Off site today. 60th birthday!!!

Blow me down: Hutchinson hits 60 and celebrates space cowboy cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin going into orbit for 108 minutes on this very day, April 12 1961. Happy birthday to Sir Alan Ayckbourn too: 82 today and still sending plays into previously unchartered theatre space. Cake: copyright of Great Yorkshire Bake Off chef cuisiniere Celestine Dubruel

Mission Impossible! Velma Celli finds new wonderbar home for York drag residency

“It’s happening!” says Velma Celli as York cabaret star moves residency to Impossible, York, from next month. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick, Kirkpatrick Photography

YORK’S drag diva deluxe Velma Celli is on the move.

Out goes the Covid-suspended monthly camp cabaret Friday nights at The Basement, City Screen, York.

In comes a resplendent residency from next month at Impossible, York, Tokyo Industries’ new tea-room, cocktail bar, restaurant and speakeasy enterprise in the old Terry’s café in St Helen’s Café, latterly home to Carluccio’s restaurant.

“It’s happening!” says an excited Velma Celli, the exotic international drag alter ego of musical actor Ian Stroughair, last seen on a York stage in December as the villainous Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41, Monkgate.

“Velma has a new residency!! My very first live gig at the utterly fabulous Impossible, York. May 21st.  Doors 7pm. Show 8pm! My very special guest is [York soul sister] Jessica Steel (obvs). More special West End guests to be announced! Grab those tickets as it will sell out!”

Take that advice, Velma insists. “50 per cent of tickets have gone! If you want to come to opening night, don’t wait to book! This baby is flying!!!!”

Tickets are on sale at https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/the-velma-celli-show-impossible-york-tickets/10900325, priced at £22 for VIP front cabaret table seats and £16.50 for reserved seating.

“Basically, it’s replacing the shows at The Basement, where we don’t know when it will reopen for shows under Covid guidance as it’s a small space,” says Ian, as he switches from the impossible to Impossible, York.

“I met the Impossible manager, Stephanie, in December, meeting her between Jack And The Beanstalk shows, and then five weeks ago she knocked on the window saying, ‘I’ve been trying to contact you!’.

How the other half lives: Exit alter ego Velma Celli, enter Ian Stroughair, musical actor, playing Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk

“And so the first Velma Celli Show there on May 21, up the stairs, in the fabulous Impossible Wonderbar setting overlooking the square, with more shows to be announced later. This one will be fun, comedic, with stand-up, impressions, the usual mix of rock, pop and the blues, plus Jess and guests.”

Ian first moved back to York for Lockdown 1 when the pandemic sent him home from a Velma Celli Australian tour and he plans to settle back in his home city permanently from May, travelling to London for three days a week when necessary.

Streamed concerts, first from a Bishopthorpe kitchen and latterly from a riverside abode by the Ouse Bridge, have kept Velma Celli’s voice in spectacular working order, sometimes accompanied by Jessica Steel, leading light of Big Ian Donaghy’s fundraising A Night To Remember shows at York Barbican.

“Jess is reopening her salon [Rock The Barnet in Boroughbridge Road] from Monday, so we did our last stream together last night, Last Online – A Grand Finale, that ticket holders can see until Sunday,” says West End star Ian, who has appeared in such musicals as Cats, Fame, Chicago and Rent, but had to forego a long run in Funny Girls in Blackpool last year, thwarted by Killjoy Covid.

For the latest Velma Celli trailer, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a005o6eGZWI. Hit it!

Kate Rusby to stream Hand Me Down lockdown covers concert tonight at 7.30pm

Kate Rusby: Hand Me Down concert will be streamed from Cast, Doncaster, tonight

FOR the first time, tonight Barnsley folk singer Kate Rusby will perform her lockdown covers’ album, Hand Me Down, in full on stage in a worldwide stream at 7.30pm BST.

Released on her Pure Records label on August 14 last summer after recording sessions with husband musician Damien O’Kane, the collection of her favourite songs brought Kate, 47, her highest-charting album to date.

Bar the odd part recorded remotely by a band member, Hand Me Down was made by Kate and Damien when dividing days between home studio and home schooling their daughters.

Tonight will be the first chance to hear the likes of Manic Monday, Friday I’m In Love, Shake It Off and Three Little Birds performed live by Kate and her regular band in a two-hour concert including an interval.

Kate Rusby with daughters Daisy and Phoebe making the Singy Songy Sessions home video recording of Manic Monday during Lockdown 1

Hand Me Down debuted at number 12 in the Official Album Charts – number three in the CD album chart and number four in the independent release chart – and a vinyl version followed on January 15.

Tickets are available at live.katerusby.com, from where Kate’s globally streamed concert will be available on demand until May 22, a date that would have been the last day of her cancelled spring tour.

As with her streamed Christmas concert, Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12 last year, the location for tonight’s recording will be Cast in Doncaster.

To watch a trailer, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=7v7Ag1y­_OcM

The covers’ cover: Kate Rusby’s album artwork for Hand Me Down

Hand Me Down’s track listing:

  1. Manic Monday (written by Prince; a hit for The Bangles in 1986)
  2. Everglow (Coldplay)
  3. Days (The Kinks, covered by Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello)
  4. If I Had A Boat (Lyle Lovett)
  5. Maybe Tomorrow (from The Littlest Hobo, a Canadian TV series, performed by Terry Bush)
  6. The Show (theme song for TV series Connie, written by Willy Russell, performed by Rebecca Storm)
  7. Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
  8. True Colours (written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly; a hit for Cyndi Lauper in 1986 )
  9. Carolina On My Mind (James Taylor)
  10. Love Of The Common People (written by written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkinsa hit for Paul Young in 1983)
  11. Friday I’m In Love (The Cure) 
  12. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) 

York Stage to take Songs From The Settee out of the home and into Theatre @41 in return to live shows from May 20 to 23

YORK Stage are to present Songs From The Settee – Live On Stage from May 20 to 23 at Theatre @41, Monkgate, York, in the wake of a hit series of online shows.

Director/producer Nik Briggs and his York production company never let the first pandemic lockdown grind them down, instead bringing together their performers, musicians and technicians remotely for a streamed concert season that played out over ten weeks under the title of Songs From The Settee.

“The idea was to keep the city entertained with top-quality musical theatre while we were in uncharted territory,” says Nik. “We thought the weekly publications would last three to four weeks, but before we knew it, we were at ten!

“We were blown away and driven by our friends and followers, who were engaging with the series and sending us messages, saying how we were helping them get through the week.”

The first online recording, Heroes All Around, was released on April 9 2020. “So, it feels like the perfect date, one year later, to announce what we’ll be bringing to our audiences as theatres are set to reopen with social distancing from May 17: Songs From The Settee – Live On Stage,” says Nik.

“From May 20 to 23, we have two different concerts that will run back to back under the same title at 7.30pm each evening.

“Musical director Jess Douglas will start the ball rolling with her band and some of York Stage’s finest vocal talents on May 20 and 21, before passing the baton to Stephen Hackshaw, who will bring in a new band and showcase more of the York Stage talent pool on May 22 and 23.”

York Stage director Nik Briggs and musical director Jess Douglas

The event will be staged in the Covid-secure John Cooper Studio at Theatre@41 on Monkgate, where audiences will be seated at cabaret tables, socially distanced from other bubbles around the studio. Drinks and refreshments will be served throughout the show with a table-service offering.

“Having produced a socially distanced pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 over Christmas, we know we can bring a show with full Covid compliance to the venue successfully and very much look forward to doing so,” says Nik.

