North York Moors Chamber Music Festival to go ahead outdoors at Welburn Abbey

Out on the moors: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival artistic director Jamie Walton. Picture: Paul Ingram

AN evolution as a much as a Revolution, after the ever-changing need to stay alert to Government guidance, the 2020 North York Moors Chamber Music Festival will go ahead. Outdoors.

The festival will run from Sunday (August 9) to August 22 in an open marquee sited in the grounds of Welburn Abbey, Welburn Manor Farms (YO62 7HH), between Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside, in Ryedale.

“Welcome to our Festival – ‘Revolution!’,” says festival founder, artistic director and cellist Jamie Walton’s buoyant latest newsletter. “We are pleased and relieved to confirm that we are going ahead as planned, observing the social-distancing regulations guidelines set for outdoor events.

“The welfare of everyone involved, audience included, will be thoroughly considered and planned for.

“The latest programme on the website,, is the final version now, so please do check because certain works, in light of the change in venue, have had to change from the original launch.”

Originally, before the curse of Covid, Revolution! would have added up to more than 30 musicians, around 40 chamber works, in ten churches within the North York Moors National Park. Now, 34 works will be performed by 23 musicians at ten concerts in one location, under the concert titles A Hymn; Time Of Turbulence; Janus; Incandescence; Mystique; Transcendental; Voices; Vivacity; Towards The Edge and Triumph!. Full details can be found at

Explaining the choice of venue after the late Government U-turn on indoor spaces re-opening from August 1, Jamie says: “Due to circumstances, this year we are unable to perform within the churches (or any indoor spaces) available, so we have instead secured a 5,000-sq ft open marquee, with wooden floor throughout and acoustic panelling behind the stage, within the grounds of Welburn Manor.”

On song: Mezzo soprano Anna Huntley. Picture: Kaupo Kikkas

A separate garden can be used in the intervals. “This way we can ensure safety and adequate social distancing, as well as provide a unique experience within an area of outstanding natural beauty,” says Jamie.

For its theme of Revolution! in the festival’s 12th year of celebrating chamber works, the focus will be on and around the music of Beethoven – the “revolutionary” – and beyond to mark the 250th anniversary of the German composer’s birth in Bonn.

“Living through the French Revolution undoubtedly had a profound effect on this great composer and much of the repertoire we have chosen is to convey this triumphant spirit against all odds, which appears timely in light of recent events,” says Jamie.

“It seems ironic that for such a Titan, the world has been forced into relative (artistic) silence while it tries to control the pandemic, almost as if we are in tune with Beethoven’s very own debilitating deafness.”

Artists billed to be joining the Revolution cause are: Katya Apekisheva, piano; Naomi Atherton, French horn; Meghan Cassidy, viola; Christian Chamorel, piano; Claude Frochaux, cello; Rebecca Gilliver, cello; Matthew Hunt, clarinet; Anna Huntley, mezzo-soprano; Rachel Kolly, violin; Ursula Leveaux, bassoon.

So too are: Richard Ormrod, piano; Nikita Naumov, double bass; Tetsumi Negata, viola; Victoria Sales, violin; Charlotte Scott, violin; Simon Tandree, viola; Zsolt-Tihamer Visontay, violin; Jamie Walton, cello; Adrian Wilson, oboe, and Quartetto di Cremona (Cristiano Gualco, violin, Paolo Andreoli, violin, Simone Gramaglia, viola, and Giovanni Scaglione, cello).

Season tickets have sold out but tickets remain available for individual concerts, priced at £12.50 on 07722 038990.

Will Dick Turpin Ride Again or not at Grand Opera House? Qdos Entertainment panto decision upcoming for Berwick and co…

We’ll meet again…or will they? AJ Powell, Berwick Kaler, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass settle into the Grand Opera House auditorium at the launch of Dick Turpin Rides Again on February 14, but now Qdos Entertainment have a decision to make. PIcture: David Harrison

BUMPING into Martin Barrass last night beneath At The Mill’s magical open-air theatre tent at Stillington Mill set the mind to pondering the fate of his winter pantomime in York.

Will comic stooge Martin bounce back with Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and A J Powell in veteran Dame Berwick Kaler’s panto debut at the Grand Opera House this Christmas after their shock transfer to Qdos Entertainment from York Theatre Royal?

Here is the latest statement from Qdos, the pantomime powerhouse across the land, amid the continuing blight of Covid-19’s social-distancing requirements leaving theatres in the dark.

“We had been very clear that we required clarity from the Government regarding the re-opening of theatres by Monday, 3 August, in order for our pantomime season as we know it to take place,” the statement read.

Martin Barrass in his last York Theatre Royal pantomime role as Queen Ariadne in Sleeping Beauty. Picture: Anthony Robling

“Based on the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s reiteration last week that the Government won’t be providing further guidance on theatres operating without social distancing until November at the earliest, we are left with no choice but to begin the consultation process with our partner theatres about the viability of each show. This is a complex process and will take several weeks to complete.

“We are not immediately announcing the postponement of all shows, however plans will be announced by individual theatres and communicated to ticket holders in due course.”

Watch this space for Qdos’s decision on whether Dame Berwick’s pantomime comeback, Dick Turpin Rides Again, will or will not ride again. What will it be: pantomime or pandemime?


QDOS Entertainment today cancelled their biggest pantomime outside London: the Birmingham Hippodrome production of Goldilocks And The Three Bears starring Jason Donovan.

Scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the show is now re-scheduled for Christmas 2021, Donovan, co-star Matt Slack and all.

Qdos’s pantomime at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Sleeping Beauty, has been put to sleep too until 2021.

Blue Tree Gallery sets new opening hours to herald opening of Jill Campbell’s show

North Eastern artist Jill Campbell: Exhibiting at Blue Tree Gallery, York, in August and September

BLUE Tree Gallery, York, will mark the opening of Jill Campbell’s exhibition on Saturday by introducing temporary new opening hours.

The gallery, in Bootham, will be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11am to 4pm.

Jill Campbell’s intuitive and soulful new paintings also are available to view online throughout the show’s run to September 19 at:

Fell Clouds 1, acrylic on canvas, by Jill Campbell

Jill, who graduated from the University of Sunderland with first class honours in fine art in 2014, is inspired by the landscape of the North East, where she lives.

“Most of my work is based on an ancient mining landscape called Cockfield Fell, where I walk nearly every day,” she says. “I use elements of what I see and combine these with my imagination to create my paintings.

“I’m fascinated by the fell’s strange, other worldly, abstract shapes defined by the morning shadows and framed by big dramatic skies. Its pools, pathways, mounds, dips and curves are my motifs.

Jill Campbell: “Fascinated by Cockfield Fell’s strange, other worldly, abstract shapes defined by the morning shadows

“I decide which shapes and colours to play with, then draw and apply layers of paint until I find balance and a painterly world emerges which celebrates this landscape.”

Jill, the third Featured Artist of 2020 at Blue Tree Gallery, has exhibited in such competitions as the New Light Art Prize at Ripon Cathedral, the Beep Painting Prize in Swansea, the RBSA Prize exhibition in Birmingham and the 2019 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London. Coming up in October and November will be her show at Watermark Gallery, Harrogate.

Fell Clouds 3, by Jill Campbell

Poets aplenty take part in short films of readings and chat for SJT summer school

A plethora of poets for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s online film project and summer school

NINE British poets are teaming up with Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre to present three short films showcasing their work.

Taking part are Toby Campion, Martin Daws, Hayley Green, Ray Hearne, Zara Jayne, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Otis Mensah,  Nima Taleghani and Beverley Ward.

The three films will be online for a month from 5pm on August 11, 13 and 15, each marking the end of a day of Summer School classes from the SJT. Each one will feature three poets discussing their work and reading at least one of their poems.

Curator Nadia Emam says: “These films feature some fantastic poets from all over the UK, performing a couple of their poems but also including a short interview about them and their work.

“Viewers will get to watch a poetry performance, but also hear a little more about the journey of each poet, which I hope will be an inspiration to anyone curious about writing poetry and making a living from it themselves.”

The nine poetry videos and interviews have been shot individually under lockdown conditions and then edited and tied together into three films by Sheffield filmmaker Brett Chapman. 

Curator Nadia Emam also will lead an hour-long performance poetry workshop at 3pm each day at the Summer School. She was a member of the SJT’s Youth Theatre and is now an actor, poet and director in Sheffield, where she is a Crucible Theatre supported artist.

In addition to Nadia’s poetry workshop and the films, the SJT Summer School includes:

Tuesday, August 11:  Movement and street dance with Marcquelle Ward and puppetry with Andrew Kim, for nine to 13 year olds;

Thursday, August 13: Musical theatre with Alex Weatherhill and HowTo Do Accents with Alix Dunmore, for 14 to 18 year olds;

Saturday, August 15:  Conducting an orchestra (a beginner’s guide) with Shaun Matthew and public speaking with York-born SJT actress Frances Marshall.

Frances Marshall, pictured in Alan Ayckbourn’s Seasons Greetings at the SJT, will host a Summer School session on public speaking

Access to the poetry films is free. To watch, visit the SJT’s YouTube channel from  August 11 at:

The SJT’s online Summer School costs £18 per day for all three sessions. Individual sessions can be booked at £7 each. To book, go to:

The poets in profile:

Toby Campion: Poet, playwright, former UK Poetry Slam Champion and World Poetry Slam finalist. His debut collection, Through Your Blood, was longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Recipient of the 2019 Aurora Prize for Poetry, he has performed around the world, at  Glastonbury Festival and on The Arts Show with Jonathan Ross. He will   read Oyster and Nits.

Martin Daws: Active as a spoken-word poet for more than 20 years, performing in the UK, USA and Eire, delivering commissions and residencies and publishing two collections. He was Young People’s Laureate for Wales, 2013 to 2016, and will read Under The Slates, Weekend: Saturday Afternoon and Together.

Hayley Green:  Originally from Nottingham, now based in Scarborough, she performs across the UK and Europe. She teaches poetry and creative writing in schools, colleges and communities, using poetry and creative writing to explore self-harm, mental health, sexuality, gender and identity, often the focus of her own poetry and performance. She will read Changing Rooms and Playtime

Ray Hearne: His poem A Sing Song For Stainless Steel was cut into 14 benches in Sheffield city centre. Now he is working with a stonecutter in Barnsley to devise words for a Grimethorpe Trail.

His songs have been performed and recorded by the late Roy Bailey, Kate Rusby and Coope Boyes and Simpson. The Ballad Of Wentworth and Elsecar awaits publication in autumn 2020. He will read Werewolves Of Rotherham and Living On Broad Yorkshire Street.

Zara Jayne: Started writing at the age of ten when she had her first poem published in Cosmic. Her poems have appeared in the charity magazine Sense and in the book A Blind Bit Of Difference; a short play was put on at a London theatre.

She performed in Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis at the SJT in 2019 and will read Ghostlight and A Dirty World.

Zara Jayne, left, as Brenda-Marie, with Emma Churchill, as Josie, in Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2019.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan: Educator, writer and poet from West Yorkshire. Her work disrupts narratives of history, race, knowledge and power, interrogating the political purpose of conversations about Muslims, migrants, gender and violence.

She works to provide herself and others with “the tools to resist systemic oppression by unlearning what society and the education system have instilled in us”. She will read British Values.

Otis Mensah: Self-proclaimed mum’s house philosopher and rap psalmist, offering an alternative take on contemporary hip hop and spoken word.

Shedding light on “existential commonalities through vulnerable expression”, he uses  aesthetic language to paint worlds of thought. Appointed the first poet laureate of Sheffield by former Lord Mayor and MEP Magid Magid, he will read Ode To Black Thought and Shifting Sands.

Nima Taleghani: Actor, writer and workshop facilitator. Theatre and screen credits include Romeo And Juliet and The Merry Wives Of Windsor(RSC), Hatton Garden (ITV) and Casualty (BBC).

A selector and London Ambassador for the National Student Drama Festival, Nima will read King Arthur and This City.

Beverley Ward: Writer, facilitator and coach who writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction and is passionately in love with the creative process of writing.

She has run writing workshops for adults and children for more than 20 years and has her own writers’ workshop in Sheffield and a retreat in Bridlington.

She has published poems, stories and two books: Archie Nolan: Family Detective, for children, and the memoir Dear Blacksmith. She will read What If, The Swing In An Empty Playground and Poem For Kids Leaving Primary School.

The curator: Nadia Emam was awarded a placement last year with the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme at the SJT, where she curated the poetry evening Still I Rise, celebrating female poets. Her debut poetry film won the WEX Short Film Competition and was part of BFI’s Northern

What does “home” mean to you, asks Estabrak in Scarborough digital project

Homecoming digital artist Estabrak, pictured during a performance of a Live Projection Painting in Morocco in 2018

SCARBOROUGH residents are being asked to participate in a digital art project that explores what “home” means to them.

Led by the artist and former refugee Estabrak, Homecoming; A Placeless Place is the last of a series of lockdown digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

Estabrak’s commission is designed to “bring together individual and collective experiences and connect diverse voices and realities from the varied communities of the town”.

Participants are invited to call, text or WhatsApp to leave a message of any length, in any language, around the concept of “home”. Messages can be left anonymously or with a name, age and language attached. Those unable to communicate verbally, or who would rather draw something, can share drawings or illustrations.

The messages will be incorporated into a film that applies concepts surrounding ultraviolet light and invisible ink.

Estabrak is keen to engage Scarborough voices with her own, interweaving individual and collective experiences while also relating these shared realities to recordings and photographs found in the Scarborough Borough Collection.

Homecoming – Social Experiment UV Light Reveal, by Estabrak

Her film will be available on the trust’s website,, and social media from late-August.

Estabrak says: “Anyone who resides in Scarborough is encouraged to take part in this project, no matter your experience – both positive and negative; no matter your understanding of what ‘home’ means – whether literal or abstract; whatever your age, race, class, size, gender/s, ability or orientation is. You are all welcome to share your experience.”

Homecoming is a multi-layered touring and participatory project that uses community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges around home, identity and displacement.

The project started in 2019 in Brighton and Hull and now its social experiment, Homecoming; A Placeless Place, will be introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough.

To take part, please call 07547 149229 by Sunday, August 16. Providing you have access to WiFi, or an inclusive data plan, all voice notes or images sent via WhatsApp are free. Depending on your data plan, leaving a voicemail also will be free – please check with your provider if you are unsure of this.

“As an independent multidisciplinary artist and progressive facilitator, I am committed to inclusivity, and to participatory arts practice that helps highlight visibility towards marginalised communities and everyday people,” says Estabrak.

Homecoming – A Placeless Place, Social Experiment 06, by Estabrak

“My practice is repeatedly engaged with water and often explores themes related to the intersectionality of my own identity as LGBTQIA+, Arab, mixed heritage, neuro-diverse, culturally Muslim and former refugee.

“Led by the emotive, my aim is to help re-humanise many de-humanised realities, while focusing on alternative ways of safe collaboration, understanding and exchange that encourage the sharing and dismantling of power, helping move towards racial, social, humanitarian and climate justice.”

In her work as an award-winning multi-disciplinary visual artist and filmmaker, Estabrak has been supported by the BBC, Wellcome Trust, Invisible Dust, University of Hull and Ocean Global Foundation. 

She has presented work to the United Nations and worked with numerous NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations] in television and film, as well as exhibiting internationally and at Tate Britain and the Royal Academy of Arts in London. She also takes part in international fellowships and residencies, latterly collaborating with scientists and academics.

As well as Estabrak, artists Kirsty Harris, Jane Poulton, Wanja Kimani, Feral Practice, Jade Montserrat and Lucy Carruthers have created digital artworks for Scarborough Museums Trust this summer on assorted social media platforms and all are still available to view. More information on these commissions can be found at:

York Stage head outdoors for first time for three musical nights in Rowntree Park UPDATED

On fire: Emily Ramsden, when playing the Dragon in York Stage Musicals’ Shrek The Musical. PIcture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

YORK Stage are bringing musical theatre back to life this summer with their first ever outdoor show, taking over the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre for three nights from August 23 to 25.

“Combining a live band with a team of sensational professional singers, this socially distanced outdoor event will provide you with the musical theatre fix you’ve been craving,” promises producer and director Nik Briggs.

“Presenting a programme filled with all of your favourite movie-musical songs, be prepared to be amazed as our vocalists perform songs from Grease, Hairspray, Cats, Cabaret, The Greatest Showman, West Side Story and many more.”

Explaining the choice of programme, Nik says: “We decided to stay away from anything ‘niche’, although we’re renowned for bringing new pieces, as well as ‘blockbusters’, to the York stage.

“We wanted to keep it light, with singers of great quality singing songs of great quality, and a band of great quality, performing songs we all know so well, presented as a concert rather than as a staged performance, so it’s very much about the music. With lovely lighting, it’s going to look beautiful too, with Adam Moore, Lisa Cameron and Daniel Stephenson handling the technical side of the show.”

Joanne Theaker as Maria in York Stage Musicals’ production of The Sound Of Music. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Looking forward to restoring the sound of live music to Rowntree Park, Nik says: “We’re  so excited to be creating the city’s first musical theatre event post-lockdown. We have built up a reputation of leading the way with our programming and bringing the latest show titles to the city in spectacular fashion, and so when the go ahead for outdoor performances was given, we knew we had to make theatre somehow and somewhere!”

The Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, with its bandstand and grass bank, is a long-standing presence in York’s outdoor performance portfolio, but really should be utilised more often.

Nik holds up his hands. “I’ve never lived in that part of York, so I’ve not used Rowntree Park a lot, and because the amphitheatre is tucked away in the far corner, it’s almost a hidden gem,” he says.

“During lockdown, I thought, ‘‘I’m sick of all the bad news, I need to create some good news, and find a good way of working outdoors this summer’, and it was my partner who suggested this beautiful space.

“When we came upon it, my reaction was, ‘why are we not using this space already?’.  It’s perfect, surrounded by trees. It’s crazy that it’s not used more often when other performance spaces are over-subscribed.

Richard Upton as Stacee Jaxx in York Stage Musicals’ Rock Of Ages. Picture: Robin May

“So, we set about creating a concert of songs that will be the tonic we all need right now: family favourites from across the generations”. 

Under the guidance of York Stage’s regular musical director, Jessica Douglas, York Stage are assembling “some very special performers” who have all trained and worked professionally in musical theatre and have a wealth of British and international credits to their names.

All five have performed in York Stage Musicals shows too. Step forward Emily Ramsden, Ashley Standland, May Tether, Joanna Theaker and Richard Upton.

“We saw this show as an opportunity to support actors left out of work by the Coronavirus shutdown of theatres, who would previously have been making their money from performing,” says Nik.

Musical director and pianist Jessica Douglas will be complemented by keyboards, guitar, bass and drums in the band of five. She is leading rehearsals too. “We’re doing a mix of outdoor rehearsals, along with some things pre-recorded they’ve all been sent online to rehearse,” says Nik.

Ashley Standland as Phantom in The Phantom Of The Opera. Picture: Richard J Tampion

“When they get together, it will be for the least time possible, with two of three rehearsals per person, with the joint rehearsals being socially distant, singing at least three metres apart.”

Be assured, the safety of performers, staff and audience is “paramount” in York Stage’s planning of this three-day 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,” says Nik. 

“We want to ensure we can provide audiences with a brilliant night of musical theatre, while keeping them safe and comfortable.

“Under Government guidelines for public performances, for this venture, we’re only able to work with performers who have trained and work professionally, so although the total number of performers may be reduced from our usual blockbuster shows, we can still guarantee a host of powerhouse vocals.” 

May Tether as Tracey in York Stage Musicals’ Hairspray. Picture: Tim Clarke

In order to make sure 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 have been positioned to ensure there’s a minimum gap of two metres between the spaces in every direction, while keeping the audience three metres away from the performers,” says Nik.

York Stage are creating two sizes of “Bubble Blanket” spaces: one will hold up to three people; a larger one will accommodate four to six people. Please note, no actual blankets will be provided, so bring your own or a camping chair. “You can bring a picnic too, as long as you take away your rubbish,” requests Nik.

A one-way system will be in operation and the show will be 90 minutes straight through. “With no interval, we avoid any possibility of congestion,” reasons Nik.

The ticket price is £40 for the smaller Bubble Blanket; £65 for the bigger one, available online only at and they MUST be bought in advance of the 7.30pm shows.

York Stage director Nik Briggs and musical director Jessica Douglas

York Stage have been anything but dormant through lockdown and beyond. “We’ve been doing Songs From The Settee online,” says Nik. “We thought there’d be four or five, but there were 11 in the end – we made a rod for our own back, but it was lovely to work with professional singers and musicians, and now we’re thanking them, and the technicians too, by doing the live shows.”

Meanwhile, York Stage School has continued to run through lockdown and beyond with online sessions. “We’re doing a summer school too, with sessions last week and this week,” says Nik.

“We’ve even had one student calling in from Estonia! Normally she stays with her grandma in York in the summer, but not this year, so she’s joining in from Estonia. We have just short of 30 students taking part, and we’re creating a ‘Zoomsical’, an online performance under licence, to show to family and friends in a premiere on YouTube on Saturday.

“The show’s called The Big One-Oh!, composed by Doug Besterman with lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and it’s an American high school piece that the licencees have managed to adapt to do on Zoom.”

Looking ahead, Nik says: “Hopefully, we can return to York Stage School lessons as normal in September, pending Government guidance.”

Harrogate Theatre to stay shut till 2021, so no panto, redundancy talks and what next?

Not so Happy Harry: Tim Stedman, pictured in the 2019-2020 pantomime Snow White, will not be taking to the Harrogate Theatre stage this winter in his 21st silly-billy role

HARROGATE Theatre will remain closed until 2021. No pantomime this Christmas and no safety net for up to 60 per cent of permanent staff, facing redundancy after an upcoming consultation period.

This hammer blow/”sensible action” comes despite Harrogate Theatre receiving £395,000 last month from the Arts Council England Emergency Fund, on top of Harrogate Borough Council funding, to cover losses incurred from March through to September.

And there’s the rub. Only until September, point out chief executive David Bown and chair of the board Deborah Larwood in this afternoon’s joint statement, despite being “extremely grateful” for the financial aid so far.

“Whilst we welcome the Government’s new Cultural Recovery Fund [£1.57 billion across Britain in grants and loans promised by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on July 5], we still require clarity as to what specifically we can access from the fund, having already been in receipt of Emergency Funding, and there is no certainty of success.”

The emergency press release carried an upbeat headline – “Our Safety Curtain is down for now, but we are still lighting the way for culture in Harrogate” – but behind that curtain, the unbroken reign of Coronavirus continues to stop play.

“Today we are announcing that the Safety Curtain will remain down at Harrogate Theatre until 2021,” the statement forewarns. “This has been an extremely difficult and very sad decision to make, but we feel it is the most sensible action under the current circumstances; not only to protect the safety of our audiences, volunteers and staff but to safeguard the future of Harrogate Theatre.”

In the wake of the Government postponing the re-opening of indoor performance spaces by a fortnight until August 15 at the earliest, and the even Grimmer Reaper blow of the Culture Secretary now saying that any possibility of a Government thumbs-up to theatres being allowed to return to full capacity will not be forthcoming until November…at the earliest, Bown and Larwood have declared their hand.

The still necessary curse of social distancing leaves them as glum as Cassandra. “Our business model relies on at least half of our auditorium being occupied to break even,” they say. “To produce our much-loved pantomime, we need to sell close to 90 per cent of our seats over two months of shows. With social distancing in place across this beautiful Victorian building, we can only fill 20 per cent of the auditorium. This is not financially viable.”

The heavy cloud of a possible second, wintry wave of Covid-19 hangs heavy over Harrogate Theatre, as indeed it does over all indoor theatre, serving as a killjoy to any planning. “Neither can we take the financial risk of paying for and then cancelling shows if the theatre is bouncing in and out of closure, due to possible quarantines or lockdowns,” warn Bown and Larwood. “Therefore, we are suspending or moving all planned activity for this year at Harrogate Theatre into 2021.

“As a direct result of the pandemic, and the dramatic loss of income associated with it, we have no other choice than to scale back the organisation and reduce our overheads in order to survive.”

What does that mean for the staff? “This means that we have been forced to make the incredibly hard decision to enter a period of redundancy consultation with our staff. At the end of this period, we may have to make up to 60 per cent of permanent roles redundant,” say Bown and Larwood.

“To make it through to next year, we will still need to continue our emergency fundraising campaign. Our audiences and the wider community have been incredibly supportive during these extraordinary times [raising more than £100,00 so far]. From the kindness of donations to the publicly led fundraisers, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and generosity shown towards the theatre.

“We accept our responsibility in this special town and must continue doing all we can to secure the future of the theatre. Thank you all for your help and commitment so far.”

Bown and Larwood are not down and out, however, and are looking to bounce back in 2021. “The majority of shows in our autumn season are moving to next year and Cinderella will be dancing at the ball in 2021. If you have tickets for a show during this time, we will contact you to let you know the rescheduled dates of performances.

“As you can imagine, this is a huge task for our small team, so please bear with us and where we haven’t been able to find a new date for you, please consider donating your tickets to the theatre.”

Harrogate Theatre is usually run in tandem with Harrogate Royal Hall and the Harrogate Convention Centre [formerly known as the Harrogate International Centre until a 2017 revamp], but the other two have been commandeered for the Corona war effort as a Nightingale hospital.

“We are working closely with the Harrogate Convention Centre and Royal Hall regarding the use of those venues as a Nightingale Hospital,” say Bown and Larwood. “The action at the theatre does not, as yet, affect these venues. However, we will contact bookers if and when shows are rescheduled or cancelled.

“Harrogate Theatre will also closely monitor what is an ever-changing global situation and will remain flexible to any changes in national policy or guidelines.”

Is there any sign of a silver lining or even autumn fruits? “While the Safety Curtain is down, we remain committed to making and sharing innovative theatre with audiences and participants and in autumn will launch an exciting socially distanced season of special performances and events, both in person and online.”

No details are being released to the media as yet, however. “Our White Rose Members will be the first to find out about these and will also get exclusive access to one-off events,” reveal Bown and Larwood. “Harrogate Youth Theatre and our Associate Artists will continue to be supported throughout the year. Although the doors might be closed, we will endeavour to light the way for the arts in Harrogate alongside our fellow cultural partners.”

To finish on a positive note: “We look forward to the day we raise our Safety Curtain and once again share the magic that live performance in our building brings,” say Bown and Larwood.

“While we understand the impact of this decision, as custodians of our organisation we will do everything in our power to safeguard the company to be able to entertain, educate and inspire for the next 120 years.”

In the spotlight…Joe Wawrzyniak, chair of Theatre @41 Monkgate, York

“Theatre has always been my passion and I realised that I had an opportunity to lead a team and make a difference to this incredible building and charity,” says Joe Wawrzyniak. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick, Kirkgate Photography

Why did you take on the role of chair for Theatre @41, Joe?

“As we were approaching last year’s annual general meeting, our incumbent chair, Jim Welsman, decided to step down and I agreed to take on the chair as a temporary role. Very quickly it became clear that there was a big job to do with the charity from an operational and developmental point of view.

“Theatre has always been my passion and I realised that I had an opportunity to lead a team and make a difference to this incredible building and charity.”

What does Monkgate mean to you?

“Creativity. Every experience I’ve had with Monkgate has been a creative one, from the very first moment I stepped foot in there with the University of York St John, to all the rehearsals I’ve been part of and then finally as part of the board of trustees. Creativity has been the one constant that remains.” 

York theatre-goers will know you from major roles in myriad productions but do you have any experience of theatre behind the scenes too?

“Surprisingly, I have lots of experience behind the scenes. I’ve stage-managed productions and directed many musicals and plays. My favourite musical was The Phantom Of The Opera, which I staged in 2014 – my favourite show and a great success.

“I’ve also worked professionally at York Theatre Royal and Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, in Halifax, in marketing and administration, so I have lots of experience and knowledge working for charitable organisations.

“Most notably, I worked at the Theatre Royal during their capital renovation project and some of their other major events, such as The Railway Children at the National Railway Museum, The York Mystery Plays in the Museum Gardens and their season in the round – I helped with the production of shows and front of house.

“For a long time, theatre was my whole life, having studied performance theatre at York St John, concentrating on live art and acting/directing.”    

What challenges have you faced since taking on the role of chair?

“The biggest challenge is running the charity with a full-time job too. The charity in itself has a heavy workload which impacts on people’s time. This is why it’s really important that we build our volunteer community so they can be part of the developments and to ensure that the charity is running effectively.” 

Joe Wawrzyniak, as Tick, left, starring alongside Jacob Husband, as Adam, and Alex Weatherhill, as Bernadette, in York Stage Musicals’ 2017 production of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Benedict Tomlinson

How did the board of trustees come together and how is it working?

“With a lot of hard work. Three of us were existing members of the previous board and everyone else was a new recruit.

“Because the profile of Theatre@41 is not as big as we would like, there was a challenge getting people to, firstly, know who we are and, secondly, understand why or how they could make a difference. Through a lot of networking, we have finally found a cohort of people who, day after day, make a difference to this charity.”

Who is serving on the board?

“Myself as chair, looking after all the governance of the charity and leading the board to achieve their short and long-term goals.

“Joanna Hird and Susannah Baines are joint secretaries; Joanna is responsible for administration and Susannah is responsible for our membership, though they do cross over a lot!

“Philip Barton is our treasurer, Jack Hooper is our marketing, branding and communications trustee; Alan Park is responsible for fundraising and business development; Kaeli Wishart is a new addition, responsible for our volunteer strategy, and Emma Godivala, of York Gin, is a trustee too.” 

What has the new board achieved already to fill you with pride?

“When you’re part of a project, it’s really hard to see the developments that you’ve made. So, when we wrote the annual report this year, I was astounded by how much we’ve achieved in such a short time. I’m proud of everything that we do as a board.

“Most of all, I’m proud of the team we have become and how we continue to operate. Achieving something of this magnitude is impossible with just one person. It can’t be done. You have to have an effective and engaged team… which we do.”

York actor David Bradley: One of the six Theatre @41 patrons announced in May

Game Of Thrones star David Bradley, comedian Rosie Jones, actors Karen Henthorn and John McArdle, former chairman Jim Welsman and founder John Cooper’s daughter, Felicity, became patrons in May. What do you hope they will bring to Theatre @41?

“I think the primary purpose of high-profile patrons is about raising our own profile. Part of our five-year strategy is to build the awareness of our charity and building. We face a disadvantage as we’re physically hidden from passers-by and then, secondly, we aren’t at the top of people’s minds when it comes to theatre spaces in York.

“We don’t want to be number one; this isn’t about stealing the audience from other venues, but we do want to be in people’s consideration when they’re thinking about theatre experiences, either as an audience member or as a hirer.

“We’re hoping that having patrons who are not only high profile but actively involved in our theatre will help raise our profile and attract people into our building.”

What do you want to achieve in the next year?

“Most importantly, we hope to re-open successfully and start to build our hires again to ensure the financial stability of the charity. That is our first goal.

“After that, we’re focusing on creating a comprehensive pack of governing policies to ensure that we’re  operationally effective; building a bank of volunteers to help us with the day-to-day running of the charity and venue; building a brand identity to make sure our name lasts long into the future; looking at our artistic offer and raising funds for our roof. These are just a few of the many tasks we have to achieve.”

What would you like the brand identity of Theatre @41 Monkgate to be?

“We want our identity to exhibit creativity. Our tagline is ‘Just Add Imagination’ and our identity should reflect that. However, we also want it to incorporate our history. We shouldn’t forget where we have come from and we have a great story to tell.”

How has the Covid-19 lockdown affected your plans?

“Aside from our theatre being closed, lockdown has, in a strange way, let us to concentrate on a lot of activities that we were struggling to complete when our building was open. So, actually, in one way it has positively affected our plans and given us the breathing space we needed to carry on with building the foundations of this incredible charity.”

The late John Cooper, who converted Trinity Methodist Church Hall into the 41 Monkgate theatre from scratch

What are the practical questions facing Theatre @41 in relation to re-opening?

“I think that the lack of direction from the Government on re-opening is slightly frustrating as it isn’t allowing for any future planning. Though we completely understand these are unprecedented times and I’m sure there is a lot the Government are working through.

“Operationally, there is probably less impact for our building due to the flexibility of seating and the fact it has a natural one-way system we can implement very quickly.

“I think our biggest challenge will be having hirers back in the building. At the moment, as we understand, amateur performance is still not advised to go ahead, which means that for the foreseeable future we will have no income. Like other businesses and charities though, we must have a think about how we adapt to this in the new world.”

Once the Government says “Yes” to indoor performances, is there any viable possibility of re-opening with reduced-capacity social distancing?

“We haven’t done the calculations as yet. However, working on an average audience size, I don’t foresee there being any issue with seating arrangements.”

But is it more practical to stay closed until Theatre @41 can re-open at full capacity?

“Not really. We really need to be open to continue bringing in money to our charity. We don’t receive any regular funding from bodies to help with our operating costs, so being open would help with our cash flow.” 

Given the need to address the upkeep of the building, what makes Theatre @41 worth fighting for?

No other theatre in York offers what we offer. When a hirer enters our building, they’re allowed to take over the whole space and have full creative control, from rehearsal rooms to the black box studio.

Amie Burns Walker’s Daisy Buchanan and Oliver Tilney’s Jay Gatsby on the Theatre @41 stairway in The Guild Of Misrule’s The Great Gatsby in December 2016. Picture: Steven Eric Parker

“Back in 2016 and 2018 we had The Guild Of Misrule bring Alexander Flanagan-Wright’s immersive production of The Great Gatsby to us. They took over the entire building and every room was transformed into a 1920s’ setting so that the audience stepped back in time as soon as they came through the front door.

“We’re also the perfect size for local companies to stage new or daring shows and not take too much of a financial risk. Our space allows companies to produce well-known pieces in new and exciting ways and, finally, we’re exactly what York is lacking: a Fringe venue.

“Possibilities are endless in our building, whereas in other theatres there may be a lot more restriction.” 

What does the board see as the priority with the building’s maintenance?

“The biggest priority is to fix the roof. There are other tasks to undertake but our biggest priority is the roof, for which we have already started fundraising.”

How is the proposal to mark the legacy of 41 Monkgate founder John Cooper progressing?

“We obviously unveiled a plaque a few years ago and had a brown sign erected outside our building for the John Cooper Studio. The next step is to include the memory of John and immortalise him in the fabric of our brand identity and story-telling.”

Amid the uncertainty brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, why is the arts scene so important in York?

“In a city so small it absolutely amazes me that we can house five major theatres and one large concert venue, plus support all of the many different groups that produce in York.

“We are so lucky that we have such a diverse group of arts-makers and they are all, in the majority, successful. From large-scale musicals to Shakespeare and everything in between, you’d be hard pushed to find another place like this outside of London.

“However, there are a few things that aren’t catered for that I would like to experiment with and expand the horizons in York. Watch this space!”

Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest video entry deadline extended by a week for Joseph Rowntree Theatre roof appeal fundraiser

“We don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance of becoming a finalist in Yorkshire’s Got Talent,” says organiser Hannah Wakelam

THE deadline for performers to upload video entries for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s online contest, Yorkshire’s Got Talent, is being extended by a week.

Organiser Hannah Wakelam and the judges, Wicked star Laura Pick, cruise-ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and vocal coach Amelia Urukalo, have set a new cut-off point of midnight on August 8.

Hannah has set up the virtual competition as a fundraiser for the JoRo’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.

“We still have lots of entries coming in, as word of the contest reaches further afield,” says the 19-year-old York performer. “We don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance of becoming a finalist in Yorkshire’s Got Talent, and so the judges and I are extending the entry deadline to next weekend.

