Joanna Whittle’s tiny painting wins the big award at the New Light Prize Exhibition

Joanna Whittle’s Sorrowing Cloth, winner of the New Light Prize Exhibition main award

A TINY oil-on-copper painting of a tent has won the New Light Prize Exhibition main prize, open to artists across the North.

Measuring only 10cm by 15cm, Joanna Whittle’s Sorrowing Cloth received the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award on the exhibition’s opening night at Scarborough Art Gallery.

Sorrowing Cloth is part of a series of paintings of tents by Sheffield artist Whittle, who says: “My tent paintings represent fragile and temporary structures constructed within notions of the ruin and time passing.

New Light Art Prize winning artist Joanna Whittle

“Canvas sits in water; ropes are pegged into fluid land. Time sits still and moments brush against each other. Canvas rots and weeds scramble over surfaces, but some lights remain on or have just been lit.

“They hold their own histories, ideas of vanished circuses or fairgrounds – events once frenetic now silenced and ominous in dusk or rain.”

Forlorn, by Victor Harris, winner of the Patron’s Choice Award

The £2,500 Patron’s Choice Award, picked from all the exhibited works, went to Victor Harris, from Waterfoot, Rossendale, in Lancashire, for his oil painting on linen, Forlorn.

Linnet Rubaya, from Leeds, was awarded the Emerging Artists Prize for her acrylic on canvas, Seen. The sponsors, the Saul Hay Gallery, in Manchester, will offer mentoring, professional advice and exhibition opportunities, including a solo show.

Emerging Artists Prize winner Linnet Rubaya

Leeds artist Ian Brooks won the Printmakers’ Prize, open to all forms of original printmaking, for his etching Across Borge Bay. The winner will hold an exhibition at the Zillah Bell Gallery, in Thirsk, the prize sponsors, where some of the best British printmakers exhibit.

Harrogate artist Christian Alexander Bailey received the New Light Purchase Prize for his pen-and-ink drawing Tree Sparrow. His winning work has been acquired by the charity to add to its collection.

Across Borge Bay, by Ian Brooks, winner of the Printmakers’ Prize

A final award, the Visitors’ Choice, will be made at the end of the Scarborough exhibition run and announced at the touring show’s next location, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle. This public award recognises the work that strikes a chord with visitors, who are asked to vote for their favourite artwork.

The judges, who shortlisted the artists by using an anonymous online selection process and concluded the judging together in the gallery, were printmaker and artist Anne Desmet; RA Magazine editor Sam Phillips; Huddersfield Art Gallery curator Grant Scanlan; Catherine and Ian Hay, from the Saul Hay Gallery; John Bell, from the Zillah Bell Gallery; New Light patron Valeria Sykes and New Light chair Annette Petchey.

Artist Christian Alexander Bailey with his New Light Purchase Prize winner, Tree Sparrow

Annette says: “The high standard of entries has once again astounded the judges, with familiar and new artists showcasing the huge talent in the north of England. “Themes that reflect all of the emotions we have felt as a nation during the 2020 pandemic are captured and reflected across the exhibition: everything from sadness and loneliness to clear optimism and joy in a broad range of media.

“New Light continues to go from strength to strength and it is a delight to work collaboratively with the team at Scarborough Museums Trust.”

The New Light Prize Exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Simon Hedges, the trust’s head of curation, collections and exhibitions, says: “I’m delighted with the judges’ choices and I would like to thank both the New Light and the SMT teams for delivering such an amazing show in these most difficult of times.”

After the Scarborough run ends on January 17 2021, the exhibition will move to Tullie House, Carlisle, The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle, and finally The Bankside Gallery, London.

Patron’s Choice Award winner Victor Harris

Established in 2010, New Light celebrates and promotes well-known and emerging artists by offering awards and opportunities in its biennial open exhibition. It also runs New Light Art For All, an education programme that includes talks, workshops and school projects, and the New Light Collection, launched in the spring  with the aim of making the best in Northern visual arts available to more people by loaning pieces free of charge to public bodies and charities.

“The common thread through everything New Light does is a deep belief that the visual arts matter and the North of England deserves to be celebrated,” says Annette.

More Things To Do in and around York and at home despite Cassandra Boris’s “six months” of masked-up misery. List No.15, courtesy of The Press

Fields And Lanes creative couple Mick and Jessa Liversidge head to the Easingwold Community Library willow tree for an open-air hour of poetry and song on Sunday

BORIS Johnson put on his serious face and hands act on Tuesday night to address the nation on the ins and outs of his Government’s latest Covid-clampdown measures: a stitch in time saves nine, Rules of Six, 10pm curfews and any number of other numbers that invariably add up to confusion.

However, Covid-secure, socially distanced theatre shows, exhibitions, cinema, comedy and concerts can continue, as well as home entertainment, of course.

Here, Charles Hutchinson tracks and traces signs of artistic life…with immediate results  

The Easingwold Community Library willow tree: Sunday’s setting for Fields And Lanes poetry and songs

Joint project of the week: Fields And Lanes Under A Willow Tree, Timeless Songs and Poems by Jessa and Mick Liversidge, outside Easingwold Community Library, Sunday, 2pm

INSPIRED by the “wonderful reaction” to the online streaming of their outdoor poetry and song performances in lockdown, creative Easingwold couple Jessa and Mick Liversidge present an hour of uplifting words and music in the open air this weekend.

The show will be Covid-safe and socially distanced; tickets are free, with a pay-as- you-feel collection afterwards, but must be acquired in advance on 07526 107448 or by emailing ecl.generalenquiries@gmail.com.

Giles Shenton…will go to any lengths to promote his one-man show Three Men In A Boat

Three is a magic number: Three Men In A Boat, Kick In The Head Productions, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 2.30pm

GILES Shenton takes the helm for 95 minutes in Kick In The Head’s one-man/Three Men show, a “rip-roaring barrel of fun” wherein he plays writer Jerome K Jerome and everyone besides in a delightfully ridiculous tale of men behaving badly while messing about on boats.

Shenton invites you to “join Jerome as he recounts the hilarious story of his boating holiday along the magnificent River Thames with his two companions, George and Harris, and Montmorency the dog”.

Justin Moorhouse will stay in his house to perform his Your Place Comedy set from the living room on Sunday. Shappi Khorsandi will surely not be needing armour to do likewise from her place

Living room laughs: Your Place Comedy: Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi, Sunday, online at 8pm

IN the fifth of six Your Place Comedy shows live-streamed from their living rooms into yours since lockdown, Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi form the digital double bill introduced remotely by compere Tim FitzHigham.

The virtual comedy project has been organised by Selby Town Hall manager Chris Jones in liaison with nine other independent North and East Yorkshire arts centres and theatres, with donations welcome after each free screening to be divided between the still-closed venues. You can watch on YouTube and Twitch with more details at yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Top Of The Hill, acrylic on canvas, by Debbie Lush

Exhibition launch of the week: Debbie Lush, Featured Artist, Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, and online at bluetreegallery.co.uk, Saturday to November 7

TEN new works by Devon landscape artist Debbie Lush go on show at Blue Tree Gallery from this weekend.

The former freelance illustrator, who ran a Somerset country inn for 13 years, draws inspiration for her vividly coloured coastal and rural landscapes from her walks with her dog along weather-beaten coastal paths, across muddy footpaths, through gateways and over fields and farmland.

“I love the act of brushing blobs of paints of varying thickness in bright colours on a surface, one over another, to assemble landscapes,” she says.

Uninvited Guests invite guests to Love Letters Straight From Your Heart at the SJT and on Zoom. Picture: Jonathan Bewley

Antidote to isolation: Uninvited Guests’ Love Letters Straight From Your Heart, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and on Zoom on October 1, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

THEATRE company Uninvited Guests will construct a “completely digital, wholly personal and wonderfully live experience” at the SJT and on Zoom in “very different” afternoon and evening shows.

Performed by Jessica Hoffman and Richard Dufty, Love Letters Straight From Your Heart invites the audience’s words, song dedications and stories – sent in earlier – to the stage where they are given a new shape, look you straight in the eye and offer to dance with everyone in the room.

Only 45 tickets will be sold for each show to maintain intimacy, but any number of audience members can sit at screens to watch what unfolds in 60 to 75 minutes.

Giant story: Riding Lights Theatre Company go online for Christmas

Latest Christmas show to be confirmed: Riding Lights Theatre Company in The Selfish Giant, storytelling theatre on film online, for primary schools

YORK company Riding Lights say, “We can’t come to you, but we can still bring exciting entertainment into every classroom with our online version of The Selfish Giant.

“The Giant is angry. He’s been away for a long time and returns to find children playing in his beautiful garden!

Every day after school, they come and run about, laughing and playing games under the blossom on his peach trees, listening to the delightful songs of the birds. So, he puts up a big wall and an even bigger Keep Out notice to put a stop to all that. Then winter seizes the garden in its icy fingers.”

Riding Lights ask primary school to book the online show via: https://ridinglights.org/the-selfish-giant-no/costs-and-booking/.

No traditional queue at York Barbican when Daniel O’Donnell tickets go on sale tomorrow. Booking is online only

Looking ahead to Irish gigs at the double: Clannad, York Barbican, March 10 2021 and Daniel O’Donnell, York Barbican, October 21 2021

CLANNAD are booked in to play York Barbican on March 10 on their Farewell Tour, but let’s see where Boris Johnson’s new Rule of Six Months’ More Misery leaves that show. Fingers crossed, we can wave goodbye to social distancing by then to enable bidding adieu to the ethereal purveyors of traditional Irish music, contemporary folk, new age and rock, led by Moya Brennan.

Meanwhile, tickets go on sale at 9am tomorrow (Friday) at yorkbarbican.co.uk for Kincasslagh crooner Daniel O’Donnell’s return to the Barbican on October 21.

And what about…?

A visit to Duncan Lomax’s new photographic exhibition space, Holgate Gallery, opening officially from tomorrow in Holgate Road, York, to show work by the 2016 York Mystery Plays official photographer and political satirist Cold War Steve.

The York Printmakers Virtual Print Fair, running until October 4, with daily updates at https://www.facebook.com/YorkPrintmakers/

Green light for The Wedding Present musical after “Gedge pledges” hit £10,000

David Gedge: Writing new material for Reception, a musical built around his songs of love and loss, break-ups and breakdowns for The Wedding Present and Cinerama

THE Crowdfunder appeal to kick-start work on The Wedding Present musical, Reception, has hit the initial £10,000 target with more than a day to spare.

You can still visit @crowdfunderuk where the @ReceptionSoon page welcomes further contributions today and tomorrow to aid York writer-director Matt Aston start crafting a story of “love, loss, break-ups and breakdowns – everything you’d expect really from a musical based on the songs of David Gedge”.

The Crowdfunder Gedge pledge will facilitate work on the first draft, artwork and branding of a show that will combine Gedge’s songs for his Leeds band The Wedding Present and Cinerama with new material by the 60-year-old songwriter, who now lives in Brighton.

Reception writer-director Matt Aston in his Wedding Present T-shirt when rehearsing Park Bench Theatre’s summer production of Samuel Beckett’s First Love with actor Chris Hannon. Picture: Northedge Photography

Aston and production partner Tony Ereira anticipate beginning research and development in early  2021 to road test their ideas – Covid-19 Government guidance permitting – with a group of actor-musicians, incorporating Gedge’s new songs. The premiere is pencilled in for Leeds in 2022, to be followed by a small tour that would take in Brighton.

Full details on Reception can be found in an earlier CharlesHutchPress article, filed on  September 15.

“The crowdfunding campaign is a chance for fans to get involved from the beginning with a bunch of rewards that are all exclusive to this production, including specially commissioned artwork from Lee Thacker,  illustrator of David’s autobiography, Tales From The Wedding Present,” says Matt, artistic director of Engine House Theatre, who staged the Park Bench Theatre season in the Friends Garden, Rowntree, Park, York, this summer.

To support the project, go to: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/reception-the-musical

Quiet reigns as Kaiser Chiefs’ smash hit York Art Gallery exhibition wins award

A Quiet moment: Kaiser Chiefs, minus Ricky Wilson, who was ill that day, launch When All Is Quiet, their ground-breaking collaborative exhibition with York Art Gallery, in December 2018. Picture: Charlotte Graham

OH my god, Leeds indie rock band band Kaiser Chiefs’ collaboration with York Art Gallery has hit the top spot in the prestigious Museums + Heritage Awards.

The cutting-edge exhibition When All Is Quiet: Kaiser Chiefs In Conversation With York Art Gallery won the Partnership of the Year Award at a Covid-enforced virtual ceremony, broadcast on M + H Awards’ Facebook and YouTube channels on Tuesday night.

The Kaisers’ audio-visual show drew more than 25,000 people to its run in the Madsen Galleries from December 2018 to March 2019.

At the invitation of York Art Gallery curators, the Leeds band took on the pioneering challenge of exploring the boundaries between art and music, using the gallery collections as a starting point.

Anna Preedy, director of the annual Museums + Heritage Awards, said of the award-winning exhibition: “Collaboration is increasingly important and here we have a project which is the definition of a true partnership, achieving something which neither York Art Gallery nor Kaiser Chiefs could not have done on their own.

From Riot to Quiet: Kaiser Chiefs swap raucous gigs for contemplative art in York Art Gallery. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

“Their collaborative project, When All Is Quiet, was bold in its creativity and hugely inspiring – a very worthy winner.”

Reyahn King, chief executive of York Museums Trust, said: “We’re thrilled to have won this award. The exhibition was bold and brave in its approach, with our curators and Kaiser Chiefs working closely to create a unique experience which presented our collections in new and innovative ways.

“It was fantastic to work in partnership with them on the project and to create something which proved so popular with a wide range of audiences.”

Suitably upbeat Kaiser Chiefs drummer Vijay Mistry enthused: “Wow! Thanks so much for this award; it’s really greatly received, especially at this challenging time. “We knew that we had created something unique and special and it’s amazing for that to have been recognised. Huge thanks to York Art Gallery for the collaboration and massive thanks to everyone involved; your contributions were priceless.”

York Art Gallery and Kaiser Chiefs were shortlisted for the Partnership of the Year Award alongside: Royal Collections Trust, Barber Institute of Fine Arts and University of Birmingham; Lichfield Cathedral; Oxford University Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) and Iffley Academy Partnership and National Galleries Scotland and North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

Riot of colour: Kaiser Chiefs’ Nick “Peanut” Baines, Vijay Mistry, Simon Rix and Andrew White bestride their When All Is Quiet exhibition at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

What exactly was in the When All Is Quiet: Kaiser Chiefs In Conversation With York Art Gallery exhibition?

YORK Art Gallery invited Kaiser Chiefs to work with curators to re-examine the gallery’s collections, with a brief to explore the boundaries between art and music in an experimental way designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences.  

Using their position as musicians as a starting point, the band delved deep into the Exhibition Square gallery’s Fine Art collections and paired paintings with a Set List of songs inspired by the art.

Visitors were then able to view the artworks, while listening to songs chosen by the Leeds band.

Tuning in: A York Art Gallery visitor listens to Mercury Rev’s The Dark Is Rising, matched by Kaiser Chiefs to Jack Butler Yeats’s That We May Never Meet Again. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

Kaiser Chiefs also brought together works by sound artists that had resonated with them while travelling. Among them were Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet, Mark Leckey’s short filmFiorucci Made Me Hardcore and Elizabeth Price’s Turner Prize-winning work The Woolworth’s Choir Of 1979.

Inspired to design their own art installation, the Kaisers used light, colour and lyrics from the songs on the Set List to create Silent Gig, an immersive environment that offered visitors a reconfigured experience of a live music show and its elements but without sound.

When All Is Quiet increased visitor numbers by 39 per cent, by comparison with the same period the year before. Overall, more than 25,000 people visited during what is a traditionally quiet time of year for York Art Gallery, with more than 45 per cent of viewers being aged 18 to 44, an increase of nearly 15 per cent on the 2018 average.

Got it licked: Kaiser Chiefs, in tandem with York Art Gallery, win the Partnership of the Year Award at the Museums + Heritage Awards

Charles Hutchinson’s guided tour of When All Is Quiet, in conversation with Kaiser Chiefs members Simon Rix and Vijay Mistry. First appeared in The Press, York, on December 14 2018. Courtesy of The Press, York

MOVE over Andy Warhol. Here comes the new Pop Art in the form of When All Is Quiet, Kaiser Chiefs In Conversation With York Art Gallery.

Using their position as pop musicians as a starting point, the chart-topping Leeds band have co-curated an experimental exhibition, the first of its kind.

“We are not artists, we are musicians, and so we’ve chosen to use this opportunity to work with the gallery to explore sound as a medium – our medium – and to open that up further for us and for the viewer/listener,” said the Kaisers en masse. “To stretch ourselves, to explore the edges between music and art, creation and performance.”

Band members Simon Rix, Vijay Mistry, Nick “Peanut” Baines and Andrew White attended Thursday’s launch (13/12/2018) but singer Ricky Wilson was absent through illness, although plans are afoot for Wilson to “do something” in January. Watch this space.

Working in tandem with York Art Gallery staff, Kaiser Chiefs have created an exhibition with three interlinking elements. Firstly, they have brought together works by internationally regarded sound artists Janet Cardiff, Mark Leckey and 2012 Turner Prize-winning Elizabeth Price, who have inspired the Kaisers to look at sound in new ways.

Exhibition centre-piece: Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet in the central Madsen Gallery at York Art Gallery. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

The main gallery space has been given over to Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet, which allows you to walk through an oval of speakers to hear a reworking of Thomas Tallis’s Elizabethan work Spem In Alium Nunquam Habui, from the singers’ perspective, as witnessed through 40 individual speakers, one for each voice from the Salisbury Cathedral Choir in 2001.

The band selected Cardiff’s sound installation on account of its relevance to how they hear their own music while performing: “an all-encompassing space of sound”, as they put it.

Secondly, in the Kaiser Chiefs Take Over York Art Gallery’s Collection room, the Kaisers have chosen 11 artworks from York Art Gallery’s collections, spanning 1798 to 2013, from LS Lowry and John Hoyland to Jack Butler Yeats and Bridget Riley, and an accompanying Set List song to be heard on a headset while looking at the picture.

Along with the likes of The Kinks, Kavinsky, Mercury Rev and Super Furry Animals is the 2011 Kaiser Chiefs song that gave the exhibition its title, When All Is Quiet, here bonded with Leeds artist Rebecca Appleby’s Sketch For The Disrupted Expectation.

Thirdly, the band have commissioned a new installation, Silent Gig, that uses light and colour and projected lyrics from the Set List songs to create an immersive environment to offer visitors a reconfigured experience of a live music show, without sound.

Take a bow, Kaiser Chiefs’ lighting designer Rob Sinclair, who also worked his magic on David Byrne’s American Utopia Tour show, as seen at Leeds First Direct Arena on October 21 [2018]. Utilising 73 lights and two tons of equipment, it took two days to build and three days to light, but its silence will certainly be a conversation piece.

Kaiser Chiefs’ Nick “Peanut” Baines, Vijay Mistry, Simon Rix and Andrew White in the Silent Gig installation at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

“The feeling of euphoria at a gig can come just as much from the production as the song,” says Simon Rix.

Look out for a black door – last seen floating in an ocean in the My Life promo – from a series of Kaiser Chiefs pop videos and Sarah Graham’s Kaisers Rock!, the original cover artwork for the Kaisers’ 2012 album, Souvenir, loaned by owner Marc Macintosh Watson after he heard about the York show.

“We were making our new album [Duck, subsequently released in July 2019] and this exhibition at the same time and the exhibition won the race by a long stretch,” said bassist Simon Rix at Thursday’s launch.

He and drummer Vijay Mistry have taken the leading roles in putting the exhibition together, although all the band have played a part, participating in project meetings with senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram, while dynamic Scottish design company Acme Studios were commissioned by the gallery for the exhibition’s marketing, branding and merchandising, such as T-shirts, mugs and posters.

“When you come into York Art Gallery, the show’s branding runs throughout the gallery, all taken from the band’s own identity,” says Beatrice.

Dr Beatrice Bertram: York Art Gallery senior curator, who held project meetings with Kaiser Chiefs band members for When All Is Quiet

We found it difficult trying to talk about the show while it was taking shape, as it was hard to visualise how it would turn out, rather like I can find it difficult to talk about our albums before they’re finished, but it’s come together really well, all the little details,” says Simon.

“We had initially started looking at the gallery’s archives but were overwhelmed by the sheer body of work,” recalls Vijay.

“We thought, if we look through them all, they’re probably won’t be a show until 2030,” recalls Simon.

Instead, they drew up a long list of possibilities for the Kaiser Chiefs Take Over York Art Gallery’s Collection space, finally settling on the 11. “‘Yorkshireness’ and ‘Northernness’ were important to us, as a Yorkshire band, so that’s why we picked out Turner’s Fountains Abbey work and Lowry too, as we wanted to represent northern art,” says Simon.

“I’m most proud of linking Jack Butler Yeats’s That We May Never Meet Again with Mercury Rev’s The Dark Is Rising,” says Vijay. “I had that piece of music in my head when I looked at the painting, but I’d never owned a Mercury Rev record; I just knew the instrumental version; I sang it, but no-one recognised it, but then suddenly I thought, ‘It could be Mercury Rev’…and I found it!”

The Kaisers were particularly keen to give a give a first northern exposure to Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet. “Hearing voices through 40 speakers is an experience you can’t find anywhere else,” says Simon. “You can’t set up 40 speakers in your living room, but we thought it was a really contemporary sound installation that you could place at the heat of a gallery.” Best heard, by the way, when all around is quiet.

Rebecca Appleby’s Sketch For The Disrupted Expectation, paired by Kaiser Chiefs with…Kaiser Chiefs’ exhibition title song When All Is Quiet

The Set List

KAISER Chiefs’ “set list” of songs chosen in response to works from York Art Gallery’s collection that reference creation, production or performance were:

Bridget Riley’s Study 4 for Painting With Two Verticals, paired with Julia Holter’s Sea Calls Me Home

L S Lowry’s The Bandstand, Peel Park, Salford; The Kinks’ The Village Green Preservation Society

John Golding’s H.19 (Canticle); The Beach Boys’ Caroline No

Jack Butler Yeats’s That We May Never Meet Again; Mercury Rev’s The Dark Is Rising

Oliver Bevan’s Flickering Grid II; Super Furry Animals’ Pan Ddaw’r Wawr

JMW Turner’s The Dormitory and Transept of Fountains Abbey – Evening; Talking Heads’ Love – Building On Fire

Peter Leonard Donnelly’s Red Plot; Kavinsky’s Nightcall

Malcolm Hughes’s Study No 3; Plastic Bertrand’s Ca Plane Pour Moi

John Hoyland’s Pact; The Cure’s A Forest

Bryan Wynter’s Under Mars; Adam & The Ants’ Prince Charming

Rebecca Appleby’s Sketch For The Disrupted Expectation; Kaiser Chiefs’ When All Is Quiet

Picture the green scene: Kaiser Chiefs line up in shadow play to promote their exhibition at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Mick and Jessa, Fields and Lanes, poems and songs, under an Easingwold willow tree

MIck and Jessa Liversidge in the Yorkshire open air during their Fields And Lanes lockdown project

JESSA and Mick Liversidge are to perform Fields And Lanes Under The Willow Tree, an uplifting hour of timeless songs and poetry, in the open air at Easingwold Community Library on Sunday afternoon.

“Fields And Lanes is a joint project for Mick and me, inspired by the wonderful reaction we’ve had to our outdoor poetry and songs in lockdown,” says Jessa, the song half of the creative Easingwold couple, whose performances can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.

“It’s been a great structure for us through the weird and difficult times we’ve all been going through: a way of expressing ourselves creatively, choosing and learning the songs and poems, and we’ve had such warm responses from a wide range of people.

Mick Liversidge performing one of the 82 outdoor poems he recited online once lockdown began

“To begin with, when lockdown started, it was great for those who couldn’t get out – and a nice way to see the countryside as well.”

Actor Mick chalked up 82 outdoor poetry readings before calling a temporary halt to his regular routine on September 9 when learning dialogue for acting work demanded his attention.

“It all began at the beginning of lockdown,” he recalls. “I was due to appear in a play at the end of March: it was a two-hander, so lots of dialogue learned and lots of work put in by all involved, for nothing.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to share a selection of our songs and poems with an actual live audience,” says Jessa Liversidge, looking forward to Sunday afternoon’s performance. Picture: Rebecca Rowan

“So, I was feeling a bit lost and down, but we saw Sir Patrick Stewart had decided to recite a Shakespeare sonnet a day to keep him active, which prompted Jessa to suggest I should do the same with passages of Dickens.”

Mick took that advice on board but decided that his love of poetry should lead him to recite his favourite poems instead. “So, what I did was find a poem, learn it and go out into the beautiful countryside around here the following day and recite it,” he says.

“That’s what I did during lockdown, one day looking for a suitable poem, making sure it wasn’t too long, learning it during the evening, ready for ‘outdoor poem’ recital the following day.

Mick Liversidge as Malvolio in York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York, in September

“It became harder as the weeks progressed as I had to find new poems that I’d not heard before. The positive side of that is I’ve found some real gems. I’ve loved doing this and it really has kept my brain active and ready for the next job when it comes along.”

Mick wrote on Facebook on September 9: “After 8I ‘outdoor poems’, today’s No. 82 will be my last…for now. I’ve loved reciting them so much and many of the poems have genuinely moved me to tears, so I’ve decided I’m going to continue reciting one a week for the foreseeable future. I’m looking forward to getting out into the countryside as the seasons change and finding new poems.”

Meanwhile, Easingwold Community Library has been running socially distanced, Covid-secure events under its beautiful willow tree, the latest being Sunday’s all-seated show starring Jessa and Mick at 2pm.

“It’s a beautiful space, under an amazing willow tree, and the forecast looks promising,” says Jessa

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to share a selection of our songs and poems with an actual live audience, after months of performing to our phones and laptops,” says Jessa, whose diary is invariably busy with teaching and choir-leading sessions for Singing For All, the York Military Wives Choir, youth choirs and more singing groups besides.

“On Sunday, Mick will include some of the most well-known poems such as John Masefield’s Sea Fever and W H Davies’s Leisure and even some Spike Milligan.

“The songs, from pop classics by Carole King and The Beatles to gentle folk songs, and even my own take on a Harry Lauder classic, will all be sung unaccompanied, apart from my new performing friends, the real songbirds.” 

Back for more: Mick and Jessa hope to do more Fields And Lanes shows

Places for Fields And Lanes Under The Willow Tree must be booked in advance on 07526 107448 or via ecl.generalenquiries@gmail.com to ensure that everyone is aware of and agrees to the safety procedures. Tickets are free, with a pay-as-you-feel collection on the day.

“It’s a beautiful space, under an amazing willow tree, and the forecast looks promising,” says Jessa, who is keen to do further performances.

“With both of our busy schedules during normal times, it has been so lovely to work on this project together, and we hope to roll it out to other suitable venues in the next year. So, if anyone involved with an outdoor space would like us to bring Fields And Lanes to them, it can be arranged. You can send a message via https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.”

Dame Berwick’s Dick Turpin Rides Again held up until December 2021 by Covid-19

Highway robbery: The curse of Covid-19 strikes again as Berwick Kaler’s comeback pantomime, Dick Turpin Rides Again, will be held up until 2021. Here Dame Berwick is pictured with A J Powell, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass at the Valentine’s Day launch at the Grand Opera House

DAME Berwick Kaler’s pantomime, Dick Turpin, will NOT Ride Again at the Grand Opera House, York, this Christmas.

Faced by the Government’s decision not to remove social-distancing requirements for theatres amid the rise in Covid-19 infections, Ambassador Theatre Group and pantomime producers Qdos Entertainment are moving Dick Turpin Rides Again to December 2021/January 2022.

Dame Berwick and his regular team of villain David Leonard, comic stooge Martin Barrass, perennial principal gal Suzy Cooper and luverly Brummie A J Cooper were to have made their Grand Opera House pantomime debut this winter after their headline-making, bittersweet crosstown transfer from York Theatre Royal.

In an official statement today, Kaler said: “Having secured the backing of the world’s leading pantomime producer Qdos, and knowing their commitment to save our acclaimed panto, I’m devastated that our loyal audience is going to have to wait until next year to see what we had planned for them.

“Hence, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Qdos and the wonderful staff of the York Grand Opera House who welcomed myself, Martin, Suzy, AJ and David with open arms. Dick Turpin will ride again for Christmas 2021. It’s a long time to wait for a laugh but I can assure you it will be worth it, and we’ll all be at the Grand Opera House to greet you all.” 

Rachel Lane, theatre director of the Cumberland Street theatre, added: “With the current Government guidance still unclear on when venues can open without social distancing in place, we have decided with our pantomime partner Qdos Entertainment to postpone the production of Dick Turpin Rides Again until Christmas 2021.

“We’re delighted that Berwick, Martin, Suzy, AJ and David are still able to join us next year.  We’ll contact customers directly in due course to move their bookings on a year; they don’t need to take any action at this stage.”

Dame Berwick, who will turn 74 on October 31, had played the Theatre Royal dame over a 40-year span before making his grand exit in The Grand Old Dame Of York, waving goodbye in February 2019, but Britain’s longest-serving dame regretted his decision, even more so when he wrote and co-directed last winter’s show, Sleeping Beauty, wherein Barrass played the nearest role to a dame, The Queen.

Dame Berwick made an impromptu, emotional speech to the last-night home crowd on January 25 in an atmosphere increasingly akin to a bear pit, in the wake of executive director Tom Bird and the board’s decision to break the chain after more than four decades of the distinctive Kaler brand of pantomime comic mayhem.

Only five days later, the switch to the Grand Opera House was announced, and the familiar five assembled on February 14 to launch ticket sales for Dick Turpin Rides Again, a new beginning for comeback-dame Kaler and the Grand Opera House alike, in tandem with Britain’s biggest pantomime producer, Qdos.

On February 3, York Theatre Royal announced a new partnership with Evolution Pantomimes, regular pantomime award winners who duly chalked up another success, taking home the Best Panto award [for750 to 1,500-seat theatres] for Cinderella at Sheffield Lyceum in the 2020 Great British Pantomime Awards.

Scripted by Evolution director and producer Paul Hendy, Cinderella would have been the new partners’ debut show at the Theatre Royal until Covid-19 enforced a change of plan. Hendy will now write scripts for three pantomimes, Aladdin, Dick Whittington and Jack And The Beanstalk, for the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime.

The tour starring York actor, panto comic turn and magician Josh Benson, will take in all 21 York wards in December and January, when audience members at each show will vote for which show they want to see.

Lush paintings to brighten up autumn with joy and nostalgia at Blue Tree Gallery

So Close To Home, acrylic on canvas, by Debbie Lush

DEBBIE Lush’s exhibition at Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, opens on Saturday.

Ten new works of varying sizes and prices by the Devon landscape artist will be on show at the gallery and online at bluetreegallery.co.uk until November 7.

After studying illustration at Harrow School of Art and the Royal College of Art, Debbie was a freelance illustrator in London for 15 years until 2003.

Houses In The Woods, acrylic on canvas, by Debbie Lush

“My escape route from London was to move to Somerset to renovate and run a country inn with every intention of continuing painting in a landscape I love, but things don’t always turn out how you plan,” recalls Debbie.

“After 13 years of looking only, I was finally able to pick up my brushes full time and see the world in brush strokes again. I almost imagine it is like I have woken from a coma and it has found me fresh, excited and fascinated by who I am now and how I see things.”

Top Of The Hill, acrylic on canvas, by Debbie Lush

Since that renewal of her creativity more than three years ago, her vividly coloured coastal and rural landscapes have been inspired by walks with her dog along weather-beaten coastal paths, across muddy footpaths, through gateways and over fields and farmland.

“Memories of hills and tracks, the skyline and weather conditions emerge in the studio where I love the act of brushing blobs of paints of varying thickness in bright colours on a surface, one over another, to assemble landscapes,” says Debbie, who lives in Chardstock, East Devon.

Colourful October, acrylic on canvas, by Debbie Lush

In her paintings, sweeping curves are punctuated by focal points of sea defences, boats, barns, farmhouses and woodland homes, livestock and trees. Applying scratched lines too, they become visual records of her journeys; part-real, part-imagined landscapes bursting with energy, colour, nostalgia, observation and joy.

Debbie Lush’s show will be the fifth Featured Artist exhibition of 2020 at Blue Tree Gallery. Newly on display too this autumn are “brand new little gems” by resident artist Giuliana Lazzerini that “would look perfect in a small snug of a wall or on a shelf”, plus new work by Paolo Lazzerini, Colin Cook, Kate Boyce, Colin Carruthers and Sharon Winter.

Opening hours, for the time being, are 11am to 4pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, or by appointment on 01904 620660.

York Mystery Plays head off streets and into homes for Strasz’s film/theatre project

Tom Straszewski’s cardboard waggon from his York Mysteries @ Home films

YORK theatre director and academic Tom Straszewski is seeking participants for York Mysteries @ Home, the chance to make a York Mystery Play in your abode.

“As part of my PhD on the York Mysteries and community theatre, I invite you and your household to create your own performances of one of the Mystery Plays at home,” he says.

“This approach is inspired by the medieval origins of the Mysteries, where Guild members worked from home on their crafts.”

Strasz has put together five DIY plays himself already that can be viewed on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/homemysteries.