The announcement of Lockdown 3 sadly stopped Jack and his Beanstalk antics short of the early January finishing line when theatres were forced to close on December 30.

“Up to that point, I’d been thinking about what shows I could be making for January and February, but as the days passed, I realised that was not to be!” he says.

“We knew it was coming, but the real blow was not getting our New Year’s Eve shows in. It felt like we’d been robbed of something we’d fought for after the most difficult year ever; to see through to the last day of the year weirdly seemed at the time as though it would have taken the sting out of the closure.

“But it feels so good to be returning to the venue and reopening public performances with these concerts. Boris says the reopening will be irreversible, so fingers crossed that it’s the first of many events for 2021.” 

Tickets can be bought online at yorkstagemusicals.com from tomorrow (10/4/2021). 

Mud Pie Arts’ Nicolette and Jenna launch Drama For Recovery workshops at York primary schools for summer term games

Under a cloud…but a silver lining is nigh for Nicolette Hobson, left, and Jenna Drury, of Mud Pie Arts, as they start
Drama For Recovery workshops

YORK theatre-in-education company Mud Pie Arts are launching Drama For Recovery workshops, marked by a cycle ride to every primary school in York on April 14 and 15.

The start of a new school term brings the promise of the return of visiting artists, York drama practitioners Nicolette Hobson and Jenna Drury, who want to help York children recover from a stressful year through drama games.

Drama For Recovery comes as a response to teachers reporting that some children are struggling to adjust to life back in school, finding problems in working together and concentrating on tasks.

Calling on more than 20 years’ experience in education and youth theatre, Mud Pie Arts understand that regular drama games can build skills in co-operation and focus.  

Drama is the ideal tool to build life skills such as teamwork and empathy,” says Jenna. “We know that drama lets children express their creativity. After a time of feeling powerless, our form of play gives children a voice and a choice. It’s powerful stuff! Plus, of course, our sessions are often full of laughter, which is a great stress-buster for all of us.”

Any questions? Hands up as Nicolette Hobson and Jenna Drury lead a session at Clifton Green Primary School

Mud Pies Arts are inviting teachers to book a day of drama that will include every child in the school. “Teachers will have the opportunity to learn the simple games, so that, with regular bursts of drama play, all children will benefit,” says Jenna. 

“What’s more, this week I’ll be delivering our leaflets to all 63 state primaries by pedal power! From Stensall to Wheldrake, Rufforth to Elvington, that’s over 55 miles of local lanes. 

“We want to show our commitment to education with this gesture of determination. Luckily, we live in a wonderfully compact, green city!”

Mud Pie Arts also will offer primary schools a teaching package for eight to 11 year olds to build resilience through Operation Last Hope,a fantasy role-play that requires the children to complete a quest to rehabilitate an endangered species.

Nicolette and Jenna created the films, audio and resources for this scheme, after being awarded a micro-commission in January from IVE at Arts Council England. 

Buzzing around: Mud Pie Arts’ Nicolette Hobson leads children in a workshop on bees

Mud Pie Arts wasted no time in lockdown, writing and recording open-ended Cloud Tales and posting them as a free resource on their website. They have taught remotely and won commissions to make storytelling films for home schooling, and these stories and the duo’s film, Meet Florence Nightingale, are still available to all. 

Schools can contact Mud Pie Arts to discuss bespoke drama or storytelling workshops. “We hope teachers will welcome artists back to schools soon,” says Nicolette. “It is possible to do this safely. The arts are essential for child development and well-being, after such a long year of disruption to young lives.”

To contact Mud Pie Arts, go to: mudpiearts.co.uk.

Did you know?

MUD Pie Arts deliver drama-based curriculum workshops and interactive storytelling performances to children aged three to 11 throughout Yorkshire. 

Van on the move! Morrison’s York Barbican gigs rearranged for July 20 and 21. More show dates changed too…

Van Morrison: May day, second May day, now become July days

NO reopening date has yet been announced for York Barbican, but Irish veteran Van Morrison’s shows are being moved from May 25 and 26 to July 20 and 21.

“Please keep hold of your tickets as they will be valid for the new date,” says the Barbican website, where seats for Van The Man are on sale without social distancing, in line with Step 4 of the Government’s pandemic Roadmap to Recovery, whereby all legal limits on social contact are potentially to be removed from June 21.

Morrison, 75, will release his 42nd album, Latest Record Project: Volume 1, a 28-track delve into his ongoing love of blues, R&B, jazz and soul, on May 7 on Exile/BMG.

Jane McDonald: Letting the light in at York Barbican on July 4

The Barbican listings – and her own website – suggest Wakefield cabaret singer Jane McDonald’s Let The Light In show on July 4 could be the first show since Frank Turner on March 8 last year: aptly named as York Barbican has lain dormant and dark since the first lockdown.

A multitude of York Barbican bookings has been rearranged, led off by “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World”. Who? Er, Leicester’s Showaddywaddy, apparently, it says here, Hey Rock And Roll, Under The Moon Of Love, Hey Mister Christmas, I Wonder Why, et al.

When? Yes, that was a hit too, number three in 1976. No, when is the re-booked date? “Our Showaddywaddy that was due to take place on 1 Aug 2020/ 29 April 2021 has now been rescheduled for Friday, 4th March 2022,” says the Barbican website.

From podcast to York stage: Rosie and Chris Ramsey, now playing the Barbican on September 28

Rumours of Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac’s tribute show moving are true, now in the 2021 diary for July 26, rather than May 21.

Born in Kingston upon Thames but Scottish, Daniel Sloss has re-scheduled his Hubris, his 11th solo show, for September 19 after his October 3 2020 and May 8 2021 dates were Covid-crocked.

Shagged. Married. Annoyed. With Chris & Rosie Ramsey, the  Geordie duo’s 18-million-download podcast transported to the stage, has switched from June 16 to September 28.   

Jimmy Carr: Mulling over terrible things that might have affected you or people you know on November 4

The only way the Ramseys can have a conversation without being interrupted by a small child or ending up staring at their phones is by doing a podcast…and now a live show. As always, life, relationships, arguments, annoyances, parenting, growing up and everything in between, will be up for discussion.

Jimmy Carr: Terribly Funny foregoes May 2 in favour of November 4 2021, when the Channel 4 host of The Friday Night Project and 8 Out Of 10 Cat will mull over terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love.

“But they’re just jokes. They are not the terrible things,” he qualifies. “Having political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.”

Russell Watson: The Voice soars at York Barbican on November 7

Russell Watson: 20th Anniversary Of The Voice will now be marking the 21st anniversary of the Salford tenor’s debut album, released on September 25 2000. Moving his York show from October 9 2020 to November 7 2021, when he will be joined by a choir, he will perform career highlights such as Caruso, O Sole Mio, Il Gladiatore, Nessun Dorma, You Are So Beautiful, Someone To Remember Me and Where My Heart Will Take Me.

Kim Wilde is taking no chances, putting back her Greatest Hits Tour date from September 17 this year to that date next year in a case of keeping us Hangin’ On. Special guests, by the way, will be China Crisis, the presciently named Liverpool crafters of such Eighties’ delights as Wishful Thinking and King In A Catholic Style.

Dionne Warwick’s Farewell Tour, One Last Time, should have brought the silken voice of I Say A Little Prayer, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Anyone Who Had A Heart and Walk On By to York on October 29 2020.

