guilt of absent fatherhood.

Building on the successes of Hotel Methuselah and Kellerman, in 2012 the company created an immersive experience for audiences with a captivating fusion of cinema and theatre.

Part French film, part Edwardian vaudeville, and drawing on the works of Genet, Wedekind, and Brecht,6 Degrees Below The Horizon undertakes a delightful and twisted voyage into a shadowy world wherein there are no certainties.

Friday, May 29: Yorkshire Electric

YORKSHIRE Electric travels from the dales to the coast on board the footage of the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Using video mapping, intricate lighting and a soundtrack from the Leeds band Hope & Social, the show transformed the Spa Theatre, Scarborough, offering the audience the opportunity to wander through 100 years of Yorkshire lives and landscapes, from the farming hills to the holiday beaches and back again.

Bringing together Imitating The Dog and architectural lighting specialist Phil Supple, the piece offered the opportunity to enjoy rarely seen footage of a century of Yorkshire life in your own time.

Twinnie turns into the North Country Girl as York singer travels the road to Nashville

Twinnie: the northerner takes the road to the American South

YORK country singer-songwriter Twinnie will go ahead with the April 17 launch of her debut album, Hollywood Gypsy, even amid the Coronavirus lockdown.

After all, it took the West End musical leading light, model, Hollyoaks soap star and film actress ten years to land a record contract with big hitters BMG.

“I feel very excited and it’s come around really quickly since I released my first EP [Better When I’m Drunk] last March,” says Twinnie, 32, who first took to the York stage as Twinnie-Lee Moore at the age of four.

“Given the current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s a weird time, but I’m a new artist, I’ve waited so long to make an album, and right now, more than ever, I feel I need music, we need music.

“It would be easy to panic, but I’ve found I’ve connected more than ever with my fans on Instagram Live.”

Making country inroads: the artwork for Twinnie’s debut album, Hollywood Gypsy

Twinnie was to have played a sold-out home-city gig at The Crescent on March 22 to showcase Hollywood Gypsy, but the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to her debut headline tour, now re-arranged for the autumn. Glasgow, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol await, before a Crescent crescendo on November 29, with tickets remaining valid.

Twinnie did perform, however, at the prestigious Country2Country (C2C) Festival in Berlin on March 7 and 8, and coming next was a C2C show at the O2 Arena, London, on March 14. “That would have been a really big deal for me, being able to promote my album and tour, so it’s a real downer, but I’m just really grateful that there’s still light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s good that we’ve managed to re-schedule the tour,” she says.

As chance would have it, the C2C cancellation led to a prompt invitation to fill the void in Twinnie’s diary with a live set on BBC Radio 2’s The Country Show with Bob Harris on March 12. “Bob has been a really big supporter of mine,” she says. “He was the first DJ to support me on the radio, even before I had a recording contract. I just sent him a track and he played it!”

Bob Harris: supportive host of BBC Radio 2’s The Country Show

Twinnie first trod the boards in York when attending the late Miss Isobel Dunn’s dance school, started playing a keyboard at seven and then performed in the Grand Opera House pantomime dance ensemble. She progressed from roles as Bet in Oliver! in 2001 and Lilly in Annie in 2002 in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project to playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz in 2003.

“I was 16 and I thought I might have been too tall for Dorothy but the director, Simon Barry, said I was the right choice,” she recalls.

A month later, the former Joseph Rowntree School pupil was leaving behind her Haxby Road home for three years of dance and musical theatre studies at Phil Winston’s Theatre Works in Blackpool.

West End roles ensued in We Will Rock You and the short-lived Desperately Seeking Susan, and in April 2009,  now 21, she returned home to the Grand Opera House as 1920s’ Chicago double murderess and aloof nightclub singer Velma Kelly in the national tour of Chicago.

Twinnie-Lee Moore in her role as double murderess Velma Kelly in Chicago, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, in April 2009

Her face greeted the London Underground throng on Chicago’s trademark black-and-white posters too and she had a year as the Latino character Jazmin in Flashdance in the original London cast at the Shaftsbury Theatre from autumn 2010.

Twinnie sang Miley Cyrus’s The Climb when competing on BBC One talent show The Voice in March 2012, failing to hit the heights alas with an early exit. After film roles in Iron Clad 2 and Strangelove in 2014, she made her soap debut as racy Porsche McQueen in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks in November that year, playing her for a year.

A further screen role followed in The Wife, the Oscar-nominated Glenn Close film, but all the while, Twinnie was drawn to making music. “To be honest, music was probably the first thing I started out wanting to do, which people don’t know about. But people pay their dues to pay their mortgage,” she says.

“Even when I was doing We Will Rock You at 19 with Brian May, performing eight shows a week, I was playing country songs in dive bars too at the weekend.”

Twinnie-Lee Moore in her soap-opera days as Porsche McQueen in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks

Now dividing her time between London and Nashville, Twinnie is living out that wish to put her song-writing to the fore. “I’ve been on stage since I was four years old, and my dad introduced me to the music of some of the best songwriters. Like my first gig was Gilbert O’Sullivan,” she says.

“And I always loved musicals too. I grew up watching Hollywood movie musicals, especially Judy Garland, which is one of the reasons I’ve called the album Hollywood Gypsy.”

Determination to succeed marked out Twinnie from a young age. “Even at eight, I wrote down the addresses of the Sony Music and Universal record company labels. Then one of my poems got published at school. I always wanted to tell stories,” she says.

“I got told you have to do everything for what you do to work. You can’t just stand there and sing. I always want people to feel entertained when I do a show.

“Coming from the North, I’m always looking to make a real connection,” says Twinnie. “That’s why I write so honestly, talking about all my faults”. Picture: Alex Berger

“I don’t think there are many ‘triple threat’ performers like me, so I want to tell the story, not just in the song, but in the performance too.”

Country music might not have been an obvious outlet for a York singer and songwriter, but Twinnie says: “For me, country music was always big. Johnny Cash; Dolly Parton, one of the great songwriters; Shania Twain and now Taylor Swift,” she says.”

Twinnie has been travelling to Nashville, Tennessee, for the past six or seven years, leading to her co-writing in the capital of country with Grammy Award-winning writers Nathan Chapman, Liz Rose and Dave Barns.

“I also wrote with Ben Earle, before he formed The Shires with Crissie Rhodes, and two of my songs with him, Black And White and First Flight Out, ended up on their first album, Brave,” she says.

Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle of The Shires. Twinnie co-wrote two songs on their debut album with Earle

Now, after winning Best Breakthrough Act at the 2019 British Country Music Association awards and a support slot on Kiefer Sutherland’s tour, everything comes to fruition for Twinnie on Hollywood Gypsy.

This is a thoroughly modern country album, made with the likes of Little Mix, One Direction and Britney Spears producer Peter Hammerton, and recorded in Nashville, London and Sweden,with such song titles as Better When I’m Drunk, Type Of Girl, Whiplash, Lie To Me and I Love You Now Change.

“Every genre changes and country music is now so diverse, but everyone appreciates a good melody, strong lyrics, and that’s why people really respect country music,” says Twinnie, who loves the candour of country songs.

“Coming from the North, I’m always looking to make a real connection. That’s why I write so honestly, talking about all my faults,” she says.

“When you feel you’re getting out of your depth, that’s when the magic happens,” says Twinnie . Picture: Maximilian Hetherington

“I have no shame in highlighting my flaws and being vulnerable: there’s a strength in vulnerability when we can all connect with it. Each song shows a different side of my personality: I either want to break someone’s heart or make them dance.”

Returning to the album title, Twinnie says: “It pretty much sums me up. As well as my love of Hollywood musicals, I’m a traveller by nature and by heritage, so I’m  quite free. Hollywood Gypsy is about me, my life, my artistry.

“I’m representing my dad’s heritage, my mum’s heritage, and I’m very proud of that heritage. It’s who I am and why I’m free spirited.

“All of it, whether I’m acting, dancing, modelling or singing, I’m just not afraid to push my boundaries because, when you feel you’re getting out of your depth, that’s when the magic happens.”

Recording in Nashville, London and Sweden adds to Twinnie being a Hollywood Gypsy, she suggests. “I feel I’m a bit of a musical gypsy, taking from different genres, growing up listening to Tupac, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Joel, Shania Twain,” she says. “Obviously Queen too: I’m always so grateful to Brian May for when I did We Will Rock You.”

Dave Stewart: co-writing with Twinnie via the medium of FaceTime

In the Coronavirus lockdown, Twinnie has set herself a three-week challenge that began a week ago to listen to an album a day and then pick her favourite song from each one to learn how to play it. “I never have time to do things like this, so I’m using this time to grow and get inspired,” she says. “I’m also trying to learn Spanish.”

Along with many musicians, she is “trying to find new ways to do things at the moment”. Such as? “I’ve written a song on FaceTime with Dave Stewart, from the Eurythmics,” Twinnie reveals. “I’d never met him before, but he’s from Sunderland, I’m from York, so we had that banter of being northerners together!”

Still in the diary for July 11 is Twinnie’s appearance at Pocklington Arts Centre’s Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington (an event subject to further Coronavirus updates), but what’s coming next for Twinnie? “I was meant to be going to America to make an EP in Nashville, and that recording will still happen, but I may now have to find a way of doing it remotely,” she says.

Looking further ahead, she says: “Hollywood Gypsy is the first chapter. Next year will be the next half of the story. So it’ll be like a double album.”

Twinnie’s new video for I Love You Now Change

Did you know?

IN Twinnie’s new video for I Love You Now Change, she is seen signing divorce papers.

“I put my ex’s name on the papers when we shot the video for a laugh, but some people actually thought it was real,” she says. “Just to clarify, I have never been married and Boris killed off the socialising and dating scene, so looks like I won’t be in a white dress anytime soon.”

The husband in the video is played by Gustav Wood. Watch it at

How did The Press reviewer judge 16-year-old Twinnie-Lee Moore’s lead performance as Dorothy in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project’s The Wizard Of Oz in York in August 2003?

“Twinnie-Lee displays supremely confident skills in stage movement; her Kansas accent is spot-on too, and once her voice fully warms up after Over The Rainbow, she sings with expression, albeit in the modern pop style that might better suit The Wiz.”

Copyright of The Press, York

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY THREE

Insect art by Anna Vialle

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has had to be 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 ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles.

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 will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Addresses will not be included at this time.

Dee Thwaite: painting with hands, not brushes

Dee Thwaite, painting

YORK Open Studios newcomer Dee uses acrylic paint, inks, graphite and charcoal in her sea and landscape paintings and drawings, marked by expressive skies, storms and the changing seasons.

Mainly self-taught, this contemporary abstract artist expresses her love of the North Yorkshire coastline on canvas, board and paper in works that combine both a physical and emotional response when she paints, predominantly with her hands, as opposed to brushes. Contact Dee via

Anna Vialle at work with a pen

Anna Vialle, drawing

INSPIRED by the style and colours of both Japanese woodblock and Victorian prints, Anna limits herself to drawing insects, birds, landscapes, anatomy and trees.

Anna had trained in art education in 1997. Twenty-two years later, when trying
to relax after working difficult shifts as a mental-health nurse, she started a pen and watercolour illustration of 24 individually drawn moths.

Exploring the connection between repetition and focus, she began using dots to create her artwork, whereupon a stress-free style of art emerged. Cue a “more relaxed” mental-health nurse! Visit for more info.

Rosie Bramley surrounded by her art

Rosie Bramley, painting

ROSIE’S colourful paintings explore her devotion and connection to the land and sea.  Gestural marks dance around the surface of each painting as she creates abstract works inspired by nature.

Rosie studied fine art painting and printmaking, graduating from Bretton Hall College, University of Leeds, in 1996.  Now head of art at Driffield Secondary School and Sixth Form in East Yorkshire, where she teaches both fine art and photography, she has exhibited regularly in York, latterly at Fossgate Social, City Screen and Angel on the Green.

Her first Open Studios show since 2011 would have featured new works inspired by the landscape. Her website,, divides her work into Abstracts, The Cruel Sea and Mountains.

A nude by Tabitha Grove

Tabitha Grove, painting

SELECTED for York Open Studios for the first time, Tabitha uses bold colour, contrast, ink, watercolour, gold leaf and collage on handmade paper to explore perceptions of the body and how they can be challenged and celebrated. 

Her career as an actor and costume designer for film and theatre has informed Tabitha’s passion for storytelling and her fascination with the way our bodies interact with our environments.

Tabitha Grove: actor, costume designer, piano restorer….and artist

Tabitha’s career portfolio career extends to having co-managed Look Gallery, in Helmsley, and now working in piano restoration, where she learns rare skills that influence her art.

Each experience has informed Tabitha’s style, she says, leading to her “bringing diverse technique to a new perspective”. Find her work via

Peter Heaton: “images that need careful time and observation”

Peter Heaton, photography

PETER specialises in black and white limited-edition photographic prints of woodlands and dark landscapes: images that need careful time and observation as the space they inhabit is full of visual surprises, he says.

Before the camera lens and digital imaging took precedence, Peter studied fine art at Nottingham Trent University and later gained an MA in fine art from Leeds Metropolitan University.

A dark woodland, by Peter Heaton

Over the past few years, Peter’s work has revolved around the complexities of layering visual information and our interpretations of the resulting images. In 2010, he set up Vale of York Darkrooms, where he teaches courses in both traditional chemical-based black-and-white photography and digital imaging. Take a look at his photographs at

Tomorrow: Sarah K Jackson; Kate Pettitt; Reg Walker; Constance Isobel and Chris Utley.

Everyone is welcome at Velma Celli’s Drag Party as York cabaret queen streams show

Velma Celli: drag queen supreme on stream

YORK drag queen supreme Velma Cella is to appear in thousands of living rooms across the country – and around the world – in an uplifting live concert, streamed tomorrow evening.

Velma’s Drag Party will be on screen at 6.30pm as part of the Leave A Light On concert series promoted by Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café, St Martin’s Lane, London, to provide financial support for the performers involved and entertainment for people in self-isolation.

“This is a tough time for many people, particularly those who regularly attend live concerts, shows and gigs who are missing the unedited nature of live performance,” says Ian Stroughair, the West End actor and singer behind Velma Celli’s spectacular make-up and even more spectacular singing.

“I’m incredibly proud to be taking part,” says Ian Stroughair, alias Velma Celli

“So, it’s fantastic that Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café have produced such a superb series of concerts that can be watched live at home from some of the finest West End performers. I’m incredibly proud to be taking part.”

Velma Celli’s monthly show at The Basement, City Screen, York, is in abeyance during the Coronavirus lock-down, but devotees and first-timers alike tuning in tomorrow evening can expect “some belted classics and plenty of laughs along the way as we leave reality behind for an hour of camp fun”.

Leave The Light On pays homage to the theatre tradition of leaving a single light burning on the stage of an empty theatre,  supposedly to appease the ghosts who reside there.

Tickets for the live stream cost £7.50 and can be bought up to an hour before the broadcast.  Viewers will be sent a link via email that enables them to watch the performance live.  To buy, go to

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY TWO

Earthbound, by Sally Clarke

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has had to be 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 ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles.

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.

Helen Whitehead at work in her studio

Helen Whitehead, glass

HELEN’S glass jewellery and sculpture is inspired by her deep connection with wild plants, herbs, the moon and the planets. In her intuitive work, glass is layered with precious metals, paint and images, then fired to produce colourful abstract compositions.

Helen loves experimenting with alchemic reactions in her glass kiln and layering different mediums within small pieces. “My pieces are little worlds, reflecting the inner and outer world,” she says.

As well as working in her York studio, Helen provides fun and friendly fused-glass workshops in the community. Follow her at

Printmaker Sally Clarke

Sally Clarke, printmaking

SALLY specialises in collagraph printmaking, using the human figure and composition to express atmospheric imagery.

Sally studied for a Fine Arts degree at Gloucestershire College of Arts as a mature student. She worked in various media before discovering printmaking more than 20 years ago, finding herself attracted particularly to its limitless opportunities for experimentation.

Sally is a founder member of York Printmakers, has exhibited in many Yorkshire venues and is a regular exhibitor in York Open Studios. Contact her via

Adrienne French: interpreting colour and texture in her landscape paintings

Adrienne French, painting

IN her evocative paintings, collographs and monoprints, Adrienne interprets colour and texture of both local and foreign landscapes.

She pursued her love of art by completing an art and design degree at Leeds University in 2000 while continuing her work as a nurse. Until 2015, she was artist in residence at a hospice, alongside continuing to develop her own artwork, a process that is ongoing.

She has shown her work in northern galleries and takes part regularly in many annual arts events in Yorkshire. All roads lead to Adrienne at

Caroline Lord: recycling pottery, wood and metal in mosaics and sculptures

Caroline Lord, mixed media

CAROLINE combines found items of pottery, wood and metal, recycling them into mosaics and quirky ceramic sculptures. 

She studied stained glass and tapestry weaving in the 1960s at Edinburgh College of Art, where she was awarded a scholarship for a further year’s study, specialising in tapestry weaving.

One of Caroline Lord’s quirky sculptures

Ten years ago, after completing a mosaics workshop led by Emma Biggs, Caroline changed artistic direction, starting to work with re-cycled ceramics. 

She has exhibited in York Open Studios, at the Zillah Bell Gallery, Thirsk, with the York Art Workers Association and in the Great North Art Show. Contact her at 

Peter Park: textile designer turned painter

Peter Park, painting

PETER would have been making his York Open Studios debut with his expressive and gestural abstract paintings of the Yorkshire landscape and coast in acrylic paint on canvas.

After a foundation course at York School of Art, he studied printed textile design in Manchester (BA) and Birmingham (MA), then worked as a textile designer and lecturer in design in Manchester.

One of Peter Park’s abstract paintings of a Yorkshire landscape

Returning to York in 2013, he began painting, predominantly landscapes that he has exhibited at fellow York Open Studios exhibitor Kay Dower’s Corner Gallery and with Little Van Gogh in London. Seek him out via

Tomorrow: Dee Thwaite; Anna Vialle; Rosie Bramley; Tabitha Grove and Peter Heaton.

Squid’s in as Scarborough Museums Trust’s magic lantern slides prove popular online

Washed up: a giant squad on Scarborough’s North Bay beach on January 14 1933, pictured in a magic lantern slide. Picture: Scarborough Museums Trust

HISTORIC magic lantern slides from the Scarborough Collections are an online hit in these dark days. 

As part of Scarborough Museums Trust’s response to the Coronavirus shutdown,  collections manager Jim Middleton is posting regular images from the stock of slides and glass-plate negatives on Twitter, using the hashtag #lockdownlanternslides.

The North Bay Pier, after the storm damage in 1905

The response has been “remarkable”, he says: “We’re getting comments and queries from other museums, historians and the public nationwide. This includes an interaction the other day with the Natural History Museum in London, who contacted us during a series of posts themed around cephalopods, the family of marine animals that includes octopus and squid.”

Middleton had posted an image of a 5.3m-long giant squid that had been washed up on the North Bay beach on January 14 1933, pictured surrounded by curious Scarborough locals.

Pier-less: The North Bay Pier destroyed by the 1905 storm

“We’d always known that they had the beak of the squid, but they got in touch to say they had the whole animal preserved in their archive,” says Middleton. “We’ll be hoping to get a better look at it when we can.”

Among other themes being explored are historic local buildings, some of them no longer in existence, such as the North Bay pleasure pier, destroyed in a storm in 1905, and vintage seaside scenes of children rock pooling and bathing-beauty contests.

The North Bay Pier, pictured from the other side, in one of the magic lantern slides

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

The Scarborough Collections – the name given to all the museum objects owned by the Borough of Scarborough – contains more than 7,000 slides and glass plates, in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust.

Storm damage: the collapsed North Bay Pier in Scarborough in 1905

The images posted daily by Middleton can be seen by following @SMT_Collections on Twitter. To view existing posts, search #lockdownlanternslides.

The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough Art Gallery and Woodend, all run by Scarborugh Museums Trust, are closed until further notice.

The Shires move York Barbican gig to autumn as Good Years album hits top three

The Shires’ Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle

COUNTRY duo The Shires are moving their 25-date 2020 tour to the autumn, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have switched their York Barbican show from May 20 to November 1, when they will be joined by Texan country singer and songwriter Eric Paslay.

Tickets remain valid for the revised date – The Shires’ only Yorkshire gig on the itinerary – but those seeking a refund should contact their point of purchase.

The first Brits to win Best International Act in the American Country Music Association awards, Earle and Rhodes released their fourth album, Good Years, in this anything but good year on March 13, reaching number three in the charts.

As with their past albums, 2015’s Brave, 2016’s My Universe and 2018’s Accidentally On Purpose, the recording sessions took place in Nashville, Tennessee.

The album artwork for The Shires’ new album

“We are so excited to be releasing Good Years,” say Earle and Rhodes. “Honesty and storytelling have always been such an important part of our song-writing. We’ve poured some of the incredible experiences and life we’ve lived into these songs.

“We can’t wait to play these live across the country. The songs mean so much to us personally, but there really is nothing like looking out at our fans in the crowd and seeing how much of an impact they can have in someone else’s life. It’s truly a very special thing”.

The Shires last played York Barbican in May 2018 and performed a headline set at Pocklington’s Platform Festival at The Old Station last summer.

Only a smattering of seats remains on sale for their Barbican return on 0203 356 5441 or at

All quiet in the library but Explore York encourages Libraries from Home online opportunities. Here’s what you can do…

York Explore Library and Archive, the York hub of Explore York in Museum Street, York

THIS is the time to explore Explore York online, providing the Libraries from Home service during the Coronavirus lockdown.

“If you are confused or overwhelmed by the huge amount of information on offer, Explore can help,” says executive assistant Gillian Holmes, encouraging visits to the website,, “where it is simple to find what you need”.

This encouragement comes after all Explore York library buildings, reading cafes and the City Archives were closed to the public from 12 noon on March 21, in response to Government strictures.

“We are making it easy for people to find information and advice, as well as inspiration, as we all deal with the Coronavirus crisis.”

The Explore website has assorted useful links to help people cope during the coming weeks. “Some sites have always been part of our online offer and some are brand new,” says Gillian.

“We are also working with City of York Council and our many partners in York, so that our communities can join together and we continue to support their initiatives, just as we will when our buildings open again. 

“Organisations across the country are developing their online services in this challenging time. We are using our expertise to gather together the best offers and add them to the lists of sites we recommend.” 

Explore York will be developing online activities of its own, such as a Virtual Book Group. “We will be updating the website regularly as these new things come on stream and sharing on social media using #LibrariesFromHome,” says Gillian.

The York Explore building: Quiet in the library but still seeking to be busy online

What’s available online from Explore York:

Updates on how Explore is responding during the pandemic and updates about what’s new at 

Information and support during the Coronavirus crisis from official sources at 

5000 Ebooks and audio books for adults and children free to borrow from the online library at 

The chance to visit the new York Images site to explore the history of the city through photographs, illustrations, maps and archival documents at 

The opportunity to start your family tree using Ancestry and Find My Past. The library editions are both free to use from home at

Reliable information about everything can be found on the Online Reference pages at 

“Everything is free to access,” says Gillian. “All you need is a library card. You can get a card online and start using it immediately at” 

No York Open Studios in April, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY ONE

Dapper Fox, by York Open Studios 2020 debutante Joanna Lisowiec

YORK Open Studios 2020, the chance to meet 144 artists at 100 locations over two April weekends, has had to be 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 ceramic, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textile 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.

One of Quercki Design’s cork fabric designs

Quercki Design, mixed media

MARGARET Bradley, who would have been a new participant in York Open Studios, specialises in eco-friendly and carbon-neutral cork fabric designs, drawn on a computer, cut on a laser, backed with colours, glued and sewn to make pictures, notebooks and sketchbooks.

A language degree first took Margaret to Lisbon as a university assistant where she acquired a deep affection for Portugal.  This was followed by 30 years of work in educational aid to developing countries, where different cultures, art and music were a constant source of interest and delight. 

On retirement, a return visit to Portugal brought her into contact with cork fabric, a perfect material for making things inspired by her travels, she says.

More details can be found at, although Quercki Design is taking a short break, with the artist in self-isolation.

Wood carver Dave Atkin

Dave Atkin, wood

USING traditional techniques, Dave carves locally sourced green wood. Influenced by the natural world, folklore and history, he experiments with form and design to create functional and individual pieces.

A professional model maker by trade, he took up wood carving as a hobby, now making spoons, kuksas and bowls, often inspired by the Green Man myth.

He now offers spoon carving courses and demonstrates at events and fairs. For more details, go to

Taking shape: Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg making one of her earthenware pieces

Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, ceramics

CATHERINE has been working as a potter for 16 years, both throwing and hand-building, creating colourful slipware pottery to be used and enjoyed, as well as raku and smoke-fired clay animals, ranging from foxes and pigs to horses and unicorns. Her work often reflects her wry humour.

Go, figure! Seaside Belle, by Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg

She is a potter, teacher and community artist who set up her own pottery workshop at her home near York after graduating from Sunderland University with a BA (Hons) in ceramics.

Catherine’s work can be found in a number of galleries, complementing her regular exhibitions, and wedding or special occasion pieces can be commissioned.  More details at

Mo Burrows at work in her studio

Mo Burrows, jewellery

MO’S contemporary jewellery embraces the elaborate and the colourful, the dainty and the quiet, in her necklaces, earrings and brooches.

Predominately favouring copper, braiding and beadwork, she draws inspiration from the colour, form and texture of the materials she uses.  Frustrated by an inability to draw, she produces designs straight from a head full of ideas. Find Mo at

Falling in love with quaint English countryside: Polish-born printmaker and illustrator Joanna Lisowiec

Joanna Lisowiec, printmaking

NEW to York Open Studios this year, Joanna’s prints and illustrations look to nature and folklore for inspiration, as she focuses on birds and animals in her bold, clean and distinctive work.

Originally from Poland and brought up in the United States and Switzerland, she first came to Britain to study illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, falling in love with the wild Highlands and later with the “quaint English countryside” when she moved to Yorkshire for her MA in advertising and design from the University of Leeds.

“I would love to illustrate a classic novel one day,” she says at, where you can find free printable worksheets to “keep your children or indeed yourself entertained during the Coronavirus pandemic”.

Tomorrow: Helen Whitehead; Sally Clarke; Adrienne French; Caroline Lord and Peter Park.

Curse of Macbeth strikes again as York Shakespeare Project postpones show

Hand-washing for our times: Amanda Dales as Lady Macbeth in York Shakespeare Project’s now postponed Macbeth. Picture: Amanda Dales

YORK Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth should have opened this evening, but the curse of “the Scottish play” has struck again.

Although Macbeth is play number 29 in Shakespeare’s chronology of 38 plays, YSP had held back the Bard’s tragedy big hitter until production number 36 of 37 as part of a grand finale to the 20-year project in 2020, with The Tempest as the final curtain this autumn.

Now, however, theatre’s harbinger of bad luck and its Weird Sisters have delivered double, double toil and trouble to YSP, whose March 30 to April 4 run at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, is mothballed until further notice under the Coronavirus shutdown.

Amanda Dales, left, as Lady Macbeth, and Emma Scott, as Macbeth, in rehearsal for York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders

“We were six rehearsals short of the finishing line,” says YSP’s Tony Froud, who was to have played Ross in Shakespeare’s dark tale of ambition, murder and supernatural forces. 

“The ideal solution would be to pick it up again with the same company of actors later in the year, but there could yet be complications.”

Come what may, Tony envisages the project still finishing with The Tempest, originally planned for this October, rather than Macbeth going on hold to form the closing chapter.

Emma Scott as Macbeth in Leo Doulton’s futuristic cyberpunk production of Macbeth. Picture: Amanda Dales

“I would be very surprised if we didn’t want to retain The Tempest as the finale. It being Shakespeare’s final play [that he wrote alone], it is entirely appropriate to round things off with The Tempest, inviting as many people as possible who have been involved over the 20 years to join us for the celebrations.”

The final production is likely to be accompanied by an exhibition charting YSP from 2001 formation to 2021 conclusion. “The York Explore library is expressing an interest in presenting it, ideally to coincide with The Tempest’s run.”

Where The Tempest may be staged is yet to be decided after the initial plan to work in tandem with York Theatre Royal this autumn fell by the wayside. “It’s now the case that we’re looking into the possibility of doing a touring production as our final show, culminating in a York run,” says Tony.

“We were six rehearsals short of the finishing line,” says Tony Froud, who was to have played Ross in this week’s run of York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth

Should Macbeth have gone ahead tonight, Leo Doulton’s production would have been set in a dystopian “cyberpunk” future and performed in a promenade style, with the action taking place on the move, around the audience, led by Emma Scott’s Macbeth. Two performances on Wednesday would expressly have been for schools’ audiences studying the play.

“Macbeth is a magnificent tragedy about the earthly struggle between the forces of order and chaos, and how the world becomes corrupted by Macbeth’s strange bargains,” says Doulton, who made his YSP directorial debut at the helm of last October’s stripped-back Antony And Cleopatra.

“Cyberpunk is an exciting genre for exploring, highlighting, and visualising those ideas for a modern audience. We no longer fear witches, but we are still scared of our society being shaped by powers with no concern for those below them.”

Leo Doulton: director of York Shakespeare Project’s production of Macbeth. Picture: Amanda Dales

Whenever we more than three shall meet again, let us look forward to Doulton’s show “capturing all the original’s epic drama in its poetry and production” with Emma Scott in the title role. In the meantime, now is the time to follow Lady Macbeth’s latter-day practice: constant hand washing, over and over again.

York Shakespeare Project’s cast for Macbeth

Macbeth: Emma Scott

Lady Macbeth: Amanda Dales

Banquo, Siward: Clive Lyons

Fleance, Donalbain, Son, Young Siward: Rhiannon Griffiths

Macduff: Harry Summers

Duncan, Lady Macduff, Menteith: Jim Paterson

Malcolm: Eleanor Frampton

Lennox: Nick Jones

Ross: Tony Froud

Angus: Sarah-Jane Strong

First Witch, First Murderer, Doctor: Joy Warner

Second Witch, Second Murderer, Gentlewoman: Alexandra Logan

Third Witch, Third Murderer, Caithness, Seyton: Chloe Payne.

The York Shakespeare Project cast in rehearsal for Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders


Director: Leo Doulton

Set designer: Charley Ipsen

Lighting designer: Neil Wood

Costume designer: Scarlett Wood

Sound designer: Jim Paterson.

Did you know?

WILLIAM Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is said to be cursed, so actors avoid saying its name when in the theatre. The euphemism “the Scottish Play” is used instead.

Should an actor utter the name “Macbeth” in a theatre before a performance, however, they are required to perform a ritual to remove the curse.

When the Grand Opera House reopened after a £4 million refurbishment on September 26 1989, the York theatre tempted fate by presenting Macbeth (in a Balinese version) as the first show, 33 years since the last professional stage performance there. Only two years later, the theatre closed again, staff arriving to find the doors locked.

No Horizon looks for a new horizon after tour postponed in Coronavirus shutdown

Adam Martyn: partially sighted actor playing the blind scientist Nicholas Saunderson in No Horizon, pictured in rehearsal

RIGHT Hand Theatre’s No Horizon, a musical celebrating a blind Yorkshire science and maths genius, is no longer on the horizon at York Theatre Royal. Exit stage left the April 9 and 11 performances under the Coronavirus shutdown.

However, the No Horizon team say: “Sadly, though we will be pausing our adventure for now, our No Horizon journey is far from over. When we are back – and we truly mean when, not if – we will be bigger and better than ever.

“This has been an amazing rehearsal process and although this [situation] is a hurdle, we will overcome this. Here’s to the future of the show and we are sure that the best is yet to come.”

No Horizon’s 2020 tour was to have opened at The Civic, Barnsley, on March 20. Now, the progress towards a new horizon can be followed at and on social media.

The musical tells the life story of Nicholas Saunderson, a blind scientist and mathematician from Thurlstone, West Riding, who overcame impossible odds to become a Cambridge professor and friend of royalty.

Often described as an 18th century Stephen Hawking, Saunderson was born on January 20 1682, losing his sight through smallpox when around a year old. This did not prevent him, however, from acquiring a knowledge of Latin and Greek and studying mathematics.

As a child, he learnt to read by tracing the engravings on tombstones around St John the Baptist Church in Penistone, near Barnsley, with his fingers.

No Horizon premiered at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, going on to draw an enthusiastic response from BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans, who called it a “Yorkshire Les Mis”.

Next month’s York Theatre Royal shows would have been part of a now stalled northern tour of a 2020 adaptation “with a fresh look” by Right Hand Theatre, a company passionate about diversity and inclusivity within theatre.

Consequently, the 2020 cast has a 50/50 male/female balance, with the credo of delivering the show in a gender-blind way with a female Isaac Newton, for example. Both the director and lead actor are visually impaired.

Leading the company in rehearsals, in the role of Saunderson, has been the partially sighted Adam Martyn, from Doncaster, who trained at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA).

Alongside him have been Yorkshire born-and-bred, Rose Bruford College-trained Larissa Teale in the female lead role of Abigail; Tom Vercnocke as Joshua Dunn; Louise Willoughby as Anne Saunderson; Matthew Bugg as John Saunderson; Ruarí Kelsey as Reverend Fox; Katie Donoghue and Olivia Smith as Company.

In the production team are director Andrew Loretto; vocal coach Sally Egan; movement directors Lucy Cullingford and Maria Clarke; costume designer Lydia Denno; costume maker Sophie Roberts; lighting designer David Phillips and tour musical director David Osmond.

No Horizon’s 2020 northern tour has been co-commissioned by Cast, Doncaster and The Civic, Barnsley and supported by Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, with funding from Arts Council England and Foyle Foundation.

York Theatre Royal box office will contact ticket holders for refunds.

Remember Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art at York Theatre Royal? Now it’s online

Matthew Kelly as York-born poet W H Auden when Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art was rehearsed and staged at York Theatre Royal in August and September 2018. Picture: James Findlay

YORK Theatre Royal’s 2018 co-production of Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art has been made available to stream by OriginalTheatre Online.

Directed by Philip Franks, a second British tour was due to start this month with Matthew Kelly and David Yelland reprising their roles of poet W H Auden and composer Benjamin Britten.

However, both the tour and a trip to New York for the Brits Off Broadway have been scrapped after the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

In turn, this has prompted The Original Theatre Company, the Theatre Royal’s co-producers, to release the production online.

Matthew Kelly as W H Auden and David Yelland as Benjamin Britten in The Habit Of Art, now available to stream through Original Theatre Online

Leeds playwright Bennett’s The Habit Of Art imagines a 1972 meeting between friends and collaborators Auden and Britten – their first in 30 years – where they mull over life, art, sexuality and death.

What drew Matthew Kelly to playing York-born Auden? “He has a razor-sharp wit and we have a very similar outlook about work which is the habit of art. I am the same,” he says.

“I have to keep working – I’m nearly 70 [his birthday falls on May 9] – not  because I need the money, but because the theory comes into play that the longer you hang on, the longer you will hang on. Otherwise you fall off the perch.”

The Habit Of Art requires Kelly to play an actor playing an actor playing a real-life person. If this sounds confusing, “No, it actually clarifies things,” says Kelly, clarifying things.

Philip Franks, director of The Habit Of Art, who also directed Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in The Tempest in York last summer

“It’s a very clever device because it means you can be funny about what you do, you can comment on it and you can explain stuff. You can come out of the play Caliban’s Day, which the actors are rehearsing, and then it’s a play about the fictional meeting of Auden and Britten. 

“What’s wonderful about Bennett’s play is, not only have you got the finest composer of our time and the finest poet of our time, but you also, in my opinion, have the greatest playwright of our time.” 

Kelly continues: “So, you’ve got all those words being sewn together by our greatest playwright, who’s kind, accessible, very erudite and talks about sex in a very earthy way.

“He also gives a voice to the unregarded, who don’t usually have a voice. Generally, the great people, the stars of our time, get the final word and the people who look after them, what are commonly called ‘the little people’, really don’t get any say at all. They are the forgotten heroes who nurtured these stars.”

“He’s terribly kind and encouraging, which I love,” says Matthew Kelly of The Habit Of Art playwright Alan Bennett

Former Stars In Their Eyes presenter Kelly completed a hattrick of Bennett roles with The Habit Of Art, having appeared as unconventional teacher Hector in The History Boys in 2013 and Czech author Franz Kafka in Kafka’s Dick, opposite his son Matthew Rixon, as a younger Kafka, at York Theatre Royal in March 2001.

“We were hoping Alan Bennett would come to York because he lives in Leeds and it’s only a hop and a skip away, but he didn’t come,” recalls Kelly.

“A couple of years later, I met him at Heathrow and he came up to me and apologised for not coming to the York production. He was terribly kind about it. “Years later, I did The History Boys in Sheffield, then Kafka’s Dick again in Bath. On both those shows he sent champagne and a Good Luck postcard.

“He always knows what’s going on and he’s terribly kind and encouraging, which I love. The great thing about Alan is he’s very supportive of all productions, although he doesn’t go and see them.”

Original Theatre Online is streaming a second touring production too: Ali Milles’s The Croft, starring Gwen Taylor and again directed by Franks. Both that show and The Habit Of Art can be streamed any time until June.

“We are thrilled to be able to share these brilliant shows digitally: our own theatre without walls,” says The Original Theatre Company director Alastair Whatley.

Alastair Whatley, artistic director of The Original Theatre Company, says: “We know how disappointing it has been to our audiences, cast, creatives and Original Theatre to have to close our shows. We are thrilled to be able to share these brilliant shows digitally: our own theatre without walls. 

“However, the Original Theatre Company operates with no Arts Council support and relies almost solely on the box-office takings. With our two productions of The Habit Of Art and The Croft both out on national tours, the immediate cancellations are financially devastating for us.

“But we are determined, wherever possible, to meet our financial commitments made to our actors, stage managers and suppliers, who are all dependent on us to survive the coming months.  

“Every penny we make through this online release will go to the people who helped make this show, who now find themselves in a hugely precarious financial position.”

Both plays are free to watch although The Original Theatre suggests a minimum donation of £2.50. 

For full streaming details, visit

Elvis show The King Is Back will be back in the building in April 2021 at York Barbican

“The show I do is pretty much all of Elvis’s eras,” says The King Is Back tribute act Ben Portsmouth

ELVIS is making another comeback…in 2021.

The King Is Back, Ben Portsmouth’s tribute show, will be back at York Barbican on April 9 next year.

Berkshire singer Portsmouth was last in the building with his Elvis Presley act on December 20 2019. Tickets for his return are on sale at or on 0203 356 5441.

Portsmouth and his band Taking Care Of Elvis have been taking care of Elvis tribute business for a dozen years in a show built around “a little less conversation, a lot more action, please”.

“The show I do is pretty much all of Elvis’s eras,” he says. “So, from the Sun Studio to his movie years. Then I’ll do the 1968 comeback with the leather outfit.

Portsmouth to York: Ben Portsmouth confirms York Barbican concert next spring

“The first half is more like a story of Elvis’s life and what he was doing in his career at the time. The second half is just like an Elvis Seventies’ concert.”

In pursuit of authenticity to the maximum, all of Portsmouth’s Elvis outfits are flown over from the United States, with the peacock jumpsuit being his favourite.

In August 2012, Portsmouth made Elvis history when he became the first act from outside the United States to win the annual Elvis Presley Enterprises “Worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist”, held in Memphis, Tennessee.

Portsmouth loves the Elvis voice, the look, the stage charisma, his humour, but more than that. “He was just a people person,” he says. “He was just a simple country boy who liked his cars, his food and all the rest of it.”

On World Theatre Day, York Theatre Royal looks outwards to say We Pull Together

Marketing officer Olivia Potter’s We Pull Together poster at York Theatre Royal,, pictured by events producer Zach Pierce when he left the theatre for the last time before the Coronavirus-enforced closure.

TODAY is World Theatre Day, but a day when the world of live theatre and its eye on the world are shut down by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, theatres are still marking the occasion, be it York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird’s Tweets throughout the day on his favourite theatres around the world, or reflections elsewhere on why theatre, in its myriad forms, is so important to British life.

At the Theatre Royal, show posters have been replaced by one message to the city of York, a rallying call reminiscent of wartime posters, designed in the Theatre Royal livery by marketing officer Olivia (Livy) Potter from an initial idea by development officer Maisie Pearson. 

In bold print, it reads: We Are Creative. We Are Sturdy. We Are Ambitious. We Are York. We Pull Together.

Bird’s eye view on World Theatre Day: York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird is marking the day with Tweets highlighting his favourite theatres in the world

Here, Olivia answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on how the poster came to be printed.

Why and how did you choose the wording of your poster, Olivia?

“The wording was inspired by York Theatre Royal’s values:

“We are ambitious
We are sturdy
We are welcoming
We are ambassadors for York
We celebrate the city’s true diversity; it makes us bloom
We are creative in every context
We pull together
We excel in every area”.

“The idea to take some of these values and work them into a message came from our development officer, Maisie Pearson, and it was a brilliant one.” 

Dumb question, but what prompted you to do it?

“We had to take the show posters down outside the theatre as they were promoting productions that had been cancelled, such as Alone In Berlin mid-run.

“The empty poster sites looked very forlorn and that got us thinking about putting up a poster with a message of support and solidarity for the city to see instead – something that could stay up for however long it needed to.”

