York artist Gerard Hobson enjoys winter walk on the wild side at Beningbrough Hall. UPDATED

York artist Gerard Hobson with his wren installation beneath the Clock Tower at Beningbrough Hall, near York. Pictures: Sue Jordan

YORK linocut artist Gerard Hobson is exhibiting for the first time at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York.

His Winter Wildlife In Print show at the National Trust property combines prints for sale in the Hayloft gallery with 14 sculptural scenes in the outbuildings, gardens, grounds and parkland, inspired by creatures that make Beningbrough their winter home.

Throughout winter until March 1, they can be seen only on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 3.30pm, and additionally during the February half term.

Hedgehog in winter, by Gerard Hobson,

Created out of linoprints, cut out and mounted to make Hobson’s 3D installations, birds are swooping, climbing or nesting among the trees, from owls and robins to cuckoos, wrens and swifts.

Eyes should be kept peeled for the naughty magpies with their stolen ring. Do look out, too, beyond the ha-ha to the parkland to spot a pair of boxing hares, better seen close-up should anyone be carrying binoculars.

Bang goes the common knowledge, by the way, that boxing hares are a brace of males scrapping over a female. Apparently, as a sign reveals, the fights involve a male and a female, not welcoming his persistent attention. Who knew, the lady hares are effectively saying “Do one” or “Get yourself a better chat-up line”!

Hare, by Gerard Hobson, one of the linoprints in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall

These outdoor installations are the first time Gerard Hobson has used his work in this way, and in creating the exhibition, he has made many new pieces especially for the Beningbrough garden.

Not only birds, but other animals too make an appearance in unexpected places, searching for food and preparing to hibernate or sleep, whether bats, mice, stoats or a hedgehog.

Make sure to head upstairs in the stables to the Hayloft for an indoor exhibition showcasing more of Gerard’s printed work, all for sale. Visitors also can create a feeder in the bothy and pick up one of the special colouring-in sheets in the walled garden restaurant, while in the laurel den a dawn chorus soundscape is a reminder of warmer days to come.

Here Charles Hutchinson puts the questions on the art of the matter to artist Gerard Hobson.

You have a background as a zoologist and botanist. What draws you to depicting nature and wildlife, Gerard?

“One of my earliest recollections was collecting a set of bird cards given away with PG Tips tea (I would love to do a set for Yorkshire Tea).

“This moved on to sets of animals both native and around the world, which then grew into a love of nature.

A bird collage by Gerard Hobson

“At the age of about 16, I had a ten-minute chat with a careers adviser, who asked me what my interests were. I said ‘nature and art’ and he said ‘there’s no money in art, go down the science route’, hence the zoology.

“My first job after graduating was with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and this is where my knowledge of plants developed.” 

In this age of climate change concern and the extinction of creatures, your art can make a powerful statement …but at the same time, in the short film shown in the Beningbrough Hall bothy, you talk of your art being fun. Discuss…

“People who buy my prints tell me they’re bright and cheerful and have a sense of fun about them. I’m pleased they get that response but I also hope that my images might create a greater interest in wildlife.

“I think most people are aware of the loss of habitat and species and the impact of global warming on our environment, but people feel the problem is so great that their small contribution isn’t going to make any difference.

“I hope my art may stir people to become more interested in the wildlife around them, to feed the birds and join their local wildlife trust. To share this with their children and their children’s children and hopefully generations of young people will become more interested in the birds and woodlands around them. Maybe some will go on to be environmental campaigners – who knows!”

Gerard Hobson at work in his York studio

Your past work often has been of individual creatures. How did you come up with the idea of doing installations and sculptural scenes for the Beningbrough exhibition?

“When I was asked to do an exhibition at Beningbrough, they told me they wanted me to do something outdoors but they wanted me to use my linocuts. However, I knew this was going to create several problems.

“Life-size birds outside would just disappear into the great outdoors, so I had to do everything twice its normal size.

“I wanted the work to be original because somehow, once you reproduce art, it seems to lose its essence, but trying to make my paper linocuts waterproof also proved challenging.

“I felt each installation needed some sort of narrative.  So, my vision for the exhibition was not just about the art but for each one to be linked with some related fact or folklore.”

How does the impact of a group of birds/hibernating animals/etc contrast with those past works?

“I think the outdoor display at Beningbrough challenged me artistically as I have never done an outside exhibition before and I wanted to come up with something a little bit different and quirky: a seek and find concept.