“All types of performers are encouraged to enter and to show off what they can do, whether it’s singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, performing a circus act, the list is endless.”

The cost of entry is a minimum donation of £5 to the Raise the Roof appeal for the Art Deco building, in Haxby Road, and no age restrictions apply.

To comply with lockdown rules, entrants are asked to submit a short video of themselves performing their acts. The contest winner will receive £100.

Full rules and details of how to enter can be found at:



Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s events and fundraising director, says: “There’s a real buzz around this contest now. Having a West End star [Laura Pick] among our judging panel has certainly got people talking and we are seeing a rush of last-minute entries.  By extending the deadline, we’ll be able to accommodate more acts at the same time as raising more money for our fundraising appeal.”

The online contest is the latest in a string of fundraisers for the Rowntree Theatre’s  roof appeal, following on from a virtual video, a Zoom fitness class and the ongoing sale of jazzy face masks made by theatre volunteer Barbara Boyce.

To launch the Raise the Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging donations of “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee” at

Today in brief…

Welcome back to City Screen, York

CITY Screen, York, and Cineworld, Monks Cross, re-opened today, but you will have to wear a mask from August 8. Mask up at museums and galleries from that date too.

The Government green light for indoor performances from August 1 went back to red, or maybe amber for a fortnight…although Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s decree for Stage Five of his road map for the full-scale re-opening of theatres may not be announced until November “at the earliest”. Clear as the Ouse mud.

Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema parked up on Knavesmire on the hottest day of the summer…before thunder and lightning paid a visit tonight. That’s more like it.

British film-maker supreme Sir Alan Parker died at 76. Has there ever been a more diverse director? From Bugsy Malone to Birdy, Midnight Express to Mississippi Burning, Angel Heart to Angela’s Ashes. Yes, he loved a musical, Fame in 1980, The Commitments in 1991 and Evita in 1996, but it was always down to the way he told a story. RIP.

The End.

Stephen Joseph Theatre to re-open in August but with films and streamings first

The Stephen Joseph Theatre announces its imminent re-opening on its Art Deco frontage

SCARBOROUGH’S Stephen Joseph Theatre will re-open on August 20 but for films and streamings only.

The wait for the return of theatre performances must go on, although the SJT statement does tantalise by saying: “The world-famous theatre is also aiming to announce a programme of live theatre for later in the year shortly.”

The first focus will be on films, including new releases and the streaming of West End shows “captured live”, shown upstairs in The McCarthy.

The SJT is introducing a comprehensive programme of measures for the safety and comfort of cinema patrons, such as limited capacities and aisle access for every pair of seats booked. You can find out more at:

The SJT has been awarded VisitEngland’s We’re Good To Go industry standard mark, signifying its adherence to government and public health guidance. 

“We’re all absolutely thrilled to be able to welcome audiences back into the building,” says SJT artistic director Paul Robinson. Picture: Richard Davenport

Artistic director Paul Robinson says: “We’re all absolutely thrilled to be able to welcome audiences back into the building after our enforced break, and we’re working hard to ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable in the cinema environment. 

“We’ll be announcing further screenings for September very soon and are also working hard to programme an innovative and exciting programme of live theatre for later this year – watch this space!” 

Films and streamings from August onwards initially will be screened on Thursdays to Saturdays, then Tuesdays to Saturdays – with a few exceptions – from early September.

Back in a Flash, the SJT will mark its re-opening with a 7pm screening of Flash Gordon – 40th Anniversary, a remastered version of Mike Hodges’ “We only have 14 hours to save the Earth” film from 1980, the one with all that Queen music, Sam J Jones as Flash, Max von Sydow as Ming The Merciless and Yorkshireman Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan. A further screening will follow on August 22 at 2pm.

Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 British comedy-drama Emma will be shown on August 21, 22 and 27 at 7pm. Adapted from Jane Austen’s Georgian novel, it casts Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse, a sometimes misguided, often meddlesome matchmaker.

Gordon’s alive again for 40th anniversary celebrations: Brian Blessed and Sam J Jones in Flash Gordon

Peter Cattaneo’sMilitary Wives, on August 28 at 7pm and August 29 at 2pm, stars Kristin Scott-Thomas, Sharon Horgan and Jason Flemyng in a British film inspired by the true story of the Military Wives Choir.

The first streaming of the West End musical season will be 42nd Street, captured live, on August 29 at 7pm, with its story of a theatre director trying to mount a musical extravaganza at the height of the Great Depression.

Dates for September films and streamings will be announced soon. Look out for the West End musicals Kinky Boots and The King & I, Andre Rieu’s Magical Maastricht – Together In Music and Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, all captured live.

Coming up too will be writer-director Jessica Swale’s new British feminist fable, lesbian love story and wartime drama, Summerland, released this coming Friday.

Meddlesome matchmaker: Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse in Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. Picture: Focus Features

Gemma Arterton plays cantankerous writer Alice, whose reclusive life on the Kent coast is turned upside down when Frank, an evacuee from the London Blitz, is left in her care. Gradually her shut-down emotions are awakened anew by him.

On their way too are The Secret Garden, filmed partly at the Walled Garden in Helmsley, and Michael Ball And Alfie Boe: Back Together.

Cinema tickets at the SJT cost £7 (concessions £6, Circle members/NHS/under-30s £5) for films; £12 for event cinema, including captured live; £17 for a live streaming.

To book, go to:

More Things To Do in and around York, on a bench and at home, courtesy of The Press, York. List No. 11

One man and his bench: Director Matt Aston in place for the Park Bench Theatre summer season at Rowntree Park, York. Picture: Livy Potter

OUTDOOR theatre is taking to a park bench and a mill garden. Museums and galleries, and even car boots sales, are re-opening.

Spanish holidays may be off the Brexiteer Prime Minister’s list of To Do’s in August, but York is stretching its limbs, dusting off the cobwebs, and saying welcome back.

Maybe Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester’s Mayor, should test-drive his eyesight by paying a visit to “a part of the north that looks most like the south,” he says. Really, Andy?

As we all turn into masketeers, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these recommendations for days out and days in.

Cassie Vallance: Performing Teddy Bears’ Picnic in Rowntree Park’s Friends Garden

Outdoor theatre number one: Engine House Theatre’s Park Bench Theatre, Friends Garden, Rowntree Park, York, August 12 to September 5

HERE come Samuel Beckett’s rarely performed monologue, First Love, artistic director Matt Aston’s brand new play, Every Time A Bell Rings, and something for all the family inspired by a classic song, Teddy Bears’ Picnic, all staged on and around a park bench in a Covid-secure outdoor theatre season in York.

Each production will be presented in carefully laid out and spacious gardens, allowing audiences to keep socially distanced from each other. Chris Hannon will perform the Beckett piece; Lisa Howard, the play premiere; Aston’s co-creator, Cassie Vallance, the new children’s show.

Headphones or earphones will be required to hear the dialogue, sound effects and music in performances. All audience members will be given a receiver on entry; takeaway headphones cost £1 when booking a ticket online. Bring blankets or chairs.

Alexander Flanagan-Wright, left, and Phil Grainger swap sunnier climes on the other side of the world for Stillington Mill for their At The Mill shows

Outdoor theatre number two: The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre, “Six Days of Work”, Stillington Mill, near York, August 2 to 7, 7pm

“WE’RE doing some Orpheus, some Eurydice, and one night of New Stuff We Haven’t Done Before,” say Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger, introducing their raft of At The Mill two-handers.

Performances will take place in Alex’s back garden at Stillington Mill to a maximum, socially distanced, audience of 30 per show.

The new work, on August 5, will be a reading of Alex’s This Story Is For You and a fresh set of songs by Clive (Phil’s name for his solo music, Clive being his middle name and his father’s name). Orpheus and Eurydice will be all Greek to you, but in a good way.

Train coming: National Railway Museum to re-open next week

York galleries, museums and attractions leaving Lockdown hibernation

THE York Dungeon has re-opened already; York Art Gallery and Castle Museum will do so from Saturday.

Back on track next will be the National Railway Museum, in Leeman Road, going full steam ahead from August 4.

“To manage visitor numbers, we are introducing free, timed and guided routes around the museum to ensure you have a relaxed visit and can maintain social distancing,” says the NRM. To book, go to:

Senior operations assistant Charlotte Mundey prepares for the re-opening of the Rotunda Museum. Picture:
Tony Bartholomew

Museum re-opening of the week ahead outside York: Rotunda Museum, Scarborough, from August 8

SCARBOROUGH’S Rotunda Museum will re-open with a new booking system that gives small groups exclusive access.

Visiting slots will be every half hour across the day, allowing groups – or social bubbles – of up to six people at a time to explore the museum without having to follow prescriptive routes.

In the Ancient Seas Gallery, visitors will come face to face with prehistoric creatures that once roamed this coastline. In the Rotunda Gallery are displays of fossils, taxidermy, fine art and ceramics. 

Crash, from a new wave of seascape works by Carolyn Coles, at Village Gallery, York

New exhibition of the week: Carolyn Coles, “Oh I Do Like To Be Besides The…”, Village Gallery, York, from August 4 to September 19

YORK seascape artist Carolyn Coles, once of The Press graphics department, should have been exhibiting at York Open Studios in April and the Staithes Festival of Art and Heritage in September. Enter Covid, exit Carolyn’s two big showcases of 2020.

Enter Simon Main at Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, who says: “We saw Carolyn’s work at her first York Open Studios show back in 2019 and were so taken with her seascapes – many inspired by and maybe giving a different perspective of the Yorkshire coastline – that we started talking about a show.

“So, we’re delighted we have finally made it and are really looking forward to hanging Carolyn’s beautiful work. And who doesn’t love Filey?”

Joker: Closing film at Daisy Duke’s Drive-in Cinema at Knavesmire, York, this weekend

Open-air film experience of the week: Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema, Knavesmire, York, Friday to Sunday

LATER than first trailed, Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema will park up on Knavesmire for screenings of Grease, Rocketman, Toy Story, Mamma Mia!, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction, Shrek 2 and A Star Is Born.

Sunday’s closing film will be Joker. Tickets are selling fast so, no joke, prompt booking is recommended at

Interaction between staff and customers will be kept to a minimum, with cars parked two metres apart and those attending expected to remain within their vehicles for the duration of the screenings on LED screens with the sound transmitted to car radios.

Colin Moncrieff in Badapple Theatre’s 2014 production of The Daily Bread, a performance he now reprises for a podcast

Home entertainment of the week: Badapple Theatre’s The Daily Bread podcast

THE Daily Bread rises again as the latest free Podbean podcast from Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre.

Glaswegian actor, clown and raconteur Colin Moncrieff reprises his 2014 stage performance in artistic director Kate Bramley’s comedy about a master baker who is the talk of the tiny village of Bottledale, thanks to his sumptuous sponges and beautiful buns, this time giving a relaxed reading from home, accompanied by Jez Lowe’s songs.

Go to to discover whether the baker’s cheery façade hides a dark secret.

Fishwife, Emma Stothard’s new scuplture, takes up residence by the harbour swing bridge in Whitby

And what about…

The rockumentary Rockfield: The Studio On The Farm on BBC iPlayer. New albums by Rufus Wainwright, Courtney Marie Andrews, Seasick Steve and The Psychedelic Furs, their first in 29 years. Emma Stothard’s new Whitby sculpture, Fishwife, Selling Cod, Mackerel and Crab, by the harbour swing bridge. A walk at Wheldrake Ings, followed by Sicilian flatbreads and piadini at the re-opened Caffé Valeria in Wheldrake. York Racecourse Saturday car boot sale, re-launching from August 8.

One park bench, three shows, prepare for outdoor theatre in Rowntree Park garden

Park Bench Theatre director Matt Aston on a park bench in Rowntree Park, York. Picture: Livy Potter

THREE monologues on a park bench in a Rowntree Park garden herald the return of theatre to York from the Glorious Twelfth onwards.

Engine House Theatre artistic director Matt Aston has assembled a summer season of open-air shows that will combine Samuel Beckett’s rarely-performed First Love with two premieres, Aston’s own new piece, Every Time A Bell Rings, and a new adaptation of the classic children’s song, Teddy Bears’ Picnic, co-created for all the family by Aston and Cassie Vallance.

The trio of productions will be presented from August 12 to September 5 in the Covid-secure setting of the carefully laid-out and spacious Friends Garden at Rowntree Park, allowing audiences of up to 70 to maintain social distance from each other in the park’s most enclosed space.

“Who’d have thought six months ago that we would be having such a stressful, terrifying, bizarre time since March,” says Matt, more heavily bearded in lockdown than when he co-directed York Theatre Royal’s somewhat stressful 2019-2020 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty.

“I first had idea of doing something this summer, running round Rowntree Park in the middle of lockdown on one of my Government-ordained bursts of daily exercise. Sitting on a bench [too late to tell him off now!], I was thinking about doing some socially distanced indoor theatre, but then someone suggested, ‘Why not do some outdoor theatre in Rowntree Park?’.”

The seeds for Park Bench Theatre were sewn. “The name Park Bench Theatre does what it says on the tin: performing theatre on or around a park bench, which I first did 20 years ago in Nottingham,” Matt says.

“The idea was always to keep it simple, having first started thinking about in April/May, knowing that it has to feel safe and secure but also feel ‘normal’, feeling like it would pre-Covid, but keeping the production costs basic.

The Park Bench Theatre production team: Ben Pugh, back left; directors Matt Aston and Tom Bellerby, seated; Luke James and Mike Redley; Harriet Marshall, front left, and Pauline Rourke. Picture: Livy Potter

“Theatre is social, sharing stories, and these shows will be a collective story-telling experience.”

His Rowntree Park exertions set the plays and their subject matter in motion. “I had the idea of someone sitting on a park bench and thinking about what they’re going through,” says Matt, explaining the trigger for Every Time A Bell Rings.

“I thought of the isolation and the fact that she might actually have been isolated for many years. I then remembered First Love was also set on a park bench and the idea rolled on from that.”

The first to open, running from August 12 to August 22, will be Matt’s production of First Love, Beckett’s 45-minute monologue about a man, a woman, a recollection, awash with the Irish playwright’s signature balancing of comedy and tragedy.

First Love was the last piece of the Park Bench Theatre jigsaw to fall into place. “I think the Beckett estate had a few questions about what we were doing, as it’s not a play, but it had been done at the Arcola Theatre [in London] as a learnt reading,” says Matt.

“For me, it reads as a monologue, but we’re being respectful to it as the short story it was written as. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, really accessible, really funny, and Chris is bringing out all the humour.”

The ‘Chris’ in question is Chris Hannon, best known for his CBeebies role as Dad in Topsy And Tim and as the pantomime dame at Wakefield Theatre Royal for more than a decade. “My first panto as director at Wakefield was his first panto as the dame there,” says Matt. “There was a tradition of never inviting anyone back, but he was so brilliant that he’s been going back ever since, and he writes it now as well.”

Tom Bellerby: Director of Every Time A Bell Rings

Next up, from August 19 to September 5, will be Aston’s 50-minute premiere of Every Time A Bell Rings, performed by Northern Broadsides and Slung Low regular Lisa Howard and directed by Tom Bellerby, back in York from London.

Tom had been resident assistant director at the Donmar Warehouse, London, after making his mark at York Theatre Royal as associate artist at Pilot Theatre and as associate director at Hull Truck Theatre from 2016 to 2018, taking in Hull’s year as the 2017 UK City of Culture. 

The play’s setting is Lockdown, Easter Sunday 2020, when Cathy searches for solace on her favourite park bench in her favourite park in Aston’s funny and poignant look at how the world is changing through these extraordinary times.

“I’ve written it in Lockdown, having had a vague notion some years ago of doing a piece revolving around a woman dealing with grief when I was dealing with the death of my stepfather,” says Matt.

“I started having a go at writing a piece in the spare hours between child-care and then felt it would be right for Park Bench Theatre once I felt confident that we were going to get the go-ahead.

“Then I had the idea that someone else should direct it, and though I hadn’t met Tom before, I knew he’d returned to York and it made sense for him to come on board.”

After two shows with “very strong language”, the third will be a complete contrast: Teddy Bears’ Picnic on August 19 to 22, 27 to 29 and 31 and September 1 to 5, based on an original idea by Julian Butler.

“I really hope they don’t come to the wrong show!” says Matt, who is renewing his creative partnership with Cassie Vallance after she starred in his adaptation of Benji Davies’s The Storm Whale in the Theatre Royal Studio last Christmas.

Cassie Vallance in The Storm Whale at the York Theatre Royal Studio last December. Picture: Northedge Photography

Suitable for everyone aged three and over, this 30-minute show carries the billing: “Every year, Jo’s family used to have a big family gathering – a teddy bears’ picnic – but then she got too old and too cool for that sort of thing. Now she’s grown up, she wishes she could have them all over again.”

“Julian Butler and I had the idea for this show when we were doing The Storm Whale, and Cassie and I are creating it over the next few weeks,” says Matt. “She was brilliant in The Storm Whale and has been doing fantastic work online with Crafty Tales, so I’m thrilled to be working with her again.”

Full details, including tickets and the audience use of headphones, can be found

The monologues:

First Love by Samuel Beckett, August 12 to 22, 7pm; August 15 and 22, 4pm matinee.

A story of a man, a woman, a recollection, awash with Beckett’s signature balancing of comedy and tragedy. Performed by Chris Hannon, directed by Matt Aston. Running time: 45 minutes. Contains very strong language. 

Every Time A Bell Rings, premiere by Matt Aston, August 19 to September 5, 7pm; August 29 and September 5, 4pm matinee. 

Lockdown. Easter Sunday 2020. Cathy emerges from her own isolation to search for solace on her favourite park bench in her favourite park. Touching, funny, poignant look at how the world is changing through these extraordinary times. Performed by Lisa Howard, directed by Tom Bellerby. Contains very strong language. Running time: 50 minutes.

The Park Bench Theatre production team observing social distancing in Rowntree Park, York. Picture: Livy Potter

Teddy Bears’ Picnic, premiere, August 19 to 22, 27 to 29 and 31; September 1 to 5; 11.30am and 1.30pm. Co-created by Cassie Vallance and director Matt Aston.

Every year, Jo’s family had a big, brilliant family gathering – a teddy bears’ picnic. Then she grew too old and too cool for that sort of thing, so she stopped going. But now she’s grown up, she wishes she could have them all over again. Running time: 30 minutes. Suitable for everyone aged three and over. Bring your favourite teddy and a picnic.

A word from: Helen Apsey, head of culture and well-being at Make It York

“This is a fantastic initiative to bring live theatre back to York in the beautiful surroundings of Rowntree Park. It is a great addition to the city’s summer offering – providing a safe outdoor theatre experience designed for families and people of all ages.”

A word from: Abigail Gaines, Friends of Rowntree Park trustee

“We are thrilled to have open-air theatre in Rowntree Park. The park has been a lifeline to many during Lockdown, and hearing it inspired the writing of one of the plays makes hosting the performance even more meaningful.

“The park is a key place for families and we know they will love the family performances. The Friends of Rowntree Park always support arts in the park and are very much looking forward to the shows.”



Yes, headphones will be required to hear the dialogue, sound effects and music in performances. All audience members will be given a receiver on entry that headphones can be plugged into.

Audiences are encouraged to bring their own set, but no wireless or Bluetooth ones. Instead they must be plug-in headphones or earphones. You can buy takeaway headphones for £1 when you book your ticket online, for collection when you visit. 

Director Matt Aston on a Rowntree Park park bench. Audience members will be on blankets or chairs


Audience members are encouraged to bring blankets for the first few rows and chairs for the back few rows.

Ticketing policy?

If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, have been diagnosed with the virus or have been in direct contact with a diagnosed individual in the past 14 days, you must not attend the event.

If unable to attend due to other illness, contact the box office to arrange a ticket transfer. Tickets can be refunded only if the booked performance has sold out.


IN conversation with City of York Council, and in line with Government guidance, Park Bench Theatre has implemented a range of measures to ensure the health and safety of audiences and staff. The measures are under constant review and apply across all performances throughout the season. 

Arriving: Gates will open an hour before the show start time to allow everyone to arrive at their leisure and avoid large queues. All tickets will be digital and checked without contact at a social distance at the entrance to the performance area. There will be a one-way system to enter and exit the performance area.

Social distancing: Each household or social, bubble will be seated at a safe distance from other households or social bubbles. Volunteer stewards will direct audience members to their designated bubble.

Food and refreshments: Bring your own food and drink to all performances but no alcohol is allowed. 

Departure: Stewards will manage the departure so large crowds do not all leave at the same time.

Loos. All performances take place without an interval. The Rowntree Park loos will be open before and after all performances.

Rotunda Museum to re-open with chance to go around in your own exclusive bubble

Senior operations assistant Charlotte Mundey prepares the Rotunda Museum for re-opening. All pictures: Tony Bartholomew

SCARBOROUGH’S Rotunda Museum re-opens next week with a new booking system that gives small groups exclusive access.

From August 8, the Grade II-listed circular building in Esplanade Gardens will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 5pm.

Visiting slots will be every half hour across the day, allowing groups – or social bubbles – of up to six people at a time to explore the museum without having to follow prescriptive routes.

Senior operations assistant Charlotte Mundey in the Ancient Seas Gallery at the Rotunda Museum

Dating from 1829, the Rotunda specialises in geology and local history and is one of the oldest purpose-built museums in the world.

In the Ancient Seas Gallery, visitors will come face to face with prehistoric creatures that used to roam this coastline. In the Rotunda Gallery are displays of fossils, taxidermy, fine art and ceramics that tell the history of the museum. The shop will be open too.

Looking ahead, the Scarborough Museums Trust team is hard at work on a new display of Mesolithic objects from Star Carr, the important archaeological site in the Vale of Pickering, that will open in mid-September.

Senior operations assistant Charlotte Mundey on the circular stairwell at the Rotunda Museum, Scarborough

Gristhorpe Man, Britain’s best-preserved Early Bronze Age skeleton, is still in controlled storage after a leak in the roof threatened his safety and will be returned at a later date.

Staff have been trained in post-lockdown safety procedures and the Rotunda has been awarded VisitEngland’s We’re Good To Go industry standard mark, signifying its adherence to government and public health guidance.

Andrew Clay, the trust’s chief executive, says: “We’re delighted that we now have all three of our beautiful venues open to the public once again [Scarborough Art Gallery, Woodend and the Rotunda] – we can’t wait to welcome people back into the Rotunda. As always, our top priority is the safety of both our visitors and our staff.”

“We can’t wait to welcome people back into the Rotunda,” says Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust

Please note, the Rotunda Museum has a lift to all floors and is fully wheelchair-accessible throughout, including an accessible loo. Support dogs are welcome. Induction loops are available. The museum is breastfeeding-friendly and staff are trained to be Dementia Friends.

Slots for the Rotunda can be booked online at, by phone on 01723 353665 or via email sent to

From August 1, the £3 annual pass system will be re-introduced, giving unlimited entry to the Rotunda Museum and Scarborough Art Gallery for a year. Woodend is always free.

Opening hours for Scarborough Art Gallery are 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sundays; Woodend, 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays, and 10am to 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.

Zodwa Nyoni to lead play-writing course for Freedom Studios from October. Apply now

Playwright Zodwa Nyoni: Play-writing course tutor for Freedom Studios. Picture: Zanele Nyoni

YORKSHIRE theatre company Freedom Studios are seeking experienced Yorkshire writers for a free play-writing course.

“Are you looking for the next step-up and want to learn in depth about play-writing and working in the arts,” the Bradford theatre-makers ask.

“If so, we’re looking for distinctive voices and new perspectives, with an ability to write and the potential to develop, to get involved in Street Voices 8, our popular free six-month play-writing course, from October 10 2020 till March 6 2021.”

The workshops will be guided by playwright and previous course participant Zodwa Nyoni, writer of Boi Boi Is Dead for West Yorkshire Playhouse, Tiata Fahodzi and Watford Palace Theatre in 2015.

Freedom Studios are looking for writers who may have been writing creatively in other forms and are keen to broaden their skills. All applicants must have a willingness to take risks and try out new ideas, along with a commitment to attend all course dates. 

In return, Freedom Studios are offering writing workshops, masterclasses and question-and-answer sessions with experienced creatives; support and advice from theatre-makers and industry professionals; opportunities to see plays, events and performances and the chance to watch a performance of your work.

Freedom Studios’ co-artistic directors, Alex Chisholm and Aisha Khan, say: “Developing new writers is about developing the theatre of the future. So, it is with particular delight we are launching Street Voices 8, our new writers’ course, this October.

“Playwright Zodwa Nyoni, who went through the course herself as young(er) writer, will be joining us again as tutor on the course. Our region has a wealth of talent and potential and we look forward to hearing from writers wanting to take that extra step to expand their experience and become the strong, diverse new generation of theatre.”

Angela Wynter, as Miriam, and Andrew French, as Ezra, in Zodwa Nyoni’s Boi Boi Is Dead at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, in 2015

Among the course attendees who have gone on to write for professional theatre are: Kat Rose Martin, winner of the Kay Mellor Fellowship at Leeds Playhouse; Chris O’Connor, whose play The Parting Glass was staged by Leeds company Red Ladder Theatre; Gemma Beadeau, now under commission with Freedom Studios, and Ben Tagoe, writer of When We Were Brothers for Freedom Studios.

Gemma Beadeau, who attended last year’s Street Voices 7, says: “Street Voices was an incredibly affirming experience. Freedom Studios have created a really safe space to learn and I learnt so much about narrative. There is nothing that our writing mentor, Zodwa Nyoni, didn’t know about shaping a story.

“We were encouraged to be bold, brave and ambitious, and I was in great company with other brilliant writers. whose feedback and work pushed me to take my loose idea to a play I’m really proud of.  If you can apply, it’ll be life-changing.” 

From October to next March, the course will be run online via Zoom but, should guidance change nearer the time, sessions will be held in Bradford as normal in adherence with the Government’s Covid guidelines. This decision also will be made in consultation with the tutor and participants. 

To apply for the Street Voices 8 writing course, all applicants must be aged over 18, based in Yorkshire and have “some level of writing experience”. Individuals from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. 

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday, August 17. Applicants selected for interview will be informed by August 28 and interviews will take place either in Bradford or via Zoom in the week beginning September 7.

Award-winning intercultural theatre company Freedom Studios connect different people and communities through story-telling and making theatre. “Engagement is intrinsic to our work and communities are at the heart of what we do,” say Chisholm and Khan.

Zodwa Nyoni’s Ode To Leeds at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, in 2017

Among their site-specific past productions are The Mill – City of Dreams; Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange; Home Sweet Home, North Country, and Black Teeth And A Brilliant Smile. 

For more details on how to apply for the course, visit:

Session dates:

October 10: meet and greet;  October 24, character; November 7, structure; November 21, dialogue (guest speaker); December 5, opportunities (guest speaker); December 19, re-writing problems and solutions; January 16 2021, group reading; January 23, group reading; February 20, script reading with actors; February 27, script reading with actors; March 6, de-brief; mid to late April, showcase.

Tutor: Zodwa Nyoni

Zimbabwean-born playwright, poet, screenwriter and director, who started writing poetry with Leeds Young Authors, a youth performance poetry organisation.

She has held poetry residencies at: BBC Radio Leeds, 2006; I Love West Leeds Festival, 2010, and Ilkely Literature Festival, 2013.

She has toured nationally and internationally, performing at the British Museum; Venezuelan Embassy; Latitude Festival; Southbank Centre; eKhaya Multi Arts Centre, Durban, South Africa; National Gallery Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; Nuyorican Poets Café, New York, and Historic Hampton House, Miami, both USA.

She has taught poetry and theatre workshops extensively for universities, schools, colleges, organisations, and theatres.

She wrote Ode To Leeds for West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2017 and is under commission at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Kiln Theatre and LAMDA.

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Streetwise Opera/Roderick Williams/Carducci Quartet, July 26

Carducci Quartet: Harmonies melted in and out

Streetwise Opera/Roderick Williams/Carducci Quartet, Castle Howard Long Gallery, July 26

SO to RyeStream’s finale. It opened with the advertised – presumably filmed in advance – grand ensemble performance of Schubert’s The Linden Tree, otherwise known as Der Lindenbaum, sung in a Jeremy Sams translation.

The choir consisted of members of Streetwise Opera and Genesis Sixteen (The Sixteen’s junior offshoot), with Roderick Williams starring in brief baritone solos, accompanied by pianist Christopher Glynn and the Brodsky Quartet.

The song represents one of the few comforting moments in Die Winterreise (Winter’s journey), justification enough for its inclusion here. Apart from Williams, who appeared to be strolling along a farm track on open downs, all the rest were seen in isolation (the Brodskys also outdoors), some blowing away lime leaves marked with optimistic mottos. It was a brave effort and remarkably tidy, if not quite what Schubert had in mind.

The serious part of the proceedings involved the Carducci Quartet, under the resolute leadership of Matthew Denton, in works by Philip Glass and Beethoven. Glass’s Third String Quartet is derived from his score to Paul Schrader’s experimental 1984 film Mishima. Its six movements all employ minimalist techniques, though in the Carducci’s hands there were clear-cut distinctions of mood between them.

Roderick Williams: “Appeared to be strolling along a farm track on open downs”

Some were merely relentless, testing the ensemble’s concentration. But elsewhere, shifting accents – groups of four notes made to sound as if in groups of three, for example, thereby teasing the ear (you could call it trompe l’oreille) – kept interest alive as harmonies melted in and out.

While one can genuinely admire the technical prowess of both composer and performers here, it is harder to become emotionally involved with such repetitive processes. The Carducci were as persuasive as one could imagine.

Their Beethoven – the Op 95 Quartet in F minor, nicknamed “Serioso” for that rare marking in the second half of its second movement – was another matter altogether. The work was written in the white heat of Beethoven’s emotional turmoil after his rejection by Therese Malfatti and reflects the composer at his most volatile. The terseness of the Carducci’s approach was just what the doctor ordered.

Their crisp unison at the start presaged tight ensemble throughout the opening movement. Even the seemingly gentle Allegretto had an underlying tension, preparing for the extremely violent outburst of the serioso section, which is actually a scherzo (though joke-free). The unsettled rondo’s ending – a devil-may-care piece of opera buffa in F major – came as much-needed light relief. The Carducci know their Beethoven well, if this reading is anything to go by. Let us have them back in the flesh when conditions allow.

A final word on Patrick Allan’s camera work, which has generally been first-class. With the Carducci, we predominately saw individual players, when the great joy with string quartets is seeing the players’ interaction – which in turn is an aid to listening. This we were largely denied. No matter, this concert series has generally worked superbly. It is available online, free of charge, until August 16. Strongly recommended – but do make a donation if you possibly can.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Director Delma Tomlin picks digital York Early Music Festival highlights for Music Of Our Time download

Elizabeth Kenny and Iestyn Davies performing in the stillness of the empty National Centre for Early Music, York, at the 2020 York Early Music Festival Online on July 9

MUSIC For Our Time, the Director’s Cut download of highlights from this month’s inaugural York Early Music Festival Online, is available from today.

Festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin has chosen her festival favourites, ranging from York countertenor Iestyn Davies and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny’s opening concert on July 9, A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, to vocal ensemble Stile Antico’s closing performance on July 11.

Taking part in the 2020 festival too were lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth, harpsichordist Steven Devine, lyra viol player Richard Boothby and Consone Quartet.

All the concerts were recorded by digital producer Ben Pugh at the empty National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York.

Iestyn Davies provides an exclusive introduction to the £4.99 download celebration of “the extraordinary success of the very first York Early Music Festival Online, which attracted a huge audience from across the UK and as far afield as Australia, Japan and the United States”.

“The wonderful music can be enjoyed time after time,” says festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin after picking her highlights for the Music For Our Time download

Delma, director of the NCEM, says: “I’d like to say a huge thank-you to all those who joined us online. We have been overwhelmed by the warm wishes we received from our worldwide audience, which inspired me to choose a selection of my favourite highlights from the weekend to share with you, so that the wonderful music can be enjoyed time after time.

“The enthusiastic response shows the voracious appetite for early music and the power it has to engage and excite audiences far and wide.”

Festival favourites Stile Antico, who presented Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, say: “Such a delight to be able to perform from York: there is nothing quite like live music-making! Many thanks to the wonderful York Early Music Festival for the invitation and for all the technical wizardry. We hope that you all enjoyed watching as much as we enjoyed singing.”

Among comments shared on social media by online audiences, one enthused: “Great music and really liked the commentary which builds a bridge to the (remote) audience.”

Another said: “Thoroughly enjoyed everything this year. The internet presentation, while necessary under the circumstances, has made the festival much more accessible.”

Consone Quartet performing at the National Centre for Early Music, York, for the 2020 York Early Music Festival

A third exclaimed: “An absolute delight! So glad the festival was able to come into our homes this year.” A fourth concluded: “What a collection of talented performers! A wonderful couple of days.”

Looking to combine the early with the cutting edge, the NCEM was among the first British arts organisations to use digital technology to live-stream concerts during the Covid crisis.

The series began with recitals by Steven Devine and the Brabant Ensemble, filmed at St Margaret’s Church shortly before lockdown and broadcast live to an audience of over 60,000 people. Since then, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

To download the Music Of Our Time – The Director’s Cut log, go to and follow the step-by-step guide. 

“Watch this space!” says Delma. “The NCEM will be announcing full details of its forthcoming programme on the website and via social media very soon.”

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn, July 25

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen: “Her Elgar was immaculate”. Picture: Patrick Allen

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 25

THE violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen was to have been the mainstay of Ryedale Festival’s final weekend, giving an Elgar programme in tandem with pianist Christopher Glynn on Saturday afternoon and then leading her Albion Quartet on Sunday evening.

In the event, she appeared on Saturday only and the Carducci Quartet played Beethoven when the Albion had been promised in Schubert. These are unpredictable times and we must go with the flow of RyeStream, the revised, online festival.

But her Elgar was immaculate. Her lack of sentimentality gave it a feeling of freshness, while consistently sustaining the composer’s momentum. The heart of her recital was Elgar’s only surviving violin sonata of 1918 (he had destroyed another written 30 years earlier).

Even bearing in mind that the violin was the composer’s own instrument, I cannot remember it sounding more personal than it did here. Elgar had waited till relatively late in life to compose his three greatest chamber music works – the others being the string quartet and the piano quintet – but they hinge on his transition from great
patriotic topics to a more sober sensitivity, doubtless brought on by the Great War.

Christopher Glynn: His piano pairing with Tamsin Waley-Cohen’s violin was always tautly intertwined. Picture: Gerard Collett

Those two strands are reflected in the two themes of the Violin Sonata in E minor’s opening Allegro: Waley-Cohen contrasted them beautifully, the one with resolute, forceful rhythms, the other with calm arpeggios (prefigured by the piano in the first theme).

The quirky Romance was straight out of an earlier era, echoing the rural serenity that the Elgars had found when they moved from London to a small Sussex cottage in 1917. It did not prevent this duo from reaching an impassioned climax, though they remained emphatic in the muted, closing bars.

This pairing, always tautly intertwined, responded to one another most closely in the wistfulness of the finale, where Glynn’s piano neatly echoed many of the violin’s phrases. Waley-Cohen’s long bows in the reminiscence of the Romance were especially effective, before the coda brought a spirited close.

The rest of the programme gave us Elgar’s three most famous salon pieces for the violin. The seriousness of Chanson de Nuit was complemented by a more playful Chanson de Matin, as if reflecting emergence from our present crisis. Salut d’Amour (played as an encore) would have gladdened the gloomiest heart: English music at its most cheery.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Badapple Theatre’s slice of bakery comedy The Daily Bread to be served up at home

Scottish actor, clown, raconteur and cake business boss Colin Moncrieff in Badapple Theatre’s 2014 production of The Daily Bread, a play he now revives for the Podbean podcast

THE Daily Bread rises again as the latest free Podbean podcast from Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre.