Run halted: Alone In Berlin fell silent when York Theatre Royal closed in response to the Coronavirus pandemic

What is the overall message you are seeking to put across? Is it about theatre and the arts at large being woven so vitally into the fabric of York, or is it more about that wider message of the importance of all pulling together?

“I think it’s both these messages. It’s a very uncertain time for all industries right now, but particularly the arts and entertainment industry.

“We wanted to find some way of reassuring the people of the city that the curtain will rise again and we want everyone to be there when it does.

“Also, the narrative of the nation ‘pulling together’ by staying at home to save lives has really come into force, particularly over the last few days. The wording we’ve chosen for the poster seems to be quite vital now and in keeping with this narrative.”

Where are the posters on show at York Theatre Royal?

“One can be found by our Stage Door on Duncombe Place, next to Red House Antiques. Another can be found next to our patio area to the left of the theatre building on St Leonard’s Place.”

York Theatre Royal’s logo: colour palette is replicated in the new poster

Why are posters such a powerful medium in tumultuous times?

“Poster art and design is a really interesting medium, and very difficult to get right. I suppose the key is to keep it simple, find your message and present it in a way that is striking.”

How did you choose the charcoal and old-gold colour scheme for the poster?  Echoes of wartime posters, perhaps?

“The colours are actually the brand colours of York Theatre Royal, which unintentionally seem to have connotations of those famous wartime-era posters.”

Will there be more posters to come?

“We hope that won’t be necessary and that we can replace them with show posters soon.”

How are you spending your days during the theatre shutdown?

“I’m finding ways to engage with our audiences online; yoga; a bit of dancing; chatting to family and friends online; making fancy meals and drinking a fair bit of gin.”

Livy Potter in the role of Nina in York Settlement Community Players’ production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at York Theatre Royal Studio, February 26 to March 7

On World Theatre Day, why does theatre and the arts matter so much to you, both in your work at the Theatre Royal and as an actor?

“There’s nothing quite like the arts as a means of bringing people together, not just physically but emotionally too.

“I love being part of an audience who are engaged, laughing as one and sometimes even crying together, too.

“One of the biggest joys in my life is being part of a group who come together with the purpose of creating something as one – a shared aim of telling a story for others to listen to and enjoy.

“In this difficult time, I think people are going to find really ingenious ways of achieving this and when this all does finally end, I can’t wait for us all to come together once more to experience the joys of theatre afresh.” 

Doors shut, stage silent, but the Grand Opera House has a habit of bouncing back

The Grand Opera House sign for these Coronavirus lockdown days

TODAY is World Theatre Day, although the day-to-day world of theatre has ground to a shuddering halt, its stages silenced by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, today is still the chance to celebrate Shakespeare’s sentiment in As You Like It that “All the world’s a stage”.

Shakespeare’s Melancholy Jaques went on to mull over exits and entrances, how one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. Let’s turn that life model to theatre itself, and none more so than the Grand Opera House in York, a theatre, a building, a site, that has been through so many ages, so many stages, that seven would be an underestimate.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, who appeared at the Empire Theatre, York, on March 22 1954

Its life before theatre can be traced back to 71AD as part of the Roman Quayside; 450AD, a nunnery; and Victorian days as a “sink or stew”, brothels, crowded slum housing, until the area was cleaned.

The Grand Opera House building in Cumberland Street began life as a Corn Exchange, designed in 1868 by architect G A Dean to double as a concert room, hence an ornate blue/vermillion/ gold gilding colour scheme.

Conversion to a 1,540-capacity theatre followed in 1901, undertaken by theatrical manager William Peacock, who presented the first performance at the Grand Theatre and Opera House, as it was first named, on January 20 1902 when Australian music hall entertainer Florrie Forde starred in Little Red Riding Hood.

The SS Empire, pictured in the 1970s. Note the Roller Skating sign

The 1916 introduction of the Amusement Tax was not amusing, putting all theatres at risk, but The Empire, as it was now known, survived. Charlie Chaplin, Gracie Fields, Lillie Langtry and Marie Lloyd played there; so too, later, did Vera Lynn, Laurel and Hardy, on their last tour, and Morecambe and Wise.

A huge rates increase in 1945 ruined the theatre, forcing Marie Blanche, Peacock’s daughter, to end 44 years of family ownership by selling it to F.J. Butterworth. Audiences declined against the competition of television, to the point where the theatre closed in 1956, blaming the “crippling entertainment tax, when TV pays no tax”.

Ernest Shepherd of Shambles acquired the theatre in 1958, duly adding the ‘S’ and ‘S’ to the Empire name, removing the stage and levelling the stalls floor for roller-skating, wrestling and bingo.

Special knight, special night: Sir Ian McKellen in Ian McKellen On Stage With Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others…And You! at the Grand Opera House, York, last June

The end of Empire days came in 1985, but after the India Pru Company acquired the building in 1987,   Henley-on-Thames architect Gordon J Claridge was given the brief to restore it to its 1909 glory. The Art Nouveau wallpaper was copied; the chandelier duplicated; the carpets rewoven from the original pattern with the Grand Opera House motif added to the design.

Stalls boxes were restored and a new stage built; the Clifford Street entrance was turned into a box office; Cumberland Street became the main entrance. The £4 million renovation complete, the theatre re-opened on September 26 1989 as the Grand Opera House, but tempted fate by presenting Macbeth – traditionally a harbinger of bad luck in the theatre world – as the first production, 33 years since the last professional stage performance.

Only two years later, the theatre closed suddenly, staff arriving to find the doors locked, as the curse of Macbeth did indeed strike.

E&B Productions brought to an end two and a half years of darkness after acquiring the premises for a nominal sum, re-opening the theatre on February 26 1993, since when the Grand Opera House has remained open, hindered only occasionally by the River Ouse in flood.

From Strictly Come Dancing to Strictly Ballroom: Kevin Clifton is to star in his dream role of Scott Hastings at the Grand Opera House, York, in November 2020

The theatre’s ownership passed from E&B Productions to Apollo Leisure in 1995 and American company SFX in 1999. After SFX merged with Clear Channel in 2000, and later set up a new company, Live Nation, to focus on live entertainment, in 2006, the latest change of hands came in 2010 when Britain’s largest owner/operator of theatres, the Ambassador Theatre Group added the York theatre to their roster.

The ownership baton may be passed on, but each has favoured a programme of lavish musicals, often straight from the West End; stand-up comedy; opera; ballet; dance; concerts; tribute acts; celebrity talks; classic theatre; new plays; in-house youth theatre summer projects; myriad shows by York stage companies and a star-studded commercial pantomime each Christmas.

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, Cabaret, Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Show, Blood Brothers, Legally Blonde and Once The Musical; the Royal Shakespeare Company in The Winter’s Tale; the National Theatre’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Hedda Gabler and Jane Eyre; The Waterboys, Antony & The Johnsons, Adele at 19, Echo & The Bunnymen; Ken Dodd so many times, Danny La Rue, Ross Noble, Jimmy Carr, Paul Merton, Julian Clary; Sir Ian McKellen, on his 80th birthday solo tour. The list goes on…

Dame Berwick Kaler with his pantomime co-stars AJ Powell, left, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass at the launch of Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, York, on February 14. Picture: David Harrison

In the deepening shadow of Coronavirus, we await to discover when that list will start up again, but let us hope that once more we can gather for such upcoming shows as The Commitments, from October 26 to 31 and Strictly Ballroom, with Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton, from November 23 to 28.

Come the winter, all eyes will be on Berwick Kaler as the grand old dame of York becomes the Grand’s new dame after his crosstown transfer, with villain David Leonard, perennial principal girl Suzy Cooper, comic stooge Martin Barrass and luverly Brummie A J Powell in tow, for Dick Turpin Rides Again from December 12 to January 10.

There to greet them and you, unmoved by the tide of theatre history, will be the Grand Opera House ghost: a nun in the Dress Circle.

Happy World Theatre Day, but happier still when theatre days and nights can return.

Charles Hutchinson

Thought for the day on World Theatre Day

Sign of the times: The frontage of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, at the former Odeon cinema, in Scarborough

TODAY is World Theatre Day. Stages may be silent, but creativity never sleeps. It adapts. No matter what the circumstances.

Keep watching this space. CharlesHutchPress will continue to bring you stories of how the arts world is reacting, responding, re-engaging, under the Coronavirus lockdown.

Yes, we miss the sound of applause bursting through our theatre walls, but for now, for the unforeseeable future, save your hand-clapping for showing support every Thursday at 8pm for our NHS doctors, hospital staff, carers and rising tide of volunteers. God bless them all.

Red Hot Chilli Pipers rearrange postponed Harrogate Royal Hall concert for next April

Pipe down: Red Hot Chilli Pipers are postponing their 2020 spring tour

BAGPIPE band Red Hot Chilli Pipers are postponing their April and May tour under the Coronavirus shutdown, but don’t be too deflated. The Celtic rock band’s dates are being rearranged for next spring.

The 2020 tour would have opened at the Royal Hall, Harrogate, on April 24, a show now re-scheduled for April 10 2021.

Tickets remain valid for the new date, but anyone unable to attend the revised gig – although who can predict anything in their diary for a year’s time?! – should claim a refund from the original point of purchase by Friday, April 10.

Piping up again: Red Hot Chllli Pipers, re-booked to play Harrogate in spring 2021

Formed in Scotland in 2002, Red Hot Chilli Pipers made a cameo appearance at the T In The Park festival with The Darkness in 2004 and won the BBC talent show When Will I Be Famous? in 2007.

Bringing together musicians, dancers and singers from Scotland and further afield, many holding world championship titles, they specialise in “Bagrock”, a groundbreaking fusion of traditional Scottish music and rock/pop anthems.

In 2014, the Pipers released the Live At The Lake DVD and CD, recorded at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, their American spiritual home by the shores of Lake Michigan, when they brought 16 musicians and dancers across the Atlantic.

The set that night took in Insomnia, Gimme All Your Lovin’, Thunderstruck, Everybody Dance Now, Amazing Grace, Fix You, Chasing Cars, Wake Me Up, Don’t Stop Believin’ and We Will Rock You.

Pipe dream team : Tom Walker linking up with Red Hot Chilli Pipers for Leave A Light On

In February 2019, the Pipers and Tom Walker released a new version of his 2018 hit Leave A Light On in aid of Nordoff Robbins, the music therapy charity. Earlier Walker and the band performed at Murrayfield before the Scotland versus Italy Six Nations rugby match.

In a new departure for the Pipers, last June’s studio album of new songs and covers, Fresh Air, featured lead vocals on many tracks, such as Walker on Leave The Light On and Chris Judge on the American band Walk The Moon’s Shut Up And Dance and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Next on the horizon in Yorkshire for Red Hot Chilli Pipers is a July 11 appearance at Pocklington Arts Centre’s Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington. Watch this space for news of whether the festival will go ahead or not as the Coronavirus pandemic’s progress unfurls.

Strictly’s Aljaž and Janette move Barbican show to 2021 and invite NHS heroes

Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara: Remembering The Oscars tour moves to Spring 2021

REMEMBER the new York Barbican date for Remembering The Oscars. Strictly Come Dancing couple Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara are rescheduling their postponed April 10 show for April 21 next year.

In keeping with all 38 dates, ten free VIP tickets will be made available to NHS staff “as a way of the producers and Aljaž and Janette showing their gratitude to these front-line heroes” caught in the eye of the Coronavirus pandemic storm.

This will include a meet & greet with the Strictly duo, and information on how to claim these tickets will be announced very soon “once normal services resume”. 

Aljaž and Janette say: “We know what we are offering is a relatively small gesture, but we want to acknowledge the amazing effort of the NHS staff who are facing unimaginable pressure on a daily basis as they treat patients across the UK affected by Coronavirus.

“We’ll be rolling out the proverbial red carpet for these heroes and we look forward to thanking them in person throughout the tour.”

The 2020 tour of Škorjanec and Manrara’s new dance spectacular had been due to start earlier this month, but was postponed after theatres closed nationwide in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tour now will run from March 20 to May 4 2021 and all tickets will remain valid for the rearranged dates of Remembering The Oscars, wherein Aljaž and Janette will give the red-carpet treatment to Oscar-winning songs, dances, movies and stars. 

Janette says: “We are so thrilled to have the opportunity to put on this magnificent show, which we are so proud of, in 2021. We hope that when these difficult times pass, we can bring joy and smiles to everyone’s hearts; nothing would make us happier.” 

Aljaž added: “It was heart-breaking to not be able to open with our show this year, but we are now so thrilled that our beautiful show will still be seen by the UK audiences next year. We cannot wait to be back on stage and perform for you all.”

York Barbican is the only Yorkshire date on the tour. Ticket holders unable to attend the April 21 2021 show should contact the Barbican box office, 0203 356 5441. 

Lockdown makes Jessa determined to stay on song with online singing sessions for all

Jessa Liversidge: still on song, online

AFTER her Singing For All choir had everyone singing I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing at A Night To Remember at York Barbican, now Jessa Liversidge wants to reach the world to sing online.

The York singer, entertainer and singing group tutor, leader and inspiration is going virtual in response to these Coronavirus lockdown days.

“Going from running seven different singing groups a week, plus other sporadic ones, to having to cancel them all, I was faced with a big challenge,” says Jessa. “But I’ve been buzzing with ideas to keep people singing and to keep their spirits up in these strange times and I have a lot planned.”

Not only planned but coming to fruition already too. “I held my first virtual choir session on March 18, mainly Easingwold folks but some extras, including some singing leaders from all over, who came along to check out a session from a singer’s perspective,” says Jessa.

“We did it again last night, building an online community choir with people from Easingwold, Helmsley, York, and even other parts of the country – people who knew me from elsewhere.”

Jessa Liversidge leading her Singing For All choir at Big Ian’s A Night To Remember charity concert at York Barbican on February 29. Picture: David Harrison.

How does it feel, performing together across the ether in our new social-distancing, stay-at-home world? “It is, of course, very different to a real in-person choir, but very uplifting and great fun,” says Jessa. “The good news is that everything is on screen, so you don’t need to provide the lyrics!

“I’ve had some fantastic feedback from people too; the best quotes being ‘A wonderfully positive hour’ and ‘On a challenging day, when it felt hard to be bright and cheerful, this was just a perfect end to the day. It was great to let someone with a really joyful personality take you on a different type of musical journey, a real sharing of community spirit’”

Jessa intends to run these sessions weekly on Wednesday evenings at 7pm. “People will need to contact me on 07740 596869 or email me at to find out how to join,” she advises.

She has started up York Military Wives Choir sessions too online, the first one being held on March 19 for one of 70 such choirs across the country.

“I’m also setting up some free open-to-anyone sessions, starting with a live stream Singing For All session on YouTube that I held on Monday morning this week at 11am: the time the Easingwold Singing For All usually meets,” Jessa says.

“It was great to let someone with a really joyful personality take you on a different type of musical journey,” said one participant in response to joining Jessa Liversidge’s virtual choir session

“I’m so worried about some of the group as Singing For All has been a lifeline to so many, and lots of them are now isolated in more than one way, so this is important for them.”

Not only Easingwold Singing For All took part this Monday morning. “We had people joining in from their living rooms, again from across the country, and that singing session is now available on You Tube,” says Jessa. “Hundreds of people have watched it already, and we had people joining in as families and even with three generations. Hopefully these sessions will now happen every Monday morning.”

A further Singing For All virtual session will be running on Tuesday mornings at 11am, this one on Zoom, set in motion last Tuesday. To take part in these interactive  sessions, you will need to ring or email Jessa.

She hatched one other project, abruptly halted by the Covid-19 lockdown’s dictum on social distancing, banning gatherings of more than two people. “I was going to try out some very spread-out, non-contact park sings,” says Jessa.

“Inspired by the Italians singing from their balconies, I thought this was the nearest we could get to it, but that has had to fall by the wayside. Instead I’m going to record myself singing outdoors, put that on social media and then people can sing along to that.”

Anything else still to come, Jessa? “Yes, youth choirs.” Watch this space…and keep watching your space too, two metres apart; you know the drill by now.

Nothing happening in these long lock-down days. Everything off. Here are 10 Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. Week two.

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. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether still together or in isolation, in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these further suggestions.

Compiling lists of best songs by favourite artists

THE Beatles, The Rolling Stones, solo Beatles, Van Morrison, Velvet Underground, solo Velvets, Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, The Smiths, The Fall, whoever. Make a Top Ten or even Top 20, then send to friends to ask for their suggestions for the list and why they disagree with you.

You could also set up arguments: Kylie’s Top Ten versus Madonna; The Specials versus Madness; Holland Dozier Holland versus Bacharach and David; Rod Stewart versus Elton John; Abba versus Queen; U2 versus Coldplay. Any others?

Madness: More special than The Specials or is that utter madness?

Desert Island Slipped Discs

IF past editions of the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning staple have slipped your attention, it is never too late to discover the back catalogue at the Beeb online. You could pick a running theme, such as artists, musicians, poets, scientists, entrepreneurs, comedians, sportsmen, film stars, pioneers and church leaders.

Or, given the very necessary daily Covid-19 briefings from Number 10, how about politicians? Margaret Thatcher (1978); Edward Heath (1988); Enoch Powell (1989); Alan Clark (1995); Tony Blair (1996); Gordon Brown (1996); David Cameron (2006)…or, for a satirical variation, Spitting Image’s Peter Fluck and Roger Law (1987)?  

Picking his eight before making it to Number 10: Tony Blair on Desert Island Discs in 1996

Follow the advice of Stephen Fry

FOLLOWING up last Thursday’s 10 Things advice to make a timetable for the day, Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning interview on the Beeb with national treasure and former Cundall Manor prep school teacher Stephen Fry elicited one gem of a suggestion. Take time, take longer, to do things, whether cooking a dish from a recipe book, or even when brushing your teeth.

Fry, the president of MIND, also advocated taking up a new hobby, or re-discovering a craft, in his case, calligraphy. Further suggestions: learn a language; learn sign language; test yourself on road signs (when did you last do that?).

Meanwhile, Fry’s partner in comedy since Cambridge Footlights days, House doctor Hugh Laurie, says of Coronavirus: “We solve it together by staying apart.”  Couldn’t have put it better.

Time to take time: Stephen Fry’s philosophy for these Coronavirus clampdown days

Administer a spring clean

STUCK at home, as you really should be by now, key workers excepted, this is the chance to gut rooms; to go through files, drawers, cupboards; to work out what clothes to keep and which to donate to charity shops. Likewise, games; books; kitchen utensils. Update Christmas card lists and address books.

Make time for nostalgia

DIG out old scrapbooks (Leeds United, League Champions, 1973-1974; the Cardiff Candlewits revue show, The Rantings Of A Raw Prawn, at the 1982 Edinburgh Fringe; cookery crush Nigella Lawson’s recipes – more pictures than recipes, to be truthful – to give three Hutch examples). Ah, those were the days.

Likewise, take a look through old photo albums, sure to trigger memories and promote family discussions… and maybe even lead you to research your family ancestry in the manner of BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?.

Scrapbook memories: Leeds United, champions, 1973-1974

Try to find good news

GREAT Yorkshire Show off. Ryedale Festival off. York Pride off. The Olympic Games off. The list of cancellations keeps growing. Against that backdrop, however, theatres, music venues and festivals are busy re-booking acts and shows for later in the year or next year.

Keep visiting websites for updates, whether York Barbican, York Theatre Royal, the Grand Opera House, wherever.

Look out too for the streaming of past shows. More and more theatres and arts companies are doing this.

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett, on Stonegate, York, with a Piers Browne painting, before the Coronavirus shutdown

Online exhibitions

GALLERIES in York are going online to keep the art (and hopefully sales) going. Step forward Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, where owner Terry Brett has launched Strange Days.

This service is not only a website portal for works from this season’s Full Sunlight show, featuring Askrigg artist Piers Browne and Holtby sculptor Hannah Arnup, but Terry also is inviting the 144 artists from next month’s cancelled York Open Studios to show their work on there too.

One of Tom Wood’s paintings from The Abstract Crow, Lotte Inch Gallery’s first online-only exhibition

Anywhere else?

LOTTE Inch Gallery, at Fourteen Bootham, will host its first online-only exhibition, Yorkshire artist Tom Wood’s The Abstract Crow, from April 17 to May 16.

“Known for his imaginative and allusive abstract approach to painting, Tom will pay homage to his love for the natural world in his new paintings,” says Lotte.

Venturing outdoors 

AMID the stricter Government strictures, aside from walking the dog and one burst of exercise a day, gardening looks the most fruitful way to spend time outdoors. The first mow of the season; buds coming through; plants to plant; garden furniture to varnish: ready, steady, grow. 

One to follow on Twitter: Reasons To Stay Alive author Matt Haig. Picture: MIke Tipping

And what about…

Podcasts. Books. More podcasts. More books. Season two of Liar on Monday nights on ITV. Noughts + Crosses on BBC One on Thursdays. Writing a 10 Things like this one. Reading the regular Tweets from Matt Haig, the Reasons To Stay Alive author with the York past. Drinking hot drinks, gargling regularly, and building up your zinc levels, as well as all that hand-washing.

See you later, self-isolator.

Copyright of The Press, York

York Pride 2020 cancelled but LGBT festival vows to be on parade next year

Parade halted: No York Pride celebration in 2020

YORK Pride 2020 on June 6 is off, the annual LGBT festival scuppered by the Coronavirus lockdown.

“Following the advice of the Government and Public Health England on mass gatherings and social events during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, we have reluctantly taken the decision to cancel York Pride 2020,” says event director Greg Stephenson, on behalf of the committee.

“This has been a heart-breaking call for us to make after all the work we have already put into this year’s event. However, we would never put the health and wellbeing of our pride-goers, volunteers, artists or traders at risk, or stretch the resources of our emergency services at a time when they are needed more elsewhere.”

Re-arranging the York LGBT Pride Festival 2020 has been ruled out. “York Pride takes the whole year to plan,” says Greg. “While we have been carefully considering all options, as it is unclear how long current measures will remain in place, or how the situation may develop, it is sadly impossible for us to reschedule for later this year.

“With so many uncertainties, we ultimately believe this is the right decision to protect our long-term future.”

Instead, the committee will concentrate all its efforts on “delivering you a truly amazing York Pride in 2021”.

“We’d like to say a huge thank-you to all our sponsors, stallholders and suppliers for their support this year,” says Greg.

“Thank you to all of you too for hopefully understanding why we have had to make this tough decision, because nobody is as disappointed as we are. In the meantime, please let’s all look after ourselves and our community.”

CANCELLED: .“This has been a heart-breaking call for us to make after all the work we have already put into this year’s event,” says York Pride event director Greg Stephenson

York Pride will email directly all those who have stall bookings and parade bookings and those who have agreed sponsorship for 2020.

For stallholders who have not paid yet, we will simply cancel the booking for York Pride 2020 and you will need to reapply next year for York Pride 2021,” says Greg.

“For stallholders who have paid, thank you for paying your invoice; it has been much appreciated.”

Greg outlines two options for those with a stalls invoice. “Our preferred option would be to carry your booking straight over to York Pride 2021,” he says.

“This cuts down admin work of processing refunds for our small team of volunteers. We’d imagine this is the best option for other community groups, charities and regular attendees at our event.

“If, later down the line you cannot make our 2021 date, we would of course offer a full refund.”

The second option is the provision of full refunds for those who require it. “These are difficult times and we understand that for many of our traders you will need these funds. We’d imagine this is the best option for food and beverage stalls who have paid larger pitch fees.”

Whichever option is chosen, stallholders are required to fill in a form on the York Pride website,

York Pride wristbands

The committee has addressed the matter of parade applicants too. “Thank you to all those who have applied to be in our 2020 parade,” says Greg. “With the emergence of Covid-19, we took the decision not to invoice at the time we normally would. Should we be in the position to cancel, it was fewer refunds for us to process.

“You will need to reapply for York Pride 2021 when applications open later in the year.”

Greg thanked York Pride 2020’s sponsors. “We have been overwhelmed with the response. I will be contacting sponsors directly to discuss arrangements,” he says.

York Pride is making plans to re-book all acts for 2021. “We will also be making a deposit payment for those who wish to be re-booked,” says Greg. “We hope this small gesture will come in handy as many of our acts will be self-employed and suffer the most through the current situation.”

In a closing message to the public in York Pride’s official statement on the website, Greg says:We have taken steps to ensure our financial risks through cancellation are minimised.

“We have already ordered things such as York Pride 2020 wristbands. We will be looking to sell these for a suggested donation of £2 in the coming weeks and would appreciate any support you can offer at this difficult time. Thank you to everyone for your continued support. All the best and keep safe.”

Postponed Friends! The Musical Parody will still play York Barbican…in a year’s time

Friends! The Musical Parody: new York Barbican date next March

FRIENDS! The Musical Parody has been rescheduled for March 3 2021 at York Barbican after the March 20 show was postponed under the Coronavirus strictures.

The lampooning show both celebrates and pokes fun at the misadventures of Manhattan 20-somethings Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Joey and Rachel from the cherished 1990s’ American TV sitcom as they navigate the pitfalls of work, life and love.

Friends! The Musical Parody is a “good-hearted romp through our favourite moments in an uncensored, hilarious, fast-paced, music-filled show” that opens on a typical day at New York coffee shop Central Perk. When an unexpected runaway bride enters the picture, it kicks the whole gang out of second gear.

The show will play York Barbican as part of the off-Broadway and Las Vegas musical’s now extended first UK and Irish tour. Tickets for the revised date are on sale at

“Wherever you have a camera, we have a class” is the new school rule as York Stage School goes on screen

York Stage School principal Nik Briggs with fellow On Screen teachers Jessica Douglas (singing/musical theatre), left, Danielle Hill-Mullan (musical theatre) and Joanne Theaker (acting/musical theatre)

YORK Stage School will celebrate its second birthday from behind closed doors but with the launch of on-screen activities.

“Wherever you have a camera, we have a class,” will be the new school rule, prompted by Government strictures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Principal Nik Briggs says: “After a brilliant two years, where we have worked with hundreds of students and seen them flourish in our classrooms, we now face the possibility of not being able to work with them under the current Government guidance for some time and the necessary social distancing and self-isolation policies that come with that.

“Consequently, we are fully committed to ensuring our students are always kept safe and well and will not be running classes while schools are closed to students.”

Cue York Stage School’s new “homework” instead. “It is with this in mind that we have been busy working on this new project, which will see us joining up with lots of our teachers’ contacts from the theatre, TV and film industry to introduce our exciting new programme, York Stage School…On Screen, over the coming weeks and months.”

Are you ready to watch, explore, react and create, asks Nik.“If so, then sign up, stop waiting in the wings…and join us on screen for a programme where we’ll be sending out weekly briefs, scripts and stimuli to children via email and through videos from both our regular teachers and special weekly industry-professional guest tutors,” he says.

Homework for when you must stay at home: York Stage School prepares to launch Stage School…On Screen

Students will have six days to watch the videos, explore the stimuli given and then react and create their own videos at home. “These will then be sent back to us at York Stage School HQ,” says Nik.

“Children will receive feedback on their creations via email and video calls from our staff; each week we will celebrate their work across our social channels with weekly industry recognition from our guest tutors.”

To take part, students will need either a mobile phone, tablet or PC with a built-in camera and microphone, plus an internet connection and an email address. “This can be either their own or a parent’s,” says Nik.

“While we will be using the York Stage School social media channels to celebrate students’ work – if parents are happy for their child’s image to be broadcast – access to these is not needed to take part in the project.” 

The first “issue” of York Stage School…On Screen is being given away free of charge. “This is in order for you to decide if this programme is something your child will enjoy and genuinely benefit from,” reasons Nik. “After the initial week, there’ll be a weekly charge of £10 to take part. To receive the first issue, please sign up by clicking Register Now on the website,”

Mary, Mary, very contrary: Fiona Baistow., left. and Florence Poskitt clash over who plays Mary in York Stage Musicals’ The Flint Street Nativity last Christmas

Putting on his other cap as artistic director of York Stage Musicals, Nik says: “At the moment we are very much all up in the air with regards to shows.

“We were scheduled to be performing Bugsy Malone at the Grand Opera House from April 23 to 26, but that has now been cancelled, now that theatres have been closed in response to the Coronavirus epidemic. However, we do hope for the children’s sake to remount this at a later date.”

York Stage Musicals had a trio of premieres in the pipeline too: Sondheim On Sondheim, Kinky Boots and Soho Cinders. “We had just auditioned for the UK premiere of Sondheim On Sondheim’s run at the John Cooper Studio @41 Monkgate, from May 20 to 23, but casting has had to be put on hold,” says Nik.

“This will mean the production will now have to take place at a later date, hopefully in the autumn.

“Our big September show is the York premiere of Kinky Boots at the Grand Opera House from September 10 to 19, and at the moment no changes have been made on this production’s scheduling.”

Nik is still hopeful too of bringing another alternative Christmas show to the John Cooper Studio @41 Monkgate in the wake of 2019’s gleeful production of Tim Firth’s The Flint Street Nativity.

“After that success, we’ve now secured the rights to bring George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s Soho Cinders to the city for the first time ever,” says Nik.

“This musical romp transports the classic Cinderella story to the streets of Soho, where the action is definitely more suitable for an adult audience and the ugly sisters are more Gemma Collins than Berwick Kaler!”

Watch this space for regular updates.

Lotte Inch Gallery goes online for Mick Leach and Tom Wood exhibitions

York abstract painter Mick Leach at work

LOTTE Inch Gallery, in Bootham, York, is going online only “for the time being”.

“While the Covid-19 situation poses a threat to us all, we want to ensure that everyone stays well and healthy and, as such, have closed the doors at Fourteen Bootham until we are advised by the Government that we can re-open,” says Lotte.

“However, just because the doors are closed, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still look at some of the beautiful work that features in our current exhibition, York artist Mick Leach’s Urban Abstraction. All Mick’s paintings are now on our online shop at, along with Katie Timson’s beautifully delicate ceramics and Evie Leach’s refined silver and semi-precious stone jewellery.”

Running until April 11, Leach’s debut solo show of sophisticated abstract work endeavours to recreate the textures, colours, layers and shapes of York’s decaying urban landscape.

One of Mick Leach’s Urban Abstraction paintings

Working mainly with acrylics mixed with French chalk powder, Leach applies paint with palette knives to gain his textured, layered effect. Various colours and media are then added to enhance the layers and textures to evoke the memory and feeling of the places that most inspire him.

“As a self-taught artist and full-time worker, Mick’s ‘side-career’ (sic) in painting has been steadily and successfully taking shape since early 2016,” says Lotte. “This new exhibition highlights his striking talent and his sympathetic and considered manipulation of materials.

“His work is never subjective, but produced instead from memory, in an attempt to recreate the feel of a location while simultaneously allowing his work to find its own course.” 

Inspiration behind this series, being shown in York for the first time, is drawn from the many large cities that Leach has visited or lived in, in particular from the city of York; the place he calls home.

“We look forward to re-opening soon, but in the meantime, we encourage you to browse online,” says Lotte Inch Gallery curator Lotte Inch

“In this new body of paintings, Mick attempts to recreate the colours and feel of the ancient stonework, the dark alleyways, sunken windows, and the contrast of the modern world against this ancient city, a place rich with contradictions,” says Lotte.

Coming next will be Lotte Inch Gallery’s first online-only exhibition, Tom Wood’s The Abstract Crow, running from 10am on April 17 to May 16.

“Keep an eye out for more details coming soon and follow Lotte Inch Gallery on Instagram for sneak previews of the new works that Tom will be including in his show,” says Lotte.

“This will be a solo show of new paintings by this internationally recognised and technically brilliant Yorkshire artist. Known for his imaginative and allusive abstract approach to painting, Tom will pay homage to his love for the natural world in The Abstract Crow.” 

One of Tom Wood’s paintings for The Abstract Crow, his upcoming online-only exhibition at Lotte Inch Gallery, Bootham, York

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 on display at the Australian National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.

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 encourage you to browse online,” says Lotte. “Do note that if you live in the York area, we are 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.

“Take care of yourselves and your loved ones,” she signs off.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets rearrange Pink Floyd gig at York Barbican

The poster for the Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets spring tour, now moved to autumn

A GOOD journalist may never reveal his saucers, but the secret is out: Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets are moving their postponed-by-Coronavirus May 1 gig at York Barbican to October 4.

Pink Floyd drummer and percussionist Mason, 76, is joined in his Secrets operative by lead guitarist Gary Kemp, yes, that Gary Kemp, from New Romantic Islington pop dandies Spandau Ballet, now 60.

In the line-up too for The Echoes Tour are Pink Floyd touring and recording bassist Guy Pratt, guitarist Lee Harris, from The Blockheads, and The Orb’s Dom Beken on keyboards.

Together, they celebrate Pink Floyd’s earliest work “in all its psychedelic, freaked-out glory”, and the re-arranged 2020 tour will see the band further expand their repertoire to encompass songs from the early catalogue up to Floyd’s 1972 album Obscured By Clouds.

Nick Mason in performance with his Saucerful Of Secrets

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets made their debut at four intimate London shows at Dingwalls on May 20 2018 and The Half Moon in Putney on May 21, 23 and 24. The Dingwalls date was his first show since Pink Floyd played at the 2005 Live 8 concert in London and the run of London gigs was his first since Floyd’s Division Bell Tour in 1994.

Mason’s band subsequently sold out theatres around the world, and memories came flooding back at three nights at London’s Roundhouse, where Pink Floyd had played some of their most revered early shows in the 1960s.

Last September, Mason was named Prog Magazine’s Prog God at the Progressive Music Awards at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, following in the footsteps of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Ian Anderson, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe.

Tickets remain valid for the new Barbican date. For bookings, go to

Did you know?

BORN on January 27 1944, in Hampstead, London, drummer Nicholas Berkeley Mason CBE is a founder member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd.

He is the only Pink Floyd musician to have played on all of their studio albums and their only constant member since their formation in London in 1965.

Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play Truth Will Out mothballed as SJT takes Coronavirus measures for summer season

Sir Alan Ayckbourn: Summer 2020 premiere and revival cancelled at the SJT, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

THE world premiere of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th full-length play, Truth Will Out, will not go ahead this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Nor will his revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy of four birthdays, Just Between Ourselves, both productions scuppered by the Coronavirus crisis that has led to the SJT being closed.

Booked into the summer repertory season to run between August 20 and October 3, Truth Will Out was written by 80-year-old 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.

Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director and joint chief executive Paul Robinson

“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.”

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.

Ayckbourn’s website also reveals he had written another play, Just Mercy, earlier in 2019 for his 2020 premiere before turning his attention to Truth Will Out instead. He still hopes Just Mercy “will be produced at some point in the future”.

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the world, joint chief executives Caroline Routh and Paul Robinson said today: “Like everyone else, we are in uncharted territory, but our current plans are based on probably being closed for most of the planned summer season, which means we’ll no longer be presenting Just Between Ourselves, The Ladykillers or Truth Will Out this year.”

Matthew Wilson and Nicola Stephenson in Hull Truck Theatre and the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s co-production of Two, directed by Hull Truck artistic director Mark Babych

Artistic director Robinson’s production of Father Ted and Black Books writer Graham Linehan’s  stage adaptation of the 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers would have run from July 9 to August 15, with its story of the sweetest of sweet little old ladies, alone at home but for a parrot with a mystery illness, at the mercy of a ruthless gang of criminal misfits.

The SJT is making plans to be “up and running again as quickly as possible once it’s able to”.

“We are already thinking about what might be possible should restrictions start to lift earlier than expected,” say Routh and Robinson. “We are extremely lucky in that we have a couple of shows which are ready, or almost ready, to go.

“Jim Cartwright’s Two, our co-production with Hull Truck Theatre, had already opened there, so can be on our stage at relatively short notice, while Little Red Riding Hood, which was due to fill our Easter slot for families next month, is cast and the set is nearly complete – we just need a couple of weeks’ rehearsal.”

Charlotte Brooke: one of the cast members for the SJT OutReach production of Little Red Riding Hood

Adapted by Saviour Pirotta, Cheryl Govan’s SJT OutReach production of this fabled story of not judging a book by its cover, or a wolf by its teeth, features a cast of Charlotte Brooke, Marcquelle Ward, Nicola Holliday and Charlotte Oliver, who were to have taken to The McCarthy stage from April 7 to 11.

Routh and Robinson continue: “While we couldn’t, of course, see an instant return to normal, we could start up our film programme again, schedule some pieces of visiting theatre, or stage a rehearsed reading or two, all of which will bring our building back to life quite quickly.”

The SJT’s box-office team is being kept busy, working remotely to contact those who have booked tickets for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.

Routh and Robinson say: “We’ve already contacted all those who’d booked tickets for shows and films during our initial week-long closure, and we were amazed by how many of them refused a refund, preferring instead to donate the cost of their tickets or credit their account.

The new message on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s former Odeon cinema frontage after the Coronavirus shutdown

“It’s so touching to see how many people are showing faith in our future and are keen to support us – our heartfelt thanks to all of them.

“We aim to remain an essential part of the wider community in the borough of Scarborough throughout this period, and really look forward to welcoming you all back when our doors re-open.”

The SJT is closed to the public, but until further notice the box office will be accepting phone and email enquiries from noon to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, on 01723 370541 or at

The SJT will be posting regular updates on its website and social media channels: @thesjt.

Black Swan Folk Club postpones all gigs until end of August but new dates in diary

Once the leaves turn to brown again: Eliza Carthy is re-arranging her April 10 concert for January 24 2021

ALL shows at the Black Swan Folk Club, Peasholme Green, York, are postponed until the end of August in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most prominent among them is the Roland Walls Weekend from June 5 to 7. Formerly known as the City of York Folk Weekend, it has been re-named this year after the driving force behind both the folk club and the weekend, who died last June.

This postponement policy also applies to the club’s concerts at the National Centre for Early Music and The Crescent.

In the club’s latest newsletter, organiser Chris Euesden says: “We’re going to review things at the end of May to see where we stand. This includes the Roland Walls Weekend, which was to have taken place in June.

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman: 25th anniversary concert moves to November 17

“If you’ve already bought tickets for any of our events that have had to be postponed, you can get a refund from the internet ticket provider or you can hang on to your tickets, as they will be valid for the new date.

“This applies to all events except The Paperboys at The Crescent on April 5, which is cancelled. If you have already bought tickets, you’ll be able to get a refund from Go to their support section for further details.”

One Black Swan concert during the folk furlow is yet to be postponed: Chris Cleverley, presented by Broken Record on June 25. At the time of writing, it is “still hoped” that this night of songs on the theme of deteriorating anxious minds, damaging gender constructs and mystical tales of the occult will go ahead. Watch this space; ticket information is yet to be announced.

Reflecting on the present state of no-play, Chris says: “Well, we’ve never issued a newsletter quite like this one before. As the current situation has changed from day to day, so has the newsletter.

Grace Petrie: new date in the pipeline for May 18 gig

“With the [Government] announcement of  the closure of pubs and other music venues and the uncertainty surrounding the amount of time this is going to go on for, it seems like a good point to let you all know what’s in place at the moment.

“It’s highly likely there will be more changes, but we’ll do our best to keep you all informed on our website,, via Facebook, Twitter and with additional newsletters.”

Wheels are in motion already, however, for re-arranging postponed concerts.

Maz O’Connor, a Lake District singer-songwriter of Irish roots, now living in East London, is transferring her March 26 Black Swan gig to The Basement, City Screen, on September 9 with tickets on sale at

O’Connor, who studied literature at Cambridge University, has been commissioned to write songs for the British Parliament and the Royal Shakespeare Company and is devising a piece of music theatre.

Robin Hood’s Bay folk stalwart Martin Carthy: booked to play Black Swan Folk Club when (hopefully) the tide has turned

The Eliza Carthy Restitute Live/Through That Sound concert at The Crescent on April 10 is re-scheduled for January 24 2021, with tickets on sale at

Carthy, the Robin Hood’s Bay singer, songwriter, fiddler and self-styled “modern English musician”, released Restitute as her first “solo” album of traditional music last May, recorded at her North Yorkshire home on the coast.

Joining Carthy at The Crescent will be the Restitute band of Ben Seal, Ben Somers, Willy Molleson and David Delarre, complemented by a support slot and special guest appearance from Saul Rose.

As well as the Restitute material, Carthy and co will perform selections from Through That Sound (My Secret Was Made Known), her upcoming April 1 album of original songs recorded with Fife producer, arranger and band member Ben Seal.

The album artwork for Eliza Carthy’s Restitute

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman’s 25th anniversary concert on April 22 at the National Centre for Early Music has a new date of November 17 (box office,

The husband-and-wife duo will mark this milestone by revisiting and reinterpret songs spanning their career, from the early days of folk supergroup Equation to 2018’s album, Personae, plus a nod or two to their extracurricular musical adventures.

The club is in the process of re-scheduling Grace Petrie’s May 18 show at The Crescent. Drever, McCusker, Woomble, alias three of Scotland’s busiest musicians, Kris Drever, John McCusker and Roddy Woomble, are booked for The Crescent on August 24 (box office, so keep an eye open for what may change or not.

Looking ahead, Black Swan gigs are in the diary for Anthony John Clarke on September 10; Christine Collister and Michael Fix, September 18; Maria Dunn, September 24; Sam Kelly & Jamie Francis, October 8; Lucy Farrell, October 15; Sam Carter, October 22; Charlie Dore & Julian Litmann, November 19, and Martin Carthy, Eliza’s father, on December 3.