“Finding myself in a similar position, and limited to what was already in the house, I’ve been creating plays from whatever items I had lying around: often props and materials left over from old performances.”

Offering guidance, Strasz says: “You might have your own hobby or craft that provides inspiration. The main thing is to draw on what you already have, so that your play is personal to you and your home.

“This will then build up to a screening of the plays in the autumn next year, perhaps at a York venue, perhaps online.”

Anyone interested in taking on one of the plays is asked to e-mail Strasz at: Thomas.Straszewski@york.ac.uk. “If you have a particular play in mind, then include that, and any initial thoughts and ideas,” he advises.

“I’ll be running this in batches of five plays every month or so. If there’s a play later in the schedule you’re particularly interested in creating, let me know now and I’ll be in touch when we reach it – no commitment required.”

For more details, visit the website:
https://www.yorkmysteriesathome.co.uk/create-your-own.html


FROM this evening, additionally Strasz will be hosting a weekly read-through of the Mystery Plays every Tuesday on Zoom from 7.30pm to 9pm.

“These evenings are an opportunity to read each play out loud and discuss them with fellow friends of the York Mystery Plays,” he says.

“The ideas and connections made will hopefully lead to a full production of the Mystery Plays in the future, with these read-throughs as one way to form the performance right from the start.”

Strasz’s read-throughs will work through the 48 mediaeval plays in order. “We’ll be starting with The Creation Of The Heavens and The Fall Of Lucifer and we should be reaching The Nativity in December,” he says.

“As an informal group, you can drop in and out each week, depending on how often you’d like to attend.”

The Zoom details can be acquired by e-mailing Strasz at: thomas.straszewski@york.ac.uk. Scripts will be available via the YorkMysteries@Home website, under the Resources page.

“At a time when people are struggling to keep a sense of community at a distance, I think there’s a real need for the Mysteries – and for York’s community theatre more generally,” says Strasz

Here Charles Hutchinson puts questions to Tom Straszewski on his DIY community project, York Mysteries @ Home.

Which plays have you done?

“So far, I’ve performed the first seven plays, and five are available online to date, from The Creation Of The Heavens to Cain And Abel. As winter closes in, I’ll hopefully reach The Nativity and make it to The Last Supper in time for Easter.”

What is the most unusual prop you have used?

“I don’t know about unusual, but I’ve enjoyed the matchsticks for Lucifer. Originally matches were made with sulphur and called ‘lucifers’ – light-bringers – which is the sort of bad pun I relish.

“I’ve got my eye on my son’s toy watering can for The Flood and lots of old props and costumes from my past plays will appear. It’s like seeing familiar actors in plays; I always enjoy spotting old props and costumes being reused.”

How have you filmed the Plays?  On your phone or with a camera?

“All on my phone – you don’t need anything fancy. And it’s theatre, not film, playing in the moment, not editing the best shots together.

“Having said that, the first one I did was disastrous! I dropped the phone halfway through, just as I ate my last prop – a strawberry from the garden – so I did edit that one a bit. I’ve switched to using a tripod to avoid a repeat.”

In the ruff: Tom Straszewski in rehearsal with York actor Jess Murray. Picture: JTU Photography

What skills might you like Mystery Play home-play creators to display in the Plays they do?

“It could be anything: I’ve had suggestions of baking for The Last Supper and wood-working for The Crucifixion, which is fitting. If anybody out there paints stained glass, I’d love to see their take on any of the Plays with angels.

“But it could be as simple as finger-painting, sock puppets or Lego. The main thing is to find out how to tell these amazing stories in your own home with what’s available to you. Be bold and imaginative. And be willing to be surprised at how your idea of your home changes.”

Do you have anywhere in mind for showing the Mystery Plays films in York?

“Further lockdown permitting, it would be wonderful to hold it in somewhere linked to the Plays, one of the guild halls, perhaps, or in Museum Gardens. I’ll be looking for some collaborators to help put this on, assuming we’re allowed out of the house again by then. If not, we’ll hold a socially distanced celebration of everybody’s work online instead.”

Are the Plays being done in a particular order or in thematic clusters?

“I’m dependent on who volunteers to take on each play, but I’m hoping to work through them roughly in linear order, starting with The Creation and finishing with The Last Judgement. But if anybody has a burning need to do one of the later plays right now, there’s no need to wait.”

Is there previous history of the York Mystery Plays being performed in homes?

“Yes. It was wonderful to hear York Theatre Royal take on the plays as radio drama, recorded remotely in each actor’s own home during lockdown [for broadcast on Jonathan Cowap’s Sunday morning show on BBC Radio York]. But I missed the visuals!

“I was talking to a group of previous actors in the Plays and they all said the sense of spectacle was essential to the Mystery Plays. So, this project hopefully brings that back, on a tiny scale.

A Zoom rehearsal, led by director Juliet Forster, second from right, top row, for The Flood, part of this summer’s York Radio Mystery Plays recorded by York Theatre Royal

 “And the medieval guilds who put on the plays often had their workshops in their homes, open to the public. So, making the plays at home draws on that sense of craftwork as a performance.”

Why are you so drawn to the Mystery Plays: what makes them resonate with you?

“Within the Plays themselves, it’s the marriage of the epic sweep with intimate moments: one minute creating the whole world, the next moment seeing Adam and Eve arguing over who should take the blame for messing up.

“On that domestic scale, the story of Mary takes her from a teenager in an impossible situation, to mourning her son, to acting as a matriarch for a whole host of disciples. I’d love to really focus on her story one day.

“And that gives a sense of how endless the possibilities are. In 2018 alone, for the Waggon Plays that summer, people based their Mystery Plays on children’s pop-up books, Russian art, street graffiti, Greek choruses, medieval tapestries, modern atrocities, climate change, to mention just a few. Shakespeare is probably the only other drama that sees that breadth of staging possibilities.

“The other thing that always stands out for me are the moments outside the Plays themselves – seeing somebody conquer their shyness, or find a new talent, or make new friends backstage. And they bring people together all across York.

“At a time when people are struggling to keep a sense of community at a distance, I think there’s a real need for the Mysteries – and for York’s community theatre more generally.”

Loving that feeling of escaping to the AA Getaway Drive-In Cinema at Elvington

Talkin’ about a rev-olution in drive-in cinema from the AA: Arts journalist Charles Hutchinson and Celestine Dubruel arrive at Elvington Airfield for Saturday night’s screening of Le Mans ’66. Picture: AA

NEARLY 2,000 people had that “getaway feeling”, heading out to the AA Getaway Drive-In Cinema, parked up at Elvington Airfield, near York, last weekend.

In “Vol. 1” of the AA’s new cinematic entertainment venture, afternoon and evening screenings took place from Friday to Sunday, Saturday reserved for AA members, the other two days open to the public, with a maximum of five people per car.

The other York drive-in experience available/not available/go to Aberdeen right now is for Covid-19 Testing at Poppleton Park and Ride, and driving past the ever-evocative Air Museum aircraft onto the airfield expanse for Saturday night’s show, there seemed to be even more staff on hand to guide you through a winding course of tyres, in familiar AA livery of gaudy yellow. Even an official photographer was there to snap every car and smiling incumbent.

All on duty were wearing face masks; enthusiastic, helpful, loving that feeling of being out in the open air, like Tukker the dog with the fan and record deck in the new AA advert that would inevitably play its part in the promotional side of this drive-in Saturday experience.

No, not the USA, but driving in for the AA Getaway Drive-In at Elvington Airfield . Picture: AA

Name checked, you were handed sanitised remote speakers for your listening pleasure and informed how you could order food and drink – “locally sourced “ – from that device to be brought contact-free to your car.

A number was placed on each driver’s wing mirror to facilitate those deliveries, once you had been guided into your car’s socially distanced spot by hand signals more associated with guiding an aeroplane across the Heathrow tarmac. Apt for an airfield, of course!

The first York drive-in of the summer, Daisy Duke’s on Knavesmire from July 31 to August 2, had favoured a combination of musical big hitters, Grease, Rocketman, Mamma Mia! and A Star Is Born, family hits, Toy Story and Shrek 2, and something darker for night-time, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction and Joker.

AA Getaway’s triptych of escapist films felt the need for speed, thrills and action, suitable both for the location and the AA’s association with travel and driving. Hence the choice of James Gunn’s 2014 space chase, Guardians Of The Galaxy (12A), Edgar Wright’s 2017 getaway-car heist thriller, Baby Driver (15), and James Mangold’s 2019 Ford v Ferrari race-track clash, Le Mans ’66 (12), Saturday’s evening pick for AA members.

Socially distanced cars at the Elvington airfield drive-in cinema. Picture: AA

Many moons ago, but never to be forgotten, a hapless drive-in showcase in a Clifton Moor car park had combined a blow-up screen that blew over in the howling wind, incongruous ice creams on an absurdly cold and wet early summer’s night, and a much-delayed screening of Grease – Summer Lovin’ didn’t happen so fast, alas – after the forlorn screen had to be deflated and slowly, very slowly, re-inflated.

“Never again” was the vow in the wake of that tragic-comic affirmation that drive-ins were meant for open-topped American cars on balmy American nights with the junkiest of American junk food, not for an anonymous Yorkshire tarmac strip off a bypass.

Until…Saturday night at the movies at Elvington Airfield and AA Getaway’s slick, ultra-efficient, state-of-the-drive-in cinema, where the sound systems were as clear as the staff instructions, the three giant LED screens were pin-sharp and everything ran to time.

Le Mans ’66 was a cracking selection: Ford versus Ferrari, American ruthlessness versus more stylish Italian ruthlessness on and off the track for the 1966 24-hour Le Mans race in a buddy vehicle for Matt Damon and Christian Bale.

Saturday night’s film at Elvington airfield: Christian Bale as Ken Miles in Le Mans ’66

Ultimately, under Mangold’s heart-pumping direction, it turned into a hymn to the uncompromising, temperamental but brilliant engineer and driver Ken Miles, the Motorsports Hall Of Fame of America inductee from Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, whose deeds overseas deserve to be known by more than petrol heads.

Aided by Bale’s bravura performance, there was so much mileage in Miles’s story, hopefully, if belatedly, the Brummie race ace will have his place among the pantheon of British sporting greats. 

Will Harrison, AA’s head of brand marketing, said after the weekend: “We launched AA Getaway to offer audiences some true escapism and we’re absolutely delighted with the response. For many, it was their very first drive-in experience and we hope they were able to sit back, relax and smile – all from the comfort of their car.”

Roll on Vol 2: The Drive-In for these days when the car, a kind of home from home, looks a safe option for Covid-secure, socially distanced entertainment.

REVIEW: York Stage Musicals, Jukebox Divas, Rowntree Park, York, until Sunday

El-ectric: Eleanor Leaper relishing the solo spotlight in Jukebox Divas. All pictures: Charlie Kirkpatrick

York Stage Musicals, Jukebox Divas, Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, tonight and tomorrow, 7pm. Box office: yorkstagemusicals.com

BLOWN away by the reaction to York Stage Musicals’ first ever open-air shows last month, artistic director Nik Briggs was quick to replicate the format for a second set of three shows.

Last time, the concert theme was a celebration of musical theatre’s favourite hits, performed by six professional performers with YSM history, accompanied by musical director Jessica Douglas’s crack band at Rowntree Park.

Now, Briggs assembles another quintet of professionals, whose ambitions took hold in their YSM days; cruise-ship crooner Conor Mellor returning from the first show, joined by Sophie Hammond, back home in old York after musical theatre training in New York; Grace Lancaster, Best Leading Female winner in the 2020 Great British Pantomime Awards, here with added sax appeal too; BBC Pitch Battle finalist Eleanor Leaper and Kinky Boots principal Dan Conway.

Conor Mellor: Ain’t no mountain high enough that he won’t conquer in Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love

Party dresses have made way for leather jackets and fishnets for the girls, suits for sharp informality for the boys, while Jessica Douglas, celebrating her birthday at the keyboard last night, has put together another band line-up of all the talents: Neil Morgan, on guitar, Christian Topham, on bass, Clark Howard, on drums, and Sam Johnson, on keyboards.

Under Tech247’s ever-changing lighting of the igloo stage on the amphitheatre bandstand, YSM’s 85-minute show is performed to a socially-distanced audience, divided into ‘Bubble Blanket’ spaces on the embankment, everything running smoothly, from the exhilarating singing to the stewarding on a night for woollens, not rainwear. Hopefully, the occasional sound glitch can be ironed out for tonight.

Jukebox Divas turns the spotlight on the ever-extending branch of musical theatre that builds shows around a collection of pop hits, as opposed to songs written expressly for a show. Briggs and Douglas’s programme is up to the minute, accommodating current hit shows Beautiful, + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, as well as the well-established Queen and Abba vehicles We Will Rock You and Mamma Mia! and Eighties’ rockathon Rock Of Ages.

Grace and fervour: Grace Lancaster singing with feeling at Rowntree Park

The Jukebox format means the show can find room for an Elvis chart topper (Sophie’s all-action A Little Less Conversation) and close with a couple of Katy Perry belters (the ensemble Firework and Sophie-fronted Roar).

Dan, so smooth and sweet of tone, leads the way with Can’t Stop The Feeling; Conor’s I Want To Break Free and Eleanor’s Somebody To Love are early highlights; and Dan and Grace’s Under Pressure is a stupendous duet, stamping their own character on a Mercury and Bowie rock landmark.

You want the perfect balance of solo showcases, duets and ensemble set-pieces, and Jukebox Divas delivers. Step forward Eleanor’s The Winner Takes It All, Sophie’s No One But You, Dan’s My Eyes Adored You, Grace’s Natural Woman and Conor’s I’d Do Anything For Love, climbing every mountainous peak of Meat Loaf’s rock-opera showstopper.

Best support act in Jukebox Divas? It just has to be Sophie Hammond’s chair

You will hugely enjoy the interplay of Sophie, Grace and Eleanor in The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men, Harden My Heart and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and even more so in Lady Marmalade, as they grow ever more assured in performing together, and when the five unite, you know why Briggs was so keen to stage this show.

Can’t Help Falling In Love suits its boy-meets-girl arrangement, Every Rose is full of drama and if one song encapsulates what we have missed in not being allowed to fill theatres with song and joy in these ever-more gruelling Covid times, it is Don’t Stop Believin’, a high point for singers, band and audience alike.

How apt the night should end with a mighty Roar. Theatre and music will continue to find their voice, whatever this pandemic throws our way. Do keep believin’.

The closed eyes have it: Dan Conway in an expressive moment in Jukebox Divas

REVIEW: Suffer Fools Gladly, Badapple Theatre Company, on tour to September 23

Anastasia Benham’s Queen Avril and Danny Mellor’s Geordie jester Jagger in Badapple Theatre Company’s Suffer Fools Gladly

WANTED urgently, the plea went out. Open-air venues to host Badapple Theatre Company’s new short play. Apply promptly, help Badapple hit their required target in their 21st anniversary year and Arts Council England would back it.

Sure enough, such is the fond support for Green Hammerton’s “Theatre on your Doorstep” exponents that a list of North and East Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks was full as quick as a finger click.

ACE has provided a £14,998 grant that will cover not only the doorstep tour of Yorkshire actor and writer Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly, but also the “creative filming” of artistic director Kate Bramley’s smash-hit play Eddie And The Gold Tops for a November to February itinerary of film performances at familiar Badapple indoor venues under Covid-secure, socially-distanced guidelines.

This “Hybrid-Live” season opens with Suffer Fools Gladly’s September 15 to 23 run. Such was the ticket demand that doorstep destination number two presented three sold-out performances in one day – in the pantomime tradition of bygone days – under an awning on the terracing of a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden.

Danny Mellor as the “Mad Dad” in the premiere of his play Suffer Fools Gladly

In one side, out the other, hand sanitiser stations at the garden entry and exit, socially scattered garden chairs, this was theatre-going for the Covid age, and Arts Council England should be thanked for making it possible.

You may have rather different feelings towards the Government’s flowery response to the plight of an arts world still largely stymied since lockdown, but we are where we are, sitting in a Yorkshire country garden watching two actors, Mellor and Anastasia Benham, working for the first time since lockdown. Indeed for the first time since they performed Badapple’s winter warmer, The Snow Dancer.

Mellor has created Suffer Fools Gladly in that time: a quick-moving, quick-witted hour-long comedy that delights in testing and tracing the merits of always having to tell the truth: a compulsion from which our parliamentarians seem to be socially distanced, alas.

Mellor is playing Ozzy, a Brummie-voiced jester, exiled by Queen Avril from the magical kingdom of Marillion, where he is replaced by the lying Jagger. Ozzy, Marillion, Jagger…are you spotting all the rock references? Plenty more are on their way, punk henchmen Sid and Nancy making their day too.

One of three performances of Suffer Fools Gladly in one day in a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden

Through portal travel, Ozzy and his truth-dispensing marotte (the French word for a fool’s bauble) end up on Earth, where he strikes up an unlikely – but very likely in this upbeat, daft play – friendship with Earth girl Stevie (Benham).

She is 17, wont to be sceptical, even cynical, and expected to make the grades to study science at Oxford, with no time for fun, she complains.

Her rock-obsessed Yorkshireman father, the “mad dad” who named her after Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, has his mind on other things, forever reliving the 1980s. Queen to be precise, irresponsibly and misguidedly resolving to give up his job to be Freddie Mercury in a tribute band, although his singing voice is more lead than mercury. No wonder, her mum left him, says an exasperated Stevie.

Here we have two Queens in one show. The ubiquitous band and the autocratic ruler of Marillion (Benham’s second role), with a penchant for a bustle that “makes her bottom look big”, but Jagger won’t say that, whereas, stick in hand, Ozzy would.

Sticking to the truth: Danny Mellor’s jester, Ozzy, with his marotte in Suffer Fools Gladly

Mellor and Benham have comedy-and-pathos chemistry aplenty from The Snow Dancer, and even with the requirement for two metres of separation at all times, they bond so well again as they move to and fro between multiple roles.

Under Mellor and Bramley’s brisk co-direction, they are a joy to watch, full of fun and invention, whether sending up teenage proclivities, regal divas or rock gods or spoofing Boris Johnson, so glad to be playing to an audience once more too.

From topical Covid references and a Cummings dig to Ozzy’s observation that butterflies are “just moths with make-up on”, Mellor’s script has lip and zip, quirky observation and home truths…and even a Sex Pistols lyric. “No future, no future, no future for you”? Wrong, Mellor definitely has a future as a writer as much as an actor with an ear for so many accents.

Whoever holds the marotte, truth will out in a fearless play where protagonists are caught between rock (music) and a hard place. Stick to the truth is the message here. Truth be bold, truth be told. Politicians, take note.

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre Company founder and artistic director and co-director of Suffer Fools Gladly

Suffer Fools Gladly’s September tour itinerary continues at:

19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm, sold out.
20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm, sold out.
20: Skipsea, 7pm, tickets available.

21: Private garden, Driffield, 2pm, sold out.
22: Private garden, Gilberdyke, Goole, 5pm, tickets available.
23: Moor Monkton, 5pm, tickets available.

For tickets, go to: badappletheatre.co.uk/show/suffer-fools-gladly/

Once Quentin Crisp was her life-class model, now Jill Ray sketches with her iPad

Between The Showers, by Jill Ray

LANDSCAPES by Sheffield digital artist Jill Ray will go on show at Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, from September 22 to October 24.

“Coincidentally, the closing week overlaps with the opening of the York Mediale Festival, a celebration of digital and media arts, on October 21,” says gallery owner Simon Main.

Jill developed her print technique while practising as a landscape architect, but soon found that her fascination for making images this way inspired her in a new direction.

Warm Evening, by Jill Ray

Often using an iPad as a portable sketchbook, the hills of Yorkshire and the Dark Peak, the Sheffield woodlands and occasional winter forays to the East Coast provide much of her subject matter.

“Jill loves to explore the subtle ways similar shapes and patterns echo and repeat, and the way sunlight overlays pattern and drama in the composition, exploring them in the graphic lines of her works,” says Simon.

Sheffield-born Jill has been an artist and designer for more than 25 years, returning to live in the Steel City since her twenties. She pursued a career as a landscape architect, working for Sheffield City Council from 1986 to 2012, not least as lead designer for the Town Hall Square, part of the Heart of the City Millennium project, as well as undertaking private garden design commissions.

“My main concerns are colour, light and the rhythms of landscape,” says Jill Ray

Jill, whose student days at St Albans School of Art in 1974-1975 were marked by Quentin Crisp being a frequent model in her life-drawing studies, launched Jill Ray Landscapes in 2012 to combine her design and fine art skills.

Jill combines painting in oils on canvas with creating prints digitally. “I discovered what a great drawing tool my PC was,” she says. “I really love the way layers of translucent blocks of colour can build up an image.

Clearing Skies, by Jill Ray

“My passion for making images this way combined with a rekindling of my previous love of painting in oils on canvas, and I really enjoy exploring both old and new technology in the development of my work.” Hence her use of both the iPad as a portable sketchbook and photographic references.

“My main concerns are colour, light and the rhythms of landscape,” says Jill, who is a member of Peak District Artisans and Sheffield Printmakers. “I am fascinated by the way similar shapes and patterns echo and repeat in the landscape, as can be seen in both the striking and bold styles of my prints – which often resemble the effects of overlaid layers of tissue paper – and in a more subtle and textural exploration in my paintings.”

Village Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Along The Ridge Front, by Jill Ray

Bev Jones Music Company to stage Strictly Christmas Live show at Rowntree Park

The Bev Jones Music Company in a socially distanced rehearsal for last Sunday’s Strictly Live In The Park at Rowntree Park, York

THE Bev Jones Music Company will return to the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, in York, for shows at Christmas and next Easter.

“Further to the overwhelming success of our musical theatre show there last Sunday afternoon, we’ve booked a Christmas date and Easter date for the park,” says producer Lesley Jones.

September 13’s Strictly Live In The Park concert featured more than 20 socially distanced singers and a five-piece band in a “spectacular show for all the family, with popular show music, pop music, dance and comedy”. 

“Sunday was hot and sunny, whereas December will be scarves and hats, fairy lights and hot mulled wine (non-alcoholic),” says Lesley.

Strictly Christmas Live In The Park will take place on Sunday, December 13 at 2pm. “Our Christmas programme will be a mix of modern popular festive music in a spectacular song and dance show, then will culminate in an audience-led Carols By Candlelight at 5pm. Two shows in one,” says Lesley.

“Our production will be staged and directed by Nathan Lodge and Jordan Langford, two former York stage performers with Bev’s company, who turned professional and have been performing and choreographing all over the world. 

“We’re delighted we’ll be welcoming back other familiar names from our company past, plus our current company, resulting in our most talented cast ever.” 

Looking ahead to next spring too, Lesley says: “Easter’s show will have a different musical focus, culminating in our own Jesus Christ Superstar tribute in the park in traditional style.” 

Tickets for Strictly Christmas Live In The Park will go on sale for social bubbles on October 1 at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or on 01904 501935. 

Red light for Blue Light Theatre Company’s 2021 pantomime after Covid call-off

The Blue Light Theatre Company cast for Oh! What A Circus at Acomb Working Men’s Club in January 2021

THE Blue Light Theatre Company are now the ‘red light’ company after stopping their upcoming winter pantomime in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

In an official statement, the York performers explain: “Due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19, we regret that we are unable to bring you our annual pantomime in January 2021. We have not taken this decision lightly but the safety of our cast and audience must be our main concern.

“However, we do plan to return later in 2021/2022 with more great performances while raising money for our chosen charities. We would like to thank you all for your continued support. Stay safe and well and we look forward to seeing you next year.”

Regular writer and co-producer Perri Ann Barley is keeping the show’s title under wraps until Blue Light resume pantomime business, hopeful of being given the green light for performances at Acomb Working Men’s Club in January 2022.

Company member Mark Friend adds: “We’re also hoping to perform a play in Summer 2021, but no decision has been made yet as to what due to the uncertainty that lies before us.”

Blue Light Theatre Company are so named on account of being made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers and York Hospital staff, as well as members of York’s theatre scene.

Last January, they presented Oh! What A Circus, a show replete with fairy-tale characters such as Pinocchio, Geppetto, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Tinkerbell and Hansel and Gretel, in aid of York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease (York).

Scary times ahead for the Stephen Joseph Theatre as Fright Fest By The Sea looms

Here’s Jack: Jack Nicholson in The Shining, part of the Fright Fest By The Sea festival of fear at the SJT

HERE’S Johnny! Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre will present Fright Fest By The Sea, a week of scary movies with “terror levels suitable for all the family” as part of its October film programme.

Anglo-German director Wolf Rilla’s 1960 sci-fi horror movie Village Of The Damned – “Beware the stare that will paralyze the will of the world!”, the poster warns – will be shown on October 23 at 2pm and October 24 at 7pm.

An American Werewolf In London, John Landis’s 1981sci-fi horror comedy advert for Yorkshire’s infamous brand of hospitality for outsiders, is booked in for October 23, 7pm, October 27, 7pm, and October 28, 2pm.

Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan’s 2019 computer-animated black comedy version of The Addams Family will run on October 24, 2pm October 27, 2pm, October 28, 7pm, October 29, 2pm, and October 30, 2pm.

An American Werewolf In London: A taciturn Yorkshire welcome awaits all who enter….

Gerald Thomas’s 1966 British comedy Carry On Screaming, the 12th of 31 Carry On capers, stars Fenella Fielding, Kenneth Williams and Harry H Corbett as a private detective in his only appearance in the series, on October 29 at 7pm and October 31 at 2pm.

Ah, here’s Johnny! Jack Nicholson ad-libbed that “Here’s Johnny” moment, echoing announcer Ed McMahon’s introduction of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, in The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psychological horror film. Enjoy it again on October 30 and 31 at 7pm.

The October programme of films and streamings in The McCarthy will open with Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes (Captured Live)his Olivier Award-winning dance-drama adaptation of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 film.

This tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world will be shown on October 1, 2pm, October 2, 7pm, and October 3 and 4, 2pm.

What a scream: The poster for Carry On Screaming

October 1’s 7pm screening of Parasite offers the chance to judge why Bong Joon-ho’s black-and-white South Korean dark comedy thriller became the first non-English language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture in February.

Hats off, masks on, for John-Paul Davidson and Stephen Warbeck’s new British comedy, The Man In The Hat, showing on October 2, 2pm, October 3, 7pm, October 6 and 7, 7pm, and October 8, 2pm.

The titular man in the hat (Ciaran Hinds) journeys through France in a Fiat 500, accompanied by a framed photograph of an unknown woman. In pursuit are five angry men in a Citroën Dyane, but why are they chasing him and how can he shake them off?

Thirty years ago, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo made their historic debut as The Three Tenors. On October 8 at 7pm and October 10 at 2pm, Three Tenors: Voices For Eternity (Event Cinema) celebrates the emotional highlights of the first concert and the sequel in Los Angeles, with new interviews and never-before-seen backstage footage.

Ciaran Hinds: The man in the hat in The Man In The Hat

A global audience of 1.6 billion people watched that ground-breaking debut concert, one that catapulted classical music into a new dimension, spawning the best-selling classical album of all time. 

A second new British film, 23 Walks, Paul Morrison’s gentle, sweet, funny, romantic story of love in later life, will have screenings on October 9 at 2pm and 7pm, October 10, 13 and 14, 7pm, and October 15, 2pm.

Alison Steadman and Dave Johns play Fern and Dave, who meet when walking their dogs in a North London park. Over the course of 23 walks together, romance begins to blossom but the two also hide secrets that could derail their new-found love.

Completing a trilogy of new British film releases, Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Billie Piper and Penelope Wilton star in Eternal Beauty on October 16 at 2pm and 7pm, October 17 at 2pm, October 20 at 7pm and October 22 at 2pm and 7pm.

Hawkins, who made her professional stage debut as Juliet in Romeo And Juliet at York Theatre Royal, plays Jane, a fragile but irrepressible woman who hears voices and has paranoid episodes.

Sally Hawkins and David Thewlis in Eternal Beauty

The film’s director, actor turned writer-director Craig Roberts, appeared alongside Hawkins in the independent hit film Submarine, by the way.

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe – Back Together (Captured Live) gives cinema audiences the chance to enjoy the final show of their sold-out tour on screen on October 17 at 7pm and October 18 at 2pm.

The SJT has been awarded the VisitEngland We’re Good To Go industry standard mark, signifying its adherence to Government and public health guidance by introducing comprehensive measures for the safety and comfort of cinema patrons, such as limited capacities and aisle access for every pair of seats booked. Find out more at: https://www.sjt.uk.com/were_back

Cinema tickets at the SJT for films cost £7 (concessions £6; Circle members/NHS/under-30s £5); for Event Cinema, including Captured Live, £12; for live streamings, £17.

To book, go to sjt.uk.com/whatson or call the box office on 01723 370541 (open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings).

The Stephen Joseph Theatre poster for Fright Fest By The Sea

Joseph Rowntree Theatre sets £10,000 target for #SaveOurTheatres crowdfunding

Red alert: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre on the night of #LightItInRed, highlighting the plight of theatres, forced to shut down in March under Covid-19 restrictions

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is joining the national #SaveOurTheatres crowdfunding campaign with a fundraising target of £10,000.

The Haxby Road community theatre is one of the first to sign up for the national scheme launched by the Theatres Trust to support theatres throughout the country. 

The scheme is backed by high- profile names such as actor Jude Law, who is a Theatres Trust ambassador. “Coronavirus has simply devastated our theatre sector,” he says. “Communities across the UK are in real danger of losing their theatres forever and we risk losing a precious part of our culture and heritage.

“Theatres are a vital community hub that bring joy to millions of people each year and we must try to save these theatres for generations to come.”

The JoRo prides itself on being “a strong community hub, a venue run for the community, by the community”. Although unable to play host to live shows since March, trustees and volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes on fundraising, for the £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal, and events planning. 

However, the ongoing closure has necessitated spending savings to keep the theatre going, when these monies originally were earmarked to carry out essential repairs.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees, says: “We are in a stronger position than many theatres. However, our income has been affected significantly by the Covid-19 crisis and we are having to divert funds intended for essential repairs to cover the lost income.

“The crowdfunder campaign is to help support the theatre’s finances until it can reopen fully.”

The crowdfunding page is live at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/josephrowntreetheatre, where various levels of donation are outlined with specified rewards at each level, ranging from a certificate of thanks to a champagne afternoon tea. Tote bags, theatre teddy bears and seat sponsorship are on offer too.

“The comments by supporters already on the page show the high level of esteem in which the community gem is held,” says Dan.

REVIEW: Songs Under Skies, Kitty VR and Boss Caine, NCEM, York, 9/9/2021

Kitty VR: Playing her first gig for seven months at the NCEM churchyard. Picture: Neil Chapman/Unholy Racket

REVIEW: Songs Under Skies, Kitty VR and Boss Caine, National Centre for Early Music churchyard, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York

THE inaugural Songs Under Skies season of open-air acoustic concerts in the NCEM churchyard resumes with Polly Bolton and Henry Parker tomorrow, concluding with Elkyn and Fawn on Thursday (both nights sold out).

Alas the skies were so sodden for the opening night that Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton had to scurry indoors for their show, but the great British weather was on best behaviour for double bill number three, Kitty VR and Boss Caine last Wednesday, co-hosted by the NCEM, The Crescent and the Fulford Arms under the campaigning umbrella of the Music Venues Alliance.

At least a couple of sets of gravestones were not obeying social distancing, but this was a Covid-secure event in every way, from the requirement to sanitise hands on arrival to the one-way system in operation for entering and leaving the NCEM church building (wearing masks when inside too).

Audience members were seated in pods – or perhaps “God pods”, because we were in a churchyard – as a full garden gathered, full of the joy of being able to watch Kitty VR live, rather than in VR in that virtual reality hinterland of Zoom that has substituted stoically in lockdown and beyond.

Gravestones at the NCEM: Standing out from the social-distancing measures at the Songs Under Skies concerts

Kitty nearly came a cropper before the start, falling in an unseen hole as she carried her box of CDs, but thankfully not disappearing like Alice into Wonderland.

Once on stage, Kitty cut a composed, quietly spoken, contemplative figure in familiar  singer-songwriter mode, a la Laura Marling, so much so that her spectral electric guitar would never have said Boo to any passing acoustic music wardens or below-ground churchyard inhabitants for that matter.

In her first concert since lockdown, Kitty introduced new song Wisteria, rhyming that butterfly of short-lived flowers with hysteria, rather than listeria in these pandemic times, unless the Hutch hearing was failing, and revealed a predilection for single-word titles – Dimensions, Whirlpool, Slumber – and single-speed compositions in life’s slow lane.

Closing with an acoustic rendition of Release on a stool, her sunsetting set was the balm before the country, blues and even rockabilly storm of Boss Caine, aka Daniel Lucas, the stalwart sentinel of the York gig scene for so long in his rapscallion role as the city’s grizzled answer to Tom Waits.

Boss Caine and stand-up bassist Paddy Berry playing Songs Under Skies after rehearsing remotely. Picture: Neil Chapman/Unholy Racket

He has been creative in lockdown, writing sleepless nocturnal songs for Bandcamp  premieres and EPs and now airing them live, as darkness descended and lighting picked out the churchyard trees’ frameworks as subtly as watercolours.

“We’re going to be brave and play a completely new set,” said Lucas, who had rehearsed remotely with stand-up bass player Paddy Berry and would now be playing together for the first time. All the more reason to love to this troubadour tornado.