Glaswegian actor, clown and raconteur Colin Moncrieff reprises his 2014 stage performance in artistic director Kate Bramley’s comedy about a master baker who is the talk of the tiny village of Bottledale, thanks to his sumptuous sponges and beautiful buns, this time giving a relaxed reading from home, accompanied by songs by Sony Award-winning singer-songwriter Jez Lowe.

Go to to discover whether the baker’s cheery façade hides a dark secret. How come his name is so uncannily similar to that of disgraced media magnate August de Ville, who hid the truth behind the Bottledale bank crash?

For the villagers, is it a case of better the de Ville you don’t know, or will the truth come out, as Bramley adds more and more ingredients to her play recipe, ranging from a Women’s Institute narrator and a dour Yorkshireman to a Nigella Awesome send-up, a Mafia boss and a lumbering thug?

When toured in 2014, The Daily Bread was delivered to each village doorstep with “live baking” in a working oven. The one-man show was bread and butter to Moncrieff, who once worked with a French baker in New York and later ran his own cake business in Scotland.

Moncrieff’s prowess with flour, water, salt and yeast had come to light as he toured with Badapple in Laurel & Charlie, prompting writer-director Bramley to see the potential in writing a play that would combine all his skills.

What ensued was a nimble show of Machiavellian subterfuge, comedy, multiple role-playing, physical clowning as dextrous as Keaton and Chaplin, the aforementioned live baking, banking, and “a little bit of politics”, as Ben Elton once was wont to say too often.

A second Badapple show, audience favourite The Carlton Colliers, is available for free too at Bramley’s comic tale of an amateur football team saved from an eternal losing streak by a stroke of allotment magic is read from home by Thomas Frere, Robert Wade and Stephanie Hutchinson, again complemented by songs by Lowe.

Badapple Theatre writer-director Kate Bramley

“This is a story about a village, a story about love, optimism and yes, sometimes a story about football,” says Bramley.

She sets that story in Carlton Flatts, a northern place where “nobody notices you’re doing nothing, ’cause there’s nothing for anyone to do” since the village pit closed: a stasis captured in Lowe’s evocative folk music.

“But you have to dream, don’t you,” reckons the playwright, who gives the dreamer role, the escape route, to Jemmy, the sharp-shooter of the hapless Carlton Colliers football team, whose quality left foot could land him a contract with a League side. First, however, he must lead the Colliers out of trouble, Roy Of The Rovers style, while keeping both feet out of his mouth in the presence of Nina.

Frank, no-nonsense, ever efficient, she hates football but doggedly runs her Zumba classes and hopes her bit-part as a dancer on Coronation Street could be her ticket to bigger opportunities elsewhere.

Meanwhile, taciturn Chris has withdrawn to a barge but when he is left an allotment by a man to whom he has not spoken for 15 years, change beckons.

In Bramley’s head, The Carlton Colliers was always a love story. “Whether the love affairs with friends, football or hometown ever work out quite the way you expect is another story – but the love remains, just the same,” she says.

Without giving the plot away, the world does alter for each of her protagonists in a play where they bloom as much as the allotment at the back of the football pitch does.

Although the allotment is sited on Carlton Roadends, as one road ends, new paths begin, poetically symbolised by the presence of a plethora of parrots in Bramley’s storyline.

So, sit back at home and enjoy the nuggety northern humour, the borrowed football sayings – courtesy of the likes of late Liverpool gaffer Bill Shankly – and love in its myriad forms in this hymn to village life.

Carolyn Coles loves to be besides the sea as tide comes in for Village Gallery show

Holding On – Filey, by Carolyn Coles

YORK seascape artist Carolyn Coles will hold her first exhibition since lockdown at Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, from August 4 to September 19.

Favouring a limited palette to give her work identity, simplicity and life, Carolyn paints mostly on bespoke canvasses in oils and sometimes acrylics, applied with palette knives and flat brushes.

“I like to capture atmosphere, usually with a leaning towards dark and moody and generally on a larger scale,” she says.

Carolyn’s formal artistic education began with studying art and design at York College, then specialising in illustration at Hereford College of Art and Design, earning distinctions in the early 1990s.

Too Late To Go Home, by Carolyn Coles

After a career taking in marketing art materials and graphic design and illustration in journalism, Carolyn now devotes her time to painting, exhibiting and selling work both on the home market in York, London, Derby, Manchester and Leeds and internationally too.

Carolyn’s love of the seaside and nature in general is reflected in her new collection. “The impressionistic style allows the viewer to interpret their own story and pull their own memories back into play,” she says.

Carolyn was invited by curator and owner Simon Main to mount her “Oh I Do Like To Be Besides The…” show at Village Gallery.

“We select artists by going out to events like York Open Studios and North Yorkshire Open Studios, Art& and the Staithes art festival… and occasionally we get artists coming through the door, canvasses under their arms, trying to find a place to show,” he says.

Lifeline, by Carolyn Coles

“We met Carolyn and saw her work at her first York Open Studios show back in 2019 and were so taken with her seascapes – many inspired by and maybe giving a different perspective of the Yorkshire coastline – that we started talking about a show.

“The exhibition starting next week is the result of over a year of talking and getting a match in the diary. So, we are delighted we have finally made it and are really looking forward to hanging Carolyn’s beautiful work. And who doesn’t love Filey?”

Here Carolyn talks the easel life with Charles Hutchinson.

You were due to exhibit at York Open Studios and Staithes Festival of Art and Heritage Festival this year, both alas cancelled. Will those works now form the Village Gallery exhibition?
“Yes. All except one of my bigger pieces that found its new home just before lockdown; a new one from a smaller set of works, which was bought as a special present for Mothering Sunday; another for a secret wedding, and lastly one I sold, giving all proceeds towards a group in York who set themselves up to make and distribute face visors using 3-D printing technology.

“The festival in Staithes usually happens in September, so I would have expected more new works by then.”

I Spy Something Beginning With W, by Carolyn Coles

What did you do in lockdown when you couldn’t go down to the sea?
“I tried my hand in home-schooling, which wasn’t anything like I had imagined it to be. I rearranged furniture and took over our dining room as a studio, which offered mixed results, partly because I’d forgotten what it was like to have an honest live audience offering encouraging suggestions.

“I couldn’t escape to the loft, my old studio space, as it was now my partner’s office from home. And although I couldn’t go to the sea, the lockdown gave me a brilliant opportunity to sit and immerse myself intensively in the seascapes I had just been working on.” 

Where have you been painting since lockdown easement?
“I’ve been back in my studio with the Southbank Artists group at Southlands Methodist Church for a month now, and I’ve more than welcomed the return to what feels a bit like the old normal.

“I’ve been working on a commission, which is huge, so it’s probably just as well I’m not painting at home.”

Staithes In The Mist – Collectors Huddle, by Carolyn Coles

How does it feel to be painting en plein air again?
“I’ve not managed a huge amount of this yet but hope to when holidays come. Luckily, I enjoy working from photos and sketches, as a lot of my field trips are indeed family days out.

“I love painting with my daughter although I end up assisting, which does get easier with time. Nothing beats painting on location.”

6. What draws you to the sea as a subject matter? The sight, the sound, the light, the dark?
“Hands down, light is the winner. However, the energy, mystery, its patterns, unexpected treasures and its mood all play a massive part.

“I always feel I’m happy with a piece when I can hear the sound of the sea whispering its relentless chatter. I’ve always loved the sea. It’s just so completely fascinating.

Not Today, Runswick Bay, by Carolyn Coles

“I’ve spent hundreds of hours contemplating life looking at it. I was a big fan of fossil hunting in my twenties, though I never really thought about painting the sea back then. I think partly the reason for painting seascapes now is because it’s a good way to take myself back.” 

How do you settle upon the painting techniques you use?

Over the years, I’ve definitely settled into my way of working. I love using broad, flat brushes alongside palette knives, which enables more random marks, producing less contrived mark-making. 

“I prefer oils, the soft buttery texture; the incredible depth of colour leaves acrylics standing really. But I do like to work with speed at times and acrylics do tick a lot of boxes. I also love working in lots of other media; charcoal is sublime.” 

Time To Go III, Sandsend, by Carolyn Coles

Do you have a favourite seascape?  Sandsend? Staithes? Wherever?
“I couldn’t say really as every place has its own merits. I’ve painted Sandsend a lot, but recently Filey has become more prominent. The light there can really be incredible.

“Runswick Bay can be as still as a milk pond – really quite surreal. Staithes has its own beauty but different again.

“I’m not fussy but do prefer quieter spots if I can find them. Saying that, Saltburn is incredible but more for messing about in the sea. Great wave action there.”

In the Yorkshire versus Northumberland battle for the best coastline award, which one wins?!
“Ask me again after the summer, as I’m planning a few trips to the Northumberland coast. I doubt it could beat Yorkshire, though I couldn’t say for sure yet. Maybe I’ll get marooned as fellow York artist Malcolm Ludvigsen did at Holy Island. It’s pretty easy to lose the sense of time when painting. I bet that was exciting!”

Crash, by Carolyn Coles

Who are your fellow artists in the Southbank Artists group. What do you most enjoy about working out of Southlands Methodists Church?

“There are 16 studios in all at South Bank Studios, ranging across all disciplines, even performance artists! I’d feel bad mentioning some rather than others, but they really are a great group to work with. A really interesting bunch. I’ve missed seeing them.

“Special thanks are always due to Donna Maria Taylor who gave me the chance to join her in her space at first, and who remains a brilliant source of support. It’s a great space to work in.

“My studio has a wonderful North light, which was lucky. It can be busy at times, but I feel very much at home there.”

The Walk, by Carolyn Coles

Who are the Westside Artists? Will you be hosting a joint show at some point?

“The Westside Artists (York) – fondly known as ‘The Westies’ – came to be when we grouped together in early 2019. Our close proximity to each other was a great support network at the time and the reason for its name. 

“Now we keep in touch offering each other support, advice, laughs. Sharing ideas, and even helping out in a material crisis, is perfect when working locally to one another.

“We’re planning to host a joint show in December, when there’ll be around 12 of us exhibiting at Village Gallery. We’re really looking forward to it.”

What’s coming next for you? Any upcoming shows?
“I have work being exhibited until next January at York Hospital, presently enjoyed by workers and patients, but no visitors. I’m really sad the Staithes festival has had to be cancelled, though it’s totally understandable obviously.”

“I always feel I’m happy with a piece when I can hear the sound of the sea whispering its relentless chatter,” says York seascape artist Carolyn Coles

Carolyn Coles, “Oh I Do Like To Be Besides The…” exhibition of seascape art at Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, August 4 to September 19. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm (4.30pm, Sundays).

For more information on Carolyn, go to her website:

Please note: Village Gallery’s Covid-secure etiquette:

“WE are only a little shop, so to conform as far as possible to social distancing, it will only be possible to have one person/family-friendly group in at a time,” says owner Simon Main.

“Even if you cannot see anyone in the shop when you arrive, please shout out to check it’s OK, as there may be people upstairs. And if you have to wait, please queue responsibly outside, maintaining that essential two-metre separation.”

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn, July 24

Rowan Pierce: “Proved extremely telegenic, her calm features responding well to close-up camera-work”

Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn, Music For A While, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 24

ROWAN Pierce’s soprano brought a ray of sunshine into this online festival, albeit under cover of candlelight.

Her partner in a “taster” – and tasty – programme was the ever-versatile Christopher Glynn, Ryedale Festival’s artistic director. They opened with Purcell and dipped into a cross-section of lieder from Schubert to Grieg, before landing squarely in English repertory again (via three folksongs), topping it all off with optimism from Richard Strauss.

It was a mouth-watering selection that whet the appetite for their early return in proper concert conditions.

So much of the poetry was keenly suited to our present plight. Music for a While, in Purcell’s famous setting of Dryden, “shall all your cares beguile”. It made the perfect opener. Similarly composed on a ground (a repeating phrase in the bass) is O Solitude, My Sweetest Choice!, a translation from the French by Katherine Philips. It invited us to treat lockdown as a bonus.

Christopher Glynn: Deft colourings. Picture: Gerard Collett

The sunshine first appeared in Schubert’s Im Haine (In The wood), where sunbeams slanting through the trees bring peace, wiping out our woes. It was tenderly treated, as was a Schumann love-song. Pierce took flight with Mendelssohn, before bringing us flowers courtesy of Strauss and Grieg.

Blow The Wind Southerly was a daring choice, given its association with Kathleen Ferrier, but this prayer for a fair voyage benefited from Pierce’s unsentimental approach. Alan Murray’s I’ll Walk Beside You, one of the very last drawing-room ballads, offered touching support, before joyful abandon from both performers in Quilter’s setting of Love’s Philosophy. Donald Swann’s The Slow Train aptly brought tearful nostalgia, while Strauss’s Morgen! (Tomorrow) promised sunshine ahead.

Pierce proved extremely telegenic, her calm features responding well to close-up camera-work. The clarity of her vowel sounds, unusually distinct for a soprano, also helped her many mood-changes throughout – as did Glynn’s deft colourings. Every listener will have yearned for more from these two. Next year perhaps?                           

Martin Dreyer

Garden of delights as Alex and Phil stage Orpheus, Eurydice and more at the mill

Definitely not Yorkshire: Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger, when taking Orpheus to the other side of the world. Now they will stage it in Alexander’s back garden near York

ALEXANDER Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger are heading home with their I’ll Try And See You Sometimes art attack for lockdown-eased times.

This summer’s already Hyper Local Tour of their international touring show Orpheus will become even more hyper local for “six days of work” in Alex’s back garden at Stillington Mill, Stillington, north of York.

The one with the mill pond and wooded backdrop, now with social-distancing measures in place for Covid-secure At The Mill shows from August 2 to 7 to a maximum audience of 30 per 7pm show.

“We’re doing some Orpheus, some Eurydice, and one night of New Stuff We Haven’t Done Before,” say the duo.

York theatre-makers Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger take the applause after a performance of their international hit Orpheus. Picture: Hartstone Kitney

Presented by York theatre makers Alex and Phil’s companies, The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre, the duo will stage:

Sunday, August 2: Orpheus, £12;

Monday, August 3: Eurydice, Orpheus’s sister show, £12;

Tuesday, August 4: Either Orpheus or Eurydice, decided via an Instagram poll, £12;

Wednesday, August 5: New work from Alex and Phil, a reading of This Story Is For You and a gig by Clive (Phil’s name for his solo music, Clive being his middle name and his father’s name). A new story from Alex, a new series of songs from Phil, £9;

Thursday, August 6: Double bill of Orpheus and Eurydice. Both shows, back to back, Orpheus first, £16.

Friday, August 7: Double bill of Orpheus and Eurydice. Both shows, back to back, Eurydice first, £16.

Hat, notebook, guitar: Tools of the trade for Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger when performing Orpheus

“All tickets types will show up when you book. Please select the correct price for whatever day/show you are booking,” say Alex and Phil. “It’s pretty obvious, it says on the ticket.

“There are only 30 tickets per event. We will lay out the seats each day depending on what group sizes have booked. However many tickets you book, we’ll lay out that many chairs for your group with a nice table in the garden, socially distanced from other groups.

“There won’t be a bar or refreshments, so feel free to bring your own drinks/ picnic along. There will be a wet-weather option, but it‘s not an indoor option, so if it‘s chilly, please do wrap up.”

To book tickets, go to:

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Matthew Hunt & Tim Horton, July 21

Matthew Hunt & Tim Horton; Castle Howard Long Gallery, July 21

TUCKED down slightly apologetically at one end of the Long Gallery at Castle Howard, when performers are usually in its centre, Matthew Hunt and Tim Horton’s clarinet and piano made a short tour around Fantasy Pieces by Schumann, Widmann and Ireland. Shorter perhaps than it might have been, at rather under 40 minutes, but these days we must be grateful for small mercies.

They were certainly worth waiting for. Schumann’s Three Fantasy Pieces, Op 73 all date from February 1849, one of the composer’s most fertile periods, and are also related by key, the first being in A minor and its partners in A major.

In his introduction, Hunt referred to them as a mini song-cycle, and his own legato was distinctly song-like. In the first, marked Zart und mit Ausdruck (tender and with expression), it was a joy to hear the main melody so soulfully weaving between the two players, with Horton’s keyboard coming subtly to the fore when opportunity allowed. Both players brought delicate touches to the light central piece, bursting into much greater passion in the finale.

A clarinettist himself, the German composer Jörg Widmann wrote his solo Fantasie in 1993, at the age of 20. It has become something of a calling-card for the instrument. Its restless range of extended techniques was smoothly negotiated by Hunt, who seemed to revel in its wave-like motions. Still, it is a work that prompts awe rather than outright pleasure.

John Ireland’s 1943 piece, Fantasy-Sonata in E flat, was apparently inspired by his evacuation by sea from Guernsey when the German occupation began. Certainly there is a persistently undulating figure in the piano that provides a watery backdrop.

But in other respects, while Hunt maintained a lyrical brio in the clarinet, Horton refused to allow the lush piano part to overshadow him. Only in the march-like closing section did both players spring clear of Ireland’s rhapsodic moods to reach a triumphant conclusion – presumably on the mainland.                                                                                                       

Review by Martin Dreyer

Hepworth, Hockney, Riley, Etty, Spencer…who will YOU choose for Your Art Gallery?

Surgeon Waiting, by Barbara Hepworth, one of the paintings in the York Art Gallery collection being put to a public vote for the Your Art Gallery exhibition from August 20. Artwork copyright: Bowness, Hepworth Estate.. Picture: York Museums Trust

YORK Art Gallery is inviting you to choose the paintings you love and have missed the most during lockdown to feature in a new exhibition from August 20.

From Barbara Hepworth to Henri Fantin-Latour, Paul Nash to Bridget Riley, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You will showcase a selection of works from the Exhibition Square gallery’s rich collection of paintings, voted for by the public, alongside further works chosen through Twitter polls.

There will be an opportunity too to write short labels for the painting you like the most, with the favourite responses being printed and displayed next to the work itself.

To choose your favourite works, visit and click on the Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You page. You can then rate the paintings from one to five stars, and those that prove the most popular will be included in the show. The deadline to make your choices is next Wednesday, July 29.

The Twitter polls are up and running already, beginning on Monday (July 20) and ending today (July 24). Each day, two paintings are pitched into battle against each other from 5pm for you to make your choice.

Clifford’s Tower, York, 1952-53, by L S Lowry, chosen by senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram for the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition at York Art Gallery. © The Estate of L S Lowry. Picture: York Museums Trust

Senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram says: “We’re really excited to be re-opening our galleries and welcoming people back to come and see the wonderful art in our collections. 

“We thought what better way to re-open than by giving our audiences the opportunity to choose the paintings they want to see. We hope as many people as possible will vote for their favourites through the online survey or the Twitter polls and also write a few words about one specific work, telling us why it means so much to them.

“We can’t wait to see which choices you make in what will be a truly fascinating exhibition of work curated by you.”

The online vote will involve 20 of the “most famous and popular works from the gallery’s permanent collection”, but none of them on display prior to lockdown, from L S Lowry to David Hockney; William Etty to fellow York artist Albert Moore.

The ten most popular works from the poll will feature in the show, with accompanying labels written by voters. The winners will be announced online on July 30.

“We can’t wait to see which choices you make in what will be a truly fascinating exhibition of work curated by you,” says York Art Gallery senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram

These works and the Twitter top five will be shown alongside five paintings chosen by the Friends of York Art Gallery from ten works, as well as a new John Atkinson Grimshaw acquisition and curators’ favourites.

Several entries by the gallery into York Museums Trust’s Curator Battles on Twitter, run throughout lockdown, also will be included.

A second show will open on August 20 too, Views of York & Yorkshire, curated by Dr Bertram for the central Madsen Gallery.

Much-loved paintings and works on paper depicting York and the surrounding countryside will go on show. L S Lowry’s Clifford’s Tower, William Etty’s Monk Bar, York, William Marlow’s The Old Ouse Bridge and Michael Angelo Rooker’s Layerthorpe Postern, York, present contrasting views of the heart of the city.

Ethel Walker’s Robin Hood’s Bay In Winter, J M W Turner’s The Dormitory and Transept of Fountains Abbey  Evening and Joseph Alfred Terry’s Underhill Farm, Sleights, capture picturesque rural and coastal scenes beyond the city walls.

The Old Ouse Bridge, by William Marlow, 1758-1768, from the upcoming Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition. Picture: York Art Gallery,.

The Friends of York Art Gallery have provided the funding for the conservation of prints of York Minster dating from the first half of the 19th century, now to be displayed for the first time, revealing shifting perspectives of the cathedral. 

Look out, too, for a new acquisition, Rievaulx Abbey by Yorkshire-born artist Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding. “We acquired it last year and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to display it,” says Beatrice.

“The city of York and the beautiful coast and countryside beyond have long been a source of inspiration for artists,” she adds. “We wanted to mark our re-opening with an exhibition of some of our most famous topographical scenes, such as L.S. Lowry’s striking painting of Clifford’s Tower, which York Art Gallery commissioned for the Evelyn Award in 1952. 

“Thanks to the Friends of York Art Gallery, we’re able to showcase a selection of characterful watercolours and prints by artists including John Varley, Thomas Rowlandson and Thomas Shotter Boys, which illustrate York Minster and its environs during the first half of the 19th century. 

“Collectively, the artworks featured in the show paint a picture of the city and its locale from 1758 to the present day – peaceful vistas which have an enduring resonance during these turbulent, challenging times.” 

Bi-, by Harland Miller, 2017, taking up residency in the Burton Gallery at York Art Gallery after featuring in his Covid-curtailed York, So Good They Named It Once show

Beatrice stresses: “We may have been closed but the work here hasn’t stopped, and we saw these two exhibitions as an opportunity to think about the past, present and future of collecting.

“We did have to look at our programming for when we would re-open as there were shows that were due to go ahead, such as Bloom [for the York flower festival], that had to be cancelled, and due to the complexity of so many loans, we couldn’t seek to extend the run of Harland Miller’s very successful York, So Good They Named It Once show.

“The good news is that Bi-, his 2017 work from that show, will continue to be shown, in the Burton Gallery, and we’ll have some Harland Miller retail available, which we’ll be deciding by August 1.”

The Gillian Lowndes: At The Edge exhibition will resume in the Centre of Ceramic Art, where the run of the Children Curate show in the Anthony Shaw Space is being extended too. The Aesthetica Art Prize show will remain in situ until next spring in the Upper North Gallery.

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years should have been the ceramics highlight of the CoCA summer, but the June 12 to September 20 run was crocked by Covid’s intervention.

“We’re still hoping to host that exhibition down the line, with further details to come,” promises Beatrice.

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry, from The Pre-Therapy Years show that should have been running at CoCA, York Art Gallery, from June 12, but now will be re-scheduled. Picture: Victoria Miro

The Pre-Therapy Years brings together 70 Perry early works made between 1982 and 1994, now re-united through a “crowd-sourced” public appeal that will put these “lost pots” on display for the first time since they were made. Themes to be found in his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in these nascent pieces, suffused with kinetic energy.

For more information on the new displays and how to visit, with booking required, go to 

The 20 works that must be whittled down to ten in the public vote:

Barbara Hepworth, Surgeon Waiting, 1948, oil and graphite on paper

Albert Joseph Moore, A Venus, 1869, oil on canvas

Richard Jack, The Return To The Front, Victoria Railway Station, 1916, oil on canvas

Spencer Gore, The Balcony At The Alhambra, 1911-1912, oil on canvas

Paul Nash, Winter Sea, 1925-1937, oil on canvas

Bridget Riley, Study 4 for Painting With Two Verticals, 2004, watercolour

Stanley Spencer, The Deposition and Rolling Away Of The Stone, 1956, oil on canvas

Heading for Your Art Gallery….or not? Egyptian Head Disappearing Into Descending Clouds, oil on canvas, by David Hockney

Barbara McKenzie-Smith, The Bird Cage, unknown date, oil on canvas

Giovanni Antonio Burrini, Diana And Endymion, 1681-1691, oil on canvas

Alfred Walter Bayes, Day Dreams, 1902-1903, oil on canvas

Henry Scott Tuke, The Misses Santley, 1880, oil on canvas

Paul Maitland, Cheyne Walk In Sunshine, 1887-1888, oil on canvas

David Bomberg, The Bath, 1922, oil on canvas

L S Lowry, The Bandstand, Peel Park, Salford, 1931, oil on canvas

Bernardo Cavallino, St Agatha, 1635-1645, oil on canvas

Henri Fantin-Latour, White Roses, 1875, oil on canvas

David Hockney, Egyptian Head Disappearing Into Descending Clouds, 1961, oil on canvas

Harold Gilman, Beechwood Gloucestershire, 1914-1919, oil on canvas

William Etty, Venus And Cupid, c.1830, oil on canvas

Eugene-Gabriel Isabey, Boat In A Storm, 1851-1857, oil on canvas

Persistent crime pays off for Adrian McKinty as he wins Theakston novel prize

The Chain reaction: Adrian McKinty, winner of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year

UBER driver and barman turned last-chance best-selling novelist Adrian McKinty has won the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for his “life-changing” thriller The Chain.

His success in the coveted Harrogate trophy represents Lucky 13 for 52-year-old Irishman McKinty, who, two years earlier, had called time on his writing career after 12 books when faced by financial hardship.

McKinty’s win was announced last night in a virtual awards ceremony held to launch the HIF Weekender, this summer’s free virtual festival run by Harrogate International Festivals, which manages the novel award.

Born in Carrickfergus near Belfast, McKinty now lives in New York, where he was forced to give up his writing career two years ago when, earning less than the minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet, McKinty and his family were evicted from their home.

He began working as an Uber driver and bar tender, but a late-night phone call from agent Shane Salerno – who had read McKinty’s blog about his situation – persuaded him to give his writing one last shot.

The book sleeve for Adrian McKinty’s prize-winning crime thriller The Chain

Inspired to write something completely new, McKinty penned The Chain, a thriller that became an overnight success: an international bestseller published in 36 countries, now set for the big screen after Universal snapped up the film rights in a seven-figure deal.

“I am gobsmacked and delighted to win this award,” said McKinty, after winning Britain’s premier crime-writing prize from his fourth such nomination. “Two years ago, I had given up on writing altogether and was working in a bar and driving an Uber, and so to go from that to this is just amazing.

“People think that you write a book and it will be an immediate bestseller. For 12 books, my experience was quite the opposite, but then I started this one. It was deliberately high concept, deliberately different to everything else I had written – and I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere… but now look at this. It has been completely life changing.”

The Chain’s chilling tale of parents being forced to abduct children to save the lives of their own was chosen by public vote and the prize judges, triumphing against a shortlist also featuring Oyinkan Braithwaite, Helen Fitzgerald, Jane Harper, Mick Herron and Abir Mukherjee.

McKinty’s win comes at a time when Britain is experiencing a boom in crime fiction, first seeing an explosion in popularity during lockdown and now soaring sales since bookshops have re-opened.

“I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere… but now look at this. It has been completely life changing,” says Adrian McKinty, reflecting on The Chain’s success

McKinty was nominated previously for the Theakston award in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for his Sean Duffy series. Victorious at last in 2020, he now receives £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from the T & R Theakston brewery in Masham.

Theakston executive director Simon Theakston said: “Looking at the titles in contention for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, it is clear to see why crime fiction remains the UK’s genre of choice.

“Adrian McKinty is a writer of astonishing talent and tenacity, and we could not be more grateful that he was persuaded to give his literary career one last shot because The Chain is a truly deserving winner.

“While we might be awarding this year’s trophy in slightly different, digital circumstances, we raise a virtual glass of Theakston Old Peculier to Adrian’s success – with the hope that we can do so in person before too long and welcome everyone back to Harrogate next year for a crime-writing celebration like no other.”

Last night would have been the opening chapter of Harrogate’s crime-writing festival, cancelled alas by the Coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Harrogate International Festivals is running the HIF Weekender from July 23 to 26: a free virtual festival of 40-plus free events “bringing world-class culture to everyone at home, featuring performances and interviews with internationally acclaimed musicians, best-selling authors and innovative thinkers”.

For the full programme for today, tomorrow and Sunday, go to:

New date for Newman at Selby Town Hall as The Philosophy Show moves to May ’21

Newman, new date

SCHOLARLY comedian, author and social activist Rob Newman is remaining philosophical about having to move his Selby Town Hall gig for a second time.

After all, The Philosophy Show has sold out, whatever the Covid-shunted date, whether switching from May 16 2020 to September 11 or, now, to May 28 2021.

Should your putative 2021 diary already have an 8pm engagement pencilled in for that night, Selby Town Hall manager Chris Jones says: “We will be in touch with all ticket holders shortly. Tickets will be automatically transferred to the new date, with refunds available if you cannot make it.”

The tour publicity still invites you to “catch Rob Newman as he tries out new material for the next series of his BBC Radio 4 stand-up philosophy show Total Eclipse Of Descartes”.

Hackney-born, Cambridge-finessed Newman, 56, was part of The Mary Whitehouse Experience with David Baddiel, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis before forming the Baddiel and Newman double act and subsequently going solo. Last year he won the Best Scripted Comedy and Best Comedy With A Live Audience gongs in the BBC Audio Drama Awards.

Chris McCausland switches Selby Town Hall gig to next April in Covid-enforced move

CHRIS McCausland is moving his Speaky Blinder show at Selby Town Hall from November 14 to April 24 2021.

“He’s blind. He’s a dad. He’s a husband. He’s third in command,” says his tour publicity. “He’ll ‘speaky’ about all of that, plus loads more nonsense in between.

“Chris McCausland is heading back out on tour, but don’t worry, he’s got somebody else doing the driving.”

McCausland has made his mark on such shows as Would I Lie To You?, Have I Got News For You, Live At The Apollo and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Tickets remain valid for the revised 8pm show. “We will be contacting ticket holders in the coming week,” says Selby Town Council arts officer and Selby Town Council manager Chris Jones. “If you are unable to make the new date, a full refund will be offered.”

Tickets cost £14 at or £16 on the door.

York Art Gallery removes entry charge to entice visitors when re-opening on August 1

Amanda, by Karen Winship, from Our Heroes Welcome, the first new exhibition at York Art Gallery when it re-opens on August 1

YORK Art Gallery is scrapping compulsory entry charges when it re-opens its doors on August 1, in the spirit of Yorkshire Day and the Yorkshire creed of “pay nowt”.

York Museums Trust, the charity that runs the Exhibition Square gallery, is to trial new ways of opening in response to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic shutdown in March

The trust hopes that by doing away with the “barrier” of admission charges, a higher number and increased diversity of visitors will help to support the gallery through donations and buying tickets for special exhibitions.

If successful, this new policy will allow the trust to continue to offer free entry to its permanent collections, Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) and Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition throughout the year.

Initially, the gallery will be free in support of the citywide Our Heroes Welcome Campaign. From August 20, the permanent collections, CoCA and Aesthetica Art Prize show will be free to all, while two new exhibitions, Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery: Paintings Chosen ByYou, will introduce a new paying concept of Pay As You Feel with suggested amounts.

Should the model prove financially viable, a set charge would apply for larger special exhibitions in the future, similar to other galleries around the country.

Surgeon Waiting, by Barbara Hepworth, one of the paintings in the York Art Gallery collection being put to a public vote for the Your Art Gallery exhibition from August 20. Artwork copyright: Bowness, Hepworth Estate.. Picture: York Museums Trust

Reyahn King, chief executive of York Museums Trust, says: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge financial impact on many different organisations, including museums and galleries.

“For York Museums Trust, who are so dependent on visitor admissions, it has meant we are having to look at new ways of working to engage with audiences and also remain financially viable.

“We know that having an admission charge at the gallery was a barrier for many potential visitors. We hope that, by removing the entry charge, more people will be encouraged to come and see our wonderful collections and support us through donations and buying tickets to our special exhibitions at this incredibly challenging time. We need your support more than ever.”

From August 1, York Art Gallery will be open from 11am to 4pm, five days a week, from Wednesdays to Sundays. From tomorrow (July 23), visitors will need to book their free timed tickets online at, where they also can discover more about the new exhibitions and the changes made by the trust to “ensure a safe and relaxing visit”.

The first new exhibition to be launched at York Art Gallery will be York artist Karen Winship’s tribute to the “tireless and selfless work of NHS workers” in a series of portraits painted during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

On show from August 1, as part of Our Heroes Welcome, Winship’s 11 works depict NHS workers from across England and Ireland as they tell their stories of working on the front line, caring for those struck by the virus. 

Clifford’s Tower, York, 1952-53, by L S Lowry, chosen by senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram for the Views of York & Yorkshire exhibition at York Art Gallery. © The Estate of L S Lowry. Picture: York Museums Trust

Stories of those working or volunteering in other essential services during the pandemic will be told too as the gallery invites the public to nominate their own heroes to enable “York to say thank-you to all of the essential workers”.

Two exhibitions to mark the re-opening will open on August 20: Views of York & Yorkshire and Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You.

Curated by senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram, Views of York & Yorkshire will bring together 35 much-loved paintings and works on paper depicting York and the surrounding countryside.

Artists such as L.S. Lowry, Letitia Marion Hamilton and John Piper present contrasting views of the heart of the city, while newly conserved prints of York Minster dating from the first half of the 19th century will be displayed for the first time, revealing shifting perspectives of the cathedral.

Works by Ethel Walker, J.M.W. Turner and Joseph Alfred Terry, among others, capture picturesque rural and coastal scenes beyond the city walls.

For Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, York Art Gallery invites you to choose the paintings you love and have missed most during lockdown.

Dr Beatrice Bertram: Choosing 35 works for the Views of York & Yorkshire, on show at York Art Gallery from August 20

From Barbara Hepworth to Albert Moore, Paul Nash to Bridget Riley, works will be selected from the gallery’s rich collection of paintings, not on display at present, in a public vote, complemented by further works chosen through Twitter polls.

You are invited to write short labels for the painting you like the most, with the favourite responses being printed and displayed next to the work itself.

To choose your favourite works, visit and click on the Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen by You page.

York Castle Museum, at the Eye of York, will re-open too from August 1, offering  visitors a “unique perspective” on its displays and collections through a series of guided tours. For more information and to book tickets from tomorrow, go to:

One tour will invite you to take a stroll through the Victorian York street of Kirkgate. “See the shops, sample the wares and hear all about its fascinating history from one of our experts as you wander the cobbled streets as part of one of the new socially distanced tours taking place at the museum,” the invitation reads.

A second tour will offer a glimpse of life in the cells of York Castle Prison, while a longer, more in-depth tour will explore the museum’s fashion and textile collections.

The tours will take place from August 1 and then on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between 11am and 3:30pm. Please note, tickets must be booked in advance.

Review: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Isata Kanneh-Mason; Rachel Podger

Isata Kanneh-Mason: Opening online concert at the 2020 Ryedale Festival

Isata Kanneh-Mason, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 19; Rachel Podger, Castle Howard Chapel, July 20

RYEDALE Festival has not so much stolen into our lockdown imaginations as bounced back into our lives, reminding us what we’ve been missing. Performers normally rely on the adrenaline of an audience. These two ladies, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and violinist Rachel Podger, shooting straight for the stars, needed no such help.

It was impossible not to smile at the way Isata Kanneh-Mason dispatched the opening Allegro Vivace of Beethoven’s Sonata in A, Op No 2. Right from the off, she was light-footed – very little pedal – and her long fingers (something we might not have spotted in a live concert) caressed the composer’s wide leaps with carefree wit in the development section. She might have brought a touch more orchestral tone to the chorale-like Largo, but her momentum kept interest alive.

Outwardly playful in the minuet, she was much more plaintive in its minor-key trio. But in the concluding rondo she gave quiet emphasis to Beethoven’s teasing returns to the theme and finished with serene nonchalance.