Pheasant, one of the linoprints by Gerard Hobson, at Beningbrough Hall’s Hayloft gallery

“As an artist you are looking at ways to develop, but not lose your style. Before the offer at Beningbrough came about, I’d been considering doing some framed images of my linocuts in naturalistic settings using fake plants, branches, mosses etc.

“When I was about 12, I started collecting taxidermy and had quite a large collection, but over the years it has become less fashionable. However, taxidermy still interests me as an art form, hence the thought of putting my linocuts in cases.”

What influence did the Beningbrough Hall outbuildings and grounds have on your work. Furthermore, did the task of creating work for the outdoors present different challenges?

“When I was asked to do the exhibition, the brief was very broad and they basically gave me carte blanche on the spaces around the grounds, which was fantastic!

“I obviously wanted to do something that was on a circuit so I  around a few times, identifying my favourite trees and possible places to put things.

“Many of the themes for the installations came from the spaces themselves. The stumpery led to the creation of a group of mushrooms and the tool shed looked like a good setting to put animals and birds for sheltering away from the cold winter weather.”

A close-up of the wrens, one of 14 sculptural scenes by Gerard Hobson at Beningbrough Hall this winter

What impact did the winter season have on the work?

“The winter weather has created a few problems. When we were installing the exhibition, it seemed to be constantly raining, which made the installation a very cold and wet experience!

“Once the exhibition was up, we had a couple of weeks where various pieces were coming away from their metal dowel. (I’m not sure if it was the persistent rain or the wrong sort of glue being used.)

“Added to which, very high winds brought down the swallow installation twice and the boxing hares were blown over. There has also been a problem with the thrush installation being attacked by what we think is the resident jackdaw population! “However, through it all, the gardeners and volunteers at Beningbrough have been fantastic at helping put things right.”

What will happen to the installation pieces after the exhibition ends on March 1?

“Good question, no idea. Some of the pieces have weathered, which gives them a look of an old loved toy. I don’t think they’ll last outdoors permanently. I’m open to suggestions.”

Bird And Mistletoe, a winter linoprint by Gerard Hobson

What do you like most about linocuts as an artform?

“I went on a printmaking course at York College about ten years ago and I was particularly taken with producing linocuts.

“Carving away on lino has a very therapeutic feel to it, and it was through this medium that I developed my own style. Prior to this, I’d been quite good at art technically, but didn’t have a particular look to my art, so this technique seemed to release me into something I’d been trying to do for years.

“When you produce a piece of art, you can feel quite attached to it, and it can be quite difficult to part with. With a linocut, because it’s one of a limited edition, you can always hold one back for yourself or a loved one.” 

What are you working on next? York Open Studios 2020 on April 18, 19, 25 and 26, perhaps?

“My exhibition in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough is running until the beginning of March, with the sales from this keeping me quite busy at the moment, and I want to keep refreshing this part of the show, so that returning visitors get to see something a little different each time.

“Also, I need to crack on with some new work for York Open Studios, which I’m very excited about this April.” 

Gerard Hobson’s Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition and installations are on show at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, until March 1. To plan a visit, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough for more information.

Hare leap: one of Gerard Hobson’s linocut prints at Beningbrough Hall

Did you know?

SINCE childhood, Gerard Hobson has had a love for birds, animals and art. His fascination with wildlife saw him qualify as a zoologist from Bangor University in 1984 and he then worked for a couple of years for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a botanist. Later he became an illustrator for the trust, working on leaflets and sign boards.

After relocating up north, Gerard worked for Yorkshire Wildlife and continued to develop his work on a freelance basis. In more recent years, he has turned his hand to woodcarving and these days focuses his attentions on print making, having studied the art form in York. 

York artist Gerard Hobson turns Beningbrough Hall into a winter wildlife wonderland

York artist Gerard Hobson with his wren installation beneath the Clock Tower at Beningbrough Hall, near York. Picture: Sue Jordan

YORK artist Gerard Hobson will hold the first of three print-making workshops in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, on Saturday to tie in with his Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition and installations at the National Trust property.

Alas all three 10am sessions – using Beningbrough’s garden for inspiration – are fully booked: the first two, this weekend and on February 8, focusing on linoprint making; the third, on February 22, being a family printmaking session.

Hare, by Gerard Hobson, one of the linoprints in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall

Hobson’s Hayloft print exhibition and 14 sculptural scenes in the outbuildings, gardens, grounds and parkland are inspired by creatures that make Beningbrough their winter home.