“If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die high,” he sang defiantly…“I could use a little chemical sedation”… “I’ll even put your secret into one of my songs”… “Take me out like a Kennedy”…the memorable lyrics kept a’coming.

“No-one will be offended if I use a Conference League swear word, will they?”, he said, more as a statement, rather than seeking permission. Lucas has always been a master of the banter too.

Kitty VR closes her set by playing an acoustic version of Release, taking to the stool after her guitar strap broke the day before. Picture: Neil Chapman/Unholy Racket

“You keep going for the song,” he reasoned for not caving in to the stultifying impact of Covid-19, before a self-deprecating finale flourish. “This is a song about people having complaints after Boss Caine gigs,” he announced.

Too much that, not enough this, they say. Wrong, wrong, wrong, on all counts. Instead, in his concluding words, Boss Caine will always “Burn on bright, burn on bright again”: York’s torch-bearer for why live music at its best will always be a thrill, a rush, like no other.

Kitty VR, by the way, has contributed a haunted solo rendition of Colour Me In, Phil Grainger and lyricist Alexander Flanagan Wright’s finest composition, to The Mythstape, the North Yorkshire duo’s gradually emerging mixtape of recordings by their favourite artists of songs from their two-hander shows Orpheus, Eurydice and Gods Gods Gods.

The Howl And The Hum’s Sam Griffiths has applied his golden brush to Tumble Down, from Eurydice, now floating high on angel’s wings. Watch this space for news of more Myth making…

…Oh, and Phil, could you please deliver on your sort-of promise to record your own versions too. Make that particular myth come true!

Phil Grainger, left, and Alexander Flanagan Wright: Inviting Kitty PR, Sam Griffiths and fellow favourite singers to record their songs from Orpheus, Eurydice and Gods Gods Gods for The Mythstape. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Gedge pledge launched by York director to fund The Wedding Present musical UPDATED

David Gedge: Creative consultant for a new musical based around his songs for The Wedding Present

DO you have a gift for a Wedding Present project?

To explain, a crowdfunder campaign is being launched to support the creation of a musical based on the songs of David Gedge’s “semi-legendary“ Leeds group and John Peel favourites, The Wedding Present…with “some brand new material” from Gedge too.

The driving force behind Reception, The Wedding Present Musical, is York writer, theatre director and Engine House Theatre artistic director Matt Aston, fresh from mounting this summer’s season of Park Bench Theatre monologues in the Friends Garden at Rowntree Park.

“Reception will be a story of love…loss…break-ups…and breakdowns,” says Matt. “Everything you’d expect, really, from a musical based on the songs of David Gedge.”

Gedge, who turned 60 in April, will be the creative consultant for a show that will incorporate his songs for both The Wedding Present and Cinerama, plus the aforementioned new material, targeting 2022 for a Leeds premiere.

The Gedge pledge crowdfunder campaign “gives fans the opportunity to get involved at the very beginning of an exciting journey – and pick up a bunch of specially commissioned artwork and merchandise, only available here, in doing so”.

Reception is the story of a group of friends from Leeds University who keep in touch over two decades of trials, tribulations, and receptions. Their stories are rooted in Gedge’s songs and the title is inspired by the name of The Wedding Present’s original record label, Reception Records.

Matt Aston: Artistic director of this summer’s Park Bench Theatre season at Rowntree Park, York, now working on a musical play inspired by his favourite band The Wedding Present. Picture: Livy Potter

The idea of doing such a musical has been brewing for writer/director Aston for several years. When he met Tony Ereira, director of the Come Play With Me and Clue Records record labels – where else but at a Wedding Present gig, in Leeds in early 2019 – the concept was batted around still further.

The concept of the play started to take shape, with the documentary nature of Gedge’s candid, darkly humorous song-writing in the never-ending minefield of love and loss, lovers and losers, longing and lost opportunity suited to transferring those anguished stories and their quotidian protagonists onto the stage.

As Gedge himself said in Gigslutz on August 24 2015: “I’m interested in the minutiae of relationships. I like to write about what actually happens, rather than some imaginary situation cloaked in metaphor, hence the references to the everyday, though I have been known to decorate the songs with science fiction or comic book references!”

Aston first saw The Wedding Present at Confettis nightclub in Derby in 1988. “So, you could say this musical is over 30 years in the making,” he says. “I’ll always be grateful to my older brother and his mates for taking his little 15-year-old brother to his first ever gig. I got a T-shirt, a set of badges and a nosebleed. Not to mention a new favourite band.”

How come Aston suffered a nosebleed? “I remember standing there, when the support band were on, and everyone was being very polite…and then…The Wedding Present came on and there was this huge surge. That’s when I got the nosebleed!” he recalls.

Gedge’s songs “really struck a chord” in Aston’s teenage days. “They are those difficult 15 to 19 years, and his lyrics really connected with me; his songs have stuck with me ever since. They’re just good songs – they’ve never got the recognition they deserve. They’re down-to-earth stories of love gone wrong and they’ve been there for me in both good times and dark times.”

Writer-director Matt Aston in a Wedding Present T-shirt – not the one from 32 years ago! – in rehearsals with actor Chris Hannon for Park Bench Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s First Love. Picture: Northedge Photography

Aston elaborates on their suitability for a musical play: “I’ve always felt there was something very theatrical about David’s songs. The storytelling, the arrangements, the anguish,” he says. “And, as proven with Cinerama’s 2012 re-recording of The Wedding Present’s Valentina album, they have the flexibility to be arranged in a number of different, epic and dramatic ways. Although the show will, of course, still have plenty of fast guitars too!”

Attending a Cinerama concert five years ago affirmed that conviction. “They did this gig with a 15-piece orchestra and I thought, ‘these are musical theatre songs’; that’s what will work on stage,” says Matt. “‘The show will connect with fans, but people who are not Wedding Present fans will connect with the songs too, making for a good show, a new musical story rather than a typical jukebox musical’.”

Aston and Ereira put the idea to Gedge, along with an early synopsis for the story, and never one to shy away from a new medium to present his work, Gedge was equally excited to explore the idea further.

“With this crowdfunder campaign, we are looking to raise initial funding to get a first draft of the script written, some artwork and branding in place, and to start preparing for a period of research and development in early 2021 to road test our ideas – Covid-19 permitting – with a group of actors/musicians and some brand new material from David,” says Matt.

“Once I get down to writing the script in full, it will become clear whether and where new songs may be required. When we met up, David he said he’d be happy to get writing for the show, and it will be exciting to have new David Gedge work in there.”

Aston anticipates working on the script over the next six months. “There’s just huge potential for this show,” he enthuses. “The intention is to be in a position to premiere the musical in Leeds in 2022 and then do a small tour after that, hopefully taking it to Brighton, where David now lives.

“This crowdfunding campaign is a chance for fans to get involved from the beginning with a bunch of rewards that are all exclusive to this production, including specially commissioned artwork from Lee Thacker,  illustrator of David’s autobiography, Tales From The Wedding Present.”

To support the project, go to: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/reception-the-musical

Khorsandi and Moorhouse confirmed for Your Place Comedy live-streamed gig

At the double: Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi confirmed for Your Place Comedy home service for laughter

SHAPPI Khorsandi and Justin Moorhouse will perform live from their living rooms in the fifth instalment of Your Place Comedy streamed gigs on September 27.

Their digital double bill will be the penultimate free show for the virtual comedy project,  originally set up in lockdown to deliver live entertainment into the home from national touring acts who might ordinarily be taking to the stages of theatres and arts centres in Yorkshire and the Humber.

2017 I’m A CelebrityGet Me Out Of Here! contestant, author and BBC 1 Question Time panellist Khorsandi, 47, has appeared frequently on Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, QI and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, as well as BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends, Just A Minute and The Now Show. She is the daughter of Iranian political satirist and poet Hadi Khorsandi, by the way.

Manchester United fan Moorhouse, 50, played Man City-supporting Young Kenny in both series of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights on Channel 4, won Celebrity Mastermind and is a frequent panellist on BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz and a familiar voice on TalkSport and BBC 5Live’s Fighting Talk.

As you watch from the socially distanced comfort of your home, regular Your Place Comedy compere Tom FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge, will introduce the September 27 acts from 8pm.

Humour-plated: Shappi Khorsandi dresses to fight for the right to tell jokes

The live-stream will be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch, but with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. All money raised will be distributed equally among the ten supporting venues, none of whom has had an opportunity to derive any meaningful income from live performances since closing in the middle of March.

Set in motion by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones, who runs the programming for both Selby Town Hall and Otley Courthouse, Your Place Comedy brings together the ten small, independent venues to provide a way to present performers while their doors remain closed and the future of the industry looks uncertain.

Taking part too in the project are The Ropewalk, Barton-upon-Humber; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres. Between them all, they have pledged funds to support the performers in the six shows.

Chris says: “With social distancing regulations preventing the vast majority of theatres and arts centres from operating at a profit, or in many cases even opening at all, and with no light at the end of the tunnel, venues across our region continue to look at more innovative ways of connecting with their much-missed audiences and providing work for the artists who have lost so much as a result of the pandemic crisis.

“Justin and Shappi are two of the most consistently funny and highly respected live acts on the circuit today, with nearly 50 years’ performance experience between them.

“They are perfect guests for the show format, which really provides a rather different comedy experience from that of a raucous, sold-out theatre gig. They are personal, intimate, conversational affairs…and completely free to watch. There really is no excuse not to tune in!”

News….Just in…..Moorhouse will play Your Place Comedy gig on September 27

Chris has confirmed the next Your Place Comedy show will be the last “in the current format”. “Despite a feeling of stasis – we’ve not had a live gig at Selby Town Hall since March 14 – the world has really been moving at a dizzying rate in terms of innovation in the performing arts,” he reasons.

“The current model has served us well during lockdown, but I think while audiences have been bombarded with new and exciting offerings that might offer a glimpse of the future, they are, at the same time, looking ever more longingly towards those ultimately irreplaceable live experiences they have been denied for so long.

“We need to regroup and consider how we continue delivering content with that in mind.”

Chris forewarns: “We’re keen to stress that, despite the return of schools and calls to re-populate offices, it is far from business as usual for venues or performers, and we still need the support of our much-loved audiences.

“Live activity to any meaningful degree inside venues is all but non-existent and an entire cultural ecosystem remains very much under threat.”

For full details on September 27’s Your Place Comedy and on how to watch the Khorsandi and Moorhouse double bill, go to: yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

That joke isn’t Terribly Funny anymore for Jimmy Carr…well, not until next May

Carr trouble: Jimmy Carr must now wait until May 2021 to play York Barbican after Coronavirus ruled out next month’s show

COVID-19 has put paid to the Jimmy Carr: Terribly Funny gig at the still-closed York Barbican on October 25.

The deadpan Isleworth comic and panel-show host’s postponed 8pm show has been moved to May 2 2021 with tickets still valid for the new date.

In Terribly Funny, Carr will discuss terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love.

“But they’re just jokes – they are not the terrible things,” says the 48-year-old host of Channel 4’s The Friday Night Project and 8 Out Of 10 Cats. “Having political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.” 

Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Gerry Judah’s Indian-inspired Four Elements sculptures go on show at Dalby Forest

Rob Herdman, arts co-ordinator for Forestry England, hanging one of the framed drawings in Gerry Judah’s Bengal exhibition at the Courtyard, Dalby Forest. Pictures: Tony Bartholomew

SCULPTURES by Gerry Judah go on show from tomorrow in the Courtyard at Dalby Forest, near Pickering, in his solo show Bengal: The Four Elements.

Known for his monumental Central Feature car sculptures at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed for the past two decades, he will show pieces inspired by his childhood in India until October 31.

Built over nearly a decade and originally commissioned by Arts Council England, who fund Dalby Forest’s arts programme, Judah’s Bengal body of work comprises five sculptures, shown alongside his framed drawings.

One of Gerry Judah’s exhibits at the Courtyard, Dalby Forest

Visually forceful and sensitively crafted, Judah’s works poetically engage with prescient concerns over climate change in India while exploring the artist’s personal history. Drawing on essential natural elements in his detailed sculptures, Judah “constructs the intangible” as clouds shift, waves splash and smoke rises.

Petra Young, Forestry England’s funding and development manager for the Yorkshire Forest District, says: “We’re thrilled to host this exhibition, last seen at Grizedale Forest [in the Lake District]. It brings together a significant body of work that has been developed by Gerry Judah since returning to India in 2013.

“Visitors to the gallery will gain insight into a sculptor’s process, from thinking through ideas and forms through drawing to the production of beautifully crafted sculptures.

Man at work: Rob Herdman walks through Gerry Judah’s Bengal exhibition with a drill in his hand

“A common theme is the rickshaws from which each response to the individual elements flow as the artist brings together his childhood memories and thoughts on climate change into dynamic drawings and fascinating forms.”

Work from the Bengal series has been exhibited at the High Commission of India, in London, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery, while other Judah works are on permanent display at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and international sculpture parks.

Judah was born in Calcutta – now Kolkata – in 1951 and grew up there before his family moved to London when he was ten. As a boy, the dramatic landscapes of India and the ornate architecture of its temples, mosques and synagogues, with their theatrical rituals, had a profound effect on his developing psyche. These elements would resurface in his own later work.

Taking shape: Rob Herdman putting the finishing touches to mounting Gerry Judah’s exhibition in readiness for tomorrow’s opening

The austerity of post-war London was a shock to the young boy, who chose to spend as much time as possible in his bedroom conjuring up, with pencils and paper, imaginary landscapes, architectural fantasies and futuristic cars, leading him to want to become an artist.

Judah gained a double first-class honours degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and studied sculpture as a postgraduate at the Slade School of Fine Art. He was taken with the public nature of this work and decided to find settings for his own art in more public arenas than the rarefied spaces of conventional galleries.

He has created work for the BBC, the British Museum, the Museum of Mankind, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Tolerance, as well as for such musicians as Paul McCartney, the late Michael Jackson, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, The Who .

Shadow play: One of Gerry Judah’s Four Elements sculptures at the Courtyard

Judah was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to create a large model of the selection ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau for the Holocaust Exhibition opened by The Queen.

His work has been exhibited by the Saatchi Gallery, London; the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield; Camden Arts Centre; the David Roberts Foundation; the Royal Institute of British Architects; Cass Sculpture Foundation, the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, and the Louis Blouin Foundation. In 2014, his two monumental sculptures commemorating the First World War were placed on permanent display in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Gerry Judah’s Bengal: The Four Elements exhibition at Dalby Forest is free to enter and is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm.

Uninvited Guests invite you to join Love Letters Straight From Your Heart via Zoom

Uninvited Guests in Love Letters Straight From Your Heart. Picture: Bewley Jonathan

UNINVITED Guests bring a “completely digital, wholly personal and wonderfully live experience” to the reopened Stephen Joseph Theatre, in Scarborough, this autumn.

Responding to “our desire for connection in an age of distance”, the Bristol company and Fuel co-present Love Letters Straight From Your Heart in very different performances for Zoom viewing on October 1 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

For each show, Love Letters Straight From Your Heart “invites the audience’s words to the stage, where they are given a new shape, look you straight in the eye and offer to dance with everyone in the [Zoom] room”.

In their signature performance style, Uninvited Guests blur distinctions between theatre and social gatherings, creating a performance from the audience’s song dedications and the stories attached to them. Those song dedications and stories are contributed by the audience in advance; details will be given at the time of booking a ticket.

“Every show is unique to its audience: their memories, their current and past loves or friendships, their emotions, laid bare for everyone to witness, acknowledge and support,” says Uninvited Guests’ director, Paul Clarke. “Dedications are spoken, toasts are made, speeches are given, songs are sung and dances are danced on your behalf and with you.”

As an antidote to isolation, you are invited to join Uninvited Guests online via Zoom as they raise their glasses to long-lost loves and latest lovers, to mums and dads, and to absent friends.

Performed by Jessica Hoffman and Richard Dufty, Love Letters Straight From Your Heart was originally a BAC Scratch and Arnolfini We Live Here commission, later commissioned by Leeds Met Studio Theatre too. Now, the digital performance has been co-commissioned by First Art.

Only 45 tickets will be sold for each show on October 1 “in order to maintain the intimacy and warm atmosphere of the performance”. However, any number of audience members can sit at each screen – within the rule of six, presumably – to watch the 60 to 75-minute show.

Tickets cost £10 at sjt.uk.com/whatson or on 01723 370541. The SJT box office is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings.

York Theatre Royal goes on neighbourhood watch for three Travelling Pantomimes UPDATED

Not just Josh: York comic and magician Josh Benson and Patricia the cow team up to to go on the road with the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Anthony Robling

CINDERELLA, you shall not go to the ball, because no pantomime will run at York Theatre Royal this Christmas. There will, however, be three Theatre Royal pantomimes this winter instead. Yes, three.

Rather than the traditional transformation scene of pumpkin and mice into carriage and horses, this Covid-enforced conversion will be a switch from the still-shut St Leonard’s Place building to the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime.

In tandem with new pantomime partners Evolution Productions, this pop-up enterprise will take the Theatre Royal on the road to every neighbourhood in York – all 21 wards – during December and January.

Each location, ranging from community halls to social clubs and sports centres, will be Covid-secure, adhering to Government guidance for staging socially distanced performances with capacities ranging from 35 to 50, and at each show, the audience members can vote for whether they want to see Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk or Aladdin.

The Travelling Pantomime retains the previously announced Cinderella triumvirate of Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird, who oversaw the breaking of the chain from 41 years of Dame Berwick Kaler pantomimes, associate director Juliet Forster as director and award-winning Evolution director and producer Paul Hendy as the writer, who will pen three scripts with York references aplenty.

“We believe that Evolution are the most exciting pantomime company in the country right now,” says York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird

Their first big signing is the pocket-sized bundle of York energy Josh Benson, magician, children’s entertainer, actor and Corntroller of Entertainment at York Maze, who had signed up for a further two years as the daft-lad comedy turn in the Halifax Victoria Theatre pantomime after his debut in Beauty And The Beast last winter.

Once confirmed that Victoria devotees would not be amused by Jack And The Beanstalk this winter, however, Josh was available to play his home city, and fresh from performing his Just Josh magic show at the Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival, he quickly came on board for the panto road show.

‘I’m so chuffed to be able to play a part keeping York’s panto tradition alive, in a year where it feels like the majority of traditions have pretty much gone out the window,” says Benson. “What’s really special for me personally is the ‘full circle’ that’s happened, having actually started my professional career with York Theatre Royal, aged ten, in their 2007 panto Sinbad The Sailor.

“It’ll be so great to be back home for Christmas this year, finding a way to spread some panto joy amongst the current craziness.” 

Details of venues, performance times and further casting – possibly a cast of five, but more likely four, local actors – will be released in the coming weeks.

A sign of the panto times: Josh Benson prepares to travel all over York in December and January

Tom Bird, who has experience of mounting travelling shows when executive producer at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, says: “Our Travelling Pantomime will be a rip-roaring Christmas treat for the whole family. Audiences can expect hilarity and chaos, music and magic as our amazing actors visit every corner of York.

“It’s called the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime because it does exactly what it says on the tin and will travel to every York neighbourhood. It’ll be a small-scale show with a cast of four or five, where we’ll do whatever we need to do to meet the Government guidance at that time.

“We want it to be this generous offer to each community, where the audience gets to choose between three pantomimes, which gives scope for even more comedy. It’s quite a challenge for the designer [yet to be confirmed], having to design a set for three shows, but still having to taking the audience into another world.”

Bird is delighted that the Travelling Pantomime will still mark the debut of the new Theatre Royal and Evolution partnership. “We believe that Evolution are the most exciting pantomime company in the country right now: they won the Best Panto award again [for750 to 1,500-seat theatres] for Cinderella at Sheffield Lyceum in the 2020 Great British Pantomime Awards,” he says.

“Their pantomimes are dynamic, they’re electric, they’re funny and fabulous, and they’re not snooty, and Evolution are a belting company. I remain convinced that we’ll have one of the best pantomimes in the country when we do Cinderella in 2021 and, in the meantime, we have this exciting opportunity this winter.

Pantomime partnership: York Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster and executive director Tom Bird with Evolution Productions producer Paul Hendy

“It’s great that Paul is writing the three scripts: his writing for pantomimes is graceful and funny and his shows are not blue, just good fun, and they’ll have a local flavour too.”

Bird is quick to stress that the Travelling Pantomime shows should not be seen as a Covid-necessitated compromise. “It’s a massive logistical enterprise, taking a show to all 21 York wards,” he says.  “I have a history of doing shows like this, taking small-scale projects around the world for Shakespeare’s Globe.

“It really does give a project an artistic energy when you face logistical challenges, like we are in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Taking the Travelling Pantomime into the York communities is very direct, I hope it’s very democratic and it acknowledges the virus because there may be people that might not want to go into town on a bus but will go round the corner from their home to see a show.”

Bird is delighted to have snapped up the comedic, mischievous nuttiness of Josh Benson. “We’re very excited to have Josh in the show. When we saw him on the patio doing his Just Josh show, we thought, ‘this is exactly what we need’. He’s warm, he’s very engaging, he’s local and he’s loved by people in York, and he’ll help to shape the shows.

“I would really love to be involved in suggesting ‘how about this or how about that?’ for the shows,” says Josh Benson, as full of beans as ever

“It’s also important, coming out of the old panto into the new era, that we should make our pantomime a show for families and Josh helps us to do that.”

Looking forward to leading the Theatre Royal pantomime in his home city, Benson says: “It’s been said of me, ‘if you turn Josh upside down, it says ‘Made In York’, and it’ll be lovely to be in York this winter because I don’t really want to be anywhere else in this strange year.

“I’d signed for one year for the Victoria Theatre panto in Halifax and they then offered me for four more in the comic role, effectively taking over from Neil Hurst, who’d done it for five years before me, and I said, ‘let me do another two’, but when Jack And The Beanstalk had to be postponed, the Travelling Pantomime feels a lovely thing to be able to do and a real  honour too.

“It’s nice to be part of a new beginning for the Theatre Royal pantomime, which I think will be great. What’s good for me is that I can dip my toe in a York panto and they can do the same with me.”

He believes it is important to spread his talent wherever possible when still on a learning curve at 22. “This summer aside, I usually do the whole season at York Maze, so you could have too much of a good thing if I do the winter season as well in panto, doing the same jokes and routines!” he reasons. “I’m very much playing the long game, working up to going to the Edinburgh Fringe with a solo show.”

Benson will have to learn not one, but three pantomime scripts. “But that’s a hugely exciting thing to be doing: a choice of three shows each performance. Tom [Bird] did that at the Globe too, and what’s clever about it is that it’ll have a rough-and ready-feel to it, like a village-hall panto, but as Tom has said, it’ll still be a York Theatre Royal panto, with the award-winning Paul Hendy writing it.

“His writing for pantomimes is graceful and funny and his shows are not blue, just good fun, and they’ll have a local flavour too,” says Tom Bird of Paul Hendy’s award-winning pantomimes

“As a pop-up panto, you can open it in that rough-and-ready style, in a conversational tone, so it’s different from the very start, with me going out there as Josh, just like with the kids’ parties I do, jumping up on stage and just talking, whereas normally with a panto in a theatre, the audience are looking at the stage, thinking, ‘Go on, impress me’.”

Doing three shows throws up extra comedic possibilities too for the comic turn with the potential for daft-lad confusion. “I love the idea that I can go, ‘Right, Dick…Jack…I mean, Aladdin’, so suddenly you’re doing that ‘times three’ thing,” he says.

Benson is restlessly creative – he had written and prepared a drive-in show for York Maze, should owner “Farmer Tom” Pearcy have decided to re-open his attraction this summer post-lockdown – and so he will not merely be turning up to rehearsals for the Travelling Pantomime.

“I would really love to be involved in suggesting ‘how about this or how about that?’ for the shows, so I’m going to meet Juliet [director Juliet Forster] in September to talk about  it,” he says.

In the meantime, he will keep busy with children’s party magic shows in gardens – whatever the “Rule of Six” permits – after a multitude of lockdown shows on Zoom and Facebook.

Tickets for York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will go on sale in November. Oh, and Cinderella, you shall still go to the ball, the glittering party merely postponed from 2020/2021 to 2021/2022.

The box-office team will be in touch with ticket holders with the option of moving tickets to next year, cancelling the booking or donating some or all of ticket cost to York Theatre Royal. Ticket holders are being asked NOT to contact the box office, whose reduced team will contact them as quickly as possible in coming weeks.

Joshing around: Josh Benson in his Just Josh magic and balloon show

Just Josh? Just who is Josh Benson? Let him introduce himself:

“HAVING not conventionally trained in anything, 22-year-old ‘Josh of All Trades, Master of None’ is winging his way through the entertainment industry. But don’t tell his mum…she thinks he’s at university studying for a proper job!

As an actor, Josh’s credits include playing Little Ernie in the award-winning BBC Morecambe and Wise biopic Eric & Ernie; being hit by a car in BBC1’s Casualtyand a cameo in Monroefor ITV. He played Tommo in Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls musical The Girls from 2015 to 2017, both in the world premiere at Leeds Grand Theatre and The Lowry, Salford, and at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End. 

A huge part of Josh’s work is at York Maze, where he is the Corntroller of Entertainments – genuine job title – for the summer season. There, he writes, manages and co-hosts three live-action experiences: a stage show, tractor trailer ride and pig racing. This role has sprung from Josh being a professional children’s and family entertainer for the past seven years, having proudly entertained at hundreds of children’s parties and events, on cruises and in shows.

He is a professional close-up/stage magician and comedian, having performed four seasons of The Good Old Daysat Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, later taking his act down to the Big Smoke for Players Music Hall and the Cockney Sing-Alongat Charing Cross Theatre and Brick Lane Music Hall respectively. 

Eric and Little Ernie: Josh Benson in sunshine-bringing dance mode alongside a statue of Eric Morecambe when he landed the role of young Ernie Wise in the BBC’s Eric & Ernie in 2010

As a “grown-up”entertainer, Josh last year debuted his first one-man cabaret evening, It’s Not The Joshua Benson Show/Josh Of All Trades, a two-act show of all his “pointless yet entertaining” skills. This show tours the UK constantly, “whenever it can fit in between everything else”!

In pantomime, Josh’s career began in 2007, at the tender age of ten, among the babbies and bairns in York Theatre Royal’s Sinbad The Sailor. He was lucky enough to more festive fun in 2008 for Dick Turpin and in 2011 returned to York Theatre Royal as John Darling in Peter Pan,part of the In The Round summer season. 

Christmas 2018 saw Josh’s panto comic debut as Buttons in Cinderellaat the Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield, and last year he took over as comic at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, for Beauty And The Beast.

He was due to return there this year for Jack And The Beanstalk, now postponed until 2021. He is delighted – and feels incredibly lucky! – to have been offered the fantastic alternative of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime for the winter season.” 

Opera North and Leeds Playhouse unite for October season of Connecting Voices

Testament: Leeds rapper, writer and beatboxer commissioned for new piece for Connecting Voices. Picture: Anthony Robling

OPERA North and Leeds Playhouse are collaborating on a celebration of the power and expressiveness of the human voice that will bring audiences back into the Quarry Hill theatre next month for the first time since the March lockdown.

They will co-produce Connecting Voices: six new and existing 40-minute pieces of live performance staged safely and Covid-securely in four areas of the Playhouse, played over three weekends in October, fusing classic and contemporary theatre on themes of isolation and connection, resilience and reflection 

Leeds rapper, writer and world record-holding beatboxer Testament has been commissioned to explore the power of the solo voice within a communal space and the relationship between performer and audience, while freelance artists Matthew Eberhardt and Khadijah Ibrahiim will be devising new work together with musicians, poets, actors and young people 

Running from October 2 to 17, Connecting Voices will mark the reopening of Leeds Playhouse six months after lockdown began by “partnering with the wider arts industry to find new and innovative ways of reintroducing audiences to live theatre, in a safe and secure environment, contributing to the life and vibrancy of the Leeds city region”.

Orpheus In The Record Store, written by Testament and directedby Aletta Collins, will fuse spoken word and beatboxing with players from the Orchestra of Opera North in a collaboration in the Quarry Theatre that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.

“I’m so excited to be back at Leeds Playhouse with Opera North, especially after this turbulent period,” says Testament. “To be commissioned to create a new piece of work is a massive honour.

“The Playhouse was one of the first organisations to take a chance on me as a theatre maker and it feels like home; their help and support has been invaluable to my growth as an artist.  And only last year I got to work with Opera North as an artist on their Resonance programme, which opened my eyes to new possibilities as a composer.”

Looking forward to live performances returning to Leeds Playhouse, Testament says: “There is much to say and share right now, and I passionately believe theatre has an almost spiritual role in making the direction we wish to go in as a society tangible.

“I can’t wait to be back in front of an actual audience – being together enjoying worlds that we make together in those moments of live connection.”

Khadijah Ibrahiim: Writing and directing Reflections: Dead And Wake for Connecting Voices

What can next month’s audiences expect? “Right now, I’m in the lab creating, pushing buttons, and I’ve got something planned as a beatboxer that has never been like this way before,” says Testament. “I am also super-excited about connecting with Opera North musicians:  we are planning to take the crowd on an epic journey with music, spoken word and live theatre.”

Playing alongside Orpheus In The Record Store will be topical re-awakenings of two pieces from 1958 that present characters isolated from others and struggling to connect again through technology.

The first is Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s monologue Krapp’s Last Tape, to be performed by Niall Buggy in the Bramall Rock Void, directed by Dominic Hill.  This will be counterpointed by Francis Poulenc’sshort opera La Voix Humaine, performed by Opera North soprano Gillene Butterfield in the Barber Studio, directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Sameena Hussain.

In the Courtyard Theatre, each of the three weekends will see a different and newly devised piece of work from Leeds spoken-word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim and two pieces by freelance director Matthew Eberhardt, whose credits include Opera North’s Street Scene.

They will work  with singers, actors, young people and musicians, including classically-trained singer Keertan Kaur Rehal, Amy J Payne and stalwart Playhouse actor Robert Pickavance, to create contemporary responses to the themes of remembrance, collaboration and the act of storytelling.

James Brining, artistic director at Leeds Playhouse, says: “Re-opening the Playhouse after six months of enforced closure and being separated from each other has made us value even more than before the act of live performance and what that means. 

“Our beautifully refurbished building provides us with many opportunities to safely welcome audiences and artists back into the Playhouse.  Connecting Voices is a carefully curated programme exploring isolation and connection, resilience and reflection, as well as the relationship between performer and audience member in a shared space.”

Brining is delighted to be working once again with Leeds company Opera North. “We’re pooling our resources to help the city of Leeds to get back on its feet and bring joyous and powerful communal shared experiences back to the lives of its citizens,” he says. 

“As we head into our 50th year at this challenging time, it’s vital that we reconnect with audiences and communities and collaborate with bold and diverse voices from across the region. We can’t wait to welcome back artists and participants into the building safely to create and experience live theatre once again.”

“We can’t wait to welcome back artists and participants into the building safely to create and experience live theatre once again,” says Leeds Playhouse artistic director James Brining

Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, says: “Connecting Voices is a compelling exploration of the power of the human voice and the profound desire to establish meaningful ties out of experiences of isolation and loss.

“We are delighted that we are able to begin the process of welcoming audiences safely back to live performance through this collection of work in partnership with Leeds Playhouse.

“Connecting Voices brings together voices spoken and sung from across the city and wider region, and we are especially thrilled to be collaborating with such a diverse and talented group of freelance artists, singers, musicians, poets and directors who all share artistic ties to both Opera North and to Leeds Playhouse.

“Now, more than ever, it is apparent how strongly intertwined the artistic and cultural community in our region is, and how important collaboration will be in ensuring a vibrant future for the arts and audiences across the city.”

Please note, in line with Government guidelines, audiences will be of limited capacity with social distancing and temperature checking will be conducted too. Tickets will go on sale to Leeds Playhouse’s Supporters’ Club, Playhouse Pass holders and Opera North Patrons from Monday, September 14 and on general sale from 12 noon on Tuesday at leedsplayhouse.org.uk and on 0113 213 7700.

Connecting Voices: the full programme

Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett, directed by Dominic Hill

A 69-year-old man listens to the voice of his 39-year-old self. Looking back on his loves, failures and losses, Krapp rewinds through his life with humour and heartache. A classic Beckett play, both punchy and personal.

Performances: October 2, 9 and 16, 8pm; October 3, 10 and 17, 3.30pm and 8pm,
Bramall Rock Void, Leeds Playhouse.

Humour and heartache: Niall Buggy in Krapp’s Last Tape. Picture: Robert Workman

La Voix Humaine, by Francis Poulenc, directed by Sameena Hussain

A devastating short opera exploring the pain and fear of rejection in the rawest fashion. Through the lone voice of the woman, Poulenc expresses the full range of human emotion with a score of caressing warmth and intimacy. This powerful one-woman performance will be sung in English.

Performances: October 2, 9 and 16, 6pm, and October 3, 10 and 17, 1.30pm and 6pm, Barber Studio, Leeds Playhouse.

Orpheus In The Record Store, by Testament, directed by Aletta Collins

Orpheus is alone, playing tunes in his record shop. When an old friend arrives, music and stories collide as the ancient and contemporary merge. Testament takes inspiration from the classical Greek myth in a show that fuses spoken word and beatboxing with classical music from the Orchestra of Opera North.