Toni Bunnell: March 29 concert at The Basement, City Screen, York, postponed

Across the wider folk scene in York, hurdy-gurdy musician, wildlife biologist, broadcaster, song and story writer and York Hedgehog Rescue founder Toni Bunnell’s Tracking The Changes show on March 29 at The Basement, City Screen, has been postponed.

Music sessions are suspended at:

The Maltings, Tanner’s Moat, on Tuesdays;

The Golden Ball, Bishophill, on Sunday evenings;

The Three Legged Mare, High Petergate, on Friday evenings;

Havin’ the Craic at The Fox, Holgate, first Wednesday of each month;

French & Breton, Eagle & Child, High Petergate, second Wednesdays.

Opera North and Leeds Playhouse postpone Sondheim’s A Little Night Music

The artwork for the postponed Opera North and Leeds Playhouse co-production of A Little Night Music

OPERA North is cancelling or postponing all “public-facing activity” until at least the end of April, in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Leeds company also confirmed the postponement of this season’s co-production of Stephen Sondheim’s acerbic musical A Little Night Music with Leeds Playhouse. Rehearsals had been due to start this morning for the May 9 opening to mark the year when the New York composer turned 90 yesterday.

“Our immediate priority is the health and safety of our audiences, artists and staff, and we hope to be able to mount the production in a future season,” said Opera North general director Richard Mantle.

Stephen Sondheim: composer of the 1973 musical A Little Night Musical

“This is undoubtedly a time of great challenge for Opera North and our peers but we are determined to respond with creativity and resilience.

“We will honour the contracts of all guest artists to the end of our current main stage opera season and those of guest orchestral players until the end of April.”

Mr Mantle continued: “We are working with our many education and community partners to ascertain what work can still be delivered in those settings, and will focus our creativity and core resources on finding new ways of using music and opera to enhance people’s lives. In these uncertain times, it feels more important than ever that we use music to connect with each other.”

A close-up of the Orchestra of Opera North. Picture: Justin Slee

Opera North remains hopeful that the 2020-2021 season will go ahead as planned in September. In the meantime, the company is working on finding other ways to share its art form with audiences, including online resources. 

Opera North’s livestream of The Turn Of The Screw is available via OperaVision at; the full Opera North Ring Cycle at; the 2017 production of Trouble In Tahiti via Now TV and Sky on-demand services.

For updated information on Opera North event cancellations and postponements, visit

WHAT’S STILL ON: Katherine-of-Yorkshire’s phone photos to bring peace to Village Gallery in York

York In Flood, 2019, taken by the York Museum Gardens, by Katherine-of-Yorkshire

VILLAGE Gallery, in Colliergate, York, will be “doing something a little different to our normal show” for its next exhibition, opening on March 31.

On display and for sale will be photographers by Instagrammer Katherine-of-Yorkshire, who uses only her phone camera to take her photos.

“Apart from occasional cropping, and selecting which filter to use, there’s no other manipulation or photoshopping of the images,” says gallery owner Simon Main.

Bootham Bar from King’s Manor by Katherine-of-Yorkshire

“Katherine’s preference is to photograph in black and white because she finds the result more timeless than using colour.

“From our perspective though, in addition to this, we see that she has a seemingly natural talent and eye for composition, and she manages to convey a deep feeling of peace, even when documenting the floods in York that happen all too regularly.”

In response to the ongoing Coronavirus situation, Village Gallery will not be holding its customary preview on the evening before the opening. “Enhanced regular cleaning and disinfecting practices have been put in place to keep our customers and us as safe as we can,” says Simon.

York Minster At Night, 2020, by Katherine-of-Yorkshire

“Until we are forced to do otherwise, the gallery will remain open for its usual opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and we look forward to seeing everyone throughout the period of the exhibition run until May 9.”

Aside from its regularly changing 2D and 3D art exhibitions, each running for six weeks, Village Gallery is York’s official stockist of Lalique glass and crystal, also selling art, jewellery, ceramics, glass and sculpture, predominantly by Yorkshire artists.

WHAT’S STILL ON: Pyramid Gallery launches online exhibition for these Strange Days after York Open Studios cancelled

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett, on Stonegate, York, holding a work by Askrigg artist Piers Browne from the Full Sunlight exhibition

THE Coronavirus pandemic may have shut doors on next month’s York Open Studios, but Pyramid Gallery is stepping in to offer an online exhibition to York artists.

What’s more, gallery owner Terry Brett is calling this new service Strange Days, after the song of that title by The Doors. As rather more than one door closes, The Doors open new possibilities for a different form of Pyramid selling.

“This applies to artists who have sold through the gallery either recently or in the past, and we’re extending this invitation to any of 2020’s 144 York Open Studio artists,” says Terry.

“The artists will keep the work that they’re showing at their studio, and between them and the gallery, delivery will be arranged to the purchaser’s address if it is within a YO postcode.”

Terry has run Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, since 1994, says: “We need to survive in these Strange Days, and so do our artists. We noticed many posts on social media this week by worried artists who had heard that York Open Studios was cancelled.  We wanted to do something positive for them. It has given us an aim and lots of work to do, which is very useful for morale.”

Morale that he believes is under immediate threat from this week’s urgently announced Government financial policies in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. “I am disappointed by the ineffectiveness of government to make sensible and working decisions,” says Terry.

The brochure for the 2020 York Open Studios, adapted post-cancellation by participating York jewellery maker Jo Bagshaw

“While other European nations are protecting citizens and employees from economic crisis and worry, our Government seems unable to make the decision to support individuals and freelance workers or self-employed artists.

“These matters are being passed down to the community to resolve. It’s not a good approach. The Government should offer quickly to make payments to everyone, so that we know we can pay rents, employ people and buy essentials.”

Pyramid Gallery is reducing its normal commission to the artist for this event to 20 per cent plus VAT on each sale and is arranging the delivery free of charge to the customer.

“Some artists have already submitted work for the online show, and images are being placed on the website all the time,” says Terry. “The show will continue as long as there is a Coronavirus crisis.”

More details, and the Strange Days lyrics, can be found at

Pyramid Gallery continues to open its doors, Monday to Saturday, between 10am and 5pm, but will be closed on Sundays. On show until April 26 is Full Sunlight, an exhibition of etchings and paintings by Piers Browne, studio ceramics by Hannah Arnup, figurative sculptures by Helen Martino and glass by Fiaz Elson.

The artwork for The Doors’ Strange Days

Oh, spoiler alert, here are Jim Morrison’s 1967 lyrics to The Doors’ Strange Days:

Strange days have found us

Strange days have tracked us down

They’re going to destroy

Our casual joys

We shall go on playing

Or find a new town


Strange eyes fill strange rooms

Voices will signal their tired end

The hostess is grinning

Her guests sleep from sinning

Hear me talk of sin

And you know this is it


Strange days have found us

And through their strange hours

We linger alone

Bodies confused

Memories misused

As we run from the day

To a strange night of stone

Let’s look forward to the day when Pyramid Gallery can host an exhibition with another of The Doors’ titles, The End, but in a good way, not an Apocalypse Now way.

WHAT’S STILL ON: Never too late for Early Music Day as NCEM streams concerts from behind closed doors

Devine intervention: Steven Devine’s concert WILL still happen, streamed across Europe from York. Picture: Guy Carpenter

EARLY Music Day will go ahead at the National Centre for Early Music, York, tomorrow but behind closed doors.

“Our doors may be temporarily closed, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll still be celebrating Early Music Day and streaming our concerts all around Europe, so join us for two wonderful concerts this Saturday (March 21),” says director Delma Tomlin. “There will also be a selection of concerts available to enjoy online over the coming weeks.”

Tomorrow’s programme at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, begins with a 1pm concert by harpsichordist Steven Devine, performing the first in a series of Bach Preludes and Fugues, and ends with The Brabant Ensemble’s 6pm programme of A Monk’s Life: Music From The Cloisters, 1550-1620.

From The Cloisters, from the NCEM: The Brabant Ensemble still in concert tomorrow. Picture: Alain Le Bourdonnec

“Sublime choral music from the Renaissance performed by this Oxford ensemble offers the perfect end to a fabulous day of music,” says Delma.

“I am so grateful to our talented array of musicians who are determined that Early Music Day will still happen somehow and have agreed to perform behind closed doors.

“Even if you can’t be with us in person, we hope that you will join us for this day of music, a joyful celebration which normally takes place with our European partners and friends in beautiful venues.”

“Music has the power to uplift and inspire us all,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

Looking ahead, Delma says: “We are pausing our operations until the end of April and will be in contact with everyone who has booked to attend concerts that are due to take place within this period.

“We ask that you are patient with us during this difficult time and wait for us to contact you. Regular updates about future concerts and more concert footage will be posted on our website,, and via social media, so please keep checking.”

To watch Saturday’s concerts follow:

“Music has the power to uplift and inspire us all and although our building may be closed, we will be sharing a selection of concerts from our archives online for us all to enjoy,” says Delma, on an upbeat final note.

York Theatre Royal postpones Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad until 2021

Balancing act: York Theatre Royal postpones The Penelopiad until 2021 but that enables “a little more dreamtime” for the creative team

YORK Theatre Royal’s summer production of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad has been postponed.

Originally in the 2020 diary for July 10 to 25, associate director Juliet Forster’s show will be staged in 2021 instead on dates yet to be confirmed. 

Uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic is holding up pre-production work by Forster’s creative team.

Juliet Forster: York Theatre Royal associate director, directing The Penelopiad

Juliet says: “The joy of Atwood’s work is that it doesn’t date, so although we are disappointed that we have to postpone our production of The Penelopiad, I know it will be just as relevant and exciting to stage this wonderful play in 2021.  

“And on the upside, for the creative team involved, having a little more dreamtime on this story will only make the final staging of it all the more spectacular!”

Written by the Booker Prize-winning author of The Handmaid’s Tale and 2019’s The Testaments, The Penelopiad tells the story of Odysseus’ wife Penelope and the Trojan Wars from her point of view. 

Writer Margaret Atwood

Ticket holders will be contacted by the Theatre Royal box office in the coming weeks.

CORONAVIRUS: South African company Isango Ensemble cancels York Theatre Royal season in May

Isango Ensemble: May tour to York Theatre Royal cancelled; may tour next year instead,

ISANGO Ensemble’s three-week season at York Theatre Royal in May – the “highlight of their year” – has been cancelled in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The South African company, whose performers are drawn mainly from the Cape Town townships, was programmed to perform three shows from its repertoire, The Mysteries, The Magic Flute and SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, from May 5 to 23 in Isango’s first visit to York in their two-decade span. Now they hope to visit Yorkshire next year instead.

Isango Ensemble in SS Mend; Dancing The Death Drill. Picture: The Other Richard

Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird says: “We are devastated that our friends Isango Ensemble are unable to make the trip to the UK. They have been in rehearsal for a specially curated season of work that was sure to delight and inspire our audiences with their joyous productions. We hope there will be another opportunity for us to welcome the company to York in the future.”

Director Mark Dornford-May, the Yorkshireman who co-founded Isango 20 years ago, says: “The whole ensemble were so excited to be visiting York for the first time in our 20-year history. It really was the highlight of the year. To have been rehearsing the shows and then not be able to play them in that beautiful theatre is a deeply felt blow.

Isango Ensemble in The Mysteries: Noluthando Boqwana as Lucifer, left, with Devils

“Tom and all his colleagues have been so supportive throughout the last few difficult days and together we hope to create a plan to get to play in Yorkshire next year.”

Ticket holders will be contacted by the Theatre Royal box office in the coming weeks.​​

Did you know?

ISANGO Ensemble is a Cape Town theatre company led by director and co-founder Mark Dornford-May and music directors Pauline Malefane and Mandisi Dyantyis.

CORONAVIRUS: York Musical Society cancels March 28 and June 13 concerts

York Musical Society: March and June concerts cancelled

YORK Musical Society’s next two concerts on March 28 and June 13 at York Minster have been cancelled in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Chair Irene Plaistowe says: “We had already taken this decision when the Minster announced that it was shutting its doors.  We did not wish to put at risk members of the public or YMS members.

The March 28 concert, Requiem Aeternam, would have featured Fauré’s Requiem and Michael Haydn’s Requiem. June 13’s programme, Splendours Of The Baroque, comprised Vivaldi’s Gloria, Marcello’s Trumpet Concerto in D minor and Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba and Coronation Anthems.

“Our tickets were sold through the Minster box office, so they will contact anyone who bought a ticket online to arrange a refund,” says Irene. “If a ticket was bought in person or over the phone, contact the Minster box office in the same way you bought your ticket. Everyone will get a refund.”

CORONAVIRUS: Art Of Protest kimino no-show for now but gallery vows to return

The notice in the window of the Art Of Protest Gallery, in Little Stonegate, York

EVEN a gallery with the bravura name of Art Of Protest must concede to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Craig Humble’s cutting-edge, fashion-savvy gallery in Little Stonegate, York, was to have launched its York Fashion Week exhibition of Pam Glew’s Kiminos with a preview this evening.

Not now. Today Craig posted a statement in the window, under the heading Gallery Closed – Temporarily, to announce that “sadly, with a heavy heart we are closing the gallery in response to the global pandemic”.

Pam Glew’s Kiminos: exhibition postponed, but Art Of Protest Gallery vows it will return

“Due to a combination of recent announcements, the importance for all our future of beating this outbreak and the reality of the ever-thinning streets of York, I am closing the gallery for at least a couple of weeks from Thursday March 19th, while the way forward becomes clear. Hopefully this is an au revoir; rather than a goodbye,” says Craig.

“I will be developing the website and investigating the online opportunities that can be maintained while away from the gallery, so keep an eye out on social media for any changes and news.” 

Those hoping to visit the Pam Glew exhibition “to purchase one of the amazing pieces”, says Craig, can click on the Pam Glew Catalogue button on the website,, for a catalogue of available work.

“Thank you for being part of the movement over the past three years and I look forward to seeing you on the other side of this pause. When we return, it will be with the exhibition newly which has been hung for York Fashion Week featuring Pam Glew’s Kiminos,” he adds.

The frontage of the Art Of Protest Gallery

Craig ends the statement by advising:

Although the gallery is closed from Thursday March 19, email and social media will be monitored if you want to get in touch. 

Any outstanding orders will be completed by appointment. Please email to arrange. 

Please heed the warnings to defeat this virus, wash your hands and stay safe while this cold wind blows through our lives. 

CORONAVIRUS: York’s past at Jorvik Viking Centre closed for foreseeable future

JORVIK Viking Centre, in York, is temporarily closed for the foreseeable future in response to Government advice relating to minimising the risk of Covid-19.

Today’s statement from the Coppergate visitor attraction said: “The health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors is our number one priority and so we have decided this action is the best step to take at this moment in time.

“We will do all that we can to keep you updated on the situation through our website and social media channels.

“If you are a visitor, group leader or school booked with us over the next few weeks, our reservations team will be contacting you shortly to discuss what your options are with regards rescheduling, refunds and alternative experiences. We apologise for any inconvenience this closure may have caused.”

The statement continued: “We are owned by York Archaeological Trust, an educational charity with a mission of ‘Building Better Lives Through Heritage’; and so ensuring all of our audiences remain engaged with their past is one of our key aims.

“With this in mind, we are working hard behind the scenes to create some new digital content that we look forward to sharing with you in the coming days and weeks. Please keep checking our social media and website for details.”

Meanwhile, donations are being sought for Jorvik’s own future wellbeing. “If you would like to show your support and offer a donation to York Archaeological Trust to help assist us during this difficult time, it would be appreciated enormously,”

Donors are asked to click on a link at Alternatively, please email or call 01904 663000.

CORONAVIRUS: York Theatre Royal closed to the public from today

Building closed: York Theatre Royal

THE York Theatre Royal building is closed to the public until further notice.

This morning’s full statement reads: “Following the latest Government advice about Coronavirus, the York Theatre Royal building is now closed to the public until further notice. You can still contact our box office by phone on 01904 623568.  

“All Youth Theatre, LAMDA, Crafty Tales and Adult Theatre Workshop sessions will stop running for the time being. Costume hire is also closed until further notice.”

The statement continues: “It’s with enormous sadness that we temporarily close our doors, but the safety of our audiences, staff and community is of utmost importance. We apologise for the disruption and thank you for your support during this period of great uncertainty.

“We are making contact with ticket holders for the cancelled performances. If the closure period is extended, we will be in touch with bookers for future performances in good time, and we’ll also post updates to our website and social media channels. See you soon.”

No shows, no gigs, no ideas? Feeling listless? Here are 10 Things To Do At Home, courtesy of The Press, York

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. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether still together or in isolation, in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Compiling your Desert Island Discs

CREATE your own Desert Island Discs and accompanying reasons, should you ever be called to answer Lauren Laverne’s questions on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning staple. Cue Eric Coates’s opening theme, By The Sleepy Lagoon, then your eight music choices, one book choice, one luxury.

Then play your list, but cutting it down to eight will be much harder than you first expect.

Make a cut-out of Lauren Laverne and do your own edition of Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs, suggestion number two

AND while you are about it, also take every opportunity to raid the Beeb’s Desert Island Discs back catalogue at BBC Sounds. Recommendations? Ian Wright, former footballer, turned broadcaster; Dr John Cooper Clarke, sage Salford stick insect and man of multitudinous words; Kathy Burke, Camden Town actress, comedian, writer, producer and director.

Make a timetable for the day

LIKE you would at work…though this timetable may not be possible, if indeed you are working from home.

Nevertheless, should the time need passing, allow, say, an hour for each activity, be it writing; reading; playing board games at the stipulated distances apart or card games, which can be done on your own, such as Patience; watching a movie, maybe a long-neglected DVD rescued from a dusty shelf; or whatever else is on your list.

“Puzzles are wonderfully relaxing yet keep the brain very active ,” says jigsaw enthusiast and York actor Ian Giles

Re-discover a childhood joy

PLUCKING one out of the air, how about jigsaw puzzles, a favourite of Mother Hutch and Granny Pyman before her.

“They are wonderfully relaxing yet keep the brain very active and there’s a feeling of creative satisfaction on completion,” recommends York actor Ian Giles, a devotee of such puzzle solving.


YORK singer Jessa Liversidge runs the Singing For All choir, as heard savouring I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing at Big Ian’s A Night To Remember at a packed York Barbican (remember those days?) on Leap Year Saturday.

Now, abiding by the Government’s Avoid Unnecessary Social Contact advice, to keep people singing, she is planning a range of online singing opportunities to suit not only her Singing For All and Easingwold Community Singers folks, but “any frustrated singers”. “Get in touch to find out how to join,” says Jessa, whose Twitter account is @jessaliversidge. She posts regularly.

Still on song: York singer Jessa Liversidge would like to reach the world to sing online

Lighting a candle

THE Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu, is asking us all to place a lighted candle in our window at 7pm this coming Sunday “as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished”.


ALL those cookbooks that you bought for the nice pictures, but have never opened since, are bursting with opportunities to try out a new dish…if the supermarket shelves have not been emptied by 10 o’clock in the morning.

Why not raid the store cupboard too, check the dates (and the dried dates from last Christmas) and see if anything may come in handy. The likelihood is more and more hours will have to be spent at home; this is a chance to stretch your culinary skills.

Candlelight: The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu’s Sunday request


HOPEFULLY, going for walks, maintaining a safe, previously anti-social distance, will still be a possibility, as advocated by Prime Minister Johnson, until otherwise stated.

If not, or if isolation is your way ahead, spring is in the air, gardens are turning green, the grass is growing. Gardening will surely be one of the unbroken joys of the ever-so-uncertain path that lies ahead.

Should you not have a garden, windowsills are havens for green-fingered pursuits: the seeds of much content.

And what about…

Podcasts. Books. More podcasts. More books. Box sets (yawn). Discovering a new band online, or maybe an old one you had long neglected. Writing a 10 Things like this one. Reading Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan’s morning Tweets, or any time of day, in fact. Reading York musician and motivational speaker Big Ian Donaghy’s perennially positive thoughts for the day @trainingcarers, BIGIAN #DEMENTIAisAteamGAME. Watch Channel 4 News, especially Jon Snow, one bright-tied 72 year old who should defy the imminent Government “curfew” on the over-70s. (UPDATE: 19/3/2020. Or maybe not. Tonight he broadcast from his central London home.)

Poetry in motion: Ian McMillan’s joyous Tweets from his early-morning walks

And finally…

PLEASE stop flicking through social media at every turn…except for displays of the ever-so-British black humour in response to the new C-word.

Any suggestions for further editions of 10 Things To Do At Home And Beyond are most welcome. Please send to

Lights out, but what are York’s theatres doing to keep the fat lady singer at bay?

“Critical situation”: Dark nights, dark days too, at York Theatre Royal until further notice

CLOSED. Closed. Closed. Closed. Closed. York’s theatres have shut down en masse in response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Monday briefing on Black Monday to avoid unnecessary social contact at pubs, clubs and theatres.

One by one came the measured official statements in response to the rising Coronavirus pandemic, announced with regret, sadness and heavy hearts.

By way of contrast, a tide of anger rose ever higher on social media from the entertainment industry, feeling shafted by the PM not legislating closure, merely advising it.

In doing so, he placed the decision in the (no doubt frequently washed) hands  of theatre managements, boards and trusts, whose sense of moral responsibility left no option but to announce closure until further notice as a precaution amid the Coronavirus crisis. When insurance effectively amounts to no insurance, hell by hand cart is the only journey in town.

Lights out: Ellen Kent Company’s La Boheme, at the Grand Opera House tomorrow is snuffed out by the Prime Minister’s Coronavirus dictum

The Grand National, the first post-Brexit Eurovision, the Chelsea Flower Show, Glastonbury Festival, the Euro 2020 football championships, are all scrapped for 2020. A tsunami of further announcements will follow, not least from theatre companies cancelling or postponing tours.

Keep Calm and Carry On may be the mantra, but the fear is that Keep Calm and Carry On may well turn to carrion on account of, well, the accounts.

York Theatre Royal, in St Leonard’s Place, Theatre @41 Monkgate, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, and Riding Lights Theatre Company’s Friargate Theatre, in Lower Friargate, have individual boards and managements addressing urgent, previously unimaginable requirements and strictures.

Likewise, the Ambassadors Theatre Group, owners of the Grand Opera House, is co-ordinating the Coronavirus-impacted strategy throughout ATG, making statements for the Cumberland Street theatre, whose staff are now working remotely from home.

Clock stopped: PIck Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden was curtailed after Monday’s performance at Theatre @ 41 Monkgate, York

These are unprecedented circumstances. Circumstances not even seen in wartime when theatres – some, not all – across the land stayed open through 1939 to 1945.

Circumstances where the new C-word has led to theatre after theatre – together with cinemas, music clubs, museums, galleries, visitor attractions, SparkYork, et al – to issue variations on: “It is with enormous sadness that we take these measures, but the safety of our audiences, staff and community is of utmost importance.”

So, where does each of these York theatres stand now, in a city where, like the rest, the theatre focus is turning to those of the medical variety? The best advice is to visit the theatre websites for information on the present closures, ticket refunds, and, in light of the harsh financial reality, Donate Today requests. “Your support is vital to our survival,” pleads York Theatre Royal bluntly.

A spokesman for the Theatre Royal – take it as read that it was executive director Tom Bird – said: “The closure of theatres in the UK puts York Theatre Royal, along with hundreds of other theatres, into a critical situation.”

Road closed: Riding Lights Theatre Company have had give up The Narrow Road tour for Lent

Does that make it theatre’s version of the intensive care unit? Time will tell, but the arts have a way of defying the last rites, always have, always will, keeping the fat lady singer waiting, the final curtain up in the flies. What they will make of Richmond Rishi’s £330 billion loan scheme is another discussion point for the in-tray, however.

In a nutshell, York Theatre Royal’s shows and public events initially are cancelled until April 11, but there surely will be no miraculous resurrection on Easter Sunday. The York Theatre Royal building, box office and café remained open initially, but the building closed to the public today (March 19). The box office is still taking phone calls on 01904 623568; ticket refunds are underway.

Shows at the Grand Opera House, in common with all Ambassadors Theatre Group theatres, are “temporarily suspended with immediate effect”, with a policy of postponement and future re-arranged dates to be confirmed, rather than cancellations, at this stage.

“We are following government guidance which is currently ambiguous,” say ATG. “It is unclear how long theatres are to remain closed. We will reopen them once the government and medical authorities confirm that there is no risk to our audiences, performers and staff. 

The Missing Peace: one of the now missing pieces at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, but with plans for re-arranged dates later

“We are working hard with our producers and performers to understand how this will play out, so we can’t confirm that at this time. We will try, wherever possible, to re-programme shows that have been suspended.”

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre will remain closed “until we receive further instruction that it is safe to reopen”. “We will be issuing further advice in the coming days on how we are going to manage ticket refunds and exchanges,” says trust chairman Dan Shrimpton. “We would ask that you please bear with us and wait for us to contact you.”

The Theatre @41 Monkgate website is yet to be updated following Monday’s Coronavirus ultimatum – the About Us section has Covid-19 Guidance from before – but Pick Me Up Theatre artistic director Robert Readman announced performances would cease after Tom’s Midnight Garden that evening.

He also cancelled Pick Me Up’s Sondheim 90 birthday concert this Sunday and the April 17 to 25 run of The Pirates Of Penzance. Be assured that Coronavirus has been the death of York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth from March 31 to April 4 too.

Riding Lights, York’s Christian theatre company based at Friargate Theatre, have cancelled their March 16 to April 11 tour of The Narrow Road. “We are very sorry not to be performing this Lent but wish you a happy and safe Easter,” their website says.

Meanwhile, prayers and thoughts go to all those working in the theatres at York Hospital and elsewhere, preparing for whatever is to come.

Copyright of The Press, York

Let’s leap ahead and hope that Emma Stothard’s 366 Leaping Hares may yet have their day again at Nunnington Hall

Hare, there and everywhere: Whitby sculptor Emma Stothard surrounded by her 366 Leaping Hares at Nunnington Hall. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

WHITBY sculptor Emma Stothard’s wildlife work has come on leaps and bounds over the past year for her latest show at Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley.

To mark 2020 being a leap year, she has created a one-off installation of 366 Leaping Hares, one for each day of the year, combining sculptures, illustrations and paintings, all for sale, on display amid the historic collection in the Smoking Room of the National Trust country house.

Alas, Nunnington Hall is now closed with effect from this Wednesday (May 18), in response to Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic. “The safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors is our priority,” says senior visitor experience officer Laura Kennedy.

Out of the top drawer: four of Emma Stothard’s 366 Leaping Hares emerging from the Smoking Room furniture at Nunnington Hall. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

Let’s take a leap of faith, however, beyond the month of the Mad March Hare and leap ahead to later in the year when hopefully you can still see 366 Leaping Hares. “The idea came first, doing something for 2020, for Leap Year, rather than responding to a particular space, and I thought ‘let’s do 366 hares’,” says Emma. “Given that number, I knew some would need to be small, with some bigger ones for contrast.”

Emma spent the past year creating each work, whether clay, wire or willow sculptures, textiles hangs and cushions, drawings and ceramic tiles.

All have been individually hand-finished and dated by the sculptor, not least a special Leap Day Hare to mark Saturday, February 29. “Each of those 366 days is going to be special for someone – a birthday, an anniversary, maybe even a proposal of marriage on the Leap Day itself!” says Emma.

Emma Stothard working in her studio on her 366 Leaping Hares. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

She has responded too to Nunnington Hall’s “rich sense of history”. “Generations have lived here, and you can feel their presence in the furniture, the wallpaper and the textiles,” she says.

Consequently, Emma’s installation explores the array of materials that embodies the ever-changing architecture and fabric of the historic building, while experimenting with contemporary methods too in her hotchpotch of hares that range from four-foot willow sculptures to four-inch miniature wire and clay collectables.

Placed by Emma amid the historic collection, some are in full view; others are in the Smoking Room’s hidden spaces, nooks and crannies, even emerging from drawers or to be spotted under furniture.

Hare, there, everywhere, yes, Emma loves hares. “They’re just so wonderful to see, aren’t they,” she enthuses. “I see them quite a lot when I’m walking across the fields with my dog.

Going to the wire: A close-up of Emma Stothard’s handiwork as she makes a hare. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“I love spotting them because they’re so elusive, so quick moving. They’re magical to sculpt, and it’s the same with roe deer. I find them fascinating, beautiful, because you can never get that close to them.

“We’re steeped in their history and it feels a real privilege to be in their presence when they run out of front of me.”

The large number of hares required was the green light for Emma to broaden her working practices. “Like casting in bronze for the first time. I’d been recommended by (the late) Sally Arnup to use Aron McCartney, who has a metal-casting foundry at  Barnard Castle, but there never came a time to be able to cast anything until now,” she says. “Now that I have, hopefully we can continue with the relationship.”

Taking shape: hares lined up for the next stage of sculptor Emma Stothard’s creative process. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

This is not the first time that Nunnington Hall has had an impact on Emma’s work. “I first exhibited here in 2012 on the Rievaulx Terrace, when I was also commissioned to make my first wire sculpture of a horse, which you can still see here,” she says. “They like to move it around the gardens to keep people on their toes.

“The wire horse was the first time I moved away from working in willow and has led me to doing more public commissions in wire and now bronze wire. There are 12 little galvanized ones in the new exhibition, coated in zinc in the galvanizing process.”

Her outdoor willow sculptures, meanwhile, must be treated at regular intervals. “Think of it as a seasonal chore in the garden,” she says. “Four times a year; 50 per cent linseed oil; 50 per cent Turps substitute, which is a traditional way to protect the strength of the willow.

“There’s no reason you can’t get ten years out of them if you look after them properly, as linseed oil builds a layer of varnish, like shellac. So, remember, four times a year, once a season.”

Start counting: 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6….366 Leaping Hares in Nunnington Hall’s Smoking Room. Hope to see them again some time in 2020. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

In Staithes, you can spot Emma’s coral and coronation blue lobsters, her 9ft marine crustaceans first exhibited in the Sculpture By The Sea exhibition at the 2015 Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage, and now she has made Withernsea Crab, a three metre-high sculpture of a brown crab for the Withernsea Fish Trail.

Emma also had been working on sculptures for Jardin Blanc at May’s now cancelled 2020 Chelsea Flower Show, her fourth such commission for the hospitality area, where Raymond Blanc is the executive chef. More Emma work, by the way, can be found at Blanc’s Oxfordshire restaurant, the Belmond Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons.

At the time of this interview, Emma was on the cusp of signing a contract to create seven life-size sculptures celebrating Whitby’s fishing heritage on the east side of the East Coat harbour. ”I’m hoping to have the first piece installed in time for the Whitby Fish & Ships Festival in May,” she said. The 2020 festival has since been cancelled, but look out for Emma’s sculptures at the 2021 event on May 15 and 16 next spring.

Looking ahead, where would Emma most love to exhibit? “My dream is to do an exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park [at West Bretton, near Wakefield], particularly as I did my teacher-training there at Bretton Hall,” she says.

One final question for Emma: is it true that boxing hares are not male rivals scrapping over a female in hare-to-hare combat but in fact, contrary to myth, jack versus jill (as hares were known). “That’s right: it’s male against female, and in my boxing-hare couples, it’s always a female fending off a male,” she says.

As and when Nunnington Hall re-opens, Emma Stothard’s installation 366 Leaping Hares would then be on view and on sale until November 1.

CORONAVIRUS: Mikron Theatre cancel Atalanta Forever and A Dog’s Tale tours

Atalanta Forever…but not now for 2020 after Mikron Theatre Company called off the tour of Amanda Whittington’s new play

MIKRON Theatre Company 2020’s tour of Amanda Whittington’s new women’s football play, Atalanta Forever, is off. The referee showing the red card is, inevitably, Coronavirus Pandemic.

The tour would have opened at the National Football Museum, Manchester, on April 18, and waiting in the wings was a June 2 visit to the Marsden travelling players’ regular York idyll of the Scarcroft Allotments, kick-off at 6pm.  

Also falling foul of COVID-19’s Governmental advice to avoid unnecessary social contact is Mikron’s second show of the summer, Poppy Hollman’s new play A Dog’s Tale, a celebration of canines past and present that explores the enduring love between people and their dogs.

This exploration of “the extraordinary world of heroic hounds, pampered pedigrees and naughty nobblers through the halls and history of Crufts” was bound for Clements Hall, York, in the autumn, with a cast of Mikron stalwart James McLean, company newcomer Thomas Cotran and Rachel Benson and Elizabeth Robin from last year’s brace of shows, All Hands On Deck and Redcoats.

In a statement from artistic director Marianne McNamara, producer Pete Toon, general manager Rachel Root, production manager Jo English and the board of trustees, Mikron say: “It is with an extremely heavy hearts that we have to tell you that we are cancelling our 2020 tour.

“We have worked on every possible scenario and this is the only way that we will survive into our 50th year of touring in 2021.

“Our board has a duty of care for our team, venues and Mikron supporters. We want you all to know that we are thinking of you, and indeed everyone who is part of the Mikron family, in these very difficult times.”

Mikron Theatre Company’s summer mode of transport: Tyseley, a vintage narrowboat. Picture: Jon Gascoyne

The statement continues: “If you’ve already booked tickets for our 2020 season – thank you! – we will honour any ticket refunds: just call or email if you would like us to action this.

“Like many theatre lovers across the world, if you feel that you wish to donate your ticket price to help us come back better than ever in 2021, we’d be so very grateful.

“If you haven’t booked, but you were planning on seeing us in 2020, you can support Mikron now in the following ways:

“As a thank you to you all and to cheer your heart, get your Mikron fix in the following ways:

Mikron praise Arts Council England for being “amazing” “They are doing everything they can to assist the arts, museums and libraries. We genuinely would not be here without them today,” they say.

“We have been able to cushion the financial blow for our creative team as much as possible, and we’re planning for next year in the hope that what we collectively do in the coming months gets us there.

Coronavirus-cancelled canine comedy capers: MIkron Theatre Company’s poster for A Dog’s Tale

“If there is anything else we can do for you, please do keep in touch. We may not be out on the road and waterways this year but we’re still very much here for you on email, and at the end of the phone.”

From the writer of Ladies Day, Ladies Day Down Under and Mighty Atoms for Hull Truck Theatre and Bollywood Jane for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Atalanta Forever tells the story of pioneering women footballers in 1920.

In post-war Britain, women’s football is big news. Across the country, all-girl teams are pulling huge crowds in fund-raising games for wounded soldiers.

Huddersfield amateurs Ethel and Annie take a shot at the big time. Teammates at Atalanta AFC, they are soon tackling new football skills, mastering the offside rule and kicking back at the doubters.

This summer’s audiences would have been invited to “come and cheer for Atalanta as our plucky underdogs learn how to play the game, take on the legendary teams of the era and find the toughest opponent of all is the Football Association”.

Whittington’s play is based on the true story of one of three women’s football teams in Huddersfield in post-war Britain. As told through the lives of two young women, Atalanta Ladies Football Club was formed in 1920 to “provide games for the women of Huddersfield, to foster a sporting spirit, and a love of honour among its members”.

During the Great War, several women’s football teams had sprung up around the country, usually based in factories or munitions works, and proved a great success in raising money for hospitals, war widows and so on. 

Atalanta Forever playwright Amanda Whittington

The popularity of the women’s game may be measured by the estimated 25,000 crowd that packed Hillsborough, Sheffield, for the Huddersfield team’s next game with the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC of Preston on May 4, when they lost 4-0 to their much more experienced opponents.

In the wider football world, the growing popularity of women’s football was now causing concern. The FA even saw it as taking support away from the men’s game and on December 5, 1921, they banned women’s teams from using FA affiliated grounds.

Before folding in 1924, the pioneering Huddersfield Atalanta Ladies FC had raised more than £2,000 for various charities.

Writer and co-lyricist Whittington says of her new play: “I was an 11-year-old footballer in the 1980s, the only girl who played in the boys’ village tournament, and I vividly remember being ‘advised’ to stop because it wasn’t appropriate. 

“I still feel the injustice and the sense of shame for wanting to do something I wasn’t meant to. 

“It brings joy to my heart to see football’s now the biggest team sport for girls in Britain.  I wanted to write about the battle the women’s game has fought to survive and prosper – and perhaps to tell the 11-year-old me she was right?”

A newly prescient poster for Mikron Theatre Company’s 2018 tour of Get Well Soon. How we need all those heroes in our NHS in the months ahead, God bless you all

Atalanta Forever was being directed by Mikron artistic director Marianne McNamara, joined in the production team by composer and co-lyricist Kieran Buckeridge, musical director Rebekah Hughes and designer Celia Perkins.

Explaining why Mikron chose to tackle the subject of the fight for women’s football, McNamara says: “Women’s football is making a comeback and not before time. We are thrilled to pay homage to the trailblazing Huddersfield women that paved the way against all odds.

“Just like the great game itself, this will be an action-packed play of two halves, full of live music, fun and laughter with no plans for extra time!”

Mikron’s 49th year of touring would have run from April 18 to October, with the West Yorkshire company travelling hither and thither by road in the spring and autumn, and by river and canal on the vintage narrowboat Tyseley, until October 24.

Let us look forward to whenever Mikron will be putting on their shows once more in “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”, whether a play about growing-your-own veg, presented in  allotments; one about bees performed next to hives; another about chips in a fish and chips restaurant, as well as plays about hostelling in YHA youth hostels and the RNLI at several lifeboat stations around the UK.

In the meantime, in the spirit of Mikron’s 2018 show by York writer Ged Cooper, please world, Get Well Soon.

For more information, go to

CORONAVIRUS: City Screen closed from today in line with all Picturehouse cinemas

Going dark: City Screen, York, is closed until further notice

CITY Screen, York, is closed from today, in response to the Coronavirus epidemic, in line with all fellow cinemas in the Picturehouse chain.

A statement from “the Picturehouse Team” says: “It’s with great sadness that Picturehouse is today announcing the closure of all its cinemas across the UK, starting from Wednesday, March 18 2020, until further notice.

“This decision was made in the light of the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recent UK government advice, which the company has been carefully monitoring and following.

“The safety and well-being of our customers, our members and our staff is our utmost priority at Picturehouse and we are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment within our cinemas.” 

All City Screen – and Picturehouse at large – customers who pre-booked tickets online or on the phone will be emailed and then be issued a refund automatically within 14 days. 

City Screen, York: marked its 20th anniversary in January

Customers who purchased tickets in person should contact, where the customer care team will be able to assist.

Picturehouse memberships, including at City Screen, will retain their value and all members will be contacted in due course with further information. 

The statement continues: “We deeply value our cinema-loving audience and staff and their health and wellbeing is our number one priority during this difficult time. We look forward to welcoming our Picturehouse customers back through our doors as soon as possible.

“We will continue to update customers via our email mailing list and please follow our social media channels.” 

Those channels are:

Twitter: @picturehouses



CORONAVIRUS: Saturday’s Pizzafest music and pizza event at Fulford Arms cancelled

Pizzafest; cancelled

SATURDAY’S Pizzafest live music and pizza event at the Fulford Arms, York, has been called off.

Dan Gott, from event curators Snakerattlers, says: “Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel Pizzafest this coming weekend due to the current Covid-19 situation.

“All the bands on the line-up will be playing at another Pizzafest in the future, when things have calmed down. We suggest you keep your ticket for the next Pizzafest, as it will still be valid.”

Before Monday’s Government statement on avoiding unnecessary social contact in pubs, Dan had said, “all being well”, he hoped a Pizzafest could take place in June. Instead, the date now will be announced in due course.

“Ticket purchasers for Saturday are entitled to a £10 refund, which can be made by emailing,” he added.

Saturday’s Pizzafest would have been an all-day event with “a wealth of tip-top, dance-til-you-drop, underground garage rock bands from throughout the UK”. Half way through, a truckload of free pizza would have arrived, with the invitation to “eat as much as you like”.

The line-up was to have included York motorpunk rockers Segregates launching their new vinyl single, Preach To Me. On the bill too were Snakerattlers; Thee Girl Fridays; The Strays; The Sleazoids; Surf Muscle; Hellfire Jack; The Bikini Bottoms; What’s Wrong With Homer?; Percy and Gillman.

CORONAVIRUS: Stephen Joseph Theatre suspends all activities this week

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, has shut down with immediate effect in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement released today, joint chief executive Caroline Routh said: “Further to current government advice, which stipulates that people should avoid public buildings including theatres to help slow the spread of Coronavirus, our extended management group, including our trustees, has agreed that we will suspend all activities up to and including Sunday (March 22).”

The SJT box office remains open to manage cancellations and will be in touch with customers with bookings that are affected.

“This is a fast-developing situation, and we will be making further announcements over the next few days as things become clearer,” the SJT statement  said. “Please take care of yourself and all those around you.”

CORONAVIRUS: Thursday’s Dementia Friendly Tea Concert at St Chad’s cancelled

Pianist Robert Gammon

THURSDAY’S Dementia Friendly Tea Concert at St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, York, has been cancelled, in response to the latest Government advice on the Coronavirus outbreak.

Husband and wife Robert and Alison Gammon, on piano and clarinet, were to have a 45-minute programme of classical music at 2.30pm, featuring Camille Saint-Saens’ Clarinet Sonata and Niels Gade’s Fantasy Pieces, to be followed by tea, coffee and homemade cakes. 

Organisers Alison Gammon and Nick Nightingale say: “We have lots of events planned for later in the year and we are looking forward to welcoming you back as soon as possible. When holding the concerts once again becomes advisable, we will email everyone and let you know. In the meantime we send our sincere best wishes to you all.”