Samuel Barber’s only sonata, written in 1950, brought out deeper passions. There was drama to burn in the opening Allegro Energico and (as with so much of what Kanneh-Mason does) its form emerged with great clarity. She turned skittish in the second movement, with little squibs exploding all over the texture in what is effectively a scherzo.

There was menace from the start of the Adagio, which reached an angry climax before subsiding into resignation. This was Barber trying his hand at 12-tone techniques, but Kanneh-Mason made much more of it than that.

In the jazz-inspired fugue at the close, her syncopation was heady. Once again clarity was her watchword and the coda brilliantly summarised what had gone before. There was only time for one of Gershwin’s Three Preludes – No 1 in B flat – but its rhythmic cross-currents were crisp and precise. On this evidence, she is a pianist worth travelling a long way to hear.

Rachel Podger: First “live” performance in five months

Rachel Podger has graced this festival several times and always emerged triumphant. If such a thing were possible, she burnished her credentials on Monday. With her flowing hair, she looked as if she might have stepped straight out of one of the Castle Howard Chapel’s pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows, and her solo violin floated magically into the warm halo of the building’s acoustic.

Johann Joseph Vilsmayr’s name does not trip easily off the tongue, even of Baroque specialists. That may be about to change. He belongs to the generation just before Bach, and was a pupil of Heinrich Biber, who was born still another generation earlier, in 1644. Podger gave us the sixth and last of Vilsmayr’s partitas, which are all that survive of his output. It is cast in nine short movements, most of them dance-derived.

Its most lyrical moments occurred in its five Arias, where the composer’s melodic riches were most apparent, enhanced by any amount of double-stopping. But more notable still was Vilsmayr’s use of the instrument’s different registers: Podger found wonderfully varied ‘voices’ for them.

There were subtle echo effects in the jolly Gigue, but they were mere trifles compared to the tricky techniques demanded by the closing Aria Variata. She was equal to them all.

The peak of 17th century scordatura – unconventional tuning – occurs in Biber’s Mystery (or Rosary) Sonatas, onto which he tacked a Passacaglia in G minor, based on a simple tetrachord, here a four-note falling phrase. Podger’s treatment of these variations was breath-taking, all the more so for her seemingly carefree approach. Hard to believe that this was her first “live” performance on five months.

Bach’s Cello Suites are not normally heard on other instruments, least of all No 6, which is written for the five-string cello. Nevertheless Podger’s own arrangement for four-string violin is extremely convincing, particularly because it stays in the original key, D major.

She managed to increase the urgency of the rapid triplets in its Prelude without speeding up and countered it with taut decorations in the stately Allemande. Perhaps closest to her own personality was the frisky Courante, but she was deeply ruminative in the double-stopping of the Sarabande.

She found greater depth than most in the famous Gavotte and topped it all off with a beautifully proportioned, neatly signposted Gigue. Behind her friendly approach and technical prowess lurks a hugely penetrating intelligence.

Finally, a note on the production skills in these broadcasts. One had to admire the gimmicks involved but they were not overused. Fading one camera-shot into another, for example, or even superimposing the player on a stained-glass backdrop were both grist to Patrick Allen’s mill.

It must be admitted, too, that in venues such as Helmsley Church, where sightlines are poor, it is greatly satisfying to be able to see the pianist at close quarters. So while we may lament the lack of social interaction in lockdown streaming, there are definite compensations.

All these concerts are available, free, on Ryestream, up until August 16. Donations are sought – and thoroughly deserved.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Rare and extinct animals go wild in the gallery in Lucy Carruthers’ lockdown film for Scarborough Museums Trust

Museum Farewell, from Lucy Carruthers’ digital commission for Scarborough Museums Trust

THE plight of rare and extinct animals has inspired a new animated film by Lucy Carruthers for Scarborough Museums Trust’s series of lockdown digital commissions.

Animal Archives: Re-wilding The Museum presents a playful exploration of what might happen if assorted animals and birds in the Scarborough Borough Collection were to escape and return to the wild. 

The short animation – just over two minutes in length – can be viewed on the trust’s YouTube channel at from Tuesday, July 28.

Blue Bridge, from Lucy Carruthers’ animation Animal Archives: Re-wilding The Museum

Carruthers’ film follows the adventures of all manner of creatures, ranging from a fox, a tiger, a jaguar and an aardvark to a tunny/tuna fish, a pair of great bustards, a Floreana Island tortoise and a Captain Cook’s bean snail.

During lockdown, all of them escape the confines of the trust’s stores at Woodend and the Rotunda Museum to “re-wild” themselves via Scarborough Art Gallery. 

Lucy says: “Animal Archives is based on observations and speculations about Scarborough’s natural history collection. The historical extraction of species and the current wildlife trade have been at the forefront of my mind in relation to the pandemic. How do we view the natural world during lockdown and will it become normal to see animals roaming the streets?

Park Walk, another scene from Lucy Carruthers’ short film

“This animation portrays the relationships between the species and the place they inhabit, with underlying themes of extinction and conservation, but in a playful and accessible way, which I hope will inspire curiosity.

“Re-examining the collection and sites, through a climate and ecological lens, I wanted to explore how could we better understand our shared environment, and what stories could encourage empathy for a more compassionate multi-species co-existence.”

Suitable for all ages, Animal Archives aims to be accessible to everyone: the film is captioned and boasts a narrated soundtrack, for those who might find this helpful.

Red Bridge, from Animal Archives, inspired by the Scarborough Borough Collection

Carruthers has created her animation in collaboration with London design and animation studio Silver Machine Studios; Dan Savage, of DS Design and Sound,  who spent many childhood summers building sandcastles on Scarborough’s  beaches, has provided the narration and sound.

Describing herself as an “experiential designer”, Lucy Carruthers is a consultant for museums, exhibitions and visitor attractions, now at MET Studio Design. Formerly she was a senior designer at Event Communications, working with St Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff, M Shed in Bristol and Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum, when it was restored and re-opened in 2008.

As a multi-disciplinary artist, she has curated alternative climate narratives through Floodprood and is co-director of Climate Museum UK.

Valley Section, from Lucy Carruthers’ two-minute animated film

Animal Archives: Re-wilding The Museumis the latest digital commission from Scarborough Museums Trust as part of its response to the Coronavirus crisis. The trust has asked artists Kirsty Harris, Jane Poulton, Wanja Kimani, Feral Practice, Jade Montserrat, Lucy Carruthers and Estabrak to create digital artworks during the summer across a range of social media platforms.

The final piece, by Estabrak, will go online in August. All the others remain available to view and further Information on the commissions can be found at

Scarborough Art Gallery and Woodend are open to the public again after lockdown easement. Entry to Scarborough Art Gallery (usually £3 for an annual pass) will be free throughout July; entry to Woodend will remain free. Scarborough Art Gallery is open from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sundays; Woodend, 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays, and 10am to 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.

Scarborough Museums Trust hopes to announce re-opening plans for the Rotunda Museum soon.

York Theatre Royal to make job cuts to ensure future. “Devastating,” says director

Silent night: The empty York Theatre Royal stage and auditorium bathed in “emergency red” on the nationwide #LightItInRed campaign night on July 6

YORK Theatre Royal is to make “some redundancies”, faced by the need to reduce costs significantly in the Coronavirus blight.

A statement headlined “York Theatre Royal takes steps to ensure its future” was released today, announcing that, “like so many theatres around the country”, the St Leonard’s Place theatre would be entering into consultations with staff that would “regrettably lead to some redundancies due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic”.

“The theatre has been unable to open its doors for performances since March 17 and, despite Government allowing the return of socially distanced performances from August 1, the theatre’s survival will depend on it reducing costs significantly,” the statement continued.

Eighty-nine per cent of the Theatre Royal’s annual income is generated through ticket sales and from revenue streams associated with welcoming audiences. A £196,493 grant from the Arts Council England Emergency Fund, announced on July 7, will support the theatre, but only to September 30, and crucially details are yet to be announced as to how the much vaunted £1.57 billion Government relief package for cultural institutions will be distributed.

The “crown jewels” of British culture are expected to be at the top of the pecking order, although Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has talked of the need to protect small-scale theatre enterprises too.

York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird, pictured in happier times. “It is devastating to me that in the coming weeks we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions,” he says

In the statement, Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird said: “Since 1744, the people of York have enjoyed, supported and celebrated this theatre. It is our job, as custodians of this great community asset, to do whatever we can to ensure its survival for the people of our city.

“All of the leadership team have taken big pay cuts, and we have maximised our use of government [furlough] schemes.

“It is devastating to me that in the coming weeks we are going to have to make some very difficult decisions. But the theatre can survive this and we will make sure that, when we are able to re-open our doors, York Theatre Royal will come roaring back with an epic programme to help re-energise our community’s creativity.”

Tom added: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of people who are donating to the theatre at this time, as a result of our heightened fundraising messages. This is making a real difference.” Donations can be made online via

Vicky Biles, the Theatre Royal director of communications and development, said: “We’re not going to add anything else at this time.”

That leaves questions aplenty. How many redundancies? When will the Theatre Royal learn if any slice of the £1.57 billion aid package is bound for York? Will Cinderella still be going to the ball in the Theatre Royal’s first pantomime collaboration with Evolution Productions from December 4 to January 10 2021? Watch this space for the answers, whenever they may come.

Mikron Theatre Company stay afloat for 50th year after rapid fundraising appeal

Artistic director Marianne McNamara and producer Pete Toon at Mikron Theatre Company’s last performance in 2019. Picture: Mark Kelly

MIKRON Theatre Company have shot past their fundraising target to secure next year’s 50th anniversary tour in less than three weeks.

After the Covid curse de-railed their entire 2020 season, the West Yorkshire travelling troupe needed to raise £48,337.49 to continue taking shows not only on the road but on canals and rivers too.

The brisk financial fillip supplied by supporters and the public at large, both home and abroad, means the Marsden company now can plan their 2021 travels aboard their 1936 narrowboat Tyseley.

“We cannot thank people enough,” says buoyant artistic director Marianne McNamara. “We are absolutely humbled by the support we have received. It is testament to not only how valued the company is, but also to the work we have done for the past 50 years.

Staying afloat: Mikron Theatre Company’s vintage narrowboat Tyseley

“We’ve had letters and emails from all over the world: Texas, Catalonia and the Netherlands and, of course, every corner of the country from Cornwall to Cromarty, saying how much Mikron means to them and that they couldn’t see us miss out on our 50th year of touring.”

What happens next? “Every penny raised over the minimum amount we needed for the appeal will, of course, be used wisely and carefully,” says Marianne. “We have Tyseley, our narrowboat, to keep ship shape, and we will be able to continue our aims of developing new writers, directors and creatives for the future of Mikron and the industry as a whole.” 

Based at the Mechanics Hall in the village of Marsden, at the foot of the Yorkshire Pennines, Mikron Theatre Company tour shows to “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”, be it a play about growing-your-own staged at allotments; a play abuzz with bees performed next to hives; or one about when the chips are down, served up in a fish and chip restaurant.

Game on! Amanda Whittington’s football play, Atalanta Forever, WILL be staged by Mikron Theatre Company next year

Or a play about hostelling that spent nights at YHA youth hostels and one telling the story of the RNLI, launched at several lifeboat stations around the UK coastline. 

The successful appeal ensures 2020’s Covid-cancelled shows can go ahead in 2021: Amanda Whittington’s new work on women’s football in the 1920s, Atalanta Forever, and the premiere of Polly Hollman’s canine comedy caper A Dog’s Tale.

In 48 years until this year’s enforced hibernation, Mikron have performed 64 original shows; composed and written 384 songs; issued 236 actor-musician contracts; spent 30,000 boating hours on the inland waterways; covered 530,000 road miles;  performed 5,060 times and played to 428,000 people.  

For further information on Mikron Theatre Company and the opportunity to donate, visit

Who wants carrots? Barbara rises to mask task to aid Rowntree Theatre’s roof appeal

Joseph Rowntree Theatre volunteering director Barbara Boyce models one of her face masks in aid of the Raise The Roof appeal

SALES of jazzy face masks designed by volunteering director Barbara Boyce have raised more than £850 for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre roof appeal in York.

Early on in lockdown, before the wearing of masks or facial coverings became commonplace or, in some places, mandatory, Barbara began making and selling fabric face masks for the Raise The Roof appeal. 

Board trustee Barbara bought and donated all the fabric and elastic for the masks,  joining the JoRo’s Just Giving campaign with her fundraiser over the past two months.

“I am making these fun face masks to brighten up those occasions when people need to wear them. They come in a huge variety of high-quality fabrics featuring animals, florals and quirky prints,” she says.

Leaves or carrots? Two of the masks available from Barbara Boyce to boost the Joseph Rowntree Theatre appeal for roof repairs

Now that mask-wearing is to become compulsory in shops, with effect from July 24, Barbara anticipates continued – and hopefully increased – demand for the snazzy masks and in turn a further boost for the £90,000 appeal.

Barbara is asking for a minimum donation of £8 for each mask and buyers can contact her to choose a design and size via, with her masks available in adult and child sizes.

“All our usual income has dried up as no-one is able to hire the theatre at the moment,” she says.  “We still need to pay our bills and get the roof repaired.

“So far I’ve made over 100 masks and as long as people keep buying, I’ll keep sewing.”

If you buy only one “rush-released” album for lockdown times, make it…

Spring a surprise: Laura Marling hatched her seventh album earlier than first planned

Laura Marling, Song For Our Daughter (Chrysalis Records/Partisan) ****

LAURA Marling’s style is elegance personified, that distinctive voice flouting over a summery backing.

For this record, the production is more expansive, but never immodestly. This album, her seventh, is written to an imaginary daughter, but not in the crib-style of Jackie Oates’ Lullabies.

Held Down is a frank song about power and relationships, and probably not for pass-the-parcel playlists. The songwriter has described Song For Our Daughter as “a rumination on modern femininity”, and the spaces in between the words leaves plenty of room for interpretation. This is a record to close around you like a hug. It’s not stifling; 36 minutes and you are done.

Most distinctive, and probably the soonest to pall, is Strange Girl, swept along on a Latin riff and a naggingly good chorus. Marling sounds in control, even when singing about the opposite, and Joni Mitchell remains the closest comparison.

You sense Marling stretching out, but nimbly rather than dramatically, astute enough to move forward at a pace her audience can live with. The strong arrangements are tastefully done and beautifully recorded.

If Only The Strong Survives is becalmed, the message is irrefutable: Marling is in this for the long run. No histrionics or Penderecki. Blow By Blow’s stark piano beauty sees the singer chasing a kind of Blue, and was inspired by Paul McCartney. The aura of Leonard Cohen hovers near the opening Alexandra.

Like the wonderful Bedouine, Song For Our Daughter is calming and mellifluous, a summer brook, but dip below the jewelled surface and the temperature soon drops. Hope We Meet Again is particularly effective, this time half spoken, while For You ends happily, the sort of coda that Nilsson might have once conceived.

Review by Paul Rhodes

Only One Question for Laura Marling…

Why did you speed-release Song For Our Daughter in lockdown “ahead of our planned schedule”?

“IN light of the change to all our circumstances, I saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union,” says Laura.

“It’s strange to watch the facade of our daily lives dissolve away, leaving only the essentials; those we love and our worry for them.

“An album, stripped of everything that modernity and ownership does to it, is essentially a piece of me, and I’d like for you to have it. I’d like for you, perhaps, to hear a strange story about the fragmentary, nonsensical experience of trauma and an enduring quest to understand what it is to be a woman in this society.

“When I listen back to it now, it makes more sense to me then when I wrote it. My writing, as ever, was months, years, in front of my conscious mind. It was there all along, guiding me gently through the chaos of living. And that, in itself, describes the sentiment of the album – how would I guide my daughter, arm her and prepare her for life and all of its nuance?

“I’m older now, old enough to have a daughter of my own, and I feel acutely the responsibility to defend The Girl. The Girl that might be lost, torn from innocence prematurely or unwittingly fragmented by forces that dominate society. I want to stand behind her and whisper in her ear all the confidences and affirmations I had found so difficult to provide myself. This album is that strange whisper; a little distorted, a little out of sequence, such is life.

“I want you to have it.”

If you buy only one “comeback” album during lockdown, make it…

Badly Drawn Boy, Banana Ski Shoes (AWAL) ****

THERE is something deeply satisfying when an artist long missing in action re-appears with great songs.

Badly Drawn Boy, Damon Gough to his mum and bank manager, was always an interesting character. His anti-rock star demeanour contrasted with his early success.

Like Elliot Smith, here was a songwriter that didn’t fit the commercial juggernaut. There were always flashes, like Space Between Your Ears from his 2012 soundtrack to Being Flynn.

After a decade-long hiatus, Gough re-emerges at 50 with a fistful of tunes that are at once familiar but cleverly good. He has always had a flair with melody; it rarely goes where you think it is heading.

The life knocks he’s endured – it transpires he hasn’t been sitting in a pool lapping up adoration all these years – have given him a rich vein of material to write about, and there’s a more direct edge to the lyrics. Looking over his shoulder at the exit, I Just Want To Wish You Happiness is affecting, while I’ll Do My Best ushers Gough into a new relationship.

Badly Drawn Boy: “A fistful of tunes that are at once familiar but cleverly good”

Fortunate, too, that Gough has not sunk into tuneless gloom. On the contrary, I’m Not Sure What It Is features a glorious Technicolor production, full of sunlight and hard-won wisdom. Rightly, Like Tony Wilson Says has been singled out for praise and may yet be a hit. Taking a Manchester cultural icon, Tony Wilson, and his Hacienda nightclub, it’s an uplifting tribute that even seems to have left space for the crowd’s roar.

You can never tell whether Gough is being ironic, but it does seem that he is now foot-sure about which musical path to pursue. As he told the Guardian, this record presents “a more focused version of what I’ve tried to achieve in the past”.

Fly On The Wall captures Gough’s worldview to perfection, married to another joyous melody that both harks back and looks more hopefully ahead to what tomorrow brings.

Compared with these heights, the quality does ebb in the middle. For example, Colours feels dated and the Eighties touches are overdone, but these slips are few and the overall upbeat mood makes for the pleasing contrast to the pallor of our economic sky. Definitely Gough’s best record since his debut, the Mercury Prize-winning The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, 20 years ago.

Review by Paul Rhodes

The York Phil and Malton’s Ryedale Voices go virtual for concert with 360 recordings

York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Ryedale Voices members recording Keep Singing via Zoom

YORK Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Malton’s Ryedale Voices are uniting for a Virtual Summer Concert online on July 25.

Raising funds for the Trussell Trust through donations, the 7.30pm concert will be live-streamed on YouTube, hosted by Richard Kay, who has been leading rehearsals over Zoom since lockdown began.

“It will feature around 20 choral pieces and smaller collaborations, compiled from around 350 individual recordings made by 60 members of the two choirs,” says Richard, the Phil’s assistant musical director and Ryedale choir’s conductor.

Richard Kay: Leading rehearsals on Zoom

“Several songs have been learned during lockdown and so have never before been performed by these choirs, including three brand new compositions that have never yet been performed by singers in the same room!”

Already in lockdown, the Phil and Ryedale Voices have made a virtual choir recording of Keep Singing, attracting more than 1,200 views online.

The July 25 concert is free to view at; voluntary contributions to the Trussell Trust can be made at

Lockdown stirs Ails McGee to go down to the sea again…for her return to painting UPDATED 26/07/2020

Artist Ails McGee: Picking up her brushes anew in lockdown

RETURN of the Mc could not have gone better for Ails McGee, whose “comeback” exhibition at According To McGee sold out at yesterday’s launch in York.

Gallery co-director Ails unveiled Return Of The Painter: The Sea, The Sky, The City from midday to 4pm as the ebullient Tower Street art space welcomed browsers for the first time since the Covid-enforced shutdown on March 23.

“Thanks to everyone who came today,” Ails and fellow director Greg McGee tweeted afterwards. “The paintings of @AilsMcGee connected with collectors and are now sold out. She is taking commissions and is preparing for the next group exhibition. We open next Saturday. Come see us!”

Ahead of the launch, Ails said: “This is our 16th year anniversary, and we had innovative plans with big innovative events to celebrate. Performances, installations, digitally illuminated projections: it was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, but all of that was kicked into the long grass in March. Since then, I’ve gone back to the drawing board, so to speak.”

So much so, Ails has picked up her paint brushes again, in part inspired to do so by “parsimonious proposals from politicians on essential exercise”.  

“I remember thinking while I was alone in the middle of Rowntree Park at midday, there were certain people who would have reported me to the police,” she says. “It was a hard time to go outside and watch the season change. I don’t have much memory of seeing the cherry blossom this year as it was a complicated thing just to go outside and enjoy nature. So, I thought to myself, if I can’t experience the real thing, why not paint it?”

Before establishing the According To McGee gallery with her husband and business partner Greg McGee in 2004, Ails was a successful painter, exhibiting in her native Kelso in the Scottish Borders and around Yorkshire.

Ails and Greg McGee after the successful launch of Ails’s Return Of The Painter show as According To McGee re-opened.yesterday afternoon

Her painterly arc flattened with the arrival of children – “three under three years old at one point,” she says – and her forays into charity work and The Artillery art enterprise. Now, however, the arid aspects of Covid have helped Ails focus on how important painting is to her.

“It’s everything. It forces you to see more clearly and, though it can be frustrating trying to harness what you see – all those shades, curves and colours – it’s the mixture of poetry, prophecy and religion that is so empowering and addictive,” she says.

Painting in lockdown has been “very liberating” as Ails built on her experiences of nature in the Borders, this time basing her compositions on the visual power and bitter beauty of the North East coast.

“It’s funny, seascapes come with the unfair caveat that they’re twee and calming, but it’s the opposite of that which intoxicates me and which I hope I am beginning to harness in my paintings,” she says. “The sea can be savage and changeful, on the point of bursting into full bloom, but in a painting it’s rarely twee.”

Bringing her new seascape collection to the commercial market after her hiatus does not unnerve Ails, “It’s the perfect time,” she argues. “I’m in good company: Freya Horsely and David Baumforth are internationally well-regarded masters of their craft in this field and, to be honest, I’ve already made some pre-exhibition sales.

“So, I’m in a very fortunate position. I’m producing paintings, I get to hang them in my gallery, and I’m selling them to collectors who enjoy the visuals of a sea in constant change.”

The difficulties of running a gallery under the shadow of Covid are surmountable, reckons Ails. “We’re launching with a day-long happening,” she said before yesterday’s event. “The gallery won’t be too busy at any given point, we have the attendant sanitisers, and we’re happy to welcome anyone who wants to come: old friends, artists, clients, collectors, new collectors,” she says. “Quarantine has cut culture short for too long. We can’t wait to get back in the groove.”

Dancing in your street? If you live in Eastfield, Scarborough, here’s your chance

“It should be a really fun thing to do. We’re hoping people get dressed up, get creative and get dancing!” says VOXED artistic director Wayne Parsons, introducing the #Goggledance project

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre and dance storytellers VOXED are uniting for an innovative new project in Scarborough.

They are inviting residents of the East Coast resort’s Eastfield area to bid to take part in #goggledance, a co-production wherein participants will watch a dance performance taking place outside their own homes, while filming themselves watching – and joining in.

Their footage will be incorporated into a series of short films that will include professional footage of the performance too.

The films will be posted online and on social media by both VOXED and the SJT over several weeks in the autumn.

The project is the brainchild of choreographer and director Wayne Parsons, the founder of VOXED, formerly Wayne Parsons Dance.

“We’ll be staging five live performances right outside people’s homes in Eastfield: a personalised show for that household and their neighbours,” he says.

“At an agreed time, we’ll turn up on their street and a solo dancer will perform a ten-minute piece. The live performance will be in three sections: Watch Us, Follow Me and finally a Be You section.

“All they need to do is record themselves during the show – on a mobile phone will be fine. They then send us their film and we’ll create short videos combining our performance with their homemade films that can be shared online.”

Wayne adds: “Everyone that applies will be included, even if they’re not selected as one of the final five. Everyone will be sent a short dance to learn that has a moment at the end where each household can showcase their creative sides. These submissions will then be included in our digital distribution, using the hashtag #goggledanceus”

“It should be a really fun thing to do. We’re hoping people get dressed up, get creative and get dancing! The idea is to get loads of people having a boogie and sharing with their local community and their local theatre. They’ll be able to showcase their talents for the world!”

SJT artistic director, Paul Robinson, says: “When Wayne first came to us with the idea for #goggledance, we knew we couldn’t say no! It’s one of the most innovative, inclusive and exciting dance projects we’ve seen in a long time. We’re delighted to be able to bring it to Scarborough.”

If you want to  take part in #goggledance, email by Saturday, August 8. Please include a short video introduction to you, your family and anyone else who will be there on filming day, plus the view from the window from where you will be watching and the room that you will be in.

“It’s not essential, but if you have a talent, whether it’s dancing, singing or playing a musical instrument, include it in your video submission,” advises Wayne.

Live performances will take place on August 22 and the films will be available online on the VOXED and SJT Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Tik Tok accounts.

For more information, go to: or

Did you know?

VOXED artistic director Wayne Parsons is a director, choreographer and movement director with more than 15 years’ experience of working in dance and theatre.

He graduated from London Contemporary Dance School before embarking on a performance career that spanned 13 years, working for Sydney Dance Company, Richard Alston Dance Company and the National Dance Company of Wales.

As a choreographer, Wayne regularly makes for his own company VOXED, formerly Wayne Parsons Dance, touring work across the UK and abroad. In theatre, he has choreographed shows at Shakespeare’s Globe, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Hampstead Theatre.

“VOXED creates work that is, at its heart, all about storytelling,” he says. “Our aim is to bring people together through the shared experience of dance. Whether it be through our indoor work, our outdoor work or our participation projects, we aim to reflect the world we live in and the stories we share through the work we do.”

More Things To Do in York/Outer Mongolia and at home, masked or unmasked, courtesy of The Press, York. List No. 10

Masking for it: Dress code for the Covid age

CULTURE Secretary Oliver Dowden is on the case, he says, making plans for the gradual re-opening of theatres, comedy joints and music venues, when Covid-safe to do so, but the traffic lights are still stuck at red.

Outdoor performances were given the thumbs-up to resume from last Saturday, not so helpfully at two days’ notice, and cinemas are pencilling in a re-start from July 31, although nothing is confirmed yet. Meanwhile, assorted summer festivals are going virtual, as did this week’s Great Yorkshire Show.

This masked-up column will steer clear of the pubs, bars, restaurants and shops making their welcome comebacks, focusing instead on what’s going on…or not going on, as CHARLES HUTCHINSON reports

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen: RyeStream concert on July 25

RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, July 19 to 26

THE 2020 Ryedale Festival has transmuted into RyeStream, an online festival of eight concerts, streamed straight to your home daily over the course of a week.

Musicians are making the journey to North Yorkshire to perform in three empty but beautiful locations: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.

Taking part will be Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano, July 19, 3pm; Rachel Podger, violin, July 20, 11am; Matthew Hunt, clarinet, and Tim Horton, piano, July 21, 1pm; Anna Hopwood, organ, July 22, 11am; Abel Selaocoe, cello, July 23, 6pm; Rowan Pierce, soprano, and Christopher Glynn, piano, July 24, 9pm; Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin, and Christopher Glynn, piano, July 25, 3pm, and Carducci Quartet and Streetwise Opera, July 26, 6pm.

Go to for instructions on how to view. This debut online season is free, although donations are welcome.

Staithes Blue, acrylic on canvas, by Giuliana Lazzerini at Blue Tree Gallery

New exhibition of the week: Giuliana Lazzerini: Solo, Blue Tree Gallery, York

BLUE Tree Gallery artist in residence Giuliana Lazzerini has opened an exhibition of new acrylic work online and at the York art-space for viewing by appointment only.

The Bootham gallery is “not fully open as yet”, but Covid-safety measures are in place, enabling viewing appointments to be made for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until August 5. To book one, send an email to

Giuliana’s Solo exhibition can be viewed online at, with free postage and packaging for purchased paintings.

Owner Terry Brett outside Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, York

Gallery re-opening part two: Pyramid Gallery, York

TERRY Brett’s Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, York, has re-opened, operating a two-fold system for visitors.

You can book a 30-minute slot to browse the gallery at your leisure at or, alternatively, if there is a sign up saying Please Knock To Enter, knock on the door and either Terry or Fi or Sarah will invite you in, one group at a time, and lock the door behind you.

“If the lights are not on, the shop is closed that day,” says Terry. “We will not be open on Sundays.”

Bootiful: Harrogate artist Anita Bowerman with her Tree of Life installation at Castle Howard for York Cancer Research’s Give It Some Welly fundraising campaign

Art installation of the week: Anita Bowerman’s Give Cancer The Boot, Castle Howard grounds

HARROGATE artist Anita Bowerman has designed a Tree of Life installation, Give Cancer The Boot, for Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Give It Some Welly fundraising campaign.

Hanging from a fir tree by the Atlas Fountain on the South Front, glistening in the sun like a summer variation on Christmas decorations, are 191 hand-polished stainless-steel wellies embossed with the YCR’s rose.

Why 191? They represent the 191,000 Yorkshire people who have “given the cancer the boot” over the past 25 years or live with it. To see the wellies, you will need to book a visit to Castle Howard at

Oh, you are Orpheus: Storyteller Alexander Flanagan-Wright and minstrel Phil Grainger await your invitation

Outdoor theatre show of the summer: Orpheus, The Flanagan Collective/Gobbledigook Theatre

LIVE theatre is back, all over North Yorkshire, at your invitation. Step forward York theatre-makers Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger, who are mounting a five-pronged art attack under the banner I’ll Try And See You Sometimes.

Among their analogue enterprises is Orpheus – A Hyper Local Tour. “We’re taking Orpheus on an outdoor tour around North Yorkshire’s local lanes, villages, and towns, performing with social distancing in place and abiding by Government guidelines on how many people can meet at any one time,” says Alex.

“The shows can take place on people’s streets, at their front windows and in parks and gardens,” says Phil. “Instead of announcing a show that the public can book tickets for, we’re asking for people to pop on to and book a suitable slot and the whole show will be brought to them.”

Scarborough storyteller and artist Jan Bee Brown

Home entertainment of the week for children: A Bee and Lari the Seagull in Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust will present an online summer programme of seaside and animal-themed stories, crafts and activities, based around objects in the Scarborough Borough Collection, with the help of Lari the Seagull from July 22 to August 20.

On Wednesdays, from July 22 to August 19, families can enjoy Seaside Adventures, whether “meeting” rockpool creatures or magical selkies, all inspired by paintings at Scarborough Art Gallery and designed by storyteller and artist Jan Bee Brown.

On Thursdays, from July 23 to August 20, Animal Antics will take participants on a journey across the world, inspired by animals in the SMT natural history collections. 

The highlight each week will be a new audio story written by Brown, released each Wednesday.

Lockdown disco queen Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Kitchen Disco Tour next May

Seek out the good news

YORK Racecourse’s Music Showcase Weekend with Pussycat Dolls and Rick Astley is a non-runner on July 24 and 25. Les Miserables will not mount the barricades from July 22 at Leeds Grand Theatre. However, Greg and Ails McGee’s According To McGee gallery, in Tower Street, York, will be opening its doors once more from Saturday. Sophie Ellis Bextor has announced a Kitchen Disco Tour date at Leeds Town Hall on May 19 2021; Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan has re-arranged her Pocklington Arts Centre gig for a second time, now booked in for April 23 2021.

And what about…

THE Luminaires on BBC One on Sunday nights; can anyone shine a light on what’s going on with all that to and froing in time? New albums by Sparks, Margo Price and The Streets. The Reading Room café at Rowntree Park, York, re-opening.

Third time luck of the Irish: Mary Coughlan has re-arranged her Pocklington Arts Centre show…again

Green day for go for York rock band Bull as they sign record deal with major label EMI

Full of Bull: York band Bull after their signing by EMI

YORK band Bull are signing to record industry giants EMI, nine years after first forming.

They become the first York group to put pen to such a deal since Shed Seven rubber-stamped a six-album contract with Polydor Records in October 1993, going on to notch up 15 Top 40 hits from Dolphin in 1994 to Why Can’t I Be You? in 2003.

Songwriter and vocalist Tom Beer, co-founder and guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bass player and print-maker Kai West will be working in tandem with EMI alongside Young Thugs: the York indie label,  artist managers, recording studio and gig promoters, run by Dave Greenbrown and Jonny Hooker up the stairs at South Bank Social Club in the pioneering, underground spirit of Andy Warhol’s Factory in that other York, New York.

The first green shoots of what the EMI publicity campaign is calling “the start of a beautiful friendship” is the aptly named single Green, a crowd favourite with a history stretching back to 2012, released today.

Depending on which band member you ask, this blissful slice of jangle-pop with a pinch of psychedelia and a grating of scuzzy lead guitar is either a “melancholy rumination on decisions made and the grass always being greener”, or is all about “ripping bongs down at the basketball court when you really should be writing the next great American novel”.

“It feels surreal,” says frontman Tom Beer, breathing in the giddying fresh air of becoming a major label act. “I just didn’t really expect it, to be honest! Delighted as well…and really excited. Lucky too, as there are so many good bands out there.

“The way it worked for us was that we’d been doing a lot of gigs, touring so much, here, in the Netherlands, Germany, America, and when we released songs we had more plays because we’d played so many places.

Shed Seven: The Britpop luminaries that set the benchmark for York bands

“Young Thugs and Dave Greenbrown have been so supportive too, and then the MD [managing director] of EMI came to see us supporting Warmduscher at The Crescent.”

When? “I’m not good with dates,” says Tom. “Except in the future. I only remember them when I need to.”

Dave Greenbrown says: “We’ve been working on this for around 18 months.  The MD of EMI was looking around for groups and came across Young Thugs two years ago and we’ve been trying to figure out something ever since.

“Clearly, Bull were the ones with the songs and I said to them, ‘I think there’s a chance for you if you can work on your professionalism as you have to be good every night’, and they were up for that and did exactly that.

“I didn’t want the EMI MD to see them until it was the right time, as you have only one chance, don’t you, and Bull took it.

“They write great catchy pop songs; they’ve finished the album, and they’ve signed a one-year deal with EMI: three singles, one album, just royalties off the streams and the sales of their records.”

Bull charged on to the York music scene in 2011, led by Tom and Dan, both inspired by their 1990s’ alt. rock heroes, Pavement, Yo La Tengo and The Pixies.

The present line-up of four Yorkshiremen emerged through friendship and happenstance: drummer Tom joining after he and the other Tom jammed together in bars when backpacking around Thailand; Kai making the giant leap from persistently jumping up on stage to dance in the erratic, blissful manner of Happy Mondays’ Bez to  eventually being allowed to play bass.

“It feels surreal,” says Bull frontman Tom Beer. “Lucky too, as there are so many good bands out there.”

But 2011 to 2020, Tom, that is an unusually long gestation period for a band, isn’t it? “I would never not want to do this. I just can’t see myself not doing it. It’s how I operate. I’ve always busked…I’ve worked at the Golden Ball, where I put on open-mic nights on Mondays…and I’m good at living on chickpeas,” he says.

“I definitely feel that one of the best feeling you can have is playing music with another human being and I incorporate the crowd in that.”

Apparently, this is “the start of a beautiful friendship”, Tom? “I hope that’s true and I believe that to be true, because it’s always been based on friendships between us and promoters, travelling around and making it happen and it’s been rewarding.”

One such bond paid off, leading Bull indirectly to their Dutch record producer, Remko Schouten. “Whether it was blind faith or fate, we decided on a whim to go to Germany, just after Tom and Kai joined in 2018, and we were all feeling very serious about it, like when The Beatles played  Hamburg,” recalls Tom.