Performances: October 2, 9 and 16, 9pm, and October 3, 10 and 17, 4.30pm and 9pm, Quarry Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

Reflections: Dead And Wake, written and directed by Khadijah Ibrahiim

Experience a Jamaican “Nine Night” with literary activist and theatre maker Khadijah Ibrahiim. This thought-provoking performance explores Caribbean rituals around death through poetry, music and ghost [duppy] stories, featuring turntablist DJ NikNak and Paulette Morris. The event also includes performers from the Sunday Practise with their creative response to living through the last six months.

Performances: October 16, 7pm and October 17, 2.30pm and 7pm, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

Reflections on La Voix Humaine, directed by Matthew Eberhardt

Take your seat on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre, look out into the auditorium and witness actors and musicians explore themes of isolation and connection, of resilience and reflection, through words both spoken and sung. This is a contemporary reflection on Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine and can be enjoyed either alongside the original piece or independently.

Performances: October 2 at 7pm and October 3 at 2.30pm and 7pm, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

Reflections on Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Matthew Eberhardt

Relish the power and expression of the solo voice from the stage of the Courtyard Theatre in this celebration of the return of live performance. An actor and a musician collaborate, filling the auditorium with words and music that reflect upon the themes of Samuel Beckett’s monologue Krapp’s Last Tape.

Performances: October 9 at 7pm and October 10 at 3.30pm and 7pm, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

The running time for each Connecting Voices performance is 40 minutes.

Crowdfunder appeal launched by York director for The Wedding Present musical

David Gedge: Creative consultant for a new musical based around his songs for The Wedding Present

DO you have a gift for a Wedding Present project?

To explain, a crowdfunder campaign is being launched to support the creation of a musical based on the songs of David Gedge’s “semi-legendary“ Leeds group and John Peel favourites, The Wedding Present…with “some brand new material” from Gedge too.

The driving force behind Reception, The Wedding Present Musical, is York writer, theatre director and Engine House Theatre artistic director Matt Aston, fresh from mounting this summer’s season of Park Bench Theatre monologues in the Friends Garden at Rowntree Park.

Gedge, who turned 60 in April, will be the creative consultant for a show that will incorporate his songs for both The Wedding Present and Cinerama, plus the aforementioned new material, targeting 2022 for a Leeds premiere.

The crowdfunder campaign “gives fans the opportunity to get involved at the very beginning of an exciting journey – and pick up a bunch of specially commissioned artwork and merchandise, only available here, in doing so”.

Matt Aston: Artistic director of this summer’s Park Bench Theatre season at Rowntree Park, York, now working on a musical play inspired by his favourite band The Wedding Present. Picture: Livy Potter

Reception is the story of a group of friends from Leeds University who keep in touch over two decades of trials, tribulations, and receptions. Their stories are rooted in Gedge’s songs and the title is inspired by the name of The Wedding Present’s original record label, Reception Records.

The idea of doing such a musical has been brewing for writer/director Aston for several years. When he met Tony Ereira, director of the Come Play With Me and Clue Records record labels – where else but at a Wedding Present gig, in Leeds in early 2019 – the concept was batted around still futher.

The concept of the play started to take shape, with the documentary nature of Gedge’s candid, darkly humorous song-writing in the never-ending minefield of love and loss, lovers and losers, longing and lost opportunity suited to transferring those anguished stories and their quotidian protagonists on to the stage.

As Gedge himself said in Gigslutz on August 24 2015: “I’m interested in the minutiae of relationships. I like to write about what actually happens, rather than some imaginary situation cloaked in metaphor, hence the references to the everyday, though I have been known to decorate the songs with science fiction or comic book references!”

“I first saw The Wedding Present in Derby in 1988, so you could say this musical is over 30 years in the making,” says Matt. “I’ll always be grateful to my older brother and his mates for taking his little 15-year-old brother to his first ever gig.

Writer-director Matt Aston in a Wedding Present T-shirt in rehearsals with actor Chris Hannon for Park Bench Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s First Love. Picture: Northedge Photography

“I got a T-shirt, a set of badges and a nosebleed. Not to mention a new favourite band. I’ve always felt there was something very theatrical about David’s songs. The storytelling, the arrangements, the anguish.

“And, as proven with Cinerama’s re-recording of The Wedding Present’s Valentina album, they have the flexibility to be arranged in a number of different, epic and dramatic ways. Although the show will, of course, still have plenty of fast guitars too!”

Aston and Ereira put the idea to Gedge, along with an early synopsis for the story, and, never one to shy away from a new medium to present his work, Gedge was equally excited to explore the idea further.

“With this crowdfunder campaign, we are looking to raise initial funding to get a first draft of the script written, some artwork and branding in place, and to start preparing for a period of research and development in early 2021 to road test our ideas – Covid-19 permitting – with a group of actors/musicians and some brand new material from David,” says Matt.

“The intention is to be in a position to premiere the musical in Leeds in 2022  – and this campaign is a chance for fans to get involved from the beginning with a bunch of rewards that are all exclusive to this production, including specially commissioned artwork from Lee Thacker,  illustrator of David’s autobiography, Tales From The Wedding Present.”

To support the project, go to: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/reception-the-musical

More Things To Do in and around York and at home, as opposed to a “social gathering” for the joy of six. List No 14, from The Press

Helen Wilson in a damned spot of Scottish bother in York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity churchyard, Goodramgate, York. Picture: John Saunders

MUSICAL theatre in a park, drag cabaret at a sports club, Shakespeare sonnets and songs in churchyards, high-speed film action at an airfield and chamber music online catch Charles Hutchinson’s eye

Graveyard smash of the week: York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets, Holy Trinity churchyard, Goodramgate, York, until Saturday

WHEN York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth bit the dust in March, put on hold by the Covid lockdown, York’s purveyors of Shakespeare’s Sonnet Walks decided to stage a sit-down, but not as an act of protest.

Director Mick Taylor and producer Maurice Crichton hatched a plan to present assorted familiar Shakespeare characters, brought into the modern world, to reflect on the pandemic with an accompanying sonnet.

Holy Trinity’s churchyard, with its five park benches, tree shelter and mown grass, provides an ideal socially distanced open-air setting. Bring a rug, cushion, camp chair, flask and biscuits, suggests Maurice, to performances at 5.45pm and 7pm, plus 4.15pm on Saturday.

Polly Bolton: Sharing a double bill with Henry Parker in the NCEM churchyard

Double bills in another churchyard: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, tonight, September 16 and 17

SONGS Under Skies brings together the National Centre for Early Music, The Crescent, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance for an open-air series of acoustic concerts.

The opening night with Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton on September 2 was driven inside by the rain. Fingers crossed for more clement conditions for Wolf Solent and Rosalind tonight, Polly Bolton and Henry Parker on September 16 and Elkyn and Fawn the following night.

Gates will open at 6.30pm for each 7pm start; acts will perform either side of a 30-minute interval with a finishing time of 8.30pm. 

The Bev Jones Music Company in a socially distanced rehearsal for Sunday’s show at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre

Musical theatre showcase part one: Bev Jones Music Company, Strictly Live In The Park, Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, Sunday, 3pm.

THE Bev Jones Music Company stage a full-sized musical theatre concert with more than 20 socially distanced singers and a five-piece band on Sunday afternoon.

Strictly Live In The Park promises a “spectacular show for all the family, with popular show music, pop music, dance and comedy”, under the musical direction of John Atkin with choreography by Claire Pulpher.

Expect numbers from Adele to Robbie Williams, Cabaret to Hairspray, Mack & Mabel to South Pacific, The Full Monty to Chess, Miss Saigon to the finale, Les Miserables, all arranged by the late company driving force Bev Jones. Also expect temperature tests on arrival.

Conor Mellor in York Stage Musicals’ first show at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York. He will be back for the second one too. Picture: Jess Main

Musical theatre showcase part two: York Stage Musicals present Jukebox Divas, Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, September 18 to 20, 7pm

AFTER the sold-out three-night run of York Stage Musicals’ first ever outdoor show last month, producer/director Nik Briggs and musical director Jessica Douglas return to their Rowntree Park psychedelic igloo to stage Jukebox Divas.

Jessica’s band line-up has changed, so too has the singing sextet, with Conor Mellor from the debut show being joined by Dan Conway, Sophie Hammond, Grace Lancaster and Eleanor Leaper.

“With music from We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia! and more modern releases like + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, audiences will be entertained for 90 minutes with vocal tributes to artists such as Elvis Presley, Queen, Meat Loaf, Katy Perry, Carole King and many more,” says Nik.

Baby Driver: one of the films with high-speed thrills to be screened at AA Getaway Drive-in Cinema at Elvington Airfield

Car experience of next week: AA Getaway Drive-in Cinema, Elvington Airfield, near York, September 18 to 20

AFTER Daisy Duke’s Drive-in Cinema on Knavesmire, now comes a celebration of high-speed thrills and derring-do skills at Elvington Airfield…on screen, courtesy of AA Getaway Drive-in Cinema.

Tickets have sold out already for the September 19 screenings of James Gunn’s 2014 space chase, Guardians Of The Galaxy (12A), at 2.30pm and James Mangold’s 2019 Ford v Ferrari race-track clash, Le Mans 66 (12), at 7.30pm.

Bookings can still be made, however, for Guardians Of The Galaxy on September 18 at 2.30pm and September 20 at 7.30pm and Edgar Wright’s 2017 getaway-car heist thriller, Baby Driver (15), September 18, 7.30pm, and September 20, 2.30pm.

No more kitchen-sink dramas for Velma Celli as York’s drag diva deluxe swaps live-streaming for the great outdoors in Acomb tomorrow

Stepping out of her Bishopthorpe kitchen into the York open air: Velma Celli: An Evening Of Song, York RI Community Sports Club, New Lane, Acomb, tomorrow, 8pm.

AFTER a spring and summer of concerts live-streamed from home, York drag diva Velma Celli takes to the outdoor stage at a sports club.

“The show will be a mixed bag of whatever I fancy on the day – pop, rock, impressions and some musical theatre obviously – and of course requests online. Message me on Facebook,” advises Velma.

Very special guests are promised: definitely York soul powerhouse Jessica Steel will be among them.

Tim Lowe: York Chamber Music Festival artistic director and cellist

Festival of the month: York Chamber Music Festival, September 18 to 20

THE 2020 York Chamber Music Festival is going online to live-stream three concerts from the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, in a celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Festival artistic director and cellist Lowe will be performing with Simon Blendis and Charlotte Scott, violins; Matthew Jones, violin and viola; Jon Thorne, viola, and Katya Apekisheva, piano. For full details on the programme and on how to watch the concerts, go to ycmf.co.uk.

Strictly between us: Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice’s tour poster for Him & Me next summer at the Grand Opera House, York

One for the 2021 diary: Anton & Giovanni, Him & Me, Grand Opera House, York, July 12

STRICTLY Come Dancing staples Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice will link up for their debut tour together, Him & Me, next year.

Details are sketchy, but the dapper Sevenoaks ballroom king and the Italian stallion say: “This show promises to be the best night out in the Summer of 2021 for all ages…A true dance extravaganza!”

Anton and Giovanni will be joined by a “world-class cast” of dancers and singers for a show produced by Strictly Theatre Co and directed by Alan Burkitt.

And what about…?

A visit to the reopened Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre exhibition in Blossom Street, York. Malton Harvest Food Festival on Saturday. New Light Prize Exhibition, with more than 100 artists, opening at Scarborough Art Gallery on September 19. York Walking Festival, running or, rather, walking until Sunday (details at iTravel York website).

Jon, by Laura Quin Harris, at the New Light Prize Exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery

The future of folk is here as Joshua Burnell travels to Mars on portentous new album

“On this album, I’m tapping into that terrible looming dread of what could go on in the future,” says Joshua Burnell. Pictures: Elly Lucas

THERE is no time like the present for Joshua Burnell’s new album: the place where a retro past meets a bold other-worldly future.

Newly released through Proper Music, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep finds the York multi-instrumentalist returning to writing his own songs.

“The last two records, 2018’s Songs From The Seasons and  last year’s The Road To Horn Fair, were traditional, so that was cheating!” says Joshua, winner of the Rising Star accolade in the 2020 Folking Awards.

“Certainly it’s been a big liberation to go back to my own song-writing for the first time since Into The Green [his 2016 fantasy epic].”

His website introduces his work as “folk-fused baroque’n’roll”. Some call it prog-folk with leanings to contemporary classical and vintage pop-rock too. His press release talks of Joshua “seemingly having his own musical time machine”, giving him the ability to teleport listeners between music’s yesterdays and tomorrows.

This is the moment for us to ask questions,” says Joshua

Or no more tomorrows, given his concern for our future. “On this album, I’m tapping into that terrible looming dread of what could go on in the future. There’s a doomsday feeling to some of the songs,” says Joshua.

“What’s going on now, with the pandemic, is a taster. What we’re going through is nature’s way of saying this is what you deserve, you horrible lot. But climate change ultimately is the bigger concern.”

In the transportation ballad Look At Us Now, Joshua imagines a future where we live on Mars in a tale combining folklore, climate change and space travel dreamer Elon Musk. “Definitely science fiction, yes, but science fiction is only science fiction until someone invents it for real,” he says.

“An uninhabitable Earth is something we can foresee, so while that song is sci-fi, with elements of doom and gloom thrown in, this is the moment for us to ask questions.

“What are we doing? Where are we going…when we take pleasure from all the delights of the 21st century that are a wonderful distraction from what’s happening?

“We’ve gone for a folky Bowie look, a folky, darker Aladdin Sane,” says Joshua, explaining Elly Lucas’s photographic portfolio for promoting his new album

“The problem comes down to economic greed. With all these advances, we wouldn’t be going there unless there was something to be made from it.”

Does Joshua consider himself to be a soothsayer? “There’s a romantic aspect to it, but folk singers have often talked about now and warned about the future; folk musicians are almost like political activists,” he says.

“But unlike politicians, folk musicians have the advantage of sitting on the sidelines, being able to be more daring in what they say, which fulfils the same role as punk music did.”

Equally adept on Hammond organ, acoustic guitar, accordion, mellotron, synths and a Steinway grand piano, Joshua’s boundary-pushing musicianship spans layered theatrical soundscapes and starker arrangements.

“What I’m trying to do is tell stories and take people somewhere else, taking them from the here and now, sometimes with a moral tale,” says Joshua, who was born in the Haute-Savoie in France but now lives, writes music and teaches in York.

“Folk singers have often talked about now and warned about the future,” says Joshua

“A lot of that comes from Tolkien…because so much of his work includes his own folk songs. Those stories are not fantasy rubbish. They’re giving people messages, but he didn’t want them to be allegorical. You can take something into the real world from them, or you can see them just as stories.

“From my teenage years, I adopted that as my ethos as a storyteller, where there’s something deeper there if you want to find it.”

Finished only two days before lockdown, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep is timely…and NOT all doom and gloom. “The songs were all inspired by people, past and present, and explore humankind’s remarkable ability to find beauty, even in the hardest of times,” he says.

Should you be wondering, the album title came from a story on the Family Ghosts podcast wherein a Japanese-American woman, interned in an American concentration camp during the Second World War, recalled how the prisoners, forced to live in stables, grew flowers to bring beauty into the ugly reality of their days.

Mumbai husband-and-wife artists Hari & Deepti’s papercut artwork for Joshua Burnell’s album cover

Beauty extends to the papercut album cover by Mumbai husband-and-wife artists Hari & Deepti, whose imagery plays out in the song Run To Me, recounting a surreal experience when Joshua and partner Fe [vocalist Frances Sladen] explored a ruined fortress near Harewood House, only to be approached by men carrying guns.

They took to their heels. “As we were running, a deer leapt out of the undergrowth and for one gloriously fairy-tale moment locked eyes with me and ran alongside us,” says Joshua.

Flowers Where The Horses Sleep is broad-ranging. Joan Of The Greenwood is a traditional folk song pastiche so authentic, you would swear it must come from a dusty old folk songbook.

Let Me Fall Down evokes Berlin’s decadent Kit Kat Club in its burlesque account of greed, while the Steinway on the album-closing Two Stars recalls the cabaret piano on David Bowie’s Hunky Dory album.

“What we’re going through is nature’s way of saying this is what you deserve, you horrible lot,” suggests Joshua.

Yet Flowers Where The Horses Sleep also marks a progression in Joshua not over-elaborating in any of his song structures. “I used to throw everything into the mix, but now, knowing when a song is finished has been a case of deciding what is enough,” he says.

“I’ve been trying to do a lot more of stripping it back for a song to have more space…though I still love those prog-rock elements with multiple textures!”

Combining artwork from Mumbai with recording in England and mastering at Stirling Sound in New York, not to mention the video for stand-out track Le Fay being made in New York too, the creation of the album spans three continents, such are the possibilities of our technological age. “I must go for four continents next time!” says Joshua.

The promotional imagery carries a closer-to-home Yorkshire stamp:  the Sixties polo neck and make-up were fashioned by photographer Elly Lucas at Light Space Leeds. “We’ve gone for a folky Bowie look, a folky, darker Aladdin Sane,” says Joshua. “She works in a very hipster space and has become the go-to photographer of the folk scene, working with The Unthanks, Eliza Carthy and Martin Carthy, and I loved how she used black curtains, yellow light and dividing panels and did all the make-up herself.”

Inevitably his autumn tour with his six-piece band has been postponed until the spring, when Pocklington Arts Centre, among others, awaits. In the meantime, invest in Flowers Where The Horses Sleep: Joshua Burnell in full bloom.

Judy Burnett and Lynne Porter take to the coast for autumn show at Morten Gallery

York artist Judy Burnett with her painting Looking Towards Bempton

JUDY Burnett and Lynne Porter are to hold a joint exhibition at Jenny Morten’s bright new gallery in the Old Town, Bridlington.

International ceramicist Jenny has opened the Morten Gallery in the High Street after returning from working and teaching in California.

Running there from September 19 to October 31 will be Judy and Lynne’s show of new works entitled Bridlington And The Wolds: Through The Artist’s Eye. Both artists will be at the Saturday launch between 1pm and 4pm to discuss their work.

York artist Judy, a regular participant in York Open Studios at her home studio by the River Ouse in New Walk, has loved studying the Yorkshire coastline since her student days in Hull.

Every vacation, she worked at a restaurant perched on the cliff edge at North Landing, Flamborough, and latterly she has been re-visiting these favourite cliff-top areas.

“Flamborough Head has a magical quality, and I constantly attempt to capture the majesty of the monumental cliffs and the huge expanses of sea and sky in my paintings,” says Judy.

“The white cliffs take on different tones in the changing light and the grasses on the cliff tops move in the wind as the waves roll below.”

In her paintings, rapid mark-making is balanced with areas of flat colour and textured surfaces, aiming to keep the work fresh and spontaneous while echoing the power of the elements.

On The Edge Of Understanding, acrylic on wood, by Lynne Porter, at the Morten Gallery, Bridlington

Just south of Flamborough Head lies Bridlington, a seaside town with “a totally different atmospheric quality,” Judy says. “The wide-open golden beaches of the two Bridlington bays appear to be endless when the tide recedes; the wide vistas of sand, sea and sky contrast with the busy visual activity of boats in the harbour,” she notes.

Judy’s work begins with observational sketchbook studies on-site and is developed in her York studio with acrylic paints and hand-printed paper collage. “The resulting mixed-media paintings reflect the transient effects of the ever-changing weather, from hazy mists to brilliant sunshine,” she says.

Fellow exhibitor Lynne Porter, who lives on the Yorkshire coast, is a mixed-media artist who works in oils, acrylics, charcoal and collage.

Her paintings are rooted in her meditative experience of studying the woods, hills and valleys of the Wolds, as well as the coastline.

“My work concerns my interaction with the landscape,” she says. “I’m inspired by the coast and countryside and I love to experiment, being particularly driven by texture and colour.

“I work on location, going out into the landscape and making loose, painterly sketches, using all my senses to get the right expressive feel.”

Once back in the studio, Lynne’s intuition takes over as she tears selected areas out of the sketches to set the making of her abstract paintings in motion.

“These are pasted into sketchbooks. I may then add collage and/or mark making to these,” she says. “The results inspire the paintings and, I hope, capture that ‘sense of place’.”. 

Meanwhile, Jenny has opened an annexe to her gallery to display the entire archive of her late husband, artist Geoff Morten. More than 1,000 works are on show, ranging from large canvasses to small paintings, etchings to monoprints.

Ceramicist Barry Stedman’s terracotta vessels go on show at Pyramid Gallery

One of Barry Stedman’s terracotta vessels from his new collection at Pyramid Gallery, York

CERAMICIST Barry Stedman is completing a hat trick of exhibitions at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

On show are 12 distinctive constructed terracotta vessels, complemented by a few from the gallery’s own collection.

“All are available for purchase from our website, pyramidgallery.com, but we would not want to distract anyone from coming to the gallery to see them on display,” says owner Terry Brett. “The gallery is open with restrictions to one or two groups at a time.”

Ceramicist Barry Stedman: Explores contrasts of light and shade, hard and soft, warm and cool, rough and smooth

Stedman’s studio in his Buckinghamshire home is “the place where clay, colour and ideas come together”. “My intention is to use the vessel forms that I make, loosely thrown and altered on the wheel or constructed from slabs, as vehicles to explore contrasts of light and shade, hard and soft, warm and cool, rough and smooth,” he says.

“I’m interested in the way edges meet and overlap and the rhythms, tensions and harmonies created between colours, spaces, lines and textures in form and surface.”

Stedman tends to work in series influenced by natural phenomena, places and emotions, developing ideas from drawing, painting and previous firings. “I like the warmth and brightness of earthenware, using slip, oxides and underglazes over a red clay body,” he says.

“The surfaces are created in layers, firing in between, using thin washes, wiping back and building up rich zones of colour. I then glaze chosen areas to add further depth, tone and texture.”

One of a dozen: Another vessel from Barry Stedman’s latest Pyramid Gallery collection

Stedman came to ceramics later in life after a career in retail. “I’ve always been interested in drawing and mark making and when I discovered ceramics at evening class, I was seduced by the possibilities of clay as a way of expressing abstract ideas of colour and form,” he says.

“I completed an HND in 3D design at Barnfield College, Luton, and was lucky enough to be accepted on the ceramics degree course at the University of Westminster in Harrow.  It’s here that I was encouraged to really explore and develop my ideas.

“I now have work in various galleries in the UK and abroad and have taken part in many ceramic shows and exhibitions, and I’ve done some teaching and technician work too.”

Barry Stedman: Ceramic Vessels will run until the end of October and is open from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday.

Pocklington Arts Centre boosted by £4,100 funding for autumn digital theatre project

“The project will see both Pocklington Arts Centre and its audience members, new and old, go on a journey as it evolves the way it presents its artistic output,” says venue manager Janet Farmer

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has been awarded a £4,100 grant from East Yorkshire’s I Am Fund for a digital theatre project this autumn.

The Market Place venue, with its track record for presenting high-quality children’s theatre and workshops, will work with Hull company Magic Carpet Theatre and DigiFish Film & Animation to stage two online family theatre productions with accompanying online workshops and social-media content.

Magic Carpet specialise in circus skills, magic and audience participation and have a long-standing relationship with Pocklington Arts Centre, having staged numerous sold-out events there.

The new productions and follow-up content will be made free with optional donations, removing any economic barriers from children and families accessing the resources.

Venue director Janet Farmer says: “The funding will enable us to have an enhanced online presence for families and young people, open up new programming opportunities for Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) and will allow us to support venue staff, alongside regional artists and creative partners, in these difficult times.

“The project will see both PAC and its audience members, new and old, go on a journey as it evolves the way it presents its artistic output. The long-term aim is to see sustained arts engagement, during the closure/Covid period and beyond, from younger generations and increased attendance at PAC events.

“We are extremely grateful to the I Am Fund and Smile Foundation for their support on this application and we look forward to delivering a highly successful programme of events.”

The I Am Fund was established with funding from the will of the late Audrey Mosey, an East Riding resident with a passion for the arts. The fund is part of the Hull and East Yorkshire Smile Foundation, which, alongside the fund committee that includes Pocklington resident Andrew Bowden, aims to support performers and inspire future stars, while also helping East Riding residents to benefit from what the performing arts have to offer.

Andrew Barber, chief executive officer of Smile, says: “This is one of many grants that are being invested into the arts community across East Yorkshire. We recognise the value that venues such as the Pocklington Arts Centre have to play in supporting and inspiring young people to connect, participate and perform in the arts.

“The committee, led by friends of Audrey, with the support of Smile, look forward to hearing how the funding makes a difference in Pocklington and surrounding areas.”

Katie Melua cancels November 7 gig at York Barbican as Covid scuppers autumn tour

Katie Melua: Tour cancelled. Picture: Tetesh Ka

KATIE Melua has called off her 45-date autumn tour, scuppering her York Barbican return on November 7.

Her official statement reads: “Due to the current Coronavirus outbreak and the Government measures implemented to limit its spread, Katie Melua’s October & November 2020 shows have been cancelled. Customers will be given a refund on their ticket purchase from their ticket agent.”

Melua adds: “I’m sad that we can’t play for you this year. When all this is over, I promise we’ll have an amazing time. K x.”

Georgian-born Melua had earlier announced the October 16 release of Album No. 8 – yes, her does-what-it-says-on-the-tin eighth studio album.

The accompanying tour was put in place last November in days of innocence before Covid re-wrote the rules of human engagement, but that does not stop the delivery of Melua’s “most cohesive and assured recording to date after a prolonged period of musical rediscovery” at 35.

Billed as her most personal yet, her lyrics “attempt to reconcile the knotty complexities of real-life love to its fairytale counterpart, as Melua draws from the vernacular of folk songs to evoke a sense of magic-hour wonder mirrored by string arrangements whose depth and movement evoke Charles Stepney’s work with Rotary Connection and Ramsey Lewis”.

On her first studio set since 2016’s In Winter the full track listing will be: A Love Like That; English Manner; Leaving The Mountain; Joy; Voices In The Night; Maybe I Dreamt It; Heading Home; Your Longing Is Gone; Airtime and Remind Me To Forget.

Already doing the rounds is first single A Love Like That, a cinematic exploration of love, with lyrics by Melua, production by Leo Abrahams and a cast of musicians that embraces  drummer Emre Ramazanoglu, flautist Jack Pinter and the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Katie Melua’s cover artwork for Album No.8

The video is the first in a series of collaborations between Melua and director Charlie Lightening, who has worked previously with Paul McCartney, Liam Gallagher and Kasabian. Joining Melua on screen is Star Wars, Dunkirk and MotherFatherSon actor Billy Howle.

“I’m really proud of the video,” says Katie. “I loved working with Charlie Lightening. We had lots of talks about how to make it a meaningful work and deal with the new limits on filming. We went with just me and Billy Howle on screen, we tried to show with subtle gestures and nuances the truth of love in its early stages. Hopefully, everyone can enjoy watching it.”

Charlie says: “It was so nice to collaborate with Katie on this project. We talked through the idea at length and honed what we wanted to achieve. It’s always so good when the artist has a strong idea of where the visual needs to go.

“It meant we could create a character and figure out this narrative journey that you go on throughout the film. The music is so cinematic so to create this film has been so rewarding. Everything just came together perfectly in the end.”

Katie says of the writing process for A Love Like That: “This song is asking the essential timeless question about mad love, ‘How do you make a love like that last?’ But before it became about love between a couple, it started its life centred on my relationship with work and the stamina required to keep being an artist in the music industry.

“It was only after my co-composer Sam Dixon and I wrapped our session that I retreated to a cottage in the Cotswolds for three weeks to wrestle with the song’s lyrics. A Love Like That continues a narrative that is across the new album.  And in the context of love, it’s about having the courage to speak openly and freely.”

Producer Leo Abrahams picks recording the orchestra in Tbilisi with Katie as his highlight. “The arrangement is written to convey the protagonist’s changing state of mind throughout the song: from turbulent to calm, sentimental to defiant. Technically, this was probably the simplest arrangement on the record but we had to do almost 20 takes of the tremolando introduction to get the right amount of aggression but with an elegant resolution. The players seemed to enjoy it.” 

Melua last played York Barbican in December 2018, when she was joined by the Gori Women’s Choir.

REVIEW: Sit-down Sonnets 2020, York Shakespeare Project, until Saturday

Helen Wilson dons the tartan and the Scottish accent for Sit-down Sonnets. All pctures: John Saunders

York Shakespeare Project, Sit-down Sonnets, Holy Trinity churchyard, Goodramgate, York, until September 12, 5.45pm and 7pm daily, plus 4.15pm on Saturday. Box office: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

YORK Shakespeare Project’s last production was Antony And Cleopatra in October 2019, leaving only two to complete the 20-year cycle of presenting all of his plays.

Next up should have been Macbeth, but sure enough, if anything could de-rail the stately progress to the finishing post, it would have to be the Scottish play, the one afeared by the theatre world at large.

Lo and behold, its curse struck again, only a week to go to opening night for Leo Doulton’s production, when the Covid-19 lockdown put a stop to everything. Who knows when to expect the return of the Mac, but in the meantime YSP keeps busy with Zoom play readings each month, under the guise of the Quarantine Players, and now with the Sit-down Sonnets, a variation on YSP’s Sonnet Walks around York.

If the hat fits: Mick Liversidge

The Churches Conservation Trust is keen for Holy Trinity to play host to more outdoor performances amid its gravestones, mown grass, five benches and trees, and tucked away from the Goodramgate shoppers, it is a delightful haven for theatre or music.

YSP has frequented the churchyard previously, as a stopping point to deliver a Sonnet Walk, but now comes a full-scale 45-minute production to a seated audience,  spread out with social distancing in “ten social bubbles or 20 souls, whichever maximum we reach first”.

Producer Maurice Crichton’s invitation to review came with a covering note and a request: “As always we think part of the delight of live theatre is surprise,” he wrote, and he is right on that score, along with his advice to bring a rug, a cushion, a camp chair, maybe a flask and a packet of biscuits.

“The conceit of this show is that it is a selection of Shakespeare’s characters in the present day paired with a sonnet. I wonder which character will be next? I wonder which character would be dressed like that? I wonder which sonnet this character is going to have? Who is [YSP founder] Frank Brogan playing this time?

Where there’s a Will: Margaret Hillier

“These are questions we want to be a part of the show. For that reason, we are holding back our [printed] ‘programme’ to the end. It’s a memento that confirms what the audience has seen, not a spoiler of what they are about to see. 

“Our polite request is that you don’t spoil everything by publishing everything we have.”

Your reviewer could not have put it better than the ever-eloquent former solicitor Mr Crichton, m’lud. Covid-19 has done so much spoiling already in 2020 that another killjoy would not be appropriate.

Suffice to say, director Mick Taylor, bearing a rod as if he were Prospero, guides the audience into the fast-flowing performance of ten sonnets, pointing out how Shakespeare himself was blighted by pandemics, with theatres being closed for more than six years between 1603 and 1613.

He makes way for 11 YSP luminaries to take on the guise of familiar Shakespeare characters but now in a modern context, be they a grave digger or a nurse, as they reflect on lockdown, isolation, masks, social distancing and the NHS.

Mick Taylor looks on as Emily Hansen performs her Sit-down Sonnet

The shadow of Covid hangs heavy over their apposite sonnet choices: ‘mourn’ ‘fever’ ‘absent in the spring’ and ‘epitaph’ all leap out from the titles, but so do ‘summer’s day’ and ‘love’ and, in turn, a love of theatre. Sadness, resilience and grave humour sit side by side as resonance and relevance abound in this pandemic-blighted contemporary context.

How else could Mick Taylor end but with Puck’s epilogue, If We Shadows Have Offended, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the very play that would suit a Holy Trinity churchyard staging.

In deference to the YSP request, I shall remain muzzled – an alternative to the de rigueur mask worn by Shakespeare on the show poster and programme cover – as to who each actor plays, but step forward for a closing burst of applause: Di Starr, Emily Hansen, Emilie Knight, a tartaned Helen Wilson, Mick Liversidge, Frank Brogan, Phyllis Carson-Smith, Nigel Evans, Sue Harris, Judith Ireland and Margaret Hillier, Will quill in hand.

The rest is silenced.

York Shakespeare Project’s poster for Sit-down Sonnets: note the Bard’s on-trend mask and trainers

Velma Celli, drag glamour, cabaret song, diva drama… and a rugby club in Acomb

Velma Celli: Game for a laugh and a song at York RI Rugby Union Football Club in Acomb on Friday night

YORK drag diva Velma Celli is signing up for a rugby club in her home city.

Velma, the cabaret creation of West End and international musical actor, singer and dancer Ian Stroughair, will play at York RI Rugby Union Football Club, in New Lane, Acomb on Friday night after a spring and summer of lockdown shows live-streamed from Ian’s Bishopthorpe kitchen.

In the wake of such online diva delights from Case de Velma Celli as Large & Lit In Lockdown, Equinox, Me And My Divas and A Night At The Musicals, here comes An Evening Of Song, live in the Acomb open air.

“Bring your bubble, chairs and campness to York RI Club, New Lane for a spectacular outdoor evening of music and laughs beneath the stars,” says the club website. “Joining Velma will be some of Yorks greatest vocal talents!”

Here, Charles Hutchinson asks Ian/Velma to stretch out on the psychiatrist’s sofa for a spot of quick-thinking self-analysis and more besides.

What did you learn about yourself in lockdown?