Kim Wilde: Postponing her Greatest Hits Tour show for a year

Instead, the show will go ahead on June 10, 2022, by when the City of Orange soul queen would be 81. “After almost six decades I’ve decided it’s time to put away the touring trunk and focus on recording, one-off concerts and special events,” said the six-time Grammy Award winner, forever associated with the Burt Bacharach & Hal David songbook, when she announced the tour in November 2019.

“I still love performing live, but the rigours of travelling every day so far from home, sleeping in different hotels each night, one concert after the other, is becoming hard. So, I’ve decided to stop touring on that level in Europe…but I’m not retiring!”

Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk or on 0203 356 5441. All York Barbican tickets remain valid for the new dates highlighted here, but ticket holders should contact their point of purchase if they have any questions.

Dionne Warwick: One Last Time show will be much later than first planned

Count Arthur Strong presents himself and Genesis Visible Touch toast the Phil Collins era in new York Barbican dates for 2022

Count-down to to the Strong stuff in 2022: Count Arthur Strong’s poster for And This Is Me!

COUNT Arthur Strong presents himself in And This Is Me! at York Barbican on June 3 2022 to mark still going Strong after two decades.

“After many years of giving his wonderful lecture talks of his he does, Count Arthur Strong has at last bowed to substantial pubic demand and allowed himself be talked into making the show about himself for once,” his tour spiel pronounces.

“And that had never occurred to him before because of him being highly magnanimous,” it adds, as tickets for his 20th anniversary tour go on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk or on 0203 356 5441.

From his breakthrough Edinburgh Fringe show Forgotten Egypt in 2002, to turning the spotlight on himself in 2022, the droll creation of Leeds comic Steve Delaney has two decades of memories from his ten national tours, 15 years of his multi award-winning radio show and three series of his BAFTA- nominated self-titled TV sitcom.

Ticket sales start at 10.30am tomorrow for Genesis Visible Touch, “the ultimate Phil Collins-era Genesis show”, at York Barbican on March 3 2022.

For their 2022 Greatest Hits And Fan Favourites Tour, Genesis Visible Touch will be doing “exactly what it says in the title”: replicating Follow You Follow Me, Invisible Touch, In The Cage and myriad older fan favourites and live classics. The verdict? “The best exponents of Collins-fronted Genesis I’ve seen,” says Genesis producer Nick Davis.

The Genesis Visible Touch tour poster for their 2022 concert at York Barbican

Meanwhile, another Genesis tribute gig at York Barbican is on the move from this year to next, this one focused on the Peter Gabriel era . The Musical Box: A Genesis Extravaganza – Part III has been rescheduled from February 14 2021 to February 4 2022.

All tickets remain valid for the new date, but ticket holders should contact their point of purchase if they have any questions.

The Musical Box, the only group in the world granted a licence from Peter Gabriel and Genesis, will re-create “the greatest rock opera ever created” in its entirety, namely the original 1975 performance of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, staged in painstaking historical detail, right down to the original slide show.

The final collaboration between Gabriel and Genesis is to be “revived one last time in the end-of-an-era final chance to witness this unique live experience” in this 8pm show.

The Musical Box have performed to more than one million spectators worldwide, playing such prestigious venues as the Royal Albert Hall, London, and the Paris Olympia, and the group have had the privilege of hosting Phil Collins as a performing guest.

“The Musical Box recreated, very accurately, what Genesis was doing,” says Peter Gabriel. “They’re not a tribute band, they have taken a period and are faithfully reproducing it in the same way that someone would do a theatrical production,” reckonsPhil Collins.

“I cannot imagine that you could have a better tribute for any act,” says Steve Hackett, lead guitarist in the Genesis line-up of that era. “It was better than the real thing,” concedes fellow guitarist Mike Rutherford.

The Musical Box: Re-enacting the Genesis works of the Peter Gabriel era. “Very accurately,” says Mr Gabriel

More Things To Do in York, beyond and at home as Step 2 on the roadmap nears. List No. 30, courtesy of The Press, York

York actor-writer Anna Soden in rehearsal for Strawberry Lion’s streamed performance of E Nesbit’s Five Children And It

ROLL on Monday and Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap to recovery, when outdoor hospitality can resume and zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and libraries can re-open.

Charles Hutchinson casts an eye over what’s on and what’s next.

Strawberry Lion’s show poster for Five Children And It

Children’s stream of the week: Strawberry Lion in Five Children And It, via Explore York libraries

YORK company Strawberry Lion’s streamed production of E Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It can be viewed for free on @YorkExplore’s YouTube channel daily until April 14 at 5pm.

Suitable for children aged five and over, the show is written and performed by York actor, musician, writer, theatre-maker and company founder Anna Soden, who has set Nesbit’s 1902 story with the grumpy magical creature on Scarborough beach.

Sailing Hopefully, by Jack Hellewell, from Jack’s Travels at Kentmere House Gallery, York, from next Monday

Exhibition launch of the week ahead: Jack Hellewell: Jack’s Travels, Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from April 12

CURATOR Ann Kentmere is toasting Roadmap Step 2 Day by reopening Kentmere House Gallery on April 12 with Jack Travels, the first in a lockdown-delayed series of exhibitions to celebrate the centenary of the late Bradford artist Jack Hellewell.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ann and David Petherick’s gallery in their York home, and Hellewell’s show will be open every day from April 12 to 17, 11am to 5pm, with extended opening to 9pm next Thursday, before Ann resumes her regular opening hours on the first weekend of each month and Thursdays from 6pm to 9pm. Or you can just ring the bell on the off-chance.

York Dungeon: Heading out into York’s haunted streets for a walking tour

Walking tour launch of the month ahead: The York Dungeon, from April 16

THE York Dungeon will spring its “frighteningly fun but family-friendly” walking tour on this socially distanced haunted city from next Friday.

Taking The York Dungeon above ground on Fridays to Sundays, guests will be led on a tour of hair-raising historic locations by two of the Clifford Street visitor attraction’s most/least loved characters, who will tell horrible tales of York’s murkiest, darkest history,  wrapped up in suspense and surprises. Start times will be throughout each day; tickets must be pre-booked at thedungeons.com/york/.

Ela Bochenek, documentations assistant for Scarborough Museums Trust, with Bathers In Sunlight by Zdzislaw Ruszkowski , on show at Scarborough Art Gallery in Scarborough: Our Seaside Town, from next month

A day by the sea but inside a gallery: Scarborough: Our Seaside Town, Scarborough Art Gallery, May 18 to September 12

SCARBOROUGH Art Gallery’s summertime exhibition will look at life in a seaside town, as seen through the eyes of local people. 

Curator Esther Lockwood interviewed team members from Scarborough Museums Trust, asking for their personal views and recollections of life by the sea year-round before selecting items from the trust’s extensive collections.

These will include an early 20th century ice cream cart that once operated on Scarborough’s South Bay beach; the East Coast resort’s Pancake Bell, rung to signal the start of the unique tradition of skipping on the seafront on Shrove Tuesday, and other seaside ephemera, paintings, vintage photographs and postcards.

Kinky Sex, Grayson Perry’s first plate, now among the “lost pots” brought together for his Pre-Therapy Years exhibition at CoCA, York

Missing Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 already? Head to Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) will open at last next month.

This touring show is the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world, re-assembling the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist, author and television presenter made between 1982 and 1994.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Perry.

SpongeBob The Musical: Pick Me Up Theatre have acquired the rights for a winter production in York

Audition opportunity: Pick Me Up Theatre, SpongeBob The Musical, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York

YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre are to stage SpongeBob The Musical from December 7 to 18 at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

Director Robert Readman and musical director Sam Johnson will hold auditions there in July and August for performers aged 15 to 23 and actor-musicians for the Bikini Bottom Band.