“We were playing dive bar gigs, and we went to this bar at three in the morning, where Tom was wearing my hat, and this guy came up and said, ‘Where did you get that hat?’.

“He turned out to be the drummer – and a golfing pro! – for Spiral Stairs and Remko was there on tour with them doing their sound. We put on this house party at a friend’s house in Berlin, in Schoneberg, the area where Bowie used to live, and the next thing we know, Spiral Stairs [alias Scott Kannberg of the aforementioned Pavement] was playing at our house party!

“That night Remko said, ‘if you ever want to record with me, let me know’, and we did, two months later.”

Over the next two years, Bull visited Schouten’s Amsterdam studio four or five times, recording songs over a few days each time, songs that will now form the album whose title and release date are yet to be confirmed (although Dave Greenbrown did mention January 29 2021, so watch this space).

The artwork for Green, Bull’s first single for EMI

“This was no ‘one weekend, bash it out’ recording session,” says Dave. “This was a proper job, working over a long time.”

The Coronavirus pandemic may have brought gigs to a stultifying halt, but Bull are coping with being a band in Covid-19 times in 2020, boosted by the momentum of signing a record company deal. “It feels OK for us right now because luckily we finished the album the day before we had to flee the Netherlands, returning home instead of playing with our favourite Dutch bands in Amsterdam, but we definitely made the right decision,” says York-born Tom, who now lives in Scarborough.

Green is the first fruit of that record deal. “That song is one of the oldest Bull songs, I wrote it in 2012, and it’s the only song on the upcoming album that was featured on She Looks Like Kim, our first album in 2014, which we self-released,” says Tom.

“We recorded it at the Melrose Yard Studios, the brilliant studio off Walmgate that sadly closed last year, and we launched it with a gig at Dusk, covering the cost of the recording that night.

“Green was the first song on there and the lead single back then too, and we just thought it’s a good song, it’s always been a favourite, so let’s give it a second shot at the big time.”

The accompanying video is the work of Bull too. “We’ve worked on a lot of music videos: the one for Green is the first time I’ve ever used movie software, with the help of Dan [Lucas],” says Tom. “We had a lot of footage from various things that we could use, and there’s even some footage on there from the original Green video, made by Rory Welbrock, our bassist before Kai joined.

“It also features some latex masks made by my sister, Holly, who’s been really interested in making masks for three years – and now masks are everywhere of course, aren’t they!”

Dave Greenbrown hopes Bull’s record deal will be a trigger for more York musicians to find favour with record labels. The Howl & The Hum set the bar high with Human Contact, their late-May album for our disconcerting, disconnected times, and the likes of Bonnie & The Bailers, Fat Spatula and Perspex should be on the radar too.

Fellow York band of the moment The Howl & The Hum, featuring drummer – and former big band trumpet player – Jack Williams, left

“I think it’s been really good to be a musician in York. As a child, there were amazing music services provided for you in the city,” says Tom. “I was in a big band, playing the trombone; there were loads of people doing that, like The Howl & The Hum drummer, Jack Williams. He played trumpet.

“I think that’s had a massive impact, because you can enjoy it when you’re little, and then your musicianship progresses and you start playing in bands. For me, it was places like The Woolpack Inn [in Fawcett Street], run by a guy called Sid, who had bands on every night. It made it feel like you owned it, and if you wanted to put on a gig, you could.”

Broadening his thought, Tom says: “I’d like to thank Young Thugs for their involvement; the MD of EMI got in touch with them because he was impressed with what Young Thugs bands, such as The Lungs (Theo Mason Wood and Bonnie Milnes) and …And The Hangnails, and Bonneville, were doing.

“And now, the great thing with the link-up between EMI and Young Thugs is that hopefully it’s going to benefit other York bands too.”

What makes Bull stand out, the way a bull does when frequenting a china shop? The infectious tunes, yes, but also the humour in Tom’s Yorkshire-frank lyrics. “I’m very glad you say that,” he says. “I definitely don’t want to be any one thing in my lyrics – a lot of the time I’m capturing a temporary feeling – but a lot of my favourite songwriters embrace humour…though sometimes it doesn’t want to be too funny, just for the sake of it.

“Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, one of my favourites, likes to use humour, and Dylan, my hero, is full of it. He plays with words a lot. It’s that thing of, if you don’t cry, you’ll laugh.”

Right now, on Green day, Bull have every reason to be smiling.

To view Bull’s video for Green, go to:

SIX The Musical’s drive-in tour crashes after localised lockdowns scupper all shows. Church Fenton airfield dates beheaded alas

Brought to its knees: SIX The Musical’s summer of drive-in shows has been scuppered by localised lockdowns. Picture: Johan Persson

DIVORCED, beheaded and now Covid-19ed. Live Nation Entertainment have called off SIX The Musical’s drive-in concert series, hitting for six the August 11 to 16 run at the Church Fenton airfield.

Blame “localised lockdowns” for scuppering the Queens’ irreverent regal shows at 12 locations, explain the “devastated” producers.

“The latest developments regarding localised lockdowns mean it has become impossible for us to continue with the series with any confidence,” say Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes and George Stiles.

“This devastating news has come out of the blue and hit us all for six. We are so sorry to disappoint the thousands of fans who have booked tickets and sold out many dates on the tour.

Dead end: The Divorced Beheaded Drive poster for SIX The Musical, no longer hitting the road

“It is also a sad day for our West End and UK Tour Queens who had already started rehearsals and our entire team of up to 60 people who were all working so hard to deliver a spectacular show.”

Their statement continues: “Despite the Government announcing Stage 3 of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s road map, permitting performances outdoors with an audience, the planned tour was due to visit 12 cities, several of which have since been identified as emerging Covid infection hot spots.  

“We know that ultimately there is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of our company and the Six Queendom. We look forward to better times.” 
Full refunds for “the first West End musical to perform again after lockdown” will be issued directly to all ticket holders within the next seven days from Ticketmaster.

Leeds East Airport, at Church Fenton, was among 12 sites nationwide picked for Live Nation Entertainment’s Utilita Live From The Drive-In: SIX The Musical, The Live Concert.

A bevy of Queens from the West End cast for SIX The Musical in 2019

The West End and tour casts were to have taken to the road in August and September to present the full musical version in the open air, with the Arts Theatre, London company in action at Church Fenton.

Billed as “Divorced, Beheaded, Drive – Live In Concert” for the now cancelled drive-in tour, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss‘s SIX is the “electrifying musical phenomenon that everyone has lost their head over”. First presented by Cambridge University students at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show has been catapulted into a West End and international hit en route to being named the Musical of the Decade by WhatsOnStage.

From Tudor queens to pop princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic in SIX to tell their tales, remixing 500 years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st-century girl power where these queens may have green sleeves but their lipstick is rebellious red.

Wife strife: Drive-in audiences will now miss out on the joy of SIX in the open air after the “out of the blue” cancellation of shows at all 12 locations

The publicity promised: “This intoxicating Tudor take by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss is a histo-remixed pop-concert musical you won’t forget. The Queens are back, so grab your crowns and your picnic blankets and get down like it’s 1533.”

SIX The Musical and Utilita Live From The Drive-In were to have linked up this summer from August 4 to September 12 for shows at Colesdale Farm, London; Birmingham Resorts World Arena; University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton; Filton Airfield, Bristol; Cheltenham Racecourse; the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh; Leeds East Airport, Church Fenton, near Leeds; Lincoln, Central Docks, Liverpool; The National Bowl, Milton Keynes; the July Course, Newmarket Racecourse, and Teesside International Airport.

SIX The Musical, The Drive-In: Divorced, beheaded and now cancelled, alas.

Exit Ryedale Festival, enter RyeStream, the digital Ryedale Festival for Covid times

Ready, willing and Abel to take part in the digital RyeStream festival: South African-born cellist Abel Selaocoe.

FOR the first time, Ryedale Festival is going virtual, in response to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The revamped remote classical festival will be streamed on the online platform RyeStream from Sunday, July 19 to July 26, with one concert a day without an audience in attendance.

Three locations are being used: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, pre-Raphaelite Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.

In the line-up will be pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, with a 3pm recital of Beethoven and the American piano repertoire on Sunday; violinist Rachel Podger’s Guardian Angel baroque concert on Monday, 11am; clarinettist Matthew Hunt and Tim Horton’s Fantasy Pieces on Tuesday, 1pm, and Anna Lapwood’s organ works by Bach and Barbara Heller on Wednesday, 11am.

Cellist Abel Selaocoe will complement music and stories from his native South Africa with baroque works on Thursday, 6pm; Yorkshire soprano Rowan Pierce and pianist Christopher Glynn, the festival’s artistic director, will combine traditional song with works by Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg in Music For A While on Friday, 9pm; Glynn will then accompany violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen in an evening of Elgar, invoking the comforting scenes of the English countryside, next Saturday at 3pm.

Streetwise Opera: Performing remotely at RyeStream’s closing concert

The closing concert, next Sunday at 6pm, will present Streetwise Opera, Roderick Williams, Brodsky Quartet, Genesis Sixteen and the Carducci Quartet. “The Carducci Quartet will be a live-streamed performance, but the Streetwise Opera performers – of whom many are affected by homelessness – will be joining us virtually, from around the country,” says Christopher.

He started working on the RyeStream festival six weeks ago. “It has been a race against time and I’m grateful to all the artists who agreed to perform at very short notice,” he says.

“For the locations, I tried to choose three beautiful spaces that represent the range of venues used by the festival and could be filmed effectively. The festival is incredibly lucky to have such stunning locations to perform in and I wanted to try to give a sense of that.

“The authorities at all three venues have been incredibly generous in helping us achieve this.”

In choosing the artists for the eight concerts, Christopher had to consider social-distancing regulations, measures that ruled out the festival opera, for example. “At the time of arranging the concerts, it was clear that anything bigger than two people on stage was going to be very difficult, though we did manage to include a string quartet – one made up of two married couples!” he says.

“In general, I approached artists who lived within driving distance of the festival: at the time arrangements were being made it wasn’t clear what travel would be possible.

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason: Opening recital at RyeStream. Picture: Robin Clewley

“I also sought to include younger performers in the mix and tried to pick different artists to those that I was aware were appearing in high-profile live streamed series elsewhere.”

Artists will be tailoring their RyeStream programmes to meet the requirements of the new format. “We have tried to adapt everything to suit the new format,” says Christopher. “It’s a steep learning curve!”

Not least facing up to the challenge of filming the concerts. “We’re using several cameras, in the hope of giving a sense of the venue as well as the performance, and live-streaming the results, with the brilliant Patrick Allen looking after all aspects of sound and vision,” says Christopher.

Unlike last week’s online York Early Music Festival, he has decided RyeStream should be free to view, with donations welcome. 

“This was a hard call,” he says. “I do have reservations about adding to the amount of free material online, because the downsides are clear and it’s a situation which cannot continue indefinitely without devaluing the whole currency of live performance.

“On the other hand, research shows that, for the moment, inviting donations is more effective than putting content behind a paywall, and that it’s probably necessary to establish the habit of viewing online – to prove it can be a rewarding experience in its own right – before starting to charge for it.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen: Playing Elgar works on July 25. Picture: Patrick Allen

“Things may be slightly different for festivals with a more specialist slant, such as the York Early Music Festival (which I watched with much enjoyment) or the Oxford Lieder Festival.

“But for a more general programme like ours, it seemed right to go with a donation model for now, while making it clear that we will need to charge in a more structured way for content in the future.”

RyeStream viewers can stream the concerts “again and again” or watch them if they missed the live-stream, until August 16. “In general, we have to realise that people’s lives are very different and no one time of day will suit everyone,” says Christopher.

“I love the idea that people can watch again and again, because it is genuinely one of the great advantages of live-streaming.”

Might Ryedale Festival be tempted to stream live concerts at future festivals, with a charge for the screening, if, for example, a concert has sold out? “Yes, this is very much in our plans. There’s nothing like a crisis to move things forward! There are exciting possibilities for all festivals if we can successfully integrate digital and physical platforms,” says Christopher.

“I love the idea that a live Ryedale Festival event can also be enjoyed online by a housebound pensioner in Pickering, a music-lover in Portsmouth – or, for that matter, in Peru! – as well as the audience at the venue. And of course, even if you have attended a concert in person, you may want to watch it again online.”

“We have set the bar high and said that we want to create a whole new festival experience,” says Ryedale Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn. Picture: Gerard Collett

As Sunday approaches, Christopher is looking forward most to gauging the reactions of RyeStream viewers. “We have set the bar high and said that we want to create a whole new festival experience,” he says. “It will be interesting to see which aspects of live-streaming people enjoy and which need more thought. There’s a real sense of stepping into a new world!

“If anything good has come out of Covid-19 for the Ryedale Festival, it would be that we have quickly established a new online platform, one that can add a new dimension to the festival even when ‘normal’ concert conditions return.”

Post RyeStream, thoughts will turn to 2021. “It’s too early to say anything with certainty but in general we remain committed to bringing great live music and musicians to beautiful Ryedale locations, and to being as inventive as we can in the way we do it,” promises Christopher.

However, the dark clouds of the Coronavirus pandemic hang over Ryedale Festival, like so many music events across the country. “We have opened a festival appeal and received some very welcome help from the Emergency Fund set up by Arts Council England,” says Christopher.

“We trust that people will understand and make a donation – something equivalent to the cost of a ticket – after watching the live-stream concerts. Looking further ahead, so much is uncertain. The vast majority of our festival income comes directly from box-office sales – around 10,000 individual tickets were sold last year – and if we cannot return to ‘normal’ concert-giving, this will be a huge challenge.”

For full details on the 2020 festival programme and how to stream RyeStream, go to

Violinist Rachel Podger: Guardian Angel programme at RyeStream festival on July 20

RYESTREAM festival programme

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason will open the festival with an afternoon recital of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 2 in A Major, alongside classics from the American piano repertoire such as Gershwin’s Three Preludes.

Sunday, July 19, streamed at 3pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Violinist Rachel Podger will play baroque masterpieces, such Biber’s The Guardian Angel, Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 in D major and Vilsmayr’s Partita 5 in G minor.

Monday, July 20, streamed at 11am from the Chapel, Castle Howard.

Clarinettist Matthew Hunt and pianist Tim Horton will explore fantasy in music, encompassing Jörg Widmann’s Fantasie, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke and John Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata.

Tuesday, July 21, streamed at 1pm from Long Gallery, Castle Howard.

Virtuoso organist Anna Lapwood will play works by Bach, Barbara Heller and Frescobaldi in one of Yorkshire’s most ancient churches.

Wednesday, July 22, streamed at 11am from St Michael’s Church, Coxwold.

Rowan Pierce: Yorkshire soprano performing Music For A While with pianist Christopher Glynn at All Saints’ Church, Helmsley. Picture: Gerard Collett

Cellist Abel Selaocoe will draw on the music and stories of his native South Africa, interwoven with baroque masterpieces such as Dall’Abaco’s Capriccio No. 3 in E flat major.

Thursday, July 23, streamed at 6pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Pianist and artistic director Christopher Glynn and soprano Rowan Pierce will perform Music For A While, combining traditional songs with works by Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg

Friday, July 24, streamed at 9pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn will play Elgar works, pairing Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin with his Violin Sonata in E Minor to invoke the comforting scenes of the English countryside.

Saturday, July 25, streamed at 3pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Streetwise Opera performers will join Roderick WilliamsBrodsky Quartet and Genesis Sixteen remotely to perform Schubert’s The Linden Tree. The Carducci Quartet will then close the festival with Phillip Glass’s String Quartet No. 3, Mishima, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, No. 11, Serioso. 

Sunday, July 26, streamed at 6pm from the Great Hall, Castle Howard. 

Giuliana Lazzerini’s Solo works go on show by appointment at Blue Tree Gallery

Staithes Blue, acrylic on canvas, by Giuliana Lazzerini

BLUE Tree Gallery artist-in-residence Giuliana Lazzerini has opened an exhibition of new acrylic work online and at this York art-space for viewing by appointment only.

The Bootham gallery is “not fully open as yet”, but Covid-safety measures are in place, enabling visiting appointments to be made for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 5.30pm, throughout the show’s run from this week to August 5. To book one, send an email to

Garden Tapestry, acrylic on deep box canvas, by Giuliana Lazzerini

Giuliana’s Solo exhibition can be viewed online at, with free postage and packaging for purchased paintings.

Giuliana says: “My work is varied and often developed from an idea encountered during a journey that takes me in an unknown territory where I grow as an artist. I usually work in small series of paintings, where memory and imagination come to interplay.

“Time made me more familiar with the English northern landscape and it finally has left a mark in some of my work, as I become more intrigued by its drama and atmosphere.”

Rose Table, acrylic on canvas, by Giuliana Lazzerini

Greatest hits of digital York Early Music Festival picked for video by director Delma

The home service: York Early Music Festival’s opening online concert, featuring Elizabeth Kenny and Iestyn Davies, mid-stream last Thursday

YORK Early Music Festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin is compiling a video of “personal favourites” from last week’s online event.

“We had a blast,” she says, reflecting on the success of the three-day virtual festival of four pre-recorded and two live concerts, streamed from the National Centre for Early Music from July 9 to 11.

“It was fabulous to be able to host musicians at the NCEM from across England – and to welcome online audiences from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the United States.”

Concert recordings were in the hands of digital producer Ben Pugh, filming the socially distant musicians at an otherwise empty St Margaret’s Church, the NCEM’s home in Walmgate.

Artists and audiences alike have given positive feedback to a digital event arranged once the Covid-19 lockdown enforced the cancellation of the Method & Madness-themed live festival from July 3 to 11.

“It was such a success that we’re now pulling together a compilation video of my personal favourites from 2020 Online. Details very soon!” promises Delma.

“We had a blast,” said administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin after the inaugural digital York Early Music Festival, held last week

The revised remote festival of concerts and talks was headlined on July 9 by York countertenor Iestyn Davies – lockdown hair in need of a cut, by his own later admission – and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny.

Streamed live last Thursday, they presented A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain, among others.

In a surprise encore, they mined the modern-day melancholia of a Mancunian man, Morrissey, digging deep into the pit of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

Performances recorded over ten days ensued, by lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, harpsichordist Steven Devine and lyra viol player Richard Boothby last Friday and BBC New Generation artists Consone Quartet last Saturday afternoon.

Vocal ensemble Stile Antico closed the festival with a live streamed concert, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, that evening.

“We’d purchased more video and sound equipment, so it was more like a TV studio environment for the recordings,” says Delma. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which helped with social distancing.”

The NCEM was one of the first arts organisations to stream live concerts online during the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with performances by Steven Devine and The Brabant Ensemble. Since March, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

Lari the Seagull and Jan Bee Brown lead Scarborough museums’ seaside adventures

Jan Bee Brown: Writing weekly audio story for Scarborough Museums Trust

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust is to present a summer programme of seaside and animal-themed stories, crafts and activities with the help of Lari the Seagull.

From July 22 to August 20, the trust’s learning team will take over its social media pages to add family information and activities based around objects in the Scarborough Borough Collection.

On Wednesdays, from July 22 to August 19, families can enjoy Seaside Adventures, whether “meeting” rockpool creatures or magical selkies – those mythical seal folk – all inspired by paintings at Scarborough Art Gallery and designed by storyteller and artist Jan Bee Brown.

On Thursdays, from July 23 to August 20, Animal Antics will take participants on a journey across the world, inspired by animals in the SMT natural history collections. 

The highlight each week will be a new audio story written especially for Scarborough Museums Trust by Jan Bee Brown, released each Wednesday. The stories will bring paintings from the collections to life, weaving together folk tales and Scarborough characters and landmarks, from Dottie the Donkey to the Hispaniola.  

Are you ready for a Seaside Adventure, courtesy of Scarborough Museums Trust? Picture: Tony Bartholomew

A short video will be released each Thursday showing children how to make one of the art activities and each one will include voiceovers by children from the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Youth Theatre group. 

Families are invited to share pictures of their artworks with Scarborough Museums Trust, using the hashtag #SummerAdventures 

Scarborough Museums Trust’s learning manager, Christine Rostron, says: “We’re looking forward to welcoming families for some great summer fun online – and our friend Lari the Seagull will be on hand the whole time to help guide them through it. He’s even been taking selfies with some of the objects in our collections.” 

For families without printers, the trust will be providing free activity templates each week that can be collected from Scarborough Art Gallery in The Crescent. Please note, visiting the gallery will be “a little bit different” for a while: social-distancing rules mean only a limited number of families are allowed to visit at any one time and you may need to wait if the gallery is very busy.

The activities and videos will be available on the family learning page at:

Eastfield Choir forms for Zoom sessions and video recording in Scarborough

Eastfield Choir musical director Mark Gordon. Picture: Richard Maw, Infocus

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre has created a new choir for residents of Scarborough’s Eastfield area.

The Eastfield Choir is meeting via Zoom on Mondays from 11.30am to 12.30pm for five weeks from July 13 in a virtual venture supported by Scarborough company McCain Foods and residents’ group EAST.

They will work towards filming a song chosen by Eastfield residents from Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’; The Zutons and Amy Winehouse’s hit Valerie; George Ezra’s Budapest; Abba’s Mamma Mia and Ben E King’s Stand By Me. 

Voting will take place on the Eastfield Past and Present Facebook page during the week beginning July 29. 

Helpful guide music tracks and videos will be sent to choir members to assist them in preparing for  the film recording.

The SJT’s associate director for children and young people and Funky Choir member Cheryl Govan says: “This is a fantastic intergenerational project with a strong emphasis on creating new social links. Anyone can take part, whatever their age and ranging from whole families to those living on their own.

“The first term of the project will result in a video using footage captured by the residents and edited together. This will be a lovely record for everyone involved.

“If you have a smart phone, an iPad or a laptop you can access Zoom and we can help you if you need some support. And don’t worry if you don’t like the first song – a choir has to start somewhere, and it could be your choice next time.”

Cheryl adds: “Don’t be put off if you think you can’t sing: this is about having a good time. The best bit about Zoom choirs is only the people in your own house can hear you…

“…And thanks to the generous support of McCain, membership of the Eastfield Choir is free!”

Choir members can access the videos on private Facebook groups that they are invited to join at the start of the project.

Charlotte Pick, communications business partner at McCain, says: “We’re delighted to support the Eastfield Choir through our partnership with the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

“McCain has been a part of the Scarborough community for over 50 years and is proud to play a role in the communities where we live and work. This uplifting project will help reduce feelings of isolation and allow residents to feel part of the community again.”

The SJT team already has worked with residents’ group EAST on various projects, such as helping to clear up The Dell, the area’s nature reserve.

“We’re really excited about the choir,” says EAST’s Adele Armstrong Jackson. “When we first met with Cheryl Govan, we spoke about what we would like to do in Eastfield: clearing the rubbish from The Dell was one project, and an inter-generational activity like this choir was another.” 

The new choir is led by musical director Mark Gordon, who says: “I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in this project. I love running choirs and generally having fun singing, so it’s good to meet (well, virtually meet!) a lot of like-minded people. Singing is fantastic for lifting the spirits and putting a smile on the face of both the singer and the listener. 

“I’m also excited to see the end product: the idea that a bunch of people who don’t know each other are going to come together and do something fabulous and community based like this is such a wonderful concept. I hope loads of people will get involved – the more the merrier! And remember, it’s not about having the world’s best voice, it’s about enjoying singing, being prepared to give it a go and having some fun!”

A prominent figure on the Scarborough music scene for more than 30 years, Mark performs regularly with many bands and acts as musical director for several theatre shows. He teaches music at Scarborough schools and runs youth orchestras, jazz bands, rock workshops and choirs, as well as being a private piano teacher. 

For more information on the Eastfield Choir, go to:

Artist Anita and Yorkshire Cancer Research vow to Give Cancer The Boot with Tree of Life welly installation at Castle Howard

All’s welly that starts welly: Harrogate artist Anita Bowerman launches her Give Cancer The Boot installation at Castle Howard

BOOTIFUL. Harrogate artist Anita Bowerman has launched a wellington boot-themed art installation at Castle Howard to highlight Yorkshire Cancer Research’s annual fundraising campaign, Give it Some Welly.

The 191 stainless-steel wellies, shimmering in the sunlight in a Lime Walk tree to the side of the Atlas Fountain, represent the 191,000 Yorkshire people who have “given the cancer the boot” over the past 25 years or live with it.

The mission of the independent charity is to save lives in Yorkshire, helping people to avoid and survive the disease by improving the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the region.  

Anita’s “Tree of Life” sculpture on the South Front of the Castle Howard grounds will be open to the public until August 3, drawing attention to the charity’s aim to raise £10 million this year to “help more people give cancer the boot for good”.

In particular, Yorkshire Cancer Research is urging people across Yorkshire to hold fundraising events on Yorkshire Day, Saturday, August 1, whether by wanging wellies, wearing them or baking welly-themed cakes.

Anita, the paper-cut designer and painter who runs the Dove Tree Art Gallery and studio in Harrogate, is honoured to be involved in this “very worthwhile project”.

“I hope the piece helps people consider the work that still needs to be done to continue to increase cancer survival rates in Yorkshire,” says artist Anita Bowerman

“I felt instantly inspired to create this boot design, cut out from stainless-steel and featuring Yorkshire Cancer Research’s logo of a rose,” she says. “I love the idea of 191 shiny boots on this ‘tree of life’, glinting in the light on a fir tree in the grounds in front of the majestic, iconic Castle Howard, and I hope it brings lots of joy to those that see it. 

“I would like it to celebrate all the people in Yorkshire who have survived cancer in the past 25 years, and the people that will continue to survive in the years to come.”

The work of Yorkshire Cancer Research has resonance for Anita. “My engineer brother, Mason Small, has helped me create these 15cm-high boots – which took three men three days to polish by hand at his Guiseley head office – and finding a cure for cancer is particularly relevant to us as both our parents were diagnosed with it. Our dad had breast and skin cancer; our mum had ovarian cancer, from which she died,” she says.

“I hope the piece helps people consider the work that still needs to be done to continue to increase survival rates in Yorkshire and will help Yorkshire Cancer Research to continue its great work across the region.”

She is delighted by the choice of tree for the welly installation. “I was approached by Yorkshire Cancer Research to do a piece of ‘land art’ for the Give it Some Welly campaign, and I’m so pleased the wellies are hanging in a Cedrus Deodara, a divine tree from the Himalayas, worshipped by Hindus,” says Anita. “I love how it is now decorated for summer, with the stainless-steel boots glistening like mobiles in the summer light.

Dr Kathryn Scott, chief executive of Yorkshire Cancer Research, left, artist Anita Bowerman and the Hon Nicholas Howard, owner of Castle Howard, at the Give Cancer The Boot launch

“They look stunning in this beautiful environment, where I wanted to reflect such a high-quality house and the high quality of the work done by Yorkshire Cancer Research.”

Anita’s “Tree of Life” has personal significance too for the Hon. Nicholas Howard, owner of Castle Howard. “I have a connection with it in that I’ve had prostate cancer myself and I’m in the middle of booting it out’. I’ve had targeted radiotherapy and I’m now having hormone treatment, with my readings now being very low, so it really rang a bell with me when Yorkshire Cancer Research contacted me,” he says.

Castle Howard presents spectacular Christmas tree decorations each winter and puts up a tree at Easter too decorated with hand-painted eggs from Salzburg. Now, Anita’s summer tree complements those annual festive celebrations. “It’s always lovely to see an artist reflecting something real in their work, which these 191 boots do, and I love how the tree can be seen from afar to draw people to it because it’s glinting in the sun,” says Nicholas.

“The wellies are just the right size too, when sometimes these things can be strident, but these are lovely objects.”

Given his own experience, Nicholas is keen that the welly installation should play its part in generating much-needed funds for Yorkshire Cancer Research”. “Research is so important, and it would also help if people would get tested early; that would help with treating cancer and that’s something that everyone can do, particularly as they get older,” he says.

“It’s so important that regular testing and inspections go on, and it’s so important to get that message across, especially when men sometimes have that macho attitude that it won’t happen to them, but it’s far better to be tested regularly. They do that with a car, so why not with themselves?”

“Too many people are still having their lives cut short by cancer,” says Dr Kathryn Scott, pictured with artist Anita Bowerman

Also attending the launch was Dr Kathryn Scott, chief executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, who says: “While it’s positive that survival rates are improving, too many people are still having their lives cut short by cancer. Delays in diagnosis and treatment during the Coronavirus pandemic means we need to do all we can to minimise the impact for people in Yorkshire.

“In the past few months, life has come with increasing challenges and apprehension about what the future might hold, so the continued support of people in Yorkshire means more to us than ever before.

“With our ambitious target to fund £10 million of world-leading research to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer every year, we need the people of Yorkshire to join us in raising life-changing funds, so we can continue our work in helping more people give cancer the boot for good.”

Kathryn says that in these Covid-19 times, delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancer are inevitable. “There will be people with worrying signs that will not have contacted their GP at this time, but early diagnosis is always our message, because cancer is predominantly easier to treat, the earlier the diagnosis,” she stresses.

“We can have a 90 per cent success rate with treating some cancers when diagnosed early, but less than ten per cent when it’s diagnosed late on.”

Yorkshire Cancer Research wants to fund more research and more clinical trials. “They’re shown to give people a better quality of life and improve survival rates, and we want to make Yorkshire a beacon of success in treating cancer,” says Kathryn.

Shining example: A close-up of the Yorkshire Cancer Research rose on one of Anita Bowerman’s 191 wellies

“In clinical trials, we’re rising fast in the national statistics: 9,000 people participated in clinical trials last year funded by Yorkshire and Humber clinical research networks, putting us second on the list.”

To support Give It Some Welly, you can download a free fundraising pack at:

Yorkshire Cancer Research and Castle Howard request you follow UK Government guidelines to stay safe when visiting the installation or organising any fundraising activities. Those guidelines can be found at:

Did you know?

Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England.

In Yorkshire, 594 people are diagnosed with cancer every week.

Yorkshire Cancer Research’s mission is for 2,000 more people to survive cancer every year in Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Cancer Research works in partnership with researchers, clinicians, the NHS, public health bodies and other charities to fund innovative work in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.

Based at Grove Park Court, off Skipton Road, Harrogate, Yorkshire Cancer Research provides research funding for the University of York, University of Leeds, University of Sheffield and Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust.

For more information, visit

Review: York Early Music Festival Online, Stile Antico; Consone Quartet, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 11

Stile Antico: First concert since lockdown. Picture: Marco Borggreve

CAN it be as long as 15 years ago that Stile Antico burst onto the scene by copping the audience prize at this festival’s international competition? Indeed it can.

This crack group of 12 singers, without a conductor, seems to have been part of the festival’s fabric ever since. Certainly it was the perfect choice to bring this year’s online festival to a stunning close.

Breaking The Habit was the punning title of a programme exploring Renaissance music by and for women, many of the former being nuns. Since most belonged to closed orders, there was some affinity between them and our own recent isolation.

The choir stood in a wide circle, facing inwards and exactly distanced, apparently performing for the first time together since lockdown, after a series of Zoom-style rehearsals. Remarkably, the singers went straight into full stride; it was as if they were simply in the middle of the season. Impeccable tuning and a blend that never faltered marked music that showed remarkable breadth of character, both sacred and secular.

Raffaella Aleotti, daughter of the court architect in Ferrara, revealed notable rhythmic flair in two motets she published in 1593, while in her mid-twenties. Two eight-voice motets showing equally nimble counterpoint were the work of Sulpitia Cesis, a nun in Modena, who published them in 1619.

Maddalena Casulana, though not a nun, was the first woman to have madrigals printed; working out of Vicenza, she produced three books – 66 madrigals in all – between 1568 and 1583. Her word-painting and daring harmony combine infectiously: Stile Antico had their measure, in fact a mere two madrigals left us wanting more.

Consone Quartet recording their concert at the empty National Centre for Early Music for the online York Early Music Festival

Finally, another nun from Ferrara, Leonora d’Este, tested the group’s high sopranos in three motets for five female voices. Needless to say, discipline was maintained, to thrilling effect.

The remainder of the programme explored music written for female rulers. Margaret of Austria, who governed the duchy of Burgundy in the early 16th century, commissioned an exceptionally dark, mysterious motet from Pierre de la Rue to commemorate her brother’s death, while herself writing a three-voice piece in both French and Latin.

Music for Queen Mary included John Sheppard’s mighty Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria, with several wordless plainsong interludes, delivered with exceptional smoothness. Byrd’s motet for Elizabeth I, O Lord, Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, boasted an exquisitely controlled Amen, kept prayerful. Two madrigals from The Triumphs of Oriana illuminated the spicier side of the Elizabethan court.

Finally, Dialogo and Quodlibet, written last year by Joanna Marsh, contrasted scholarly theorising by the six men with the flightier disruption intended by the six ladies, until finally they agreed to unite and entertain. The style harked back to the Renaissance and fitted wittily into this context.

A lunchtime concert by the Consone Quartet included two of Beethoven’s Op 18 quartets, Nos 1 and 3. I cannot comment on the first since it was disfigured by transmission problems, except to say that it was tackled cautiously and with introspection. The group appeared to abandon this approach in No 3, which was altogether more relaxed, reaching a peak in a finale full of energy and joie de vivre.

The online festival has not been without technical difficulties, but we may be extremely grateful for the huge effort put into it both by the performers and by the Early Music Centre staff. It has lightened everyone’s mood to be able to see music “live” again at long last.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Review: York Early Music Festival Online, July 9, Iestyn Davies & Elizabeth Kenny; July 10, Matthew Wadsworth; Steven Devine; Richard Boothby

How it looked when watching from home: Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and countertenor Iestyn Davies performing at the National Centre for Early Music, York, in Thursday’s live streamed concert

IF, like me, you enjoy the arts and sport, you will have rejoiced in a bumper week. First, we had the

Government giving an unprecedented £1.57 billion fillip to the arts, thereby drawing a graceless murmur of thanks from the generally Tory-hating lefties that populate the arts sector.

Then, the cricket season resumed, to the familiar sound of England wickets tumbling. Finally, one of the world’s top three early music festivals, has returned, albeit online and in much-shortened form.

But we must be grateful for small mercies these days. Here we had a bunch of stalwart pros who refused to roll over and succumb to a mere virus. All had travelled to York and recorded musical offerings on the theme of Method and Madness; eight events – three of them talks – over three days.

First out of the blocks, on July 9, was York’s own countertenor Iestyn Davies, partnered by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, a world-class pairing if ever there were. Their programme was devoted to that master of melancholy, John Dowland. If you want to be modern about it, you can class melancholia as an aspect of mental health. The Elizabethans called it a disease but made light of it too.

Melancholy was something to be enjoyed, even revelled in, and not excluding self-pity. We all know the feeling. Melancholy has been the counterpart in English song – though not the same – to the German Sehnsucht (yearning). Think of all those aching pastorals lamenting the passing of rural idylls, most of which were figments of the imagination anyway. We all enjoy a little angst.

We need not explore the many facets of Dowland’s melancholic psyche any further. Here we were reminded – by a letter he wrote from Nuremberg in 1595 – of his early exile, separated from the country, the queen and the family he loved by having to earn a living abroad, because his Catholic faith disqualified him from acceptance at court. Davies read this and other illuminating texts, mainly of the period, but including Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain too, to amplify Dowland’s many moods.

The music was not without technical shortcomings, not by the performers, but the technology: pictures that moved jerkily and occasional breaks in the sound. But a CD would not have been more satisfying.

It was a joy to get back to seeing live performers revelling in their art. Davies delivered reams of easy, liquid tone that underlined Dowland’s incomparable skill as a songwriter. His words were not especially clear, even with a text to hand, but that may have been due to insufficient ‘miking’.