“That I wasn’t spending enough time at home.”

Were there good things to being back in York, quarantining after your Australian shows in your home city, rather than in the Big Smoke?

“Goodness, yes. It’s just such a beautiful place and people are lovely.”

What were the best aspects of doing shows online?

“Learning how to do it well. A new skill, it was tricky, but we got there.”

What were the worst aspects?

“Learning how to do it well. A new skill, it was tricky, but we got there.”

“Lovely people there and I grew up in Acomb, so it just feels right,” says Velma Celli/Ian Stroughair, looking forward to Friday’s show

Is there long-term potential for online shows, given that not everyone can get down to London…or even to The Basement, at City Screen, your regular York haunt?

“Yes, I think it will continue to bridge the gap well into 2021. Theatre and the like are going to be baby-stepping it for a long time, so online can keep us all entertained: something we have all learned we need so much in our lives.”

How did you feel to be performing to a live audience again in person at Proud Cabaret All Stars in London last Friday and Saturday? What have you missed most?

“It was AWESOME! I will never forget it. The atmosphere was incredible. It was at a stunning venue on Embankment…it’s HUGE! I’ve missed it all but mostly the cast. The energy and, of course, the audience. 

You’re playing a rugby club in York on a Friday night…that’s brave! Discuss!

“Someone suggested there and I went down and met the lovely Caroline [Knight] and I was sold. LOVELY people there and I grew up in Acomb, so it just feels right.” 

What will feature in An Evening Of Song…the title would suggest a show that can go anywhere, span any genre, climb every musical mountain?

“HA! Yes, it will be a mixed bag of whatever I fancy on the day and of course requests online. Message me on Facebook, peeps!

“Pop, rock, impressions and some musical theatre (obvs).”

Did Lockdown give you a chance to experiment anew with the powder and paint?

“I didn’t. I only wear make-up for the show and I enjoyed the break. It takes forever!”

If anyone is heading down to London on October 8, what can they look forward to in That Drag Show, “an evening of debauched fun and fabulosity at London’s newest drag revue show”, with you, Karla Bear and Portia at the Proud Cabaret City? 

“The triple threats, sent from the Gods. The girls are AWESOME! Really talented folks, so the place might explode.”

Triple threats: Velma Celli and That Drag Show co-stars Karla Bear and Portia

Who are Karla Bear and Portia? What do they each specialise in?

“Karla is an Ozzie import and she wasted no time making a stamp on the UK drag scene, appearing in Kinky Boots in the West End within weeks of arriving.

“She was in the Australian cast of Wicked. She won Drag Idol UK, was the closing act at London LGBT Pride in 2019 and is the girl next door you don’t want your daddy to meet! 

Portia is a West End legend and made an infamous splash into Soho when she originated the role of Young Bernadette in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert at The Palace Theatre and also in La Cage Aux Folles. She’s one of London’s most sought-after hosts and has more legz than a bucket of chicken.”

What is the impact on the live drag scene of this sudden burst of TV shows – the latest being Canada’s Drag Race on BBC Three – for drag addicts needing their glamorous fix?

“Drag is hugely popular now, which must be a good thing.”

Velma Celli: An Evening Of Song, with special guest Jessica Steel, York RI Rugby Union Football Club, New Lane, Acomb, September 11, 8pm, doors 7pm. Tickets: from £16.50 at https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-an-york-ri-rugby-union-football-tickets/10685505

“Please get your tickets in advance of the day as we need to organise tables cos of good ole Covid,” says Velma. “Get those [song] requests in darlings at https://www.facebook.com/VelmaCelliCabaret/

Velma Celli, Karla Bear and Portia in That Drag Show, Proud Cabaret City, Mark Lane, London, EC3R 7AH, October 8, 8pm, doors 7pm. Tickets: £20 to £50 at https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/that-drag-show-proud-cabaret-city-tickets/10698715

Velma Celli’s poster for Friday’s show with A Night To Remember favourite Jessica Steel as a special guest

Shed Seven LIVE? Not this summer, alas, but on a new album out in December, yes

Shed Seven’s artwork to announce their December 4 live album, Another Night, Another Town

SHED Seven are to release a live album on December 4 after a frustrating summer of Covid-cancelled gigs.

Specially curated by the York Britpop luminaries and available exclusively through the Sheds’ store, Another Night, Another Town “captures their dynamic live performances and anthemic songs over 21 songs”.

As trailed on the shedseven.com website, Shed followers can pick up a limited-edition coloured gatefold vinyl edition, a special double CD set, a 180g heavyweight triple vinyl version and a download, plus a selection of new merchandise.

From this week, you can pre-order a signed copy to download album opener Room In My House and Ocean Pie now.

“A few words” from frontman Rick Witter accompany the announcement: “When it became clear virtually no live events would be taking place this year and with no Shedcember [December tour] to look forward to, we thought it was a good time to go through recordings from our 2019 [Shedcember] tour and 2018 Castlefield Bowl show [in Manchester] to curate the best live album we could.

“From 10,000 people singing along to Chasing Rainbows at Leeds Arena to playing the classic outro of I Am The Resurrection in the home of the Stone Roses, this 21-track album features the best from our live shows over the last couple of years.”

The live album has been mixed by Chris Sheldon, who produced the Sheds’ 1996 album A Maximum High and 1999 single Disco Down (whose lyrics have been raided for the ‘Another Night, Another Town’ title).

Taking it sitting down: Shed Seven have been left with a blank summer gig diary in Covid-19 2020

“We’re delighted with the results, which we think are as close as we can get to capturing the Shed Seven live experience on record,” continues Rick, 47. “We haven’t released a live album since we returned as a five-piece in 2007 and we certainly haven’t released one as good as this!

“We hope this album provides just a little bit of the live experience we’re all missing before we return in 2021.”

Another Night, Another Town will be Shed Seven’s fifth “live” album after Where Have You Been Tonight? Live, in 2003; Live At The BBC, in 2007; See Youse At The Barras: Live In Concert, 2009, and Live At Leeds 2007, digital download only, in 2009.

The track listing will be: Room In My House; Mark; Where Have You Been Tonight?; People Will Talk; Devil In Your Shoes; Butterfly On A Wheel; She Left Me On Friday/I Am The Resurrection; Better Days; On Standby; It’s Not Easy; Getting Better; Enemies And Friends; Ocean Pie; Dolphin; High Hopes; Disco Down; Bully Boy; Going For Gold; Parallel Lines; Invincible and Chasing Rainbows.

The Sheds should have been playing in the open air at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on September  19, but as with this summer’s post-racing concert at Doncaster Racecourse on August 15, preceded by Witter and guitarist Paul Banks’s acoustic set at Pocklington Arts Centre’s Platform Festival at The Old Station on July 11, Covid-19 intervened.

However, Shed Seven’s diary for outdoor engagements in 2021 is taking shape: Don 21 Music Live, Doncaster Racecourse, May 15; Neighbourhood Festival, London, May 29; Isle of Wight Festival, Newport, June 18; The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26; Corbridge Festival, July 3; Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Beaufort, July 31, and Watchet Music Festival, Somerset, August 29.

Meanwhile, The Piece Hall has added Nile Rodgers & Chic to next summer’s concert list, booked in for June 18 with Liverpool soul singer Rebecca Ferguson as the support act. Tickets will go on sale at 10am on Friday at www.seetickets.com and www.lunatickets.co.uk

Prize exhibition to shed New Light on northern artists at Scarborough Art Gallery

Day Dreamer, by Abigail Rooney, one of the works selected for the New Light Prize Exhibition, as are all those featured below

IN its tenth year, the New Light Prize Exhibition will open at Scarborough Art Gallery on September 19 for its biggest show yet.

Work by more than 100 contemporary northern artists will be on show until January 17 2021, their artwork ranging from “the hyper-real to the purely abstract” across a range of media by artists at all stages of their career.

Rebekah Tadd, New Light’s development director, says: “We’re delighted by the positive reception to the 2020 New Light Prize Exhibition. It’s one of the few open art competitions able to continue this year due to its predominantly online nature and the collaboration of our partner galleries.

Seeing, by Linnett Rubaya

“With over 2,000 entries, the judges had a tremendous challenge. Their shortlist features 125 artworks from 105 of the most talented artists in the UK, making this our biggest exhibition ever and giving a unique insight into contemporary northern art.”

Against the backdrop of the Coronavirus pandemic presenting “huge challenges and hardships to the whole of the UK and particular challenges for the art world”, Rebekah says: “We’re very fortunate that Scarborough Art Gallery was the first gallery in the country to devise a Covid-secure visitor experience, enabling us to open the exhibition to the public while operating within Government guidelines.

“In order to make the exhibition available to those unable to attend the gallery in person, we’re working to ensure that we share as much as possible through online sources.

Salmon Fishing On London Bridge, by Norman Long

“We aim to enhance visitor enjoyment by providing as much information as possible about the artists and their work to enable them to make informed decisions if they wish to purchase art work.”  

Simon Hedges, head of curation, collections and exhibitions at Scarborough Museums Trust, says: “This brilliant exhibition will showcase a wide range of media and styles from a diverse range of artists at all stages of their career. The very essence of the North shines through the unique qualities of our region’s artists and the physical as well as notional spaces they occupy.” 

The New Light Prize Exhibition is open to artists who were born, live or have studied in one of the historic counties of the North of England (Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmorland, County Durham and Northumberland).

Jon, by Laura Quin Harris

Shortlisting took place over the summer, with a panel comprising printmaker and artist Anne Desmet, RA Magazine editor Sam Phillips, Huddersfield Art Gallery curator Grant Scanlan and New Light chair Annette Petchey. 

Annette says: “The calibre of work being produced by the region’s artists has, once again, underlined the wealth of talent the North of England attracts and nurtures. While the very high standard made the judging task incredibly difficult, it also affirmed the rationale for the New Light Prize.”

The competition winners will be announced at a private view on September 18. Prizes include the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award, open to all artists over 18 with a connection to the North of England, and the £2,500 Patron’s Choice Award, presented that night.

KIng And Queen, by Andrew Tyzack

After its Scarborough launch show, the New Light Prize Exhibition will move on to Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle and The Bankside Gallery in London. 

Established in 2010, New Light not only celebrates and promotes well-known and emerging artists by offering awards and opportunities with the biennial open exhibition, but also runs New Light Art For All, an education programme that combines talks, workshops and school projects.

Behind The Doll Paint, by Catherine McDiarmid

In addition, the New Light Collection will be launched next spring with the aim of making the best northern visual arts available to more people by loaning pieces free of charge to public bodies and charities.

“The common thread through everything New Light does is a deep belief that the visual arts matter and the North of England deserves to be celebrated,” says Annette. “New Light is run by a dedicated group of people who are passionate about the visual arts in the north. It relies entirely on donations and sponsorship.”

For more information on New Light, go to: newlight-art.org.uk

Galgo, by Sarah Gooder

Call-out for York artists to take part in UNESCO media arts global exhibition

Digital arts high point in York: Jason Bruges Studio’s light installation at York Minster for Illuminating York in October 2016

YORK artists are invited to take part in a global exhibition online on the theme of Human Responsibility.

York is one of ten UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts working together to create five artworks, made collaboratively by ten artists working in pairs across the world.

Artists in Austin (Texas, United States), Braga (Portugal), Calí (Colombia), Changsha (China), Guadalajara (México), Karlsruhe (Germany), Kosice (Slovakia), Sapporo (Japan) and York (UK) will present their work online from November 24 to 29.

The works will feature in York Mediale 2020 and Kosice’s Art & Tech Days Festival too.

The selected York artist will receive an award of £1,000; the runner-up, £300. A further £1,200 will be available to support the costs of production and presentation of all five works in York.

Chris Brown: Clerk to York’s Guild of Media Arts

Applicants are invited from any creative field, including core media arts technologies, although they need to undertake online collaboration and to create work that can be distributed and consumed via digital media.

They must have a demonstrable connection to York, such as living or working in the city or membership of the Guild of Media Arts.

A panel representing Mediale, the Guild and York Creatives will select the artist to represent York.

Chris Bailey, clerk to York’s Guild of Media Arts says: “It’s great to be able to put York in the spotlight as one of the pioneer cities in media arts. We are delighted to be part of this global opportunity for artists from diverse cultures to work together to make innovative art about these huge questions that face us all.”

More details are available from Chris by emailing clerk@guildofmediaarts.com.

Only One Question for…York Stage Musicals’producer and director Nik Briggs

Chairing the event: Richard Upton in a moment of high drama in York Stage Musicals At Rowntree Park in August. Picture: Jess Main

SHOULD theatre companies be more adventurous, like you, and crack on with finding ways of getting out there and performing, despite Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s caution over when theatres can reopen fully, Nik?

“AS long as people are being sensible, following the guidelines and keeping safe, then, yes, of course people should be pushing forward! It’s not easy, there is a hell of a lot of risk, but it’s certainly worth it.

“People can go sit in restaurants and bars, so I really dont see why, with social distancing and if it’s financially viable, we shouldn’t be producing?

“If any city can produce work in these weird times, it’s York, where we have a strong history of successfully mixing professional and community casts. Damien Cruden really led the way with this in the city, when he was artistic director at York Theatre Royal, and in fact was the inspiration for the way I have ran York Stage over the past seven years.

“There really is enough professional talent locally to make it work in some way, as shown by our Rowntree Park concerts, York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio series and Engine House Theatre’s Park Bench Theatre shows!

“My biggest fear for the future, though, is that we are going to be sat with our larger venues sitting empty and artists all around the city desperate to work.” 

York Stage Musicals present Jukebox Divas at Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, September 18 to 20, 7pm. Box office: www.yorkstagemusicals.com

Elvington Airfield to turn into drive-in cinema for AA Getaway’s high-speed thrills

Baby Driver: Car thrills movie at Elvington Airfield as part of AA Getaway Drive-In Cinema programme

THE new AA Getaway Drive-In Cinema will park up at Elvington Airfield, near York, from September 18 to 20, with the now customary social-distancing measures in place.

“We are working hard to provide the ultimate viewing experience for guests,” say the organisers of the AA’s first drive-in enterprise. “Each car will be provided with a high-quality remote sound system and films will be projected onto three giant, back-lit LED screens. Independent locally sourced food and drink will be available to order direct to cars, contact-free.”

AA Getaway’s logo for the drive-in film shows at Elvington Airfield

Saturday’s screenings are available exclusively to AA Members, with free tickets being offered on a first-come, first-served basis for James Gunn’s 2014 space chase, Guardians Of The Galaxy (12A), at 2.30pm and James Mangold’s 2019 Ford v Ferrari race-track clash, Le Mans 66 (12), at 7.30pm.

Public bookings can be made, however, for Guardians Of The Galaxy on September 18 at 2.30pm and September 20 at 7.30pm and Edgar Wright’s 2017 getaway-car heist thriller, Baby Driver (15), September 18, 7.30pm, and September 20, 2.30pm.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Coming to an airfield near you

Tickets cost £30 per vehicle, each with a maximum of five people, and are on sale at https://www.theaa.com/about-us/aa-getaway or at seetickets.com (searching for AA Getaway).

AA Getaway’s celebration of high-speed action movies at Elvington Airfield will be the second open-air cinema event of the summer in the York area after Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema on Knavesmire from July 31 to August 2, when Grease, Rocketman, Toy Story, Mamma Mia!, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction, Shrek 2, A Star Is Born and Joker were shown.

A last word, but not the last word, from the makers of Park Bench Theatre…

The Park Bench Theatre bench, now resuming vacant possession in the Friends Garden, Rowntree Park, York

“And that’s that.
A massive thank you to everyone involved in making #parkbenchtheatre 2020 possible.
We’re going to have a short break and then start work on the next thing.
Wherever that might be…
X”

Farewell to summer Tweet from Park Bench Theatre producers Engine House Theatre.

In return, thank you artistic director and writer Matt Aston, fellow director Tom Bellerby, Samuel Beckett’s estate, actors Chris Hannon, Cassie Vallance and Lisa Howard, the Friends of Rowntree Park and City of York Council for bringing to fruition the return of live theatre in York in Covid-19 2020.

Roll on, that next thing…and keep reaching for the stars. Live theatre cannot give in to the killjoy pandemic.

LIsa Howard, as Cathy, in the last Park Bench Theatre monologue of Summer 2020, Matt Aston’s Every Time A Bell Rings. Picture: North Edge Photography

York Chamber Music Festival goes online to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary

THE 2020 York Chamber Music Festival is going online to live-stream three concerts from the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, from September 18 to 20.

Festival artistic director Tim Lowe says: “This year, we can’t have an audience because of the Covid-19 virus, but we were determined to put on some wonderful concerts anyway.

“We’ll be able to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth as first planned, and the only change is that we’ve decided it’s not possible to stream the lunchtime recitals”

Cellist Lowe will be performing with Simon Blendis and Charlotte Scott, violins; Matthew Jones, violin and viola; Jon Thorne, viola, and Katya Apekisheva, piano.

On September 18, their programme will be: Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, Serioso; Herbert Howells’ Fantasy String Quartet, Op. 25 and Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E Flat major, Op. 44.

On September 19, they will play: Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op.18, No. 1; Josef Suk’s Piano Quartet in A minor, Op.1 and César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor.

September 20’s festival climax will open with Beethoven’s String Quintet in C major, Op. 29, followed by Antonín Dvořak’s String Quintet in E Flat major, Op. 97.

“In each of the three online concerts, I’ve selected one work to represent or point to key moments in Beethoven’s artistic evolution and spiritual journey,” says Tim. “It was Beethoven’s great tragedy that for much of his adult life he became progressively deaf until there was nothing left. It would seem that as his outer-ear faded, so his inner-ear quickened.”

Assessing each Beethoven piece, Tim says: “In the String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op.18, No. 1, we catch Beethoven thinking hard about his entry to this genre and already changing convention, poetic and assured.

“The String Quintet in C major, Op. 29 is a pivotal work that is the harbinger of his middle-period chamber music, a bubbling attractive piece that belies Beethoven’s realisation of impending deafness.

“The enigmatic, experimental F minor String Quartet, Op. 95 is the forerunner of his last series of ‘late’ quartets, already reaching for the stars but with a new sort of music never heard before, light years ahead.”

​Summing up the accompanying works, he says: “Almost everything else in the programme can be thought of as a legacy of this one man [Beethoven]. A feature of the 2020 event is that we’re playing piano quintets, which was more or less invented as an ensemble by Robert Schumann – having immersed himself in a study of Beethoven’s trios and quartets – Mozart and Haydn too – while his wife, international pianist Clara, was away on tour.” 

A Yorkshireman’s favourite price will apply. “To maximise our outreach, we’ve decided that the concerts will be free to listen to and we hope you will join us this month to enjoy them,” says Tim. “But we ask that you make a donation if you possibly can, in lieu of buying tickets.

“Putting on these concerts and recording them is very costly. York Chamber Music Festival is a non-profit charity that depends on support from donors and sponsors. Please help if you possibly can: there is a ‘Donate’ button on our website, ycmf.co.uk, should you wish to help.”

Over the past seven years, York Chamber Music Festival has presented more than 40 concerts and recitals. “We’ve brought to the city some of the country’s best, internationally renowned players,” says Tim.

“Feedback and press reviews both refer to the freshness and vitality that the festival artists bring to core and less familiar chamber music repertoire. Steven Isserlis, Anthony Marwood, Ian Brown, Adrian Brendel, Charles Owen, Emma Johnson, to name but a few, have joined us for great music-making.”

For full details on the 2020 festival programme and participating musicians and on how to watch the concerts, go to www.ycmf.co.uk.

“We hope you can join us for some wonderful live concerts from York. Stay safe and well,” concludes Tim.

Bev Jones Music Company to perform Strictly Live In The Park at Rowntree Park

The Bev Jones Music Company cast in rehearsal at York Maze for Strictly Live In The Park

THE Bev Jones Music Company will stage a full-sized musical theatre concert with more than 20 socially distanced singers and a five-piece band at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, on September 13.

Strictly Live In The Park promises a “spectacular show for all the family, with popular show music, pop music, dance and comedy” from 3pm to 5m.

“York deserves this fun Sunday afternoon,” says producer Lesley Jones, Bev’s widow. “We just want to give the public, mainly families, the chance to enjoy entertainment once more.

Bev Jones Music Company cast members maintaining social-distancing at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre

“The cast are so happy to be performing once again, especially when our big spring production, Calamity Jane, was cancelled by the lockdown in March, just four days before the curtain would have gone up.”

The first York community theatre company to stage a musical theatre concert on this scale since the easing of lockdown, the Bev Jones Music Company will perform “typical Bev Jones spectacular music”.

“All the music was arranged by Bev, the company mentor, so we’ll have a huge variety with numbers from Adele to Robbie Williams, Cabaret to Hairspray, Mack & Mabel to South Pacific, The Full Monty to Chess, Miss Saigon to the finale, Les Miserables,” says Lesley.

The Strictly Live In The Park poster for the September 13 concert

“Every number has been changed to suit the current guidelines regarding singing and live music. The huge dance numbers are limited but we’re adapting what we can.” 

The company rehearsed at York Maze for the first time last week. “We only get three rehearsals to put this show together, because we cannot rehearse indoors yet, and thankfully the Maze allowed us those three rehearsals,” says a grateful Lesley.  

“We have directed the show ourselves; John Atkin is the musical director with his five-piece band; Claire Pulpher is the choreographer and all our usual cast members are performing.”

Taking shape: First day of rehearsals for Strictly Live In The Park at York Maze

Among the company for this Not For Profit production will be Chris Hagyard, Sally Lewis, Larry Gibson, Terry Ford, Kelly Bolland and two returning members, who had moved on to become full-time professional performers, Nathan Lodge and Jordan Langford.

“Our concert has been risk assessed thoroughly and all audience members will have hand sanitisers and temperature checks, plus all seating will be in socially distanced, marked-out bubbles. All the cast will be checked too,” says Lesley. 

“Picnic blankets, rugs and chairs are welcome, as are picnics as there’ll be no public refreshments on sale, in line with Government guidelines. We’ll have a large number of stewards to offer assistance and all safeguards will be in place to ensure that people feel happy and safe in every way.” 

Strictly Live In The Park is strictly an all-ticket event, with tickets on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. Seats will be sold in bubbles for two (£15) or up to six people (£30).

When is a sold-out show not sold out? When extra tickets are released for Hansel And Gretel at NCEM…but hurry, hurry

In a rush like Jennifer Clark’s Gretel in Opera North’s Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel? You should be if you want tickets for tomorrow’s shows at the NCEM, York. Picture: Tom Arber

NEWSFLASH! More tickets are being released for Opera North’s three sold-out performances of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel in the National Centre for Early Music garden, in Walmgate, York.

Tickets are suddenly available for tomorrow’s three performances at 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm. The urgent advice is: “Get in quickly. Only a few pods remain. Buy online from ncem.co.uk.”

Say Owt Showcase quartet want a word with you…at a social distance near you

They’ll say owt to entertain you: Stu Freestone, Henry Raby, Hannah Davies and Dave Jarman

DO you want an assortment of noisy, slam-winning York performance poets, word-weavers and gobheads to perform at a social distance near you?

If so, the Say Owt Showcase luminaries Henry Raby, Stu Freestone, Hannah Davies and Dave Jarman are the quartet to entertain you, being “ideal for socially distanced spaces and audiences”.

“We’re York’s lovable and raucous poetry gang and we’re available to programme and present high-energy, 60-minute showcases of the sharp, relevant, hilarious and engaging spoken word,” says Henry, director of the Say Owt’s “war of the words” slam nights.

Stu Freestone: “Cheekiest of rogues”

“Say Owt’s word-warriors have delighted in ripping up stages at the Great Yorkshire Fringe and the Arts Barge in York, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Ilkley Literature Festival, and last month we performed as part of York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival, a bubbled and socially distanced event.

“Our Say Owt Showcase on August 28 sold out and played to a drizzly, but happy, audience.”

Performance poet in residence at the Deer Shed Festival, author, playwright and event organiser Raby is noted for his punk poetry being anarchic and raw, with a sharp political edge, much like his regular Tweets.

Taking the mic: Henry Raby in action

He has performed at Latitude Festival, Boomtown Fair and the Intentional Youth Arts Festival and toured with Creative Arts East and Apples and Snakes’ Public Address Tour.

His latest solo show, Apps And Austerity, looks back over the past decade of technology and stultifying, stringent political policies, as aired at the Pop-Up festival last Friday.

Freestone, Raby’s fellow co-founder of Say Owt, is the cheekiest of rogues with his devilish facial hair and a penchant for Hip-Hop. His work is blissful, engrossing and, above all, unflinchingly honest.

Hannah Davies: Addresses themes of young love, female identity and the small moments that makes us smile

An actor too, he has worked with various York companies and in 2015 was nominated for Best Spoken Word Artist at the Saboteur Awards. The only thing remotely cheesy about him is when he may have served you from behind the counter at The Cheese Trader in Grape Lane.

When playwright, actor, poet, writing course tutor and stage director Hannah Davies “isn’t trying to smash the patriarchy”, she is busy with her York theatre company Common Ground. 

Hannah has won slams across the UK and was a finalist in the BBC Fringe Slam 2017, and her work encapsulates themes of young love, female identity and the small moments that make us smile.

Dave Jarman: Plucking words out of the air like the ripest of fruit

Say Owt associate artist Dave Jarman describes himself as a “word-gobbing, ukulele-strumming, bodhran-abusing poet from t’North”.

Resident poet for the Great Yorkshire Fringe in 2017, playwright, actor and occasional Elf, he reflects on community, people, places and our national identity in his poetry and performances.

For more information on how to send for the four wordsmen of the apocalypse to do a show for you, email info@sayowt.co.uk.

Badapple Theatre happy to Suffer Fools Gladly in gardens with Arts Council support

Badapple Theatre Company’s poster for this month’s Suffer Fools Gladly tour

BADAPPLE Theatre Company can look forward to an autumn harvest of outdoor shows after hitting the Arts Council England deadline to find at least six willing venues for Danny Mellor’s new short play, Suffer Fools Gladly.

Awarded a £14,998 grant, the Green Hammerton purveyors of theatre on your doorstep will perform a Hybrid-Live season of Covid-secure outdoor and filmed shows in the months ahead.

Up to ten open-air performances of Suffer Fools Gladly will be staged at private gardens, campsites and hall car parks across North and East Yorkshire area from September 15.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in last winter’s Badapple play, The Snow Dancer. Now they are to perform together in Suffer Fools Gladly

In addition, the ACE funding will support the “creative filming” of Badapple’s hit 1960s-era comedy Eddie And The Gold Tops for a new film-theatre partnership with small halls and arts centres from November to February.

Furthermore, Badapple can now film their Christmas show The Snow Dancer, first toured last winter, to enable free distribution in Yorkshire schools, and Badapple Youth Theatre activities can resume too. 

Thanking Arts Council England, founder and artistic director Kate Bramley says: “We’re bowled over by this continued support from ACE at this difficult time that supports our concept of feel-good and safe small-scale events for the communities we partner with and support for our team of creative artists.

Anastasia Benham: On a front door step near you soon

“We’ve always specialised in Theatre On Your Doorstep and now for some garden owners in Yorkshire it’s just got even closer to their front door!

“We had as many as 25 offers of interest in hosting the show, and some wonderful hosts will be throwing open their gardens to audiences to experience this great new play from young Yorkshire writer Danny Mellor.”

Suffer Fools Gladly is a witty short comedy, around an hour in length, that drills down on the perils and perks of always having to tell the truth. “Appealing to young and old alike, this upbeat tale narrates the comic fall from grace of Ozzy, the court jester, who is exiled from the magical kingdom of Marillion,” says Danny.

“We’re bowled over by this continued support from ACE at this difficult time,” says Badapple artistic director Kate Bramley

“It takes an unlikely friendship with a cynical 17-year-old Earth girl called Stevie to bring the joy back to both their worlds.”

Co-directed by Bramley, with costume and puppetry design by Catherine Dawn, the premiere will be performed by Mellor and Anastasia Benham, resuming their stage partnership from The Snow Dancer tour last December.

Watch this space for updates on the Eddie And The Gold Tops film-theatre tour, with dates filling up in the Badapple diary for November, December and February.

Danny Mellor: Suffer Fools Gladly writer and actor

Suffer Fools Gladly tour itinerary in September:

15: Stonegate Farm, Whixley, 5pm;

16: Private garden, Stockton on the Forest, York, 2pm and 4pm;
17: The Poplars, Myton on Swale, 6pm;
18: Beech Cottage, Green Hammerton 2pm;
19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm;
20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm;
21: Private garden, Driffield, 2pm;
22: Private garden, Gilberdyke, 5pm;
23: To be confirmed.

Details on how to apply for tickets will be updated regularly on the Badapple website, badappletheatre.co.uk

York Stage Musicals return to Rowntree Park igloo for Jukebox Divas concerts UPDATED

From Caribbean cruise-ship crooning in spring to York igloo in late-summertime: Conor Mellor performing at the August 23 performance of York Stage Musicals at Rowntree Park. Picture: Jess Main

YORK Stage are heading back to the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre from September 18 to 20, building on the sold-out success of last month’s debut open-air concerts by staging Jukebox Divas.

York Stage Musicals at Rowntree Park marked the company’s first ever outdoor venture, when six professional performers with YSM history, Joanne Theaker, Ashley Standland, May Tether, Richard Upton, Emily Ramsden and Conor Mellor, performed with Jessica Douglas’s band from August 23 to 25.

Conor, back in York from singing on the international cruise-ship circuit, returns for YSM show number two, joined by Dan Conway, Sophie Hammond, Grace Lancaster and Eleanor Leaper.

York Stage Musicals performers aglow with the joy of performing to an audience at last, after the lockdown hiatus, at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Producer and director Nik Briggs says: “We really were blown away by the reaction to our York Stage Musicals at Rowntree Park concerts last month. To bring live musical theatre back to the city really was an honour and to sell out so quickly and feel the buzz that surrounded the concerts was just crazy!

“I knew, stood there watching the show, that we had to keep going, we had to do more…especially as we’d joked originally that we’d been compelled to do a thing, something, anything. This time we feel the need to do another thing.”

Jukebox Divas will celebrate the art of the Jukebox musical. “With music from shows such as We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia! and more modern releases like & Juliet and Moulin Rouge, audiences will be entertained with vocal tributes to artists such as Elvis Presley, Queen, Meat Loaf, Katy Perry, Carole King and many more,” says Nik.

York Stage director and producer Nik Briggs and musical director Jessica Douglas

York Stage musical director Jessica Douglas again will lead a live band on stage from her keyboards, backing the latest line-up of professional performers. “One of my hardest things to do last time was to decide who to choose to perform from all the professional talent that has worked with York Stage over the past few years; there are so many brilliant performers who I wanted to bring back!” says Nik.

“I had hoped to do two shows originally but only having three nights at first, this wasn’t possible, so when we were able to secure a second slot I knew straight away who to ask.”

Step forward Dan Conway (York Stage: Ghost; UK tour: Kinky Boots, where he understudied and played the male lead); Sophie Hammond (York Stage: Footloose;  now back from training in musical theatre in New York), Grace Lancaster (York Stage: Footloose and Whistle Down The Wind; UK tour: Footloose; Watermill: Assassins; Eastbourne: Return To The Forbidden Planet); Eleanor Leaper (York Stage: Joseph; BBC’s Pitch Battle finalist) and Conor Mellor (York Stage: Rock Of Ages; international cruise vocalist).

“I knew, stood there watching the show, that we had to keep going, we had to do more,” says producer Nik Briggs, explaining why York Stage Musicals will perform in Rowntree Park again this month. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Delighted with how well the first show went after three fast-moving weeks of preparation and rehearsal, followed by stage assembly in only two hours on a Sunday afternoon, Nik says: “Audiences can again expect to be wowed by brilliant sound and lighting from Adam Moore and his Tech247 team. The giant igloo stage covering will be back to glow like a Technicolor beacon in the heart of the park once more.

“We’re again working to ensure the safety of our performers, staff and of course audience in the planning of this event. We’re remaining up to date and working to ensure everything we do is guided and informed by City of York Council and the current Government guidance as the event approaches.

“We’ve had so many compliments about the brilliant front-of-house team and a lot of audience members messaged to say how safe they felt watching the show. This was one of the biggest compliments of all. We know for lots of people it was their first outing in months, so for them to feel safe and comfortable was great.”

Hitting the heights: Richard Upton leaps onto a chair in a high spot of the York Stage Musicals at Rowntree Park concert last month. Picture: Jess Main

As with last month’s shows, to ensure they can seat everyone and maintain suitable social distancing of two metres between groups, York Stage have taken the decision to sell spaces for a “Bubble Blanket” for families or support bubbles to sit in, rather than sell individual tickets.

“These spaces are positioned to make sure there’s a two-metre gap minimum between the spaces in every direction while keeping the audience three metres away from the performers,” says Nik. “We’ve created two sizes of ‘Bubble Blanket’ spaces: one holds up to three people and a larger one holds four to six people. Please note, no physical blanket is provided, but you can bring your own or a camping chair.”

Performances will start at 7pm and run for 90 minutes without an interval.  Tickets: available only online at www.yorkstagemusicals.com;  Bubble Blanket Space for 1-3 people, £40; for 4-6 people, £65.

Emily Ramsden performing at last month’s York Stage Musicals at Rowntree Park. Picture: Jess Main

Five questions for producer and director Nik Briggs

What did you learn from mounting your first outdoor venture last month?