Throughout winter until March 1, they can be seen only on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 3.30pm, and additionally during the February half term. To plan a visit, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough for more information.

A bird collage by Gerard Hobson

Created out of linoprints, cut out and mounted to make Hobson’s 3D installations, birds are swooping, climbing or nesting among the trees, from owls and robins to cuckoos, wrens and swifts.

Eyes should be kept peeled for the naughty magpies with their stolen ring. Do look out, too, beyond the ha-ha to the parkland to spot a pair of boxing hares, better seen close-up should anyone be carrying binoculars.

Gerard Hobson at work in his York studio

Bang goes the common knowledge, by the way, that boxing hares are a brace of males scrapping over a female. Apparently, as a sign reveals, the fights involve a male and a female, not welcoming his persistent attention. Who knew, the lady hares are effectively saying “Do one” or “Get yourself a better chat-up line”!

These installations are the first time Gerard Hobson has used his work in this way, and in creating the exhibition, he has made many new pieces especially for the Beningbrough garden. Not only birds, but other animals too make an appearance in unexpected places, searching for food and preparing to hibernate or sleep, whether bats, mice, stoats or a hedgehog.

Pheasant, one of the linoprints by Gerard Hobson, at Beningbrough Hall’s Hayloft gallery

Helen Osbond, exhibition manager for the National Trust, says: “We’re thrilled to host so much of Gerard’s work at Beningbrough this winter. In working towards the exhibition, it’s been a real insight to see how, as an artist, he draws on his botanist background in his designs, and there’s a short video in the bothy showing the process and steps taken in the intricate art of linoprinting.” 

Make sure to head upstairs in the stables to the Hayloft for an indoor exhibition showcasing more of Gerard’s printed work, all for sale.

A close-up of the wrens, one of 14 sculptural scenes by Gerard Hobson at Beningbrough Hall this winter

“It’s not only the chance to discover the series of sculptural scenes, we want the visit to be an immersive experience,” adds Helen. “Visitors can create a feeder in the bothy and pick up one of the special colouring-in sheets in the walled garden restaurant, while in the laurel den there’s a dawn chorus soundscape; a reminder of warmer days to come.”

Did you know?

SINCE childhood, Gerard Hobson has had a love for birds, animals and art. His fascination with wildlife saw him qualify as a zoologist from Bangor University in 1984 and he then worked for a couple of years for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a botanist. Later he became an illustrator for the trust, working on leaflets and sign boards.

Artist Gerard Hobson surveys his wren work at Beningbrough Hall

After relocating up north, Gerard worked for Yorkshire Wildlife and continued to develop his work on a freelance basis.

In more recent years, he has turned his hand to woodcarving and these days focuses his attentions on print making, having studied the art form in York. 

Kentmere House Gallery to open for York Residents Festival on January 25 and 26

Jug & Figs, oil on board, by Susan Bower

KENTMERE House Gallery, in Scarcroft Hill, York, will be open for York Residents Festival on January 25 and 26 from 10am to 6pm.

The work of around 70 artists is on show at any one time in Ann Petherick’s home gallery: some from York, some from Yorkshire, others from artists across the country. 

“This includes Freya Horsley’s atmospheric York townscapes, which have attracted many admirers, and David Greenwood’s vigorous pastels of Skeldergate Bridge and many York townscapes, along with the distinctive red brick houses of the Knavesmire area,” says Ann, who extends a welcome to all, not only York residents

The interior of Kentmere House Gallery, in Scarcroft Hill, York

“There’s also exciting new work from nationally known artist Susan Bower, who lives near Tadcaster but whose work is mostly shown in London.”

Prices start at £200 for original works and £50 for original prints. “We also have books and cards exclusive to the gallery, reductions, special offers, five per cent discounts for residents and a free 14-day home trial.”  

The gallery’s involvement in York Residents Festival has been a great success in previous years. “A gallery in a home setting is still a curiosity, and I believe many people feel some slight trepidation at entering,” says Ann, whose usual opening hours are 11am to 5pm on the first weekend of every month, every Thursday evening from 6pm to 9pm and at any time by appointment – “just a phone call in advance to check we’re in” – on 01904 656507.

Hull From The South Bank, gouache on paper, by Bob Armstrong, on display at Kentmere House Gallery

“Alternatively, we work on the principle that ‘if we’re in, we’re open’ – just ring the bell. But  you would be amazed how many visitors say they have been walking past for years but never been in. The Residents Festival emboldens them, however, and gives them that little extra incentive.  