Anyone interested is asked to email pickmeuptheatre@gmail.com for an audition form.

Del Amitri: First album in 19 years and first York Barbican gig after the same hiatus

Gig announcement of the week in York: Del Amitri, York Barbican, September 18

DEL Amitri will follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a September 18 gig at York Barbican.

Justin Currie’s Glaswegian band last played the Barbican in May 2002, the year they released their last album, Can You Do Me Good?.

Greatest hits and new material will combine in a set supported by The Bryson Family. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow (9/4/2021) at 9am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

John Spiers, left, and Jon Boden: Pocklington Arts Centre gig in October for the former Bellowhead cornerstones

Gig announcement of the week outside York: Spiers & Boden, Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC), October 20, 8pm

AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together and not only working on new material, but also bringing a live performance to Pock in the autumn. 

John Spiers, 46, and Jon Boden, 44, were the driving forces in big folk band Bellowhead, who played a glorious headline set at PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2015. Tickets cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Reunited Boden & Spiers to showcase new material at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together, working on new material and bringing a live show to Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) this autumn. 

John Spiers, 46, and Jon Boden, 44, former leading lights of big folk band Bellowhead, will perform in Pock on Wednesday, October 20.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “Spiers & Boden are a fantastic addition to our live events programme, and the fact that Pocklington Arts Centre will be one of their first live dates after they re-formed as a duo, following a hiatus of several years, is just incredible. Tickets have only just gone on sale and are already selling fast. 

“We cannot wait to welcome this talented duo, and of course our wonderful audience, through our doors for what will be an utterly brilliant night of world–class live music.”

Forming a folk duo in 2001, Spiers & Boden won a clutch of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: the Horizon Award for Best Newcomerin 2003 and the Best Duo Award in 2004 and 2006.  

A sojourn in Eliza Carthy & The Ratcatchers included a performance at the Mercury Music Prize Awards. After years of touring, in 2011 they headlined their own star-studded show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire to celebrate their tenth anniversary.

Bellowhead: Boden and Spiers’ 11-piece folk big band

Meanwhile, they had built on their early success as a duo to found the ground-breaking folk big band Bellowhead, going on to achieve Royal Albert Hall sell-outs, Proms In The Park successes, multiple awards, signing to Universal Records en route to 250,000 album sales, and headlining PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2015.

Inevitably, Bellowhead increasingly dominated their time and in 2014 Spiers & Boden made the tough decision to rest the duo, with Bellowhead bowing out two years later. 

Since then, Boden has carved out a career as both a solo performer and with his own band, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, while continuing to work on his creative trilogy of albums exploring a post-apocalyptic world and his work writing music for theatre. On November 6 2017, he launched his album Afterglow with a solo gig at Pocklington Arts Centre.

Melodeon player Spiers formed performance collaborations with fiddler Peter Knight, of Steeleye Span and Feast Of Fiddles, and separately folk singer and fiddler Jackie Oates.

He is a member too of the Gigspanner Big Band, with Knight, percussionist Sacha Trochet, guitarist Roger Flack and the multi-instrumental Edgelarks duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin.  

What an autumn week this is shaping up to be at PAC: Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan on October 19, Spiers & Boden, October 20, and Texas-born singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman on October 23. Tickets for Spiers & Boden’s 8pm Pocklington concert cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Look who’s coming to York Theatre Royal in July…

Another Fiennes message: Ralph Fiennes in rehearsal for his solo performance of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets poems

STAR of stage and screen Ralph Fiennes is to direct and perform in the world premiere of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets in his York Theatre Royal debut from July 26 to 31 as the zenith of The Love Season.

This solo theatre adaptation will feature Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Giddings, published together in 1943 in a quartet that ranges across themes of time, nature and the elements, faith and spirituality and war and mortality.

For full details of The Love Season and to book tickets, go to: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Full story will follow in charleshutchpress.co.uk.

Gary Stewart to release DIY lockdown album Lost, Now Found as he turns 40

The album artwork by Ruth Varela for Gary Stewart’s June 14 album, Lost, Now Found

YORK singer-songwriter Gary Stewart will release his lockdown album, Lost, Now Found, on June 14, the day before his 40th birthday.

“The album was recorded at home and is pretty much all me, with the exception of a few musical friends, like Rosie Doonan, Ross Ainslie and Mikey Kenney,” says the left-handed guitarist, who can also be spotted playing drums for Hope & Social on a regular basis.

Perthshire-born Gary cut his teeth performing on the Leeds music scene for ten years before moving to York. Writing songs in the folk/pop vein, and influenced by the major singer/songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s – Paul Simon, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and assorted members of The Eagles – he has released three albums and two EPs to date.

Now comes Lost, Now Found, comprising material written between April and June 2020, shortly after the first pandemic lockdown was announced.

“When Covid-19 struck in late March 2020 and it became apparent that the nation would be indoors for some time, I made the decision (after a short period of squander sponsored by I-Player and Netflix) to try and write some songs after quite a hiatus,” says Gary.

“As a professional procrastinator, my fear was that I wouldn’t stick with it or even bother to give myself a fighting chance. Thankfully, I took up the threads of a song, Leopard, that had been kicking around my head and notebook for 18 months or so and got to task.

“What emerged was a knitted patchwork of a song, drawing initially on one specific personal experience, but extended to a more general introspective of my character and unified under the familiar question: can a leopard change its spots?”

The answer: “Well, given that this self-confessed ‘pro procrastinator’ managed to finish a song in lightning time – by his own standards – and continued to write another nine songs within a period of three months, I would say ‘yes’,” says Gary.

“Can a leopard change its spots?” wondered Gary Stewart. “Yes,” he decided

“The speed at which Leopard arrived (boom) gave me the confidence to continue writing. The ‘stay at home’ rule allowed me the chance to spend time broadening my chordal vocabulary (something I have wanted to do since ‘discovering’ The Beatles last year); to go further than the usual ‘three chords and the truth’.”

“Technophobe” Gary ventured into the realm of D.I.Y musician for Lost, Now Found, playing, recording, mixing and producing the album as a solo work.

“Arts Council England enticed me to apply for some funding, with its Developing Creative Practice fund helping me to secure the purchase of a laptop, an interface and a couple of really nice microphones,” he says.

“This in turn led me down the rabbit-hole and into the Wonderland of home-recording, the next two months being spent learning a new trade on-the-go while recording the ten new songs.

“This involved learning how to place microphones; how to record tracks; how to edit and ‘comp’ takes; latency; how to use compressors and reverbs; how to be patient; how to ‘really’ shout and swear. At 39 years old, I did not expect to be in the position of being able to learn a new skill and apply that skill so quickly. Another facet that fits neatly into the leopard/spots adage.”

Multi-instrumentalist Gary has enlisted the help of a handful of musician friends to “add colour” to assorted songs. Rosie Doonan, who has worked with Peter Gabriel, duets with Stewart on Hot To Trot, Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja and Lost, Now Found, and Mikey Kenney, from Band Of Burns, lends string arrangements to Rainy Day Lover and Sailors And Tailors.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Ross Ainslie, from Treacherous Orchestra and Salsa Celtica, plays whistle on Front Lines, while Sam Lawrence and James Hamilton contribute woodwind and brass respectively to the opening track, Tailspin.