“Working outside was a daunting prospect, having not done it before. Doing it , while also ensuring we were working within the ever-changing Covid guidelines, was a whole other ball to juggle.

“One thing we were certain about was we knew we wanted to give audiences the same high-quality production and performance standards that they have come to expect from a York Stage show.

“But with that comes a lot of wires, lights, instruments and of course electricity…in an outdoor area, where we can’t stop weather!

“When we arrived at our outdoor rehearsal venue in Leeds to tech the show, the weather was nothing short of torrential. Driving across the A64, my heart was sinking but, with the brilliant team of theatre professionals we work with, we came away from that day knowing that our planning and preparation had left us ready to succeed: ,we could do this in (nearly) all weathers!

Ashley Standland in the solo spotlight at last month’s open-air concert. Picture: Jess Main

“We were lucky to have great weather up to the final show when it was raining all day through to ten minutes into the show, but the audience were brilliant! They all showed up with waterproofs and wellies and really got into what we renamed our festival version of the concert! So the biggest lesson was to not be scared of rain!”

Are you doing anything differently this time?

“It’s a whole new set of songs, nearly a full set of new singers – Conor [Mellor] managed to wangle his way back in again – and a new band. We really wanted to reach out and help as many people as possible with the concerts when those who work in our industry have had such a tough time. There may be a few extra surprises this time around but we’re still working on those at the moment!”

How are you conducting rehearsals? On Zoom? In a room, socially distanced?

“Like last time, rehearsals are happening in a range of ways. There is lots of independent learning of harmonies etc, where we have sent out recordings to the performers, so we only have to come together to piece all the parts together and keep contact to a minimum.

“When we are together social distancing, temperature checks and hand sanitiser are all aplenty! We keep at least two metres apart and never sing face to face to also mitigate any risk.”

Joanne Theaker centre stage at York Stage Musicals’ first outdoor performance. Picture: Jess Main

Should other theatre companies be more adventurous, like you, and crack on with finding ways of getting out there and performing, despite Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s caution over when theatres can re-open fully?

“As long as people are being sensible, following the guidelines and keeping safe, then, yes, of course people should be pushing forward! It’s not easy, there is a hell of a lot of risk, but it’s certainly worth it.

“People can go sit in restaurants and bars so I really don’t see why, with social distancing and if it’s financially viable, we shouldn’t be producing?

“If any city can produce work in these weird times, it is York, where we have a strong history of successfully mixing professional and community casts. Damien Cruden really led the way with this in the city – when he was artistic director of York Theatre Royal – and in fact was the inspiration for the way I have ran York Stage over the past seven years.

Emily Ramsden, left, Joanne Theaker and May Tether keep their distance in the Rowntree Park igloo

“There really is enough professional talent locally to make it work in some way, as shown by our Rowntree Park concerts, York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up Patio On The Patio series and Engine House Theatre’s Park Bench Theatre shows.

“My biggest fear for the future, though, is that we are going to be sat with our larger venues sitting empty and artists all around the city desperate to work.”

The definition of ‘Diva’ is: noun: ‘a famous female singer of popular music’…or ‘a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please (typically used of a woman)...but your Jukebox Divas show brazenly has a cast of three women and three men. Outrageous! Explain!

“Charles, it’s 2020, you can be whatever you want to be…and looking back, the men I’ve worked with are often way bigger divas! And no, I’m not naming any names!”

Will you dig it all as York Mediale, the digital media arts festival, seeks a cutting edge?

“We want to explore how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture,” says Tom Higham, York Mediale’s creative director

YORK Mediale returns next month to deliver ambitious and cutting-edge digital arts projects inspired by and reacting to 2020.

For its second iteration, the international new media arts organisation has lined up six new commissions, five being world premieres, the other, a UK premiere.

Running from October 21 into the New Year, the programme of events will take place in York neighbourhoods, online and at two cultural landmarks, York Minster and York Art Gallery.

The first York Mediale in 2018 was the largest media arts festival in Britain, drawing an audience of 65,000 to diverse digital-rooted events over ten days, celebrating York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

The Coronavirus pandemic has led York Mediale to forego the original 2020 festival dates of October 21 to 25, instead “pivoting from a biennial festival to a charity creating and delivering a year-round programme of exceptional digital arts events, embedded in and enriching the creative life of the city of York and beyond”.

In a progression from the 2018 debut, this will involve working closely with York artists, young people and neighbourhoods.

Themes of love, nature and community – particularly poignant at this time following months of lockdown and isolation – will run through artists’ installations and interactive performance, engaging audiences both in person and digitally.

Leading artists in their field from across the world have created work for York, such as Marshmallow Laser Feast, fresh from their show at the Saatchi Gallery in London; composer, musician and producer Elizabeth Bernholz, otherwise known as the artist Gazelle Twin, and arts collective KMA, whose installations have transformed numerous public spaces, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Shanghai’s Bund.

The York community is being encouraged to take part, so today the Mediale team is launching two calls for participation. Firstly, Mediale is calling out for 50 members of the public to feature in a piece that will serve as a memento for the times we live in.

Secondly, in collaboration with York’s Guild of Media Arts and nine other UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts, Mediale is launching a call-out to York artists, worth £2,500.

Tom Higham, York Mediale’s creative director for the  2018 festival and now the 2020 one too, says: “York Mediale is a place where, through digital arts, we can explore, challenge and reflect on our lives.

“Plans for this year’s Mediale were well underway as the pandemic took hold. That we’re able to work with artists and producers to create an event at all is something we’re really proud of.”

Mediale planned “as best it could” for what it knew would be a different type of event. “We looked closely at the works already submitted and worked to develop the pieces that would most closely examine these extraordinary times,” says Tom.

“We wanted to explore how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture. We have been developing projects around those themes, and we’re excited to now present a series of works.

“All of these projects resonated with us at the start of 2020 but we could never have imagined how they could develop to so beautifully reflect our worries, hopes and relationships to our communities.”

York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman: Collaborating with Gazelle Twin and University of York Music Department for Absent Sitters, an online event at York Mediale 2020

York Mediale audiences will discover how the human body is hardwired, synchronised and inextricably linked to nature; experiment with a new form of performance, and explore the invisible transaction between a person and a piece of art and how WhatsApp has shaped communities for the COVID generation at this year’s “diverse, digitally engaged and mentally stimulating event”.

What digital delights are upcoming in York Mediale 2020-2021?

People We Love, November 2 to 29 at York MInster

THIS commission from creative collective KMA will be positioned in the Minster nave, where a new temporary “congregation” will be made up of a collection of five large high-definition screens, showing a series of video portraits focused on people that have been filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love.

The viewer will not know who is being looked at but will experience the emotion on the face projected on screen before them, interpreting each unspoken story.  

Visitors can add their story to the installation as a pop-up booth will be on-site, ready to capture the love stories of the city without the need for words.

Human Nature, October 21 to January 24 2021 at York Art Gallery

A TRIPTYCH of installations under the banner of Human Nature, curated by York Mediale and York Museums Trust, comes together as a centrepiece of York Mediale 2020 in a “hugely ambitious show”.

Embers And The Giants, a short film by Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson, makes its UK premiere, exploring human intervention through thousands of tiny drones mimicking a natural spectacle, suggesting a time when we will need to amplify nature in order to convince the public of its worth.

The Tides Within Us, a commission from immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser East, looks at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echoes the ecosystem within nature. 

Fine artist Rachel Goodyear presents Limina, a series of animations supported by her intricate drawings, in response to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection; all offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.

Absent Sitters, October 21 to 25, online

GAZELLE Twin, billed as “one of the UK’s most vital contemporary voices in electronic music”,  collaborates with York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman and the University of York Music Department to experiment with a new form of performance.

In this intimate, shared event, you will be guided by a “performer medium” to investigate what is live performance in 2020? The audience, contributing via video call, will become part of an online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination” and the importance of “presence/absence” in a live event. Are we live? Can we connect? Who are you? Questions, questions, questions.

Good Neighbours, October 21 to 25, The Groves, York

GOOD Neighbours, from Amsterdam’s affect lab – interactive artist Klasien van de Zandschulp and researcher Natalie Dixon – is based on research into the micro-politics of communities and the increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown.

Individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, taking place in The Groves area of York.

What exactly is York Mediale?

York Mediale is an international media arts organisation that celebrates York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.  The independent arts charity was founded in 2014 to mark that designation.

As well as bringing new commissions from leading artists to the city for each festival, Mediale provides opportunities for the best emerging talents to showcase their art. Through incorporating technologies into their works, artists of all kinds will challenge, provoke, interrogate and celebrate our cities, our landscapes, our lives.

York Theatre Royal whistles up a couple of extra Hansel And Gretel shows on the patio

Keep on running: Jennifer Clark as Gretel, with Claire Pascoe as Mother behind her, in the opening performance of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel at Slung Low, The Holbeck, Leeds. Picture: Tom Arber

ALL three Saturday performances of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel at the National Centre for Early Music, York, have sold out, but now the bewitching open-air show will pop up on York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up Patio tomorrow too.

Touring from August 18 to September 5 as part of Opera North’s Switch ON autumn programme of outdoor events and digital projects, the 40-minute production is devised and directed by John Savournin for four singers and accordion and provides an introduction to opera for families, as well as being suitable for adults.

The Whistle Stop mini-opera uses excerpts from Engelbert Humperdinck’s magical 1893 opera to retell the fairy tale of two hungry children, lost in the woods, and a gingerbread cottage that hides a scary secret.

Every witch way: Claire Pascoe’s Witch in shocking pink in Hansel And Gretel

“Journey through the woods and gorge yourself on the exciting twists and turns of the plot as you meet the characters along the way,” says Opera North. “Just beware of the evil witch and don’t stray too far from your tour guide – you never know what trickery you may encounter along the way.”

Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel has been performed in outdoor settings across the North in August and September, with social distancing in place for audience members and performers and limited numbers of tickets available, in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines, for “pods” of up to five people, although exact seating arrangements have varied from venue to venue.

In the Hansel And Gretel company are Laura Kelly-McInroy (Jennie Hildebrand in Street Scene, 2020) as Hansel; Jennifer Clark (Flora, The Turn Of The Screw, 2020) as Gretel; Claire Pascoe (Emma Jones, Street Scene, 2020; Witch, Into the Woods, 2016) as Mother/Witch, and director John Savournin (Carl Olsen, Street Scene, 2020; Priest Fotis, The Greek Passion, 2019) as Narrator/Sandman. Miloš Milivojević will play accordion.

Clasped hands at the double: Jennifer Clark’s Gretel and Laura Kelly-McInroy’s Hansel in Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel

In the initial announcement, Hansel And Gretel was to have played Pontefract Castle, Pontefract, tomorrow at 4.30pm, but that performance no longer appears on the Opera North listings.

Instead, York Theatre Royal’s patio will play host to shows at 1pm and 3pm with a maximum audience of 35 at each one. Given the speedy uptake of tickets for Saturday’s 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm performances in the NCEM garden, do not delay a moment longer in booking for tomorrow at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk, tickets costing a fiver. Please note, access to Pop-Up On The Patio events is restricted to paid ticket holders only.

The Theatre Royal also advises: “As we all know, the weather in England can be unpredictable, so we recommend dressing for the weather and bringing waterproofs just in case.”

The Pop-Up On The Patio stage at York Theatre Royal with deck-chair seating

This short-notice addition to the Pop-Up programme comes on the back of the Pop-Up On The Patio festival that ran on three Fridays and Saturdays from August 14 to 29, co-ordinated by Theatre Royal producer Thom Freeth.

Taking part in a Covid-secure summer season of outdoor performances, on a terrace stage designed by Yorkshire theatre designer Hannah Sibai, were “Yorkshire’s finest theatre and dance makers”.

Step forward York Dance Space; Mud Pie Arts; Crafty Tales; Fool(ish) Improv; The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre; puppeteer Freddie Hayes; Cosmic Collective Theatre; performance poet Henry Raby; Say Owt Showcase, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”; magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson and singer Jess Gardham.

York Theatre Royal’s artwork for the inaugural Pop-Up On The Patio festival

Looking back on the weather-defying patio parade of shows, executive director Tom Bird says: “It’s been brilliant to do a patio season; we’re totally over the moon with how it went. It’s just been terrific to give local artists the chance to perform, even if it’s only to 35 people each show.

“Now we’re announcing the Whistle Stop Opera performances and we’re looking to do more outdoor shows.”

Malton’s Milton Rooms to reopen this month with a dose of the blues and a boat

Giles Shenton: Back on terra firma when he performs Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat at the Milton Rooms in Malton

THE Milton Rooms in Malton will reopen this month for its first events since lockdown began in March.

Ryedale Blues Club will host the first musical event with York’s DC Blues Band and special guest Nick Steed on September 24 at 8pm, followed by Kick In The Head’s production of Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat on September 27 at 2.30pm.

Venue manager Lisa Rich says: “The whole team is very much looking forward to opening our doors to audiences later this month.

“It has been a long, arduous seven months for everyone, so we hope that the return of live entertainment in Malton will go some way to putting a smile on people’s faces.”

Social distancing measures will be in place for both events and plans have also been developed for anyone who wants to hire the venue.

Winn-win situation: Paul Winn will lead DC Blues Band in the Milton Rooms’ first concert since the March lockdown

“The Milton Rooms team is working hard to ensure that everything is as safe as possible,” says Lisa. “Risk assessments are in place and the venue has achieved the Visit Britain ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard.  

“Like every business in Ryedale, we will be following strict health and safety guidelines for anyone visiting the Milton Rooms, be they a volunteer, audience member or someone who has hired the building.

“That will obviously mean restricting the number of people who can attend an event. However, we are lucky in that the main hall is large enough to accommodate up to 100 people safely with ample social distancing.” Under those social-distancing measures, tables will range from two people up to groups of six.

Lisa was appointed venue manager of the Milton Rooms at the end of February, only to be faced almost immediately with the lockdown and the cancellation of a glut of events planned for 2020.

An urgent Go Fund Me appeal was launched in April to help to safeguard the Market Place community centre’s future and has raised £2,500 so far.

A barrel of fun: Giles Shenton raises a glass to the return of theatre at the Milton Rooms in Three Men In A Boat on September 27

“It has been probably the most difficult year ever for the Milton Rooms and personally very frustrating as I was appointed just as the country closed down,” says Lisa.

“However, we have been busy behind the scenes preparing for reopening and exploring how the venue can be utilised by our whole community. Luckily, we have had amazing support from the public, who obviously value our lovely arts centre and want it to continue for future generations. We are very grateful to each and every one of them.”

In the first concert on September 24, Ryedale Blues Club founder Paul Winn leads DC Blues Band, who hail from “the mighty Ouse Delta in York” and have been playing their own take on the blues with original material and selected covers since 2012, opening for such acts as Dr Feelgood, King King, Sari Schorr and Marcus Bonfanti. Doors will open at 7.30pm; tickets cost £7.50.

Kick In The Head return to the Milton Rooms on September 27 to present Three Men In A Boat, a “rip-roaring barrel of fun” with Giles Shenton playing the part of writer Jerome K Jerome in this 95-minute one-man/Three Men show.

Shenton, who previously starred in Old Herbaceous, will take the helm for this delightfully ridiculous tale of men behaving badly while messing about in boats. He invites you to “join Jerome as he recounts the hilarious story of his boating holiday along the magnificent River Thames with his two companions, George and Harris, and Montmorency the dog. Come and join in the fun.” Doors will open at 2pm; tickets cost £15.

For general enquiries, social distancing details and to hire the venue, email info@themiltonrooms.com or call 01653 696240. For online tickets, go to www.ticketsource.co.uk/themiltonrooms

To donate to the Go Fund Me appeal, visit www.gofundme.com/f/milton-rooms-covid-19-appeal

Songs Under Skies garden gigs open at NCEM tonight. All but one has sold out. UPDATED

Polly Bolton: Tickets are still available for her Songs Under Skies concert on September 16

SONGS Under Skies kicks off tonight under foreboding skies at the National Centre for Early Music, York, with a double bill of Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton.

All but one of the open-air acoustic concerts in the churchyard gardens of the NCEM’s home at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, has sold out as live music with an audience returns to the NCEM for the first time since the March lockdown.

Tickets are still available for Polly Bolton and Henry Parker on September 16, but hurry as the capacity is only 50.

You can buy tickets for family groups or as individuals. Seating each night will be in pods and full details can be found at tickets.ncem.co.uk/.

Songs Under Skies bring together the National Centre for Early Music, The Crescent, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance for the September series.

Bella Gaffney expresses her delight at the chance to play a concert again

Taking part are Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton tonight (September 2); Dan Webster and Bella Gaffney, tomorrow; Kitty VR and Boss Caine, September 9, Wolf Solent and Rosalind, September 10; Polly Bolton and Henry Parker, September 16, and Elkyn and Fawn, September 17.

Concerts for last month’s online York Early Music Festival had to be recorded and filmed behind closed doors at the NCEM, with no audiences, for digital streaming from July 9 to 11.

For Songs Under Skies, gates will open at 6.30pm for each 7pm start; acts will perform either side of a 30-minute interval with a finishing time of 8.30pm. Social distancing will be strictly observed and masks must be worn inside the NCEM but will not be required in the garden.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re thrilled to be able to welcome artists and audiences back to our home at St Margaret’s Church, thanks to the invaluable help of our York partners, and I’d like to say a huge thank-you to them.

“We hope that this marks the beginning of a gradual and safe return to being able to bring you much more music over the months to come.

Sold out: Boss Caine’s double bill with Kitty PR on September 9

Like all arts organisations, the last few months have been difficult, but we’re lucky to have received overwhelming support from our loyal audiences and from our funders, to whom I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks. We hope you’ll be able to join us for these wonderful Songs Under [the] Skies of our beautiful city.”

Chris Sherrington, who runs The Fulford Arms and is the North East regional coordinator for the Music Venues Alliance, says: “Both The Crescent community venue and The Fulford Arms are excited to be working with our York Music Venue Network partners, the NCEM, to help fill some of the cultural vacuum that has sadly been affecting York since March.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring our expertise together and programme a beautiful series of shows in a safe and stunning space with a range of amazing talent. We hope this will be the first of many such endeavours.”

The NCEM has been one of the first arts organisations to stream online concerts, seeking to keep music alive since the beginning of lockdown and attracting a worldwide audience of more than 70,000 in the process.

Over the past few months, the NCEM has streamed a series of concerts from its archives, followed by the aforementioned York Early Music Festival Online with its combination of concerts and talks. The Director’s Cut, Delma’s selection of festival concert highlights, is available to download and keep. Go to ncem.co.uk for more details.

What did you do in lockdown? Here’s a kind word from motivational author Ian Donaghy

Author Ian Donaghy with the first edition of his new lockdown book, A Pocketful Of Kindness

TRAVEL back to times BC, before Covid.

Let York author, singer, event organiser, conference speaker and dementia care campaigner Ian Donaghy take up the story. “Imagine if we had been told on New Year’s Eve, ‘enjoy the next 12 weeks because, come March 2020, schools will close the gates,” he posits.

“Pub and restaurant curtains will be drawn and live music venues and theatres will be told the show mustn’t go on… and on top of that, there will be no cuddles allowed’.” 

Never has the world needed a bigger cuddle than in these uncharted waters, says Big Ian, whose response to lockdown inertia was to write a 229-page cuddle of a book entitled A Pocketful Of Kindness. 

“During lockdown, many people were furloughed, uncertain of their futures,” says Big Ian, larger-than-life host of such York community events as A Night To Remember at York Barbican and Xmas Presence, former school teacher and now a “key voice in care”.

On song: Ian Donaghy hosting A Night To Remember at York Barbican

“As a conference speaker, I suddenly realised the venues I usually fill with delegates, whether ExCeL London or the Harrogate Convention Centre, were now Covid-19 Nightingale hospitals. Everything I did on my public-speaker travels had disappeared.”

At his home, not far from the York Barbican, where his band Huge played the first ever show, a restless Ian needed to keep himself busy.

Noting the acts of kindness that were proliferating in lockdown, he hit on the idea of writing a pocket-sized book on that very subject.

He already had two all-life-is-here books to his name, firstly Dear Dementia, published in June 2014 and now available in libraries home and abroad.

Writer Ian Donaghy and director Gemma McDonald at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office when hatching their plan to convert The Missing Peace into a Rowntree Players production

Next, in December 2017, came The Missing Peace, Creating A Life After Death, whose transfer to the stage by Gemma McDonald and the Rowntree Players should have been playing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre this weekend.

The Missing Peace had taken three years from first thought to printing, a longer gestation than an elephant birth. Come 2020, he had so many heart-warming stories bubbling away, waiting to be told, he felt compelled to put finger to keyboard once more, and lockdown’s quietitude allowed him a more concentrated focus, a much faster turnaround.

“Like many people, I like to work from a finish line backwards, so I needed to create a finish line. Not just a raison d’etre, but a raison d’aider, to help people in this difficult time,” says Big Ian, whose 50th birthday fell in those shutdown weeks.

York pianist Kieran White as he appears in the story A Fish Out Of Water

“So, after transforming the garden and doing some pretty shoddy decorating, I reflected on what was important in this new simplified world.

“The world had stopped, giving us a rare period of clarity – an opportunity to reflect, to see who and what really matters in our lives and who and what doesn’t.”

He set about writing stories from his experiences in dementia care; teaching young people with learning difficulties; working in crime reduction for the Home Office and 30 years as a showman singer, fronting bands in his native North East, Yorkshire and Nottingham.

The book combines short stories, monologues and TED Talk-style chapters highlighting the virtues and power that kindness has had in transforming people’s lives.

Sir Bobby Robson: The subject of Ian’s story A League Of His Own

Page after page of true stories, full of humour, revelation, wry observation and pathos too, recount  the deeds of England and Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson, Irish boxer Barry McGuigan, American blues guitarist Robert Cray and an army of selfless people you will “never have heard of but will want to meet”.

Big Ian’s celebration of kindness attracted award-winning Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband, who provided a cartoon, such was his belief in the inspirational project.

“The idea behind the book is that you gift it to someone who has made a huge impact in your life with their acts of kindness who may not realise it,” says Big Ian. “This enables you to reflect on who has helped get you where you are today.”

Seventy stories in total, they will make you laugh, cry and think in equal measure, promises Big Ian, whose storytelling elan has prompted one reviewer to call him “an Alan Bennett for the 21st century, who finds tomorrow’s charm and nostalgia in today”.

Kieran White’s reaction on being gifted a copy of A Pocketful Of Kindness

A Pocketful Of Kindness is available only from bigian.co.uk and is proving popular already, selling 1,500 copies in its first week, based solely on word of mouth.

“Many companies have bought bespoke versions of the book with their company logos to show their employees how appreciated they are,” says Big Ian.

Summing up his philosophy in advocating a championing of kindness, he says:

“Look back on your life and think…

Who believed in you?

Who pushed you?

Who said, ‘If there’s anything you want, I’m here’….and actually backed it up.

Who asked you how you were and waited for an answer?

Tony Husband’s cartoon, Be Kind, gifted to Ian Donaghy for A Pocketful Of Kindness

Who inspired you?

Who believed in you when even you didn’t?

Who gave you your standards?

Who made time for you despite being so busy?

Who was kind when the world was not?

Think who helped make you.

Who would you send the book to?”

Inevitably influenced by being written in lockdown, A Pocketful Of Kindness is “a book for our times”. “As its centre-piece, it even features a chapter called Stop The World I Want To Get Off about the chaos 2020 has dealt us all,” says Ian.

“But now I predict a new pandemic that I’ve already witnessed in communities and in care homes that I think won’t need a vaccine, as I expect the result to read: Covid 19 Kindness 20.”

Pocketed: Book editor Charles Hutchinson shows off his reward for suffering Ian Donaghy’s “punktuation”

AS an act of kindness in the lockdown lull, Ian Donaghy asked yours truly to edit some stories that he wanted to turn into a book.

As an act of kindness, CH said ‘Yes’…and so the to and fro and fro and to of 70 stories began.

As an act of cruelty, Ian subjected CH to his erratic punctuation, or “punktuation”, as his father has so aptly described it.

As an act of generosity, ex-Maths teacher Ian put up with being judged as if for a school report, story after story.

Now, however, the result can be yours, courtesy of Big Ian providing five copies to be awarded to recipients for the five best reasons to do so, honouring acts of kindness you want to showcase.

Send those brief stories of kind deeds to charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com, marked Kindness Acts, with your name, address and daytime phone number, by September 13.

Who deserves a copy of A Pocketful Of KIndness? Have your say by sending your suggestion and reason to charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com

Book now! All Explore libraries, reading rooms and cafes will be open next week

Time to Explore: The message is loud and clear…Explore Libraries and cafes are reopening

ALL Explore libraries and cafes in York will be open from next week.

Larger Explore centres reopened in July, now to be joined by smaller libraries, enabling customers to drop-in to browse the books for the first time since March. Opening times will vary, with shorter than normal hours at some places and all libraries closing by 5pm.

The Reading Cafes at York Explore, Acomb and Tang Hall libraries will re-open too and books can be borrowed once more at the cafes in Rowntree Park and the new Hungate site.

The Local and Family History rooms at York Explore will be open, but anyone wanting to use them will need to book ahead, in order that safe social distancing can be maintained. The Archives reading room will re-open from October for pre-booked visits.

Stories this way: A welcome sign of better times ahead

In-person events are not yet possible but Explore has planned a programme of virtual events for Autumn 2020, so look out for further announcements or follow Explore on social media for the latest information. In addition, thousands of newspapers and magazines are available online through the PressReader app.

Fiona Williams, Explore’s chief executive, says: “We are so happy to be able to welcome everyone back. I was heartbroken when we had to close our libraries in March because of the pandemic. Throughout the closure, we supported people through our online library and website and kept in touch with our users.

“We began to plan reopening as soon as it was possible and we were so pleased to reopen partially at the beginning of July. We received so many lovely comments from our users who missed us and we are still running the Missed My Library survey, so please do go to our website to complete it and let us know what you missed the most.”

Explore cafes are back in business

Explore has planned carefully for the reopening, taking into account the safety of both staff and the public. “We have trained staff and risk assessed our buildings, designing in social distancing,” says Fiona.

“The first reopening stage has been very successful and we are now able to extend that from the beginning of September when all libraries will be open for browsing and borrowing, but with shorter than normal hours.  Please see our website, exploreyork.org.uk, for full details of each library.  We look forward to seeing you soon.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for Culture, Leisure and Communities at City of York Council, says: “Explore have provided tremendous support to York’s communities throughout the pandemic and I’m delighted to see this next phase of carefully considered and safe reopening.

“Whether you’re a regular visitor or have never popped in, I urge everyone to take this wider reopening as an opportunity to enjoy and explore the brilliant range of services on offer at your local library.”

York Explore Library and Archive

Did you know?

IN 2019, Explore York Libraries and Archives had more than one million visitors, held 1,466 events, told 1,734 stories to children and loaned more than 2,000 books every day.

Holding more than 850 years of civic records, the City Archives are the most complete outside London.

Explore was born in 2014 as a community benefit society with charitable status, owned by its staff and community members, and recognised nationally for its innovative approach. In 2019, Explore won a 15-year contract to deliver libraries and archives for City of York Council.

Leeds Festival goes for six of the best by doubling up on headliners for 2021 return

The 2021 line-up of headliners and early confirmed acts for Leeds Festival and its sister event, Reading Festival

LEEDS Festival will have headliners at the double next summer after last week’s no-show in Covid-2020.

Croydon rapper Stormzy and ex-Oasis lippy lead vox Liam Gallagher, bill toppers from this summer’s scrapped event, will have their day in the Bramham Park sun/rain, joined by four 2021 additions: American rapper Post Malone, rock bands Catfish And The Bottlemen and Queens Of The Stone Age and dance duo Disclosure, who released their new album, Energy, last Friday.

Only Rage Against The Machine from the 2020 headliners will not be at next summer’s August 27 to 29 event.

The six headliners will be split between Main Stage West and Main Stage East in what Melvin Benn, managing director of promoters Festival Republic, calls Leeds Festival’s “most epic plan yet”.

Gallagher will be the Friday headliner on Main Stage East; Queens Of The Stone Age, Friday, Main Stage West; Stormzy, Saturday, East; Catfish And The Bottlemen, Saturday, West; Post Malone, Sunday, East, and Disclosure, Sunday, West.

Further acts confirmed for next summer are Lewis Capaldi; Two Door Cinema Club;  Doja Cat; Mabel; AJ Tracey; Fever 333; DaBaby; Ashnikko; MK; 100 Geks; Lyra; Madison Beer; Sofi Tucker and Beabadoobee.

Tickets go on sale on Thursday (September 3) from 9am at leedsfestival.com and via Ticketmaster. Tickets bought for this summer will remain valid; alternatively, refunds will be available.

Benn envisages that entry to Bramham Park, near Wetherby, will be monitored by an NHS-linked tracing app, to be shown at the security gates.

Good Godber! Stephen Joseph Theatre to re-start indoor live shows next month. Hull Truck Theatre to reopen too in November

Family drama: Playwright John Godber with wife Jane Thornton and daughters Martha and Elizabeth

LIVE indoor theatre will return on the East Coast this autumn at both Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre.

Today, the SJT announces an “innovative autumn and winter season for 2020 that has been carefully crafted to combine live theatre for socially distanced audiences with digital work for those that prefer to stay at home”.

In the SJT’s headline news, the waiting for Godber’s new play is over. The world premiere of the ground-breaking former Hull Truck artistic director’s Sunny Side Up! will be a family affair, starring John Godber, his wife Jane Thornton and their daughter Martha Godber from October 28 to 31 in The Round.

Written and directed by Godber, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! depicts a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it. “Join proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in this seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about,” invites John.

Further news bongs go to a new audio recording by former SJT artistic director Sir Alan Ayckbourn and a one-woman Christmas show, likely to be one of the few in the region, specially rewritten to adapt to prevailing Covid-19 pandemic circumstances.

After the lockdown success of his debut audio play, Anno Domino, premiered by writer-director Ayckbourn and his wife, actor Heather Stoney, Ayckbourn goes solo for Haunting Julia, his ghostly 1994 play, wherein he will play all three parts. As before, his master’s voice can be heard only via the SJT website, sjt.uk.com, with the play being available online “throughout December”, although the exact dates are yet to be rubber-stamped.

Going solo: Sir Alan Ayckbourn will re-visit his 1994 ghostly play Haunting Julia in a solo audio recording in December

The SJT Christmas show, from December 4 to 30, reassembles the crack team behind the hit productions of the past four winters: director Paul Robinson, writer Nick Lane and musical director Simon Slater, the latter two both serving up shows earlier in the season too.

Adapted by Lane from the Hans Christian Andersen story, the solo version of The Snow Queen will be performed by Polly Lister, who played Mari in Jim Cartwright’s The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and Di in Amelia Bullmore’s Di And Viv And Rose when part of the SJT’s 2017 summer repertory company.

Scarborough-born Slater, an SJT associate artist, will appear in Douglas Post’s one-man thriller Bloodshot from October 21 to 24 in The Round, where all productions will be mounted, save for the online performances.

Slater will play Derek Eveleigh, a photographer with a serious drinking problem, who pursues a mysterious female subject across 1950s’ London from racially troubled Notting Hill to the raucous entertainments of Soho.

Often comedic Nick Lane’s sardonic, surreal and “intensely autobiographical” first straight play, My Favourite Summer, was premiered at Hull Truck in January and February 2007. This autumn, the original cast and the belting Nineties’ soundtrack will return in the torrid tale of Dave, who spends a month working alongside a nutcase called Melvin in the summer job from hell in 1995. 

Winter chill: Polly Lister in the SJT’s one-woman Christmas show, The Snow Queen, written by Nick Lane

Saving money to take the girl he loves away on holiday, before she disappears out of his life forever, has never been so hard. Still, at least the weather’s nice in a comedy for “everyone who’s ever been in love and lived to tell the tale”.

Lane, whose adaptation of The Sign Of Four was well received by SJT audiences last year, will direct the semi-staged 2020 performance of My Favourite Summer in a run from November 12 to 14.

The autumn/winter season will begin on October 1 with a live performance on Zoom of Love Letters At Home. “In response to our desire for connection in times of physical distance, Uninvited Guests have created an innovative, digital, wholly personal and wonderfully live experience,” the SJT announces.

By collecting song requests and dedications from audience members, Uninvited Guests create a show guaranteed to be unique to each audience. Join them on Zoom to raise a glass to long lost and current loves, to mums and dads, and to absent friends.

Light entertainment: A switched-on Katie Arnstein in her one-woman show Sexy Lamp

“Have you ever been treated like an inanimate object?” asks Katie Arnstein in her solo show Sexy Lamp on October 15. Katie has suffered that slight, she says, although in reality she is a “friendly, lovable and hilarious real-life person”.

Join her as she re-lives, through story and songs, all the times she was not seen as one, however. Billed as “somewhere between the comedy of Victoria Wood, the comfort of going for a drink with your best mate and the high drama of Hamlet”, Arnstein’s show won both Show of the Week and Pleasance Pick at last year’s VAULT Festival in London. “It’s nothing like Hamlet,” she corrects herself.

In Alison Carr’s dark comedy, Dogwalker, on November 6 and 7, Helen finds a dead body in the local dog park, whereupon suddenly everyone is paying attention to her. At least for a little while.