CORONAVIRUS: Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds City Varieties and Hyde Park Picture House close until further notice

The Leeds Grand Theatre auditorium. Picture: Simon Hulme

LEEDS Grand Theatre, Leeds City Varieties Music Hall and Hyde Park Picture House are closing from today “to help slow the spread of Coronavirus”.

The decision was taken with regret following official government advice issued on Monday, stipulating that people should avoid public buildings, including theatres.

The three venues under the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Ltd umbrella will “remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible – following government recommendations”.

Leeds City Varieties Music Hall

Chief executive Chris Blythe said: “We are extremely grateful to all of our audiences who have continued to support us for as long as they can, and to our staff who have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure the safety and enjoyment of audiences. 

“These are unprecedented times – combined we have been open for over 400 years – and closing our venues is not a decision that has been taken lightly. In truth, this will have a severe impact on the future of Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera House Ltd. Our future is now uncertain, but the safety of our visitors and staff has always been our priority.”

Hyde Park Picture House, Brudenell Road, Leeds

Mr Blythe went on: “We will continue to follow advice from the Government and work closely with the touring companies and artists that are due to visit our venues over the coming months and hope that we will be able to open our doors again very soon. We thank everyone for their continued support and loyalty.” 

Audience members for a performance/screening that has been cancelled will be contacted in due course by staff. “All customers are entitled to a refund, but as Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Ltd is a charitable enterprise, those who can afford to are encouraged to donate the cost of their ticket to show support for the future of our venues,” today’s statement said.

“Over the coming weeks, we will continue to provide regular updates. Ticket holders are asked to bear in mind that our customer service teams are extremely busy, and we would appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding at this time.”

CORONAVIRUS: Selby Town Hall cancels shows until the end of April

Selby Town Hall

SELBY Town Hall is cancelling all public ticketed events from today initially until the end of April.

The decision has been taken “in light of the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday and the UK government’s instructions regarding social distancing”.

A statement from Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones said: “This is a fast-changing situation, and we will be monitoring advice from the Government and Public Health England on a day-by-day basis to inform our course of action from May onwards.   

“Rest assured that the health of our customers, performers, volunteers and staff is our highest priority.”

The Selby Town Hall auditorium

Selby Town Hall will be contacting all ticket holders “as soon as we can”. “It may be possible to rearrange some performances either for later in the year or early 2021, while others will sadly be cancelled altogether,” said Chris.  

“To all our customers, you are fantastic. We are incredibly grateful for the support you have given, and continue to give, to the venue. We ask for your patience while our small team deal with what is an unprecedented situation.

“It will take us a few days to establish new dates for shows or confirm full cancellations. The most important message for the moment is not to travel to shows here in the near future, to stay safe, and to look after one another. We will be in touch with you all individually in due course.”

Doors shut on York Open Studios as Coronavirus scuppers artist showcase

The brochure cover for the now cancelled 2020 York Open Studios

NEXT month’s 20th anniversary York Open Studios has been called off and will not be rearranged for later in the year under the ever-darkening shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Launched in 2001, when only 20 artists took part, Britain’s longest-running Open Studios event was to have showcased 144 artists and makers in 100 studios and workplaces over two weekends, April 18 and 19 and April 25 and 26.

The York Open Studios logo

Event chair Beccy Ridsdel says: “It’s been a very difficult decision to make, but the safety of visitors and participating artists is our priority, and with Coronavirus advice currently changing daily, we have sadly decided we are unable to proceed with this year’s event. However, York Open Studios will be running in 2021.”

Now the focus turns to still highlighting the work of the 144 artists, makers and designers, whose full details can be found at and in the newly redundant 2020 brochure that can be found around the city.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to make,” says York Open Studios chair Beccy Ridsdel after Coronavirus forced the cancellation of next month’s event

“These small creative businesses are in need of support during these volatile times, so please take time to take a look at their work, websites and social media pages and contact them directly to purchase works,” advise the event organisers.

On show and for sale would have been ceramics, collages, digital works, illustrations, jewellery, mixed media, paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, textiles and wood works.

York Theatre Royal cancels shows until April 11. Donations sought

York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird

YORK Theatre Royal is cancelling all public performances and events until April 11 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Coronavirus briefing on avoiding unnecessary social contact.

Ticket holders are being asked to consider donating the price of their tickets to the theatre, Britain’s oldest playhouse outside London.

Shows at theatres nationwide have been cancelled in response to yesterday’s Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic, asking the public not to go to theatres, pubs and clubs.

The Theatre Royal box office will be in touch with ticket holders for the next four weeks of performances, covering March 17 to April 11, and they are being requested not to contact the box office directly but wait to be called.

Executive director Tom Bird said: “The closure of theatres in the UK puts York Theatre Royal, along with hundreds of other theatres, into a critical situation. We are asking that people consider donating their ticket purchase to the theatre at this time. As a charity, their support is crucial to our survival.

“If they cannot do this, we’d ask that they consider a credit to their account. If none of this is satisfactory, they can choose a refund.”

York Theatre Royal further advises: “If the closure period is extended, we will be in touch with bookers for future performances in good time, and we’ll also post updates to our website and social media channels.

“It’s with enormous sadness that we take these measures, but the safety of our audiences, staff and community is of utmost importance. 

“We are looking at ways we can be of use to the wider York community during this time. More details regarding these plans will follow.”

The theatre building, in St Leonard’s Place, is remaining open at present, including the café and box office.

CORONAVIRUS: Pocklington Arts Centre closes doors but will return “stronger and more vibrant” in 20th anniversary year

Janet Farmer: director of Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is closing its doors to the public with effect from today in response to the Government’s Coronavirus measures, but vows to re-emerge “stronger and more vibrant than ever” in its 20th anniversary year.

A statement released by director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy  this morning said: “In the light of the Government’s latest advice for people to avoid non-essential contact, we have taken the decision to close PAC to the public as of today (Tuesday, March 17).

“The health and safety of our staff, visitors, artists and volunteers is of utmost importance to us and therefore we do not feel it is prudent to remain open to the public at this time.”

Their statement continues: “We don’t know yet how long this closure will last, but this will be at least until Easter 2020 [mid-April]. Further updates will be announced in due course.

“During this period, it is critical that we continue to support our staff, artists and creative partners. We will be working closely with our peers across the region and indeed the country, and we are determined that PAC will emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever. We will be publishing more on this in the coming days.”

Anyone who has booked a ticket or is due to attend a public event at PAC will be contacted by the box-office team over the next few days to organise a refund and/or discuss the cancellation.

Robert Plant: booked to headline this summer’s Platform Festival with his new band Saving Grace

“Tickets can be refunded but we would ask you to consider supporting the venue and artists by not accepting a refund, if you are able to afford to,” suggested the statement. “We will of course try to reschedule events, but this may take some time, so please bear with us in these very challenging times.”

Pocklington Arts Centre will be setting up a crowdfunding page later this week. “We’ll publish details of this on our social media accounts,” said Janet and James. “If you feel able to donate to this, your support would be most welcome to help secure the long-term future of the venue.”

The statement concluded: “Please visit our social media channels and website [] for daily/weekly updates and as to when PAC will reopen.
“Many thanks for your understanding. We very much appreciate your patience in this unprecedented situation. Take care and keep safe.”

Pocklington Arts Centre’s spring and summer programme to mark the East Yorkshire venue’s 20th anniversary was launched on March 6 with a party night of New Orleans Mardi Gras jazz by the New York Brass Band.

Planned as the epicentre of the celebrations is the fifth Platform Festival of music and comedy, hosted by PAC at The Old Station, with the headline attraction of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant’s new project, Saving Grace, on July 10.

Full details can be found at and

Thought for the morning after…Was this the day the music died?

Just what exactly did happen yesterday?

HAS there ever been a more cynical, anti-arts, pro-insurance industry posh pals statement from Prime Minister Johnson than yesterday’s first Coronavirus daily briefing?

For one so notoriously careless with words, despite his love of a luxuriant lexicon, his careful avoidance of enforcing a shutdown of pubs, clubs, theatres etc, in favour of merely recommending “avoiding unnecessary social” interaction, effectively amounts to washing his and his Government’s hands of the future of one of the power houses of British life: the entertainment industry.

No formal closures means no chance of insurance pay-outs. In an already increasingly intolerant, Right-veering Britain, with its Brexit V-sign to Europe, could it be this is another way to try to suffocate and stifle our potent, provocative, influential, politically challenging, counter-thinking, all-embracing, anti-divisive, collective-spirited, often radical, always relevant, life-enriching, rather than rich-enriching, font of free expression, protest and empowerment?

Was this the day the music died?

History shows that the arts, the pubs, the theatres, the counter-culture, has always found a way to bite back, to fight back, often at times of greatest repression and depression. No Margaret Thatcher, no Specials’ Ghost Town.

We and our very necessary social interactions shall be back, hopefully after only a short break. Meanwhile, we are all in the hands of science, that equally progressive bedfellow to the arts.

Joseph Rowntree Theatre shuts down “until further instruction it is safe to re-open”

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre: York’s Art Deco community theatre

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, is closing until “further instruction that it is safe to re-open”, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement issued late last night, chair of trustees Dan Shrimpton said: “Today (March 16),  the Government announced that unnecessary social contact should be avoided, including visits to social venues such as theatres.

“The safety of our community is paramount, and in light of this announcement, it is with a heavy heart that we will be closing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, until we receive further instruction that it is safe to reopen.

“Needless to say, this is desperately disappointing for the producing companies, our audiences, volunteers, indeed everyone who forms part of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s community.”

The statement on behalf of the Haxby Road theatre continued: “We will be issuing further advice in the coming days on how we are going to manage ticket refunds and exchanges. We appreciate that you will have questions about bookings and refunds; however, we would ask that you please bear with us and wait for us to contact you.

“Thank you in advance for your support. We appreciate that this is a very worrying time for everyone in our community.”

Among the upcoming shows in the diary at York’s community theatre are: York St John University MPS’s Guys And Dolls, March 19 to 21; The Bev Jones Music Company’s Guys And Dolls, March 25 to 28; Flying Ducks Youth Theatre’s Crush: The Musical, April 2 to 4; Jessa Liversidge’s Songbirds, April 5, and Rowntree Players’ premiere of Ian Donaghy’s The Missing Peace, April 17 and 18.

Grand Opera House, York, suspends all shows with immediate effect, but Tom’s Midnight Garden goes ahead tonight at Theatre @41 Monkgate

Lights out: Ellen Kent Company’s La Boheme at the Grand Opera House on Friday falls victim to Coronavirus social contact measures

THE Grand Opera House, York, is suspending all shows with immediate effect in light of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Coronavirus statement to “avoid unnecessary social contact”.

Mark Cornell, group chief executive officer of the Ambassador Theatre Group, the theatre’s owners, has issued a group-wide statement. “In response to the Prime Minister’s statement this evening, advising the UK public to avoid unnecessary social contact, including in theatres, we regret to inform you that shows in all Ambassador Theatre Group UK venues are temporarily suspended with immediate effect,” he said.

“We understand that this decision comes as a disappointment, and a massive inconvenience for those of you already on the way to a venue this evening, but ultimately we all want the same thing: the health and safety of our communities, and we believe this is the correct decision to make.”

Mr Cornell’s statement continued: “Given the current ambiguity and lack of clarity as to how long our theatres may be closed for, we hope to provide you with an update within the next 48 hours regarding the exchange of tickets. We will be consulting with industry bodies including the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre and the government over the immediate future. 

“For now, we would like to thank you for your understanding and patience, and to recognise the incredible efforts and support of producers, artists, partners and customers over this difficult period.”

The Grand Opera House has no show tonight, but Round The Horne is in the diary for Wednesday; Psychic Sally, 10 Years And Counting for Thursday; Ellen Kent Company’s La Boheme for Friday and Madama Butterfly for Saturday, and the musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story for March 24 to 28.

Meanwhile, Tom Bird, executive director of York Theatre Royal, was holding a meeting this evening. A statement will follow.

Still on…then off: Jimmy Dalgleish as Tom, left, Olivia Caley as Hattie and Jack Hambleton asTom in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Tonight’s 7.30pm performance of Tom’s Midnight Garden at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkate, York IS going ahead, but Pick Me Up Theatre artistic director Robert Readman will call off this week’s run after that.

His Twitter statement at 6.38pm this evening read: “In light of the Government’s latest measures, we will be closing Tom’s Midnight Garden after tonight’s show. Do come if you have tix for another day and we will accommodate as many as possible. We are also sad to announce the postponement of Sondheim 90 and The Pirates Of Penzance. “

Sondheim 90: A Birthday Concert, in celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday was to have taken place on Sunday; Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates Of Penzance from April 17 to 25, both at 41 Monkgate.

Sheridan Smith to play Cilla a lorra, lorra more times on tour that visits Leeds Grand

The poster for Sheridan Smith’s return to playing Cilla Black, this time on tour in Cilla The Musical

SHERIDAN Smith will revisit her portrayal of Cilla Black in Cilla The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre from November 9 to 21.

She first played the late Liverpool pop star and television presenter in Jeff Pope’s award-winning ITV mini-series Cilla in 2015.

The part was written for Smith originally for a stage show but was then transferred to television, whereupon her performance won her a 2015 National TV Award and TV Choice Award and she was nominated for a BAFTA and EMMY Award too.

Now, expecting a baby in May, 38-year-old Smith has agreed to step inside the role of Cilla once more in impresario Bill Kenwright’s stage production, penned again by Pope.

Sheridan Smith in the role of Cilla Black for ITV’s 2015 mini-series Cilla

Her past theatre credits include her first Olivier Award nomination for Little Shop Of Horrors at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London, and her first Olivier Award and WhatsOnStage Award for playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde The Musical.

Smith, from Epworth, near Doncaster, then won an Olivier Award and an Evening Standard Theatre Award for her role as Doris in Flare Path. Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at The Old Vic brought her another WhatsOnStage Best Actress Award and she enjoyed a celebrated run in the West End as Fanny Bryce in Funny Girl in 2018.

Cilla The Musical’s heart-warming musical adaptation of Pope’s television series first toured in 2017, when nominated for Best New Musical in the WhatsOnStage Awards.

Kara Lily Hayworth played Cilla after ten rounds of auditions and a final four sing-off at The Cavern in Liverpool for the tour that visited the Grand Opera House, York, in January 2018.

Kara Lily Hayworth played Cilla in the tour of Cilla The Musical that visited the Grand Opera House, York, in January 2018

Directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson, Pope’s story “follows the extraordinary life of an ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky, yet incredible, rise to fame”.

By the age of 25, she was recognised as international singing star Cilla Black. By 30, she had become Britain’s favourite television entertainer, leading to such series as  Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

The musical score features such Cilla landmarks as Anyone Who Had A Heart, Alfie and Something Tells Me.

Tickets are on sale on 0844 848 2700 or at

Did you know?

JEFF Pope wrote the screenplays for Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman; Essex Boys; Philomenaand Stan & Ollie. His television work includes the BAFTA-winning ITV drama Mrs Biggs and Cilla, both starring Sheridan Smith.

Boyzone meet Westlife as Brian and Keith bring Boyzlife to York Barbican in October

Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden are…Boyzlife

THERE’S still life in the boyz! Boyzlife, the supergroup of Irish boy band graduates Brian McFadden, from Westlife, and Boyzone’s Keith Duffy, will play York Barbican on October 15.

Their live show is drawn from a joint back catalogue of 18 number one singles, nine chart-topping albums and combined global record sales of 60 million. Expect to hear World Of Our Own, Mandy, Uptown Girl and Flying Without Wings among many fan favourites.

First playing together in 2016, Boyzlife embarked on part one of their 2020 travels on February 1 at Hull Bonus Arena, selling more than 35,000 tickets for a 32-date tour that will run until March 28, with limited tickets still available for Sheffield City Hall on March 24 (box office, 0114 2 789 789 or 
Part two of the tour is booked in for September 1 to November 1, taking in further Yorkshire dates at Victoria Theatre, Halifax, on September 10, The Dome, Doncaster, October 17, and Scarborough Spa, October 23.

McFadden, 39, featured on all Westlife’s number one singles and albums before leaving in 2004, since when he has released five albums and 17 singles in a solo career launched with the UK number one Real To Me in September 2004. 

Duffy, 45,finished touring with Boyzone on October 25 last year on their Thank You And Goodnight Tour after six UK number one singles and five number one albums in a career where he also has branched out into acting in Coronation Street, Broken Nation and Fair City.

York tickets go on sale from today on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from the Barbican box office; Halifax, 01422 351158 or; Doncaster, 01302 370777 and 08442 770700 or; Scarborough, 01723 821888 or

REVIEW: Clocking Pick Me Up Theatre in Tom’s Midnight Garden

Tom Tom club: Olivia Caley’s Hattie with the two Toms, Jimmy Dalgleish, left, and Jack Hambleton, in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden. Pictures: Matthew Kitchen

REVIEW: Tom’s Midnight Garden, Pick Me Up Theatre, John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568; at or in person from York Gin, 12, Pavement, and York Theatre Royal box office

IT is grimly impossible not to see everything anew in the context of the crippling Coronavirus.

Within moments of Tom’s Midnight Garden opening, the word “quarantine” is mentioned, and audience members turn to each other – keeping a certain distance, of course – in recognition of its heightened resonance.

Adapted for the stage by David Wood, the doyen of such transitions from print to boards, Philippa Pearce’s beloved novel is a testament to the power of imagination, perhaps the most precious gift of all in childhood, but one that dims through experience as we age.

Right now, we might all wish that the clock could strike 13 and take us to somewhere magical, as it does in Tom’s Midnight Garden, although George Orwell’s opening line to 1984, where the clocks en masse were doing exactly that, is contrastingly heavy with sinister forewarnings.

Pick Me Up director-designer Robert Readman sets up the black-box John Cooper Studio in a traverse configuration, the audience to either side of a stage book-ended by a door and lonely Tom’s bedroom away from home at one end and a door and bored brother Peter’s bedroom back home at the other, where he is quarantined with measles.

The setting is the dull 1950s, when Tom (a role shared by Pick Me Up debutant Jimmy Dalgleish, in action on press night, and Jack Hambleton) is staying with his kindly Aunt Gwen (Maggie Smales) and pipe-smoking, Daily Mail-reading Uncle Alan (Andrew Isherwood).

At Tom’s end too is the aforementioned grandfather clock, with its figure of an angel and an inscription, Time No Longer, taken from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 10, Verse 6, and still today the subject of much conjecture as to its possible meaning.

Even within Tom’s Midnight Garden, it draws a scoffing comment, but if instead it can been seen as advocating that the limitations, the boundaries, of time be removed, rather than as the end of time, then it becomes the doorway to limitless imagination.

Ed Atkin as Peter, left, Jimmy Dalgleish as Tom, Olivia Caley as Hatty, Jack Hambleton as Tom and Beryl Nairn as Aunt Grace in Tom’s Midnight Garden

On the John Cooper Studio’s mezzanine level are not only the bedrooms but also passageways to either side (not ideal, alas, as anyone moving above you on your side is out of sight, and Readman might need to re-block those moments to facilitate seeing them better).

Musical director Tim Selman, meanwhile, is positioned in clear view at his piano beside Atkin’s Peter. Behind him are cellist Lucy McLuckie and violinist Robert Bates, and together they perform a second string to Atkin’s bow: his newly composed score that accompanies scenes played out in the midnight garden of the title.

Occasionally on first night, the beautiful music impacted on the clarity of the dialogue but the sound balance can be remedied.

A chorus gathers, chiming the mantra “Time no longer”, as if bringing the clock to speaking life. Each day, that clock is wound up fastidiously by the mysterious Mrs Bartholomew (Beryl Nairn), so stern of face she unnerves Tom’s aunt and uncle.

When it strikes 11, 12, 13, pyjama-clad, inquisitive Tom leaves his bed, makes his way downstairs, across the hall and out of the door into a magical garden, initially depicted as a bright light. A garden that only he can enter. A Victorian garden, where he encounters Victorian orphan Hattie (Olivia Caley), the joyless Aunt Grace (Beryl Nairn, part two), Bible-reading gardener Abel (Isherwood, part two) and assorted playful Victorian children.

The garden scenes are played out on the empty expanse between the two doors. No flowers, no secret passageways, everything left to our imagination, save for chairs and gathered, elasticated black and white ribbon strands at all four corners through which cast members pass, not exactly with the greatest of ease.

Decide for yourself what they symbolise; maybe the erosion of time; maybe the imagination at work; maybe time travel; maybe they just look aesthetically pretty, matching the black and white of Readman’s overall design.

Here, across the time divide, Tom and Hattie can see each other when others cannot see him, and time passes at a different rate for each of them. This is a place of mystery and magic, but something darker if Abel’s biblical bent is to be believed, as if Tom were as meddlesome as Shakespeare’s Puck or J M Barrie’s Peter Pan.

Although imaginative, neither Readman’s direction, nor design, are as magical as his best work. Wood’s script, however, captures fully Pearce’s possibilities of make-believe, drawing you deep into Tom and Hattie’s world, where sweetness and sadness elide, brought to life so evocatively by the outstanding Caley, Dalgleish, Atkin, Smales and Nairn and Isherwood at the double.

Charles Hutchinson

Strictly speaking, Kevin Clifton WILL still be in Strictly. Here’s why…

From Strictly to Strictly Ballroom: Kevin Clifton in his dream role as Scott Hastings. Picture: Dave Hogan

KEVIN Clifton will still be in Strictly after all this year…and next year too.

Not the 2020 series of Strictly Come Dancing, but the 2020/2021 UK and Ireland tour of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, directed by Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood, no less.

“Kevin from Grimsby”, 37, will play his dream role of Scott Hastings, with Yorkshire dates in York, Hull, Sheffield and Bradford, after the 2018 Strictly champion announced his exit last week from BBC One’s ballroom dance show, ending  seven seasons in annual pursuit of the glitter ball trophy.

“I really can’t wait to don the golden jacket ,” says Kevin Clifton

Clifton is making a full-time move into the world of musical theatre, kicking off with the musical version of the 1992 Australian film that so inspired him in childhood days in Grimsby.

“I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical,” he says.  “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 from September this year in what’s set to be an incredible show.”

Craig Revel Horwood: directing Kevin Clifton in Strictly Ballroom. Picture: Ray Burmiston

On tour from September 26 to June 26 2021, Strictly Ballroom will visit the Grand Opera House, York, from November 23 to 28, as well as Hull New Theatre, October 12 to 17; Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, April 12 to 17 2021, and Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, May 31 to June 5 2021.

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

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.

Kevin Clifton as Stacee Jaxx in Rock Of Ages at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2019

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.

Sam Lips as Scott Hastings and Gemma Sutton as Fran in the British premiere of Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, in 2016/2017. Picture: Alastair Muir

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.

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.

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

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.

York tickets are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at; Hull, 01482 300306 or Sheffield and Bradford tickets will be available soon.

Cookery writer Yotam Ottolenghi to be flavour of the month at York Theatre Royal

Yotam Ottollenghi: letting the flavour flood out in his new book and York talk

CHEF, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi will reflect on A Life In Flavour and provide cooking inspiration at York Theatre Royal on September 17. 

Ottolenghi, who is of Italian-Jewish and German-Jewish descent, will discuss the tastes, ingredients and flavours that excite him and how he has created a career from cooking.

In the 7.30pm event, coinciding with the publication of his latest cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour, he will “offer unique insights into how flavour is dialled up and why it works, from basic pairings fundamental to taste, to cooking methods that elevate ingredients to great heights”. 

Under discussion too will be his life and career, from how his upbringing – he was born to a chemistry professor and high-school principal in West Jerusalem – has influenced his food, to opening six delis and restaurants in London.

Yotam Ottolenghi: “flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes” in his September 3 book

Ottolenghi, 51, is chef-patron of the Ottolenghi delis, NOPI and ROVI restaurants. He writes a weekly column in the Guardian’s Feast magazine and a monthly column in The New Yorker and has published the cookbooks Plenty and Plenty More, his collection of vegetarian recipes; Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Jerusalem, co-authored with Sami Tamimi; NOPI: The Cookbook with Ramael Scully; Sweet, his baking and desserts collection with Helen Goh, and Ottolenghi Simple, his 2018 award winner book with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth. 

Ottolenghi’s appearance at York Theatre Royal will come a fortnight after Penguin Books publish his new cookbook of “flavour-forward, vegetable-based recipes”, Ottolenghi Flavour, wherein he and co-writer Ixta Belfrage break down the three factors that create flavour.

Please note, there is the chance to buy a copy with your ticket (£15 and upwards) for this Penguin Live evening. Ottolenghi will conduct a book-signing session after the talk. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Rhea Storr and Chris Yuan win Aesthetica Art Prize awards at York Art Gallery

Aesthetica Art Prize main prize winner: Rhea Storr’s A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message

RHEA Storr has won the 2020 Aesthetica Art Prize main prize at York Art Gallery for her work A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message.

The Emerging Prize was awarded to Chris Yuan for Counterfictions at Thursday evening’s award ceremony, hosted by York’s art and culture publication Aesthetica Magazine.

The winners were selected from a shortlist of 18 artists for this annual competition, a first look into new creative talent that showcases works that redefine the parameters of contemporary art, with artists reflecting on the global situation.

“They offer us insight into how we can encourage positive change,” says Aesthetica director Cherie Federico. “The exhibited works explore themes such as race and identity, technology, dataism, surveillance culture, geopolitics and the climate crisis.”

Mad Mauve, from Patty Carroll’s series Anonymous Women – Demise, one of the finalists in the 2020 Aesthetica Art Prize

British artist and filmmaker Rhea Storr’s A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message considers cultural representation, masquerade and the performance of black bodies.

Her winning work is concerned with the ability of 16mm film to speak about black and mixed-race identities, using moments of tension where images break down or are resistive. “Images that deny access – fail to articulate what they represent or don’t tell the whole story – provide significant starting points,” says Rhea, who began her PhD in media and communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, last year.

Through video, fiction, sound, design and performance, British artist Chris Yuan examines the messy web of human construction. His Emerging Prize winner, Counterfictions, constructs alternative realities of ecological collapse after the construction of President Trump’s border wall proposal.

A still from Chris Yuan’s Counterfictions, winner of the 2020 Aesthetica Art Prize Emerging Prize

His film weaves together information from scientific facts and quotes from the president, as well as references to literature and mythology.

The Aesthetica Art Prize provides a platform for practitioners across the world, supporting and enhancing their careers through global recognition and new opportunities.

“Since its establishment 13 years ago, the prize has supported a vast number of artists who have progressed in their careers, gaining funding, residencies and commissions,” says Cherie. “Finalists have been featured in both group and solo exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, The Photographer’s Gallery, V&A and MoMA, among others.”

Soft Takeover, by Andreas Lutz, among the 18 Aesthetica Art Prize finalists

This year’s shortlisted final 18 artists were: Andreas Lutz (Germany); Andres Orozco (USA); Bill Posters (Barnaby Francis) & Daniel Howe (UK); Chris Yuan (UK); Christiane Zschommler (UK); Christopher Stott (Canada); Erik Deerly (USA); Fragmentin (Switzerland); Emmy Yoneda (UK); Geoff Titley (UK); Kenichi Shikata (Japan); Laura Besançon (UK); Natalia Garcia Clark (Mexico); Oliver Canessa (Gibraltar); Patty Carroll (USA); Pernille Spence & Zoë Irvine (UK), Rhea Storr (UK) and Stephanie Potter Corwin (USA).

“The Prize has two layers: one dedicated to supporting artists; the other for presenting ideas to global audiences to initiate change,” says Cherie. “Curating this year’s exhibition was immeasurably satisfying and I’m privileged to have the opportunity to see so much talent, drawing on both personal and universal narratives.”

The Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, featuring work by the winners and shortlisted artists, runs at York Art Gallery until July 5.

A still from BobSink, Pernille Spence and Zoe Irvine’s piece in the Aesthetica Art Prize final

Looking ahead, submissions are open for next year’s Aesthetica Art Prize with a deadline of August 31 2020. To find out more, visit

Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary launches with Kenneth Tindall’s Geisha at Leeds Grand Theatre

Ayama Miyata as Aiko and Minju Kang as Okichi in Northern Ballet’s Geisha. Picture: Guy Farrow

GEISHA, the first of two world premieres to mark Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary, opens tonight at Leeds Grand Theatre.

Telling the emotional story of two young women whose lives are torn apart in the midst of a collision between East and West, the ballet is choreographed and directed by Kenneth Tindall, creator of the Leeds company’s 2017 hit, Casanova, and short works such as The Shape Of Sound.

Running in Leeds from this weekend until March 21 before a national tour that sets off at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from March 24 to 28, Geisha is an original ballet inspired by true events.

Okichi and Aiko are two young geisha with an unshakeable bond who find themselves on different paths when their world is irrevocably changed after the first arrival of the Americans in Japan. While Aiko finds happiness in her new life, Okichi’s life is devastated and she returns as a ghostly apparition to wreak her revenge.

Geisha is performed to an original score by Alexandra Harwood, played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia. Sets and costumes are designed by Christopher Oram, who designed Casanova too, with lighting by Alastair West. The scenario has been written by Kenneth Tindall in collaboration with TV and film writer Gwyneth Hughes; historical consultant Lesley Downer completes the creative team.

Leeds tickets are on sale on 0844 848 2700 or at; Sheffield, 0114 249 6000 or Age guidance: 12 plus.

Choreographer and director Kenneth Tindall in rehearsal for Northern Ballet’s Geisha. Picture: Emily Nuttall

Here, Kenneth Tindall, Northern Ballet dancer from 2003 to 2015, choreographer in residence and director of Geisha, answers questions on his new production.

What led you to choose Geisha for your second full-length ballet, Kenneth?

“When [artistic director] David Nixon invited me to create a new full-length ballet for Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary year, we had a lot of discussion about what the title should be.

“Of course you have to consider how the tour will work and the necessity for it to be successful at the box office, but we were also mindful of it being the 50th anniversary and choosing a title that could tie in with that.

“In Northern Ballet’s history, the company has staged two versions of Madame Butterfly, including one choreographed by David himself, which I’ve always been inspired by, but I didn’t want to recreate a ballet that he’d done so well and built a loyal audience for.

“Instead, we came up with the idea for an original ballet about geisha based on true events. I lived and worked in Japan for a year and it’s a culture that I’ve always been fascinated with. The mystery behind the world of geisha is a fantastic prospect for a creative and really sparks the imagination.”

When did you first become interested in the culture of geisha?

“My interest in geisha was first piqued many years ago when I read [Arthur Golden’s] Memoirs Of A Geisha. That was my first introduction to geisha and I quickly realised that there was so much more to it.

Ayama Miyata and Minju Kang in Geisha. Picture: Guy Farrow

“I found it to be a beautiful first source that captured my imagination and led me into much deeper research. I remember reading the book in the bath and just being fascinated by the way it was written: the colours, the landscape, the feeling, the weather, and just the honour in it all.

“It’s like a whole other world, so opposite to us in most ways that it’s almost hard for a western mind to get around.”

Why choose an original story for Geisha rather than an existing one?

“One of the things that I’m most proud of about Northern Ballet is that they continue to try to do new stories. Not tried and tested scenarios, but completely original and wholly new stories that the audience don’t know.

“I think that it’s incredibly brave of Northern Ballet because it’s a really difficult thing to market. I believe that through the years of doing original ballets like this and producing such great work, the company attracts people to the theatre and hopefully a new audience to the art form as well.”

What were your first steps in the creation of Geisha?

“The first thing I did was establish who was going to create the story with me. Every time I step into a new project, I’m also looking to push my creative process in at least one new direction, so that I can learn something and develop my own skills and ideas for future projects.

Northern Ballet in rehearsal in Leeds for Geisha

“On Casanova I worked with Ian Kelly to create the scenario and I loved that process. I thought it was really interesting to have a novelist and playwright involved and it led to quite a complex story.

“This time I decided I wanted a TV and film writer to help me edit the scenario and form the character arcs, but we also really needed a specialist in the subject to help us fully respect the culture.

“That led me to Gwyneth Hughes to actually write the scenario with, and Lesley Downer to oversee the process and make sure we were on the right track.”

How did you form the scenario for Geisha?

“Gwyneth Hughes and I came together and threw a hundred ideas into the air to see where they would land. We began to disregard ideas we thought wouldn’t make a ballet or that we felt weren’t interesting enough or were too westernised.

Then Gwyneth asked me if I knew the story of Okichi, which I didn’t. I don’t believe the story of Okichi is very well known in the west but, in her hometown of Shimoda, there’s a statue of her.

“I think it’s incredible that this woman, who had a sort of fall from grace and was perceived totally differently in the 19th century, now has a statue where people come to pray.

“You never know what the legacy will be of the choices you make. What makes Okichi’s story more interesting for me is that the legend is so vague, there are many versions of it, which leaves it open.

Minju Kang in Geisha. Picture:Guy Farrow

“This meant we had a structure for the story and then our imagination could run wild. That’s what excited me about Okichi’s story and one of the reasons we chose it. It then also allowed us to incorporate another aspect of Japanese culture with the Obon Festival of the dead.

The Obon Festival is visually stunning and quite overwhelming in some ways. If you take a moment to stop and think about life and death, the idea that you could meet the people that are no longer in your life, the thought is so powerful.

“It just seemed such a natural fit to include the Obon Festival. Over this three-day period, we are able to resolve the conflict that happened in the real world in the first act and then be able to sustain the point of view of Okichi in the second act through her spirit.”

What are the key themes of Geisha?

Above all, Geisha is about two young women who happen to be geisha, and the sisterhood they share. We see the lives of these two women turned upside down with the arrival of the Americans, which was really a turning point in the history of Japan.

“The geisha world as a backdrop is stunning and visual, and something that works really well in theatre, but the interest is actually in who the characters are beyond that.

“The ballet includes themes of life and death, love, loss, redemption and revenge, which are universal themes that any culture can understand.”

Minju Kang in rehearsal for Geisha. Picture: Emily Nuttall

What are the challenges of creating a ballet with an original scenario versus one based on an existing story?

“It has pros and cons. If you choose a story like Romeo & Juliet, you’ve got fantastic theatre. Everything is there for you. The duets, the death, the drama, the excitement, the love, the connection, the families – it’s Shakespeare, it is incredible.

“There’s the reason it’s survived for so long and there are so many reinterpretations of it, because at its foundation, it’s a masterclass of storytelling.

“Having said that, I feel that as a young choreographer it’s my job not to keep going back to these existing texts or resources and think about new stories instead. The pressure is coming up with a story that’s good enough. You’re effectively starting from the beginning, but it means you get to tailor-make work for ballet.”

What has it been like working with your creative team?

“I feel that honest collaboration is a key component to whether something will succeed or not. I like to have an idea but stay open-minded, so that it could go in a new direction.

“I chose my creative team for their incredible skills and I wanted them invested in the project and for them to challenge me. As I mentioned earlier, I chose Gwyneth Hughes to write the scenario with and Lesley Downer as our historical consultant.

“It’s fantastic to work with Christopher Oram on the designs again as we have a relationship from Casanova, and now we get to start again on a higher level and push this project even further.

Minju Kang during rehearsals for Geisha. Picture:Emily Nuttall

“It’s the same with our lighting designer Alastair West. We’ve worked together so often now that for Geisha we started lighting conversations very early and began visualising what could be possible.

“Our composer, Alexandra Harwood, has gone above and beyond. I’ve spent so many hours at her house going through ideas and she’s re-written many scenes; she has such a passion and energy for the project.”

What does it mean to you to create a new ballet for Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary year?

“My first performance with Northern Ballet was when I was eight years old. I was at Central School of Ballet and was picked out of the school to perform in Romeo & Juliet and A Christmas Carol. “When I later got a job at the company, it was a dream come true. I worked up to première dancer and honestly never thought past that. Now it’s the 50th anniversary and I’m choreographing the first première of the year, it’s a little overwhelming.

“When I was asked to do Casanova, I was just so delighted to be given the opportunity but now I’m making a second full-length [ballet], I appreciate what an absolute privilege it is. When I look at where the company is now and the dancers we have, it’s so humbling to think I’m being given the opportunity to work on this level.

“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and praying ‘long may it continue’ because there are a lot of stories I want to tell, and I just hope that people will allow me to tell them.”

How do you feel that your relationship with the company has evolved now that you have created multiple works for Northern Ballet?

“I’ve been choreographing work for Northern Ballet for almost a decade now and each time my relationship with the company just goes further. It’s like the dancers have learnt my language and are so well versed in it that everything is so much quicker and that it allows us time to go deeper into the process and try new things.

“I like to think that I’ve got a shed full of tools that are sharpened in the finest manner, with all my special handholds on them and I know exactly how to use them. So now, with that in mind, where do we go? And that’s both the terrifying and exhilarating part of it.”

Minju Kang in Geisha. Picture: Guy Farrow

Q and A with Northern Ballet first soloist Minju Kang, from Seoul, South Korea, who has created the lead role of Okichi in Geisha.

What research have you done to prepare for this role, Minju?

“I did a lot of research online and was able to find information about the true story of Okichi. I looked at pictures of Shimoda, where she’s from, and saw the statue they have of her there.

“I also searched for information and images about geisha in general and their history. I watched the movie of Memoirs Of A Geisha and though the story in our ballet is very different, it was very interesting to see a visual representation of geisha on screen.”

How does Japanese culture compare to South Korean culture? Are there things you can relate to? “We’re neighbouring countries and while there are things that are similar, much is so different. I feel close to it because I am from an Asian culture, but as part of creating Geisha I’ve learned so much that I didn’t know that is different in Japan, like there is a certain way to bow and to kneel.

“For me, though, when I play a character, I completely forget about my nationality, my age and everything else and focus on my character’s journey.”

Does South Korea have anything like geisha?

“In South Korea we have kisaeng, which are very similar, so I already had an idea of what being a geisha was about. Kisaeng are basically entertainers trained in the arts and they dance and play instruments like geisha do.”

Minju Kang applying make-up for Guy Farrow’s photo-session for Northern Ballet’s Geisha

This is the first time you’ve had a role created on you. How has that experience been?

“At first it was overwhelming because you want to be good and it’s a big responsibility. It became really special, though, because I have been able to put something personal into the role.

“Working with Kenneth Tindall and the ballet staff has been real teamwork and we really trust each other, so it was easy for me to open up and not be afraid to give what I have. It’s been such a joy.”

Do you have a favourite scene in Geisha, or a favourite piece of choreography?

“I enjoyed creating the scene with Townsend Harris – although it isn’t a happy scene for my character! When we first began creating it, Kenny [Kenneth Tindall] showed us the movement he wanted, and we tried to copy it and build up from there.

“But it was so important to tell the story clearly we talked about it at length in the studio and focused on the small things. It was less about the movement, and more about a little look, or how I sit down, or the way he grabs me. I had no idea how much of a difference these little things make. When the scene was finished there was a real sense of achievement.”

How would you describe the really emotional journey your character has to go on?

“Okichi is a very supportive person. She feels she’s achieved what she wanted to achieve and now has a sister in Aiko who she fully supports. Because she’s been through it all herself, she can guide her better and is very protective in some ways.

Minju Kang at Northern Ballet’s Geisha photo shoot. Picture: Justin Slee

“She’s there for everyone but then, when she needs help after the Americans arrive, she feels that they are not there for her in return and she can’t share all she wants to share because she feels ashamed.

“She ends up in a very dark and lonely place. In the second act when she comes back as a ghost, she doesn’t even understand at first that she’s dead, she thinks it’s a nightmare.

“Imagine seeing your own dead body – she feels sick at first but then that turns into anger because she can’t reach the people she loves any more.

“Her anger is focused on the Americans and when she takes her revenge, she doesn’t even think about it. It’s only afterwards she realises the hurt she has done to Aiko, the person she loves the most.”

Is it hard for you to portray that range of emotions within a two-hour show?

“Yes definitely! The end of the first act is especially intense. It’s strange how emotion can affect your body, you feel really heavy. It doesn’t necessarily affect me off stage; I go home, I’m fine, I’m happy, but in that moment on stage, I’m so committed to that journey that Okichi is going through and I feel all the emotions.

Riku Ito and Minju Kang in Northern Ballet’s Geisha. Picture: Guy Farrow

Do you enjoy the acting side of your job?

“I do really enjoy it because you get to create another version of yourself that you never knew existed and share that with the audience. The fact that you can find something inside of you to create that character, it’s just like magic.”

Do you like your costumes? Are they easy to dance in?

“They’re amazing. I have about five kimono and they’re all so beautiful, the colours and designs, but also how they’re made and so comfortable to dance in. I could wear them every day!

“It’s an amazing visual when you see the whole cast in their costumes, and the geisha have beautiful fans which have been sourced from Japan by [leading soloist] Ayami Miyata’s aunt.”

What is your process to prepare for a performance?

“I’m sure every dancer would say that they don’t want to be rushed. I give myself plenty of time, about two to three hours to get ready. I make sure I’ve gone out before to get some food, but I don’t like to eat a full meal before a show.

“I do get nervous and I use mindfulness to help with that. I talk to myself a lot in my head and get very quiet to save energy, stay calm and get focused on the performance. I even talk to myself when I’m on stage, encouraging and reassuring myself, and when something has gone well, I can’t hide it on my face.”

Minju Kang and Riku Ito in rehearsal for Geisha. Picture: Emily Nuttall

How important is live music to your performance?