Lost, Now Found captures the sound and feel of a 1970s’ era singer/songwriter record. “My D.I.Y approach to recording, coupled with my musical influences, help give the album its lo-fi sonority: warm-sounding acoustic guitars and drums; plate reverb vocals, and instruments captured as naturally as possible, with very little effect,” says Gary. “Think Tapestry meets Tea For The Tillerman.”

Gary Stewart performing at A Night To Remember at York Barbican. Picture courtesy of Ian Donaghy

Stylistically, the album embraces 1960s and 1970s’ artists alongside more contemporary folk/pop luminaries: The Beach Boys’ drums and vocal-harmony influence are apparent on Hot To Trot and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja; John Martyn and Nick Drake bounce off each other in Tailspin; lead single Leopard has a Villagers vibe, while the plaintive feel of Still Crazy-era Paul Simon is present on Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and the title track.

“These are ten songs that I’m really proud of,” says Gary. “Songs that deal with themes I constantly return to both consciously and sub-consciously: fabrics of my character that I’d like to change (Leopard and Chest); procrastination (Hot To Trot) and redemption, coupled with new beginnings (Tailspin) and straight-up love songs (Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja).

“Then there are the songs that are woven more indelibly and intertwined with the time and situation in which they were written: songs about the triumph over adversity of the NHS (Front Lines) and family loss, both physical and mental (Sailors And Tailors and Lost, Now Found).

“These compositions, to me, are a step-up musically and thematically from what I normally write. I think they’ve been captured really well on record and I hope you like listening to them very much.”

Gary Stewart’s Lost, Now Found is released on June 14 on CD, 12 vinyl and download.

Just how multi-instrumentalist is multi-tasking Gary Stewart?

ON Lost, Now Found, he contributes vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, hi-string guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, keys, xylophone, glockenspiel, congas, bongos, shakers, triangle, tambourine, finger cymbals, temple blocks and…thighs. Oh, and he recorded, mixed and produced the album.

Did you know?

GARY Stewart plays drums for Leeds band Hope & Social and guitar for Rosie Doonan, performs at Big Ian Donaghy’s A Night To Remember charity nights at York Barbican and hosts the New York Greenwich Village-inspired acoustic hootenanny, The Gaslight Club, run by Dead Young Records every Monday at Oporto!, in Call Lane, Leeds.

He also fronts a seven-piece line-up that tours the UK with Graceland: A Celebration of Paul Simon’s Classic (plus a generous handful of other Simon classics for good measure). In the diary for September 18 is a York gig at The Crescent at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12.50 (more on the door) at seetickets.com.

Gary Stewart’s poster for his Graceland shows. The Crescent, in York, awaits on September 18

Del Amitri to release first album in 19 years in May and play York Barbican in September

Del Amitri: First studio album in 19 years

DEL Amitri will follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a September 18 gig at York Barbican.

Justin Currie’s Glaswegian band last played the Barbican in May 2002, the year they released their last album, Can You Do Me Good?.

Currie and co previously performed at the York venue on their Some Other Sucker’s Parade Tour in November 1997.

Fatal Mistakes was scheduled for an April 30 release on Cooking Vinyl on CD, vinyl and digital formats, but “due to some unavoidable issues regarding production and distribution relating to the global pandemic”, the date has been moved to May 28. We’d like to apologise for this additional delay, but promise it’ll be worth the wait!” says Del Amitri’s official website.

The poster for Del Amitri’s tour promoting new album Fatal Mistakes

Formed in Glasgow in 1983, Del Amitri have chalked up four Top Ten albums with the million-selling Waking Hours in 1989, Changes Everything in 1992, Twisted in 1995 and Some Other Sucker’s Paradise in 1997.

Their best-known singles are Nothing Ever Happens, Kiss This Thing Goodbye, Always The Last To Know and Roll To Me.

After Can You Do Me Good?, Del Amitri settled into an indefinite hiatus until 2014, when they reunited for The A To Z Of Us Tour. In 2018 they toured again, this time with original band members Currie, Iain Harvie, Andy Alston, Kris Dollimore and Ash Soan.

For their 2021 tour, featuring the greatest hits and Fatal Mistakes, they will be supported by The Bryson Family. Tickets will go on sale on Friday (9/4/2021) at 9am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Pick Me Up Theatre to stage American hit show SpongeBob The Musical in December UPDATED 8/4/2021

SpongeBob The Musical: Broadway hit to be staged in York by Pick Me Up Theatre in December

YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre are to stage SpongeBob The Musical in the 2021 Christmas season at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

Director Robert Readman and musical director Sam Johnson will present the musical originally called SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, from December 7 to 18.

“Pick Me Up are thrilled to have secured the rights to bring this intrepid, heroic sponge and his friends to York audiences when live theatre once more returns to the York stage,” says Robert.

“I was happily scrolling through the Concord Theatricals website late last year and there it was! I didn’t even know it had been released for performance. It took months to get permission from the rights holders though!

“Now, we’re looking forward to auditioning this summer for this joyful musical: a perfect choice to brighten everyone’s Christmas.”

Readman and Johnson will hold auditions at Theatre @41 Monkgate in July and August – exact dates to be confirmed – for performers aged 15 to 23 with one proviso. “If you are an actor-musician, you can be any age and we’d love you to audition for the Bikini Bottom Band,” says Sam.

Anyone interested is asked to email pickmeuptheatre@gmail.com for an audition form to provide contact details including a photo, age and performance history.

“We’re also looking for costume makers, hair designers and prop builders to magically create the world of SpongeBob SquarePants,” says Robert, who saw the Broadway show live-streamed on Nickelodeon.

Based on the animated Nickelodeon series created by Stephen Hillenburg, the American musical has a book by Kyle Jarrow, with original songs by Yolanda Adams; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, of Aerosmith; Sara Bareilles; Jonathan Coulton; Alexander Ebert, of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros; The Flaming Lips; Lady A; Cyndi Lauper; John Legend; Panic!  At the Disco; Plain White T’s, and They Might Be Giants and T.I.

Songs by David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley feature too, along with additional lyrics by Jonathan Coultonand additional music by Tom Kitt.

“The show is whacky and very colourful, with plenty of scope for lots of varied performers, but mainly it has a terrific score written especially by some of the foremost pop composers from the last two decades,” says Robert.

Fans of the 21-year-old cartoon will delight in the mostly humanoid re-creations of favourite characters, such as Squidward; Patrick; Eugene Krabs; his daughter Pearl, who is inexplicably a whale; Larry the Lobster; Sandy Cheeks, the squirrel in a diving suit, and Sheldon J. Plankton, who functions as the villain, Gary.

What distinguishes the musical from Nickelodeon TV series? “A live-action re-imagining takes the cartoon into new territory, so it’s not slavishly copying the original but transforming it into a unique stage show for all the family,” says Robert.

“Plenty of crabbie laughs, lots of squid dancing, delicious pineapple ballads: what more could you ask than to be at the bottom of the sea for Christmas?!”

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to no fewer than four Pick Me Up Theatre shows, the first three at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate: Stephen Sondheim 90: A Birthday Concert on March 22; The Pirates Of Penzance, the company’s first foray into the topsy-turvy world, April 17 to 25, and Alan Combes and Steve Cassidy’s musical drama Black Potatoes, September 18 to 26.

The fourth, the American musical 42nd Street, should have run at the Grand Opera House from November 6 to 14.

In the absence of being able to stage shows, Robert has nevertheless kept himself busy. “I have so loved the break, allowing me to catch up on decorating, extending the garden, eBaying props and costumes,” he says.

“I know it’s been hard for so many people, but I just thought it was a really great chance to take stock of life – theatre is only a small part of mine – and just remain as positive as possible. I still haven’t got around to tidying the insides of the sheds though…maybe next week??”