Harpsichord player Steven Devine recording his 2020 York Early Music Festival concert at a deserted National Centre for Early Music in York

Kenny’s pluckings not merely supplied a rhythmic foundation. She improvised magically in her intros and in the space between verses (ritornellos); she also contributed several mood-lightening dances.

It was hard not to feel that we were experiencing Dowland’s songs exactly as they would have sounded 400 years ago, not in a dusty, ancient way, but as a living art as relevant today as Shakespeare. We may remember that Dowland’s Third and Last Booke of Songs was published in 1603, the same year as Hamlet – that arch-melancholic – was first printed.

The last word goes to Dowland himself, from his dedication to Lachrimae, a book of dances: “Pleasant are the tears which music weeps”. Indeed.

Matthew Wadsworth continued the Dowland theme on lute and theorbo at lunchtime on Friday, alongside the music of other contemporaries. There was as a wide a range of moods here as there had been in the songs, with bolder declamation from the long-necked theorbo with its deeper resonance.

Wadsworth flowed fluently over the strings and the close camera work emphasised the music’s intimacy.

During the afternoon, Steven Devine played the second half of Book 1 of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, the preludes and fugues Nos 13-24, on a two-manual Michael Johnson harpsichord built in Fontmell Magna in 1997. He proved a deft exponent, though on such a bright-toned instrument he might not have coupled the manuals quite so frequently. But at least we were able to marvel anew at the breadth of Bach’s ingenuity.

The evening brought in Richard Boothby playing a lyra viol, the smallest of the three kinds of bass viol. He began both halves with music by Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger, an Englishman of Italian descent who was especially prominent at the Jacobean court. Pairs of dances amply contrasted the gentler alman with the altogether friskier coranto, with its skipping rhythms.

Similar pairings from William Lawes and John Jenkins led into two brilliantly virtuosic variations by the little-known William Corkine and ‘divisions’ (variations) on Dowland’s famous Lachrime melody. Boothby introduced his music, which made the whole presentation much more personal.

We may be grateful to all these musicians for their labours in front of an unseen audience. The festival concluded with the ace choral group Stile Antico on Saturday evening. Watch this space for the review.

Review by Martin Dreyer

I’ll Try And See You Sometimes, say Alex and Phil in their five-pronged art attack

Oh, you are Orpheus: Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger, one notebook, one guitar, shoes off (out of picture) are here to entertain you “on people’s streets, at their front windows and in parks and gardens”

LIVE theatre is back, all over North Yorkshire, at your invitation.

Step forward York theatre-makers Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger, who are finding new ways of telling stories and creating art and theatre this summer.

As part of the duo’s five-pronged art attack under the banner I’ll Try And See You Sometimes, they are presenting Orpheus – A Hyper Local Tour, a show whose 325 two-hander performances before the Covid curse had taken Alex and Phil across the globe, let alone to Castle Howard.

As of today, announced by Culture Secretary at the Downing Street briefing on Thursday, outdoor performances can return, whether socially distanced theatre, opera, dance or music.

Alex and Phil have been ahead of the Government curve, however, setting I’ll Try And See You Sometimes in motion in mid-June.

“We’re taking Orpheus on an outdoor tour around North Yorkshire’s local lanes, villages, and towns, performing with social distancing in place and abiding by Government guidelines on how many people can meet at any one time,” says Alex.

“The shows can take place on people’s streets, at their front windows and in parks and gardens,” says Phil. “Instead of announcing a show that the public can book tickets for, we’re asking for people to pop on to and book a suitable slot and the whole show will be brought to them.”

The I’ll Try And See You Sometimes season is bringing together Wright’s company The Flanagan Collective, Grainger’s Gobbledigook Theatre and industry friends.

“We’re taking theatre and the arts to the people of Yorkshire, keeping spirits up and people connected during these times of social distancing to help combat loneliness, something needed more than ever in the Covid-19 climate,” they say.

“Some of it is hyper local, some of it is spread far further afield, some of it is music, some of it is stories, none of it is digital.”  

All the world’s a stage for Orpheus, whether in New York, on the Ouse Cruise boat in York or out in Australia

The duo’s five-hand of analogue works are: Orpheus – A Hyper Local Tour; Oh, To Be So Lonely – A Pen Pal Project; This Story Is For You – A New Story With Guest Illustrators; Half Man, Half Bull – Two Myths Over A Double Album and The Odyssey – An International Adaptation.

Both theatre-makers attended school in rural North Yorkshire, and still live there, five miles apart, Alexander at a converted 17th century mill in Stillington, Phil in Easingwold.

Usually, however, they spend most of their time away from home, touring theatre across the globe, but Covid-19 and the lockdown has brought them back to Yorkshire, where they are pooling their skills, experience and creativity.

“When the lockdown hit, we were touring in Australia and about to head to New Zealand,” says Alex. “We’ve been touring our adaptation of Orpheus for a few years now, taking it across the UK, around Australia, New Zealand, Bali and over to New York.”

Alex and Phil made a sister show, Eurydice, created with performers Serena Manteghi and Casey Jay Andrews, and this year added The Gods The Gods The Gods to their repertoire, premiered in Australia.

“All three shows were lined up for UK and international touring for the next 18 months or so, including a season at the Edinburgh Fringe. But obviously that has all changed now,” says Alex.

“I’ve been keeping up with the wider industry conversations – the difficulty in using auditoriums, the need for government assistance, the huge case for our industry to be saved – and we agree with all of it and we’ve also been aware of the need to do something.”

Hence the launch of I’ll Try And See You Sometimes, showing initiative, imagination, an eye for innovation and a need for adventure that marked out writer, director, musician and performer Alex’s best-known work: the Guild of Misrule’s immersive, jazz-age hit show The Great Gatsby that began at a closed York pub.

In a nutshell, he and musician, singer, composer, actor, director and sound designer Phil make and deliver work outside of the usual physical four walls. “We have shaped, created, railed against, built, torn down, raised and radicalised perceptions of what theatre, narrative, storytelling and a relationship with an audience can be,” says Alex.

“We’re now finding ways to keep telling stories. It’s not about re-imagining shows we wanted to do live, in rooms full of hundreds of people and, instead, try and fit them on Zoom.

Phil Grainger in a performance of Orpheus in pre-Coronavirus times

“There are wonderful digital storytellers and artists in the world, but we’re not one of them. So, we’ve come up with a season of analogue work: a season of work where you get tangible things, which seeks to connect people, deliver narratives, and tell stories.”

The quintet of works can be booked in North Yorkshire and accessed regionally, nationally and internationally as the season plays across a various outdoor spaces and will be available to download.

Run by Alex and his sister Abbigail Ollive’s Lonely Arts Club, Oh, To Be So Lonely is a pen pal project, whereby those who sign up will receive a letter saying hello, with a bit of chat and reading, listening and watching recommendations.

“Those who wish for their contact details to be shared with others in the group will have the opportunity to write and share their lockdown experiences with others wanting to reconnect with the community,” says Alex. 

This Story Is For You is a “typically sad” new story written by Alex with a soundtrack by Phil and artwork by guest illustrators. “We’ve teamed up with a bunch of pals and asked them to turn the story into a book, and to create unique artworks to go alongside the story,” says Phil. “Audiences will then get the story, the artwork, and the music to keep.”

For the Half Man, Half Bull double album, Alex and Phil have linked up with Ollie Tilney, from The Great Gatsby cast, and Streatham Space Project to retell two ancient Greek myths.

“We’re writing the story of Theseus & The Minotaur and Daedelus & Icarus as a double album release on vinyl, CD and for digital download,” says Phil. “Two stories, told together, made to be listened to.”

The Odyssey – An International Adaptation involves Alex and Phil teaming up with friends in the north, London, Amsterdam, New York, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Wellington to create an adaptation of Homer’s Greek epic poem, told through a series of one-on-one/small-scale encounters.

Those who book a ticket will be told to meet in a certain place at a certain time, to be joined there by a storyteller and or a musician

Details of the full season are available at, where bookings can be made too.

Has notebook, will take bookings: Alexander Flanagan-Wright in Orpheus

York Theatre Royal boosted by emergency funding from Arts Council England

York Theatre Royal’s stage and auditorium bathed in “emergency red” when taking part in the #LightItInRed campaign on Monday night

YORK Theatre Royal is to receive £196,493 from Arts Council England’s emergency response fund.

Executive director Tom Bird tweeted: “We’re massively grateful for the @ace_national support from their emergency fund. It keeps us going so we can keep supporting & developing creativity in this wondrous city. Thanks @ace_thenorth. Back to it.”

Bird told CharlesHutchPress: “We received the sum we requested, and it was strictly done on the basis of ‘what do you need to get you through to September 30’.

“But I must stress it is only a sum to take us to that point, when the reality is that we’re a venue usually with an annual turnover of £4 million.”

From Arts Council England’s £33 million pot for National Portfolio and Creative People & Places Organisations, York Museums Trust has received £362,000; Harrogate Theatre, £395,000; Leeds Playhouse (Leeds Theatre Trust), £669,326; Northern Ballet, Leeds, £500,000 and Sheffield Theatres Trust, £675,569.

York poet Robert Powell’s new pamphlet to be launched at Explore York online event

Robert Powell’s new pamphlet, Notes From A Border

EXPLORE York is taking its events programme online, hosting the launch of York poet Robert Powell’s new pamphlet on Zoom on July 20 at 7pm.

Notes From A Border River was created as part of Voicing The Bridge, a collaborative arts project on the theme of freedom of movement that focused on the Northern Irish border during Brexit negotiations in 2019.

The project took place on the River Finn that forms part of the border and, in particular, the remarkable 17th century bridge that crosses the river at the village of Clady.

Robert will read from his pamphlet, with its creative mix of poetry, diary, research and photography, and will discuss how half-planned and accidental meetings, encounters, discoveries, walks and musings eventually assumed the form of finished poems.

Zoom launch: York poet Robert Powell

In addition, there will be a question-and-answer session and a showing of Voicing The Bridge, the film made as part of the border project by Jan-Erik Andersson.

The event is free, but you need to book online on York Explore’s Eventbrite page to receive a link to attend. To buy a copy of Notes From A Border River for £7.50, go to

This pamphlet launch is the first in a series of online events planned by Explore York Libraries and Archives over the summer and into autumn and winter.

Grand Opera House confirms no shows until after September 20 at the earliest

Kevin Clifton in his dream role as Scott Hastings in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom: Now running at the Grand Opera House, York, in November 2021, rather than November 23 to 28 this autumn, directed by Craig Revel Horwood

ALL performances at the Grand Opera House, York, are suspended until September 20 at the earliest “in order to help contain the spread of Covid-19”.

A statement from the Cumberland Street theatre’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group, said today: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused but hope you understand, given the exceptional circumstances.”

“We were encouraged to see the Government’s intervention to protect UK culture this week,” it went on. “We continue to work closely with health authorities and look forward to the wonderful re-opening of the Grand Opera House as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“To this end, we are sorry to confirm that all performances at Ambassador Theatre Group venues have been suspended until Saturday, September 20.

“If you have a booking that has been affected by this suspension, you do not need to do anything. Over the coming weeks, we will contact you directly and will be able to handle your requests and enquiries.”

Shows aplenty have been rearranged, such as Strictly Ballroom, starring Strictly Come Dancing old boy Kevin Clifton (November 15 to 20 2021) and comedy gigs by Ross Noble (Humournoid, January 21 2021) and Jimmy Case (Terribly Funny, April 28 2021).

“We are working with producers to re-schedule as many postponed shows as possible, so please do bear with us,” ATG’s statement said. “If your performance is re-scheduled, your tickets will be automatically moved to the new dates and you will be informed accordingly.

Jimmy Carr: Grand Opera House show moving to next spring

“We have also recently announced new performances, such as The Rolling Stones Story on January 22 2021 and The Simon & Garfunkel Story on April 29. Please book with confidence, knowing that if there are any further suspensions, your new tickets will remain fully valid for further exchanges or refunds.”

ATG added: “Customers booked for performances between August 3 and September 6 will be contacted in the week commencing July 13. Customers booked for remaining performances will be contacted in the week commencing July 20.”

Full credit vouchers valid until December 31 2021, including all fees, or refunds, are available for all cancelled shows. For further details, go to

Nationwide, over the past few months, ATGtickets Customer Service Teams up and down the country have handled the re-scheduling of more than 15,000 performances of plays, musicals, comedy and live music.

“From November 2020 and throughout 2021, we have a wonderful array of productions on sale, everything from pantomime to The Book Of Mormon, Disney’s The Lion King to Jimmy Carr and Derren Brown to We Will Rock You,” said ATG.

“On behalf of all our staff, backstage crews, front-of-house teams, actors, dancers, musicians and the entire British theatre industry, we want to thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to ensure the future success of our industry.

“All of us at ATG are enormously proud to be a small part of British theatre, renowned as the greatest in the world. The arts has inspired, educated, entertained and enriched the lives of audiences for hundreds of years but has never been challenged like this. With your on-going commitment, we believe we can come back faster and stronger than ever before.”

Yorkshire’s Got Talent finale could take place on Rowntree Theatre stage if….

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre building, bathed in “emergency red” when taking part in the #LightItInRed campaign for urgent support for the theatre industry on Monday night

PLANS are afoot for the climax of the Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest to be held at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, rather than online.

The Haxby Road theatre has announced it will “hand over the stage to the contest once it is able to re-open and  many performers who will have taken part “virtually” can take centre stage in front of a live audience”.

No date has been set for such a finale, against the background of no easing of the Government’s lockdown strictures on theatres, all having been cast into darkness since mid-March.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent is being run by York teenager Hannah Wakelam, a regular musical theatre performer at the JoRo, in aid of the Art Deco building’s £90,000 Raise the Roof appeal for roof repairs.

Hannah, 19, has signed up three VIP guests to judge the event: Wicked star Laura Pick, from Wakefield, West End regular and cruise ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge, from York, and Ripon vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent judge Laura Pick in her West End role as Elphaba in Wicked

Entries are open from now until August 1 for a contest with a £100 prize. “All types of performers are encouraged to enter and to show off what they can do,” says Hannah.

“Whether it’s singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, performing a circus act, the list is endless.”

The cost of entries is a minimum donation of £5 to the Raise the Roof appeal and no age restrictions apply. “Because of lockdown rules, entrants will be asked to submit a short video of themselves performing their acts,” says Hannah. “The winner will receive £100 and their online performances will be seen right across the Yorkshire area.”

Hannah is hoping that, schedules permitting, the three VIP judges, will be able to attend the climax to her county-wide contest at the JoRo.  

Laura Pick was playing Elphaba in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in the West End until the Covid-19 lockdown. Nathan Lodge, no stranger to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, has many West End credits, complemented by his career as a vocal captain on cruise ships. Vocal coach Amelia Urukal has experience aplenty in judging talent competitions and runs the Upstage Academy performing arts studio in Ripon.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest organiser Hannah Wakelam

Determined to help the JoRo, Hannah says: “It’s because of my experience on stage at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre that I’m following my dream to be a professional performer. 

“I honestly wouldn’t be where I am now without this community venue and all it does for young talent.  This contest is just my way of saying ‘thank you’ and I’d love other young performers to learn about the opportunities they can find here.”

Hannah is running a raffle alongside the talent contest and is urging businesses or individuals to consider donating prizes.  “All donors will be credited in our publicity,” she says. “The theatre has kicked off the appeal for donations by offering theatre tokens and a framed print of the Art Deco building by artist Elliot Harrison.”

To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to “donate even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”.  To do so, go to

Full rules and details of how to enter Yorkshire’s Got Talent can be found here:



Everything stops for tea and cake concerts at St Chad’s, where dementia-friendly series will not return until 2021

Cancelled concert: Robert and Alison Gammon called off their March 19 concert as the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown loomed

NO further Dementia Friendly Tea Concerts will take place at St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, York, in Covid-19 2020.

Co-organiser Alison Gammon says: “Unfortunately, we have had to take the decision to cancel all the events for the rest of this year. We are very sad about this, but we felt that it was just too risky to continue.

“However, we are hoping to start the concerts again next year. All the musicians that I had booked said that they would be willing to come and play for us another time, so I’ll be organising more concerts as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Husband and wife Robert and Alison Gammon, on piano and clarinet, were to have played an afternoon programme of Camille Saint-Saens’ Clarinet Sonata and Niels Gade’s Fantasy Pieces, on March 19 but the concert was called off in the week before lockdown was imposed.

“At the time, we were well advanced with the planning for the rest of the year, with The Clementhorpe Piano Trio booked for the next concert on April 16 and only May’s concert to confirm,” says Alison, who runs the Dementia Friendly Tea Concerts with Nick Nightingale.

Roll on 2021 and hopefully the return of afternoon concerts at St Chad’s, followed by tea, coffee and homemade cakes.

“In the meantime, I hope that you are managing to find live music on the radio and online, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all again for music, tea and cake before too long,” says Alison.

Whenever they resume, as ever no charge will apply for these tea concerts, but donations are always welcome. “Any money left over from heating the church and tuning the piano is sent to the Alzheimer’s Society,” says Alison. 

“Everyone is welcome at these relaxed events and the concerts provide an opportunity for people who may not be able to attend a formal classical recital to experience live music.”

York Early Music Festival goes digital from today for three days of online concerts

A socially distant Consone Quartet recording their Breaking The Habit concert at the otherwise empty NCEM for the online 2020 York Early Music Festival

THE 2020 York Early Music Festival will be streamed online from this evening until Saturday.

Replacing the Covid-cancelled Method & Madness-themed live event from July 3 to 11, the revised remote festival now combines performances and talks by a line-up of performers based in England.

The virtual festival will be headlined by York countertenor Iestyn Davies and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny in a concert streamed live tonight at, complemented by performances recorded over the past ten days by Steven Devine, Richard Boothby, Consone Quartet and Matthew Wadsworth.

Stile Antico will close the three-day event with a live concert on Saturday, performed, like all the rest, with no live audience at the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate.

Since the decision was taken to cancel this year’s live festival, under the Coronavirus lockdown, organisers have been working hard behind the scenes to deliver the weekend-long programme of music.

Digital producer Ben Pugh’s technical equipment for recording the Consone Quartet concert for streaming on Saturday afternoon

To bring the online festival together, the NCEM has linked up with digital producer Ben Pugh, who has brought his ubiquitous expertise to the concert recordings and will be on hand, at a distance, to stream the live Davies & Kenny and Stile Antico concerts.

“We’ve purchased more video and sound equipment, so it’s more like a TV studio environment now,” says festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which will help with social distancing.”

Tonight, at 7.30pm, Davies and Kenny present A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Robert Burton, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Barnabe Googe, Ben Jonson, William Leighton, Henry Peacham, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain.  

“To place John Dowland’s artistic output squarely in the frame of ‘Elizabeth melancholia’ is to strip away a richer layer of biography that lies within his crafted lines of music and words,” says Davies.

“Rather, by embracing the songs and solo lute airs as the expressions of a man seeking to find words to say how we fail, we engage in a dialogue that enriches both us and the artistic subject of John Dowland himself.”

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor opens the virtual 2020 York Early Music Festival tonight in tandem with theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny

Tomorrow, John Bryan begins the day with an illustrated introduction to the festivities at 10.30am, highlighting how each concert is linked by a theme of fantasy. This will be followed at 1pm by lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth playing works by Kapsperger, Piccinini, Dowland and Francesco da Milano, plus Echoes In Air, a piece written specially for him by Laura Snowden.

“In a world where live music is in a very fragile place, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this programme, while being sensitive to the fact that so many artists and arts organisation are in very difficult circumstances,” says Wadsworth.

“I have put together a programme of some of my favourite 17th century music, ending with a wonderful new piece written for me in 2019 by guitarist and composer Laura Snowden.

“When I was asked in 2019 to give a concert in the 2020 festival, I, along with everybody else, had no idea that we would be facing a pandemic together. As we adjust to a new normal, and start to find our way again, I am ever more convinced that music and the arts are an absolute necessity, not a luxury.”

Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth recording tomorrow’s Echoes In Air concert

Wadsworth continues: “I am reminded how, when I moved abroad for the first time in 1997 to study in The Hague, I felt very lost and out of place.

“Music and the lute were a constant, and I realised I could take this source of security anywhere with me. I feel that same comfort and sense of reassurance today, knowing that live music – that most precious shared listening experience between artist and audience – has a past, present and a future.” 

At 3.30pm, harpsichord player Steven Devine performs JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Preludes & Fugues, from Book 1: Nos. 13 to 24. At 7.30pm, lyra viol player Richard Boothby plays music by Ferrabosco, Jenkins and Lawes,  alongside William Corkine’s virtuoso settings of popular tunes such as Come Live With Me and Be My Love. 

The BBC’s New Generation artists Consone Quartet open Saturday’s online programme at 1pm with Beethoven’s String Quartets Opus 18, Nos 2 & No 3.

“Performing Beethoven’s music is both an exciting and an exhausting experience,” says violinist Magdalena Loth-Hill, who plays alongside Agata Daraskaite, violin, Elitsa Bogdanova, viola, and George Ross, cello.

Devine inspiration: Steven Devine at the harpsichord in the stillness of the deserted National Centre for Early Music, recording Bach’s Preludes and Fugues

“The abrupt changes of dynamic, key and direction require the musicians to be alert and adaptable, both musically responsive and elastic in technique. This opus is particularly fascinating because it marks an important turning point in the history of the string quartet.

“It is clearly influenced by the classical form and structure of ‘Papa’ Haydn’s work, yet the listener can sense the winds of change blowing, and a new musical language on the horizon.”

At 3.30pm, York Early Music Festival luminary Peter Seymour, a titan of the York classical music world, will introduce the story behind his recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

The festival closes with vocal ensemble Stile Antico’s 7.30pm programme, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, featuring works by Raffaella Aleotti; Sulpitia Cesis; Maddalena Casulana; Pierre de la Rue; Margaret of Austria; Leonora d’Este; Thomas Tallis; John Sheppard; William Byrd; John Taverner; John Bennett and Richard Carlton.

The 16th century saw an unprecedented number of female rulers,” says Delma, setting up the concert’s premise. “From the powerful Medici women of Italy to the great Tudor queens of England, women across Europe held more power than ever before. 

“Many of these monarchs used their patronage to facilitate the production of music of exquisite beauty by the finest composers of the day, extravagant showcases of their power contrasting with intimate and personal compositions. 

The recording set-up for Consone Quartet’s York Early Music Festival concert

“The century also saw the first publication of music by female composers, often Italian nuns, whose convents supported musical groups of astonishing ability.” 

Drawing attention to BBC Radio 3’s festival broadcasts, Delma says: “As an added treat, Radio 3 is presenting its Early Music Show from the festival on Sunday at 2pm, as we celebrate 35 years of supporting emerging ensembles through the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

“Radio 3 then completes our celebrations with two magnificent performances from our archive: The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, on July 14, recorded in York Minster in 2015, and Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX1, recorded in 2014 and now broadcast again on July 15.”

The NCEM was one of the first arts organisations to stream live concerts online during the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with performances by Steven Devine and The Brabant Ensemble. Since March, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has  reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

It is not too late to book tickets for the latest batch at and, with a festival package costing £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

“At this complicated time, it’s a great joy to be able to share music with our audiences once again,” says Delma. “The digital festival is a first for the NCEM and we look forward to people’s reactions.  Whatever else, everyone gets a front row seat!”  

“I would also like to thank Arts Council England, City of York Council, JWP Creers, Shepherd Group and Creative Europe for their invaluable support.”

Stile Antico, back in the days when you could share a stairway. Social distancing will prevail at their July 11 concert at the NCEM. Picture: Marco Borggreve

Did you know?

AFTER Saturday’s concert, Stile Antico will stay on at the NCEM for three days of recordings for their Mayflower project, now put back to 2021.


MARTIN Dreyer’s reviews of tonight’s opening concert by Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny and Saturday’s closing concert by Stile Antico will run on the CharlesHutchPress website.

Pilot Theatre welcomes £1.57bn arts aid package but calls for fair share all round

On yer bike: Nigar Yeva, left, Aimee Powell, Olisa Odele, Kate Donnachie and Corey Campbell in Pilot Theatre’s Covid-curtailed 2020 production, Crongton Knights. Picture: Robert Day

YORK company Pilot Theatre is calling for an “equitable approach to the distribution” of the Government’s £1.57 billion arts aid package.

This plea comes in the wake of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hinting at priority being given to protecting “the crown jewels”, while seeking to support small-scale venues too.

All this at a time when Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under the spotlight after his General Election victory pledge to “level up” the playing field for places not called London and the South East.

In a statement released today “in response to the Government’s cultural investment announcement” under the cloak of night late on Sunday, Pilot’s joint chief executives, artistic director Esther Richardson and executive producer Amanda Smith, “welcomed the news that the UK government has put together a rescue package for arts and culture”.

“Thank you to every single person and organisation who has given time and energy to the campaigns for our industry through the most challenging period we can remember,” they said. 

Esther Richardson: Co-director of Crongton Knights and artistic director of Pilot Theatre. Picture: Robert Day

“The details of the rescue package are not yet clear, but what is clear is that there must be an equitable approach to the distribution of this funding. The committees that now take the decisions over how emergency support is shared must be representative of all our communities.”

Pilot, the pioneering resident company at York Theatre Royal,  is noted for its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, all-inclusive ethos, prompting Esther and Amanda to say: “Black, Asian, minority ethnic, disabled and LGBTQI+ leaders must be at this table as well as a healthy number of those who do not work in London, and those who can speak for the freelance workforce. 

“Children and young people and their interests must also be central, as must organisations and individuals who specialise in working with these groups.”

The chief execs urge: “This money will offer some in the sector a short-term lifeline but all who receive it should seize upon the longer-term opportunity to create work throughout the UK that is bold, imaginative and truly accessible and inclusive.

“This is a welcome gesture but only the beginning of the longer project to ensure the survival and growth of the arts in all our communities.”

Pilot Theatre were on tour with their premiere of Emteaz Hussain’s adaptation of Alex Wheatle’s young adult novel Crongton Knights when the Covid-19 shutdown intervened.

Madcap adventure: Nigar Yeva, left, Zak Douglas Aimee Powell, Olisa Odele and Khai Shaw in Pilot Theatre’s Crongton Knights. Picture: Robert Day

Performed at York Theatre Royal from February 25 to 29, Crongton Knights took its audience on a night of madcap adventure as McKay and his friends, The Magnificent Six, encountered the dangers and ultimate triumphs of a mission gone awry.

In this story of how lessons learned the hard way can bring you closer together, the pulse of the city was brought to life on stage with a Conrad Murray soundscape of beatboxing and vocals laid down by the cast of Kate Donnachie; Zak Douglas; Simi Egbejumi-David; Nigar Yeva; Olisa Odele; Aimee Powell; Khai Shaw and Marcel White.

Wheatle, a writer born in London to Jamaican parents, said he was “very proud” of Pilot Theatre adapting his novel for the stage: “It’s a modern quest story where, on their journey, the young diverse lead characters have to confront debt, poverty, blackmail, loss, fear, the trauma of a flight from a foreign land and the omnipresent threat of gangland violence.”

During lockdown, Pilot launched the webcast premiere of their co-production with the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Derby Theatre and York Theatre Royal online for free on April 22, the night when Richardson and Corey Campbell’s show  would have been opening its London run at Theatre Peckham.

Last year, Pilot and the York, Derby and Coventry theatres, together with Colchester’s Mercury Theatre, launched a partnership to develop theatre for younger audiences. During the four-year cycle from 2019 to 2022, the consortium will commission and co-produce four original mid-scale productions. 

Eboracum Baroque gather remotely for Heroic fundraising night of Handel music

The 25 Eboracum Baroque musicians and singers who will perform the Heroic Handel virtual concert

EBORACUM Baroque will present Heroic Handel in a fundraising virtual concert for the York ensemble on July 18.

This 7pm programme of Handel’s music has been recorded and filmed in isolation during lockdown to be premiered on and

The concert will feature virtuosic Handel operatic arias from Rinaldo and Giulio Cesare, characterful instrumental music and the concluding magnificent Coronation anthem, Zadok The Priest.

“This is a chance to hear talented young musicians performing Handel’s dazzling music for singers and a full period instrument orchestra,” says founder, director and trumpet player Chris Parsons, a University of York graduate. 

Twenty-five Eboracum Baroque musicians have each recorded their individual parts separately from across Britain and Europe before being assembled remotely for this unique performance.

“This is a chance to support young professional musicians in these uncertain times and secure the financial future of Eboracum Baroque, so that we can continue to offer high quality, engaging musical experiences including concerts, recordings and education workshops,” says Chris.

Across lockdown, the ensemble has given a series of virtual concerts featuring repertoire for solo instrumentalists and singers, as well as a Spotlight series focusing on different instruments from the ensemble.

“For Heroic Handel, we’re delighted to be joined by our good friends, York Gin, who will present a segment of the concert all about the gin craze of the 18th century – and some cocktail making too,” says Chris. “Dress up as if you were going to watch the concert live, grab a drink of your choosing and enjoy Handel’s glorious music from the comfort of your own home.”

Eboracum Baroque players perform Vivaldi at York Mansion House

Here Eboracum Baroque trumpet player and director Chris Parsons answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on remote concerts in lockdown, climaxing with Heroic Handel.

How did the project start?

“Eboracum have been working on virtual projects all through lockdown with our themed virtual concerts and Spotlight concerts, which feature different instruments from the ensemble.

“These were either performed via Zoom live or pre-recorded. They all featured just solo repertoire – and sometimes the performers duetting with themselves with the help of technology.

“But we were really keen to do something a bit bigger and utilise all the great musicians in the ensemble, so our project Heroic Handel was born, featuring 25 musicians all coming together to perform lots of music from opera arias, chamber music and right through to Zadok The Priest for full orchestra and choir.

“The great thing is that it’s been such a fantastic collaborative project between all of the musicians, who have all been so positive and supportive. We’re really keen to keep music going and we’re hoping this will do that.”

Eboracum Baroque’s poster for the Heroic Handel concert

How do you put together a virtual concert recording?

“It’s quite different to a usual concert! The main thing is keeping everyone together, with everyone sending their recordings in separately from wherever they are – mostly all across the UK but some in Serbia and Spain!

“The main thing is a click track and a pair of headphones. I choose the tempo of the piece – Handel wouldn’t have known what a metronome was! – and that is then sent in the form of a click track and the players and singers have to stay exactly in time, so that it can be stuck together using software.

“It’s quite a strange process recording your part all by yourself and not bouncing off the other players/singers. We actually had the cello and harpsichord record their parts first and then people could have some instruments to play along to, along with the click track.

“Quite a new experience for many of us, but one we’ve embraced it if it means we can get to perform together.” 

What does the editing require?

“David Sims, another music graduate from the University of York, is the tech whizz who puts it all together. As he put it, his job is ‘sticking it all together and making sure that if people have recorded in their bathroom/garage/box room, he can make it sound like everyone is actually in the same place’!”

As director, how have you selected the programme for the themed concerts and what have been the themes so far?

“Again, quite a collaborative experience with all the musicians involved. As we were all performing completely solo, it was important to choose the right repertoire – and the right instruments.

“As a trumpeter, there’s not really much music that works completely by itself, so I didn’t have too much to play, but there’s lots of solo music for cello, violin, oboe and recorder that worked really well.

“We also had some folk songs sung by John Holland Avery, which worked really nicely unaccompanied.

“The themes have been everything from Baroque Dance music (including teaching the audience  how to dance a minuet in their own home); Bach’s Leipzig Coffee House concerts and an Italian theme again with audience participation, teaching an 18th century Venetian gondolier song!”

Eboracum Baroque musicians at Stamford Georgian Festival

How have the Spotlight concerts gone?

“They’ve been great to really show up close our baroque instruments. We’ve done ones for recorder, strings, oboe and trumpet. For the trumpet one, we used technology to combine myself and another trumpeter, so we could do some more repertoire.” 

What has been the reaction to the concerts in this union of the baroque and 21st century technology?

“Really positive. I think audiences are so keen to hear music and enjoy seeing the innovation so many ensembles have come up with during this strange time. We’ve found people really enjoy – particularly during March/April time – the Friday lunchtime concert time as something to look forward to in the week.

“It’s allowed us to explore repertoire we might not have done, which is a good thing, I think, to introduce audiences to new pieces as well.” 

Heroic Handel is the biggest concert yet. How much planning has it taken and how have you put the programme together?

“Yes, it’s been quite a process bringing everything together, but an exciting one! We began planning this at the start of May, so it’s been a great way to keep musicians busy.

“The main thing has been making sure we get all the tech side of things ready so that everyone knows how to do it. Again, it was quite a collaborative process.

“The great thing about Eboracum is that we’re a very flexible ensemble: one gig might be three musicians and another might be 20 musicians!

“So, I hope this concert will showcase everything Eboracum does. There are pieces in this concert with three players (the Recorder Sonata) and Zadok The Priest has all 25 players playing in it.”

What do you love most about Handel’s music?

“His music has everything! It can be so dramatic – all the grandeur with trumpets and timpani – but also so beautiful and expressive. He can just write a great tune and knows how to make it work for every situation.

“The opera arias you will hear in this concert are pieces that people in England would have heard nothing like till then and I’m sure they must have been blown away by it. He knew how to write for a big occasion too: Zadok The Priest just builds the tension before the glorious entry of the choir and the trumpets – a perfect piece for the coronation of a king.”

Eboracum Baroque chamber musicians at Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire

What’s coming next for Eboracum Baroque?

“This concert is really the culmination of our work in lockdown. We’ll then probably have a bit of breather for the rest of July and most of August as we work on what comes next for us.

“It’s such an uncertain time but we’re hoping we can begin to work together in the same place – probably in a church without an audience – where we can record concerts and then live-stream them.

“Particularly, we want to plan towards Christmas, which is really the time of year that will be decisive financially in how the ensemble proceeds into 2021.” 

What are you missing most in lockdown musically?

“Being together in the same room. Can’t wait till we can logistically get back to playing together. Eboracum members are more than just colleagues, we’re all good friends, so we’re missing the social side too.”

How will you feel when Eboracum Baroque can perform together again cheek by jowl?

“It’ll be an amazing feeling, I’m certain of it, probably quite an odd one too, playing with people in the same room again, but it’ll be fantastic, I’m sure of it!

“It will no doubt be a slightly different set-up for a while – including any required distancing – but I think it will really boost morale as well.”

How do you foresee the future for freelance musicians in these desperate times?

“It’s such an uncertain time. I’m ever the optimist that, in time, music will come storming back. The arts will be required even more than ever and having seen all the innovation during this lockdown period, I’m absolutely certain that this creativity will continue – creating new ways to watch concerts, new set-ups for audiences etc.

“For freelancers like myself and many of the Eboracum team, we just hope that venues are given the go-ahead to open and begin to programme concerts again in whatever form is possible.

“It will be a long, hard slog but I know musicians are never tiring and we’ll fight to bring this amazing industry back to happier times.”

Have you discovered anything to the good in lockdown? 

“During lockdown my wife and I had our first baby, a baby girl born at the start of April. So, we’ve been kept busy! A silver lining from it all is that I’ve been at home throughout and have been able to spend so much time with our new addition and to help my wife too, so that’s been great but we’re looking forward to slowly having more people around!

“Also, I’ve enjoyed a slightly slower pace of life – even with a new-born – and I think when things do eventually get back to normal, I’d like to try and keep a bit of that…”

Eboracum Baroque director Chris Parsons

THE July 18 concert comprises: Handel’s March from Rinaldo; O The Pleasure Of The Plains from Acis And Galatea; Sibilar Gli Annui d’Aletto from Rinaldo, featuring baritone John Holland Avery; Sonata in B minor, Opus 2 No 1: Andante and Allegro; V’adoro, Pupille from Giulio Cesare, featuring soprano Charlotte Bowden; Recorder Sonata in F major, and Zadok The Priest: Coronation Anthem for George II.