“Music is so important for me, it’s half of the performance. Having a live orchestra is a collaboration and you can feel the connection between the dancers, the conductor and the orchestra, you can feel the support. You’re dancing with them.

“It’s like you’re on this journey together and it’s so special. It’s very different to performing to recorded music. Recorded music is around you but with live music, the music gets inside you.”

How does it feel to be part of Northern Ballet’s 50th anniversary year?

“There are people who have been in the company longer, so, for me, it’s an honour to be part of it. When I learn about the history, I feel really proud of what this company has achieved and where they are now.

“You can feel the work people have put in to take this company to where we are and that’s really touching.”

Minju Kang’s back story

Minju, from Seoul, South Korea, trained at Seoul Arts High School, Korea National Institute for the Gifted in Arts and the Hamburg Ballet School.

She performed with Bundesjugendballett for two years before joining Northern Ballet in 2016. Her roles with the Leeds company have included Victoria in Victoria, Cinderella in Cinderella, Marilla in The Little Mermaid and Mina in Dracula.

Astronaut Tim Peake to land at York Theatre Royal for Limitless talk as he launches autumn autobiography

Watch this space: British European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake to speak at York Theatre Royal in the week of his book launch

BRITISH astronaut Tim Peake will re-live his six-month mission to the International Space Station in his Limitless show at York Theatre Royal on October 11.

Touching down at 7.30pm, Major Peake will reveal what life in space is really like: the sights, the smells, the fear, the exhilaration and the deep and abiding wonder of the view from space. 

In addition, he will reflect on the surprising journey that took him there as he tells the story of his path to becoming the first Briton in space for nearly 20 years – and the first ever to complete a space-walk ­– in 2015.

Those tales will cover his time training in the British Army and as an Apache helicopter pilot and flight instructor deployed to Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.  

Major Peake also will discuss how it felt to be selected for the European Space Agency from more than 8,000 candidates and the six years of training that followed; learning Russian on the icy plains of Siberia, and coping with darkness and claustrophobia in the caves of Sardinia and under the oceans of the United States. 

In this intimate and inspirational conversation, the York audience will hear exclusive stories from Major Peake’s time in space on the International Space Station as he shares his passion for space and science, and the evening will conclude with the chance to ask questions in a Q&A session.

Major Tim Peake on a visit to the UK Schools Space Conference at the University of York in November 2016

The Limitless: In Conversation with Astronaut Tim Peake event takes its title from his upcoming autobiography, Limitless, to be published by Century on October 15.

Every ticket for this Penguin Live show – one of only five on the autumn tour – includes a signed copy of the former barman’s £20 memoir; box office, 01904 623568 or at

Major Peake is due to address children from more than 100 schools in a flying visit to the UK Schools Space Conference on Friday, March 20 at the University of York’s department of physics, where children will present work linking the space industry and education.

Major Peake will share his experiences in space, most notably the Principia mission that involved a spacewalk to repair the International Space Station’s power supply with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra; driving across a simulated Mars terrain from space; helping to dock two spacecraft and orbiting Earth almost 3,000 times.

Major Peake attended the schools space conference at the university previously in November 2016 and gave a public lecture there on the highs and lows of life aboard the International Space Station in September 2017.

The Soyuz TMA-19M descent module, the capsule that transported Major Peake safely back to Earth, went on display at the National Railway Museum, York, in January 2018, complemented by a space-age virtual reality experience narrated by the astronaut himself.

Coronavirus takes bite out of Badapple’s Elephant Rock tour, postponed to autumn

“The health and safety of the team and our audiences always comes first,” says Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

BADAPPLE Theatre Company are postponing their spring premiere of Elephant Rock amid the creeping spread of Coronavirus.

The “decline in audience confidence for travelling to events following confirmation of Covid-19 as a global pandemic” has prompted Kate Bramley’s company, from Green Hammerton, York, to call off the April 16 to May 31 tour, now re-arranged for the autumn.

Badapple Theatre Company in 2016 production The Last Station Keeper. Picture: Karl Andre

“These are unprecedented times and while the current advice is for events to continue as normal, we are conscious this could change at any point,” says Kate.

“The financial risk of the project for us and our partner venues has become prohibitive. Postponing now, before our actors are in rehearsal, is much less stressful for them as they can plan more effectively around their own families.”

Kate continues: “Of course, the health and safety of the team and our audiences always comes first, so we understand people’s reluctance to book tickets for shows scheduled in April. We have already managed to rearrange most of the tour performances for September and October 2020, so we look forward to seeing our audiences later in the year.”

Badapple Theatre Company’s Theatre On Your Doorstep logo

Purveyors of “theatre on your doorstep”, Badapple were to have toured Elephant Rock to 30 venues to mark their 21st anniversary with founder and artistic director Bramley’s 21st original script for the North Yorkshire company.

Badapple’s previous shows have toured to predominantly rural areas, all written and directed by Bramley, who was born in Yorkshire, grew up in Cornwall and worked as associate director for Hull Truck Theatre before embarking on her own theatre business.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre’s 2019 Christmas show, The Snow Dancer. Picture: Karl Andre

Not only has Bramley sustained a long career as a playwright and a director, but she also has built a company that employs three permanent members of staff and countless actors, musicians and technicians every year.

In a sector that relies heavily on external funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery UK and charities, more than 50 per cent of Badapple’s tours are self-funded, meaning box-office sales speak for themselves. The company had been offered project support of up to £15,000 towards the spring tour.

When Harri and Jack meet you on March 21 in York, Technical Difficulties will ensue

Harri Marshall and Jake Williams: the partnership behind the next stage of Technical Difficulties

YORK theatre director Harri Marshall and associate artist Jake Williams are to hold a group interview session on March 21 for their new work, Technical Difficulties.

The open meeting will be held at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from 10.30am to 1pm to add research to their verbatim piece on relationships and technology and how this has evolved over the years.

“We’re inviting the Yorkshire community to share their experiences about relationships when we host interviews that day,” says Harri, a deaf director, who directed York Settlement Community Players’ production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes last October.

“By gaining new stories and opinions, we’ll be able to enhance and enrich the script by adding voices from different communities and create a play that’s ultimately for everyone. If you’d like to be involved in the group session, please follow our social media links (see below).”

Harri continues: “After the new interviews have been added to the script, we’ll cast the six roles with local actors, rehearse and go on to perform the piece, not only in a Yorkshire preview, but we’ll also take it to the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe.

“We feel this project is really exciting as it’s not only made for an audience but by the audience too.”

Defining Trechnical Difficulties, Harri says: “It’s a verbatim play about the search for human connection in an increasingly digitised world, where we unpick what it means to fall in and out of love as well as all the technical difficulties about relationships.

“I first created the play two years ago at the Oxford Playhouse with the Young Playmakers, led by Renata Allen. Like much of my work, it relies heavily on collaboration with the performers and the participants, who have given their voices to this script.

“Staying true to their original words by using verbatim techniques, we bring to life their experiences of relationships through ensemble work, movement and an immersive audience experience – such as rhetoric and shared stories – unlocking the dramatic potential of documentary theatre.” 

The documentary form of theatre has always inspired Harri’s work, both as a director and writer. “I feel that verbatim theatre is an art form that doesn’t dictate what the audience should think,” she says.

“Rather, it works with them through shared experience to create a piece of work that discusses and debates an experience or topic that’s shaped by the writer, then shared through the medium of theatre. To me, theatre is about shared story-telling that brings us together, which ultimately is what verbatim aims to do.”

Harri continues: “The piece creates a sense of belonging between the actors and the audience, as relationships, while very personal and unique to each individual, can be relatable and offer insight on the full spectrum of relationships. This shared experience makes the production real in a way that no other genre of theatre can replicate, creating a rich tapestry of shared experiences and genuine voices that unite the audience and allow them to see reflections of themselves within the characters on the stage. 

“It’s the idea of reflection that the audience will take away with them, allowing a better understanding of how we form our relationships, be that sexual or platonic. In our current society, with all its political upheaval and anger, it’s more important than ever to understand how we communicate to each other, which is why this play is important to share with the city of York.” 

The artwork for Technical Difficulties

The creative duo behind Technical Difficulties:

Harri Marshall is a deaf director, working in York. Since 2016, she has directed seven productions, in venues such as the Theatre Royal, Winchester, Canal Café Theatre, London, and John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York. in York, where she directed ‘The Red Shoes’ for the York Settlement Community Players. 

Jake Williams has joined Harri, as an associate artist, on her journey to continue to turn Technical Difficulties into a fully fledged piece of work. As a founding member of Out Of Bounds Theatre, he has produced and performed theatre and street arts since 2017. At the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, he produced and performed in 44 Inch Chest at theSpace on North Bridge.

How you can be involved in the next stage of Technical Difficulties:

For more details and updates, or if you have any questions, go to:  

Twitter: @TechDiffs2020

Facebook: 101656841420950/?view_public_for=101656841420950 

Alternatively, you can email:

One slug, one caterpillar, only one leaf left, it’s time to play with Slime in gooey show

The Herd Theatre’s gooey goings-on Slime

SLUG and Caterpillar are starving and the only leaf left in the garden is just out of reach.

So begins Slime, Sam Caseley’s squelchy, squishy, surreal, slimy play for two to five-year-old children at the De Grey Ballroom, York Theatre Royal, on April 15 at 10.30am, 1pm and 3.30pm.

Directed by Ruby Thompson, The Herd Theatre’s show is a playful interactive adventure where young theatregoers and their families can expect to “get stuck in with slime” as they help Slug and Caterpillar to work together to form an unlikely friendship, despite their differences.

Just out of reach: the only leaf left in the garden for Slug and Caterpillar

Slug thinks they should work together, but Caterpillar has other ideas, saying slugs are gross, covered in gooey slime and have terrible taste in music. 

The Hull company’s fully immersive and accessible experience will transform the De Grey Ballroom into a “Slime-tastic undergrowth for all”, with British Sign Language integrated throughout.

This isn’t a traditional play performed in a traditional theatre,” says Ruby, the director. “We’re delighted to host a unique theatrical experience for the very young. During the show, children and their grown-ups can be as loud as they want: giggle, dance, wriggle and talk. We can’t wait to welcome York audiences into the undergrowth, created by designer Rūta Irbīte.” 

“Slugs are gross, covered in gooey slime and have terrible taste in music,” says Caterpillar in The Herd Theatre’s Slime

Playwright and composer Sam adds: “Slugs are amazing and their slime is like no other material on Earth, but they get such a bad rep. So, we’ve made a show that confronts this prejudice, and in doing so explores how we judge others before we know them. And you get to invade the stage and play with Slime at the end.”

Defining their brand of theatre, The HerdTheatre say they “make innovative shows about the world young people live in today”. At the heart of everything is collaboration as they play, chat, imagine, share, and create with groups of children.

Slime has only has 12 words in the show, and every word is spoken and signed by the characters in British Sign Language. Furthermore, every performance of Slime is relaxed. “The audience area is well lit. It’s OK to come, go and make noise if you need to,” say The Herd, whose 45-minute play is followed at each performance by 15 minutes of Slime play.

Tickets for the three performances with British Sign Language and Relaxed Performance access cost £8 on 01904 623568 or at

Pick Me Up to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday with a not so little night of music

90th birthday celebrations: Stephen Sondheim

PICK Me Up Theatre will celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday in a night of song on March 22, the very day the New York composer and lyricist enters his tenth decade.

Already the York company has produced four of his musicals, Into The Woods, Assassins, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street and Follies.

“So, on the evening of the great man’s 90th, we’ll be presenting an evening of his finest music in his honour with a cast of 21, performing under musical director Tim Selman on piano,” says artistic director Robert Readman, who will be among those 21 voices at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

“This will be one performance only of songs from every show, movie and TV special Sondheim has written the words and music to, from 1955 through to 2013.”

Group numbers will include Children Will Listen; Our Time; Not Getting Married Today; Bring Me My Bride and Sunday, alongside music from A Little Night Music; Dick Tracey; Sweeney Todd; Company; Roadshow; Follies; Into The Woods, Anyone Can Whistle and Sunday In The Park With George.

Performing with Readman at 7.30pm will be Andrew Isherwood; Alan Park; Jennie Wogan; Darren Lumby; Emma Louise Dickinson; David Radford; Susannah Baines; Andrew Roberts; Ed Atkin; Frankie Bounds; Natalie Walker; Adam Price; Mark Hird; Sam Hird; Catherine Foster; Alex Mather; Maya Tether; Flo Poskitt; Juliet Waters and Ryan Smith.

Tickets for Sondheim 90, A Birthday Concert, cost £15, concessions £13, on 01904 523568, at or or in person from York Gin, in Pavement, or the York Theatre Royal box office.

The full programme for Sondheim 90, A Birthday Concert:


THE TWO OF YOU – Kukla, Fran & Ollie – JENNIE WOGAN







LOVE I HEAR – A Funny Thing Happened On To The Way To The Forum – FRANKIE BOUNDS

BRING ME MY BRIDE – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum – MARK HIRD










NOT A DAY GOES BY – Merrily We Roll Along – ALEX MATHER



OUR TIME – Merrily We Roll Along – FULL COMPANY

Second half:



JOHANNA – Sweeney Todd – ED ATKIN



















SUNDAY – Sunday In The Park With George – FULL COMPANY.

Bohemian Paris, snow machines and a dog combine in Ellen Kent’s La Bohème

Ellen Kent’s production of La Boheme: lighting up the Grand Opera House, York, on March 20

OPERA producer and director Ellen Kent returns to the Grand Opera House, York, with a brace of Puccini productions next week.

Under the Opera International umbrella, she presents La Bohème on March 20 and Madama Butterfly the following night, with sopranos Elena Dee, from Korea, and Alyona Kistenyova, from Odessa National Opera, billed for the 7.30pm performances, subject to cast changes.

Ukrainian tenor and former military pilot Vitalii Liskovetskyi, from the Kiev National Opera, will be reprising his role as Rodolfo in La Bohème; Spanish tenor Giorgio Meladze, who sang with José Carreras in 2014, plays Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly; Moldovan baritone Iurie Gisca will be singing Marcello in La Bohème.

Soprano Marina Tonina takes the role of Musetta in La Bohème and both productions will feature a full chorus, orchestra and sumptuous sets and be sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Set in the backstreets and attics of bohemian Paris, La Bohème tells the tragic tale of the doomed romance of consumptive seamstress Mimi and penniless Rodolfo.

Madama Butterfly’s heat-breaking story of the beautiful young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American naval lieutenant, with entirely predictable consequences in the world of opera, will be staged with a Japanese garden and antique wedding kiminos.

Tickets are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at

Look out for the dog in Ellen Kent’s La Boheme next week

Here, Ellen Kent answers questions on her 2020 production of Puccini’s opera of love and loss, La Bohème, a touring show inspired by Ellen reading George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris.

What can the Grand Opera House audience expect from your production, Ellen?

I like to provide shows at a very high level and I like large productions, so the feel is very much of a big show.

I try to put everything into it, from the sets to the artists on the stage, and I like to add things. For example, with La Bohème, I have these fabulous visuals. I’m a very visual director and producer, so I give audiences the whole package.

The overall experience is of something that is very beautiful, with gorgeous and spectacular sets. The curtain goes up and, depending on the opera of course, I want the audience to feel the ‘Wow’ factor. The sets have got to be beautiful and I like to wrap something visually stunning around the plot.”

How are you staging La Bohème?

It’s set in the French Impressionist period, so my sets reflect that. For instance, I’ve gone for a beautiful Chagall and Renoir feel and it’s quite stunning. You get this beautiful French Impressionist flavour and everything is done to serve that, so when you look at it, it’s a bit like an Impressionist painting.

I like to dress my sets, so in La Bohème, for instance, Act One is set in an attic and it’s got all these wonderful rooftops, as if they’ve been painted by one of the great French artists.

Then I like to add something more realistic, so you have this sort of Impressionist painting but we’ve also got windows lit up and we have smoke coming out of a few of the chimneys.

I’ve got a human skeleton – though not a real one of course – which I’ve dressed with a hat and a scarf. We also have a dog on stage; a brass band; snow machines; a carnival effect; the cafe with waiters running around, a market stall.

“I want the audience to feel the ‘Wow’ factor ,” says opera producer and director Ellen Kent

The whole thing is a visual feast and I always like to draw on the period an opera is set in. I do have an Eiffel Tower, which of course was built later, but that’s a bit of poetic licence.” 

Why is La Bohème so beloved?

With [Jonathan Larson’s American musical] Rent basing itself on La Bohème, for example, people use Puccini’s operas as benchmarks to build modern musicals on, which shows how strong the stories and themes in his operas are.

The music is beloved because it’s so great and La Bohème is my personal favourite because you have this poignant story wrapped around this fabulous music. There’s something rather special about Puccini’s scores and the stories that go with them are very well constructed. Some of what the characters sing is heart-rending, and people love tragedy.

La Bohème is a very sad little story and it’s got Puccini’s wonderful music and moments of great poignancy. There’s something about the violins that brings up those goosebumps and goes straight to your soul.

“It also has a lot of comedy, which I like to bring out. Opera should be giving you the whole deal – wonderful music, gripping storylines – and these two really deliver.” 

How does La Bohème fit into the timeline of Puccini’s work?

Like Verdi, he started off with these great Biblical-style operas, such as Turandot, for instance. They’re big storylines, not necessarily personal dramas. Then everything changed around the 1830s, when realism and domestic storylines became fashionable.

“Puccini jumped on to the bandwagon. La Bohème is about a domestic tragedy and it is complete realism. It’s about very poor people living in the deprived parts of Paris: these artisans and poets starving in garrets and living in mindless poverty.” 

Has Rent opened up La Bohème to new audiences?

“Yes. I tend to take a musical theatre approach to operas, with lavish visuals, and I get a lot of people coming to the shows who haven’t been to an opera before but they’ve seen big musicals like Miss Saigon or Rent. I firmly believe in opening up opera to the masses.” 

Your production will be sung in Italian with surtitles, rather than in English. Does that reflect the purist in you?

I can’t stand operas in English! I am a purist in that regard; you start putting them into English and the whole sound changes. Puccini wrote with Italian vowels, and when you’re singing, you need that Italian in the voice, instead of clipped British intonations. “And, of course, surtitles open opera up to the masses and they’re much better than just having a synopsis in the programme.

We do that too, but the actual words used are poetic and moving. The librettos are extremely good pieces of writing and you get all this emotion coming out of the words, matched by the emotion coming out of the music. You put those two together and the audience gets a much better experience.” 

” I can’t stand operas in English!” says Ellen Kent. “I am a purist in that regard; you start putting them into English and the whole sound changes “

What first sparked your love of opera?

I was born in India to a colonial father and my mother was known as the queen of amateur operatics in Bombay. My mother loved producing and putting on shows – and they were really good, actually.

She managed to put me into every single opera from about the age of four. I’d be dressed in these wonderful costumes and I loved it. Then we moved to Spain and we’d go see all the – rather bad – travelling operas.

That said, from the age of six, I declared I wanted to be a film star. Eventually, after my father had retired, I enrolled at Durham University to do a degree in Classics to appease him because he insisted ‘You’ve got to have some academic education’.

“I don’t regret doing that degree now because it’s given me a wonderful background for all the operas I’m doing. After I finished my degree, I went to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, trained as an actress, singer and dancer, because although I got a place at the Royal Academy of Music to go be an opera singer, I decided it was too narrow a field.” 

What happened after you left theatre school?

I went on to acting and musicals and was putting on European children’s theatre when Rochester City Council, who were among the people funding me, asked me to put on a children’s show in Rochester Castle gardens.

I don’t know where these notions come from, but I found myself saying, ‘I don’t think that’s really suitable but opera might work’. So, that’s how it all started, with an outdoor production of Nabuccoin 1992 to 7,000 people.

I remember the sun sinking over the River Medway with all these people having picnics. We had champagne tents, candelabras, the whole works, and I thought, ‘this is what I want to do. It’s fantastic. I’m going to do opera’. Since then, it’s been a series of wonderful adventures.” 

Why is it important to take opera to regional theatres?

“I’m quite an instinctive person so, although I never really thought it through, I just knew audiences in the regions would be hungry for opera. And why go to London when you have these wonderful sites – these outdoor arenas and lovely big theatres – all around the country?

“I felt that half the population didn’t know how wonderful these works were and I’ve never changed my concept of it. The regions are where these shows need to be.”

When the clock strikes 13, Pick Me Up Theatre enter Tom’s magical garden

Tom Tom club: the two Toms in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden, Jimmy Dalgleish, left, and Jack Hambleton, with Olivia Caley’s Hatty. All pictures: Matthew Kitchen

SPRING is on its way, gardens are perking up, good timing for Pick Me Up Theatre to stage Tom’s Midnight Garden from tomorrow at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

Who better to direct David Wood’s adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s beloved book than the York company’s artistic director Robert Readman, a garden and gardening enthusiast, as a visit to his Bubwith abode would affirm.

In Pearce’s 1950s’ story, Tom is sent away sent to stay with his Aunt Gwen and Uncle Alan in their upstairs flat in a big Victorian house after his brother Peter catches the measles and is now quarantined.

Lonely and bored, Tom has little to do until one night he hears the hallway grandfather clock strike 13. Creeping downstairs to investigate, he throws open the back door to…no longer a small yard but a large and beautiful garden instead.

Something strange is happening: every time the clock strikes 13, Tom is transported back in time to the secret garden. There he befriends an unhappy Victorian orphan, Hatty, and a series of adventures ensues, but what is behind the magical midnight garden?

“It’s such a magical story, all to do with time,” says Robert. “I love how it jumps between a young boy’s dull life in the 1950s, and his adventures with Hatty in the 1880s.”

“The lighting and sound will be vital to the transformation between the two times; the characters dress according to the era they’re from, and there’ll also be a lot of mime in the show, so it’ll be a mixture of the real and the unreal, with the cast doing roles from the two eras.”

Ed Atkin as Peter, left, Jimmy Dalgleish as Tom, Olivia Caley as Hatty, Jack Hambleton as Tom and Beryl Nairn as Aunt Grace in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden

To convey the two contrasting worlds with his black-box design, director-designer Readman has constructed two platforms, one at either end, one for Peter’s bedroom, one for Tom’s, with a doorway to each one and the hallway clock at Tom’s end.

“It’s nothing like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, which was written in Victorian times, whereas Tom’s Midnight Garden is a tale of children stuck in the drabness of the 1950s creating an exciting world by travelling back to Victorian days, and that’s what we’re conveying in both the design and the performances.”

Reading the book as a child and now re-reading it in preparation for the Pick Me Up production, Robert says: “What struck me is that it’s all to do with children’s imaginations. It’s a piece about how children can conjure up adventures with make-believe.

“It’s a beautiful book that can be read by adults just as much as by children; it treats children as being intelligent in their own right, and I love how it takes you on a journey where there’s both sweetness and sadness, so everything is doubled.” 

Company regular Jack Hambleton and Pick Me Up newcomer Jimmy Dalgleish will share the role of Tom; Olivia Caley will play Hatty, and Ed Atkin, Peter.

“At the beginning, it’s quite hard to like Tom because he complains quite a lot and seems ungrateful, but then you can see that he was just feeling lonely and was missing his brother,” says Jack.

“His friendship with Hatty shows how caring and thoughtful he is, and he also shows his curiosity and intelligence when approaching the puzzle of how his time travel is possible.”

“All Hatty wants to do is have adventures and not grow up,” says Olivia Caley, pictured with Jimmy Dalgleish, left, and Jack Hambleton, who will share the role of Tom

Jimmy, similar in stature to Jack but differing in his interpretation of the role according to Readman, says: “Stuck inside at his aunt and uncle’s house, Tom is lonely and ‘longs for someone to play with’.

“Tom is very playful and somewhat cheeky! He’s intelligent, adventurous and loyal to his new friend Hatty. He’s very inquisitive and a logical thinker as he tries to work out that he’s somehow able to go back in time!”

Summing up Victorian Hatty’s character, Olivia says: “She’s a curious and playful young girl with a great imagination, despite her sad upbringing. All Hatty wants to do is have adventures and not grow up!”

Ed plays not only Peter, but Hubert and “Voice” too. “But I spend most of my time as Peter, who’s got measles, so he has to spend all his time in bed. The letters written by Tom are his only entertainment, which means he’s fascinated by the stories that are sent to him.”

Given that time travel is so central to Tom’s Midnight Garden, if they each could go back in time to one era to live in, what would it be and why? “Probably Ancient Egypt as I’m fascinated by how they lived and how much they achieved,” says Jack. “I would love to know how they really built the pyramids and how much influence the gods had on their lives.”

“The Tudor era because I would love to live among the people of the court of Henry VIII and experience the grandeur the scandal and politics of his life,” reckons Jimmy.

“I actually experienced what it was like to be a young girl in the Regency era in a short film called Mr Malcolm’s List,” reveals Olivia. “So, I’d probably want to travel back to that era. The dresses were beautiful, and I loved getting to wear them! Not so much the corsets!”

Pick Me Up Theatre’s poster for this month’s production of Tom’s Midnight Garden

Ed picks the 1960s. “This was such an exciting time in the development of the music industry,” he reasons. “I just think it would have been so fascinating to learn about music at a time when it was constantly changing and being upgraded.”

While on the subject of music, Ed has written a beautiful score for violin, cello and piano for musical director Tim Selman’s forces. “It definitely draws on the theme of ‘time no longer’,” he says.

“I took inspiration from the likes of Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, who wrote music that was modern at the time but also harked back to the Victorian Romantic styles.

“Additionally, I tried to incorporate the idea of childhood and playfulness into what I wrote, so lots of the music is fun and slightly quirky. However, it’s all shrouded in a sense of mystery.”

Not only director Readman has a love of gardens, so do his cast principals. “Some gardens are very magical,” says Jack. “I particularly like gardens with hidden corners and an air of mystery, such as Castle Howard and Beningbrough Hall.”

Jimmy concurs: “A garden is a place where anything can happen,” he says. “A garden inspires imagination and can subsequently transport you to a whole new world of your own creation away from the stresses and strains of ordinary life, and that in itself is magical!”

Olivia enthuses: “I absolutely think gardens are magical! There’s so much scope for the imagination. When I was little, I was always playing in my garden, so I can really relate to Hatty on that.”

Gardens can be magical, especially for a child, suggests Ed. “There’s a moment in the play where Tom and Hatty go through a ‘secret passage’. This feeling of exploring a new world is one I remember well from playing in such a garden when I was younger,” he says.

Let the clock strike 13. A garden awaits.

Pick Me Up Theatre in Tom’s Midnight Garden, John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, tomorrow (March 13) until March 21. Box office: 01904 623568; at or in person from York Gin, 12, Pavement, and the York Theatre Royal box office.

Copyright of The Press, York

REVIEW: What’s the secret to Ghost Stories’ success at Grand Opera House?

Ghost Stories from the past: lecturer Professor Goodman making a point (when Simon Lipkin played the role in London in this picture)

REVIEW: Ghost Stories, presented by Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, scaring all and sundry at Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at

IT is not every play day that the writers send out a polite request to reviewers, and normally it would be a red rag to that most bullish of breeds: the hacked-off hack.

However, the seriously bearded duo of Andy Nyman and Leeds-born Jeremy Dyson, he of the deeply, madly, darkly twisted League of Gentlemen, do have a point.

Ghost Stories has been around for a decade now, going global and being transformed into a film too, but all the while “it has meant so much to us that critics the world over have kept [secret] the plot and secrets of our show when writing about it,” they say.

“We appreciate it makes life a little trickier for you by not divulging [the] plot, but because of your help, Ghost Stories remains a rare thing: a modern experience you have to see ‘spoiler-free’.”

Spoiler alert: there will be no spoiler alerts in this review to blow the cover of their audacious spooky conceit. What your reviewer can reveal, however, dear reader, is that he first saw this immersive fright-fest at the Ambassadors Theatre – a typically compressed, crowded, everyone-close-to-the-stage, venerable West End locale – only last autumn, and frankly it was just as joyously, seat-of-the-pants, phew, glad-to-have-got-through-that scary, second time around at the Grand Opera House on Tuesday night.

Not-so-secret request: writer-directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson

Even when knowing what was coming next. Much like returning to a favourite fairground ghost train or high-speed ride. In fact, that even added to the experience, and apparently others share that view, gleefully inviting the uninitiated to join them to break their Ghost Stories virginity. Just do as Andy and Jeremy say: tell them nothing, except maybe pass on this message: “We hope you have a great night and maybe even scream a bit.”

A bit? In reality, there is as much laughter as screaming in response to the brilliantly executed storytelling, stocked with its 15-rated “moments of extreme shock and tension”. “We strongly advise those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending,” says the programme cover, which is a tad late for a warning and amounts to more of a dare.

Do note this, however. Anyone who leaves once the ghosts have started their work for the night is not allowed back in, and nor is there an interval. So, the strongest advice is to think very seriously of heading to the loo beforehand, should that fear of a discomfort break be more likely to make you nervous.

Unlike Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman In Black, Ghost Stories is not one ghost story but three ghost stories, wrapped inside an over-arching, far darker psycho-drama that begins with Joshua Higgott’s Professor Phillip Goodman, a parapsychologist in obligatory brown corduroy, delivering a lecture, glass of water and dry wit at hand.

In a theatre with its own ghost, opposite the York Dungeon tourist attraction with its love of gory history, and in “Europe’s most haunted city” with a ghost tour around every corner, even a ghost bus ride and a York Ghost Merchants shop to counter the spread of Pottervirus in Shambles, Goodman should be feeling very much at home as he guides us through the history of our fascination with ghosts and expert ghost analysis of the past. So far, so para-normal.

All of this is a way to trap us into a false sense of security/strap us in for the very bumpy ghost rides ahead, each more alarming than the last, as lecture and lecturer seep in and out of each suspenseful story.

The night-watchman on his guard in Ghost Stories (again pictured in the 2019 London production)

Without giving anything away, these involve a seen-it-all-before night-watchman in a depository (Paul Hawkyard); a novice motorist in a car at night in a murky wood (Gus Gordon) and a flashy father-to-be in a nursery (Richard Sutton, still as outstanding as he was in the London run). What happens next? Relax, Andy, relax Jeremy, my bitten lips are now sealed.

Except to say, writer-directors Nyman and Dyson and fellow director Sean Holmes work their ghostly magic deliciously devilishly in tandem with Jon Bauser, a sleight-of-hand magician of a designer, far outwitting Hammer Horror.

James Farncombe’s lighting adds heart-stopping menace to the juddering frights, hand-held torches and all; Nick Manning’s disturbing, disorientating, jagged, sometimes deafening sound design assaults you from all sides, and Scott Penrose’s climactic special effects are terrifically terrifying.

Do keep what happens secret, but don’t keep the show secret. It deserves big houses, being all the better, the more who share the experience, even amid the worrisome shadow of Coronavirus.

”Sweet dreams, Andy and Jeremy,” say the ghost-story weavers as they sign off their letter to the fourth estate, politely teasing to the last.

Sweet dreams? Lovers of gripping theatre, devotees of the paranormal world, your nightmare would be to miss Ghost Stories, especially on Friday the 13th. You won’t rest until tickets are safe and secure in your hand.

Charles Hutchinson

REVIEW: Is resistance futile in Alone In Berlin at York Theatre Royal?

Denis Conway’s Otto Quangel and Jay Taylor’s SS Officer Prall in Alone In Berlin

Review: Alone In Berlin, York Theatre Royal/Royal & Derngate Northampton, at York Theatre Royal, until March 21. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

IT is rare to have a perspective on the Second World War from within Germany itself, presented on stage or screen.

What’s more, Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret was a Broadway musical rooted in Anglo-American Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical 1945 novel The Berlin Stories, set in Weimar Republic Berlin in 1931 with the Nazi Party on the rise. There could be no more cynical voice than that of the nightclub Emcee; entertainment at any price.

This year, New Zealander Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, a satirical account of the last year of World War Two, as seen through the eyes of a ten-year-old Hitler Youth enthusiast in a German town, garlanded nominations aplenty in the Hollywood awards season but opprobrium in equal measure. How did it end? With the boy and a newly free Jewish girl dancing to David Bowie’s Heroes, sung in Deutsche.

Joseph Marcell’s Inspector Escherich, Clive Mendus’s Benno Kluge and Jessica Walker’s Golden Elsie in Alone In Berlin

Alone In Berlin is a different beast altogether, still with songs (more of which later), but far removed from the powder and paint, mirage and murk of Weimar cabaret or a small-town boy’s loss of innocence. The source novel, based on a true story, was written by a German, the maverick Hans Fallada, responsible for Little Man, What Now? too.

Also known aptly as Every Man Dies Alone, it was published in 1947 – the year Fallada died of a morphine overdose – but not in English until 2009.

Since then, there has been Vincent Perez’s 2016 film with Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson and now this York Theatre Royal and Royal & Derngate Northampton co-production, translated and adapted by playwright and political satirist Alistair Beaton and directed by James Dacre, the Northampton theatre’s artistic director.

We watch it through the 2020 filter of grim, vulnerable times, in a year of floods, storms, immigration intolerance, Brexit’s cold shoulder, myopic political leaders, and now the creeping spread of Coronavirus. “This is war,” an exhausted Italian doctor said yesterday.

Resistance movement: Charlotte Emmerson’s Anna and Denis Conway’s Otto Quangel in Alone In Berlin

On the one hand, there is heightened awareness of the need for collective responsibility, but, on the other, a fear that other factors may over-power it, and where does that leave individual action as we wash our hands ever more feverishly? We are indeed, as everyone is in Fallada’s book, very much alone, and seemingly not in control of our destiny.

Such a feeling prevails in Alone In Berlin, where the central question is whether an individual can make a difference through courageous acts of protest when standing up against the drowning tide of Nazism.

Hard-working carpenter Otto Quangel (Denis Conway) and worn housewife spouse Anna (Charlotte Emmerson) have just learnt that their only son, Marcus, has died in action, honourably serving the fatherland, the letter says, but they see no honour in it. Nor does his fiancée Trudi (Abiola Ogunbiyi), who joins the Resistance movement, although the subsequent arc of her story shows how ultimately alone everyone is under duress.

Yes, they had voted for Hitler – more precisely Otto told Anna which way to vote, she says – with Hitler’s promise of jobs to end the Depression, but they had since grown disillusioned. Their boorish, bragging bully of a neighbour Borkhausen (Julius D’Silva), feels empowered to persecute the Jewish woman next door; he and petty criminal Benno Kluge (Clive Mendus) are exploiting the vulture opportunities of Nazism’s tyrannical grip.

Jessica Walker’s Golden Elsie, centre, with Charlotte Emmerson’s Anna and Denis Conway’s Otto Quangel in the shadows

What would you do in such testing circumstances? Keep your head down? Keep making coffins as carpenter Otto now is? Or start a campaign of civil disobedience, as Otto decides he must, no matter how small the defiant act, prompting him and then Anna to write to write messages on postcards he stealthily distributes across Berlin, calling on fellow Germans to resist?

Most fall into the hands of the authorities, represented in Fallada’s suffocating story by Gestapo officer Inspector Escherich (Joseph Marcell), a veteran policeman, adapting to do what he must do to survive, and his superior, SS Officer Prall (Jay Taylor), ambitious, merciless, the embodiment of all the very worst Nazi stereotypes.

Once the trail leads to Otto – spoiler alert – the most telling scene has Otto confronting Escherich’s expediency. “You don’t believe in anything,” he scolds him. That shocks Escherich to the core, and in turn it challenges us too, to cling to our beliefs, to cling to hope for the better path, to defy, to resist, if necessary, and to go it alone as the starting point, but with conviction that others will follow.

Dacre’s meticulous, methodical production is one of very high production values, and devastating performances by Conway, Emmerson and Marcell in particular, but it is not wholly successful.

Omnipresent angelic statue: Jessica Walker’s Golden Elsie

Beaton’s script sometimes sails close to the prosaic, and Jessica Walker’s omnipresent angelic statue Golden Elsie, matching the black and white of Jonathan Fensom’s stark set and Nina Dunn’s video designs, will be a divisive figure for audiences.

Essentially a one-woman Greek chorus, she is more reporter than commentator, and while she may echo Weimar cabaret in style, Orlando Gough has given her dissonant, flatlining operatic songs, always eluding a tune and relentless as toothache. This is probably deliberate, but the sheer number of songs is a drag on the play’s momentum.

Jason Lutes’s illustrations from his graphic novel Berlin are used brilliantly, Charles Balfour’s lighting is in turn dazzling, oppressively dark and intimidating; Donato Wharton’s sound design is exemplary.

Ultimately, Alone In Berlin, will have an impact beyond those fault lines in its telling. It will make you think, reflect, whether alone, or better still, together in the bar afterwards. Hopefully, too, it will make you want to make a difference, to push back against the crush, to be the first flutter of the butterfly’s wing.

Charles Hutchinson

Curtain up on art deco Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s upgrade after £10,000 award

Joseph Rowntree Theatre charity chairman Dan Shrimpton, centre, receives the £10,000 award from the J&C Joel workforce at the York theatre

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, has won £10,000 in a nationwide competition run by the Theatres Trust and international stage equipment company J & C Joel.

The Sowerby Bridge company has replaced all the stage curtains and upgraded the scenery-moving equipment to facilitate “even bigger and better” shows at the Art Deco community theatre in Haxby Road.

Graham Mitchell, the JoRo theatre’s company secretary, fundraising and events director and charity trustee says: “We’re very grateful to everyone at J & C Joel and at the Theatres Trust for the work done. The award’s timing could not be better, as we’re expanding the range and number of shows we host. Coming just after being voted York’s Best Entertainment Venue in Minster FM’s Listener Choice awards, this is an immense boost.”

Dan Shrimpton, the JoRo charity’s chairman, believes the award will make a huge difference to operating the theatre. “Our audiences will be able to see ever more imaginative settings for plays and musicals, and, of course, the annual Rowntree Players pantomime,” he says.

“The theatre was built in 1935 by Rowntrees for the benefit of their employees and the citizens of York, so that everyone could experience a wide variety of affordable entertainment, either by taking part or by just coming to watch shows, concerts and films.

“We have big plans to improve our facilities over the next few years to make the theatre a truly vibrant asset for York, as originally intended by Seebohm and Joseph Rowntree. It really is a community asset run for the people of York, by the people of York”.

J&C Joel employees assessing the task in hand at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

James Wheelwright, J & C Joel’s chief executive, says: “We celebrated our 40th anniversary last year and we wanted to mark it in a special way. We worked with the Theatres Trust, the national organisation protecting and advising theatres, to create the competition.

“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre won from a very wide field of theatres from up and down the country because we loved what they are doing as a community run theatre, providing affordable entertainment to the people of York and beyond – and who also have big plans for the theatre’s future.”

Tom Stickland, theatres adviser at the Theatres Trust, says: “The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a great example of the transformational effect that committed community groups can have on theatres. The Theatres Trust is pleased to be in a position to link up generous industry specialists like J & C Joel with community theatres, so that they can offer this vital support.”

Run entirely by volunteers, the JoRo welcomed 50 hirers last year, who staged 135 performances. The theatre is used by more than 35 York groups, as well as several professional touring companies and performers.

This week, the JoRo is playing host to the York Community Choir Festival until Saturday.

Jessa Liversidge: performing her Songbirds show at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre on April 5

York St John University Musical Production Society will present Guys & Dolls, March 19 to 21; Bev Jones Music Company, Calamity Jane, March 25 to 28; Flying Ducks Youth Theatre, Crush The Musical, April 2 to 4; Jessa Liversidge, Songbirds, a celebration of female singing icons, April 5.

For tickets and more details of upcoming shows, go to Box office:  01904 501935.

Did you know?

J&C Joel was established in 1978 in Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax, founded by John Wheelwright whose family had been involved in the textile industry for more than 150 years.

The business exports to more than 80 countries worldwide, providing products such as front-of-house theatre curtains, stage backdrops, cycloramas, gauzes, acoustic drapes, projection screens and stage engineering solutions. J&C Joel has offices in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

The Theatres Trust is the national advisory public body for theatres, championing the future of live performance by protecting and supporting theatre buildings that meet the needs of their communities.

The trust provides advice on the design, planning, development and sustainability of theatres, campaigning on behalf of theatres old and new and offering financial assistance through grants.

Led Zep’s Robert Plant to headline Pock’s best Platform Festival with Saving Grace

Robert Plant and Suzi Dian, fronting Saving Grace, the Platform Festival’s prize capture

ROBERT Plant will headline this summer’s Platform Festival as the crescendo of Pocklington Arts Centre’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

The former Led Zeppelin frontman and lyricist, now 71, will lead Saving Grace, his folk-blues collaboration with fellow vocalist Suzi Dian, at Pocklington’s Old Station on July 10.

Tea time…then Omid Djalili plays the Platform Festival

“Hopefully we’ve pulled something rather special out of the bag for our 20th anniversary!” says delighted director Janet Farmer. “Bringing Robert Plant to Pocklington is a major coup for us.”

Shed Seven’s Rick Witter and Paul Banks, folk-rock icon Richard Thompson, comedian Omid Djalili, The BBC Big Band and country-pop twin sisters Ward Thomas are among the other acts signed up for the fifth Platform Festival, running from July 9 to 15.

Richard Thompson: closing show at Platform Festival on July 15

“The Platform Festival programme reflects this very special year for us,” says Janet. “Robert Plant is a legendary name in the music scene and it’s so exciting that he and the other highly accomplished musicians in Saving Grace will be joining us for such a significant event.