Those sheds, should you be wondering, are the former chicken shed warehouse at Bubwith that houses all manner of theatrical costumes, props and much more besides.

Maybe the tidying can wait; the return to working on shows beckons, and come December, SpongeBob The Musical will be making its York debut.

“Why should people see this musical? Because everyone wants to live in Bikini Bottom and this is your chance!” says Robert.

“Or, as Patchy the Pirate says: ‘This is one under-the-sea spectacular that you don’t want to miss’.”

Anna Soden turns love of grumpy magical creature into streamed Five Children And It show on Explore York’s YouTube channel

Anna Soden in rehearsal for her children’s show Five Children And It

YORK company Strawberry Lion will premiere its streamed production of E Nesbit’s Five Children And It on Explore York libraries’  YouTube channel on Wednesday (7/4/2021) at 6pm.

Written and performed by York actor, musician, writer, theatre-maker and company founder Anna Soden, the show will be available online for free until 5pm on April 14.

Directed by Theatre Royal youth theatre director Kate Veysey, with music and lyrics by Jim Harbourne, the show is presented in association with Scarborough community producing company Arcade.

Suitable for family audiences aged five and upwards, this adaptation of Nesbit’s 1902 children’s novel is set on a Scarborough beach, as Anna invites you to “join Anthea as she tells her magical story through music, story-telling and puppetry,” promising that “sometimes the best adventures can happen on your doorstep”.

Anna was last seen on a York stage, or, rather, myriad stages in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, touring the city wards as a rapping, funky, blue and pink-haired, multi-tasking Fairy, more likely to hit the bass line than wave a wand, as flashy as her lit-up boots, with guitar in hand or trumpet between her lips.

In the summer, she had popped up in the Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio season in York company Cosmic Collective Theatre’s rain-sodden afternoon performance of Heaven’s Gate, Joe Feeney’s ‌intergalactic‌ ‌pitch‌-black‌ comedy.

Strawberry Lion’s show poster for Five Children And It

There is no need to book for Strawberry Lion’s Five Children And It; simply head to @yorkexplore’s YouTube channel.

Here, Anna answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on Strawberry Lion, E Nesbit’s book, Scarborough beach, Cosmic Collective Theatre and York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime.

When and why did you form Strawberry Lion?

“I made Strawberry Lion in September 2020. I’d had a great time re-staging Heaven’s Gate with Cosmic Collective Theatre over the summer, and was keen to continue making my own work, and expand my practice outside of just acting into writing/making.

“I’d never had time to do it before, but when theatres shut and acting work dried up last year, I knew that was my opportunity.”


Why did you choose the name Strawberry Lion?

“I remember a conversation with a friend when I was really young about words that shouldn’t go together, but when they do, they evoke a really strong tactile taste/ texture/mood, like Strawberry, Lion.

Strawberry Lion’s logo

“That’s always stuck in my brain. I essentially love those two words together, and it somehow represents the work I want to make quite well.”

Who else is involved in the company?

“Kate Veysey, from York Theatre Royal, is directing this project, and Sophie Drury Bradey, of Arcade, has been a monumental help as a consultant producer.”

What shows have you done so far?
“My play Mad For Our Daughters is being developed with [York-born, Manchester-based] singer-songwriter Harriet Forgan, and we performed an extract of the piece at the Belgrade Music Hall in Leeds in September, but Five Children and It will be Strawberry Lion’s first full-length show.”

Why adapt Five Children And It? Was this a story you read as a child?
“Yes! My mum introduced me to it. I had a very, very old, battered copy as a child that I used to take on holidays and read.

“So, when I was on the look-out for the perfect family story to adapt, I couldn’t believe Five Children And It wasn’t more widely done. It’s such a magical story, and I love how the magical creature in it is so grumpy. There’s a lot of fun in that!”

“I couldn’t believe Five Children And It wasn’t more widely done,” says Anna. “It’s such a magical story, and I love how the magical creature in it is so grumpy”

What age group will you be aiming the show at?
“It’s billed as ‘5+’, but I hope there’s something there for every age!”

Why set the story on Scarborough beach?
“Despite living in London for six years, I feel like Yorkshire and the North is always present in my writing, so I really wanted to embrace that. I love Scarborough – Scarbados!

“A huge theme in my adaptation is about finding adventure where you are: a reflection of what we all have to do while we can’t travel outside of our local area. It’s also about learning to appreciate your home, and we certainly are lucky to have a prehistoric coastline here in North Yorkshire.”

Where and how did you record the streamed performance?

“We recorded the performance in February in York Theatre Royal’s Billiard Room, with a fantastic team: filmed by Wayne Sables and Stan Gaskell and audio mixed by Oliver Ibbotson.”

How did Kate Veysey become involved as director?  Does your link go back to York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre days?
“Yes, I grew up in the youth theatre and adored my time there. I worked closely with Kate when I was playing Lyra in His Dark Materials as a teenager, and Kate also gave me support watching my audition speeches for drama school.

Director Kate Veysey in rehearsal for Five Children And It

“I’ve always come back to see the main-house shows and am constantly in awe of her Theatre Royal Youth Theatre productions. I think she’s an absolutely fantastic director, and I needed someone who knows theatre for young audiences inside out, so it was a no-brainer for me to ask her to direct. It’s a lovely full circle to be working with her as an adult.”

Jim Harbourne has written the music and lyrics. Have you worked with him before?
“No, I met Jim in the Summerhall courtyard in Edinburgh in 2018. I was in a Fringe show there, and Jim’s show, Myth Of A Singular Moment, was on in the same venue.

“I went to see it and adored it, and I couldn’t get over how gorgeous his music was. I’ve been itching to work with him ever since. I’m so thrilled he said ‘yes’ as his work in Five Children And It is MAGICAL.”

How did Explore York Libraries become involved?
“I approached them when I was putting in my Arts Council England project grant bid last autumn. Since it’s such a classic book, I felt the library was the perfect home for the show.”

Joe Feeney and Anna Soden in Cosmic Collective Theatre’s Heaven’s Gate

Any news on upcoming Cosmic Collective Theatre projects?
“I know Joe [Feeney] has been writing non-stop over lockdown, so we’ll be looking forward to starting new projects once the world gets a bit safer.”

The ground-breaking Travelling Pantomime went so well. What did you learn from that performance experience?

“It was a glorious experience! I guess I learnt that we can find a safe way through all this: live theatre is possible, and can be super safe, even at the height of the pandemic!

“It was also a nice reminder to not take performing for granted. When it’s your job, and I’ve been lucky to have worked quite consistently, there’s a danger you can get into a routine – but with this scenario, and restrictions changing all the time, we were performing every show like it could have been our last!”

When and where might you perform Five Children And It once live performances are feasible?

“It hasn’t been announced yet, so I don’t think I can say, but there will be a performance next month.” [A cursory inspection of the Strawberry Lion website reveals a show date of May 29 at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, but watch this space for confirmation of the exact details.]  

It’s all about the bass: Anna Soden’s funky Fairy in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime last December

Kentmere House Gallery to reopen from April 12 with Jack Hellewell’s Travels show

Arab World, Tunis, by Jack Hellewell (1920-2000)

“AT last the gallery is able to re-open,” says a relieved Kentmere House owner and curator Ann Petherick as she marks its 30th year in business by launching Jack’s Travels, her latest Jack Hellewell exhibition in York, on April 12.