“Then there are many – even some living nearby – who say that they didn’t even know the gallery existed. It’s truly one of York’s hidden gems and this festival is the ideal time to sample its unique atmosphere and to introduce it to your friends.”   

The front door of Kentmere House Gallery in York

In addition to the art on display, Kentmere House is an interesting property in its own right. “It was built by the Methodist Church in 1898 as their own offices and a staff dwelling,” says Ann.

“The quality of the workmanship and materials used in the building is exceptional, and it’s one of the few buildings in York roofed with distinctive Westmoreland green slates.

Flamingos, acrylic on paper, by Jack Hellewell, at Kentmere House Gallery                  

“We bought the property in 1991: the large rooms, high ceilings and spacious staircase make it ideal for use as a gallery. Two rooms, the hall, stairs and landing are used for display, with more than 100 paintings at any time.”

Should you be wondering, the name Kentmere was chosen by one of the Methodist staff involved at the time, as he was a frequent visitor to the village of the same name in the Lake District. 

York Artworkers Association artists return to Pyramid Gallery from this weekend

York Artworkers Association member Dave Cooper in his studio

YORK Artworkers Association’s 25th anniversary exhibition at Pyramid Gallery went so well last year that the group has decided to hold another.

Members will be exhibiting at Terry Brett’s gallery in Stonegate, York, from Saturday to February 23.  “I’m anticipating it will look unusually full,” he says.

Artist Adrienne French at work in her studio

“We want to show everyone’s work if we can, but I expect the walls to look very full of pictures, in the style of the Royal Academy Summer Show, but better. The standard of work being submitted is very high and I foresee a really exciting exhibition in both first-floor galleries and all the way up the staircase too.”

Art, ceramics and jewellery by 30 members will be on show in an exhibition curated by Terry, who is a YAA member himself.

Silver urchin bracelet, by Karen Thomas

“York Artworkers Association was formed 26 years ago by a group of artists and people who were working in design, graphics and galleries in order to provide a social network of people interested in the arts,” he says.

“They meet every month at Joseph’s Well, off Micklegate, where they invite speakers to talk about a topic that could be anything do to with their own art practice or an art-related organisation. Recent speakers have included a former member of the theatrical drumming group Stomp and a sculptor who demonstrated modelling a horse in clay.”

Snowden, by Kate Petitt

Last year’s silver anniversary was marked by the Pyramid show, open to all association members working in the arts. A book was produced to accompany the exhibition.

The sequel will feature more members, several of whom will be present at Saturday’s launch from 11am on a day when refreshments will be served until 2.30pm.

Artist Kate Petitt. PIcture: Olivia Brabbs

York painters and printmakers taking part will be Richard and Valerie Bell; Dave Cooper; Chrissie Dell; Adrienne French; Mandy Grant; Anna Harding; Luisa Holden; John Jirkwood; Caroline Lord; Bernadette Oliver; Peter Park; Kate Pettitt; Liz and Saul Salter; Lesley Seeger; Lesley Shaw; Jill Tattersall; Donna Taylor and Joe Vaughan.

Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, Francesca Green, Sophie Hamilton, Ilona Sulikova and Chris Utley will contribute ceramics; Tim Pierce, sculpture, and Ann Southeran, stained glass.

Looking Up Iantosque, by Dave Cooper

Needlework, felting and textiles will be shown by Carol Coleman, Cathy Needham, Sarah Jackson and Julia Wilkins; weaving by Jacqueline James; basketry by Heather Dawe, and jewellery by Karen Thomas and Richard Whitelegg.

All of the work will be for sale and exhibition images can be seen at pyramidgallery.com and on social media. Pyramid Gallery, York, is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and on some Sundays from 12.30pm to 4.30pm.

Sue Clayton’s exhibition is Downright Marvellous at Pocklington Arts Centre

Artist Sue Clayton and her son James

YORK artist Sue Clayton will unveil a new collection of portraits at Pocklington Arts Centre ahead of World Down Syndrome Day in an exhibition inspired by her son. 

Running from January 14 to March 21, Downright Marvellous At Large celebrates adults with Down Syndrome and comes on the eve of her son James turning 18. 

Look out too for a giant pair of hand-knitted odd socks, made using hundreds of knitted squares donated by the public after an appeal last year. 