“There’s no doubt Robert and Saving Grace are the biggest band we’ve ever booked for Platform. Curating a line-up of artists that we personally love every year is always a source of much pride for our team and we strongly believe this year’s line-up is both the best and most star-studded music bill we’ve ever put together.”

“There’s no doubt Robert Plant and Saving Grace are the biggest band we’ve ever booked for Platform,” says festival director Janet Farmer

Plant and Dian are joined in his blues and folk-inspired acoustic co-operative by Oli Jefferson on percussion, Tony Kelsey on mandolin, baritone and acoustic guitars, and Matt Worley on banjo, acoustic and baritone guitars and cuatro. Their support act will be delta blues singer, songwriter and bottleneck slide guitarist Catfish Keith.

The 2020 Platform Festival comprises four stand-alone shows plus a day-long event on three stages. First up, British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili will perform on July 9, followed by Saving Grace’s July 10 concert. The 18-piece BBC Big Band will play on July 14, conducted by Barry Forgie, with Jeff Hooper on vocals; guitarist, singer, songwriter and Fairport Convention founding member Richard Thompson will close the festival on July 15.

Saturday headliners: Shed Seven’s Paul Banks and Rick Witter

The festival’s Saturday bill, on July 11, will be headlined by Rick Witter and Paul Banks’s Shed Seven Acoustic show, wherein the York Britpop alumni’s frontman and lead guitarist will perform such Sheds anthems as Going For Gold, Chasing Rainbows, She Left Me On Friday and Getting Better, complemented by cherry-pickings from 2017’s Instant Pleasures, their first studio album in 16 years.

Shed Seven launched Instant Pleasures with a special show at Pocklington Arts Centre in November that year, by the way.

Country-pop twin sisters Ward Thomas: Platform Festival return

Joining the Sheds in the July 11 line-up will be bagpipe band TheRed Hot Chilli Pipers, with their ground-breaking fusion of traditional Scottish music and rock and pop anthems. “Think men in kilts, bagpipes with attitude, drums with a Scottish accent and a show that carries its own health warning,” says Janet.

Ward Thomas will follow up their April 30 gig at Leeds City Varieties and arena tour supporting James Blunt with a return to the Platform Festival, where Hampshire twins Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas previously appeared in 2017.

Big show: The BBC Big Band

Acoustic folk singer Lucy Spraggan, once of The X Factor, will make her Platform debut a year later than first planned; festival favourites The Grand Old Uke Of York will be back with their upbeat rock, pop, ska and anything in-between ukulele covers, and New York Brass Band will play the Platform Saturday for the first time, fresh from pumping up the party atmosphere with their smokin’ New Orleans Mardi Gras jazz at Pocklington Arts Centre’s 20th anniversary party night on March 6.

Festival newcomer Twinnie, alias York-born Twinnie-Lee Moore, 32-year-old star of West End musicals, The Voice contestant, model, film actress and Hollyoaks soap queen, is now a Nashville-hearted singer-songwriter. After wowing the C2C country gathering at London’s O2, Platform will be her Yorkshire homecoming.

Twinnie: country roads lead York-born singer-songwriter to Pocklington on July 11

Heading Pockwards too that Saturday will be husband-and-wife duo Truckstop Honeymoon, hollering their blasts of bluegrass, punk rock and soul to a five-string banjo and doghouse bass, and Buffalo Skinners, returning to the festival for the first time in four years with their Sixties’ folk and modern-day Americana.

York blues singer-songwriter Jess Gardham and Plumhall are on the bill too, and as ever the third Saturday stage will be spotlighting the region’s emerging talent, curated by the tireless, peerless Charlie Daykin and Access Creative College.

Tickets are on sale at, and or on 01759 301547.

Alison and Robert Gammon to perform Dementia Friendly Tea Concert at St Chad’s

Pianist Robert Gammon

HUSBAND and wife Robert and Alison Gammon will perform the next Dementia Friendly Tea Concert at St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, York, on March 19.

The afternoon entertainment will take the usual format of a 45-minute programme of classical music at 2.30pm, followed by tea, coffee and homemade cakes. 

Alison, on clarinet, and Robert, on piano, will play Camille Saint-Saens’ Clarinet Sonata alongside Niels Gade’s Fantasy Pieces.

“Gade was a 19th century Danish composer who taught Edvard Grieg and was a friend of both Felix Mendelsohnn and Robert Schumann,” says Alison. “In fact, the Fantasy Pieces are rather like Schumann at times. Robert will play some Debussy and Chabrier for solo piano too.”

Looking ahead, Alison says: “We’re well advanced with the planning for the rest of the year, with only May’s concert to confirm. I hope to have a list of dates and musicians to hand out at the next concert on April 16 when we’ll be welcoming The Clementhorpe Piano Trio.”  

No charge applies for these tea concerts, but donations are always welcome. “Any money left over from heating the church and tuning the piano is sent to the Alzheimer’s Society,” says Alison. 

“Everyone is welcome at these relaxed events and the concerts provide an opportunity for people who may not be able to attend a formal classical recital to experience live music.

“Please note, there is a small car park at St Chad’s and some roadside parking nearby, but we recommend that you come early. I shall bring some hand sanitiser for use before eating if anyone is worried about viruses.”

Are some lives worth more than others, ask Out Of Character in new play Less Than Human at York Theatre Royal Studio

Juliet Forster, left, directing rehearsals for Out Of Character’s Less Than Human

SOMETHING strange is happening, something disturbing, say York company Out Of Character in Less Than Human, this week’s production at the York Theatre Royal Studio.

After their sold-out November 2017 show about Victorian freak shows and mad doctors, Objects Of Terror, they are collaborating once more with the Theatre Royal, whose associate director, Juliet Forster, again directs the new piece.

Out Of Character’s publicity artwork for Less Than Human

Less Than Human plays out against the backdrop of Planet Earth having less to give but its inhabitants taking more. In this struggling world of diminishing resources, humanity is forced to wrestle with the true cost of survival.  What does it mean to be truly human? Are some lives worth more than others? Who decides who lives and dies? A question that suddenly has a new urgency and prescience amid the rise of Coronavirus.

As evolving technologies offer new forms of “human being”, is there still hope for a bright future…or do some people have to pay the price, the play asks.

Out Of Character in rehearsal for Less Than Human

Out Of Character’s company of artists and performers brings together people who use or have used mental health services. Their bold, creative and darkly comedic approach to making theatre aims to stir both the mind and the heart.

The company won the Excellence in Equality and Cultural Diversity Prize at the 2018 York Culture Awards. Audiences on social media have described their work as compelling, deeply affecting, intense, beautiful, clever, articulate, challenging, powerful, poignant and thought-provoking.  

Out Of Character cast members in a tug-of-war scene in Less Than Human

Out Of Character’s previous shows included Tales From Kafka in July 2010, Henry IV in May 2012 and More Tales From Kafka in November 2014.

Less Than Human runs from Thursday to Saturday (March 12 to 14) at 7.45pm nightly. Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, on 01904 623568 or at

The strife of Brian as Clough clashes with Dirty Leeds again in The Damned United

Making his point: Luke Dickson’s Brian Clough clashes with David Chafer’s Peter Taylor in Red Ladder Theatre Company’s The Damned United

DOWN the stairs, along the corridor, round the corner, into the dressing room. His dressing room. Hateful, hateful place. Spiteful, spiteful place. Dirty, dirty Leeds.

Here comes The Damned United, the story of Brian Clough’s ill-fated, fetid 44 days as reigning champions Leeds United’s manager in the summer of 1974.

Adapted for the stage from West Yorkshire author David Peace’s book The Damned Utd, Anders Lustgarten’s play is presented by Leeds’s Red Ladder Theatre Company at York Theatre Royal on April 17 at the familiar kick-off time of 7.30pm.

The strife of Brian: The poster for Red Ladder Theatre Company’s The Damned United

The Damned United invites you to enter the obsessed head of Brian Clough, already the enfant terrible of English football management after his exit from Derby County, who arrives at Elland Road in 1974, seeking to redeem his reputation by winning the European Cup with his new club, Division One champions Leeds United.

This is the team he has despised for years, the team he hates and that hates him no less. Don Revie’s Leeds, the greatest but most grating team of its era.

Let playwright and political activist Lustgarten’s abrasive play take you inside the tortured, drink-befuddled mind of a north-eastern genius slamming up against his limits, as The Damned United “brings to life the beauty and brutality of football, the working man’s ballet”. 

Falling out with the chairman: Luke Dickson’s Brian Clough has another fractious encounter in The Damned United

Directed by Red Ladder artistic director Rod Dixon and originally co-produced with West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2015, this latter-day Greek tragedy adapts Peace’s fictionalised, first-person account to focus more on the flawed Clough’s fractious relationship down the years with Peter Taylor, his sage and stoical regular right-hand man, who did not accompany him to Elland Road.

This bullish character study of bravado, loyalty and strained friendship is performed by Luke Dickson as Clough, David Chafer as Taylor and Jamie Smelt as everyone else, while Dixon is joined in the production team dug-out by set and projection designer Nina Dunn, lighting designer Tim Skelly and sound designer Ed Heaton.

Tickets are on sale at, on 01904 623568 or in person from the Theatre Royal box office.

Good Times ahoy as Nile Rodgers and Chic head for Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Nile Rodgers & Chic: on their way back to Scarborough Open Air Theatre in August. Picture: Jill Furmanovsky

EVERYBODY dance, Nile Rodgers & Chic are to return to Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer two years after their debut there.

Looking forward to the August 21 show, Rodgers says: “As most people know, the UK is my home from home. Myself and Chic had a brilliant time when we played Scarborough OAT in 2018 and we cannot wait to come back again this summer. It’s going to be another amazing night, so bring your dancing shoes!”

Tickets go on sale at 9am on Friday (March 13) at, on 01723 818111 or 01723 383636 or in person from the Scarborough OAT box office, in Burniston Road, or the Discover Yorkshire Coast Tourism Bureau, at Scarborough Town Hall, St Nicholas Street.

Nile Rodgers is a multiple Grammy Award-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist with more than 200 production credits to his name. He is constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music.

As the co-founder of Chic with Bernard Edwards, Rodgers pioneered a dancefloor language that generated such hits as Le Freak, Good Times and Everybody Dance, while also sparking the advent of hip-hop.

His Chic catalogue and work with David Bowie, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge and Madonna have sold more than 500 million albums and 75 million singles.

“It’s going to be another amazing night, so bring your dancing shoes,” advises Nile Rodgers. Picture: Jill Furmanovsky

His subsequent innovative, trendsetting collaborations with Daft Punk, Avicii, Sigala, Disclosure and Sam Smith continue to place Rodgers, now 67, at the vanguard of contemporary soul, disco mand pop music.

No wonder the American guitarist, singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger and composer has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, whose chairmanship post he now holds.

What’s more, Rodgers was appointed as the inaugural chief creative advisor for the Abbey Road Studios, home to The Beatles’ iconic recording sessions, in London.

Peter Taylor, of Scarborough OAT concert promoters Cuffe and Taylor, says: “Nile Rodgers & Chic are global superstars and we’re delighted to be bringing them back to Scarborough OAT.

“The show in 2018 was brilliant, Nile and Chic never fail to get an entire arena on their feet dancing. This is going to be one of the highlights of the summer and I would strongly advise people to get their tickets now because you will not want to miss this!”

Keep on running….all the way to Scarborough Open Air Theatre for Supergrass gig on June 20

Scarborough Open Air Theatre’s 2020 line-up

Tuesday, June 9: Lionel Richie

Wednesday, June 17: Westlife

Saturday, June 20: Supergrass

Saturday, June 27: Alfie Boe

Saturday, July 4: Snow Patrol 

Friday, July 10:  Mixtape, starring Marc Almond, Heaven 17 and Living In A Box featuring Kenny Thomas

Friday, July 17: Keane

Tuesday, July 21: Little Mix

Friday, August 14: McFly

Saturday, August 15: Louis Tomlinson

Friday, August 21: Nile Rodgers & Chic

More dates are to be added. Watch this space.

Move over floods and storms, Full Sunlight spotted in Piers Browne’s Pyramid show

Dales Lambs, by Askrigg artist Piers Browne, at Pyramid Gallery, York

WENSLEYDALE artist Piers Browne bathes his travel-inspired exhibition of paintings and etchings in Full Sunlight at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

Piers has put together a show that celebrates the bright light of Morocco, the South of France and the Italian Lakes, alongside landscapes in the Yorkshire Dales, where his home studio overlooks Askrigg.

“This rather special exhibition of small spontaneous acrylics and watercolour crayon works is  the result of happy, more frivolous days abroad in sunshine,” says gallery owner Terry Brett. “The flow of inspiration to paper is easy and the results are fresh and uncomplicated.

Peaceful Moment In The Sun, by Helen Martino

“Piers had great success with the show Call Of Celtic Seas in Highgate, North London, this January and regularly shows at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. He now finds the painting of large canvasses to meet his high expectations more effort than ever before. In contrast, creating the Full Sunlight collection has been a pleasure for him.”

Piers, who has exhibited at Pyramid Gallery for 25 years, is joined in the Full Sunlight show by Holtby potter Hannah Arnup, Cambridge figurative sculptress Helen Martino and Stroud glassmaker Fiaz Elson.

Hannah Arnup has been making a new collection of sgrafitto decorated bowls and tripod vessels at her studio in Ballimorris, County Clare, southern Ireland, and at the late Mick and Sally Arnup’s former studio at Holtby, near York.

One of Hannah Arnup’s studio ceramics in her latest collection of tripod vessels and plates depicting the Yorkshire Wolds and gothic windows at Pyramid Gallery

Inherited by Hannah, the Holtby studio has been re-opened to provide studio space for a group of artists.

Terry Brett views Full Sunlight as a “new start” to the gallery year after several challenges to trading in York. 

“Although we had our best Christmas season in 38 years, there have been several challenges to the first two months of the year,” he says.

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett holds one of Piers Browne’s Full Sunlight works as he stands on the newly repaved Stonegate

“I think shoppers took a break between New Year and Brexit [January 31], and then we had Stonegate being completely repaved, along with severe storms, floods and the effects of Coronavirus, which has affected tourism.

“Thankfully City of York engineers and the contractors really worked hard and finished repaving our end of the street four weeks ahead of schedule. I’m very grateful for their efforts and very pleased with the result. Stonegate looks amazing now and the slabs will be less likely to crack under the weight of delivery vehicles.”

Full Sunlight runs until April 26, open 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 4.30pm on Sundays, including over Easter. More images of the work on display can be found at

Pilot Theatre to revive Noughts & Crosses at York Theatre Royal and on autumn tour

Heather Agyepong as Sephy in Pilot Theatre’s Noughts & Crosses at York Theatre Royal last April . Picture: Robert Day

YORK company Pilot Theatre will revive their award-winning 2019 production of Noughts & Crosses for an autumn tour.

This announcement comes amid the blaze of publicity for BBC One’s six-part adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s young adult novel, filmed in South Africa, that began earlier this week.

Sabrina Mahfouz’s stage version of a modern-day Romeo & Juliet tale of first love in a dangerous fictional dystopia will be directed once more by Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson, whose co-production of Crongton Knights played York Theatre Royal from February 25 to 29 on Pilot’s latest tour.

“We’re delighted that this show, which was nominated for best show for children and young people at UK Theatre Awards, is returning later this year,” says Esther. “It’s wonderful that even more young people can experience this production and that Pilot will be able to tour to areas of England that we haven’t visited, thanks to the support of Arts Council England.”

Class act: more than school friends Sephy (Heather Agyepong) and Callum (Billy Harris) in Noughts And Crosses last year.

Noughts & Crosses will open at the York theatre in a September 11 to 19 run before embarking on a national tour until late-November.   

Told from the perspectives of two teenagers, Sephy and Callum, Blackman’s love story set in a volatile, racially segregated society, where black (the Crosses) rules over white (the Noughts), as she explores the powerful themes of love, revolution and what it means to grow up in a divided world. 

Sabrina Mahfouz’s adaptation for teenagers is based on Blackman’s first book in the Noughts & Crosses series for young adults, winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Fantastic Fiction Award, among other accolades. 

Noughts & Crosses was produced by Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Derby Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, and the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, as the first show in a new partnership to develop theatre for younger audiences. This is the consortium behind the aforementioned tour of  Emteaz Hussain’s adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s Crongton Knights.

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson

Last year, Noughts & Crosses won the Excellence in Touring award at the UK Theatre Awards, when also nominated for Best Show for Children and Young People. 

As with Crongton Knights, schools workshops and outreach projects, along with free digital learning resources, will be available alongside the autumn production of Noughts & Crosses

Casting will be announced in the coming months. Tickets for the York run are on sale on 01904 623568, at or in person from the Theatre Royal box office.

Here is a precis of Charles Hutchinson’s review of Pilot Theatre’s Noughts & Crosses at York Theatre Royal, printed in The Press, York, in April 2019.

“ESTHER Richardson proposed Noughts & Crosses when pitching for Pilot’s artistic directorship after Marcus Romer headed south, and her passion for Malorie Blackman’s twist on a Romeo & Juliet story is writ large in her telling of Sabrina Mahfouz’s electrifying adaptation.

Heather Agyepong’s Sephy in Noughts & Crosses last year

“In Blackman’s Britain, Noughts are the white underlings; no orange juice; milk only on Fridays; no mobile phones; second-rate secondary education. Crosses are the black ruling class; apartheid divisions turned on their head.

“Never the twain shall meet on equal terms, except that Nought Callum (Billy Harris), 15, and Cross Sephy (Heather Agyepong), 14, have been friends throughout childhood, meeting secretly on her family’s private beach.

Sephy’s father, Kamal Hadley (Chris Jack), is the Home Secretary; Callum’s mum, Meggie (Lisa Howard), is the Hadley family’s housekeeper. When Callum is one of three Nought teens granted a place at Sephy’s Crosses-only school, how will it affect their relationship?

“Blackman depicts a fractious, tinderbox world: Sephy’s mum Jasmine (Doreene Blackstock) is an alcoholic, neglected by her preoccupied husband; Callum’s dad Ryan (Daniel Copeland) and brother Jude (Jack Condon) are Liberation Militia freedom fighters. Callum’s sister, so damaged in an assault, has curled up in a ball ever since.

Pilot Theatre cast members in a scene in Noughts & Crosses

“As with Pilot’s first hit, Lord Of The Flies, our ability to destroy rather than create bonds, to repeatedly take the wrong turn, lies at the heart of Blackman’s damning, bleak vision that haunts us still more in intolerant Brexit Britain.

“Sephy and Callum express a wish for a better world, one where we rub along with each other, but this is a rotten Britain of death sentences, an intransigent Home Secretary, thwarted love across the divide.

“Given the bold imagination of Blackman’s novel for young adults with its heroine figure of a bright black teenage girl, you might wish she had come up with a similarly bold answer to so many ultimately familiar woes.

“Alas not, but this is nevertheless a superb production with good performances all round, plenty of punch in the direction, and high-quality set, lighting, sound, music and video design.”

Lionel Richie says Hello to Macy Gray and Lighthouse Family for York Festival bill

Lionel Richie: headlining York Festival’s Sunday line-up

MACY Gray and Lighthouse Family are big-name new additions to the bill for Lionel Richie’s closing night at this summer’s inaugural York Festival.

Grammy Award winner Gray, from Canton, Ohio, and Newcastle pop-soul duo Tunde Baiyewu and Paul Tucker will perform at the three-day event at York Sports Club, Clifton Park, Shipton Road, on June 21.

This is more good news for festival promoters Cuffe and Taylor after the City of York Council thumbs-up for a licence, albeit with the proviso that the volume must be turned down.

York Festival will run from June 19 to 21, with Camden Town nutty boys Madness headlining on the first night and Irish matured boy band Westlife on the Saturday, before American soul legend Lionel Richie says Hello on the Sunday.

Macy Gray: Sunday new addition

Macy Gray made her breakthrough in 1999 with the single I Try and the seven million-selling debut album On How Life Is, her American R&B and soul song-writing inspired principally by Billie Holiday.

Over the next two decades, Gray released ten studio albums, the latest being 2018’s Ruby, as well as featuring on songs with Dolly Parton and Ariana Grande and appearing in films and on TV shows.

Lighthouse Family singer Baiyewu and keyboardist Tucker released their first single, Lifted, in 1995, en route to selling ten million albums and charting with the singles High and Ocean Drive.

Six-times platinum debut album Ocean Drive was followed by Top Ten albums Postcards From Heaven and Whatever Gets You Through The Day. After an 18-year hiatus, the duo reunited last year to record Blue Sky In Your Head, their fourth studio set.

Lighthouse Family: reunited

York Festival director Peter Taylor says: “We’re delighted to add both Macy Gray and Lighthouse Family to our debut line-up. Together with the global icon that is Lionel Richie, this is going to be an amazing and unforgettable night.”

Opening-night headliners Madness will be joined by Ian Broudie’s Lightning Seeds, Craig Charles, for a Funk and Soul Club DJ set, Leeds indie rockers Apollo Junction and York band Violet Contours.

Westlife’s Saturday line-up features All Saints, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Scouting For Girls and Take That’s Howard Donald for a DJ set.

For more information and tickets, go to

Courtney Marie Andrews to showcase Old Flowers break-up album at Pocklington

Courtney Marie Andrews: Pocklington return in the summer. Picture: Sam Stenson

PHOENIX singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews will showcase her new album at Pocklington Arts Centre on June 17 on her six-date tour.

Old Flowers will be released on June 5 on Loose/Fat Possum Records as her follow-up to 2018’s May Your Kindness Remain.

Created in the ashes of a long-term relationship, Andrews’ ten new songs amount to her most vulnerable writing to date as she chronicles her journey through heartbreak, loneliness and finding herself again.

“Old Flowers is about heartbreak,” says Courtney Marie, 29. “There are a million records and songs about that, but I did not lie when writing these songs. This album is about loving and caring for the person you know you can’t be with.

“It’s about being afraid to be vulnerable after you’ve been hurt. It’s about a woman who is alone, but OK with that, if it means truth. This was my truth this year: my nine-year relationship ended and I’m a woman alone in the world, but happy to know herself.” 

Produced by Andrew Sarlo, who has worked with Bon Iver and Big Thief, Old Flowers was recorded at Sound Space Studio and features only three musicians: Andrews, on vocals, acoustic guitar and piano; Twain’s Matthew Davidson, on bass, celeste, mellotron, pedal steel, piano, pump organ, Wurlitzer and background vocals, and Big Thief’s James Krivchenia on drums and percussion.

“This album is about loving and caring for the person you know you can’t be with,” says Courtney Marie Andrews

Defining their intentions, Sarlo says: “Before we got to the studio, we agreed to prioritise making this record as cathartic and minimal as possible, focusing on Courtney’s voice and her intention behind the songs.

“Because of this, the record is all about performance. I believe a great recording is the chemistry between everything during basics and the ability to feel something happening, instead of obsessing over the perfect take. Courtney embraced this approach and we ended up with a raw, natural and human record.”

The resulting track listing comprises Burlap String; Guilty; If I Told; Together Or Alone; Carnival Dream; Old Flowers; Break The Spell; It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault; How You Get Hurt and Ships In The Night.

Courtney Marie last played Pocklington in December 2018, at the end of a week when she was felled by a viral infection the morning after her London gig and had to call off her Birmingham, Bristol and Oxford gigs.

Rested and recuperated, she was still nursing a cough, but found the energy for a solo set of songs and stories, introducing Ships In The Night and It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault, two new compositions that would end up on Old Flowers.

This time Courtney Marie will play with a full band in the lead-up to her series of summer festival engagements. Tickets for June 17’s 8pm gig cost £20 on 01759 301547 or at

York Musical Society to perform Faure’s Requiem at York Minster on March 28

Soprano Anna Prosser

SOPRANO Anna Prosser and tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner will sing with York Musical Society for the first time in March 28’s performance of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in York Minster.

This luminous work will be complemented by Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor. “You might think that having two requiems in one concert isn’t an imaginative programming choice,” says conductor David Pipe.

Tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner

“Even in rehearsals, though, it’s fascinating to hear how these two works, using much of the same liturgical text but separated by over 100 years, are so very different in style and musical content. This is an unusual opportunity to savour the contrasting responses of two fine composers.”

Fauré’s Requiem, first performed in 1890, uses a shortened version of the funeral mass and is serene, peaceful and full of haunting melodies. Michael Haydn is the lesser-known younger brother of Josef Haydn. “His less frequently performed but exquisite Requiem (1772) is said to have inspired Mozart’s own final work,” says Pipe, York Musical Society’s principal conductorsince April 2012.  

Mezzo-soprano Kate Symonds-Joy

Anna Prosser, a choral scholar and vocal coach at Leeds Cathedral, and Robert Anthony Gardiner, who lives in Leeds, will be joined on solo duty by mezzo-soprano  Kate Symonds-Joy  and bass Alex Ashworth.

Both have sung previously with York Musical Society, Symonds-Joy performing Verdi’s Requiem in November 2014 and Bach’s St Matthew Passion in March 2018; Ashworth, the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in May 2015 and in Bach’s St Matthew Passion in March 2018.

Bass Alex Ashworth

Both sing with Solomon’s Knot Collective, who performed at last summer’s Ryedale Festival and enjoyed a sold-out performance at last December’s York Early Music Christmas Festival at the National Centre for Early Music, York.

Tickets for this 7.30pm concert are on sale at York Minster box office, on 01904 557256, at or on the door. Prices are £25/£20 in the nave; £12 in the side aisles; £6, age 13 to 17; under-12s, free, but a ticket is required and they must be accompanied by an adult.

York’s Apollo Festival over the moon on its July return at new venue after four-year gap

The Hoosiers: Irwin Sparkes, on vocals and guitars, and Alan Sharland, on drums, percussion and vocals

APOLLO Festival is taking off again this summer after a four-year hiatus, promising the biggest and best event to date.

The family-friendly festival will be held on July 3 and 4 at the new home of York RI in Hamilton Drive, with Musicians Against Homelessness at the core.

New for 2020, the Friday Night Chill focus will be on a chilled-out, intimate evening of food, drinks and acoustic music for over-18s only. The line-up includes 1990s’ acoustic tribute act Melting Pot, Leeds band The Dunwells, Dodgy lead singer Nigel Clark and York’s lady soul, Jess Steel. 

The Saturday bill will be divided between the Main Stage and the Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH) stage.

Jess Steel: soulful York singer, performing on the Friday night

Stereo MC’s, The Hoosiers and Happy Mondays’ alumni Bez and Rowetta, in their On The 6th Day God Created Manchester show, will be the leading acts on the bigger stage, backed up by fast-rising York band The Skylights; Gary Stewart’s Graceland tribute to Paul Simon; The Mothers; tribute acts Ultimate Killers; LMX (Little Mix) and Antarctic Monkeys and a DJ set by Danny Glew.

On the MAH stage will be The Perfect Shambles; emerging York bands The Feds and Seratones; Bravado Cartel; Slow Train; Page 45; The Silents; The Madchester Anthems; Y Street Band; Hot Dogz; VLTAGE and The Peacocks.

In past years, Reverend And The Makers, Inspiral Carpets, Cast, Dodgy and, aptly, Space played Apollo Festival. Now, festival director Stuart Kelly says: “Following a break, we feel the time is right for Apollo Festival to return. We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly festival, affordable for everyone and providing a fun environment for everybody to enjoy.

“It’s fantastic to have the likes of Musicians Against Homelessness on board, not only to see the acts they will bring but also in being able to raise awareness to their cause.”

Gary Stewart: paying tribute to Paul Simon in his Graceland set

Stuart continues: “We’re excited to be at our new venue, York RI, and bringing in the additional evening on the Friday is a new experience that we hope, in addition the usual Saturday, people will enjoy too.

“It’s one of the best line-ups we’ve put together and hasn’t been easy but I’m over the moon with the acts playing on both days. I personally can’t wait to see our loyal supporters come back and seeing new faces enjoying themselves too.”

Looking ahead to the July 3 and 4 festival, Stuart says: “One thing for certain is it’s going to be packed full of entertainment with family quizzes and plenty of free kids’ activities.

“As always, being family friendly and affordable is a huge priority within Apollo, therefore our infamous kids’ quarter will be returning with ten-pin bowling; hay-bale climbing frames; face painting; arts and crafts; balloon modelling; magic shows and workshops; storytelling and a children’s disco to name but a few free-of-charge activities. Back too will be the much-loved funfair for additional fees.”

Skylights lead singer Rob Scarisbrick

An array of street food, drink, craft beer and cider will be on offer, and festival-goers will be permitted to bring in their own picnic food and unopened soft drinks and water (no alcohol and no glass).

Stuart is delighted Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH) will be running the second stage. “We could not be happier to be working with this amazing organisation,” he says.

MAH was founded by music PR Emma Rule with the patronage of music industry guru Alan McGee, the Creation Records founder who famously signed Oasis. The project provides opportunities for up-and-coming talent while raising funds for the UK homelessness charity Crisis, and since 2016 MAH has hosted hundreds of gigs and curated numerous festival stages, featuring thousands of artists.

Emma says: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be partnering up with Apollo Festival this year and to host the MAH stage. Thanks to the festival and artists that support us, we will continue to raise funds to help those living on the streets, while ensuring that people visiting the festival enjoy a fantastic programme of music.”

The Dunwells: Leeds band playing a York festival

Maverick businessman Alan McGee  believes the MAH campaign also gives new bands a platform, in the way that Rock Against Racism did in the 1970s.

McGee, who now manages The Jesus & Mary Chain , Black Grape, Happy Mondays and Cast, says: “Music brings us together regardless of politics or social standing. It’s a great leveller and a vital tool for change.”

Stuart concludes: “York businesses will be given the opportunity to get involved and play a major role in York’s premium family festival, giving exclusivity to these businesses to showcase their company and also give their employees VIP experiences they never forget.”

Friday night tickets cost £5; Saturday general admission is £15; youth, six to 17, £5; under-fives free, at On the day, Saturday’s prices are £20; youth £5; under-fives free.

What, again Alan? Carr adds fourth York Barbican gig on his Not Again, Alan! tour

Alan Carr looks shocked as he learns he will play York Barbican four nights in a row in December

YET again, Alan?! Yes, comedian Alan Carr is adding a fourth night of his Not Again, Alan! show on December 16 as he turns York Barbican into York Carrbican.

Carr, ever-chatty son of former York City footballer Graham Carr, will play four successive Christmas nights in York, having already added December 17 to his December 18 and 19 gigs on his first tour in four years.

Tickets for the extra date are on sale on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from the Barbican box office.

Since his last comedy travels, chat-show host Carr has “managed to find himself in all sorts of dramas”, apparently. Such as? “Between his star-studded wedding day and becoming an accidental anarchist, from fearing for his life at border control to becoming a reluctant farmer, three words spring to mind…Not again, Alan!” says his tour publicity. “Join Alan on tour as he muses upon the things that make his life weird and wonderful.”

Even louder hailer: Alan Carr announces a fourth December night at York Barbican

Not Again, Alan! will be Carr’s fourth UK solo show in four-year cycles in the wake of Yap, Yap, Yap’s 200 dates in 2015 and 2016, Spexy Beast in 2011 and Tooth Fairy in 2007. He last brought his chat, chat, chat to York on the Yap, Yap, Yap! itinerary on July 11 2015 at the Barbican.

Later this year, Carr will host Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow on ITV, wherein five all-time favourite game shows will be supersized and reinvigorated for a new audience: Play Your Cards Right, Take Your Pick, Strike It Lucky, Bullseye and The Price Is Right. In 2020 too, Carr will return to the judges’ panel on the second BBC series of RuPaul’s DragRace UK.

Given the ticket demand for Not Again, Alan! again and again, again and now yet again, York Barbican advises prompt booking.

Diversity to connect with York Barbican next April in new Ashley Banjo show

Diversity: ready to connect on their 2021 tour

DANCE troupe Diversity will play York Barbican on April 25 2021 on their Connected tour.

Last year marked ten years since Diversity won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent, an anniversary celebrated on the sold-out 48-date Born Ready tour.

At those shows, Diversity promised to continue into a second decade and, true to their word, founder and choreographer Ashley Banjo has created Connected, a show that centres around the world of social media, the internet and the digital era we now live in, but, more importantly, how this connects us all.

Banjo says: “Every year that goes by, and every time we get to create a new touring show, I cannot believe we are still lucky enough to get to do this. 

“But even after all this time, we are still growing, and this new decade and new chapter for Diversity is sure to be something even more special than the last. I truly do believe that we are all connected in more ways than one and I cannot wait to bring this to life on stage.”

Banjo has returned to the judging panel for his third series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice, whose final on Sunday will feature fellow Diversity member Perri Kiely competing for the winner’s trophy.

He also has hosted, choreographed and starred in the BAFTA-nominated The Real Full Monty from 2017 to 2019 and the International Emmy Award, Broadcast Award and Royal Television Society Award-winning The Real Full Monty: Ladies Night in 2018-2019. His Channel 4 show, Flirty Dancing, completed it second series last December.

Diversity’s nine tours have sold more than 600,000 tickets. Tickets for next spring’s Connected show at York Barbican are on sale on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from the Barbican box office.

Running from March 19 to May 29 2021, the Connected tour also will visit Harrogate Convention Centre on March 20; Victoria Theatre, Halifax, March 21; Hull Bonus Arena, April 3, and Sheffield City Hall, April 4. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or; Hull, 0844 858 5025 or;  Halifax, 01422 351158 or; Sheffield, 0114 278 9789 or

The Very Grimm Brothers to spin gold from straw at Poppleton All Saints Hall

The Very Grimm Brothers: invitation to Grimm Castle aka Poppleton All Saints Hall

THE only thing that cheers up Adrian Mealing and John Denton, alias The Very Grimm Brothers, is you.

These purveyors of comedy, silliness, wistful poetry, fairy tales, songs and everyday anecdotes invite you to Grimm Castle and its enchanted forest, masquerading for one night only as Poppleton All Saints Hall, Upper Poppleton, York, on April 3 at 7.30pm.

“It’s a very chatty, tangential gig,” promises Grimm John, a Malvern Poetry Slam Champ, who sings à cappella with Men In General, A Fistful Of Spookies and The Spooky Men’s Chorale, joined by Denton from John Denton’s Midnight Band.

“You should expect encounters with direct action, clumsy departures, the poetry of platforms, Seville marmalade, undimmed love, Severn Trent Water and the spinning of gold from straw,” say The Very Grimm Brothers.

The duo have appeared alongside the Peatbog Faeries, Attila The Stockbroker, John Hegley, Elvis McGonagall, Johnny Fluffypunk and Roger McGough and performed at Poetry On Loan, Bang Said The Gun, Stratford upon Avon Litfest, Wolds Words, Mouthpiece Poets, Mouth & Music, Speakeasy and the Blue Suede Sporran Club.

“Think of The Very Grimm Brothers as the love children that Victor Meldrew and Pam Ayres never had,” trumpeted the Church Stretton Arts Festival, ahead of their gig there.

Who can resist such a combination?! Tickets cost £12.50 at

Tom Rosenthal’s Manhood is an incisive comedy show with a cutting edge

Tom Rosenthal: “Maybe I’m stuck in adolescence, I don’t know,” he says. All pictures: Idil Sukan

PLEBS and Friday Night Dinner sitcom star Tom Rosenthal is bringing his first-ever stand-up tour to Pocklington Arts Centre on March 14.

Manhood is truly comedy with a cutting edge, wherein Rosenthal will be “avenging the theft of his foreskin”, as he discusses how he has suffered psychological distress ever since he realised he had been circumcised as a child.

Tom, the Hammersmith-born son of TV sports presenter Jim Rosenthal, applies the use of graphs, statistics, playful jokes and rigid research to tell his story, having spoken to experts on the subject matter.

He may have a Jewish background, but he was not brought up to be Jewish and that was not the reason for the circumcision. He duly felt anger towards his parents, the aforementioned Jim and his mother Chrissy Smith, a former Newsnight producer, when he was younger.

“Most comedy shows will not be an hour about genital-cutting practices,” says Tom Rosenthal of Manhood

“Maybe I’m stuck in adolescence. I don’t know,” says Tom. “As soon as I found out what happened to me, I was just constantly searching for a reason that made sense of it and I’ve still not found one. That’s sort of the driving force of the show: going through all the justifications for it being allowed.”

He is not anti-circumcision, however. “If you want to choose to do it when you’re old enough, go right ahead. It’s like any other kind of body modification, like a tattoo or a piercing,” he says.

“But to do it to a child against their will when they cannot take the decision to take that back, it feels as if it’s against our human rights. I want prospective parents to watch my show. Have a nice night out. Laugh with the boy from the sitcoms with the big nose, but also go away thinking ‘maybe that’s not cool actually’.”

Best known for playing Roman Empire nerd Marcus in ITV2’s Plebs and the perpetually adolescent prankster son, Jonny, in Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner, Tom has long wanted to do a stand-up tour. “The nicest thing about it is getting to meet the people who actually watch the TV programmes I’m in,” he says.

“I think the story of someone who is at odds with their body is something teenagers can relate to,” says Tom Rosenthal

“I’m also really proud of Manhood. It’s a show that I always wanted to make. It has a dual purpose for me. Obviously, I wanted to put on the funniest show that I can, but I also want fans to go away thinking about stuff which most people don’t really think about.

“It’s something that I think is slightly askew with our culture. I should add that this is not your typical comedy show. Most comedy shows will not be an hour about genital-cutting practices.”

After premiering Manhood at last summer’s Edinburgh Fringe and playing dates last autumn, Tom is touring from February 8 to April 9. “I’m really a molly- coddled actor,” he says. “It has surprised me how tiring live comedy is. Some of my friends seem to be able to walk on stage and just be themselves, whereas I’m always nervous. I have the utmost respect for all comedians. I guess, by comparison, an actor’s life is quite easy.”

The tour marks a new phase in Rosenthal’s career. Although he started out as a stand-up, becoming joint winner of the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Award in 2011 after graduating from London University with a Philosophy degree, acting has taken up most of his time since then.

“I’m really proud of Manhood. It’s a show that I always wanted to make,” says Tom.

“I was reluctant to call myself a comedian despite the fact that I did stand-up. I felt like until you’ve done a tour, you can’t call yourself a comedian. So, one semi-benefit of doing Manhood is that now I’m a little bit more comfortable saying I’m a comedian as I’ve gone to towns, people have paid money to see me and I definitely heard some of them laugh.” 

Although the subject matter of Manhood may be personal, Rosenthal believes the feelings of alienation he discusses are universal. “I’ve had quite a lot of teenagers coming and I think the story of someone who is at odds with their body is something they can relate to,” he says. “What makes it interesting though also makes it quite odd. The fact that you are watching a guy talking about his penis quite a lot.”

His Pocklington audience next week will discover more about Tom in his Manhood show, but for those familiar with his television characters, does he consider himself to be closer to Marcus or Jonny?

“I probably feel I’m more Marcus,” he decides. “He’s a neurotic schemer who thinks that he’s smarter than he is, whereas Jonny is a sort of teenage boy prankster. Ultimately though, if you combine the two, that’s my whole terrible personality.”

Tom Rosenthal: Manhood, Pocklington Arts Centre, March 14, 8pm. Box office: 01759 301547 or at

Bronwynne Brent evokes Hazlewood, Nancy Sinatra and Morricone in Selby

Bronwynne Brent: “Creating songs that feel like you can live in them”

AMERICANA singer-songwriter Bronwynne Brent travels all the way from the Mississippi Delta to the howling winter winds of Yorkshire to play Selby Town Hall tonight (March 6).

“I absolutely love Bronwynne’s darkly brooding voice,” says Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones. “She creates songs that feel like you can live in them, and somehow she manages to sound like Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra rolled into one.”

Tonight’s 8pm show will be Brent’s Selby debut, performing with her trio. “Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, she has the kind of stop-in-your-tracks voice that sounds like Southern sunshine,” says Chris.

“There’s a hint of Delta blues behind the ache in her songs, a glimpse of honky-tonk twang, an echo of riverboat can-cans, a whiff of Ennio Morricone and an atmosphere that conjures up of the darker side of country song-writing.”

Harking back to the glory days of Lee Hazlewood and Gram Parsons, Brent’s writing taps into the murky undercurrent of country that starts with old Appalachian murder ballads and continues through to today’s crop of psychedelic country songwriters. “Like a juke-joint Nancy Sinatra, Bronwynne unites all the best elements of Southern American roots music and ties these many different influences into a sound that’s both comforting and refreshing,” says Chris.

Brent has released two albums, 2011’s Deep Black Water and 2014’s Stardust, the second produced by Seattle’s Johnny Sangster with a “spaghetti northwestern” feel to it.

Playing with Calexico drummer John Convertino and Fiona Apple’s bassist, Keith Lowe, on Stardust, she sang songs with a heavy weight on their shoulders: her stories populated by battered women, defeated lovers, devilish characters, highway ghosts and lonesome wanderers.

Looking forward to tonight, Chris concludes: “Bronwynne Brent is incredible: one of the very finest contemporary voices you’re likely to hear. Her songs are so rich and brooding. They’re astonishingly well-crafted with a compelling dark underbelly mixing country, folk and glorious speakeasy jazz sounds. This show will be an absolute treat.”

Tickets cost £14 on 01757 708449 or at or £16 on the door from 7.30pm.

REVIEW: Big Ian’s A Night To Remember at York Barbican…and what a night it was!