“One of the gallery’s best-loved artists, the late Jack also had an anniversary to be celebrated last year: he would have been 100 in 2020,” says Ann, who first exhibited Hellewell’s work at her original gallery in Grape Lane before moving home and gallery to a Victorian former Methodist minister’s house at the bottom of Scarcroft Hill, overlooking Knavesmire, in 1991.

“Jack first showed with the Grape Lane Gallery in the 1980s and we’ve continued to present his artworks ever since. We had planned a series of exhibitions in celebration of his centenary but had hardly started on them when all had to stop because of the pandemic.

“They will now take place this year: the first, Jack’s Travels, will open next Monday and will include many paintings that have never before been shown.”

Arcade, by Jack Hellewell

Yorkshireman Jack Hellewell (1920-20000) not only travelled widely but he also lived in Australia. “All his experiences provided inspiration for his painting,” says Ann.

Born in Bradford, Jack trained as a painter at Bradford College of Art from 1949-1952 and lived in Menston and latterly in Ilkley. He saw war service in Egypt, North Africa and Italy and then worked as a graphic designer 

His travels with his family took him to Australia, New Zealand, the South Seas, Austria and frequently to Scotland. In 1976 he gave up his design work to become a full-time painter and returned to West Yorkshire.

“All his paintings were executed entirely from memory,” says Ann. “He always refused to sketch on site, believing that ‘it ties you down’, and everything was derived from personal experiences.

Socatra, Indian Ocean, by Jack Hellewell

“His travels and encounters had a dramatic impact on his painting and he had the ability to retain the essence of a place, so that years – or even decades later – he could produce a painting from it.

Much of his work used the visual experience of intense light in warmer climates, as compared with the more subtle light to be found in Britain.”

Jack always worked in acrylic, enjoying the contrasts it offered between strong and subtle colours and the feeling of movement that became such a feature in his work.  “He had the ability both to use the medium ‘neat’ on canvas, or to use it diluted on paper to give the effect of the most delicate watercolour,” says Ann.

Jack exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, in London, on several occasions in the 1990s and his work is in the collections of British Rail, the National Power Company, Rochdale Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery and Provident Financial, Bradford, among others.

Sailing Hopefully, by Jack Hellewell

To mark next week’s socially distanced reopening, under Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap to recovery, the Covid-secure Kentmere House Gallery will be open every day for the initial week, Monday to Saturday, April 12 to 17, 11am to 5pm, with extended opening to 9pm on the Thursday.

The gallery then will revert to its usual pattern: opening on the first weekend of the month, from 11am to 5pm each Saturday and Sunday, complemented by late evenings from 6pm to 9pm every Thursday. “As always, visitors are welcome at any other time by ringing ahead or just taking pot luck by ringing the bell,” advises Ann, who can be contacted on 01904 656507 or 07710 810825.

Having founded Grape Lane Gallery in 1984, Ann and David Petherick bought Kentmere House in 1991 to combine a home with an art gallery. “Having seen galleries in homes in London, we could see the benefits for buyers of viewing paintings in a home setting and browsing in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere,” reasons Ann.

“For 30 years, we have searched out talented artists from throughout the UK and have thoroughly enjoyed doing so, meeting artists in their homes and studios, many of whom have become friends.

“For 30 years, we have searched out talented artists from throughout the UK and have thoroughly enjoyed doing so,” says Kentmere House Gallery curator Ann Petherick

“It has, of course, made the lockdown period more than ever frustrating, but we managed to fit in a few days in Edinburgh last September, after a brief trip to the Lake District earlier in 2020, and we’re eagerly planning visits to Oxford, Kent, Suffolk and Scotland in the near future.”

Many of the artists exhibited by Ann are nationally known names and members of national societies, specialising in semi-figurative work, with a gallery policy of combining regular exhibitors, such as Susan Bower, John Brunsden and Michael Ewart, with artists not yet known in the north or newcomers.

“All are unique to Kentmere House,” she says, eschewing the term “contemporary” to describe her stable of artistic talent. “The word ‘contemporary’ has been hijacked and is now used almost entirely to refer to abstract and conceptual work, when in fact it simply means being produced at this time.

“The result can be that many potential buyers find the art market confusing and intimidating and don’t know where to start.”

In other words, as the ever-forthright Ann would put it, Kentmere House Gallery would make a good start from April 12.

The entrance to Kentmere House Gallery and that all important bell to ring if making a chance visit

York Theatre Royal boosted by £324,289 in round two of Cultural Recovery Fund

York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird: “Delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful”

YORK Theatre Royal is to receive £324,289 from the second round of the Government’s  Cultural Recovery Fund.

The St Leonard’s Place theatre is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from this tranche of awards, announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Friday, from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. 

“This award is critical to York Theatre Royal and will support the re-opening of the theatre in May with The Love Season,” says the theatre’s announcement. 

“We’re delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful,” says Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird. “This award ensures that York Theatre Royal can look ahead to the future with confidence and a renewed sense of purpose as it helps us to play our role in supporting arts for the community in York.

“I would call this funding more about recovery and reopening, whereas the last round was still ‘emergency’ funding.”

Tom continued: “It’s brilliant news for us, and we’re obviously very chuffed as this £324,289 grant allows us to support The Love Season, which we’ll be announcing on April 7. We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back to the theatre in May with an exciting and varied programme of work that celebrates what we’ve all been missing this past year; human connection, the live experience, and a sense of togetherness.”

York Theatre Royal’s artwork for The Love Season, to be announced on April 7

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in this round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund as a “much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead”.

This comes on top of more than £800 million in grants and loans awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The funding awarded on Friday is drawn from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

In the initial surge of the Covid-19 crisis, Arts Council England (ACE) set up a £160 million Emergency Response Fund package, with nearly 90 per cent coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support.

York Theatre Royal received £196,493 from ACE’s emergency fund to help to cover costs in the fallow months from last July to September 30. “The ACE grant was about ‘What do you need right now not to collapse?’,” said Tom at the time.

Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, part of The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, starting next month

Last October, the Theatre Royal was awarded £230,000 from the Cultural Recovery Fund to assist the theatre until March 31.

While the emergency and recovery funding has been vital, it has not prevented the Theatre Royal from having to cut its permanent staff by one third – seven voluntary redundancies and nine staff made redundant – last September after extensive consultations, as well as cutting all ties with the neighbouring De Grey Rooms.

“You have to bear in mind that normally we have a £4.5 million turnover each year, with 89 per cent of our annual income being generated through selling tickets [combined with associated revenue streams, such as the bars and café],” says Tom.

“The problem with an old building that’s so huge and hard to heat is that it costs £475,000 a year just to keep it open, without staffing, to cover heating, lighting, water and safety.”

York Theatre Royal – the longest-running theatre in England outside London – hosted two socially distanced preview performances of The Travelling Pantomime last December but otherwise the main-house and Studio stages have been dark since March 15 last year.  

CharlesHutchPress will cover next Wednesday’s announcement of The Love Season – socially distanced and Covid-safe – with an interview with Tom Bird to follow. At the core of the season will be Coronation Street and Broadchurch alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh starring in her husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…from June 1 to 5.

REVIEW: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music online, York, March 27 and 28

Recorder virtuoso Olwen Foulkes at the recording of Ensemble Augelletti’s concert for Awaken. Picture: Ben Pugh

REVIEW: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music online, York, from various venues, March 27 and 28. Streaming until April 30 at www.ncem.co.uk/awaken

AWAKEN had all the right vibes. Five events over the weekend signalled the beginning of the end of our enforced hibernation. They also heralded the start of spring. As if in tune, the weather co-operated and turned warm and sunny.