Otto – Drag Queen, by Sue Clayton

Sue, who lives in Wigginton, will introduce the 12 new portraits and the giant socks in a preview event open to the public on Thursday, January 16, from 6pm to 8pm.

The portraits feature what Sue sees as the “unrepresented and significant” social presence of adults with Down Syndrome, each one depicting a person with the genetic disorder at work or play.

“I put on the original Downright Marvellous exhibition in 2015, which mainly depicted young children who have Down Syndrome, but this time I wanted to make it more a celebration of adults as 2020 is a milestone year for us as James turns 18,” she says.

Lauren, by Sue Clayton

“A lot of the pieces also feature siblings, as I wanted to highlight the importance that siblings play in the lives of those with Down Syndrome too.”

Sue is planning to hold a celebratory event at Pocklington Arts Centre on World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), Saturday, March 21, the last day of her exhibition. Watch this space for more details as they emerge.

Many people wear odd socks on WDSD, a global day that aims to raise awareness and promote independence, self-advocacy and freedom of choice for people with the congenital condition. 

James and Lily -Sibling Love, by Sue Clayton

Should you be wondering “why socks?”, they are used because their shape replicates the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have. 

“I hope the socks installation will add an extra fun dimension to the exhibition, which the whole community can get behind, while importantly raising awareness of – and celebrating – the uniqueness and diversity of Down Syndrome,” says Sue. 

She made a radical change mid-career to become a self-taught, full-time artist. Soon she achieved recognition from Britain’s Got Artists in 2012 and as Outstanding Visual Artist in the 2018 York Culture Awards for her Heroes Of York project in 2017-2018.

David, by Sue Clayton

Those heroes were York Theatre Royal pantomime dame Berwick Kaler; singer, writer and motivational speaker Big Ian Donaghy; animal welfare practitioner Mary Chapman; the late Suzanne Asquith, of North Yorkshire Police; Andrew Fair, from Sainsbury’s, Monk Cross, and Professor Steve Leveson, of York Against Cancer.

Sue is drawn to painting portraits because: “It insists upon the idea that the more you look at a face, the more you see. 

“Every single aspect – the eyelids, the nostrils, and the complexion – reveals the personality and character of every individual person,” she says. “I feel it’s especially important to represent those who are sometimes socially ‘unseen’.”

Uncle Ronnie and Oliver – Trisomy 21 United, by Sue Clayton

Influenced by Rembrandt, York artist William Etty and more contemporary painters such as  Jenny Saville and Tim Benson, Sue enjoys working with dynamic colours to make marks “that should not be there but somehow work”. 

“My approach to portraits not only apprehends the likeness of my subjects, but their inner life too,” she says.

To find out more about World Down Syndrome Day, visit worlddownsyndromeday2.org.

Castle Howard has a ball with record crowds for A Christmas Masquerade

The Great Hall at Castle Howard at Christmas , including the 26ft decorated tree. Picture: Charlotte Graham

CASTLE Howard’s Christmas opening drew a record 67,000 visitors as A Christmas Masquerade lit up the North Yorkshire stately home.

The figures have been released as the house, near York, closes for the winter, with teams busy removing dozens of Christmas trees, not least the 26ft tree that dominated the Great Hall and tens of thousands of decorations and baubles that graced every public room as part of Charlotte Lloyd Webber’s festive installation with a commedia dell’arte theme.

“It has been a superb year, and a real credit to those involved in making Castle Howard the most festive place to visit throughout November and December,” says chief executive officer John Hoy, who has enjoyed his second Christmas at Castle Howard.

Christmas at Castle Howard drew an extra 5,000 visitors by staying open until January 5

“For the first time, the house stayed open into the New Year, closing on Sunday, January 5 and enabling us to welcome over 5,000 additional visitors.”

Alongside the Christmas decorations, family traditions continued to be honoured with opportunities to meet Father Christmas, while Santa Paws took up residence in the estate’s garden centre to greet well-behaved dogs of all breeds and sizes for the first time. More Twilight Evenings, when the house stayed open after dark, were fitted into the seven-week opening.

The good weather throughout those seven weeks allowed families to enjoy Skelf Island, the new adventure playground, as part of the Christmas experience. Launched in July 2019, the playground has had a successful impact on footfall and, in addition, the Friends of Castle Howard membership has almost doubled, the scheme experiencing a 48 per cent rise throughout 2019.  