Heather Findlay, left, Jess Steel, Beth McCarthy and Annie Donaghy relishing I Feel Like A Woman at A Night To Remember. Picture: David Harrison

REVIEW: Big Ian’s A Night To Remember, York Barbican, February 29

DEMENTIA is a team game, says Ian Donaghy, now as much a motivational speaker at conferences as a showman, fundraiser and event host.

Not only Dementia Projects in York, but also St Leonard’s Hospice, Bereaved Children’s Support in York and Accessible Arts and Media benefit from these nights to remember.

Saturday, sold out as ever, was the eighth such night, nights that had raised £150,000 so far. Big Ian is yet to confirm this year’s total, but £5,700 was taken in bucket collections alone.

Torch singer! Big Ian Donaghy has the phones out for Lionel Richie’s Hello at A Night To Remember at York Barbican. Picture: David Harrison

Yes, the fundraising is important, but Big Ian puts the fun into that fundraising, as well as the heart and soul, in a community event that, no matter what hell of a world is going on outside right now, always brings out the best in York.

Here’s the news, delivered in a specially recorded Look North spoof bulletin from Phil Bodmer, devotee of Big Ian’s Guestlist nights at York Racecourse. This would be the biggest gathering of A Night To Remember yet: not only the old father time of musical directors, George Hall, on keyboards with his band of bass, guitars, drums and percussion, but 14 brass players to boot, four from Big Ian’s band Huge and a whole heap of shiny young players from York Music Forum, gathered under the tutelage of Ian Chalk.

What’s more, the musicians and singers had an 80-year age range, from those fledgling brass talents to 93-year-old Barbara from the Singing For All choir, a force of nature who summed up everything joyful about this celebration of the power of music throughout our lives.

River deep, mountain high: Graham Hodge conquering Cry Me A River. Picture: David Harrison

Big Ian took the lead, brass assisted, on Elton John’s I’m Still Standing and, yes, he would still be standing three hours later, still urging us to fill those buckets.

Simon Snaize’s rendition of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, with the brass section  breathing fire, was an early highlight; Boss Caine’s mine-deep voiced Dan Lucas turned Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 from daytime to night-time hours; Jess Steel, as vital to these nights as Big Ian, climbed the first of several vocal mountains with Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were.

Songs were interspersed with Dementia-themed video clips, usually recorded on Ian’s phone, some bringing tears, others cheers, all indeed making it a team game.

Thank you for the music: A Night To Remember’s singers and musicians take a bow at the finale. Picture: David Harrison.

Kieran O’Malley’s fiddle bow was a wand of magic whenever he played, whoever he accompanied; Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize’s duet for Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain had exactly The Chain reaction it deserved, guitar solo and all.

Ken Sanderson, alias Las Vegas Ken, normally restricts himself to a solo slot, but for the first time, he was joined by Hall’s band, at Big Ian’s urging: another hit at this “Gang Show with people we really like”.

Later, a fellow staple of these shows, 6ft 3 folk stalwart Graham Hodge, newly turned 70, would be seen as never seen before, again at Donaghy’s suggestion, as he eschewed folk balladry for a dinner jacket to knock Cry Me A River out of the park with the vocal performance of the night. Better than Bublé? No troublé!

Jessa Liversidge, front, centre, leads one and all in I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing..and she did! Picture: David Harrison.

What better way to open the second half than radiant York singer Jessa Liversidge leading her Singing For All group, ebullient Barbara and all, in fact all the audience, as we sang I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing. In perfect harmony, of course! “I’m a bit c**p these days,” said Barbara, but singing is about so much more than the act of singing, and you could see how much it means to her after all these years.

From Annie Donaghy’s Careless Whisper to Beth McCarthy’s U2 and Guns N’Roses mash-up, Hope & Social’s Gary Stewart turning into Paul Simon for You Can Call Me Al, to Annie, Beth, Heather and Jess, all in black  and white, for Shania Twain’s I Feel Like A Woman, the show-stoppers kept coming.

Out came the phone torches on Big Ian’s command for Lionel Richie’s Hello and a big, big finale followed up the apt Don’t You Forget About Me with Jess does Dusty for You Don’t Have To Say You Love M and, what’s this? A video message of support from Rick Astley that arrived in Ian’s in-box from Sydney, Australia, at quarter to five that morning.

Cue a Never Gonna Give You Up singalong, and no, you just know Big Ian is never gonna give up on these special nights, his belief in making every life vibrant and vital to the last. Well done big fella, well done sound techie Craig Rothery, well done York.

Even the audience’s shoes were shining stars on A Night To Remember at York Barbican on Leap Year Saturday

Charles Hutchinson

New York Brass Band to toast Pocklington Arts Centre’s 20th birthday at party night

New York Brass Band: seven-piece Mardi Gras jazz powerhouse from York, although there appears to be nine of them here

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on Friday (March 6) with a party night.

A private reception at 7pm will be followed by a public performance by North Yorkshire’s only contemporary New Orleans-inspired brass band, the New York Brass Band from old York.

This seven-piece powerhouse, complete with percussion, sax, trumpets, trombones and sousaphone, will raise the roof with their rousing brand of Mardi Gras jazz from 8pm.

Looking forward to Friday’s celebrations, director Janet Farmer says: “New York Brass Band are a far cry from being your typical brass band. This is up-on-your-feet dancing, party-loving, Mardi Gras-style funky brass music that will be a lot of fun. 

“As Pocklington Arts Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, we felt a band like this added a true party vibe to our diverse programme of live music.”

Hailing from the ancient streets of York, New York Brass Band are at the forefront of a funky brass revolution now sweeping Great Britain. 

“Inspired by Rebirth Brass Band, Soul Rebels, Hot 8, Youngblood and Brassroots, New York Brass Band pack a powerful punch of relentless drums, rumbling tuba and wailing horns,” says Janet.

“Nothing kicks a party into gear like the sound of a smokin’ New Orleans Mardi Gras jazz band.

Although New York Brass Band’s inspiration is drawn from New Orleans musicians, their repertoire ranges from Marvin Gaye to George Michael, from Cee-Lo Green to Stevie Wonder, with some funky, gritty northern originals thrown in for good measure. 

Their past performances include Glastonbury Festival from 2014 to 2017; Bestival on the Isle of Wight; Durham Brass Festival; Cork Jazz Festival; Le Tour de France; the Monaco Grand Prix and England’s cricket Test matches.

New York Brass Band have entertained guests at celebrity parties and weddings for comedian Alex Brooker, Liam Gallagher, ex-Scotland footballers Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen and Jamie Oliver.

Tickets for Friday cost £11 each on 01759 301547 or at

Harry Baker makes 10,000 days count in words and numbers at York’s Say Owt

Harry Baker: thank you for the 10,000 days

HARRY Baker, mathematician-turned-world-slam champion, marks turning 10,000 days old by celebrating numbers, words and life itself at The Crescent, York, on March 15.

Making a plus out of everything, Baker will be at the latest gathering of Say Owt, the spoken-word fulcrum hosted by York performance poet Henry Raby.

Amy King: finding words to sum up sexuality and feminism

“From winning his school’s Battle of the Bands competition with a Jay-Z maths homage, to his prime number poetry TED talk being watched by millions online, Harry’s love of language and logic has got him through literal marathons, seen him rap battle in front of Ice Cube, and now has him analysing the technical accuracy of So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds,” says Henry. “He’s got 99 problems but maths ain’t one.”

Support comes from Amy King and Robert Steventon. “Amy won Say Owt Slam #23 last September. She’s a queer, northern, spoken-word artist, co-founder of the Sheffield spoken-word night All Mic Long, and her poetry tackles topics such as sexuality, feminism and her unwavering love for Wetherspoons,” says Henry.

Robert Steventon: gut-grabbing honesty

“Robert. who won Say Owt Slam #24 in February, is the maestro of Manchester’s Punk In Drublic poetry/comedy night. His poetry is 50 per cent heartfelt gut-grabbing honesty, 50 per cent honorary gobby northern nuance.” 

Doors open at 7pm for the 7.30pm performance of Harry Baker: I Am 10,000. Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, from Earworm Records, in Powells Yard, off Goodramgate, or The Crescent, off Blossom Street, or at or £12 on the door.

Sue Clayton to lead World Down Syndrome Day event at Pocklington Arts Centre

York artist Sue Clayton with odd socks for World Down Syndrome Day’s event at Pocklington Arts Centre

YORK artist Sue Clayton will mark World Down Syndrome Day at Pocklington Arts Centre on March 21 as her Downright Marvellous At Large exhibition draws to a close that day.

Sue’s portraits of adults with Down Syndrome and a giant pair of hand-knitted socks will provide the backdrop for the 11am to 1pm event featuring children’s craft activities, music, cake and a pop-up exhibition.

That show, This Is Me, will be running in the arts centre studio during the final week of Downright Marvellous At Large from March 14 to 21. On show will be self-portraits by members of Wold Haven Day Centre, Pocklington, and Applefields Special School, York, created at workshops led by Sue. 

Sue put her exhibition together in honour of her son, James, who has Down Syndrome and turns 18 this year. “Downright Marvellous At Large is a true celebration of adults with Down’s at work and play, and I hope it has made a real impression on visitors,” she says. 

“I can’t wait to bring what has been a really busy, successful exhibition to a suitable close in spectacular style with a celebration to mark World Down Syndrome Day. 

“Everyone is invited to come along, enjoy some children’s crafts, a pop-up exhibition and a free piece of cake, as well as a few surprises along the way”

Sue’s portraits, presenting the “unrepresented and significant” social presence of adults with Down Syndrome, is complemented by a giant pair of odd socks created using hand-knitted squares donated by members of the public. 

Many people wear odd socks on World Down Syndrome Day, a global event that aims to raise awareness and promote independence, self-advocacy and freedom of choice for people with the congenital condition. 

Socks are used because their shape replicates the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have. 

REVIEW: Settlement Players in The Seagull, York Theatre Royal Studio

Benedict Turvill’s troubled playwright Konstantin and The Seagull of the title in York Settlement Community Players’ production. All pictures: John Saunders

REVIEW: The Seagull, York Settlement Community Players, York Theatre Royal Studio, until March 7, 7.45pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

IT didn’t end well for the goat in Edward Albee’s The Goat at Theatre @41 Monkgate last week. It doesn’t end well for the seagull – borrowed from the National Theatre, no less – in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at the Theatre Royal Studio, but there is awkward comedy aplenty in both plays.

Absurd comedy in Albee’s jaw-dropping 2002 piece; tragicomedy in Chekhov’s 1895 dysfunctional family drama, as Helen Wilson completes her ten-year project to direct all four of the Russian playwright’s major works for Settlement Players in the York company’s centenary year.

As with Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters, the adaptation is by Michael Frayn, who has praised Settlement, and by implication Wilson, for not tampering with period, location, genders and politics to “make them more relevant” for modern audiences.

Livy Potter’s Nina performs Konstantin’s radical but mannered new play in The Seagull

“People in York are evidently made of sterner stuff,” Frayn said. “Just occasionally, perhaps, it’s worth trying to catch the sense and feel of what Chekhov actually intended.”

Wilson has pursued the same directorial policy once more, placing her trust in Frayn’s dialogue, replete with dramatic and comic irony, complemented by an uncluttered set design by Graham Sanderson, with a plain backdrop, chairs and a mini-stage, bedecked with flowers, for Konstantin’s play within a play.

Frayn knows that territory from his own 1982 backstage comedy Noises Off, a classic English unruly farce, but like Frayn’s appraisal of York audiences, The Seagull is made of sterner stuff.

Forlorn love: Lucy May Orange in black, playing Masha, destined to be forever ignored by Konstantin (Benedict Turvill)

“They’re all vulnerable, every one of them,” says Wilson of Chekhov’s characters, and she has made a spot-on judgement call in wanting vulnerability and warmth in equal measure in her staging. Enter Lucy May Orange’s Masha, dressed in black to match her forlorn conviction that her love for troubled young playwright Konstantin (Benedict Turvill) will be forever unrequited.

At this point we laugh in recognition, not least because she is saying this to smitten teacher Medvedenko (Samithi Sok), seemingly oblivious to her indifference towards him, and soon we shall find Turvill’s over-sensitive Konstantin in torment at putative girlfriend Nina (Livy Potter), his muse and actress for his “ground-breaking” play, not worshipping him the same way her worships her.

Turvill’s radical theatre-maker Konstantin has an even more troubled relationship with his mother, faded actress Arkadina (Stephanie Hesp), than Hamlet had with Gertrude, merciless in her dismissal of his writing talent, so insensitive in stealing attention away from Nina’s performance of his bold but admittedly dreadful play at Sorin’s increasingly anguished house party one lakeside summer evening.

Clinging on: Stephanie Hesp’s Arkadina losing the attention and affections of her lover, Ben Sawyer’s Trigorin

Sorin (Glyn Morrow), Arkadina’s ageing brother, wants the next generation to thrive, to blossom; so too does Maurice Crichton’s Scottish-accented doctor, Dorn. Paul Joe Osborne’s retired lieutenant, Shamrayev, now Sorin’s steward, loves a story, and Osborne has a splendid night in his mimicry and comic timing; wife Polina (Elizabeth Elsworth) is his best audience.

The Seagull is a play with a generation gap that grows wider the more the drama unfolds, It goes from what Wilson calls the “comic souffle” of the playful Act One, when we can “laugh at these slightly inept, sometimes pretentious characters thinking they’re something they’re not”, to the painful, poignant consequences of such ineptitude and self-deception, when youthful dreams are dashed and unfulfilled ambitions turn bitter amid the fractious artistic egos.

Chekhov “likes to lob a bomb into the room in Act Three” in his plays, as Wilson puts it, and here the incendiary device is Arkadina’s lover, vainglorious novelist Trigorin (Ben Sawyer, suitably smug), under whose spell the impressionable Nina falls.

Twinkle in the wry: Maurice Crichton as Dorn, the doctor

In a naturalistic play with theatre and writing and creativity at its heart, but ennui and abject despair eating away at the tumultuous edges, Wilson’s company extract the ironic, perverse comedy to the full, then bring out all the damaging familiar failings of those prone to so much sterile philosophising.

Frayn would be delighted with the performances of Settlement’s experienced hands, while both Turvill and Potter (by day York Theatre Royal’s marketing and press assistant) impress in their first principal roles for Wilson in the intimacy of the Studio space.

Yes, the seagull dies, but not before The Seagull flies high, full of art and too much hurt heart.  

Scarborough: the poster magnet to penguins, courting couples and tonic seekers in nostalgic exhibition

Penguins at Scarborough? Anything is possible in a tourism poster

VINTAGE posters from a golden age of travel and tourism will go on display at Woodend, The Crescent, Scarborough, on Saturday.

Dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, the posters in Scarborough: A Day At The Seaside were issued by the-then Scarborough Corporation’s tourism department and by rail companies operating in the area.

Just the tonic: taking a holiday at Scarborough

On show from the coming weekend to April 26, they will include such nostalgic images as a family of penguins seeking shade under a parasol on Scarborough’s South Bay beach, alongside other bright and idyllic scenes from a bygone era.

The prints are all taken from the 200-plus original posters held in the Scarborough Collections, under the care of Scarborough Museums Trust.

Scarborough Open Air Theatre…as it was in 1938

Andrew Clay, the trust’s chief executive, says: “This will be a vibrant and colourful exhibition recalling an age when travelling by train for a holiday at the seaside was the height of sophistication.”

Limited-edition prints of the posters on display will be available to buy, all at the actual size.

Scarborough: the essence of coastal sophistication for courting couples in 1932

Woodend is open Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays and Sundays, 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.

Jonny Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers have their Valentine swansong at Lotte Inch Gallery and FortyFive Vinyl Cafe this week

Dead Men’s Suits, 2019, by Jonny Hannah

JONNY Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers is the Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever of exhibitions.

His music-inspired Double A-sides show is split between two independent York businesses: Lotte Inch Gallery, at 14 Bootham, and gallery curator Lotte’s friends Dan Kentley and Dom White’s FortyFive Vinyl Café in Micklegate.

“Songs For Darktown Lovers roots itself in all things music, and of course, love,” says Lotte. “With Sinatra’s Songs For Swinging Lovers playing in the background, this exhibition is an alternative Valentine for the creatively minded.

“It’s also a love letter to ‘Darktown’, a fictional place that Jonny refers to when modern life becomes too much, a place with countless retreats, all revealed in his book Greetings From Darktown, published by Merrell Publishers in 2014.”

One-of-a-kind Scottish artist, designer, illustrator, lecturer and all-round creative spark Hannah has exhibited previously at Lotte’s gallery, and she contacted him last spring with a view to him doing a show for FortyFive.

“She told me about this vinyl café because I like to go to charity shops and buy old vinyl albums that I know will be awful but have striking covers, and then I create my own newly reinterpreted vinyl sleeves from that,” says culture-vulture Jonny, who attended the exhibition openings at FortyFive, where he span vintage discs and played an acoustic guitar set with fellow artist Jonathan Gibbs, and at Lotte’s gallery amid the aroma of morning-after coffee the next day.

Dance Stance Shoe, by Jonny Hannah

“What’s been nice with this show is having the chance to do the more informal works for the café and the formal pieces, such as hand-painted wooden cut-outs, for the gallery.”

Happenstance led to the Darktown Lovers theme. “Originally, I was going to do the show before Christmas but time ran out, and then I thought Valentine’s Day would be a good setting,” says Jonny.

“So, the work is inspired by love songs and songs I love – as they’re not all love songs. Country rock; a bit of classical; some French chanson; rockabilly. The café exhibition has become this imagined playlist of vinyl that never will be, but I’ve made it as the perfect playlist in my head.”

Growing up in Dunfermline, before studying at Cowdenbeath College of Knowledge, Liverpool School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, Jonny recalls how he would pick out album covers such as Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell.

“Everyone had that album in Dunfermline! Then, as I became older, and I like to think more sophisticated, I was drawn to those wonderful Blue Note jazz covers. I loved the 12-inch format; going to the record shop on Saturdays with your pocket money was so exciting,” he says.

“Then it became CDs, and now downloads, but it’s great that vinyl has made a comeback. My sons play music, but I’ve no idea what, because it’s all on headphones. In fact, they complain I play my music too loud, which is surely the wrong way round! But music should be a social thing, bringing you together to see a band or enjoy a DJ set.

“Music that matters to you is as important as buying clothes or a pair of shoes or the first time you saw a film like Kes. You remember the mood you were in when you first heard it.”

Harmonium, by Jonny Hannah

Since graduating in 1998, Jonny has worked both as a commercial designer and an illustrator and printmaker. He lives by the sea in Southampton, where he lectures in illustration at Southampton Solent University.

He boasts an impressive list of exhibitions, advertising projects and clients, such as Royal Mail, the New York Times, the Guardian and Conde Nast, and he has published a series of “undeniably Hannah-esque” books with Merrell Publishers, Mainstone Press and Design For Today.

You may recall his Darktown Turbo Taxi solo exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, in 2018, and Darktown lies at the heart of his latest works too, but what is Darktown, Jonny?

“It started off as my idea that it was on the edge of any city that had a collection of odd characters, that had places they frequented, maybe shops too,” he says.

“The inspiration came from Fats Waller, the jazz singer, singing Darktown Strutter’s Ball, and C W Stoneking replying Don’t Go Dancin’ Down The Darktown Strutter’s Ball. So, Fats is saying ‘go’; Stoneking is saying ‘don’t go’, and you think, ‘oh god, what should I do?’!

“I decided I should go down there and it’s become my alternative reality to my reality, as opposed to one of my great hates: Star Wars fantasy.”

Defining that alternative reality, Jonny says: “It has to be urban, ever since I left home in Dunfermline; it has to have a lot of concrete, like there is in Southampton, my home now.

Pepe Le Moko by Jonny Hannah

“You’re cherry picking from what you do and don’t want to experience, including shops, characters, streets.”

One street, in particular: Shirley High Street, where Jonny lives in Southampton. “I take some of the characters from there and mix them in my head with historical characters,” he says. “But it all has to have that dollop of reality; if you go too far off on fantastical bent, it isn’t Darktown.”

How did Jonny develop his distinctive style? “You have to be patient, to make things work, for your style to appear. I’d start from other artists and do my own versions, and after a decade, maybe a couple of decades, I’ve found my own style with life’s experience feeding into it: who you are, where you live. Whereas if you force it, that’s when it becomes disingenuous.

“The more you do it, the more those things inside you, what’s internal, becomes external and is expressed in your art. That’s when you overtake your influences and your voice becomes the significant voice, not the ones that inspired you.”

Jonny Hannah’s pricing policy is admirable. “The idea of my work being available potentially to almost anyone is exciting, so I’ve sold it for as little as £5. I price it for what I think it’s worth; even if people say I undervalue it, I don’t think I do,” he says.

“I love the idea that my art is distributed rather than being stuck in my lock-up, so the possibility of it being someone’s home, office, or place of work, is important to me.

“I also like to think of myself as being like a medium holding a séance, where my art is telling you about Fats Waller and Jacques Brel, if you don’t know who Jacques Brel is; I’m contacting their spirit, so I’m doing my job as a conveyor of popular culture that you can connect with.”

Cakes & Ale Shoe, by Jonny Hannah

Jonny acknowledges the significance of art that provokes and can change opinions in the world, “but I don’t need to be one of those people”, he says. “I like the idea that art is entertaining. I’ve always opted for entertainment, for enjoyment, for making people happy with what I create. I have fun making them, and that notion of enjoyment is so important to me.”

Jonny’s palette of colours exudes that element of enjoyment and fun too. “I don’t say that it’s specifically down to my colour blindness – I’m colour blind for green and blue – but I did start by using primary colours, then varying their brightness,” he says.

“You can try out endless variations and for me now it’s always blue, red, yellow, black and white and variations on that,” he says. “I’ve tried to be subtle with colour but it just doesn’t work for me!”

His Darktown Turbo Taxi, first exhibited in his Yorkshire Sculpture Park show, and now acquired by Southampton Solent University for permanent display there, is a case in point. “It was my agent’s idea that I should buy this Saab 9-3 Turbo off Gumtree and paint it. Afterwards, someone said ‘you can’t miss it in a car park’, and he was right! That notion of not being able to miss it is part of my painting philosophy.”

That said, Jonny reveals: “I don’t think too much. I say to my students thinking can be a bad thing. If you face a blank canvas, then start creating, you come up with something better. Drawing is a form of thinking in itself; you start drawing, you are thinking.

A Confederacy Of Dunces, by Jonny Hannah

“You find that certain things keep coming back in your work, and what I know I can be guilty of is laziness, when I need to find new inspiration or find new ways of expressing things. It’s always that thing of challenging yourself creatively. There’s nothing worse than repetition.”

After releasing his latest book, A Confederacy Of Dunces, for The Folio Society, Jonny is now working on a commission for Museums Northumberland on Northumberland folklore that will run from May to September at Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, Hexham Old Gaol, Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum and Berwick Museum and Art Gallery.

He is also creating a set of woodcuts for The Skids’ frontman Richard Jobson’s book of short stories set in an imaginary bar in Berlin called The Alabama Song. “Richard lives in Berlin for half the year now, and the woodcuts will go on show in an exhibition at events where he’ll sing and I’ll play guitar,” says Jonny.

Also bubbling up is a book on the history of pop culture, as his prodigious productivity continues unabated, with a mischievous spirit at play. “When you’re young, you get told to tidy up, but as you get older, mess is a creative thing,” reckons Jonny.

“If you’re creative, there’s an immaturity to you that never goes away. You don’t have to tidy up until it really does become too much!”

Jonny Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers runs until March 7. Lotte Inch Gallery is open Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, or by appointment on 01904 848660. FortyFive Vinyl Café’s opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm; Saturday, 10am to 6pm; Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

City Screen to show International Women’s Day preview of Radioactive with Q&A

Rosamund Pike as pioneering Polish scientist Marie Curie in Radioactive

CITY Screen, York, will mark International Women’s Day on March 8 with an exclusive Picturehouse preview of Radioactive, the biopic of pioneering Polish scientist Marie Curie starring Rosamund Pike.

Marie discovered the radioactive elements radium and polonium. Working with her husband, Pierre Curie (played by Sam Riley), she was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and would become the only person to receive two.

Throughout her life, Marie showed a steely reserve in the face of xenophobia and institutional hostility, but her discoveries and legacy came at a price, not only for the woman herself but also for the world.

Next Sunday’s 1.30pm preview will be followed by a Q&A with Rosamund Pike and director Marjane Satrapi, broadcast live from the Curzon Mayfair, London.

On general release from March 20, Radioactive (12A) is based on Lauren Redniss’s book Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale Of Love And Fallout and is director Satrapi’s first film to be sourced from a graphic novel not written by herself.

The Iranian-born director is best known for Persepolis, her 2008 film about her life in pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary Iran and then in Europe. Based on her graphic novel of the same title, it traces Satrapi’s growth from child to rebellious, punk-loving teenager.

Tickets are available in person from the City Screen box office, in Coney Street, on 0871 902 5747 or at Please note, the film screening will start promptly at 1.45pm.

Win tickets for Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever! in York at the Grand Opera House

Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever is just around the corner. All pictures: Dan Tsantilis

PEPPA Pig is celebrating ten years of live shows with a new adventure, Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever!, visiting the Grand Opera House, York, on March 4 and 5.

Performances start at 1pm and 4pm on the first day; 10am and 1pm on the second, and courtesy of the Cumberland Street theatre, CharlesHutchPress has one family ticket (four seats) to be won for the 4pm Wednesday performance.

Based on the Entertainment One animated television series, this is Peppa Pig’s sixth touring production, rooted as ever in songs, games and laughter as Peppa and friends make a big splash when they jump in puddles.

Peppa Pig Live has been enjoyed by more than 1.5 million people in Britain, playing eight consecutive West End seasons, as well as touring the United States and Australia.

In the wake of directing and adapting the stage shows Peppa Pig’s Adventure, Peppa Pig’s Party, Peppa Pig’s Treasure Hunt, Peppa Pig’s Big Splash and Peppa Pig’s Surprise, Richard Lewis is doing likewise for Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, working with BAFTA award-winning composer Mani Svavarsson.

Family travels in Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever!

Produced by children’s theatre team Fierylight, in tandem with eOne, the new adventure finds Peppa Pig excited to be going on a special day out with George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig.

Peppa’s best day ever will involve a road‐trip full of fun adventures. From castles to caves, dragons to dinosaurs and ice‐creams to the muddy puddles, there will be something for all Peppa’s family and their friends Mr Bull, Suzy Sheep, Gerald Giraffe and very busy newcomer Miss Rabbit to enjoy.

Tickets are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at

Competition question:

Who has written the music for Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever!?

Send your answer with your name, address and daytime phone number, to, marked Peppa Pig Competition, by 1pm on Monday, March 2.

Let’s go.! Time to head out on Peppa Pig’s best day ever

Quickfire questions for Peppa Pig to answer as York beckons.

Are you excited about your road trip with your family and friends?

Yes. Oink! Oink! Hee! Hee! Hee! I’m very excited to visit loads of new places and I hope to make some more nice friends. I think it’s going to be the best ever!”

What makes your best day ever?

Lots of adventure! I like it when we get to drive around in our camper van and eat lots of ice cream and explore castles. And jump in muddy puddles of course.” 

What are you most looking forward to on your road trip?

Jumping in muddy puddles. Hee! Hee!” 

Who is your favourite person to travel with?

My little brother, George. Oink! Oink! But he has to bring Mr Dinosaur everywhere with him!”

Who else will join you at the theatre?

Mummy, Daddy, Mr Bull, Suzy Sheep, Gerald Giraffe and some of our other friends. Even Miss Rabbit is coming. She is always so busy with all her jobs, so it’s extra special she can come with us.” 

Last chance for tickets for Big Ian’s charity fundraiser A Night To Remember

Annie Donaghy, Big Ian Donaghy, Beth McCarthy, Heather Findlay and Jess Steel at A Night To Remember in 2019 at York Barbican. Picture: Karen Boyes

A NIGHT To Remember, tomorrow’s charity concert at York Barbican, has sold out but any returned or cancelled tickets will go on sale this morning from 10am.

Now in its eighth year, this annual fundraising event helps good causes in the city to make a difference, as organiser and host Big Ian Donaghy brings together “the finest musicians and singers for a gang show like no other”.

Tomorrow night, all the singers will perform as an ensemble exceeding its constituent parts. “When you have a dream team on the stage, it seems a shame to not use them, so everybody sings on everybody else’s songs,” reasons Big Ian.

Jess Steel: taking on “near-impossibly demanding songs” at York Barbican

A Night To Remember lets singers take on their favourite songs. “Soulful Jess Steel will take on a Dusty Springfield classic, as well as other near-impossibly demanding songs that she’ll deliver in the manner she’s now well known for.

“Heather Findlay will bring her class into the mix, performing two of her favourite songs,” says Big Ian.

Beth McCarthy, who made her debut at the Mount School when Big Ian ran a School of Rock concert there, will be stepping out of her comfort zone to rock the Barbican foundations.

Beth McCarthy: “Stepping out of her comfort zone to rock the Barbican foundations”

Annie Donaghy will put her spin on a George Michael classic on a night when the set list will feature covers of Dusty Springfield, Shania Twain, Simple Minds, Paul Simon, Michael Buble, Guns N’ Roses, Barbra Streisand, Peter Gabriel, Elton John and Marvin Gaye classics, as well as a few surprises.

York singer Jessa Liversidge will lead her fully inclusive Singing For All choir, a group with members aged up to 98, who will sing The New Seekers’ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.

Among the men, Graham Hodge will “venture into very different areas” as he celebrates his 70th birthday; gravel-voiced Boss Caine, alias Dan Lucas, will tackle a country favourite that nobody would ever guess; Hope & Social’s Gary Stewart will play the congas, as well as singing a Paul Simon rouser.

Jessa Liversidge: bringing her Singing For All choir to York Barbican

The gig’s house band will be led by York music stalwart George Hall, joined by powerhouse duo Rob Wilson and Simon Snaize on guitar duty.

“This year, the show has a bigger, brassier feel with a 12-piece brass section, made up of Kempy, Pete, Stu and Chalky from my band Huge, being joined by funk horns and brass players from York Music Forum, ranging in age from 13 to 18, led by Ian Chalk,” says Big Ian.

He also promises “ground-breaking, heart-warming and heart-breaking films” to raise dementia awareness. “Watch out for surprise appearances, as previous years have included messages from Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, The Hairy Bikers, Rick Astley, Nick Knowles, Anton du Beke and Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson,” he says.

Oh, what A Night To Remember as singers and musicians gather at the finale of last year’s fund-raising concert at York Barbican. Picture: Ravage

“But the real reason these musicians come together is to help St Leonard’s Hospice, Dementia Projects in York, Bereaved Children Support York and Accessible Arts & Media.”

Any returned or cancelled tickets for tomorrow’s 7.30pm concert will be on sale on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from the Barbican box office.

York Late Music’s new season opens with weekend of concerts at Unitarian Chapel

Delta Saxophone Quartet: Friday night is Late Music night at the Unitarian Chapel

YORK Late Music’s 2020 season opens with a trio of concerts next week, one on March 6, two on March 7, at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York.

First up, at 7.30pm on the Friday, Delta Saxophone Quartet celebrate the music of iconic composer Steve Martland alongside new works by David Power and Steve Crowther in the first half.

The second half has four pieces from Project Flicks: silent film with live music featuring Frank Milward’s Brian And Banksy and David Lancaster’s Rendezvous.

Murphy McCaleb: tackling climate change in his Instruments Of Change concert

On the Saturday, York St John University senior lecturer in music Murphy McCaleb and his ensemble present Instruments Of Change, addressing the issue of climate change at 1pm.

Dr McCaleb is a bass trombonist and pianist who can turn his hands to classical, jazz, rock, pop, electronic and experimental music.

Later that day, singer Merit Ariane Stephanos’s 7.30pm concert tells the love story of the sun and the moon. Destined never to meet, their enigmatic relationship affects our lives deeply, rules our daily rhythms and fires up our imagination.

Merit Ariane Stephanos: singing songs to the sun and the moon

“The cycles of light and dark in which they are intertwined create breath-taking displays,” says Merit, who will be performing with Jon Banks on accordion, qanun and santur, Antonio Romero on percussion and Baha Yetkin on oud.

“Punctuated with Shakespeare and anonymous quotes and rhymes, our songs journey through musical styles, eras and languages, illuminating each other in an ever-changing light.

Tickets on the door cost £5 for the lunchtime recital; £10, £8 concessions, for the evening concerts.

REVIEW: Probably the most controversial play you will see in York this year…

Awkward moment for Martin (Bryan Bounds) and son Billy (Will Fealy) in The Goat. Pictures: Matthew Kitchen

REVIEW: The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, Pick Me Up Theatre, John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, dropping jaws until Saturday, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

WELL, you won’t see a play like this every day, but I dare you still to see it in Pick Me Up Theatre’s northern UK premiere.

Playwright Edward Albee, born in Virginia, but long associated with New York after moving to Greenwich Village at 18, is best known for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?. The 1962 one, turned into a 1966 Mike Nichols film with the almighty verbal scrap between Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha and Richard Burton’s George.

Susannah Baines’s Stevie wonders what’s going on in The Goat

Albee wrote another play with a question mark in its title in 2002: The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? The American agent provocateur of theatre of the absurd could pour 50 years of the even more absurd into it, but essentially it is a further study of the marital complexities of a middle-aged couple, in this case Martin and Stevie Gray.

Except that Albee’s Broadway premiere came with a plea from the writer: “Imagine what you can’t imagine… imagine being in love with something you can’t conceive of. The play is about love, loss, the limits of our tolerance and who, indeed, we really are.”

And there was more: “All I ask of an audience is that they leave their prejudices in the cloakroom and view the play objectively and later – at home – imagine themselves as being in the predicament the play examines and coming up with useful, if not necessarily comfortable, responses.”

Will Fealy as Billy: announcing a talent to watch as drama school beckons

Who could sense at the start what lies in store, how famous New York architect Martin Gray’s world would soon turn to rubble as the American Dream crumbles? Played by suave American actor Bryan Bounds, who recommended the play to director Mark Hird, Gray has just turned 50, won his latest prize and been given the ultimate commission to design the World City on Kansas’s wheat fields.

Hair immaculate, life immaculate, house immaculate in its monochrome trendiness (in Robert Readman’s design), he says he could not be more happily in love with wife Stevie (Susannah Baines). Son Billy (Will Fealy) is blossoming at 17, brightly questing and gay (like Albee, who knew it at 12 and a half).

Yet Martin seems distracted, playing at forgetfulness in banter with Stevie, and what’s that smell, she asks. When he is even more distracted while talking with best friend Ross (Mick Liversidge), fouling up a TV interview recording, the truth will out. Martin has fallen in love with Sylvia, a goat (hence the smell), and the feeling is mutual, and yes, without being graphic, the relationship is full on.

MIck Liversidge’s Ross: asking the searching questions in The Goat

Greek tragedies dive deep into the extremes of the human condition, as do plenty of Shakespeare’s plays, and, especially, Jacobean tragedies. The Goat puts the ‘eek’ into a modern Greek tragedy, although it is more of a tragicomedy. Yes, you read that right. There is a liquorice-dark humour to Albee’s brilliantly written confessions and confrontations, as well as moments that are excruciatingly uncomfortable, as The Goat turns from domestic situation comedy to Domestos-powerful situation tragedy.

What’s more, Hird’s thrust-stage setting, with the audience so close up on three sides, adds to that discomfort, and not because Baines’s Stevie starts smashing all the living-room pottery (courtesy of Fangfoss Pottery’s Gerry Grant). No, it is the fierce heat, the candour, of what is being said. Hird’s cast avoids histrionics; instead the rise and fall and rise again of anger, hurt, confusion, love, is far more skilfully played by one and all, pulling the audience this way and that.

Bounds urged Hird to cast Baines, and he was spot-on: his Martin is infuriatingly phlegmatic, unflustered; her Stevie is an ever-tightening coil in response, whose actions will speak louder than his words.

The Gray family: all smiles before the Sylvia storm

Son Billy is caught in the middle, and Will Fealy, such a burgeoning talent that he has just been offered an unconditional place at Arts.Ed in London, conveys all the confusions of illusions being shattered, certainties derailed, while dealing with his own sexual awakening.

Mick Liversidge’s bewildered, shocked Ross sort of represents the audience in his reactions, or does he, because the moral ambiguities are complex, and as Albee once said, “if you think this play is about bestiality, you’re either an idiot or a Republican”. Trump that!

Albee also said: “Never leave the audience the same way you found them”, and 90 unbroken minutes of The Goat – apart from the smashed bowls and vases – will leave you pondering relationships, family, love. As for goats, I’ll stick to loving goats’ cheese.

Please note: this play contains adult themes and strong language; suggested minimum age of 15.

York artist Lesley Birch responds to the Forces Of Nature in Glyndebourne show

York artist Lesley Birch at work in her studio

YORK artist Lesley Birch will exhibit at Glyndebourne, the Sussex opera house home to the Glyndebourne Festival, from May to December.

“I’m very proud to have been invited,” she says. “It’s a huge privilege and rather daunting too. I’m working on pieces now.”

Lesley has been chosen for the Forces Of Nature exhibition of paintings, prints and ceramics in Gallery 94, located by the stalls entrance to the auditorium at the country house in Lewes, East Sussex.

Curated by Nerissa Taysom, the exhibition was inspired by the strong women on stage in this year’s upcoming six festival operas, so all ten artists will be women. 

Exhibiting alongside Lesley will be Michele Fletcher, Tanya Gomez, Rachel Gracey, Kathryn Johnson, Rosie Lascelles, Kathryn Maple, Tania Rutland, Katie Sollohub and Hannah Tounsend.

The Old Town, by Lesley Birch, part of her Marks & Moments exhibition at Partisan, York

Forces Of Nature will explore how artists represent their feelings or memories of natural phenomena, its forms and sounds, while questioning how we confront nature in an age of climate change.

Lesley works out of PICA Studios, the artist collective in Grape Lane, York, and in this typically busy year, her new Marks & Moments paintings can be savoured at Partisan, the boho restaurant, café and arts space in Micklegate, York, in a feast of colour and imagination until March 31.

Filling two floors, more than 50 paintings are on view, ranging from Lesley’s Musical Abstract Collection – large canvases expressing music and movement in nature – to little gouache gems created en plein air in the remote village of Farindola in Abruzzo, Italy.

“Partisan is a sort of emporium full of collectable stuff, such as vintage lamps and the like, and it’s so exciting to see my paintings in this bohemian setting, reflected off the old French mirrors and hung high and low,” says Lesley, whose works are divided into colour and spring moods upstairs and dramatic landscapes downstairs. All paintings are for sale.

Forces Of Nature at Glyndebourne: Artist open houses, Sunday, May 17, 10am to 1pm, open to the public; May 21 to December 13, festival and tour ticket holders only.

Boo! Paranormal Research York dare you to join the Grand Opera House ghost hunt

All in a paranormal night’s work at the Grand Opera House, York. Ghost image: Syarafina Yusof / Unsplash; Grand Opera House photograph:

IN the week when Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s terrifying play Ghost Stories will be spooking out the Grand Opera House, now there is to be even more paranormal activity at the York theatre.

On March 12 and 13 at 10.30pm each night, Paranormal Research York (PRY) will lead The Ghost Hunt in a theatre lit only by the emergency lighting systems.

Those attending this after-dark theatre tour will be encouraged to participate throughout the interactive event, where PRY will employ assorted traditional methods, such as a human pendulum and divination activities, using crystals and divining rods.

Ghost hunters: the calling card for Paranormal Research York

A variety of technical equipment will be on hand for guests to try out, such as a “stick man” camera and gadgets that can detect spirit energies. In a nutshell, guests can be “as involved as they dare to be”.  

Paranormal Research York’s team of experienced and professional paranormal investigators from York have come together to investigate predominantly in “Britain’s most haunted city”.

Their work involves accessing a range of haunted locations in and around York and then researching their findings to go with the legends.

Parallel paranormal activities: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s play Ghost Stories will be scaring all and sundry at the Grand Opera House in the same week as the late-night ghost hunts

Looking forward to conducting The Ghost Hunt in a building built in 1868, PRY’s Clare Bryant says: “We’re very excited to be hosting the first ever ghost hunt at this amazing, historical building. From our first walk around at the Grand Opera House, we could feel the spirits already coming forward.”

Kevin Spindloe, from PRY, adds: “Wow! Friday the 13th and we have the privilege to be investigating here. It’s so active here and the spirits seem keen to tell their own ghost stories. As a guest you can be involved in the activities or just watch. Either way you will experience an event like no other.”

The Ghost Hunt on Friday, March 13th has sold out – unlucky for some! – but tickets for March 12 and the Ghost Stories run from March 10 to 14 are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at

Are you ready for extreme terror, tension and ghost tremors at Grand Opera House?

The lecturer in Ghost Stories: “The supernatural is purely a trick of the mind,” he says…but is it?

THE Grand Opera House, York, already has its own ghost, one said to call out the first name of a new member of staff in the quiet of the auditorium on first acquaintance.

No doubt that will intrigue Professor Goodman, ahead of the lecturer’s visit to the Cumberland Street theatre from March 10 to 14 as the investigative fulcrum of writer-directors Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s “supernatural sensation”, Ghost Stories, on its first national tour.

