Christmas? Yes, Christmas is on its way as Kate Rusby confirms York Barbican concert

Kate Rusby in her Holly Headwear. Picture: David Lindsay

WHAT a relief to be able to mention another C-word in these Coronavirus-clouded times.  Christmas. Kate Rusby at Christmas, to be precise.

Tickets for the Barnsley nightingale’s now traditional York Barbican Christmas concert on December 20 go on sale tomorrow morning (April 10) at

Kate’s sparkling Christmas shows draw on merry Christmas versions of carols, once banned from frowning Victorian churches for being too jolly, that instead found their home in the pubs of South Yorkshire (and North Derbyshire and Cornwall). 

“Christmas songs were seeping into our brains,” says Kate Rusby, recalling her childhood exposure to South Yorkshire ‘pub sings’. Picture: David Angel

For 200 years, those South Yorkshire communities have congregated on Sunday lunchtimes from late-November to belt out, for example, variations on While Shepherds Watched.

“The Christmas side of things began for me in the ‘pub sings’ around South Yorkshire,” Kate told CharlesHutchPress last winter ahead of her York Barbican concert with her regular folk band and “brass boys” quintet on December 18.

“We were taken along as kids; our parents would be in the main room singing away, while us kids were sat with the other kids in the tap room, colouring [pictures] and drinking pop, unaware that the carols and Christmas songs were seeping into our brains!

“I decided anyone who adores Christmas music is called a ‘Holly Head’, ” says Kate Rusby, explaining her album title

“They’re mostly songs thrown out of the churches by the Victorians as they were thought to be far too happy! Ha! Those who loved singing them took them to the pubs, where you could combine a good old sing with beer and a natter, and there the songs have remained and been kept alive, being passed down the generations.”

So much so, Kate has released five albums of carols and original winter songs on her own Pure Records label: 2008’s Sweet Bells, 2011’s While Mortals Sleep, 2015’s The Frost Is All Over, 2017’s Angels And Men and last year’s Holly Head

“Well, I decided anyone who adores Christmas music is called a ‘Holly Head’,” she said, explaining the title. “You know, like car fanatics are petrol heads. I thought it was the perfect title for such people, and I’m a fully paid-up member of the Holly Head club.”

The album artwork for Kate Rusby’s 2019 album, Holly Head

Songs on Holly Head ranged from the Rusby original The Holly King, to a cover of John Rox’s novelty Christmas number Hippo For Christmas, via the carol Salute The Morn, a brace of God’s Own Country variations, Yorkshire Three Ships and Bleak Midwinter (Yorkshire) and Kate’s sixth iteration of While Shepherds Watched.

“There’s over 30 different versions of While Shepherds Watched that get sung in the pubs here in South Yorkshire, so I’ve still got a lot to go at,” said Kate last December. “This one is actually to the tune of a different song that I also love, but I wasn’t that keen on the words, then realised it went with the While Shepherds words, so yey, another has now been invented.” 

Picking the song most significant to her on Holly Head, Kate chose her own composition The Holly King. “It celebrates the more pagan side of Christmas. I wrote it after reading about the winter king, The Holly King, and the summer king, The Ivy King,” she said.

Kate Rusby: Writing for her next Christmas record. Picture: David Angel

“Legend has it that the two met twice a year and had almighty battles. Going into winter, the Holly King would win and reign for the winter months. Then the Ivy King would wake and overthrow the Holly King and reign through the summer months, and on they went in a perfect cycle.

“I just loved the images that it conjured up and a song came flowing out. I gave him a wife, The Queen of Frost, who creeps across the land to be with him for his time. In fact, I’m now writing her song, so she will appear on the next Christmas album, I’m sure.”

May The Queen of Frost glide her icy path to York Barbican come December 20.

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

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.”

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. 

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

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.

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

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

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.