Although the house will be closed until March 21, the grounds, woodlands and Skelf Island playground remain open throughout the winter.

Snap decision as Richard Beaumont takes father’s advice: business career first, then focus on photography

Dawn In The South Bay, Scarborough, by Richard Beaumont

THIS week is the last chance to see Scarborough photographer Richard Beaumont’s exhibition at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

In his debut show, Scarborough And Its Surroundings, he takes a personal look at his coastal hometown.

The Harbour Entrance At Whitby, by Richard Beaumont

“As a schoolboy in the 1960s, I wanted to be a photographer,” says Beaumont. “I didn’t particularly see it as a way of making money; I just wanted to create pictures of what interested me at the time.

“My father had other ideas about a possible future career and carefully steered me towards studying the science subjects, university and a career in business, saying that there would be time for photography when I retired.”

Scarborough photographer Richard Beaumont: debut exhibition

That time has come. “Following retirement in 2013, the passion was still there and I gradually began to revive my interest,” says Beaumont. “In 2017, I successfully completed a postgraduate diploma in photography at the British Academy of Photography and now accept the occasional assignment and continue to build my portfolio.”

Summing up his photography, he says. “I like to observe as well as see and create a bit of language in each shot that I take.”

The Lighthouse And South Cliff, Scarborough, From The Outer Harbour, by Richard Beaumont

Scarborough And Its Surroundings – A Personal View runs in the SJT corridor gallery until Saturday, January 12. Gallery opening hours are 10am to 6pm, Mondays to Saturdays, except during show times (mostly evenings, but some afternoons too, so please check the website, sjt.uk.com, before travelling). Entry is free.

Rugby and whisky enthusiast Paul Blackwell “likes to paint a bit” for Village Gallery show

Duncombe Park, in pastel, by Paul Blackwell

NORTH Yorkshire artist Paul Blackwell will exhibit his Treescapes at Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, from January 14 to February 22.

Blackwell and his wife, fellow artist Anne Thornhill, ran a gallery in Grosmont, on the North York Moors, for more than 20 years before selling up and moving to an 18th century farmhouse overlooking the Esk Valley near Whitby. Here they have a barn studio, where they both continue to work.

Ash Tree In The Late Autumn Light, in pastel, by Paul Blackwell

Blackwell uses many different media, from oil and acrylic to pastel and pastel pencil. “Paul is passionate about wildlife and the natural landscape and a lot of his work is done from the 14 acres they have as a small nature reserve,” says Village Gallery owner and curator Simon Main.

Blackwell reveals he has always had two passions in his life. “The first is rugby and the second, malt whisky,” he says. “But I also like to paint a bit: landscapes mainly.

Paul Blackwell and Anne Thornhill’s home and studio in the Esk Valley

“My work is a reflection of my interest in the complex and emotional interchange of colours, as I attempt to convey the vibrancy and radiance of a landscape and the depth of its emotional impact.

“I often use the medium of pastel as it’s particularly suited to my way of working, using colour juxtapositions to create energy and dynamism, rhythm and balance.”

The Strid Woods, in pastel, by Paul Blackwell

After starting work on site, usually in monochrome, Blackwell enjoys exploring the colour structure once back in the studio. Frequently keeping the formal content simple, he creates a uniformity of atmosphere and feeling through his application of colours, as can be seen at Village Gallery from next Tuesday.

Gallery opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. In addition, the gallery will play host to a preview evening on January 13 from 5pm to 8pm, when Paul Blackwell will be on hand to discuss his work. Free tickets are available from Simon Main on 07972 428382 or 01904 411444 or at simon@village-on-the-web.com.

Nothing special happened in YORKshire’s artland in 2019…or did it? Time for the Hutch Awards to decide

Veteran Yorkshire arts journalist CHARLES HUTCHINSON doffs his cap to the makers and shakers who made and shook the arts world in York and beyond in 2019.

Alan Ayckbourn at 80 in Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

New play of the year: Alan Ayckbourn’s Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present, at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from September 4

Sir Alan Ayckbourn penned one play to mark his 80th birthday, then decided it wasn’t the right one. Instead, writing more quickly than he had in years, he constructed a piece around…birthdays. Still the master of comedy of awkward truths.

Honourable mention: Kay Mellor’s Band Of Gold, Leeds Grand Theatre, November 28 to December 14.

Lili Miller (Catherine) and Pedro Leandro (Rodolpho) in A View From The Bridge at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Ian Hodgson

You Should Have Seen It production of the year: Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge, York Theatre Royal, September 20 to October 12.