On the road since January 7 after completing its latest West End run at The Ambassadors Theatre, London, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre production should feel at home in York, the self-proclaimed most haunted city in Europe.

What’s more, with the Grand Opera House’s proximity to the York Dungeon, “York’s scariest tourist attraction”, where better for Nyman and Dyson’s global hit to be spooking?

Premiered a decade ago and turned into a film too, Ghost Stories invites its captive audience to “enter a nightmarish world, full of thrilling twists and turns, where all your deepest fears and most disturbing thoughts are imagined live on stage”.

Expect a “fully sensory and electrifying encounter in the ultimate twisted love-letter to horror, a supernatural edge-of-your-seat theatrical experience like no other”, as Professor Goodman strives to prove the supernatural is “purely a trick of the mind” in the face of three stories that beg to differ.

“Ghost Stories has never really gone away, running in various incarnations since the original production a decade ago, going into the West End, then Canada, Moscow,” says co-writer Jeremy Dyson, best known for his work with those twisted humourists The League Of Gentlemen.

“It was done in Russian in Russia but we had to maintain that it was set in Britain because apparently no Russian is afraid of a ghost.”

Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson: co-writers and directors of Ghost Stories

The latest British incarnation opened at the Lyric Hammersmith last March, whereupon it was picked up by commercial producers keen to take it on the road. “We’d always wanted to do that but never been able to do so, even though we knew just how much people wanted to see it, but we were told it ‘wasn’t tourable’.”

Until now, until Jon Bausor came up with a design that could play both The Ambassadors Theatre and theatres around the country.

“He’s made it possible to squash the set into a van!” says Jeremy, who lives in Ilkley, by the way. “Each time we’ve staged the play, we’ve been able to solve another problem, get rid of another niggle, and finally we have the production that is totally to our satisfaction.

“The show’s been going down really well on tour, and it will fit perfectly into York with all its ghost stories and the York Dungeon opposite the Grand Opera House.”

Why are we so drawn to ghost stories, Jeremy? “I think there are lots of reasons,” he says. “One of them is obvious: death and the afterlife, which is a personal concern to all of us, and ghost stories are a way to approach such an overwhelming concern.

“That’s particularly so in our increasingly secular society, where there’s a hunger for the mysterious, the uncanny, the inexplicable, which once upon a time would have come under the auspices of the church and religion.

“That’s part of it, and also when it comes to a show like Ghost Stories, there’s the entertainment and the thrill, the fairground element.”

Nyman, London actor, director and writer, and Dyson, screen and stage writer and author, have been friends for a “very long time”. “Since we were teenagers, in fact,” says Jeremy. “We met when we were 15 and one of the things we bonded over was horror movies at the dawn of the video age, renting those films to watch them together.

The Caretaker: one of the three Ghost Stories to be told at the Grand Opera House, York

“We’ve had our individual careers and we’d never thought of working together, but out of the blue Andy called me with this idea of having three men sitting telling ghost stories after he saw The Vagina Monologues [Eve Ensler’s show with three women telling stories].

“It was a very intriguing idea that was enough to hook me straightaway, though we then veered away from that initial construction over a long gestation period.

“Creating Ghost Stories was very much a case of sitting in a room together, talking about it for a year, and then getting together, bashing out the outline, working every day for a week, when we pretty much hammered it out, because we’d been thinking about it for so long.”

Ghost Stories has drawn comparisons with Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black, premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 1987 and still running in the West End, but Jeremy was keen that Ghost Stories should stand in its own right.

“We wanted very much to create a theatre experience that we hadn’t had before, in terms of being a very immersive piece of theatre, and we also like the challenge of taking things that you’re familiar thematically from horror films and seeing if we could transfer them to the stage.”

A further element is at play in Ghost Stories. “Andy and I both have a love of conjuring and magic; Andy has worked with Derren Brown for 20, so we wanted to build that into the show’s structure,” says Jeremy. “We wanted to look at how you can create a magical effect with a combination of storytelling and technology, and that’s what we’ve achieved.”

Ghost Stories promises “moments of extreme shock and tension” at the Grand Opera House, York, from March 10 to 14. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at Unsuitable for anyone under 15 years old.

Copyright of The Press, York

Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art heads from York to New York for Brits Off Broadway

Matthew Kelly, left, and David Yelland in The Habit Of Art. Picture: Helen Maybanks

YORK Theatre Royal’s co-production of Alan Bennett’s comedy The Habit Of Art with the Original Theatre Company is heading to New York as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival.

Premiered in York in September 2018, Philip Franks’s show starring Matthew Kelly will be  one of eight productions featured in 59E59 Theaters’ annual celebration of theatre from the UK.

Franks’s production begins its second British tour in March ahead of the American dates from May 29 to June 28 in one of 59E59 Theaters’ three off-Broadway spaces, having first toured Britain in Autumn 2018.

The Habit Of Art director Philip Franks

Leeds playwright Bennett’s 2009 play imagines a meeting between friends and collaborators W.H. Auden, the York-born poet, and composer Benjamin Britten. Most of the original cast are in the latest production, including Kelly, David Yelland and Yorkshire actor Benjamin Chandler, who made his York Theatre Royal debut in the 2018 company.

Kelly says: “I’ve done Brits on Broadway before in [Hull playwright] Richard Bean’s play Toast, which is very different to The Habit Of Art. But Americans are going to love Alan Bennett because they think they’re going to see something very British.”

John Wark, left, and Ben Chandler in The Habit Of Art. Picture: Helen Maybanks

Director Franks adds: “New York is the most wonderful city but there’s a huge challenge because it’s such an English play. I hope very much audiences will respond.”

The 2020 production of The Habit Of Art is produced by the Original Theatre Company and Anthology with Peter Stickney and York Theatre Royal.

Franks last directed in York in Summer 2019 when his Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre production of The Tempest ran at the Elizabethan pop-up theatre on the Castle car park.

REVIEW: Pilot Theatre’s teen drama Crongton Knights at York Theatre Royal

The cast of Crongton Knights. Picture: Robert Day

REVIEW: Crongton Knights, Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

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.

Charles Hutchinson

Song and dance meets English stage humour in Crooners big band show

In the swing of it: Crooners celebrates the golden age of song and dance

CROONERS, a rip-roaring comedy music show with a splendiferous injection of big band swing, charms its way into the Grand Opera House, York, on March 6, at 7.30pm.

On a mission to bring old-school variety back to the theatre with a “quintessentially British twist to the genre symbolised by the crooner”, this new collaboration bonds comedy writer and performer Roman Marek with the outrageous ten-piece swing combo The Mini Big Band.

“I’m a song-and-dance man,” says Marek. “I was brought up on the music of the super-cool crooners, but also on the quintessentially English stage humour of Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth and Max Bygraves.”

Crooners revels in the songs of the Rat Pack’s Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, together with Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin and Britain’s very own crooner, Matt Monro.

We have a set list of material never before heard in a theatre production,” says Marek. Tickets for this “truly British swingin’ affair” are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at

Seeds tells the mothers’ stories on two sides of knife crime at Leeds Playhouse

A scene from Seeds at Leeds Playhouse. All pictures: Wasi Daniju

TWO mothers united in sorrow, unable to escape the tragedy of knife crime, try to protect their sons, one in life, one in death, in Mel Pennant’s new play, Seeds, at Leeds Playhouse.

Running in the Bramall Rock Void until Saturday, it tells the stories of those who fight to keep their children safe from the world they grow up in, when knife-crime offences in England and Wales have reached a record high and hate crimes have more than doubled over a seven-year period.

Shortlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award, Seeds is billed as “a courageous play that looks at difficult subjects of racism, violence, death and grief. It describes a hate crime and uses the N word, all of which may be a trigger for people who have suffered as result of the above and may be difficult for some audience members”.

The setting is Michael Thomas’s birthday, when his cake sits in his mother’s living room, its candles burning undisturbed. Jackie wants to clear her conscience, while Evelyn has a big speech to deliver on the 15th anniversary of Michael’s fatal stabbing. Are some things better left unsaid?

Seeds is presented by Tiata Fahodzi and Wrested Veil in association with Leeds Playhouse, Soho Theatre and Tara Finney Productions.

Here, first, writer Mel Pennant and, then, director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour discuss the play.

“Rollercoaster, awkward, emotional”: Mel Pennant’s play Seeds

How would you describe the play, Mel?

“Two mums, either side of a racist murder, come together and explore what happened to their sons 15 years earlier.  They go to places no-one else would take them to and,, in doing so, come to an agreed truth which is life changing for both of them.” 

How would you sum up Seeds in three words? 

“Rollercoaster, awkward, emotional.”

What inspired you to write the play?

 “In writing the play, I was conscious that we rarely hear, in any depth, the stories of the families of people involved in tragedies and yet as a society we often judge them.

 “I wanted to explore those stories through two mothers on either side of such an event and, in doing so, interrogate the very essence of motherhood.

“Those two women have a conversation that couldn’t happen without the other: they can face the depth of their despair and longing, how they define themselves in a space that is becoming even more limiting.” 

Why is it important we discuss knife crime from the perspective of mothers? 

“Because it’s families, parents, mothers who are left with the aftermath.  When the headlines are over, they are the ones who deal with the reality.  I wanted to explore that reality.”

What do you want audiences to take away from Seeds?

“I hope audiences see my play as the beginning of a conversation.  I hope that it enables audiences to see and engage with the complexities and layers of the issues discussed.”

“Tense, emotive, shattering”: director Anastasia Osei-Kuffour’s summary of Seeds

How would you describe the play, Anastasia?

“Seeds is a tense drama where two mothers fight for their sons, bargaining with each other to get what they desperately need and, in the process, bare their souls, leaving them both changed by the encounter.”

How would you sum up Seeds in three words? 

“Tense, emotive, shattering.”

What initially drew you to the play?

 “Its subject matter. It explores racism and motherhood in a way that really resonates with me: placing racism in the context of families, how the ‘seeds’ of racism can grow in families, ‘take root’ and have horrifically dangerous consequences – a point that I feel is so important to highlight.

 “It also considers how far a mother would go to protect her son. Having reached an age where I’m thinking about having children, I worry a lot about how safe the world is, whether I can keep my children safe when I bring them into this world, I think about what I would do to protect them.”

Why is it important we discuss knife crime from the perspective of mothers? 

 “They are left dealing with the shattering aftermath for years and years after; they bring life into the world only to see it cut down. There’s a need to highlight these people so that, as a society, we can think more about how we support them to survive the deepest of tragedies.”

What do you want audiences to take away from Seeds?

I want to inspire greater awareness of the ‘seeds’ of racism in families in the hope they can be rooted out before they cause disaster.

“I believe people can change and grow. People with racist views – if they would allow themselves to see it – can change and help to change others if they choose to take a stand.

“I want people to see the play as a warning that we all need to take xenophobia seriously and act to stamp it out. Discourse-challenging racist and xenophobic rhetoric and events, like this play which allows people from diverse backgrounds to be in the same space to face these issues, will help and play a part in creating change.”

Seeds, Bramall Rock Void, Leeds Playhouse, until Saturday, 8pm plus 2.15pm Thursday, and 2.45pm, Saturday. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at Age guidance: 14 plus.

REVIEW: Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, Leeds First Direct Arena, 25/2/2020

The great showmen: Ball and Boe

Review: Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, Back Together, Leeds  First Direct Arena, February 25 

INDEPENDENTLY, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe are two of the biggest entertainment draws. Together they are a phenomenon.

Three mega-selling albums, imaginatively named Together (2016), Together Again (2017) and Back Together (2019), have established the pair as the UK’s absolute best-selling act of physical CDs.

Regulars of the Leeds First Direct Arena, Messrs Ball and Boe are just so comfortable in their complimentary talents and know exactly how to pick a set list that will enthral their very loyal audience.

Almost predictably, kicking off with a rousing version of The Greatest Show, from the Hugh Jackman film soundtrack, Ball and Boe present consummate covers of famous duets I Knew You Were Waiting For Me (Aretha Franklin and George Michael) and Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart (Marc Almond and Gene Pitney).

Other well-chosen covers include Army (The Shires), Labi Siffre’s (Something Inside) So Strong and, most convincingly, John Farnham’s anthem You’re The Voice.

Individually, Ball covered Anthem from Benny, Bjorn and Tim Rice’s Chess while Boe stole the show with his emotive cover of Snow Patrol’s Run, which gave the audience a chance to wave phone torches in the air. What fun!

Of course, Michael and Alfie had to showcase the very best of musical theatre, including Sunrise, Sunset (Fiddler On The Roof) and surprisingly Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (Christine’s solo from The Phantom Of The Opera).

Hot from their historic engagement for Les Miserables – The Staged Concert, overjoyed fans were treated to Stars, Bring Him Home and One Day More, which felt as if this was the climax of last night’s concert.

This was not the case as the orchestra and choir then launched into a Lion King Medley and a trio of Queen songs, two very fine Freddie Mercury songs, Who Wants to Live Forever and The Show Must Go On, and one of Freddie’s off moments, Friends Will Be Friends. Never mind.

An encore of Paul Anka’s My Way would have kept the audience happy. However, the surprise of the evening was the Grease Mega Mix: Grease,  Greased Lightnin’, You’re The One That I Want and We Go Together. Everyone left elated!

Ian Sime

Winner takes it all at Bjorn Again, karaoke and Silent Abba Disco day at York Races

Super troupers Bjorn Again say thank you for Abba’s music

BJORN Again can pick a host of Abba winners when rounding off the day’s racing at York Racecourse on June 27.

First up, Money, Money, Money will be The Name Of The Game as the runners and riders invite you to Take A Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All (along with other winning bets too, before pedants start writing in) from the seven-race afternoon card on Summer Music Saturday.

Next, the long-running Abba tribute act will take to the stage, notching up another addition to a list of 7,000 shows in 100 countries since forming in Melbourne in 1988 en route to Bjorn Ulvaeus saying the Aussie doppelgangers single-handedly initiated the super-Swedes’ revival.

Bjorn Again’s post-racing set will be preceded earlier in the afternoon by Abba karaoke singing and a Silent Abba Disco.

Prizes will be awarded in the 1970s’ Fancy Dress Contest, for which racegoers are invited to create a stylish look from such fashion favourites as flares, platform boots, 1970s’ jackets and kipper ties. Look out for the “selfie stations”, on hand to help share the good times with the wider world.
On the Knavesmire track, £150,000 will be won over the seven races. Tickets for the racing and music double bill are on sale from £25 (for an advance booked group of six), with no booking fees and no parking charges. Under 18s will be admitted free of charge with an accompanying adult.
James Brennan, head of marketing and sponsorship at York Racecourse, says: “We wanted to offer people the chance to have fun, we hope in the sun, and what better way than in celebrating all things Abba.

“You only have to remember how popular the Mamma Mia films and Mamma Mia The Party have been to understand the affection across the country for the famous Swedish quartet. Obviously, they aren’t able to join us, but the rave reviews for Bjorn Again demonstrate the show is a great performance.”
Brennan continues: “There’s a lot of choice for music events around Yorkshire this summer, so we think this offers something different, a little more relaxed and at a more affordable price.

Of course, we have the additional excitement of Pussycat Dolls and Rick Astley set for late-July, so a little bit of ABBA fun seems a great way to kick off our music events.”
The York Racecourse Music Showcase Weekend will bring the re-formed Pussycat Dolls to Knavesmire for the July 24 evening race meeting, followed by Newton-le-Willows crooner Rick Astley at the July 25 afternoon card.

Tickets can be booked at and on 01904 620911.

Gothic terror tales Upon The Stair take over Harrogate Theatre from tonight

Upon The Stair: playing Harrogate Theatre from tonight

HARROGATE Theatre is teaming up with Adam Z Robinson to co-produce his Gothic terror tales Upon The Stair.

Traditional storytelling, live music and fully integrated British Sign Language (BSL) combine to bring three macabre ghost stories to life at Harrogate Theatre tonight until Saturday.

In The Cry Of The Bubák, a haunted man flees to a health facility to escape his past, only to have it catch up with him in a most horrifying way.

In Mirrorman, a family moves to an old house on the edge of town and discovers that the previous owner may not have left after all.

In The Xylotheque, a librarian visits the estate of a doctor with a nefarious reputation and comes face to face with his diabolical practices.

Each tale is scripted by writer/performer Robinson, who was supported by Harrogate Theatre previously when presenting his ghostly tales from The Book Of Darkness & Light.

Adam Z Robinson’s Shivers

Through Robinson working with deaf consultants and linguists Adam Bassett and Brian Duffy, his latest script has been developed and translated into British Sign Language and Visual Vernacular, making Upon The Stair accessible for d/Deaf audiences without the need of an interpreter on stage.

Performed by deaf actor and dancer Raffie Julien, the show is billed as “a truly remarkable gothic performance like never witnessed before”, featuring a live violin score composed and played by Chloe Hayward.

After two national tours of his first show, The Book Of Darkness & Light, and 30-plus dates  for his follow-up, Shivers – both performed in Harrogate Theatre’s Studio – Robinson returns with his “most exciting, ambitious and gripping production yet”, directed by Edinburgh Fringe First Award winner Dick Bonham.

Upon The Stair is a co-production with Harrogate Theatres, Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax, and producers LittleMight; the two venues providing support, space and creative input to produce the show.

Robinson’s play premiered at Square Chapel on January 11 and has since played Salisbury Theatre from January 16 to 18. More dates will be announced soon for Autumn 2020. 

Upon The Stair, Harrogate Theatre, February 25 to 29, 7.30pm nightly and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01423 502116 or at

A short trailer can be found at

Octopus unmasked, Katherine Jenkins returns with cinema album and York Barbican gig

Katherine Jenkins: from The Masked Singer’s Octopus to a cinematic new album and 2021 tour

KATHERINE Jenkins, the biggest-selling classical artist of the century, will return to York Barbican on February 5 next year.

The Welsh mezzo-soprano, 39, will be showcasing her 14th studio album, Cinema Paradiso, set for release on Decca Reecords on April 17 this spring.

Tickets go on sale on Friday (February 28) at 10am on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from the Barbican box office.

Sharing its name with Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 Italian film, Cinema Paradiso is a collection of “unforgettable songs from some of the world’s best-loved movie moments”, such as Moon River, from Breakfast At Tiffany’s;  Pinocchio’sWhen You Wish Upon A Star; a duet of Tonight, from West Side Story, with Welsh singer and actor Luke Evans, plus themes from Schindler’s List, The Lord Of The Rings and Dances With Wolves.

“I’ve always loved movie soundtracks,” says Katherine, who turns 40 on June 29. “I wanted to create an iconic movie moment with this record: all the best film musical themes that we know and love, all together on one album.

“The last few albums I’ve made have been inspired by what’s happening in my own world. This one, in particular, was inspired by the things that were going on around me. Having played my first movie role last year, it felt like a natural transition for me.”

The poster for Katherine Jenkins’ 2021 tour

Katherine’s endeavours in the world of film have been a huge inspiration in the making of Cinema Paradiso, especially her role in the upcoming Minamata, directed by her husband, Andrew Levitas.

Katherine not only makes her film debut, performing alongside Johnny Depp and Bill Nighy, but also she co-wrote the title track with Eminem’s right-hand woman, Skylar Grey, and performed on the film score written by Sakamoto, the Academy Award-winning singer, songwriter, record producer, activist and actor.

Minamata will be released later this year, having received its world premiere at this month’s Berlin International Film Festival with Katherine in attendance, amid glowing reviews from the film industry and fans alike.

Returning to discussing the album tracks, Katherine says: “West Side Story has always been up there for me in terms of musical films. Somewhere has been specially recorded for this album – minus the Octopus mask [from the ITV series The Masked Singer] and I’m thrilled to have Luke Evans join me on Tonight. I loved seeing some of his TV performances last year and it was great fun to create an all-Welsh version of the duet!”

Another pick for Cinema Paradiso, I’ll Never Love Again, from A Star Is Born, has been released as a single, going straight to the top of the iTunes Classical Chart.

I’ll Never Love Again also kick-started Katherine’s journey on The Masked Singer in the guise of The Octopus, en route to finishing third. “My job can be quite serious at times, but I have a four-year-old daughter who absolutely loves Blue Planet, so I created ‘The Octopus’ character for her,” she says.

“The hope with this album is that each song conjures up an iconic image from cinema,” says Katherine Jenkins

“Her favourite colours are pink and purple with sparkles and I thought it would be something to allow her to understand more about what mummy does. I can’t think of a better reason to do the show”.

Katherine adds: “The hope with this album is that each song conjures up an iconic image from cinema. A Star Is Born is quite a recent film, but the scene where Lady Gaga sings I’ll Never Love Again is so touching and memorable that it felt completely right to include it as one of my favourite movie musical moments.

“In a bid to disguise my voice on The Masked Singer, I chose songs that weren’t the norm for me, and so this track is a happy experiment for me, and after Ken [judge Ken Jeong] said it was the performance of the season, I felt it deserved a place on the album.”

In 2017, Katherine was crowned the number one-selling Classical Music Artist of the Last 25 Years by Classic FM and she made chart history in 2018 when Guiding Light became her 13th UK classical number one album.

Katherine last performed at York Barbican in May 2019, having previously sung there in February 2012 and February 2015.

Come and see beauty in Chin We’s Nigerian portraits at Fossgate and Micklegate Social

Photographer Chin We at the launch of her Ife Nkili exhibition of Nigerian portraiture, running at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York. Pictures: Mike Stubbs

PHOTOGRAPHY and dance artist Chin We is the first beneficiary of Foto/Grafic At The Social, a new bi-monthly, dual-venue initiative for emerging talent in York.

 “At Fossgate Social, we’ve been supporting local artists for five years with monthly exhibitions, but we’d like to up our game and include our sister venue, the Micklegate Social,” says bar owner, general manager and urban designer Sarah Lakin.

 “To this end, we’re developing a programme of exhibitions of original artwork for display and sale.”

 Explaining her reasoning, Sarah says: “We live in a society drenched in imagery, but where can we find social spaces to connect and discuss what images are relevant and why?

Two of Chin We’s Nigerian portraits at Micklegate Social, York

 “There is no dedicated photographic gallery in York since Impressions moved to Bradford in 2007, but we hope to plug that gap with artwork that is strong and meaningful covering graphics, photography, print and electronic art.”

Noting how Micklegate is at present playing host to Chin We’s photos at Micklegate Social, Lesley Birch’s Marks & Moments at Partisan and Jonny Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers at FortyFive Vinyl Café, Sarah continues: “As York develops its contemporary visual art scene, the Social hopes to feed that cultural ecology, helping to raise the bar – pun  intended – and encourage cutting-edge contemporary work that explores new narratives, forms and politics.”

First into the spotlight is Chin We, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, who was born in Manchester and spent her formative years in Nsukka, eastern Nigeria, and her adolescence in London, where she started her photography through a lifestyle blog.

I found a creative outlet to share candid conversations on pop culture, art, fashion, travel, food, sex and lifestyle,” she says. “As the photography requests and referrals grew, I knew straightaway that my passion was photography. That was when I learnt that documentary photography was my calling and leapt fully into documentary photography in January 2018.”

The launch night of Chin We’s exhibition at Micklegate Social

Chin We is “fascinated by portraiture, capturing people’s essence and visual storytelling”, leading to her work exploring themes of identity, culture, representation and heritage.

At Fossgate Social and Micklegate Social, this is represented by her Ife Nkili photographs, Ife Nkili being a phrase from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria that means “Come and see; come and see beauty”. 

 Her series of portraits was captured during Chin We’s journey through Nigeria in West Africa; they speak to ideas of representation and identity through their unequivocal depiction of her sitters, spanning northern, south-western and south-eastern Nigeria.

Chin We’s photographic style is described as “direct, raw and unique in its all-embracing sweep, from different walks of life and social circles” as she documents her fellow men and women.

One of Chin We’s Nigerian portraits

“Some live as Christians, others are Muslims or pagans; some are urban socialites, others provincial farmers, traders, warriors and local chiefs,” says her exhibition briefing. “And, of course, there are queens and kings. These compelling portraits betray intimate expressions and tender exchanges. They invariably bring us closer to this diverse culture through their visual storytelling.” 

Chin We’s photography has been published widely and she was featured on CNN as a leading African woman photographer to follow. She was nominated for RPS 100 Heroines by the Royal Photographic Society and won an honourable mention award in the People-Portrait Category in the 2018 International Photography Awards. 

Later this year, the British Museum, in London, will present her new exhibition celebrating the presence of Nigerians in the UK, marking 60 years of Nigerian independence from Great Britain.

 Welcoming Chin We to York, Sarah says: “Still in her twenties, she is a young woman to watch and we’re privileged she has agreed to exhibit with us.

“Her black-and-white photographic portraiture is strong and meaningful; the portraits are direct and challenging, covering topics such as religion, class, work and child brides.

“Through presenting the work of Chin We, we want to increase the diversity of artists’ work, locally and further afield, and provide what we can for arts to gain greater exposure and engagement in a social setting.”

Chin We’s Ife Nkili exhibition runs at Micklegate Social, Micklegate, and Fossgate Social, Fossgate, York, until March 31.

Here come the boys as Weller, Manford, Dommett, Sloss and Aljaz’s dance crew head for York Barbican

Looking ecstatic to be back at York Barbican: Paul Weller , booked in for November 3

YORK Barbican has a fistful of new shows going on sale on Friday: Modfather Paul Weller, comedians Jason Manford, Joel Dommett and Daniel Sloss and the dance extravaganza Here Come The Boys.

Weller, 61, has sold out his May tour and will go back out on the road for 19 British and Irish dates in October and November, playing York on November 3.

Jason Manford: seeking approval at York Barbican next February

Weller will play an acoustic set for the Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on March 25 as a special guest of The Stereophonics and his new album, On Sunset, will be released on June 12 on Polydor, his new label.

He performed previously at York Barbican in March 2015 and August 2018 and his last North Yorkshire gig was at Dalby Forest, near Pickering, last June.

Joel Dommett: new show in December

His autumn travels also will take in further Yorkshire dates at Hull Bonus Arena on November 2 and Bradford St George’s Hall on November 17.

Jason Manford, who reached the final of ITV’s The Masked Singer this winter, will return to York Barbican in almost a year’s time, on February 17 2021, with his new stand-up show, Like Me.

Expect “observational comedy mixed with comic gold” from the Salford comedian, presenter and actor who chalked up three Barbican performances of his Muddle Class show in October 2018 and March 2019.

Smoke alarm: Daniel Sloss will be full of Hubris on October 3

Rockhampton comedian, actor and presenter Joel Dommett, host of The Masked Singer, will play York on December 11, delivering a new show after this 2016 I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here runner-up brought his Live 2018 tour to the Barbican in February that year.

Scottish comic Daniel Sloss will follow up his X show – taken to 40 countries, including Russia – with his new solo outing, Hubris, booked in for his Barbican bow on October 3.

Here come Michael, Aljaz, Pasha and Sam on June 24

Strictly Come Dancing’s Aljaž Škorjanec sold out his last appearance at York Barbican and will return on June 24, joined in the Here Come The Boys line-up by former Strictly favourite Pasha Kovalev, West End ballet star Sam Salter and NBC World Of Dance champion and Broadway star Michael Dameski, from Australia.

Ballroom, Latin, commercial, contemporary, ballet, acro and tap all will feature in a show where the Boys will perform alongside dancers, gymnasts, tap dancers and more.

Tickets can be booked from 10am on Friday (February 28) at 10am on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from Barbican box office.

REVIEW: Anything’s possible in a one-liner when Milton Jones spies a gag

Hair-raising: Milton Jones on a spying mission at York Barbican

REVIEW: Milton Jones: Milton Impossible, York Barbican, February 22

THE whole point of camouflage is not to be spotted, but in his new guise as an ex-MI5 spy, Milton Jones’s gaudy military fatigues looked like they hadn’t slept for days.

As for his fuchsia, frilly dress shirt, it would have guaranteed he had absolutely no fuchsia in spying, if blending into the background were a requirement. Definitely a case of Milton Impossible.

Mind you, Jones’s attire was not the only sartorial talking point of Saturday’s triple bill. Support act Tom Houghton was gently settling into revelations of being the Honourable Tom – now that his ex-Army chief father, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, was a Lord and the Constable of the Tower of London – when he was distracted by a Technicolor nightmare of a shirt making an even louder exit down the stairs.

“You’ve missed nothing,” said Houghton, lobbing a comedy bomb after the escapee. “Except fashion”. Boom, off went the bomb, as if he were sentencing him to the Tower for a fashion crime.

Cheeky, charming, posh-boy fledgling comic Houghton went on to define the rules of rugby – a game of backs and forwards and going backwards and forwards – with a wit that outwitted the well-worn tea towel trying to explain the laws of cricket.

Tom, a hawk: Tom Houghton was quick to spot fashion crimes in the York Barbican audience

“I always love to help underprivileged children,” said Jones drily later, but Houghton, one quarter of the improv comedy troupe The Noise Next Door, needs no leg-up through entitlement. Check out his upcoming tour at The Basement, City Screen, York, on June 12 or The Carriageworks, Leeds, the next night.  

Before Hon Tom, Milton’s waspish “grandfather” had opened the show, entering with a trampoline as his mobility aide, and combining a flat cap with a dressing gown for a dressing down on the real meaning of assorted familiar road signs.

If you could imagine a hopelessly ill-prepared learner driver trying to wing his written test with wild guesswork, Milton’s grandad goes even further. Rather than being merely daft or surrealist, however, the new meanings actually make weird sense, and the world would be a happier place if they were true.

Although, in this city of cycling, cyclists might not have enjoyed his dig at them not recognising the meaning of a red light.

Post-interval, Jones returned, his shock of hair madder than ever at 55, to go with the aforementioned psychedelic dress code. Seventy-five minutes of the matador of piercing one-liners ensued, ostensibly on his spying past, but ranging far and wide, his timing deadly, his manner deadpan. (Ideal qualities for a spy, you might say).

From his last tour, the Kew comedian revived his droll Brexit commentary through the novel format of national flags engaging in sparring conversations, each seeking the last word, and no Jones show would be complete without a run of “my other grandfather” gags.

Before the tour, Jones joked: “At a difficult time for our country, I believe there’s a chance this show could unite the nation. Admittedly quite a small chance.” True, but Milton is comedy paradise found, and you wish more could see the world through his eyes. It is a lovely place to be, warmly knowing but not devoid of a child’s sense of wonder, playful, not cynical, absurd yet spot on.

If you missed Milton Impossible in York, your next mission, and you really should accept it, is to make it to Hull City Hall on March 18 or Leeds Town Hall the next night, 19.30 on the dot. Box office:;

Charles Hutchinson

“Who we think we are is not who we are,” says Mark Thomas in national identity show

Opinions this way: Mark Thomas welcomes you to his 50 Things About Us show

IN his new tour show, mischief-making activist comedian Mark Thomas is pondering “how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some of us call the United Kingdom”.

On the road since January 23, the South London satirical writer, political agent provocateur, TV and radio presenter, journalist and podcaster is bringing 50 Things About Us: Work In Progress to The Crescent, York, on March 4.

“The Crescent has a certain ramshackle charm, and it’s run with absolute integrity,” says Mark, breaking away from cooking up a pot of a very British winter warmer, leek and potato soup, to take this interview call.

Introducing the show’s theme, he explains: “I was really struck by one thought: how on earth did we get to the point we’ve got to, and part of the answer is that we’ve never come to terms with who we are.”

Was he referring to the English or the British here? “Well, Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales; the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland too, and it’s been England that’s driven the creation of the union,” says Mark, whose show combines storytelling, stand-up, mischief and typically well-researched material.

“All these places have a very distinctive identity and culture, and it defies this binary, simplistic definition.

“The Irish language was kept alive by Presbyterians when the English buried it, and now the Irish language is being taught by Unionist women on the Falls Road [in Belfast], so it’s a fascinating place that defies your normal expectations.”

“People say, ‘can’t you say something positive?’, but there’s a load of positives in there ,” says Mark Thomas of his new show

Mark notes how “English culture is seen as part of the British empire, when Britain was ruling the world with this bombast, without understanding the implications of that”.

So, it may be a generalisation, Mark, but why is that people think the abiding negative aspects of the British empire are defined by Little Englander characteristics, not British ones?

“That’s the weird thing. Scotland joined England in the union in a time of fantastic prosperity, so Scotland doesn’t get out of its role in the empire,” he says.  “It’s fascinating that it’s about England adopting the empire as its nationalist cause, with everyone else slipping off.”

50 Things About Us is billed as “a show about money, history, identity, art, tradition, songs, gongs, wigs, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people”, as Thomas picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land”.

Summing up his night of story-telling, stand-up and subversion as a “sort of funny national edition of Who Do You Think You Are?”, Thomas says: ” It’s another slightly odd show, a sort of sweary, History Channel with laughs and creative mischief. If you’ve seen my shows before, this one’s in the vein of 100 Acts Of Minor Dissent.”

As a work in progress, the list of 50 Things is not set in stone. “It’s always being added to. You always do that. You keep going ‘b****y hell’ when you discover new things,” says Mark. “I found out the other day we’re the only nation that doesn’t have its name on its stamps.

“We have a picture of The Queen, not even a picture, but a silhouette, and there’s a certain weirdness about that. We won’t even say where we are! We say, ‘here’s The Queen, we’re better than everyone else’.”

Thomas, 56, has made his mark down the years by stopping arms deals; creating a manifesto and bringing the winning policy to parliament; walking the entire length of the Israeli wall in the West Bank and setting up a comedy club in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

“Just looking at who we think we are, this idea we can stand alone is completely myopic,” says Mark Thomas.

He has hosted six series on Channel 4, alongside several television documentaries and radio series; written books; grabbed a Guinness World Record; sold out numerous tours; won awards aplenty; nabbed himself a Medal of Honour and succeeded in changing some laws along the way. 

In other words, he is a man of both action and words. How are his latest words going down on tour? “People say, ‘can’t you say something positive?’, but there’s a load of positives in there, like Britain being one of only five countries that doesn’t have a [codified] written constitution. New Zealand is one other, Canada another,” says Mark.

“We have the Charter of the Forest, our economic charter that came in in 2017, which recognises that idea of shared assets of the country [the charter re-established for free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by William the Conqueror and his heirs] .

“It was there for our mutual benefit and no-one else has ever produced anything like it. It used to be read out four times a year in church, when the squirearchy were at the front, the peasants at the back.

“It was the statute that remained longest in force in England, but they just got rid of it in 1971 [when it was superseded by the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act]. But it’s something to be proud of as part of our history; there’s an historic part of our character that, since 1217, says we have the right to run things for our common benefit.”

Where does Brexit fit into Mark’s exploration of who we are? “I think that notion that we are a country that can go it alone is really that characteristic of English exceptionalism, where we believe we’re different, we’re superior, because we’re the cleverer than anyone else, reckoning we won two World Wars and a World Cup by playing fair, which is nonsense,” he says. “Just looking at who we think we are, this idea we can stand alone is completely myopic.

“I’m not a great supporter of the European Union, but I did vote Remain reluctantly, as I don’t want a move to the far right, which is what we’ve ended up with.”

Mark Thomas’s Gilbert & George-style poster for his 50 Things About Us tour

Mark continues: “I’m a Socialist and I think massive changes are needed but when you ignore democracy [the Brexit referendum vote], it will bite you on the backside. If I were a Leave voter, I’d be b****y angry. This idea that people got it wrong, and we should vote again and again until we get it right is extremely patronising. The way they’ve been treated is pretty awful, though I’m not defending the far right.”

Why does Mark call Britain “a hollow land”? “The fact that masses of our history is ignored at the expense of our identity, like the history of the NHS…that sense of absence, because we don’t tell parts of our history, is wrong,” he says.

And now for the big question, after all Mark’s research, can he define who we are? “It’s an important question to answer, because we’re changing all the time, as a collective, as individuals, as parents, grandparents, how we see ourselves,” he says.

“Though interestingly, who we think we are is not who we are.” Let’s leave that thought hanging in the air, the perfect enticement to find out more at The Crescent on March 4.

Mark Thomas’s 50 Things About Us: Work In Progress tour also takes in further Yorkshire gigs at Sheffield Memorial Hall, March 1; Wakefield Theatre Royal, March 5, and Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, April 9.

Box office: York, 01904 622510 or at; Sheffield, 0114 278 9789 or; Wakefield, 01924 211311; Leeds, 0845 644 1881 or

Did you know?

Mark Thomas also broadcasts 50 Things About Us as a podcast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in a name?

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

Only one question for York tragicomic Pop artist Harland Miller…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film-maker Tony Palmer with The Beatles’ John Lennon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Martin Dreyer

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

Gothic York ghost storyteller James Swanton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portico Quartet: The Crescent looms on Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened when a boy bit Pablo Picasso? Find out at York Theatre Royal

The Boy Who Bit Picasso: art and fun at York Theatre Royal Studio today and tomorrow. Picture: Geraint Lewis

WHEN Picasso comes to stay, anything can happen at York Theatre Royal Studio today and tomorrow.

Untied Artists invite four year olds and upwards to “come and play down on the farm with Tony and Picasso”.

“We’ll have loads of fun, make crazy pictures and tell the true story of how a young boy became friends with one of the greatest artists who ever lived,” they say.

The Boy Who Bit Picasso is an interactive piece of theatre with storytelling, music and chances to make your own art – whether mask-making, collages or drawings – in a hands-on, humorous family show that introduces the influential 20th-century Spanish artist through the eyes of a young boy.

Inspired by Antony Penrose’s book of the true story of how a boy became friends with Pablo Picasso, Untied Artists’ show is directed by Jake Oldershaw and originally was co-produced with Oxford Playhouse.

Tickets for today and tomorrow’s 11am and 2pm performances are on sale on 01904 623568, at in person from the Theatre Royal box office.

REVIEW: York Stage in Steel Magnolias at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York

Joanne Theaker as M’Lynn in York Stage’s Steel Magnolias. All pictures: Kirkpatrick Photography

REVIEW: Steel Magnolias, York Stage, John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

NOTE the shedding of “Musicals” from the York Stage name for this Nik Briggs production, although music from the Eighties still blares out from the radio at Truvy’s Beauty Spot, whenever it is tapped.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun, sings Cyndi Lauper, and the girls on stage want to have fun too, but the cycle of life has a habit of getting in the way.

Indeed just such a spanner in the works led to Louisiana playwright Robert Harling writing Steel Magnolias in 1987 as therapy after losing his sister to diabetes.

Louise Henry as Shelby in Steel Magnolias

Once billed as “the funniest play ever to make you cry”, it takes the form of a bittersweet but sentimental comedy drama, delivered by an all-female cast.

Briggs assembles a fine array of York talent, all of whom have excelled in musicals previously and are now showing off their acting chops to the max, without recourse to the heightened dramatics of song.

Briggs and set builder Geoff Theaker have gone for a traverse stage design, a configuration that is under-utilised in theatre, but makes you aware of the audience reactions on the opposite side, and also has a way of intensifying drama in a story of triumph and tragedy, dyeing and dying.

Steel Magnolias’ setting is a bustling Louisiana hair salon, run by the ever-comforting Truvy (Kathryn Addison) in a converted garage, home to her little rural Southern town’s most successful shop for 15 years.

Julie Ann Smith as Ouiser in Steel Magnolias

Pictures of the Eighties’ American hairstyles du jour are omnipresent, raising a smile of familiarity that is repeated with the assortment of hair-dos favoured by the women we meet. Bunting criss-crosses the salon, while magnolias tumble down the walls.

Significantly, men are never seen – and there were only four among the first-night full house – but they are often disparaged in conversation, one of the sources of humour in Harling’s script. What’s more, they are represented by the loud, intrusive blasts of a bird-scaring gun and the barking of big dogs. Enough said!

If the men are but a nuisance, the women seek comfort in each other, and where better to do that than in the haven of a salon as nails are painted and hair teased into pleasing shape.

At the epicentre is Addison’s perennially perky Truvy, whose mantra of “There’s no such thing as natural beauty” is passed on straightaway to quirky new asssistant Annelle (Carly Morton), whose God-fearing demeanour is coupled with mystery over her past.

Carly Morton’s Annelle and Louise Henry’s Shelby in Steel Magnolias

One effervescent, the other quiet, together they must orchestrate the ever-hastening wedding-day preparations of plucky, resolute but physically fragile Shelby (Louise Henry), whose love of fashion and pink in profusion are emblems of her not giving in to diabetes.

She and her mother, the cautious but forceful matriarch M’Lynn (Joanne Theaker), do not have the easiest of relationships but their love is nevertheless unconditional.

The salon’s endless circle of gossip is joined regularly by the wise, good-humoured, football club-owning widow Clairee (a phlegmatic Sandy Nicholson) and the grouchy, erratic loose cannon Ouiser (Julie Ann Smith, with just the right dash of eccentricity).

Briggs’s direction is both well choreographed and well paced, with plenty of movement to counter all that sitting down in salons, as Harling’s tissue-box drama of marriage and motherhood, love and loss unfolds.

The never-easy Southern drawl is mastered by one and all in Briggs’s excellent cast, who are equally strong as an ensemble and in the solo spotlight. Theaker is particularly good, especially when M’Lynn is in the grip of grief, while Henry, last seen as Snow White in her professional debut in the Grand Opera House pantomime, is fast becoming one to watch with an admirable range already at 22.

Carly Morton’s Annelle, left, Sandy Nicholson’s Clairee, Kathryn Addison’s Truvy and Louise Henry’s Shelby
in York Stage’s Steel Magnolias

Charles Hutchinson