The Eboracum Baroque singers and musicians performing Heroic Handel are:

Sopranos: Lottie Bowden, Tamsin Raitt, Elen Lloyd Roberts, Naomi Sturgess

Altos: Laura Baldwin, Alex Osborne, Mark Williams

Tenors: Gareth Edmunds, Will Wright

Basses: John Holland Avery, Jamie Woollard

Violins: Katarina Djordevic, Kirsty Main 

Viola: Sam Kennedy 

Cello: Miri Nohl

Double bass: Frances Preston

Harpsichords: Seb Gillot and Marta Lopez

Oboes: Nicola Barbagli, Katie Lewis

Recorder:Miriam Monaghan

Trumpets: Brendan Musk, Chris Parsons

Timpani: Fabian Edwards

Bassoons: Catriona McDermid

Conductor: Chris Parsons

Audio and video editing: David Sims 

Eboracum Baroque performing Handel’s Messiah at Senate House, Cambridge

Who are Eboracum Baroque?

THIS group of professional singers and classical instrumentalists was formed in 2012 by Chris Parsons at the University of York and the Royal College of Music and has performed across the Britain and Europe, from Senate House, Cambridge, to The Temple Church, London, and Christuskirche, Hannover.

As well as their concert performances, Eboracum Baroque have given fully staged performances of Purcell’s Dido And Aeneas and Handel’s Acis And Galatea. 

Performing music from across the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the ensemble has a particular specialism in English music from the 17th and 18th Century.

In January 2015, Eboracum Baroque recorded their first album, funded by the National Trust and Arts Council England, comprising forgotten music by the English Baroque composer Thomas Tudway (1650-1726), recorded at Wimpole Hall, near Cambridge, where Tudway worked from 1714 to 1726.

The ensemble seeks to champion forgotten English composers from the period while still performing many famous works. Their second CD, Sounds Of Suffolk, released in November 2018, features forgotten music from 18th century Suffolk, such as violin sonatas by Joseph Gibbs and music from Ickworth House. 

Eboracum Baroque perform at National Trust properties, such as Wimpole Hall, Oxburgh Hall and Canons Ashby, presenting programmes unique to each property’s history.

In December 2015, the group undertook its first major tour abroad with performances of Handel’s Messiah in Münster and Hannover in Germany. A December 2017 tour of Estonia took in concerts of Bach’s Magnificat and Vivaldi’s Magnificat in Tartu and Tallinn, the second being broadcast on Estonian National Radio. 

Eboracum Ensemble run an education programme with schools across Britain, such as projects based around Handel’s Water Music and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

They continue to work with Horrible Histories author Terry Deary on projects where they hope to introduce the next generation of musicians to Baroque music. Performances with Terry have included a new narration of Purcell’s King Arthur and The Fairy Queen and The Glorious Georgians, a show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

They have devised The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, an educational project designed around Vivaldi’s Four Seasons that has toured many schools, working with festivals and music hubs, such as the Edinburgh Book Festival and the National Centre for Early Music in York. 

Eboracum Baroque give concerts regularly in their home city of York at York Mansion House, as well as frequent performances in their “second home” in Cambridge, not least of Handel’s Messiah for the past seven years to a sold-out audience of 600 each time. 

Richard Thompson to play 2021 Platform Festival after Covid de-railed July’s Old Station gig. Son Teddy heads for Pock too

Richard Thompson: Changing Platform date in Pocklington

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has confirmed Thompson dates at the double for 2021.

Father Richard, the 71-year-old English folk-rock luminary, songwriter and guitarist, will play next summer’s Platform Festival, run by PAC at The Old Station, on July 21. Son Teddy, the English singer and songwriter long resident in New York City, is booked in for January 22.

This summer’s Covid-curtailed Platform Festival would have opened with comedian Omid Djalili on Thursday, followed by Robert Plant’s Saving Grace on Friday; Shed Seven’s Rick  Witter and Paul Banks headlining Super Saturday in acoustic mode and the BBC Big Band next Tuesday.

Fairport Convention alumnus Richard Thompson, who now lives in Montclair, New Jersey, after three decades in Los Angeles, was in the diary to close the festival next Wednesday. Instead, you will have to wait a year now.

Next January, son Teddy will showcase his sixth solo studio album, Heartbreaker Please, released on May 29 on Thirty Tigers.

“Here’s the thing, you don’t love me anymore,” sings Teddy on his frank contribution to the time-honoured break-up record club. “I can tell you’ve got one foot out the door.”

Teddy Thompson: Joining the break-up album club. Picture: Gary Waldman

From the off, Heartbreaker Please wrestles with the breakdown of love with wistful levity and devastating honesty. The songs are drawn from the demise of a real-life relationship, set against the backdrop of New York City, the place Thompson has called home for the better part of two decades, having left London for the USA at 18 and settled in the Big Apple five years later.

“I took a summer vacation that never ended,” he says. “In retrospect, I was trying to reinvent myself. It was easier to leave it all behind, go somewhere new and declare myself an artist. And you can actually re-invent yourself in America; step off the plane, say ‘my name is Teddy Thompson, I’m a musician’.”

In a departure for Teddy, at the [broken] heart of Heartbreaker Please are references to someone else doing the heart-breaking. “I’m usually the one who does that!” he says. “A defence mechanism, of course, but all of a sudden I was the one on the back foot. I was the ‘plus 1’, and I admit, I didn’t deal with it very well. But also, don’t date actors.”

The relationship ended just as Thompson was finishing penning the songs that would form Heartbreaker Please. “I tend to write sad songs, slow songs. It’s what comes naturally,” he says. “So I tried to make an effort here to set some of the misery to a nice beat! Let the listener bop their heads while they weep.”

Teddy, 44-year-old son of Richard and Linda Thompson, will be supported by another artiste with a folk-roots heritage: Roseanne Reid, eldest daughter of The Proclaimers’ Craig Reid.

Tickets for Thompson times two are on sale at

York Theatre Royal goes into the red…to highlight the need for emergency support

Red sky at night : York Theatre Royal taking part in the #LightItInRed campaign tonight

YORK Theatre Royal will be bathed in “emergency red” tonight as part of the nationwide #LightItInRed campaign.

The 9pm event was announced before the Blues came to the arts industry’s aid in the dead of night last night when the Government suddenly announced a £1.57 billion grant and loan package after the Covid-19 pandemic left theatres and music venues in the dark, both physically and as to when they might re-open both safely and economically viably, stymied by social-distancing measures.

The choice of red has turned out to be prescient, given the most well-worn reaction of the day being that “the devil is in the detail”.

Taken as red: The foyer “mushrooms” pictured on #LightItInRed night at York Theatre Royal

Organised by Clearsound Productions in partnership with the Backstage Theatre Jobs, the #LightItInRed project sees theatres, arts and music venues up and down the country lighting their buildings in red to “raise awareness of the difficulties facing the UK events industry as a result of the Coronavirus crisis”.

Unlike for other industries, no set date is in place for live events, shows, festivals and performances to re-start after the COVID-19 lockdown, against the backdrop of the “creative sector” usually generating around £110 billion annually for the UK economy, based on figures from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Since mid-March 16, however, major events have been prohibited, leaving more than 25,000 businesses without any income. York Theatre Royal, for example, has lost £650,000 in expected income since its closure on March 17. 

In a statement today, the Theatre Royal “welcomes, with gratitude, the announcement that the government will support the arts with a £1.57bn funding package and keenly awaits the details of how the funding will work”. 

“We currently have no clear time frame as to when our doors will be able to re-open,” says York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird

Before the late-night announcement of a deal thrashed out by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Chancellor, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, the Theatre Royal’s executive director, Tom Bird, had warned that “the clock is ticking” after Dowden initially announced a road map for theatre’s return “that a child could have drawn up”.

Others had called the five-step plan – short on detail, devoid of dates – a road map to nowhere, a faulty SatNav leading only to a cliff’s edge.

Today Bird called for a “clear time frame” for urgent action beyond the words. “York Theatre Royal makes a huge social and economic impact in our city, and we have been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure we come roaring back with an epic programme for all the community to enjoy,” he said.

Silence is…red: The York Theatre Royal stage and auditorium, as empty as they have been since March 17, on the #LightItInRed campaign night

“We are delighted and grateful that the Government have committed £1.57bn to support the arts sector. However, our theatre remains closed, and we currently have no clear time frame as to when our doors will be able to re-open.

“Just 11 per cent of our annual income comes from state funding, the rest is made up by our audiences: the thousands of people who come to be entertained and inspired by us every year.

“We are pursuing all possible sources of funding, including the Government support, but we ask that you join the many who have already supported us by donating to us.”

Tom continued: “This is a difficult time for our building, but it is an incredibly difficult time for the freelancers who make up such an important part of our theatre family. 70 per cent of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance, and it’s for this workforce that the impact of the current situation is most acute. Our freelance family are very much in our thoughts and plans for the future.” 

On red alert: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre, the York community theatre in Haxby Road, taking part in tonight’s #LightItInRed emergency campaign

The Theatre Royal is asking people to share photos of the red-lit building in St Leonard’s Place on social media, using the hashtag #LightItInRed. Donations to York Theatre Royal can be made online at

Tonight, York Theatre Royal, the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House will be among 564 “iconic landmarks” to be lit up in “emergency red to draw attention to the critical condition of the live events and entertainment industry”, in a campaign inspired by Germany’s #NightofLight protest in June that triggered €1billion in emergency arts funding.

A spokesman for #LightItInRed said: “While we welcome the rescue package from the Government, we await clarification about what this means for freelancers, suppliers and those in the wider theatrical and events industry.  We continue to light buildings red this evening to show we are still standing by to reopen.”

Taking part too tonight will be the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, whose chair of the board of trustees, Dan Shrimpton, said: “We want to show our support for this movement.  Our theatre is all about involvement and community and because of the generous support given to us by local company Technical Stage Services, we’ve been able to get the ‘Emergency Red’ lighting set up quickly. “

Shortly before the closure of theatres, the JoRo, in Haxby Road, York, launched its Raise The Roof appeal to raise a £90,000 shortfall for roof repairs, with the remaining costs coming from reserves. 

“A prolonged closure will result in the theatre needing to dip into those reserves to meet running costs, so the charity will be keeping a watch to see if it will be able to apply for grants or loans from the government’s scheme,” said Dan.

Katie Melua announces new album for the autumn with York Barbican gig still in place

“Asking the essential timeless question about mad love”: Katie Melua’s new single A Love Like That

OVER the weekend, the serious Sunday papers were still carrying adverts for Katie Melua’s 45-date winter tour, taking in York Barbican on November 7.

We are no nearer to knowing when concert halls may re-open, but the Georgian-born Melua has 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 rulesn 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.

Her most personal lyrics to date “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.

The artwork for Katie Melua’s….eighth album

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.

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.

Katie Melua and Billy Howle: “Dealing with the new limits on filming” when making the video for A Love Like That

“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,” he says. “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. Tickets for November 7 are on sale at

Thea Gilmore and Mary Coughlan move Pocklington Arts Centre concerts to 2021

Hat’s off to a new date: Thea Gilmore looks ahead to her re-arranged Pocklington solo show in October 2021

OXFORD singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore will play Pocklington Arts Centre on October 8 2021 on her first ever completely solo tour.

Held back by 12 months in response to the global pandemic, Thea, 40, now will be touring in September and October next year rather than this autumn.

In 2019, she released her fourth successive chart album, Small World Turning. Songs from all stages of a career stretching beyond two decades will make up her 2021 set, performed on guitar, keyboard and loop station

Since first stepping out aged 18, Gilmore has released18 albums and six EPs;  collaborated with “roots royalty” Billy Bragg, Joan Baez and The Waterboys; performed on BBC Radio 2 with Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and contributed songs to the soundtrack of the BAFTA-winning film Bait.

Third time luck of the Irish: first April, then September, now next April for Mary Coughlan’s Pocklington gig

“Like so many other shows, sadly Thea’s 2020 performance at PAC has been postponed, but all original tickets have been transferred to the new date and customers are being contacted by PAC staff,” says venue manager James Duffy.

Meanwhile, Irish jazz and blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan is re-arranging her Pocklington gig for a second time. First, she switched from April 21 to September 23 2020; now she has put PAC in her diary for April 23 2021. Again, staff will be in touch with ticket holders.

Coughlan, 64, is sticking to a September release for her new autobiographical album, Life Stories, preceded by a single this month, Two Breaking Into One.

How will York artist Cathy Needham fare in BBC One’s competition Home Is Where The Art Is? Find out on Friday

In stitches: York textile artist Cathy Needham working on Rooted

YORK textile artist Cathy Needham will be taking part in Friday’s episode of the BBC One art show Home Is Where The Art Is.

“I’m one of three artists competing to win a commission to make for the home of an art buyer, and you can see how I got on at 3.45pm,” she says. “I’m thrilled to be part of this show promoting art and specifically promoting textile art to a wider audience.”

The format of the BBC show involves three artists, who work in “very different” media, meeting at the buyer’s home and being given a short brief of what is required before looking around the premises to trigger ideas and inspiration for a piece.

Starburst and Flames, unframed wall hangings, by Cathy Needham

They do not meet the buyer at this stage. Two weeks later, the artists pitch their ideas to the buyer and presenter Nick Knowles at the studio. The buyer then chooses two of the artists to make their ideas into pieces. Four weeks later, the two artists return to the studio to reveal their pieces to the buyer, who then picks which one to buy.

Filming also takes place in all three of the artists’ studios, showing examples of their work and processes used, while they discuss their inspirations and passions. 

Given that format, Cathy cannot reveal too much for now, but did say: “I applied for the first series, when I was sending stuff here, there and everywhere, as you do as an artist. They did contact me, but then it all went quiet, and I forgot about it! That was probably in 2018.

Orange Petal Power, by Cathy Needham

“Then last year, in late-August, I got a call out of the blue, asking: ‘Do you want to do it this time?’, for the second series. I had to do a little interview on Skype, being asked questions about my work, my passions in life, and if I was going to be OK with being on camera. Luckily, they really liked me!”

Filming took place pre-Coronavirus days last September and October when Cathy competed against a metalwork sculptor and a painter. “The programme makers wanted to wrack up the tension as the filming for our episode progressed, but we all got on very well, all wanting each other to do the best we could, so it was all very amiable,” she says.

“But having said that, it did get very tense at times, when each making our pitch for what piece we would make, so there was tension within me to come up with the best pitch and the best work.”

Rooted, by Cathy Needham

On the BBC series, Cathy will be hoping to catch the commissioner’s eye with her textile skills in 2D framed and unframed wall hangings and 3D sculptural pieces. “Like a lot of artists, most of my work is inspired by nature and the natural form,” she says. “Colour is my thing: I love colour and texture, and these days my style tends to be abstract, stylised and bold.”

Looking ahead, amid the uncertainty that persists under the dark clouds of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cathy is still working towards a series of upcoming exhibitions. “I’m due to do a joint exhibition with ceramicist Kate Buckley at the Angel On The Green, in Bishopthorpe Road, in September, but that may be put back,” she says.

“Ten of us in the York Textile Group have a show coming up in the York Cemetery Chapel in November, and Diverse Threads, who do shows around Yorkshire, have an exhibition lined up for Nunnington Hall in November and December.”

Watch this space for updates on those shows…and watch Cathy on BBC One on Friday.

Cathy Needham with two of her framed works at the York Marriot Hotel last September

Did you know?

CATHY Needham had a career in education and interpretation at the Science Museum, followed by teaching and performing Egyptian dance.

A year living in Peru re-ignited her love of textiles, prompting her to undertake a City & Guilds creative textile course, completed in 2012.

Since then, Cathy has been active in the York art scene, exhibiting widely around Yorkshire; making commissions; taking part in York Open Studios in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019 and joining the York Textile Group. Last year, she became a member of the York Art Workers Association, participating in YAWA’s latest exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

Her textile work uses techniques of wet felting, tapestry weaving and fabric applique, often combined with rich hand embellishment. Creating 2-D framed and unframed wall hangings and 3-D sculptural pieces, Cathy’s style is vibrant and bold, employing plenty of texture and detail on closer inspection.

Autumn Pod, by Cathy Needham

Theatre@41 names rehearsal space in memory of access for all champion Sandra

Once Seen Theatre members at Theatre@41 Monkgate, York

THEATRE @41, Monkgate, York, is honouring the memory of Sandra Gilpin by re-naming its main rehearsal space after the late York philanthropist.

Room One will become The Gilpin Room in an homage to Sandra, whose life was dedicated to supporting and working with adults with learning or physical challenges.

Sandra, who died in April 2019, is remembered with great affection by Once Seen Theatre, a fully accessible theatre company, based at Theatre@41, that evolved from Sandra’s original project, York People First.

Carole and David Metcalf, who now run the company, praised Sandra as an inspirational woman who dedicated her whole career to supporting and working for others.

“We first met Sandra ten years ago and we have seen first hand what a wonderful person she was,” says Carole. “Sandra was passionate about making changes to the social system to make sure everyone was treated equally.

“As a disabled person, I feel it’s imperative to make theatre a place inclusive of people with learning and physical disabilities,” says comedian and Theatre@41 patron Rosie Jones

“All Once Seen members think about her with affection and we’re determined to keep going as a company in her memory. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can get back into the theatre. We look forward to working in The Gilpin Room: a very special place named after a very special woman.”

This will be the third name for this rehearsal and performance space that started life as the Infants Room when the building was used as a Sunday school.

Once Seen is one of three “associate companies” housed at the Monkgate theatre, along with Nik Briggs’s York Stage School and Robert Readman’s Pick Me Up Theatre. They help Theatre@41 to further its charitable objectives in education and accessibility in the arts.

Comedian, actress and scriptwriter Rosie Jones, settling into her new role as a Theatre@41 patron, is a firm believer in the objectives that Sandra heralded. “My main passion in life is to make media, and the arts in general, a place that is both accessible and representative of our brilliantly diverse society,” says the disability in the arts campaigner, who has cerebral palsy.

“As a disabled person, I feel it’s imperative to make theatre a place which is inclusive of people with learning and physical disabilities. Theare@41 does just that.”

Jade Montserrat confronts Government response to Covid-19 in frank digital film

Jade Montserrat in a still from her Covid-19 lockdown film Chronicle ia. Picture: Jade Montserrat/Webb-Ellis

JADE Montserrat’s lockdown film, Chronicle ia, goes online from July 7 as the latest digital commission for Scarborough Museums Trust.

“When 60,000 people are dead and a disproportionate amount are disabled, elderly and black and brown people, that’s a eugenic project,” says Montserrat in her 13-minute film as she considers the impact of lockdown.

Filming during a period of physical and “social” distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she chronicles the process of making and the new ways of being that encourage mutual support and acts of care as Montserrat searches for a methodology to apply Eve Sedgwick’s theory of “reparative reading in a visual form”. In a nutshell, that means envisioning the interconnectivity of art practice, public space, responsibility and care.

Working with art film-makers Webb-Ellis, Montserrat interprets reparative reading as a “process of decoding, describing and discussing imagery, visual and human relationships, to interrogate and challenge political structures and frameworks”.

“With a title that plays with processes of recording and documentation, Chronicle ia explores the personal and inter-personal impacts of lockdown through the documentation of a collaborative making process, emphasising new ways of co-existing that are based on support,” explains Montserrat, whose films reveals the process of making through making, using the online platform Zoom for a series of digital conversations.

As Montserrat says in the film, in response to the Corona crisis: “When 60,000 people are dead and a disproportionate amount are disabled, elderly and black and brown people, that’s a eugenic project…When is it that we rebel? When is it that we say ‘No’?”

Here’s one she made earlier: Jade Montserrat, working on her The Last Place They Thought Of installation, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Picture: Constance Mensh

Within the film are references to Scarborough Museums Trust’s collection of photographs by James Harrison, taken during numerous hunting trips in Africa and India between 1892 and 1910, in particular Harrison’s “debasing images of atrocities towards local peoples and the slayed bodies of innumerable animals”.

As Montserrat prepared to research this collection of photographs, diaries and taxidermy animals, she asked British/Canadian filmmakers Caitlin Webb-Ellis and Andrew Webb-Ellis to explore this with her to sustain her through the trauma of engaging with the material as an act of mutual care. 

“Reflecting on the geographic, experiential, cultural and social spaces inhabited by the artists – filming is located in their respective isolations within Scarborough Borough – the film presents a discussion aiming to define global imaginaries that traverse histories, nations, ideologies and time to help us conceive a new world that is built on principles of equality, support and social justice,” says Scarborough Museums Trust.

“The film’s imagery demonstrates glitches in communication, revealing how reparative reading involves a gradual – and sometimes incomplete – piecing together of practices and subjective viewpoints, but that, ultimately and beautifully, a common goal can be achieved.”

As Scarborough Museums Trust continues to improve access to its online content, Chronicle ia includes audio descriptions embedded in the film as part of the creative process, along with subtitles. Please note, the film contains photographic documentation of colonial atrocities and explicit images of violence and nudity. Consequently, the trust strongly recommends viewing for adults only, or those aged 12 and over with parental or guardian supervision.

Montserrat’s film can be seen on the trust’s YouTube channel,, from Tuesday, July 7. Chronicle ia is one of a series of new digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust as part of its response to the pandemic crisis. The trust has asked artists Kirsty Harris, Jane Poulton, Wanja Kimani, Feral Practice, Jade Montserrat, Lucy Carruthers and Estabrak to create digital artworks for release online across social media platforms throughout the summer.

The Bowie Collective ch-ch-changes York Barbican date to next June…you know why

The man who fell to Earthling: Steve Evans in one of his many David Bowie guises in The Bowie Collective, replicating the Earthling album cover

CH-CH-CHANGES. The Bowie Collective tribute show at York Barbican on August 21 this summer is being re-scheduled for May 20 2021 in yet another Covid-enforced ch-ch-change. 

“All tickets remain valid for the new date,” says the Barbican. “Please get in touch with your point of purchase if you have any questions.”

Fronted by Steve Evans, The Bowie Collective “delivers a stunning and ambitious two-hour multi-media show worthy of the man himself. The mission is simple: To evoke the feeling of being at a Bowie gig, re-create the amazing studio recordings on the live stage and create a unique and intoxicating mix of dance and visuals, taking you on a sensory rollercoaster ride into the mind of the Rock’n’Roll Alien.”

Visuals, choreography, costumes, design, even holograms, go into the “first serious attempt to respectfully curate Bowie’s legacy”. Tickets are on sale at

Socially distanced encounter of the theatrical kind….

John Godber, pictured in Hull Truck Theatre days

“BUMPED” into Britain’s second most performed living playwright, John Godber, as our paths crossed while stretching a leg at Pocklington Canal this afternoon.

“Must be plenty of material for a play about Covid-19, John?”, I mused.

“No comedy there, Charles.”

The end.

And then there were two…as Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny perform online concert A Delightful Thing at NCEM

The loneliness of the socially distanced singer: Countertenor Iestyn Davies will have only lutenist Elizabeth Kenny for company, rather than the Dunedin Consort, at his York Early Music Festival concert

YORK countertenor Iestyn Davies should have been performing Bach: Countertenor Arias with Scottish instrumentalists the Dunedin Consort next Wednesday at the 2020 York Early Music Festival.

Instead, in a revised, streamlined, online version of the event now running from July 9 to 11, Iestyn switches from the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall to the National Centre for Early Music for a socially distanced concert with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, streamed from an otherwise empty St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, at 7.30pm next Thursday. Empty save for technical manager Ben Pugh recording the performance from across the floor.

“When Delma [festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin] got in touch, initially she wondered, ‘Could you still do the concert with the Dunedin?’, but they’re based in Scotland and we couldn’t have the whole consort down here under lockdown rules, so we decided that I’d rather re-schedule that concert,” says Iestyn.

“But I said, ‘look, I’m already doing a concert with Liz at Wigmore Hall, we could do one at the NCEM too, where I could do the readings as well as sing and we can have the building to ourselves for the day’.”

Consequently, Davies and Kenny, a former artistic adviser to the York Early Music Festival and frequent performer at the NCEM, will present A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, wherein the music of Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland will be complemented by Davies’s renditions and readings of poetry by Robert Burton, Michael Drayton, Rose Tremain, Leo Tolstoy and Dowland himself. Kenny will play theorbo.

“Dowland is known for his music of extraordinary misery but utter beauty,” says Delma Tomlin. “He knew that in love, the only thing sweeter than happiness was sorrow. Few living interpreters understand his music more profoundly than Iestyn, who has devised this evening of poetry, music and drama for voice and lute to explore a composer for whom a single teardrop can hold a universe of emotion.”

Davies and Kenny’s Wigmore Hall concert was broadcast live from London on BBC Radio 3 on June 22, drawing 750,000 listeners to their 1pm performance of works by Purcell, Dowland, Campion, Johnson, Mozart and Schubert.

Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny: Iestyn Davies’s socially distanced accompanist on theorbo for A Delightful Thing

“Phew, it’s over,” Tweeted Iestyn immediately after the Lunchtime Concert, one of a series of 20 recitals presented in the stillness of a Wigmore Hall devoid of an audience every weekday in June as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

“It was an absolute joy,” says Iestyn, of his first concert performance since performing to a packed Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center in New York City on March 7.

“But what was strange was that it felt like taking an exam. We did the rehearsal in the hall the day before, and you think, ‘it’s not going to change that much’, but Martin [presenter Martin Handley] was seated at a desk like an examiner, and there was just the hush of an audience listening on their radios, where normally there’s applause.

“The great thing about live music is that it’s ephemeral, you perform, then it’s over, and people remember it differently afterwards even though they were together. But this was more of an exam experience, where you have to wait for your results, and the only way you can tell how you did is in the reviews…though two people I know in York said straightaway they enjoyed it!”

Marking his 40th birthday on September 16 last year, Iestyn was only one concert into a four-concert residency at Wigmore Hall when Covid-19 intervened, but he was delighted to take up the invitation to partake in the season of BBC Radio 3 recitals, each featuring a singer and a musician, all from Britain.

“My regular recital partner, [French lutenist] Thomas Dunford, lives in Paris, so that ruled him out, but Liz and I have performed regularly together before, and she’s one of those wonderful multi-strings-to-her-bow musicians, what with her being director of performance at the University of Oxford and professor of Lute at the Royal Academy of Music,” says Iestyn.

“I learnt that it’s good to give your voice a rest for three months,” says countertenor Iestyn Davies

New York in March, then silence, before the Davies-Kenny concerts this summer. “What’s been wonderful in lockdown has been there’s been no fear of missing out,” says Iestyn. “I also learnt that it’s good to give your voice a rest for three months.”

Rested…and now that pure, pure voice is in fine working order again: “Like getting back on a bike, or going back to the gym, it all starts to flow, though they say it’s one day’s work for every week you have off, but generally I try to pace things out anyway,’” says Iestyn. “When you’re busy with work, you press ‘Start’ and you know how to run the engine.”

Before the Wigmore Hall concert, he was able to “get back into the swing of singing” when recording 20 Schubert songs over four of five days in Suffolk, “singing carefully” five to six hours a day.

Iestyn may be happy to be performing once more, but he is perturbed by the Covid cloud hanging heavily over the performing arts world, the alarm bell clanging ever louder with the rise of the Let The Music Play campaign amid the calls for urgent financial support for venues and artists alike.

“No-one chose this situation, so it shouldn’t be about a popular vote, but Boris Johnson and [Culture Secretary] Oliver Dowden are playing to the gallery, the Prime Minister trying to win points by saying you can go to the pub,” says Iestyn.

“What they’ve done to the arts is devolve responsibility both financially and philosophically, and of course it doesn’t help that some people think of the arts the way they do.”

Before it is too late, you can play your part in supporting the arts by buying tickets  for the online York Early Music Festival at and, with a festival package at £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each. Access to the festival events is via, where full details of the July 9 to 11 programme can be found too.

Liberation Day arrives on Saturday, but Lockdown is still a block to theatres and gigs. Nevertheless, here are More Things To Do on days in and days out, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 9

Opening the gateway to venturing outdoors once more….

JULY 4 is “Liberation Day”, apparently, but not for theatres and concert halls. They can re-open, not for live performances, however, leaving them in a state of inertia that only exacerbates their growing crisis.

As for cinemas, tipped to return to life next weekend, the consensus is that July 31 is now looking the more likely re-start date for the summer blockbusters.

This column will steer clear of the pubs and bars and restaurants making their comebacks – you can read of that welcome uptick elsewhere – but focus on the widening opportunities for entertainment, enlightenment and exercise beyond the front door, while still highlighting the joys on the home front too.

CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Back on track: Jorvik Viking Centre is “Good To Go” from next Saturday

Jorvik Viking Centre, re-opening on July 11

THE ever-resilient Jorvik Viking Centre is back on track from next Saturday with the Good To Go certification from Visit England, so all the boxes marked Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines have been ticked.

One important change is a switch to pre-booked visits only, with designated time slots every 20 minutes, to help control visitor flow and numbers, as well as extended hours over the summer months.

Within the building, in Coppergate, free-flow areas, such as the galleries will be more structured with presentations delivered by Viking interpreters, rather than video content or handling sessions.

Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny: Joining countertenor Iestyn Davies at a socially distanced National Centre for Early Music for York Early Music Festival online concert

York Early Music Festival, online from July 9 to 11

NEXT week’s “virtual” three-day event will be streamed online from the National Centre for Early Music, replacing the July 3 to 11 festival that would have celebrated Method & Madness. Concerts will be recorded at the NCEM’s home, St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, with social-distancing measures in place and no live audience.

York counter-tenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny present The Art Of Melancholy on July 9 at 7.30pm, when John Dowland’s Elizabethan music will be complemented by Davies’s renditions and readings of poetry by Robert Burton, Michael Drayton, Rose Tremain, Leo Tolstoy and Dowland himself.

On July 10, online concerts feature lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth at 1pm, harpsichordist Steve Devine at 3.30pm and lyra viol player Richard Boothby at 7.30pm. July 11’s programme includes Consone Quartet at 1pm and Stile Antico at 7.30pm.

Tickets are on sale at and, with a festival package at £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

Richard Bainbridge RIP: York Musical Theatre Company will mark the first anniversary of his passing on Sunday

Remembering Richard, York Musical Theatre Company, Sunday, 7.30pm, online

YORK Musical Theatre Company will mark the first anniversary of leading light Richard Bainbridge’s exit stage left on Sunday with a special online memorial concert.

Streamed on YMTC’s YouTube channel, the 7.30pm programme will celebrate Richard’s theatrical life with songs from all the shows he loved and the many he graced with the company.

Taking part will be Eleanor Leaper; Matthew Ainsworth; John Haigh; Florence Taylor; Moira Murphy; Amy Lacy; Rachel Higgs; Peter Wookie; Matthew Clare; Chris Gibson; Helen Singhateh, Jessa & Mick Liversidge. Returning to the ranks will be professional York actor Samuel Edward-Cook, alias Sam Coulson in his YMTC days.

Joker: One of the films at the Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema in York

Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema, Knavesmire, York, tomorrow to Sunday

STATIC cinemas remain in the dark, but drive-in cinemas with social distancing rules in place have been given the Government green light.

North Easterners Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema are revving up for four screenings a day. Take your pick from the very familiar Mamma Mia!, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Frozen 2, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman, A Star Is Born, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction and Joker. Tickets can be booked at

Interaction between staff and customers will be kept to a minimum, with cars parked two metres apart and those attending expected to remain within their vehicles for the duration of the screenings on LED screens with the sound transmitted to car radios.

Ready for a reading challenge? Here comes The Silly Squad

The Silly Squad, Explore York Libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge 2020, July 10 to September 18

GIVEN that Explore York’s libraries “aren’t open fully yet”, The Silly Squad Challenge is going virtual this summer, enabling children to take part online. There will be activities to do too, all on the same theme of fun, laughter and silliness.

The Silly Squad is a team of animal friends that loves to go on adventures and get stuck into all manner of funny books. This year, the Challenge features extra special characters designed by the author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson.

The Silly Squad website provides an immersive and safe environment for children to achieve their reading goals. Head to Explore’s website and join through the Summer Reading Challenge button.

Paul Weller: York Barbican in 2021; new album tomorrow

Keep seeking out the good news

NO Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad at York Theatre Royal from July 14, and Everybody’s no longer Talking About Jamie at Leeds Grand Theatre that week too. Even the Downing Street daily briefings are off after all the unintended humour of 24 episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour.

However, all’s Weller that’s Paul Weller as the Modfather’s autumn 2020 gig at York Barbican is moved to June 29 2021. In the meantime, his new album, On Sunset, is out tomorrow.

Drag diva Velma Celli, the creation of York actor Ian Stroughair, has announced another online outing, The Velma Celli Show, Kitchen, on July 11 at 8pm.

Kitchen sing drama: York drag diva Velma Celli announces latest online show on the home front

And what about…?

BBC One revisiting Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues, each one even starker in their isolation in these dislocated times of solitary confinement, shielding, loneliness and finding other people irritating. The Leeds playwright, now 86, has added two ones to his 1988 collection. “Quite bleak,” he says.

New albums by Neil Young (“new” but unearthed 1970s’ recordings); Jessie Ware, Nadine Shah and Haim.

Scarborough Art Gallery unlocking its doors from this weekend. A walk on York’s city walls with its new temporary one-way system in place for social distancing from Saturday….and then drop down for a drink at Grays Court Hotel’s new walled garden bar, in the shadow of York Minster.

Or a walk along Pocklington Canal, but watch out for the two swans, guarding their nine cygnets by the water’s edge.

Would you want to be judged by the evil eye of Wicked’s Elphaba? Here’s your chance in the Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest

Yorkshire’s Got Talent judging panellist Laura Pick in her West End role as Elphaba in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, London. Who will Laura pick to win with her fellow judges?

YORK teenage musical theatre performer Hannah Wakelam is launching the Yorkshire’s Got Talent Virtual Contest to boost the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s Raise The Roof campaign, with Wicked’s Elphaba among the judges.

Hannah, 19, who has appeared many times on the JoRo stage, has signed up three VIP guests to judge the event: Wicked star Laura Pick, West End regular and cruise ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and Ripon vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.

Entries are open from now until August 1 for a contest with a £100 prize. “All types of performers are encouraged to enter and to show off what they can do,” says Hannah. “Whether it’s singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, performing a circus act, the list is endless.”

The cost of entries is a minimum donation of £5 to the Raise The Roof appeal and no age restrictions apply. “Because of lockdown rules, entrants will be asked to submit a short video of themselves performing their acts,” says Hannah. “The winner will receive £100 and their online performances will be seen right across the Yorkshire area.”

Hannah Wakelam: Yorkshire’s Got Talent Virtual Contest organiser and Raise The Roof fundraiser

The Haxby Road theatre needs to find £90,000 to go towards roof repairs to the Art Deco building to ensure the JoRo will be around for future generations of Yorkshire performers.

Graham Mitchell, the theatre’s events and fundraising director, says: “Hannah got in touch with us the very day that our appeal was launched and offered to do a fundraiser within the overall campaign. 

“Already we’ve had lots of people express an interest in the contest and now that the judges have been announced, we expect levels of interest to take off.”

Heading up the panel is Laura Pick, from Wakefield, who was flying high as Elphaba in Wicked in the West End until the Covid-19 lockdown stopped her Defying Gravity.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent judge Amelia Urukalo

Fellow judge Nathan Lodge, originally from York and no stranger to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, has many West End credits, complemented by his career as a vocal captain on cruise ships. 

The third judge, vocal coach Amelia Urukalo, has experience aplenty in judging talent competitions and runs the Upstage Academy performing arts studio in Ripon.