Once more, the sage Arthur Miller bafflingly did not draw the crowds – a Bridge too far? – but Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster found resonance anew for this age of rising intolerance in Trumped-Up America and Brexit Britain.

Chris Knight as Donkey in York Stage Musicals’ Shrek The Musical

York’s home-grown show of the year: York Stage Musicals in Shrek The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, September 12 to 21

Nik Briggs swapped directing for his stage return after five years in the wind-assisted title role and stunk the place out in Shrek tradition in a good way. Jacqueline Bell‘s Princess Fiona and Chris Knight’s Donkey were terrific too.

Honourable mention: Pick Me Up Theatre in Monster Makers, 41 Monkgate, October 23 to 27

Rigmarole Theatre in When The Rain Stops Falling

Company launch of the year: Rigmarole Theatre in When The Rain Stops Falling, 41 Monkgate, York, November 14 to 16

MAGGIE Smales, a previous Hutch Award winner for her all-female Henry V for York Shakespeare Project, set up Rigmarole to mount Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic Anglo-Aussie family drama. More please.

Comic capers: Mischief Theatre in The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Touring play of the year: The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Grand Opera House, York, February 5 to 12

Crime pays for Mischief Theatre with a riotous show, so diamond-cutter sharp, so rewarding, in its comedy, that it is even better than the original botched masterplan, The Play That Goes Wrong.

Honourable mention: Nigel Slater’s Toast, York Theatre Royal, November 19 to 23

Sarah Crowden and Susan Penhaligon in Handbagged at York Theatre Royal

Political play of the year: Handbagged, York Theatre Royal, April 24 to May 11

In a play of wit, brio and intelligence, Moira Buffini presents a double double act of 20th century titans, Margaret Thatcher and The Queen, one from when both ruled, the other looking back at those days, as they talk but don’t actually engage in a conversation.

Emma Rice: director of the year

Director of the year: Emma Rice for Wise Children’s Wise Children, in March,  and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, in September, both at York Theatre Royal

Emma Rice, once of Cornwall’s pioneering Kneehigh Theatre and somewhat briefly of Shakespeare’s Globe, has found her mojo again with her new company Wise Children, forming a fruitful relationship with York Theatre Royal to boot. Watch out for Wuthering Heights in 2021.

Director John R Wilkinson in rehearsals for Hello And Goodbye at York Theatre Royal

York director of the year: John R Wilkinson, Hello And Goodbye, York Theatre Royal Studio, November

Theatre Royal associate artist John R Wilkinson had long called for the return of in-house productions in the Studio and what he called “the blue magic of that space”. He duly delivered a superb reading of Athol Fugard’s apartheid-era South African work starring Jo Mousley and Emilio Iannucci.

Oh what a knight: Sir Ian McKellen

Comedy show of the year: Sir Ian McKellen in Ian McKellen On Stage With Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others…And You, Grand Opera House, York, June 17

A delightful variation on the An Evening With…format, wherein Sir Ian McKellen celebrated his 80th birthday with a tour through his past. His guide to Shakespeare’s 37 plays was a particular joy.

Honourable mention: John Osborne in John Peel’s Shed/Circled In The Radio Times, Pocklington Arts Centre bar, March 27

Bonnie Milnes of Bonneville And The Bailers

Event launch of the year: Live In Libraries York, York Explore, autumn

In the wood-panelled Marriott Room, veteran busker David Ward Maclean and Explore York mounted a series of four intimate, low-key concerts, the pick of them being Bonnieville And The Bailers’ magical set on October 25. Along with The Howl & The Hum’s Sam Griffiths, Bonnie Milnes is the blossoming York songwriter to watch in 2020.

Meet The Caravan Guys:Theo Mason Wood, left, and Albert Haddenham discuss masculinity in How To Beat Up Your Dad at The Arts Barge’s Riverside Festival

Festival of the Year: The Arts Barge’s Riverside Festival, by the Ouse, July and August

Under the umbrella of Martin Witts’s Great Yorkshire Fringe, but celebrating its own identity too, The Arts Barge found firm footing with two locations, an ever-busy tent and, hurrah, the newly docked, freshly painted barge, the Selby Tony. The Young Thugs showcase, Henry Raby, Rory Motion, Katie Greenbrown, jazz gigs, a naked Theo Mason Wood; so many highs.