Now she has had a taste of the limelight, Helen will not fade into the shadows without a fight in a play that first dropped through the SJT Open Script Submissions window and is being developed for a potential run at the Edinburgh Fringe under the direction of Chelsey Gillard, the SJT’s Carne Trust associate director.

Carr, by the way, had the disappointment of her sold-out performances of The Last Quiz Night In Earth in March being scrapped under the Coronavirus theatre shutdown.

On the beach: Serena Manteghi, in her guise as teenage single mum Yasmin in Build A Rocket. In November, she returns to the SJT. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

After writer Alexander Flanagan-Wright and musician Phil Grainger’s performances of linking shows Orpheus and Eurydice in the At The Mill season at Stillington Mill and York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival, Serena Manteghi will be in the cast for SJT performances from November 19 to 21.

Serena premiered Eurydice to award-winning success in Australia, when joined in the two-hander by actor and designer Casey Jay Andrews. She will be familiar to SJT audiences from playing LV in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and Yasmin in the premiere of Christopher York’s Build A Rocket.

From The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre stable, Orpheus and Eurydice are modern re-tellings of ancient Greek mythology, interweaving a world of dive bars, side streets and ancient gods.

A series of rehearsed play readings will take place in the theatre on October 7, 13 and 20, then each Tuesday from November 3 to 24, including Sarah Gordon’s The Underdog, Katie Redford’s Tapped and Rebecca Jade Hammond’s Canton. 

Further shows will be announced soon, among them an evening of conversation with Hull-born Maureen Lipman and an innovative online show from outspoken Denby Dale comedian Daniel Kitson.

“We see it as part of our ongoing civic role to open as soon as is reasonably practicable and to present irresistible work,” says SJT artistic director Paul Robinson

The re-opened SJT has been showing films in the McCarthy at the former Odeon cinema building since last month and will continue to do so. Now, artistic director and joint chief executive Paul Robinson is looking forward to the return of live theatre.

“We’ve worked hard to create an ambitious season of relatively small-scale work, but one that promises great entertainment and really does have something for everyone, including shows for those who are happy to return to the building, and also for those who aren’t.

“We see it as part of our ongoing civic role to open as soon as is reasonably practicable and to present irresistible work alongside meticulously thought-through health and safety measures.

“Our family show at Christmas, for instance, was originally written for five actors, but that would have made rehearsing impossible under current guidelines. Writer Nick Lane has adapted it into a remarkable one-woman show that we’re confident will be every bit as much fun as the original and will really showcase the multi-talented Polly Lister.” 

The SJT has introduced comprehensive measures for the safety and comfort of its audiences – full details at https://www.sjt.uk.com/were_back  – and has been awarded VisitEngland’s We’re Good to Go industry standard mark, signifying adherence to government and public health guidance.

On a knife edge: Simon Slater in Bloodshot, playing the SJT from October 21 to 24

“Everything will pay proper heed to social distancing, for both the audience and for our staff and performers,” says Robinson. “The seating capacity in The Round will vary from show to show but the socially distanced maximum will be 185.”

All the autumn and winter events will be added to the SJT website shortly; booking will open for Circle members from September 8 and for general sales from September 11. 

To book, visit sjt.uk.com/whatson or call the box office on 01723 370541. The box office is open Thursdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings.

HULL Truck Theatre will reopen with the Hull Jazz Festival from November 12 and a seating capacity reduced to 20 to 30 per cent, but The Railway Children will not go ahead.

A statement from the Ferensway theatre announces: “The Hull Jazz Festival is a key part of our autumn season and we are really pleased that after eight months of closure, we are able to work with long-term partners J-Night to open the building with their exciting programme. Audience capacity will be smaller as we adhere to social distancing, but the programme and experience will still be the same great quality.”

York playwright Mike Kenny’s The Railway Children will be back on track in December 2021 after being de-railed from its 2020 Hull Truck Theatre Christmas run by the Covid curse

However, the theatre bosses have had to make the “difficult decision” to postpone the 2020 Christmas production of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children, scripted by York playwright Mike Kenny in a re-visit of his award-winning adaptation for York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum (2008/2009) and Waterloo Station, London (2010).

“The creation of one of our Christmas shows usually begins in August but without an announced date from the Government on when theatre performances can resume without social distancing, a show of this scale would not be economically viable,” the Hull Truck statement reads.

“The Railway Children will be postponed until Christmas 2021 and all tickets will be automatically transferred into the equivalent date, time and original seat selection. We will be contacting all customers with details of their ticket transfer and, with our reduced team, we ask that customers do not contact the box office at this time.”

The statement continues: “While we may not be able to do something in our auditorium on the scale of The Railway Children, we remain committed to creating magical Christmas experiences for our audiences and are delighted to announce we will be producing an alternative show for 2020.”

The new show will be a promenade production of Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker that will enable audiences to enjoy a festive adventure within small groups and under social-distancing measures as they move through the theatre.

“We are very excited to have a reopening date,” says Hull Truck Theatre artistic director Mark Babych

What lies in store? Every year on Christmas Eve, Prince Charming – soon to be King and deluded Crooner – celebrates the festive season with an annual knees-up:  the Christmas Cracker. This year, a big announcement is imminent and you are all invited.

Further details and on-sale dates for Hull Jazz Festival and Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker will be announced in September, alongside up-to-date information on how Hull Truck is being made a safe place to visit within Government guidelines.

Announcements on the updated January to March 2021 season will be made later in the autumn, once Hull Truck has more information regarding social-distancing guidelines.

“We are dependent on Government advice on social distancing regarding the ability to stage productions and therefore whether they are financially viable,” the statement emphasises.

Artistic director Mark Babych and his joint chief executive officer, Janthi Mills-Ward, say: “We are very excited to have a reopening date to bring alive our wonderful theatre again. We will obviously be operating at a much-reduced capacity – 20 to 30 per cent – while social distancing is in place, which makes re-opening a difficult financial jigsaw of what and how we present work.

Truck on: Hull Truck Theatre’s main auditorium, reopening from November 12

“But with meticulous planning to ensure the theatre is a safe place and innovative ideas for a programme that is possible with social distancing, we look forward to sharing the joy of live theatre again.”

They continue: “Part of this will be doing Christmas differently this year, which presents lots of creative challenges for the Hull Truck team to work on together, as well as opportunities for freelance artists. 

“Our vision is to create a joyful, fun and uplifting production that takes audiences on an exciting journey through the theatre and we are sure this show is going to be just what we all need to get us in the Christmas spirit after a difficult year!”

Please note, Hull Truck “asks for your patience and kindness at this time as the box-office team work to contact all customers who have booked for The Railway Children”.

Sam Johnson makes big Broadway video to raise funds for Theatre @41’s roof re-build

Banding and bonding: The Sam Johnson Big Band and and a galaxy of York musical theatre stars recording Broadway Baby to raise funds for Theatre @41’s roof renovation

TWENTY-ONE singers, 22 musicians and even four cats have come together – remotely, you can never herd cats – to make a fundraising video for Theatre @41 Monkgate’s roof renovation.

Under the musical direction and arranging skills of pianist Sam Johnson, they have recorded a big-band version of Broadway Baby, marking the 90th birthday year of composer Stephen Sondheim.

The video combines the Sam Johnson Big Band with cast members from the York musical theatre scene and you can see them in full swing on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6RcpRBJPwA

Donations through JustGiving can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/broadwaybabymonkgate

York band leader, tutor, composer, performer, producer and now video maker Sam says: “I put the video together, getting in touch with all the singers, after having put together four or five other videos with the Big Band. I thought it would be a good video to wrap them all up and to include such a large number of people together for the cause!

“I also noted that everyone in the video has benefited in some way from the Monkgate venue, whether it be through a performance or rehearsal.”

“It’s a good, brassy Broadway big-band number to mix the two ensembles together in the smoothest way possible,” says band leader Sam Johnson of Sondheim’s Broadway Baby

Explaining his choice of musical-theatre song, with its apposite Covid-era lyric of “Waiting for that one big chance to be in a show”, Sam says: “I went for Sondheim’s Broadway Baby song-wise as it’s from one of the shows I’ve enjoyed most working on at Monkgate when Pick Me Up Theatre staged Follies’ last year.

“It’s a good, brassy Broadway big-band number to mix the two ensembles together in the smoothest way possible!”

Welcoming the fundraising boost of Broadway Baby, Theatre @41 board secretary Jo Hird – whose “dressing up is better than my vocals” on the video – says: “With Theatre @41 closed, we’re trying to crack on with as much decorating and renovating as we can, so as not to disrupt shows when we’re allowed to reopen.

“One of the shows we had to postpone was Pick Me Up Theatre’s Sondheim 90: A Birthday Concert to celebrate the New York composer’s 90th birthday. How brilliant of Sam Johnson to put Broadway Baby together. It took a lot of coordinating. 

Sam Johnson in rehearsal with his big band in pre-Covid days

“We’re really grateful to Sam for bringing this fundraiser to life because we need every penny we can get to repair our roof and keep our Monkgate building open.”

The cast taking part in the recording were: Susannah Baines; Emily Chattle; Emma-Louise Dickinson; Anna Hale; Iain Harvey; Sam Hird; Jo Hird; Darren Lumby; Sandy Nicholson; Adam Price; Emily Ramsden; Tracey Rea; Andrew Roberts; Rosy Rowley; Lauren Sheriston; Maggie Smales; Joanne Theaker; Dave Todd; Juliet Waters; Natalie Walker and Jennie Wogan.

Joining pianist, musical director and arranger Sam Johnson in the band were Katie Wood and Katie Maloney on alto sax; Richard Oakman and Stephen Donoghue on tenor sax; Nick Jones on baritone sax and a multitude of trumpet players, Connor McLean, Sam Rees, Charles Tomlinson, James Lolley, Daniel Dickson and Leo James Conroy.

So too did trombonists Anna Marshall, Lauren Ingham and Fliss Simpson; violinists Claire Jowett and Emily Jones, viola player Jess Douglas; cellist Lucy McLuckie; guitarist Tom Holmes; upright bassist Georgia Johnson and Andy Hayes on the drum kit.

Look out too for cameo appearances by a quartet of cats, Strummer, Misty, Paris and Bob.

REVIEW: Every Time A Bell Rings, Park Bench Theatre, Rowntree Park, York ****

A collage of Lisa Howard in the role of Cathy in Every Time A Bell Rings in Rowntree Park. Picture: Northedge Photography

REVIEW: Every Time A Bell Rings, Park Bench Theatre, Engine House Theatre, Friends Garden, Rowntree Park, York, until September 5 ****

SCARF, tick. Jumpers, tick. Hat, tick. Thick socks, tick. Rugs. Tick. Don’t you love preparing for a night’s outdoor theatre in the York summertime?

The day before, one family had stoically braved the rain to watch Cassie Vallance clowning around in Teddy Bears’ Picnic. They wanted to make a day of it, rather than a meal of it, such is the resilient nature of the British theatregoer.

Come Saturday night, all the audience for the premiere of Engine House Theatre artistic director Matt Aston’s lockdown monologue, Every Time A Bell Rings, had kitted out in attire more suited to Bonfire Night.

Actor Lisa Howard, luminary of Slung Low and Northern Broadsides productions, had her coat hood up too, as she walked to the park bench under the linden tree in a corner of the Friends Garden in Rowntree Park, while the audience headsets, tuned into a receiver, took them back to those early innocent days of Johnson and Trump not taking Coronavirus seriously with statements that now sound hauntingly crass.

Matt Aston: artistic director of Engine House Theatre and Park Bench Theatre and writer-in-lockdown of Every Time A Bell Rings. Picture: Livy Potter

Howard is playing Cathy; the day is Easter Sunday, April 12 2020, in the grave first month of the pandemic lockdown. Cathy has been in isolation; her husband has Covid; he insists she quarantines for 14 days, not the mandatory seven at the time; an alarm bell for what is to follow. She has been outside only to join in the Thursday night clapping-and-cheering ritual for the NHS and key workers.

This is the first time Cathy has left the house, to take up her favourite park bench seat in her favourite park, Rowntree Park (she lives nearby off Bishopthorpe Road).

She is quietly spoken, contemplative, on edge, addressing the audience like one of the episodes of Alan Bennett’s newly revived Talking Heads as she seeks solace. She recalls the minutiae of the early days of lockdown: one hour’s exercise day; the heightened awareness of birdsong; the way people started saying hello to each other in the street; the striped Barnacle geese joining the Canada geese regulars in Rowntree Park.

So far, so familiar, her sentiments, her darkly humorous observations, no different from those of countless others, but it as if the tentative Cathy is gaining the confidence to reveal more, to peel back the poignant, disturbing layers, once the audience is warmed up (proverbially speaking, not in reality as the wind has started picking up).

Director Tom Bellerby in rehearsal for Park Bench Theatre’s Every Time A Bell Rings. Picture: Northedge Photography

Here the high-quality craft of writer, actor and director Tom Bellerby alike shines through: Every Time A Bell Ring’s revelations grow ever more shattering, and it would be wrong to reveal the last.

Suffice to say that death hangs heavy over Cathy’s story: the sudden loss of her beloved first husband; likewise, the passing of her treasured daughter in the past year. Howard shows mastery of text and emotion, never over-stated and all the more impactful for its realism, her grief contained but ever present.

Drip, drip, drip – Aston’s very words – we learn of Cathy’s second husband controlling her, not through physical abuse, but barbed words. Gaslighting, in other words.

Deep in thought: Lisa Howard’s Cathy on her favourite bench in her favourite park in Park Bench Theatre’s premiere of Every Time A Bell Rings. Picture: Northedge Photography

The ever-darkening Every Time A Bell Rings is the third of three Park Bench Theatre storytelling productions – after Samuel Beckett’s First Love and Teddy Bears’ Picnic – to open in August, marking the return of live theatre in York, glory be.

Aston and his team, together with Friends of Rowntree Park and the City of York Council, are to be thanked for a summer season of diversity, imagination, vision and no little courage. A season that has been Covid-secure, socially distanced, but still social and intimate, the latter courtesy of the headsets.

Whatever uncertainty lies ahead for theatres still stymied in the dark over autumn, winter and beyond, let us hope that Park Bench Theatre can return next summer, the park benchmark set high from all three shows this season.

Tickets for the 7pm evening performances and 4pm Saturday matinee are on sale at tickets.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

How much hand sanitiser will Lady Macbeth get through? Take a seat for YSP’s Sit-down Sonnets in a churchyard for the answer

Mick Taylor, York Shakespeare Project’s director for Sit-down Sonnets, aptly takes a seat for last Saturday’s rehearsal at the Rowntree Park amphitheatre

YORK’S purveyors of Shakespeare’s Sonnet Walks are staging a sit-down, but not as an act of protest.

Instead, the mood will be celebratory as York Shakespeare Project present a special production of Shakespeare’s sonnets from Friday, allowing audiences to enjoy live theatre outdoors.

YSP’s Sit-down Sonnets can be seen at the Holy Trinity churchyard, in Goodramgate, where the 45-minute production will feature Shakespearean characters responding to the pandemic, each sharing a famous Shakespeare sonnet as part of their monologue.

“The conceit this time is that the sonneteers are well-known Shakespeare characters in the present day, coping as best they can with lockdown,” says producer Maurice Crichton. “In what is now time-honoured fashion, each has a sonnet to tee up, the pairing of character and sonnet hopefully opening up some unknown sonnets in an accessible way and giving some well-known ones a new angle.

York Shakespeare Project cast members Shirley Williams, left, and Di Starr performing Shakespeare’s Sonnet Walks in 2019 in the churchyard at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, where Sit-down Sonnets will open on Friday

“Thinking of some of the characters I’ve played, I wondered how might they each be placed? Ulysses is no longer troubled that Achilles won’t come out of his tent because all the Greeks are stuck under canvas waiting for the latest R number estimates.

“Claudius is annoyed he’s had to postpone his marriage to Gertrude but is relieved there are no trains home from Wittenburg for Hamlet to catch; Feste can’t sing in public, so he’s planning an online concert from a willow cabin he’s constructing at Olivia’s gate…It’s a fun game to play and not just with Shakespeare.” 

Conceived and directed by Mick Taylor and produced by Crichton, the sonnets show will be performed by Frank Brogan; Nigel Evans; Emily Hansen; Sue Harris; Margaret Hillier; Judith Ireland; Emilie Knight; Mick Liversidge; Phyllis Carson-Smith; Di Starr; Mick Taylor himself and Helen Wilson, “sharpening up her Miss Jean Brodie act”.

As to who they will play, Maurice teases: “We are being coy about which Shakespeare characters you will see…but Mick has had some fun pulling a script together.”

Note the face mask: York Shakespeare Project’s topical poster for September’s Sit-down Sonnets

For the past few years, the York community theatre company has produced Sonnet Walks, a guided walk around York where the audience meets a range of connected characters with a story to tell and a Shakespearean sonnet to share.

Now comes the sit-down variation, under Taylor’s direction. “Like everyone involved with theatre, we’ve missed being able to enjoy and take part in live performance,” he says. “Having staged the Sonnet Walks previously, we knew that, as a format, it could be adapted in a way that would allow us to perform to a seated audience outdoors. And Holy Trinity is a beautiful place to do it: a leafy sanctuary in the centre of the city.”

Explaining the 2020 format, Mick says: “In these Sit-down Sonnets, we’ve taken some of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and written new monologues for them as they find themselves in the middle of this pandemic.

“How might things have turned out for them if they’d been stuck in lockdown? How can Brutus get near to Caesar to put his knife in when all the senate meetings are on Zoom? Where can Romeo get his fateful poison if the apothecary’s on furlough? And how much hand sanitiser will Lady Macbeth get through? They’ll share their thoughts on a world of lockdowns, masks and social distancing, along with a sonnet that reflects their feelings.”

How prescient: York Shakespeare Project founder Frank Brogan predicts the end of the world in last summer’s Shakespeare’s Sonnet Walks. Cue Covid-19…

Making an historical link, Mick points out: “Shakespeare himself was no stranger to the impact a pandemic can have on theatre. Between 1603 and 1613, the theatres were closed for a total of six and a half years. Thankfully, we can return in performances like this a little sooner!”

York Shakespeare Project were just over a week away from the opening night for their spring production of Macbeth when lockdown began in late-March, stalling the 20-year mission to produce all of Shakespeare’s known plays by 2021 on the home straight, when only two big hitters, Macbeth and The Tempest, were left to perform.

Committee member Tony Froud says: “We were obviously very disappointed to have to postpone Macbeth and, like other companies, we are waiting to see how and when indoor live performance can safely return before deciding when we can prepare to stage the plays again.

“That’s why we’re so pleased to be able to perform Shakespeare in front of an audience in this way. Mick and Maurice have done a tremendous job in a short amount of time to prepare a production that audiences can enjoy safely and that brings the beauty of the sonnets to life in new ways.

Take a seat: York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets cast members listen to director Mick Taylor, fourth from right, when rehearsing in Rowntree Park, York, last weekend

“We hope that people will be able to join us for what should be a fun and unique performance, and a long-overdue chance to watch live theatre.”

YSP pass on their thanks to the Churches Conservation Trust and the volunteers at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, for accommodating Sit-Down Sonnets this summer.

“We looked at Dean’s Park and the Museum Gardens but in both cases that would have involved opening late specially for us,” says Maurice. “Last year, Ed van der Molen at Holy Trinity Church was very responsive to our idea of bringing our Sonnet Walks through the churchyard and this year even more so: he could not have been more welcoming.

“The review in The Press last year said: ‘What can be more lovely than a marriage of Shakespeare’s golden verse and York’s heritage’. Holy Trinity is a jewel in York’s heritage and its churchyard a haven in the city centre. It was our first choice for trying out this new format.”

Frank Brogan in rehearsal for the Sit-down Sonnets

The Covid-secure Sit-down Sonnets will be presented from September 4 to 12 (except September 7) at 5.45pm and 7pm nightly, bolstered each Saturday by a 4.15pm matinee.

“The audience capacity is ten social bubbles or 20 souls, whichever maximum we reach first,” says Maurice. “We don’t really know how it will feel to have a static show rather than a walk, but the sonnets will come thicker and faster and it will be colder, so dress warmly.

“There are five park benches in the churchyard, which we will be using, so a cushion would be a useful thing to bring, as would a rug and a camp chair. Maybe a flask and a packet of biscuits too.

“We’re delighted to see that the latest weather forecast for this week’s opening performances is: Friday, 16C, 5% chance of rain, 11mph breeze; Saturday, 15C, 6% chance of rain, 9mph breeze.” 

Tickets are available at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk, priced at £7 for adults, £4 for 14-17 year olds, and two under-14s may accompany each adult for free. To find out more about dates, tickets and the production, go to: yorkshakespeareproject.org.

Pianist Sarah Beth Briggs responds to lockdown with home videos and new album

Doubling up: Sarah Beth Briggs has made five videos of music for two pianos, taking on the role of both pianists

YORK pianist Sarah Beth Briggs has released her tenth album, The Austrian Connection, bringing back memories of her earliest days of making her mark in the classical music world.

“2020 got off to a good start when I spent three days recording the album in early January at Leeds University’s Clothworkers Hall,” she says.

This summer’s new disc on the AVIE Records label features music associated most closely with Briggs during a career that stretches back to teenage days. At 15, she was the joint winner of Salzburg’s International Mozart Competition and Mozart has since been prominent on several of her recordings.

She has established herself too as a performer at home in the Viennese tradition and works by Haydn, Schubert and Brahms form an important part of her discography.

“In a market where one-composer discs have become the norm, I’ve come up with a different line of thought,” says Sarah. “My CDs feel more like my recitals in the concert hall, with both linked threads and the kind of stylistic contrasts that I choose to offer my live audiences.”

The idea for The Austrian Connection began with Sarah’s commitment to the music of Austrian-British composer Hans Gál. “I see Gál as the last great composer to uphold the tonal Austro German tradition,” she says.

“I’ve already made award-winning recordings of his Piano Concerto – a world premiere recording – and chamber music and now, on my latest album, I trace the connection between Gál’s writing and that of his great Austrian forebears, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert.”

The artwork for Sarah Beth Briggs’s latest album, The Austrian Connection

Sarah would welcome Gál’s music being featured much more regularly in the concert hall. “I was particularly happy when my recording of the slow movement of the Piano Concerto made it on to Classic FM’s Smooth Classics, as I see it as being just as accessible as the great romantic piano concerto slow movements,” she says.

“Gál has the wit of Haydn, the precision of Mozart and the song-like qualities of Schubert and whenever I present this great music in the concert hall, audiences delight in it.”

Sarah is thrilled by the early responses to The Austrian Connection. “The disc has already been popular with BBC Radio 3 and Scala Radio, as well as featuring in a dedicated programme on Austrian Radio – and it’s also been warmly received both here and abroad,” she says.

As with artists the world over, the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown brought an abrupt halt to Sarah’s performing career. “As the spread of Covid-19 accelerated, watching my concerts being erased from the diary one by one was like seeing a pack of dominoes falling,” she recalls. “Solo recitals, chamber music concerts and my Spanish concerto debut all went, and the future looked bleak.

“Zoom teaching over the internet soon followed, but something else was very necessary as an artistic outlet.”

As with many other international musicians, the only possibility was to record music at home to share with those that love it over the internet. “In dark times, the arts are needed more than ever,” asserts Sarah, who set about making “unedited, basically recorded home videos”.

“It was time to rid myself of my concerns about poor sound and amateurish video production and get on with sharing music. It proved a very cathartic process for me – at last I could share something again.”

“A world without live arts is very monochrome,” says Sarah Beth Briggs. “We, as musicians, need our audiences and hope that they need us very soon!”

Unsurprisingly, Sarah began with a beautiful Hans Gál movement, since when her musical journeys have taken in an eclectic mix of everything from Bach to Albeniz, complemented by a new Prelude and Fugue by her great friend, the composer Christopher Brown, thrown in for good measure.

“It felt a strange process,” says Sarah. “Having had all ten of my commercial CDs produced by Simon Fox-Gál, one of the world’s great producers – and, as it happens, Hans Gál’s grandson! – I was suddenly recording myself on a mini Zoom recorder.

“I synched that sound with visuals made on an iPhone, at first poised on a well-used music stand which had belonged to my mother when she played the violin in schooldays. I really hit the big time when I moved on and purchased a ‘selfie stick’ to secure the iPhone!”

In addition to her solo videos, Sarah has recorded remotely with her violinist duo partner, David Juritz. “Playing Mozart with David in Chiswick and me in York certainly was a novel experience,” she says. “Chamber music is such a huge part of what music is about to me and I’m greatly missing working with others.”

More unusually still, Sarah has made five videos of music for two pianos, taking on the role of both pianists. For a taster, seek out her particularly dramatic offering of the first movement of Brahms’ Sonata for Two Pianos, better known to many as the Piano Quintet, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRgxb8loUig

After 20 videos in total, the end of August heralds Sarah’s decision to close the regular series, but they can all be found at: https://www.sarahbethbriggspianist.co.uk/lockdown-videos/

She remains “cautiously optimistic” about the gradual reopening of the arts, not least being delighted that Yorkshire has hosted two of the first classical music events with an audience present: Jamie Walton’s vibrant North York Moors Chamber Music Festival in a marquee at Welburn Abbey, Ryedale, from August 9 to 22, and a pilot concert with the Orchestra of Opera North at Leeds Town Hall on August 28.

‘It has been a very rough time for so many people and those of us in the arts world are certainly among the worst hit, but there is a thirst for live music and theatre out there and we will win the battle and get things back on track,” she says. “A world without live arts is very monochrome – we, as musicians, need our audiences and hope that they need us very soon!’

“We all need a little D.I.S.C.O in our lives,” say Voxed and SJT in home dance film project

The Hills are alive with the joy of dancing for the #goggledance Scarborough project

THE #goggledance Scarborough series of short films showcasing Scarborough residents’ dance moves will be available to view from next week.

Made by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in a co-production with dance theatre company Voxed, the films feature people from around the East Coast resort  watching, commenting on and joining in with freelance professional dancer Alethia Antonia as she gives bespoke performances outside their houses.

The results are “uplifting, inspiring and occasionally hilarious”, says Alethia, who loves experimenting with different styles and sharing her passion for movement through improvisation and performance.

Dancing in the street: Professional dancer Alethia Antonia doing one of her “bespoke performances” for Eastfield residents in Scarborough

The project was developed by choreographer, director and movement director Wayne Parsons, Voxed’s founder and artistic director, who says: “We spent a brilliant day filming with residents in Eastfield and other areas of Scarborough.

“Everyone involved really got into the spirit of it. As one participant put it: ‘We all need a little D.I.S.C.O in our lives’!”

SJT creative producer Amy Fisher says: “This was our first live performance since March and it was brilliant to see families enjoying it together and joining in. It felt really special to be able to perform it on their home turf – or pavement! – as a way of engaging with the community.”

Busting a move: The Flintoff family reach for the ceiling in the #goggledance Scarborough film project

Made by James Williams, the films are narrated by self-proclaimed “Irish loudmouth” Sarah Blanc, whose show My Feminist Boner was a hit at the SJT pre-lockdown.

Films will be released at 5pm each Friday for five weeks from September 4 on the Voxed and SJT Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube accounts.

Did you know?

VOXED are an associate company of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, creating work that, at its heart, is all about storytelling, aiming to bring people together through the shared experience of dance. Whether in their indoor or outdoor work or participation projects, Voxed seek to reflect the world we live in and the stories we share.

Sarah Blanc: Narrator for the #goggledance Scarborough short films, here starring in her show My Feminist Boner at the Stephen Joseph Theatre earlier this year. Picture: Roswitha Chesher

Welcome to Scarborough’s new Arcade – for theatre, not shopping. SJT involved

A new Arcade in town: directors Sophie Drury-Bradey, left, and Rach Drew launch community producing company in Scarborough. Picture: Stewart Baxter

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre is joining forces with Arcade, Scarborough’s new community producing company run by ex-York Mediale leading light Rach Drew and Sophie Drury-Bradey.

The long-established SJT will be sharing its skills, experience and expertise with its latest associate company while learning fresh approaches from the duo as part of its ongoing programme of new creative partnerships.

Arcade joins theatre companies Box Of Tricks, The Faction and Voxed in the coterie of associate companies.

Arcade and the SJT share the outlook that “everyone is creative and culture belongs to everyone”. Led by Drew and Drury-Bradey, Arcade “ aims to make incredible cultural experiences happen with artists and communities, to support communities to develop creativity and ideas and to collaborate to make community-led change happen using the arts, through creative projects, workshops, shows, festivals and events in Scarborough and across the UK”.

The first joint project will be Scarborough Stories, targeted at anyone who has a story they want to tell or is angry or passionate about an issue or challenge in their life or community. Running from April 2021 to March 2022, it will culminate in a site-specific show in the town centre.

Sophie says: “We can’t wait to work with the SJT to make some extraordinary community-led projects and shows happen. We’ll be asking our local community what they want and also supporting both local and national artists to work within the town and borough.

“Absolutely delighted”: Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director Paul Robinson

“We’ll aim to work in partnership, growing Arcade and the SJT’s relationships with other brilliant local organisations, such as Scarborough Museums Trust, CaVCA and others.”

Paul Robinson, the SJT’s artistic director, says: “We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Arcade as the latest of our associate companies. They’ll bring fresh new perspectives to our busy programme of community work.”

Rach Drew was formerly executive director of York Mediale, whose first £1.3m international arts festival – the largest media arts festival in Britain – was held in October 2018.

Prior to this, she managed York’s large-scale autumn light festival, Illuminating York. Originally trained as a theatre director, Rach has enjoyed a varied career, from founding her own youth theatre to collaborating with communities in museums and creating exhibitions for local artists.

Sophie Drury-Bradey was previously senior producer at Battersea Arts Centre, in London, for eight years. She has 15 years’ experience in producing, programming, participation and project management and a track record for supporting talent development and the realisation of new and ambitious projects, such as the award-winning show Brand New Ancients by Kate Tempest [now Kae Tempest] and Touretteshero’s Broadcast From Biscuitland for live TV broadcast on BBC4.

For more information on Arcade, go to: hello-arcade.com.

More Things To Do in York and beyond or at home, in or hopefully out of the rain, courtesy of The Press, York. List No. 13

Benched: Lisa Howard as grief-stricken Cathy, coming out of isolation on Easter Sunday 2020 in Matt Aston’s lockdown play, Every Time A Bell Rings, presented by Park Bench Theatre. Picture: Northedge Photography

A BANK Holiday on Monday, the return to schools drawing ever closer, masked or unmasked, the summer calendar is speeding by.

Make the most of the outdoors before the crepuscular Covid uncertainty of autumn and beyond arrives for theatres, concert halls and gig venues alike.

Charles Hutchinson pops outside, then quickly head back indoors in the rain with these recommendations.

Comedy for your living room…from theirs: Your Place Comedy presents Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes, Sunday, 8pm

Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes: The stream team for Your Place Comedy, performing in their living rooms on Sunday night

YORKSHIRE virtual comedy project Your Place Comedy returns after a summer break to deliver a second series of live streamed shows over the next three months, re-starting with The Chase star Paul Sinha and  BBC Radio 4 News Quiz guest host Angela Barnes this weekend.

Corralled by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones, ten small, independent theatres and arts centres from God’s Own Country and the Humber are coming together again, amid continued unease for the industry, to provide entertainment from national touring acts.

Sunday’s show will be broadcast live to viewers’ homes for free, with full details on how to watch on YouTube and Twitch at yourplacecomedy.co.uk. “As before, viewers will have an option to make a donation to the venues if they have enjoyed the broadcast,” says Chris.

Mucking around: Cassie Vallance enjoying herself in Teddy Bears’ Picnic in the Friends’ Garden, Rowntree Park,
York. Picture: Northedge Photography

Garden theatre part three: Park Bench Theatre in Every Time A Bell Rings, Friends Garden, Rowntree Park, York, until September 5

SAMUEL Beckett’s First Love has left the bench for good. Children’s show Teddy Bears’ Picnic, starring Cassie Vallance, resumes daytime residence from today.  From this week, the premiere of Engine House Theatre artistic director Matt Aston’s lockdown monologue Every Time A Bell Rings occupies the same bench on evenings until September 5.

Performed by Slung Low and Northern Broadsides regular Lisa Howard and directed by Tom Bellerby on his return to York from London, Aston’s 50-minute play is set in Lockdown on Easter Sunday 2020, when isolated, grief-stricken Cathy searches for solace on her favourite park bench in her favourite park in this funny and poignant look at how the world is changing through these extraordinary times.

Tickets for performances in the Covid-secure Friends Garden must be bought in advance at parkbenchtheatre.com or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Bring picnics, blankets and headphones to tune in to shows delivered on receivers. 

Decked out: Hannah Sibai’s design for the Pop-Up On The Patio festival at York Theatre Royal

Deckchairs will be provided: Pop-Up On The Patio, week three at York Theatre Royal, August 28 and  29

YORK Theatre Royal’s Covid-secure summer festival of outdoor performances on Hannah Sibai’s terrace stage climaxes with five more shows, three tomorrow, two on Saturday.

First up, tomorrow at 4pm, is York company Cosmic Collective Theatre’s cult show Heaven’s Gate, an intergalactic pitch-black comedy starring  satirical writer Joe Feeney, Anna Soden, Lewes Roberts and Kate Cresswell as they imagine the final hour of four fictionalised members of a real-life UFO-theistic group.

