A PODCAST project exploring historic links and forging contemporary friendships between Selby, North Yorkshire, and its Canadian namesake in Ontario will conclude with a live performance at Selby Town Hall on Friday.
Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated comedian and Pittancer of Selby Tim FitzHigham will lead the 7.30pm show on stage, joined live on screen by Canadian counterpart John Hastings, along with transatlantic friends they have made during their intrepid adventures.
Sparked by a comical mistake – an enquiry made at Selby Town Hall by a prospective audience member hoping to watch a performance in Canada – A Tale Of Two Selbys found Tim teaming up with his good friend Hastings to investigate the origins of a settlement 3,300 miles away.
Questions, questions, questions! How did Canada acquire a Selby? What does this say about cultural identity? Were there any historic links between the two towns? More importantly, why were they not connected in the present day, and could this be remedied?
Tim and America’s Got Talent star John, who grew up a stone’s throw from Selby, Ontario, met with the clergy, school, historians and general townsfolk to learn more about the small Canadian town – how it came to be, its links to the UK and what it’s like now – and even managed to attend town council meetings via Zoom in the small hours of the morning.
This relationship culminated in an historic meeting, overseen by the mayors of both authorities and covered in real time by BBC Radio York, where the two towns twinned officially, cementing an enduring bond for the decades to come.
Tim and John’s endeavours will culminate in Friday’s presentation in Selby Town Hall, featuring some of those involved in the project on the British side, as well as an ambitious live link to Canada, facilitated by a specialist streaming team.
The team’s role will be to film proceedings and help Canadian participants to join in the evening’s conversation as Tim and John meet residents and explore connections between the towns.
The show will form part of Selby Stories, the cultural programme for Selby’s High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ), set up to celebrate the town, its history and what makes it unique through a series of special events.
The HSHAZ is one element of a government-funded initiative led by Historic England that aims to breathe new life into high streets, from regenerating historic buildings to engaging communities through art and cultural projects.
Selby is one of more than 60 high streets nationwide to receive funding from Historic England, along with funds from North Yorkshire Council, while A Tale Of Two Selbys is supported by Selby Town Council too.
“This technologically ambitious gathering is the result of years of planning,” says Tim. “What could possibly go wrong?! Come and find out! It has been such a brilliant project to be a part of, and John and I can’t wait to share the tale of these two Selbys with you all”.
Looking forward to Friday’s project finale, Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones says: “The leftfield attempts of Tim FitzHigham and John Hastings to link Selby, North Yorkshire, with the small, rural community of Selby, Ontario, began many moons ago, ending up with the two towns becoming twinned.
“After lying dormant for a little while (mainly because Tim has got himself a lot of day jobs, such as being creative director of St George’s Hall, in King’s Lynn, Norfolk), A Tale Of Two Selbys is firing up for one last hurrah as Tim and John bring their ‘findings’ to the live arena.
“Tim will be on stage, John on the big screen, joining the evening’s proceedings with some other Canadian participants via Zoom. We’ve got a specialist live stream team in to facilitate this, sending video of the town hall event back to the folks on screen in Canada.
“The North Yorkshire audience will include some of those who’ve been involved so far, but we’d love to fill it out with some curious members of the public as well – we’re only charging £4 for tickets. The live link is an ambitious touch – I think it will be fun and chaotic in equal measure!”
A Tale Of Two Selbys Live, Selby Town Hall, December 8, 7.30pm. Tickets: £4, from the town hall in person, on 01757 708449 or at selbytownhall.co.uk.
Tim FitzHigham: back story
BRITISH actor, comedian, author, adventurer and Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee.
Appeared in Paddington 2 and After Life; hosted his own BBC Radio 4 series, The Gambler.
Performed on stage all over the world in one-man theatre shows documenting his innovative and unusual acts of derring-do, from rowing the English Channel in a bathtub to paddling 160 miles down the River Thames in a paper boat.
14th Pittancer of Selby, medieval role involving distribution of food (“the pittance”) to monks in Selby Abbey each Maundy Thursday, plus inspection of the abbey’s drains and contribution to its annual postage costs.
Broke 590-year-old record to become longest-serving pittancer in Selby’s history.
Creative director of St George’s Guildhall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, where oak floorboards have been discovered during refurbishment work, believed to be the only surviving stage from Shakespeare’s time.
John Hastings: back story
CANADIAN comedian who has appeared at every major comedy festival, such as Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne and Just for Laughs Montreal.
Told jokes on BBC Radio 4, BBC1, BBC3, Comedy Central, CTV Australian Comedy Channel and CBC The Comedy Network.
COCA Comedian of the Year; Martin Sims Award nominee; Amused Moose Comedy Award winner; America’s Got Talent contestant.