Honourable mentions: York Festival of Ideas, June; Aesthetica Short Film Festival, November.

Terry Hall: leading The Specials at York Barbican. Picture: Simon Bartle

York Barbican gig of the year: The Specials, May 9

Still The Specials, still special, on their 40th anniversary world tour, as the Coventry ska veterans promoted their first studio album in 39 years, Encore, still hitting the political nail on the head as assuredly as ever.

Honourable mentions: David Gray, March 30; Art Garfunkel, April 18; Kelly Jones, September 14.

Mocking Malvolio: Cassie Vallance’s Fabian, back left, Andrew Phelps’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Fine Time Fontayne’s Sir Toby Belch wind up Claire Storey’s Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Happiest nights of the year: Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in Twelfth Night, Castle car park, York, July 4 and September 1

JOYCE Branagh, Kenneth’s sister, set Shakespeare’s comedy in the Jazz Age, serving up “Comedy Glamour” with a Charleston dash and double acts at the double. “Why, this is very midsummer madness,” the play exhorts, and it was, gloriously so, especially on the last night, when no-one knew what lay just around the corner for the doomed Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre.

Samuel Edward Cook in Glory Dazed

Most moving night of the year: Glory Dazed, East Riding Theatre, Beverley, January 26

Cat Jones’s play, starring York actor Samuel Edward Cook, brings to light issues surrounding the mental health of ex-servicemen as they seek to re-integrate into civilian society while struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The post-show discussion with ex-soldiers from Hull spoke even louder.

Serena Manteghi in Build A Rockdet. Picture: Sam Taylor

Solo show of the year: Serena Manteghi in Build A Rocket, autumn tour

NO sooner had she finished playing Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre’s Hamlet than Serena Manteghi revived her remarkable role as a seaside resort teenage single mum in Christopher York’s award-winning coruscating  play.

Honourable mention: James Swanton in Irving Undead, York Medical Society, October 10 to 12.

A Blessed encounter: interviewing Yorkshireman Brian

Favourite interview of the year: Brian Blessed, giving oxygen to his An Evening With Brian Blessed show at Grand Opera House, York, in August

The exuberance for life in Brian – Yorkshire man mountain, actor, mountaineer and space travel enthusiast – at the age of 83 would inspire anyone to climb Everest or reach for the stars.

Old soul in a Newman: John Newman’s hot, hot gig at The Crescent

Gig of the year: John Newman, The Out Of The Blue Tour, The Crescent, York, June 30

THE unsettled Settle sound of soul, John Newman, and his soul mates parked their old camper van outside the almost unbearably hot Crescent, threw caution to the wind and burnt the house down  on a night that must have been like watching Joe Cocker or Otis Redding on the rise in the Sixties.

Honourable mentions: Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock’n’Roll Revue, Pocklington Arts Centre, June 25; The Howl & The Hum, The Crescent, York, December 14

Van Gogh: ‘ere, there and everywhere at York St Mary’s

Exhibition of the year: Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, York St Mary’s, York, now extended to April 2020

This 360-degree digital art installation uses technology to create a constantly moving projected gallery of 200 of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous 19th century works in the former church. Breathtaking, innovative, and, yes, worth the admission charge.

Honourable mention: Ruskin, Turner and The Storm Cloud, Watercolours and Drawings, York Art Gallery, from March 28

Agatha Meehan, centre, as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

Christmas production of the year: The Wizard Of Oz, Leeds Playhouse, until January 25

AFTER its £15.8 million transformation from the West Yorkshire Playhouse to Leeds Playhouse, artistic director James Brining gave West Yorkshire’s premier theatre the grandest, dandiest of re-opening hits. Still time to travel down the Yellow Brick Road with Agatha Meehan, 12, from York, as Dorothy.

Dame Berwick Kaler’s fina;l wave at the end of his 40 years of pantomimes at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Anthony Robling

Exit stage left: Berwick Kaler, retiring on February 2 after 40 years as York Theatre Royal’s pantomime dame; Tim Hornsby, bowing out from booking acts for Fibbers on June 29, after 27 years and 7,500 shows in York; Damian Cruden, leaving the Theatre Royal on July 26 after 22 years as artistic director; James Cundall’s Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, in September, after hitting the financial icebergs .

Richard Bainbridge R.I.P.

Gone but not forgotten:  York Musical Theatre Company leading man, director, teacher, chairman, bon viveur and pub guvnor Richard Bainbridge, who died on July 6.