York performance poet Henry Raby puts the word into sword to slice up the past decade in Apps & Austerity at 6.30pm; Say Owt, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”, follows at 8pm. On Saturday, York magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson is unstoppable in Just Josh at 1pm before York pop, soul and blues singer Jess Gardham closes up the patio at 4pm.

Jo Walton: Rust on show at Pyramid Gallery

York exhibition of the week and beyond: Jo Walton, Paintings and Rust Prints, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, until September 30

YORK artist Jo Walton uses rust and rusted metal sheet in innovative ways to create her artworks. Iron filings are applied as ‘paint’ and as they rust, reactions occur, resulting in every painting being unique and unrepeatable.

“Jo’s work is abstract, inspired by horizons,” says Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett. “Her work features enhanced rust-prints on plaster surfaces, combinations of rusted sheet metal with oil painting and painting seascapes on gold-metal leaf.”

The poster for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

First blockbuster of the summer…at last: Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, at York cinemas

THE wait is over. This summer has been more blankbuster than blockbuster, thanks to the stultifying impact of the Covid lockdown and the big film companies’ reluctance to take a chance on a major release in the slow-burn, socially distanced reopening of cinemas.

Step forward Christopher Nolan, director of Memento, Inception, three Dark Knight/Batman movies and Dunkirk to grasp the nettle by releasing the 151-minute psychological thriller/action movie Tenet.

John David Washington (yes, Denzel’s son), Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh ride a rollercoaster plot that follows a secret agent who must manipulate time in order to prevent the Third World War. Apparently, Tenet is a “film to feel, not necessarily understand”, like a Scarborough fairground ride, then.

Bella Gaffney expresses her enthusiasm for taking part in Songs Under Skies in the National Centre for Early Music churchyard garden

Double bills galore outside a church: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, between September 2 and 17

SONGS Under Skies will bring together the National Centre for Early Music, The Crescent, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance for an open-air series of acoustic concerts next month in York.

Dates for the diary are: September 2, Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton; September 3, Dan Webster and Bella Gaffney; September 9,  Kitty VR and Boss Caine; September 10, Wolf Solent and Rosalind; September 16, Polly Bolton and Henry Parker; September 17, Elkyn and Fawn.

Gates will open at the NCEM’s Walmgate home, St Margaret’s Church, at 6.30pm for each 7pm start; acts will perform either side of a 30-minute interval with a finishing time of 8.30pm. 

The artwork for the new album by perennial York Barbican favourites The Waterboys

And what about…

Discovering The Waterboys’ new album, Good Luck, Seeker, Mike Scott’s latest soulful blast, met with universal thumbs-up reviews. Or bunking down with 1981 Ashes-winning captain turned psychoanalyst Mike Brearley’s new book for the end of summer, Spirit Of Cricket.

Can you provide a home for Badapple Theatre’s new play Suffer Fools Gladly or live film Eddie And The Gold Tops? Urgently

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre artistic director is looking to launch two autumn shows, one outdoors, the other indoors

WANTED! Badapple Theatre, the Green Hammerton company that takes shows to your doorstep, needs your urgent help to secure funding for two autumn projects.

Urgent really does mean urgent, as company founder and artistic director Kate Bramley explains: “We’ve just been offered a new grant from Arts Council England to cover our interim work between now and December 2020. They have set a deadline of Monday, August 31 for us to have six outdoor performances and six film events confirmed, so please do get in touch as soon as possible if you would like to be included.”

To put flesh on those bones: “As part of that, we’re looking to find a small number of outdoor spaces that would be willing to host a performance of Danny Mellor’s new play, Suffer Fools Gladly, between September 16 and 23,” says Kate, who commissioned Danny in the spring to write the piece for Badapple’s Lockdown Podcast series.

“It’s an extremely inventive and witty short comedy that at its core simply looks at the perils and perks if you had to tell the truth…all the time!” says Kate.

“Appealing to young and old audiences alike, this upbeat tale narrates the comic fall from grace of Ozzy, the court jester who is exiled from the magical kingdom of Marillion. It takes an unlikely friendship with a cynical 17-year old Earth girl, Stevie, to bring the joy back to both of their worlds.

Danny Mellor: Actor and writer for Badapple Theatre’s September play, Suffer Fools Gladly

“Danny’s play has a hint of political comment for the times but is really just meant to be a fun hour of upbeat storytelling to give people a bit of a lift.”

Danny has signed up to perform in next month’s mini-tour with Anastasia Berham, his co-star in last year’s Badapple Christmas show, Bramley’s warming winter play The Snow Dancer.

“They’re two great young actors who’ll be taking on the many voices and parts in a show with costume and puppetry design by Catherine Dawn,” says Kate, who will co-direct next month’s production.  “So, I’m now hoping to find a few hosts/ venues – we need six in mid-September – to make it work and we’re moving swiftly to do this.”

Badapple’s second putative autumn project has been prompted by an “overwhelming response from halls” [village and community halls] to a survey, expressing an interest in high-quality filmed versions of theatre shows.

“We’re looking at late October to early November for bookings for film-live screenings of Eddie And The Gold Tops,” reveals Kate. “To this end, we are again seeking a minimum of six venues to take part.

Last Christmas: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Berham in Badapple Theatre’s 2019 tour of The Snow Dancer.
Picture: Karl Andre

“When we started looking for the ultimate ‘feel-good’ show from the Badapple back catalogue, there was no contest! Eddie And The Gold Tops is our 1960s’ comedy about the unexpected and meteoric rise to stardom of Eddie, the local Bottledale milkman.

“With award-winning design by Charlie Cridlan and catchy and comic 1960s-style songs from our Sony Award-winning resident composer Jez Lowe, this show has delighted our audiences since 2012.”

In the Eddie And The Gold Tops storyline, Eddie inherited the family milk round from his father and has fulfilled his deathbed promise to never miss a delivery to the good people of Bottledale. Suddenly things are on the up: his songs are heading up the charts and if he can turn up by tonight, he will be on Top Of The Pops…so, get ready, Eddie, go! When things take a churn for the worse, however, will he arrive back in time for the morning milk round?

“Arts Council England have accepted our programme to make Eddie And The Gold Tops the first of these live-film featured events,” says Kate. “Our ambition is to create a new style of filmed performance – the ‘hybrid-live’ – that captures the energy, theatricality and immediacy of our live theatre shows while providing a quality of filmed entertainment that modern audiences have come to expect.

“The filmed show will feature a cast of three versatile performers leaping swiftly through a multitude of roles and songs, for audiences of all ages to tap their feet and laugh along to. We’re therefore looking for a small number of organisers to screen these pilot Theatre Film Night performances for socially distanced audiences at indoor venues in late October. Even better, make it a Sixties’ themed night with fancy dress and Bring Your Own.”

Anastasia Berham: Signed up to co-star with Danny Mellor in Suffer Fools Gladly

Summing up Badapple’s aims in an open letter headlined “Badapple Theatre: To Boldy Go… “,  administrator and company director Claire Jeffrey says: “As you all know, the Coronavirus pandemic has meant the closure of all live events for a prolonged period and we are hoping to now work in partnership with Arts Council England to safely deliver a small number of live events between September 2020 and January 2021.

“Our project ambition is simply to offer a series of pure feel-good events that are open to all ages and are just about local people having the confidence to gather safely with friends and neighbours at our ultra-small-scale Theatre On Your Doorstep events.

“We will, of course, be preparing a full Covid-19 risk assessment in line with Government guidelines for both of these projects that have been specifically designed to build audience confidence for live events by offering reduced capacity/ socially distanced showings.”

Claire’s letter concludes: “We would be delighted to answer any questions that you may have about the details, including finances and being Covid-19 safe. I’m working from home at the moment and can be reached on 01423 331304 or by email to clairebadappletheatre@gmail.com if you have any questions or wish to talk anything through.”

Hurry, hurry, with that phone call or email as Badapple need six of the best twice over…venues, that is. “We have to get them confirmed for Eddie And The Gold Tops before we can get the money to do the filming,” urges Claire.


The poster for Badapple Theatre’s first tour of Eddie And The Gold Tops, or Eddie & The Gold Tops as it was billed in 2012

York Art Gallery unmasks Your Art Gallery and Views of York and Yorkshire as first exhibitions of masked-up summer return

York Art Gallery senior curator Beatrice Bertram stands by Richard Jack’s Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station, on its return to the exhibition frontline for Your Art Gallery. All piictures: Anthony Chappel Ross

YORK Art Gallery had to curtail the Miller’s tale of Pop Art book covers in its ground-floor galleries when Covid-19 brought a sorry end to son of York Harland Miller’s homecoming show.

Those galleries have opened once more, however, Miller’s York, So Good They Named It Once making way for a celebration, or two celebrations, of the YAG collections from August 20.

Senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram has chosen the works for Views of York & Yorkshire, ranging from L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower to a dozen newly conserved works, courtesy of the Friends of York Art Gallery, never seen on public display previously.

As the second exhibition title Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen By You would suggest, you have indeed made the choices from “some of York Art Gallery’s most well-known paintings” for the walls and floor of the two side Madsen galleries .

Beatrice Bertram with a selection of works depicting York Minster in the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition

More precisely, more than 400 people took part in an online poll, when choosing ten works from 20, Parmigianino’s Portrait Of A Man Reading A Book(c.1530), Richard Jack’s Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station(1916) and Barbara Hepworth’s drawing Surgeon Waiting (1948) among them.

William Etty, the 18th century York artist whose statue greets visitors in Exhibition Square, inevitably features too. “We always have to show Etty! We have the largest repository of his works in the world,” says Beatrice.

Other favourites were selected through a week of five head-to-head clashes on Twitter and by a Friends of York Art Gallery online poll.

To qualify for selection, the works must have been in storage, returned from a loan elsewhere or not been shown for a number of years; none of them being on display when the gallery was closed for the lockdown.

Sarah Steel, marketing and communications officer at York Museums Trust, with Catherine Davenant, 1656-69, by Artist unknown

The poll and Twitter choices are complemented by artworks with chronological or thematic links, alongside new YAG acquisitions by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Liverpool Docks At Night) and Scarborough artist Jade Montserrat, plus some of the gallery’s Twitter #CuratorBattle contenders in lockdown, most notably Grayson Perry’s ceramic, Melanie. 

Explaining the philosophy behind the linking exhibitions, Beatrice says: “These exhibitions were a perfect chance to engage with our audience, as having to close the gallery from March to August was so frustrating when we so want to connect with our visitors.

“To celebrate the reopening of York Art Gallery, we wanted to showcase our rich collection by bringing artworks out of store. These two new exhibitions do just that.

“We hope visitors enjoy viewing the beautiful topographical landscapes of Yorkshire and admiring the paintings which they voted for display in Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen by You.

Millie Carroll, York Museums Trust’s digital communications officer, stands beside Parmigianino‘s Portrait Of A Man Reading A Book (circa 1530)

“Thank you so much to everyone who got involved, and for telling us why the works you chose resonated with you by writing labels. We’ve loved reading your submissions – variously heartfelt, humorous, perceptive and poignant – and it’s made the curation of the show a wonderful experience. We hope visitors will enjoy these personal accounts as much as we did.” 

Involving the public in curating a show was “innovative, fun and hugely enjoyable, both for those who took part and for us,” says Beatrice. “It’s been incredibly rewarding and revealing to read people’s comments on their choices, expressing their feelings, how a particular work resonated with them, how they connected with them.

“It was noticeable how they were drawn to works depicting nature, or depicting gatherings or live performances, such as L S Lowry’s The Bandstand, Peel Park, Salford, because of wanting to experience the buzz of a performance again.

“They were looking to works from wartime too, connecting with another time of terrifying, unprecedented change, and the surgeon’s mask in Barbara Hepworth’s Surgeon Waiting struck a chord because of Coronavirus.”

Wakefield and St Ives artist Barbara Hepworth’s Surgeon Waiting: selected for the Your Art Gallery exhibition

Summing up her reaction to the selections, Beatrice says: “While there were some I expected them to choose, there were surprises too. All the women artists went through from the choices, which I was particularly pleased to see.”

Aside from the public choices, Beatrice is keen to highlight the York Art Gallery acquisitions on show, such as a series of works by Jade Montserrat (born 1987) acquired through the Contemporary Art Society in 2020.

“We’re always looking at our collections policy, always seeking to achieve a more diverse representation, though that doesn’t preclude the Grimshaw acquisition, because we’re also always looking out for great works too.

“Jade Montserrat is a contemporary artist, whose work is inspired by growing up in Scarborough. She’s brave, bold and fearless and we’re excited that she’s represented in our collection.”

Eye to eye: Millie Carroll glances at Bryan Kneale‘s 1958 portrait of Sir Herbert Read. Copyright: Bryan Kneale

Look out too for a work with a new attribution: St John The Baptist, now accredited to the 17th century Flemish artist Hendrik de Somer. “Art Detective have come up with a very persuasive attribution for that painting,” says Beatrice. “There are not many examples of his work in this country, so that’s exciting.”

In the central Madsen gallery is the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition of city, country and coast: Beatrice Bertram’s choices of topographical paintings and works on paper, the latter selected with her exhibition assistant, Genevieve Stegner-Freitag, the Friends of York Art Gallery MA Research Scholar.

Works on show span William Marlow’s The Old Ouse Bridge, York, painted in 1763, to Ed Kluz’s View Of Exhibition Square, York, from 2012. At the heart of the show is York Art Gallery’s W.A. Evelyn Collection, donated to the gallery in 1931 from the estate of philanthropist Dr William Arthur Evelyn (1860-1935).

As his collection of 1,500 prints, watercolours, drawings and engravings focused on York and Yorkshire, the gallery has since added further works of York and beyond the city walls, expanding the collection to 4,000, aided by the Evelyn Award annual competition that elicited new works too.

Grayson Perry’s 2014 ceramic Melanie, one of York Art Gallery’s Twitter #CuratorBattle contenders in lockdown. Copyright: Grayson Perry

Among the highlights is the gallery acquisition on show for the first time, Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding’s Rivaulx Abbey. Shouldn’t that be Rievaulx Abbey? “Artistic licence!” says Beatrice.

Along with works by JMW Turner (Fountains Abbey), Letitia Marion Hamilton, John Piper, Thomas Rowlandson, Ethel Walker and Joseph Alfred Terry,  Grinton artist Michael Bilton’s Approaching Storm Over Calver Hill leaps out too.

“Combining canvas, oil, enamel and paper, it shows a disused quarry with post-industrial marks and pits from former lead mines, and by using different materials, Bilton makes it look like it’s constantly moving, and you can really feel like a storm is approaching,” says Beatrice.

Exhibition assistant Genevieve set to work on selecting 12 works from the Evelyn Collection for conservation. “For the most part, the prints were in pretty good condition but not exhibitable but with the Friends’ help, 12 have been restored that had never been exhibited before,” she says.

Senior curator Beatrice Bertram brushing up on York artist William Etty’s Monkbar, York ( (circa 1832-43)

“I was looking for works that were not only in good condition but also works from the same period, the mid-19th century, in three specific genres: Picturesque, Realist and Topographical.”

Genevieve, from Washington DC, is studying on the Art History programme at the University of York, arriving in the city last September, when her first experiences had an impact on her subsequent choices for restoration being dominated by York Minster (or York Cathedral, as several works call Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral building).

“The first thing I did when I came to York was to view the Minster. I’d seen pictures before, but we just don’t have buildings like that in the United States,” she says. “To see living history is so powerful, and I then wanted to pick out works in different genres that treat that history very differently.

“One of the nice things about the timing of working on the show is that it coincided with people not being able to go into the city since the March lockdown and that makes our appreciation of the Minster really come alive.”

Millie Carroll, in silhouette, with John Varley’s Children Swimming Under The Old Ouse Bridge, York (1805), left, and L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower, York (1952-53). Copyright: The Estate of L S Lowry

Now, once more we can appreciate that history, that architecture, the city’s art collections, in person, as Beatrice acknowledges: “The real pleasure is to be able to show the public engagement in the gallery, becoming the curation voice of an exhibition, resonating with our current times,” she says.

“We’ve missed our audience so much, and it’s lovely for everyone to be able to stand close to artworks again, to breathe art in again. There’s no replacement for that experience.”

York Art Gallery has introduced free admission to its permanent collections, with timed tickets available at yorkartgallery.org.uk, and a Pay As You Feel initiative for Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Own Gallery, recommending a sum of £3, £5 or £7. Please note, booking is essential, along with the wearing of a mask or facial covering.

“We are in a challenging financial situation, as is every gallery in the country, so we would welcome contributions on a Pay As You Feel basis,” says Beatrice. “We are excited to be open again and to present exhibitions, but if we are going to be able to keep doing this, we shall have to fund-raise.”

Storm brewing: A masked-up Millie Carroll adds to the swirl of colours in Michael Bilton’s 1998 work Approaching Storm over Calver Hill. Copyright: Michael Bilton

VIEWS of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery have opened against the backdrop of York Museums Trust warning that it would “run out of cash in January 2021”, if more financial support were not forthcoming.

The trust runs York Art Gallery, York Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and York St Mary’s but revealed in a report to the City of York Council executive last week that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an “immediate financial threat to YMT’s continued existence”.

So much so that the trustees have registered a serious incident report with the Charities Commission, placing all four at risk of closure after the Coronavirus lockdown led to a “drastic loss of income at the very start of the peak visitor season”, leaving the trust facing a £1.54m deficit. 

At present, the city council provides £300,000 a year to the trust. The report, however, states the trust requires funding support of £1.35m this year and up to £600,000 in 2021 to ensure the visitor attractions remain open and the trust collections continue to be looked after.

The council has proposed to write a letter of guarantee, promising to provide the trust with up to £1.95m of the funds needed. One factor in what sum the councillors might agree will be whether the trust receives Government funding from the Culture Recovery Fund for cultural organisations to cover October 2020 to March 31 2021. The deadline for applications is September 5.

Katherine Jenkins postpones February’s York Barbican concert. New date awaited

Katherine Jenkins: 2021 York Barbican concert to be rearranged

KATHERINE Jenkins has been forced to call off her 2021 tour until “later in the year”, putting paid to her February 5 concert at York Barbican.

Today’s statement on the Barbican website explains: “Due to the on-going situation with Covid-19 and the announcement that Guildford G Live and Southend Cliffs Pavilion will be closed until January 31 2021, unfortunately we have no alternative but to postpone Katherine’s January and February 2021 tour.

“Ticket holders are asked to keep hold of their tickets as we’re working to reschedule the tour to later in 2021 and a further announcement regarding new dates will follow shortly. All tickets will remain valid.”

South Welsh mezzo soprano Katherine, who turned 40 on June 29, celebrated her latest number one in the UK Classical Chart last month, when she released her 14th studio album, Cinema Paradiso, on Decca Records.

When her York Barbican concert does go ahead, Katherine will combine songs from Cinema Paradiso with favourites from throughout her career that began at 23 after she swapped school teaching for the concert stage and recording studio on signing to Universal Classics.

“I wanted to create an iconic movie moment with this record,” said Katherine Jenkins of Cinema Paradiso

Also peaking at number three in the Official UK Album Chart, Cinema Paradiso assembles 15 tracks from “the world’s best-loved movie moments”, such as Moon River, from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, When You Wish Upon A Star, from Pinocchio, Tonight, from West Side Story, and the themes from Schindler’s List, Lord Of The Rings and Dances With Wolves.

“I’ve always loved movie soundtracks,” said Katherine. “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.”

In February 2019 in Serbia, Katherine filmed her debut film part of Millie in her husband Andrew Levitas’s eco-disaster movie Minamata, playing opposite Johnny Depp and Bill Nighy in the true story of war photographer W Eugene Smith being pitted against a powerful corporation responsible for mercury-poisoning the people of Minamata, on the Japanese coast, in 1971.

Minamata was released in February 2020. Previously Katherine had appeared as Abigail Pettigrew in a Doctor Who Christmas special, A Christmas Carol, in December 2010 and in the West End as Julie Jordan in the musical Carousel in 2017.

“Having played my first movie role last year, it felt like a natural transition for me,” said Katherine Jenkins, explaining her decision to make an album of film songs. Picture: Decca Records/Venni

Katherine has been treating fans to Facebook Live concerts from her home during the pandemic lockdown and dedicated the chart-topping success of Cinema Paradiso to “all my lockdown lovelies who’ve been spending the past 16 weeks with me, through lockdown, through our concerts”. “You’ve all been amazing and I can’t thank you enough,” she said.

The track listing for Cinema Paradiso is:

1. When You Wish Upon A Star, from Pinocchio.

2. Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (Somewhere Far Away), from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

3. Cinema Paradiso, featuring Alberto Urso, from Cinema Paradiso

4. Never Love Again, from A Star Is Born

5. Moon River, from Breakfast At Tiffany’s

6. Singin’ In The Rain, from Singin’ In The Rain

7. West Side Story – Somewhere/Tonight, featuring Luke Evans, from West Side Story

8. O Danny Boy, from Memphis Belle

9. Schindler’s List, from Schindler’s List

10. The Rose, from The Rose

11. May It Be, from Lord Of The Rings

12. Here’s To The Heroes, from Dances With Wolves

Bonus tracks

The Rose, featuring Shaun Escoffery

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (Somewhere Far Away), featuring Sarah Alainn

Cinema Paradiso.

What happened when Jo Walton got a rust stain on her jeans and it wouldn’t wash out?

Gold Glimmer, by Jo Walton

AFTER 26 years under Terry Brett’s stewardship, Pyramid Gallery is showing signs of Rust…but in a good way.

On the first floor of the Stonegate premises in York, he is exhibiting rust prints and paintings by Rogues Atelier artist, upholsterer and interior designer Jo Walton until the end of September.

In these Covid-compromised times, the works can be viewed Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm, with access restricted to a maximum single group up to six people or two separate groups of one or two at any one time. Alternatively, take a look online at pyramidgallery.com.

Jo’s works are abstract, inspired by horizons, whether rust prints on paper and plaster, combining rusted metal with painting, or seascapes on gold-metal leaf.

“Jo uses rust and rusted metal sheets in innovative ways to create art works,” says Terry. “Iron filings are used as ‘paint’ and as they rust, reactions occur, every painting being unique and unrepeatable.

“Jo also uses oils to paint sea and landscapes onto gold and silver lead, resulting in deep, rich and unique paintings.”

Art Rust Disk, by Jo Walton

Her artwork reflects both her childhood in Australia and her days, as a young woman, spent sailing oceans, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

After many years of travelling, Jo returned to England, studying fine art at Bradford University and now exhibiting all year round – until the Covid lockdown – from her York studios, Rogues Atelier, an old tannery in Franklins Yard, Fossgate, that she shares with jeweller and fellow York Open Studios exhibitor Emma Welsh and international textile artist Robert Burton.

In her “other life”, Jo is an upholsterer, initially learning her skills from making cushions and sail covers for yachts when living in Greece. She gained her City and Guilds qualification in modern and traditional upholstery and has taught the subject for many years for City of York Council.

“Occasionally, my skills have the opportunity to blend into a ‘huge blank canvas’: interior design,” says Jo, who founded and designed the Space 109 community arts centre in Walmgate, York, in 2006, along with creating and teaching many of the art and community projects there.

She later converted three empty shops on Bishopthorpe Road into Angel on The Green, a bar and café and home to comedy nights and exhibitions that had to “flow with a solid theme throughout”. “It was quite a step to move on to a bar from a community project,” she says.

“The rust is forever changing, as are the solutions of chemicals on its surface,” says artist Jo Walton. “No two prints are ever the same. It feels like alchemy.”

In between, Jo created the Rogues Atelier studios, where she takes on upholstery commissions and runs upholstery and cushion-making workshops. In Leeds, she has designed the interior of Rafi’s Spice and the Bluebird Bakery, both in Kirkgate Market.

Defining her artwork, Jo says: “My paintings are an attempt to capture memories, an intrinsic feeling, a distant dream. As a child I travelled to and from Australia by sea. Since then, in my adult years, I’ve spent many days, nights, years, sailing around the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, in the Gulf of Aqaba, the Red Sea, the Irish Channel and Bay of Biscay. Each day and night providing a wonderful visual feast of clouds, sea, sun-setting and moon-rising.

“I used to deliver yachts worldwide with a minimal crew. Then, the birth of my daughter Blythe served as a beautiful anchor, which landed me in England.

“These images are ingrained in my mind and surface through my art, always seeking the horizon and the contrast from the sun or moon. I work on gold or silver metal leaf to illustrate the ever-present light when on the sea.”

Jo has always been fascinated by rust, the colours from burnt orange to umber, its weathered, changing surface and slow development. “The colours resonate with my childhood; memories of Australia with its red earth, running around farms with metal shacks, rusted corrugated roofs, broken machinery,” she says.

“I’ve collected pieces over the years – not knowing what to do with them but unwilling to let these beautiful ‘lumps of junk’ go.”

Rust print, by Jo Walton

Eventually, Jo discovered the method of persuading the surface rust to leave its metal and imprint onto paper and fabric. “This has now rendered my objects useful, as well as beautiful. The process is slow and always experimental with only a relatively small amount of control over the end result, which can never be repeated exactly.

“The rust is forever changing, as are the solutions of chemicals on its surface. No two prints are ever the same,” she says. “It feels like alchemy.”

Jo finally found the confidence to produce work by carefully rusting the metal and presenting it as the art in its own right. “It was the initial impact of the rusted object that always mesmerised me,” she says.

“The method to preserve and prevent further rusting of the metal plate has been researched, tried and tested by myself over the past five years to the point where I’m in no doubt of its durability.”

Here Charles Hutchinson puts a series of questions to Jo Walton on the subjects of alchemy, rust, painting, sailing, horizons, studios and teaching.

Oil On Steel, by Jo Walton

Is your work a meeting of science (chemistry) and art: the very essence of alchemy?

“It does feel like alchemy to me but I can’t say I’ve studied the science, apart from how to preserve the results.”

It is always said an artist never knows when a work is finished, but eventually has to let go? How do you reach that moment and is it more difficult because of the unpredictable behaviour of the materials you use?

“With the rust pieces, it’s always small adjustments and then waiting to see the results the rusted metal will give. It’s done when it resonates a certain chord for me – same with the paintings. It can be a long process.”

How did you discover your rust-removing technique: was it serendipitous – like the invention of glass – or was it experimental, with a method being applied?

“I got a rust stain on my jeans and it wouldn’t wash out. As a trained printmaker, I thought I can do something with that! So, I started playing with my rust collection…there was a lot of trial and error before I got some really satisfying results.”

Flame Forest, by Jo Walton

At sea, when sailing, you have the horizon in perma-view, but you are always in motion with the movement of the sea below. In your artwork, do you seek to freeze a moment and then for the viewer to release it again?

“I guess so, although you can be in the middle of the Atlantic and sometimes it’s as flat as a pond! It’s like sailing on a mirror. 

“I seek to preserve a notion, a dream-like memory of those experiences. I love watching people view my art:  some glance and walk straight past and others stare for a long time. Some of those people have sailed oceans too and bought my work. That means so much to me.” 

Why is light so important to you in your work?

“I use gold metal leaf to catch and reflect the light in the way that water does. It’s symbolic of the light on the sea.”

How do you achieve that burnished quality in your works?

“Paint and remove, paint again… many thin layers.”

“I love watching people view my art:  some glance and walk straight past and others stare for a long time,” says Jo Walton.

Is it more challenging to work to a limited range of colours or do the works gain more from bringing out everything from that palette?

“My paintings have been compared to etchings, which are fairly limited in colour, but I guess it’s just what I do with that subject matter. With portraits or other subjects, the palette will be totally different.”

You had to forego your sixth successive York Open Studios in April, amid the lockdown. What’s next for you?  More exhibitions? Any commissions?

“Covid has wiped out any plans that were in place for most artists and makers. Hopefully next year will be better. I’m very fortunate to be exhibiting with Terry at Pyramid. As far as commissions go – they are carefully considered!”

How does your interior design work, such as for the Angel on The Green on Bishopthorpe Road, differ as an artistic challenge from your artworks?

“Strangely, not much different artistically. I was still seeking to balance the overall image but on a huge canvas, with more ingredients, a lot more planning and paperwork. The big difference was working with a team of great people, which was a lot of fun.”

Rogues Atelier: Jo Walton’s workplace in Franklins Yard, York

What has the Rogues Atelier studio brought to your artistic life?

“The possibility to work big, make a huge mess and to participate in events like York Open Studios and the other fairs we do as a group of artists. Rogues Atelier is so central in York that we have a lot of visitors and interest in what we do.”  

Do you still sail? If not, do you miss it?

“I stopped sailing when I ended up back in England. I do miss it and often wonder how I’ve ended up so far away from the sea.”

How is the teaching going?

“I don’t teach art anymore as I found that the energy I give to it takes away from the energy I need for my own ideas. I do still love teaching though and hold regular courses in upholstery.”

What is the first piece of advice you give in your upholstery classes?

“Good question. First piece is how to avoid injuring yourself! Second is to not to attempt a winged-back armchair as your first piece…” 

Jo Walton is exhibiting Paintings and Rust Prints at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, until September 30.

Raw Umber on Gold Leaf, by Jo Walton

REVIEW: York Stage Musicals venture outdoors for first time in Rowntree Park ****

Emily Ramsden, left, Joanne Theaker and May Tether performing at the Rowntree Theatre Amphitheatre in York on Sunday night. Pictures: Jess Main

REVIEW: York Stage Musicals At Rowntree Park, Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, tonight and tomorrow, 7.30pm. Tickets update: Sold out.

NIK Briggs and Jessica Douglas were “so sick of bad news about the arts”, the York Stage Musicals duo decided they had to “do a thing…anything”.

Three weeks later, the director and musical director are staging three nights of open-air, socially distanced, family-favourite concerts of musical-movie hits at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre in YMS’s first ever outdoor show.

The three-night run that began last night sold out within a week. Quick work all round, not least by Adam Moore’s Tech 247, who set up the stage in only two hours yesterday afternoon.

Richard Upton stands out front in Sunday’s concert

“A huge thank you to our audience tonight!” tweeted producer Briggs afterwards. “We loved performing for you!!”

They did indeed. Emily Ramsden, Ashley Standland, May Tether, Joanna Theaker, Richard Upton and late addition Conor Mellor, professional performers all, with York Stage credits to their name, could not have looked more glad to be back on a stage when theatres remain in the dark but thankfully outdoor shows are on the rise.

Tonight and tomorrow, the singing six will take to the blow-up polytunnel stage again, attired in black, cocktail party dresses on one side, suits on the other, Upton and Standland in white shirts, Mellor more informal in a black T-shirt.

Joanne Theaker in the solo spotlight

Picnicking audience members sit in Covid-secure designated bubbles, arranged in a crescent on the grass hillside opposite the bandstand stage that could, indeed should, be used more often each York summer.

As evening turns to night over the unbroken 100-minute span of the concert, the light show within the tubing matches the songs’ subjects and moods, while also picking out keyboardist Douglas’s fellow musicians: drummer Andy Hayes, guitarist Neil Morgan, bassist Rosie Morris and keyboard player Sam Johnson.

Songs from Hairspray, Grease, Cats, Cabaret, West Side Story and The Greatest Showman are to the fore, and a selection on the theme of Green is particularly inspired. Likewise, the teasing introduction seeking a diva to sing Hopelessly Devoted You that settles on…Conor Mellor, who should have been away at sea this month, after returning to York from his Caribbean cruise-ship shows in April, but is still grounded by the pandemic.

As darkness descends, Emily Ramsden, left, Ashley Standland, May Tether, Richard Upton, Joanne Theaker and Conor Mellor bring Sunday’s concert to a close

Highlights are many, from Ramsden’s All That Jazz and Saving All My Love For You to Tether’s Memory and Theaker’s Cabaret; Upton’s Luck Be A Lady to Tether and Standland’s Summer Nights. Mellor hits the heights in Kinky Boots’ Soul Of A Man, while Upton and Theaker’s Elephant Love Medley, from Moulin Rouge, is the fast-moving arrangement of the night.

How else could the show end but with Dirty Dancing’s uplifting I’ve Had The Time Of My Life, although social distancing ruled out any attempt at the film’s infamous climactic lift.

If Covid-19’s social-distancing requirements have reinforced the suitability of the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre for open-air shows, then at least something good has come out of these killjoy times for the York musical theatre and live music scene.

Conor Mellor, back home in Bishopthorpe from the Caribbean, wins the Best Socks In Show award while singing Soul Of A Man

Delighted by the response of singers, musicians and audiences alike to these Rowntree Park shows, Briggs says: “It’s just been overwhelming. I knew us ‘Theatre Crew’ who work in it were desperate to get back, but we didn’t appreciate how much it meant to our audiences!! Here’s to Bravery going forward. Give us a space and York Stage will get a show on.”

Alas, that show will not be September’s Covid-scuppered production of Kinky Boots, but in mentioning “Bravery”, Briggs is echoing the sentiments of one of last night’s outstanding numbers, This Is Me from The Greatest Showman. “I am brave, I am bruised…And I’m marching on to the drum I beat, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me,” the lyrics assert.

Such positivity, in the face of understandable Covid fear, is the way forward, step by step, drum beat by drum beat, for deeply bruised live entertainment. Not recklessness, no-one would suggest such a course so irresponsibly, but a combination of ambition and practicality, as shown by Briggs and Douglas.

York Stage Musicals producer/director Nik Briggs and musical director Jess Douglas