The Yorkshire area is teeming with performing talent, not least on the Rowntree Theatre stage: a training ground and launchpad for many professional acting careers, such as Harry Potter and Broadchurch actor David Bradley, Emmerdale and Casualty actor Ian Kelsey and West End musical theatre performer Scott Garnham.

Nathan says: “I really believe that the industry is full of exceptionally talented people who started out in Yorkshire and I can’t wait to see what the future of talent from home looks like.”

“I can’t wait to see what the future of talent from home looks like,” says Yorkshire’s Got Talent judge Nathan Lodge, who took his early theatrical steps at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

The JoRo launched its Raise The Roof campaign last month by creating an online music video, put together “virtually” during lockdown. Last Saturday morning, an online fitness class raised almost £300 for the campaign.

The total stands at £2,673, more than half of the £5,000 target for this early stage of the overall £90,000 appeal. Almost 100 people have donated so far, testament to the campaign gathering momentum.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre charity, says: “We launched the campaign with several of our own team performing a music video, then we held an online fitness class hosted by Hannah King, which lots of our supporters took part in.

“Yorkshire’s Got Talent is the third event in a chain of many fundraisers that we already have in the pipeline. We know this competition will be hugely popular as it’s open to everyone in the Yorkshire region, whether they’ve performed at our venue or not.  It’s simply a celebration of local talent, all the while supporting a great community cause.”

The auditorium at the Art Deco-designed Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, York

To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to “donate even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”.  To do so, go to

Full rules and details of how to enter Yorkshire’s Got Talent can be found here: Facebook:; Instagram:

The judges will select a final ten from the entries and the contest will progress from there through a process of elimination until the winner is declared.

Mikron Theatre’s future is at risk…unless £48,337 is raised before 50th anniversary

Atalanta Forever…but not for 2020 after Covid-19 showed the red card to Amanda Whittington’s new football play, forcing Mikron Theatre Company to call off this summer’s tour

MIKRON Theatre Company are launching a near-£50,000 fundraising appeal to secure their 50th anniversary year, but under the dark clouds of Coronavirus their future is at risk.

The West Yorkshire company had to cancel this summer’s tours of Amanda Whittington’s Atalanta Forever and Poppy Hollman’s A Dog’s Tale, once the Covid-19 lockdown strictures prevented them from touring by canal, river and road as is their custom.

The stultifying impact of the pandemic has dealt Mikron a “potentially catastrophic blow” and consequently they need help to “ensure that they get back on their feet, back on the road and back on the water”.

No touring from April to October has meant no income from 130 shows, no merchandise, no programmes, no raffle, in the budget, whereupon Mikron are facing a shortfall of £48,337.49.

Atalanta Forever playwright Amanda Whittington

Artistic director Marianne McNamara says: “The entire management team is doing as much as we can to reduce costs month by month, but this simply is not enough. On current budgets, the company will run out of money before our 50th year of touring in 2021.  

“With this in mind, we have no choice but to launch an appeal to raise £48,337.49 by the end of December 2020 to ensure that Mikron has a future within the theatre industry.” 

Should the appeal be successful, next summer Mikron will tour Atalanta Forever, Whittington’s story of women’s football in the 1920s, and Hollman’s canine comedy caper A Dog’s Tale. As ever, York would play host to shows at Scarcroft Allotments and Clements Hall.

After making the decision not to tour in light of the pandemic, Mikron took Arts Council England’s advice and have been helping the community in their home village of Marsden, near Huddersfield.

Coronavirus-cancelled canine comedy capers: MIkron Theatre Company’s poster for A Dog’s Tale

To do so, they have repurposed their office and van to assist with the village Covid-19 mutual aid group Marsden Help and have delivered hundreds of food parcels and prescriptions to self-isolating and vulnerable families.

“We’re so incredibly sad not to be touring,” says Marianne.  “In the early stages of the Coronavirus outbreak we looked at every possible combination, but none of them were practical.

“What I would not give to see Mikron performing at a canalside venue to a large crowd with the sun setting behind us. We see the same faces in different places year on year and we really miss them but the safety of the cast and crew, venues and, of course, our loyal audiences, had to come first.”

Based in the village of Marsden, at the foot of the Yorkshire Pennines, Mikron tour on board a vintage narrowboat, Tyseley, putting on shows in “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”.

It could be a play about growing-your-own, staged at  allotments; a play abuzz with bees, performed next to hives, or a play where the  chips are down, served up in a fish and chip restaurant. Add to that list a play celebrating hostelling, booked into YHA Youth hostels and the story of the RNLI, launched from several lifeboat stations on the coast.

Mikron Theatre Company’s summer mode of transport: Tyseley, a vintage narrowboat. Picture: Jon Gascoyne

Since Mikron formed in 1972, they have:

Written 64 original shows;

Composed 384 songs;

Issued 236 actor-musician contracts;

Spent 30,000 boating hours on the inland waterways;

Covered 530,000 road miles;

Performed 5,060 times;

Played to 428,000 people. 

For further information and to donate to the appeal to keep Yorkshire’s narrowboat theatre company afloat, visit Donations also can be sent to Mikron Theatre, Marsden Huddersfield, HD7 6BW.

“How lucky we were to have known him” – York Musical Theatre Company remembers Richard Bainbridge in night of song online

Richard Bainbridge: Memorial online concert on Sunday to honour a year since his passing on July 5 2019

YORK Musical Theatre Company will mark the first anniversary of leading light Richard Bainbridge’s exit stage left on Sunday with a special online memorial concert.

Streamed on YMTC’s YouTube channel, the 7.30pm programme will celebrate Richard’s theatrical life with songs from all the shows he loved and the many he graced with the company.

Richard passed away last summer at the age of 64 after a long association with York Musical Theatre Company – formerly known as York Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society until 2002 – as actor, director and latterly company chairman.

Taking part on Sunday night will be Eleanor Leaper; Matthew Ainsworth; John Haigh; Florence Taylor; Moira Murphy; Amy Lacy; Rachel Higgs; Peter Wookie; Matthew Clare; Chris Gibson; Helen Singhateh and Jessa & Mick Liversidge.

“There’ll be a group performance from YMTC members too and we’re thrilled to have professional actor Samuel Edward-Cook – Sam Coulson in his YMTC days – back with us performing a special number,” says director Paul Laidlaw.

Sam’s back: York actor Samuel Edward-Cook, pictured in his leading role in Glory Dazed in 2019, will be returning to the York Musical Theatre Company ranks, albeit remotely, for Sunday’s online concert

He is keeping the running order and who will be singing each number under wraps as a surprise for Richard’s family.

Among those songs will be Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’, from Oklahoma!; As Long As He Needs Me, from Oliver!; Tomorrow, from Annie; Mister Snow, from Carousel; Some Enchanted Evening, from South Pacific; Seeing Is Believing, from Aspects Of Love, and My Time Of Day, from Guys And Dolls.

“It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since we lost our dear friend and colleague, Richard,” says Paul. “I think I can speak for the whole company when I say how much we still miss him.

“His enthusiasm, drive and, above all, his incredible sense of humour would have been a tonic in these extraordinary times. He would, of course, have been actively taking part in the Off-stage But Online concerts we are presenting under lockdown, and with a mixture of encouragement, bribery, coercion and threats he would have made sure that everyone else took part too.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s memorial celebration, Paul says: “We wanted this next concert, falling on the anniversary of his death, to be dedicated to Richard. Many of the performers have fond memories of working alongside him and the song choices often reflect moments spent with him on stage. Happy memories, tinged with sadness of course but, oh, how lucky we were to have known him.”

To watch Sunday’s concert, type in the link:

Divorced, beheaded and now the Queens are back for a drive-in summer of SIX The Musical in…Church Fenton UPDATED

Six of the best: The West End cast in SIX The Musical in 2019

THEATRE has been hit for six by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, but SIX The Musical has found a way to make a summer comeback as a drive-in theatre experience at a Church Fenton airport.

Leeds East Airport is among 12 locations nationwide picked for Live Nation Entertainment’s Utilita Live From The Drive-In: SIX The Musical, The Live Concert, as the West End and tour casts take to the road in August and September to present the full musical version in the open air.

Church Fenton’s six performances of SIX – how apt – will start at 9pm on August 11; 5pm, August 13; 9pm, August 14, and 5pm and 9pm, August 15 and 16. Tickets for “the first West End musical to perform again after lockdown” will go on sale at 8am on Friday, July 3 at

“For the next three months, SIX will be the only stage musical anyone starved of theatre in the country is able to see,” say producers Kenny Wax, Wendy and Andy Barnes and George Stiles.

Designed to comply with all official guidelines in these Covid-19 times, Utilita Live From The Drive-In will “deliver a drive-in experience boasting concert-quality sound from a live stage with a full state-of-the-art sound system, lighting rig and high-definition LED screens”.

The tour poster for SIX The Musical’s summer season of drive-in shows

This will create an arena or stadium concert feel in a safe drive-in setting adhering to the Government’s social-distancing rules to protect fans, artists, crews and staff at all times.

Customers will arrive by car but then can step outside, picnic and party while they watch the “festival-style” live stage show from their own dedicated area next to their vehicle. Up to 300 vehicles can park up for each show with a maximum of seven people allowed in each one.

Now billed as “Divorced, Beheaded, Drive – Live In Concert”, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss‘s SIX is the “electrifying musical phenomenon that everyone has lost their head over”. First presented by Cambridge University students at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show has been catapulted into a West End and international hit en route to being named the Musical of the Decade by WhatsOnStage.

From Tudor queens to pop princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic in SIX to tell their tales, remixing 500 years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st-century girl power where these queens may have green sleeves but their lipstick is rebellious red.

“You’ve seen them in theatres across the world, streamed their album countless times and now you can join the rest of the Queendom for a party and picnic on a Utilita Live From The Drive-In arena stage!” says the drive-in publicity machine.

The joy of SIX: The SIX The Musical cast at the Arts Theatre in London

“This intoxicating Tudor take by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss is a histo-remixed pop-concert musical you won’t forget. The Queens are back, so grab your crowns and your picnic blankets and get down like it’s 1533.”

SIX The Musical and Utilita Live From The Drive-In will link up this summer from August 4 to September 12 for shows at Colesdale Farm, London; Birmingham Resorts World Arena; University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton; Filton Airfield, Bristol; Cheltenham Racecourse; the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh; Leeds East Airport, Church Fenton, near Leeds; Lincoln, Central Docks, Liverpool; The National Bowl, Milton Keynes; the July Course, Newmarket Racecourse, and Teesside International Airport.

Producer Kenny Wax, president of the Society of London Theatre, says: “We are delighted that SIX will spearhead the re-opening of one of London and the UK’s most popular shows. With the industry in crisis, theatres struggling and some even going out of business, this drive-in event offers hope for the future and, equally importantly, jobs for about 50 of our company including cast, musicians, stage managers, technicians and freelancers.

“We are using both our West End and UK touring casts, rehearsing and touring them in a bubble and having them work in teams of six – fortunate for us – as per the government guidance.”

As the Coronavirus pandemic struck, SIX fans were left disappointed when sold-out runs at the Arts Theatre in London and up and down the country on the UK tour had to be cancelled. All those touring dates have been moved to 2021.

Natalie Paris in SIX The Musical in the West End in 2019. Picture: Eleanor Howarth

Any questions before you start the engine?
Which SIX cast members will be performing?
“We are sending the Arts Theatre cast and the UK Tour casts on tour subject to the Queens’ own availability. We can’t guarantee any individual cast members at specific performances. Church Fenton will have the Arts Theatre cast.”

Will we be seeing the full show?
“Yes, the whole show will be performed live from start to finish. The duration is 75 minutes and there is no interval.”

Will the cast be wearing their show costumes?

Is the show being performed as a concert or with full choreography?
“The cast will be performing the show with full choreography.”

 How will we see the stage and the cast if we are parked a long way away?
“Like most concerts, there will be large screens either side of the stage and live show footage played on the screens.”

Wife strife: One of Henry VIII’s queens in SIX The Musical, on tour in 2019. Picture: Johan Persson

Can we sing and dance along?
“We hope you can enjoy yourselves without spoiling the enjoyment of others around you.

Will the music be played live by the musicians?
“Yes, the musicians, our ‘ladies in waiting’, will be playing live”.

Will we be able to “meet and greet” the Queens after the show for autographs and photos?
“Due to current social-distancing guidelines related to Covid-19, sadly the cast will not be available after the performance to meet audience members.”

Did you know?

SIX made its debut as a Cambridge University student production in a 100-seat room at Sweet Venue at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Queen scene: SIX The Musical on its knees on tour in 2019. Picture: Johan Persson

Not only was SIX playing London’s West End and across the UK and Australia when Covid-19 intervened, but also its opening night on Broadway on March 12 was called off when, three hours before showtime, the New York Governor shut down theatreland.

SIX was nominated for five Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, and won the What’s On Stage Award for Best Musical 2020. Songs from the SIX studio album are streamed on average 450,000 times per day, making it the second-highest streaming musical theatre recording in the world after Hamilton.

SIX was written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, with direction by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage; choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille; set design by Emma Bailey; costume design by Gabriella Slade; lighting design by Tim Deiling; sound design by Paul Gatehouse; musical orchestration by Tom Curran; musical supervision by Joe Beighton and musical direction by Katy Richardson.

For a taster of SIX The Musical, go to:

Scarborough Art Gallery and Woodend exhibitions to re-open from this weekend

John Bedder, senior operations assistant with Scarborough Museums Trust, prepares for the re-opening of Scarborough Art Gallery. All pictures: Tony Bartholomew

TWO of Scarborough Museums Trust’s three venues will re-open on Saturday.

Scarborough Art Gallery and Woodend have been closed to the public since the Covid-19 lockdown started in late-March, as has the Rotunda Museum, whose re-opening will be delayed to “allow more time to work out how to do that safely”.

SMT chief executive Andrew Clay says: “Our dedicated staff have all been working very hard to ensure that venues are safe and in line with government guidelines on social distancing and cleanliness. The safety of all our staff and visitors is our top priority.”

John Bedder, Scarborough Museums Trust’s senior operations assistant, sits behind a protective screen at Scarborough art Gallery

Safety measures introduced for this weekend’s re-opening will be five-fold:

* Protective screens around the reception desks;

* Hand sanitiser on entry to the buildings and on the top floor of Scarborough Art Gallery;

* Disposable hand towels in the loos;

*  PPE (gloves, masks and aprons) for staff when cleaning the venues, plus extra cleaning protocols;

* Staff monitoring at a safe distance to ensure that visitors are following the distancing guidelines.

Andrew Clay: Chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust

Clay says: “The number of visitors within the two spaces will be monitored to ensure that there is enough room for them to move around in a safe and enjoyable manner. Clear wayfinding and arrows will direct them, and staff will be on hand to provide further support and information.

“The internal layout of our third venue, the historic Rotunda Museum, presents certain challenges with regard to social distancing, so we’re delaying opening that for the time being to allow us more time to work out how to do that safely.”

The exhibitions sent into abeyance under lockdown strictures have been extended. At Scarborough Art Gallery, visitors can see The Printmakers Council 1992-2019 and the William Smith map until September 6, alongside the permanent display of fine art from the Scarborough Borough Collection.

John Bedder, senior operations assistant with Scarborough Museums Trust, stands by one of the new hand sanitiser stations at Scarborough Art Gallery

At Woodend, vintage travel and tourism posters will be on show in A Day At The Seaside until September 27.

Entry to Scarborough Art Gallery – usually £3, which buys an annual pass – will be free throughout July; admission to Woodend will remain free.

Opening hours will be unchanged: Scarborough Art Gallery, 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sundays; Woodend, 9am to 5pm, Mondays to Fridays; 10am to 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays.

Last chance to vote for Sue Clayton to make the final for mental health exhibition

Tarred by a different brush: Sue Clayton has used a tar-like paint to create Black Treacle

HURRY, hurry, voting ends tomorrow for York portrait artist Sue Clayton to reach the final of Doncaster Art Fair’s latest exhibition, Art As A Response To Mental Health.

“I’m delighted to have been selected for the longlist, but I need help from people to make the final show,” says Sue, from Wigginton. “Only 30 pieces will be chosen and it’s done by public vote.

“Submissions are from around the world, so I’m hugely excited to get this far. Voting is easy, just go to and click on the heart above the piece to cast your vote.”

Created in lockdown, Sue’s piece is called Black Treacle, painted in response to her partner’s description of when depression descends “the slow descent of an overwhelming, glutinous, self-smothering darkness”.

“As an artist, this was obviously a very personal piece for me to do and not without challenges,” she says.

York portrait artist Sue Clayton

“I knew, for instance, that the portrait I’ve taken time to create was going to be obliterated by the tar-like paint and whatever happens there was no going back, no chance to rectify anything. No scraping back. The tar wouldn’t allow it.

“It was fascinating to me that I had planned for the portrait to be a monochromatic study in subdued tones of either sepia or dark blue. As I painted, though, colour kept coming through. Not just because I’m a colourful artist but I think because my partner has such a vitality and a spark, that I had to paint it! It was also a painting of the man I love and that was hard to suppress the feeling for him as I paint.”

The application of the black paint – black wood stain, to be precise – was “interesting”, adds Sue, who is best known for her 2017-2018 York Heroes project. “As I’ve just said, there was no going back, no second chances. I loaded up the brush several times and just let the stain run down the surface, following its own path,” she says.

“I genuinely found this really emotional, so mesmerising to watch and yet heart-stopping as it engulfed the face. It really felt smothering. Far more symbolic to me than I could ever realise.”

No time to waste. Tomorrow, June 30, is the deadline to cast your vote for Sue’s Black Treacle.

Are you up for Hannah’s online dance fitness class for Rowntree Theatre?

Joseph Rowntree Theatre: Raise The Roof appeal

REGULAR Joseph Rowntree Theatre performer Hannah King will run an online virtual dance fitness class tomorrow morning in aid of the JoRo’s Raise The Roof appeal in York. 

From 10am to 11am, Hannah will guide an enthusiastic group of theatre supporters through their steps as they dance to favourite show tunes.

Graham Mitchell, the Haxby Road theatre’s events and fundraising director, says: “Already we have more than 20 participants but, being online, there’s space for everyone.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you can join in. We’ve even got participants in Troon and Aberdeen! At only £3 a slot, it’s a cheap way to have a fun hour of fitness and raise money for our appeal at the same time.”

The JoRo launched its Raise The Roof campaign last week by creating an online music video put together “virtually” during lockdown. The appeal has garnered more than  £2,000 already and tomorrow’s online dance class will see this total grow over the weekend.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees of the JoRo charity, say: “There’s a real swell of support from all those connected with the theatre, from stewards to performers, from stage crew to hirers. This dance class is the second event in a chain of many fundraisers that we have in the pipeline.”

To join in Hannah’s fitness fundraiser, email her at for details.

To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the theatre has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to donate “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”.  Go to:

Bookings for books in new chapter for Explore York when libraries re-open in July

York Explore: Library and archive re-opening from July 7 on a pre-booked basis only

EXPLORE York libraries and reading cafés are preparing to re-open from July 6.

The libraries at York Central, Acomb, Clifton and Tang Hall will open from July 7, but on a pre-booked basis only.

The Mobile Library will be back too, but the rest of the smaller Gateway libraries will remain closed during this first stage. 

Opening hours at the libraries will be from 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday. For mobile stops and café opening times, visit for more information. 

Explore’s new reading café in Hungate will open for the first time on July 7, preceded by the cafés at Rowntree Park and Homestead Park on July 6. All will be serving drinks and snacks to take away and enjoy outside.

“All our venues will have safety measures in place to protect customers and staff,” says Explore York’s statement.

“We can’t wait to welcome people back to our physical buildings. We will be operating a little differently for a while though. Some libraries will be open; books will be available using a click-and-collect system; computer and printer use will be by appointment only and opening hours will be shorter.” 

Borrowing books using click and collect is simple, Explore York advises, saying books can be collected from Acomb, Clifton, York, Tang Hall and the Mobile Library. 

Step one: Reserve your books in the usual way, using the online catalogue or, from July 7, by phoning or emailing your nearest open library. Alternatively, fill in one of the Lucky Dip online forms for adults or children, whereupon Explore will choose up to 15 books based on your taste and preferences.

Step two: When your books are ready, Explore will ring you and arrange a time for you to collect them. 

Books also may be returned by pre-booked appointment. Explore is happy to accept returns and all loans have been renewed until September 30.

Computers and printing will be available for pre-booked slots. You can book online or contact your nearest open library by phone or email after July 7.

“Explore customers now have even more choices than before because, while we were closed, we took the chance to enrich and expand what we offer online,” the statement concludes. “As lockdown is lifted, we encourage everyone to carry on using these online services as well as coming into libraries.” 

For more information, go to

The Domino effect as Ayckbourn’s hit audio play extends online run by a week to July 2

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney: Performing together for the first time in 56 years in Anno Domino. Picture:Tony Bartholomew

ALAN Ayckbourn’s debut audio play, Anno Domino, will run online for an extra week in response to huge demand from theatregoers worldwide.

Available exclusively on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s website, at, Ayckbourn’s 84th premiere had a cut-off point of June 25 at 12 noon, but the deadline is being extended to July 2 at midday.

The extension was announced this morning after feedback suggested that plenty of theatre fans were still keen to listen to Ayckbourn, 81, and his wife, actress Heather Stoney, performing together for the first time in 56 years.

In one of his lighter pieces, charting the break-up of a long-established marriage and its domino effect on family and friends, Ayckbourn and Stoney play four characters each, aged 18 to mid-70s.

“We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says former radio producer Ayckbourn, who wrote, directed and performed the lockdown play, as well as overseeing the sound effects at their Scarborough home.

The SJT’s artistic director, Paul Robinson, says of the extension: “So far, more than 12,500 people have heard Anno Domino, nearly 1,000 of them last weekend alone. That represents 31 complete sell-out performances in our Round auditorium, where Alan’s shows are usually premiered.

“People have listened in from all over the globe, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.

This could have been the last time: Heather Stoney and Alan Ayckbourn in the 1964 production of Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre. Now, instead, they are performing together again in Ayckbourn’s 2020 audio play Anno Domino

“We’re keen to make it accessible to as many people as possible, so we’ve decided to extend the listening period by a week, but this really will be your last opportunity to hear it!”

Anno Domino proved particularly popular in the United States – where Ayckbourn’s plays are performed regularly in New York – after being reviewed favourably in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and featuring on Morning Edition, the nationwide flagship show of National Public Radio.

This summer, Ayckbourn should have been directing the world premiere of his 83rd play, Truth Will Out, ironically featuring a virulent computer virus, preceded by his revival of his 1976 comedy, Just Between Ourselves, “the one with the car”, that would have opened last Thursday until the Covid-19 pandemic intervened.

Instead, recording at their Scarborough home, Ayckbourn and Stoney acted together for the first time since performing in William Gibson’s American two-hander Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964: Ayckbourn’s exit stage left from treading the boards on a professional stage.

Stoney’s last full season as an actress was at the SJT in the 1985 repertory company that presented the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind.

Ayckbourn says of Anno Domino: “The inspiration came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand! And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”  

This SJT production, with a final audio mix by Paul Steer, marks the first time Ayckbourn has both directed and performed in one of his own plays: one of a multitude of reasons to tune in before noon on July 2. Make the most of the extension. No excuses.

Thought for the day…

Dark times: York Theatre Royal, exit stage left until further, more helpful notice from the Government’s Washing Hands department

THEATRES can “re-open” from July 4, but not for performances. That’s like saying pubs can re-open but not serve any beer.

Theatre’s future and indeed theatres’ futures are hanging by a thread. For once, take something other than the besmirching of Winston Churchill’s statue seriously, Prime Minister, not wiffle-waffle about “can re-open”.

Scarborough children take to the beach as Red Arrows for virtual Armed Forces Day

The young people’s Red Arrows on Scarborough’s South Bay beach in Animated Objects’ costumes. All pictures: Tony Bartholomew

SCARBOROUGH theatre company Animated Objects is taking part in this summer’s Scarborough Borough Council community outreach programme.

Artistic director Lee Threadgold’s company has created the costumes for children to dress as the young people’s Red Arrows for Scarborough’s virtual Armed Forces Day to mark this national event coming to the East Coast resort in June 2021.

The Red Arrows made by Animated Objects Theatre Company for Scarborough Borough Council’s virtual Armed Forces Day celebrations

On Monday this week, the council launched its virtual celebration of the Armed forces with various events and films being aired on the Scarborough Armed Forces website,, and Facebook page,

Animated Objects Theatre Company is “a small company that delivers really big ideas”, specialising in large-scale events, outdoor theatre, giant artworks and performances.

Children in Red Arrows formation on Scarborough’s South Bay beach for the virtual Armed Forces Day

Sollazzo Ensemble and BarrocoTout re-live York triumphs in NCEM online concerts

Sollazzo Ensemble: 2017 winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition

THE National Centre for Early Music’s lockdown season of free concerts from York presents a double bill of Sollazzo Ensemble and BarrocoTout on Saturday.

“We have selected the very best concerts from two ensembles who won the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition in 2015 and 2017 respectively,” says director Dr Delma Tomlin.

To view these concerts for free at 1pm, follow or log on to the NCEM website,

Directed by mediaeval fiddle player Anna Danilevskaia, joined by sopranos Perrine Devillers and Yukie Sato, tenor Vivien Simon, fiddle player Sophia Danilevskaia and harpist Vincent Kibildis, the Swiss group were recorded on July 11 2015.

Formed in 2014 in Basel, Switzerland, where the members were all studying at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, that year they were selected for the “EEEmerging” programme supported by Creative Europe, going on to win the main prize in the YorkEarly Music International Young Artists Competition and the public’s Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize in 2015.

They built their winning performance around Jehan de Cordoval and Jehan Ferrandes, two blind fiddle players in the 15th century court of Burgundy, playing works by Guillaume Dufay and Loyset Compère, among others, that they would have peformed .

Cordoval and Ferrandes caught our attention because, unlike many medieval musicians known today, they were famous exclusively as performers, not as composers or theorists,” said Anna.

BarrocoTout: 2015 winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition

“Soloists before the time of soloism: the simple fact of their existence and their success offers us a perspective on the richness of the musical scene at the Burgundian court in the 15th century.” 

BarracoTout, from Belgium, were recorded on July 15 2017 when winning the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, having been selected in 2015 for the EEEmerging programme (EEE standing for ‘Emerging European Ensembles’)

Carlota Garcia, flute, Izana Soria,violin, Edouard Catalan, cello, and Ganael Schneider, harpsichord, presented To Paris And Back: Return, a programme of 17th and 18th century works by Henri-Jacques de Croes, Jean-Marie Leclair and Georg Philipp Telemann.  

In 2018, they recorded their first album for Linn Records, La Sonate Égarée, an album dedicated to Henri-Jacques de Croes.

Izana Soria said of her fellow Belgian: “Born in Antwerp, de Croes was an important innovator of his time. He was maître de musiqueof the Chapelle Royale in Brussels and Frankfurt, and, like Telemann, able to synthesise the Italian, French and German styles in his sonatas and symphonies.

“The Largo of his sixth sonata has an operatic lyricism, whereas the Fuga combines markedly rhythmical passages, typically baroque dissonances and pre-classical articulations, with a polished and convincing result.”

Formed in Brussels in 2013, BarrocoTout take their name from a sketch on the Spanish comedy show Muchachada Nui: Barroco Tu (meaning “Baroque yourself”), and their mission is to explore work written for their four-piece formation by well-known composers, while also re-discovering other composers who have fallen into oblivion.

No press night tonight, but Ayckbourn’s Just Between Ourselves is under discussion just between playwright and archivist

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1976 premiere of Just Between Ourselves at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

TONIGHT should have been the press night for Emeritus director Alan Ayckbourn’s revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy, Just Between Ourselves, at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre.

However, as with the no-longer upcoming world premiere of his 83rd play, Truth Will Out, the summer production of this rarely staged Seventies’ gem has been scuppered by the Coronavirus crisis that has led to the SJT being closed.

Instead, why not head to @ArchivingAlanA for Simon Murgatroyd’s exclusive new interview with the Scarborough playwright, who discusses his classic play and his thoughts on it now. Find it at

In “the one with the car”, set on four birthdays, Dennis thinks he is a master at DIY and a perfect husband but in reality he is neither. When he decides to sell his car, Neil turns up as a potential buyer, wanting it for his wife Pam’s birthday.

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney in their Scarborough garden. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

In Ayckbourn’s dissection of man’s inhumanity to woman, as two couples become unlikely friends, aided and abetted by Dennis’s meddling live-in mother, Marjorie, a collision course becomes inevitable.

Sheridan Morley said of the 1977 West End premiere: “I had the feeling I’d seen Uncle Vanya rewritten by and for the Marx Brothers.” Bernard Levin’s verdict in The Sunday Times proclaimed: “Ayckbourn has gained an immense reputation with a series of plays in which puppets dance most divertingly on their strings. Here he has cut the strings and then stuck the knife into the puppets.”

How frustrating there will be no SJT revival this summer, but make sure you do listen to Ayckbourn’s 84th premiere, his audio play for lockdown, Anno Domino, starring Ayckbourn himself and his wife Heather Stoney,

In one of his lighter pieces, charting the break-up of a long-established marriage and its domino effect on family and friends, Ayckbourn, 81, and Stoney play four characters each, aged 18 to mid-70s. “We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says Ayckbourn of a world premiere available for free exclusively on the SJT’s website,, until noon on June 25. 

First, Velma Celli’s divas take over her Bishopthorpe kitchen this weekend. Then, she can come to your place if you ask

Velma Celli’s show poster for Me & My Divas on Saturday

“DARLINGS, I am in London for a bit to try and get things moving and it’s safe to say that it is depressing as F!” So wrote York drag diva divine Velma Celli to her adoring devotees on email on Saturday lunchtime.

“Anyway, I’ll plod on as long as I can. So, I am doing my show ‘Me & My Divas’ next Saturday [June 27] and I would LOVE for you to join me LIVE from LANDAN!”

Since then, Velma, the glorious cabaret creation of actor Ian Stroughair, has returned to Bishopthorpe, from where his series of online performances, streamed live from the Case De Velma Celli kitchen, will resume this weekend.

Tickets for the 8pm show cost £7 at As always, tickets come off sale at 5pm and the link will be sent out at around 6pm

Here Charles Hutchinson has a quick catch-up with Velma in the lead-up to Saturday’s virtual date with divas galore.

“Crazy. talented and confidence to suit”: Velma Celli’s three steps to being a diva

How did it feel heading back to London from York after three months in home-town lockdown?

“It was both exciting and nerve-wracking…” 

…You say you went back to London to “try and get things moving”. What can you do at this stage?

“I was hoping to network with restaurants and other smaller venues planning to open on July 4, but it was impossible, so I’m back in York for two weeks.”

How did your last online York kitchen show, Equinox, go on June 13? What did you perform with your remote guest Jodie Steel, the West End star of Wicked, Six and Rock Of Ages?

“It was the best yet! SO much fun. Jodie and I sang Take Me Or Leave Me from Rent [the American musical in which Ian Stroughair played the messianic Angel].

What’s the history of Me & My Divas? 

“I first performed it in January this year in Perth, Australia, at Fringeworld, winning the Best Cabaret award for the season.” 

What’s the content of this new show?

“No diva is safe, no riff she won’t sing – so strap yourself in and let the belt-off begin.

“Me & My Divas is an overindulgent diva fest celebrating the songs and behaviour of all of your favourite divas, including Celine, Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Cher, Britney (maybe not!) and many more.”

Definitely being one yourself, what are the qualifications required to be a diva, Velma?

“Crazy, talented and confidence to suit.”

Will you have a guest joining you remotely, like you did with Twinnie, Louise Dearman and Jodie Steel for your previous online shows?

“I am working on this. Hopefully I will.”

What are your upcoming plans as lockdown loosens ever more expansively?

“Darlings, you can now book Velma OR Ian to perform privately for your ‘Bubble’ in your outside space/garden or publicly if you have a venue with enough room for social distancing indoors or out!!!

“Get in touch if this is something you might be interested in at”

The SJT’s Funky Choir and Global Voices re-unite for Zoom sessions to make videos

Global Voices, pictured by Mark Lamb in pre-Coronavirus social-distancing days

SCARBOROUGH’S Stephen Joseph Theatre is taking its two community choirs online from next week to work on songs culminating in a video.

The Funky Choir and Global Voices each have around 30 members and both always welcome new members.

The SJT’s associate director for children and young people, Cheryl Govan, herself a  Funky Choir member, says: ”Singing is a great way to unwind – we all do it in the shower! – and it really doesn’t matter if you’re a brilliant singer or not. Singing is scientifically proven to make you feel happier. 

“Don’t be put off if you think you can’t sing: this is about having a good time. The best bit about Zoom choirs is that only the people in your own house can hear you!”

The Funky Zoom Choir will meet on Tuesdays at 7pm from June 30 after going from strength to strength in the past few years, developing a varied and colourful set of lively pop, funk, disco and soul covers.

Musical director Mark Gordon, a prominent face on the Scarborough music scene for more than 30 years, performs regularly with many bands and takes on the role of musical director for theatre shows.

The Funky Choir, one of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s two community choirs, will be meeting on Zoom from June 30. Picture: Mark Lamb

Mark teaches music in Scarborough schools and runs youth orchestras, jazz bands, rock workshops and choirs, as well as being a private piano teacher. 

The Global Voices Zoom choir will gather remotely on Thursdays at 7pm from July 2 to resume singing songs from around the world, from warm-ups, short rounds and chants to more complex, exciting songs.

Choir leader, music teacher and composer Sarah Dew creates musical journeys in soundscapes that blend her field recordings, melody and ambient sound art. Poetic narrative features in many of her ethereal works and she has written extensively for her band Raven, whose performances around the region over many years celebrate life, love and the universe.

Looking forward to next week’s re-start, Cheryl Govan says: “The Funky Choir will be learning Car Washby Rose Royce – a funky song if ever there were one! The end result will be a fun and lively video.

“Global Voices will be learning Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, giving participants the chance to reflect on what freedom means to them. This reflective, but super-fun, process will result in a thoughtful video to accompany the song.”

Membership of The Funky Choir and Global Voices costs £35 each for a five-week term. For more information, go to:

I predict a Quiet hurrah as Kaiser Chiefs’ York Art Gallery show rises again online

Kaiser Chiefs, minus Ricky Wilson, at the launch of their York Art Gallery exhibition in December 2018

KAISER Chiefs’ pop-meets-art exhibition at York Art Gallery can be enjoyed all over again online.

The Leeds indie rock band collaborated with senior curator Beatrice Bertram in 2018 to create When All Is Quiet, an innovative show that “explored the liminal spaces between art and sound, sensation and perception, and creation and performance”.

For the December 14 2018 to March 10 2019 run, Kaiser Chiefs hand-picked 11 paintings from York Art Gallery’s collection to show alongside a selection of songs by contemporary musicians and sound artists that have influenced their practice directly.

Dr Beatrice Bertram: Co-curator of the Kaiser Chiefs’ exhibition at York Art Gallery

You can listen to the Spotify playlist at:

The exhibition featured work by Peter Donnelly; Bryan Winter; John Hoyland; Jack Butler Yeats; Malcolm Edward Hughes; Oliver Bevan; John Golding; L. S. Lowry; J. M. W. Turner, Rebecca Appleby and Bridget Riley.

The chance to “re-visit” When All Is Quiet: The Kaiser Chiefs in Conversation with York Art Gallery comes courtesy of Art UK at @artukdotorg.

Kaiser Chiefs should have been playing their Forest Live gig at Dalby Forest on Friday (June 26), but the Covid-19 pandemic intervened.