All the concerts had been filmed in venues around York the previous week, but they had the feel of live events. We began with a peripatetic tour by the Gesualdo Six – a slight misnomer, since they are really seven with their director Owain Park, who also sings from time to time, though there are never more than six singers in action at once.

The group revelled in the free-wheeling motet style of four Englishmen by the name of John from the first half of the 15th century.  The rhythmic verve of John Pyamour was nicely contrasted with a smoother take on John Forest and tenderness from John Plummer; all these were trios. But John Dunstaple’s quartet Veni, Sancte Spiritus outdid them all, a step ahead of his compatriots.

In Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, three Frenchmen from later that century sounded more calculating, more predictable, though Josquin des Prez’s attention to words in Nymphes des Bois – the only secular piece in the programme – was exquisite. It was good to hear, this time in the Hall’s chapel, John Thorne’s Stella Caeli, with neat passing harmonies and major-chord cadences that doubtless were heard in York Minster during his time as Master of the Choristers (1542-73).

Extracts from Lamentations by another three Frenchmen prepared us for Holy Week, with Brumel’s warmly autumnal Good Friday lection, without countertenors, topping the bill and bringing comfort amongst the sorrow. Byrd’s incomparable Infelix Ego, reflecting our current sufferings and sung under the Minster’s Great East Window, made a transcendent finale, its coda deeply affecting. The Gesualdos could not have got Awaken off to a better start.

Ensemble Augelletti: Octet of players homed in on music connected with John Baptist Grano

At the National Centre, recorder virtuoso Olwen Foulkes led the splendid Ensemble Augelletti, an octet of players who homed in on music connected with John Baptist Grano. He was principal trumpeter in the orchestra at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket where he premiered several Handel operas. He was also an operator who had a finger in several pies, but thrived even when in prison for debt.

Given the company he was keeping here, Grano’s own Sonata in F for recorder and continuo was relatively run-of-the-mill, though its Spirituoso was indeed spirited and the succeeding Largo eloquently plaintive. Foulkes was on top of her game throughout, as also in a concerto by John Baston, where her soprano recorder danced wittily in its final Presto.

In Handel’s Trio Sonata Op 2 No 4, Foulkes worked effectively in tandem with Ellen Bundy’s violin and all five players relished its closing, very English, jig. A final word for the supremely attentive cellist Carina Drury, a player I’d be happy to have on my team any time.

Staying in St Margaret’s Church (alias the National Centre), the viol consort Fretwork was joined by York countertenor Iestyn Davies in a programme of 16th century North German music, spearheaded by two arrangements of Vaughan Williams songs. Silent Noon was an odd opener and not heat-hazy enough, but The Sky Above The Roof was much more telling, though Davies’s diction was woolly. (His Latin later was marginally better, but his German admirably clear.)

Davies’s other contributions all concerned music connected with Holy Week and proved that lockdown has in no way hurt his evocative powers, his countertenor gliding smoothly over even the most taxing challenges. In a Lamento by Johann Christoph Bach, often described as JSB’s most talented forebear, he was pleadingly penitential, amid textual floods of tears. Franz Tunder’s Salve Mi Jesu was appropriately prayerful, finding genuine serenity in its peaceful ending.

Most potent of all was Christian Geist’s reaction to Holy Saturday, with semi-recitative for the biblical narrative, culminating in an aria of considerable power, which benefited from Davies’s operatic experience.

Iestyn Davies: “Countertenor glided smoothly over even the most taxing challenges”

Fretwork alone was rhythmically lively in Schein’s Seventh Suite from Banchetto Musicale (1617), notably in the vigorous syncopation of its galliard. The rapidly changing variations in Scheidt’s Canzon Super O Nachbar Roland were brilliantly negotiated, tremolandos and all, though it was a pity we were not given a chance to hear the song by itself.

It took a while to adjust to the sound of period instruments in Schubert’s mighty String Quintet in C, played by the Consone Quartet with Alexander Rolton as second cellist, also at the National Centre.

Let us dispose of the reservations first. Balance was never quite right, though I channelled the sound through my best speakers: we needed more from the outer voices, first violin and second cello. This was almost certainly a problem of microphone setting. There was also a disparity of approach between the cellists, one using more vibrato than the other.

The work got off to a cautious start, as if every effect was being over-calculated. Spontaneity began to surface with the repeat of the exposition. The second movement hovered to the point of stasis, with definition undermined by the second cello’s over-restrained pizzicato (probably microphones again).

Thereafter things changed very much for the better. The players began to enjoy themselves in a robust Scherzo. There was a slight loss of focus in the Trio, but caution was finally thrown to the winds when the Scherzo returned with even more verve. A strong, confident finale did much to compensate for the earlier diffidence and the acceleration towards the tape was neatly managed. I also enjoyed the encore, a sensitive setting of the song Frühlingsglaube (Faith In Spring), with cello to the fore.

Awaken’s finale shifted to St Lawrence Church, where Robert Hollingworth directed his vocal ensemble I Fagiolini (with some stiffening from former members of The 24) and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble. The evening was entitled Super-Excellent, a word taken from the travel writer Thomas Coryat, preaching the wonders of Venetian music in 1608. Naturally, the programme was largely Italian or Italianate.

The Gesualdo Six with director Owain Park, back, centre: “Revelled in the free-wheeling motet style of four Englishmen by the name of John”

Hollingworth himself expounded on each piece in advance. He was most informative, but his enthusiasm sometimes led him to raise expectations unreasonably. Polychoral effects that were undoubtedly stunning in St Mark’s, Venice, were not quite so impressive in the less rewarding acoustic of St Lawrence.

Music by Giovanni Gabrieli appropriately framed the programme. With voices and instruments used interchangeably, Buccinate featured thrilling fanfares. No less stirring were the recurring Alleluyas in the multi-choir In Ecclesiis at the close, in a clever reconstruction by Hugh Keyte.

There were mass extracts from the Catalan composer Joan Cererols with three choirs overlapping, almost conversationally. Juan de Araujo, Spanish-born but working in South America, gave us an exciting Dixit Dominus, with jazzy rhythms heightened by strumming theorbo and guitar.

Solo tenor and bass respectively (no individual performers’ names were available) offered tastefully decorated motets by Grandi and Schütz, the latter an angry and sorrowful lament by David for Absalom, attended by four mournful sackbuts.

A florid cornett lit up a madrigal-style arrangement of a Palestrina ‘Ave Verum Corpus’. But for me the greatest surprise was Edmund Hooper’s verse anthem ‘O God Of Gods’, in a frankly superb reconstruction by William Hunt (who issued a recording of the work only last June). It proved that an Englishman could do it too.

Streaming of concerts is notoriously difficult, a path littered with potholes. Awaken was not perfect: there were occasional breaks in the sound and the odd unintended freeze-frame. Sometimes the camera lingered too long on an individual when what you wanted was to see the whole ensemble interacting. But it still served a vital role, reminding us how valuable live concerts are and renewing hope that they will soon return.

Above all, these events showed faith in musicians, many of them young, that despite everything we treasure their talents and will welcome them back with open arms (or the socially distanced alternative) just as soon as we are allowed. You have the rest of April to catch up with all these brave souls. I heartily recommend them.

Martin Dreyer

Recollections and collections to combine for Our Seaside Town exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery from May 18

Tim Knight, from Scarborough Museums Trust, on the DePlacido’s Ice Cream tricycle cart , one of the items from the upcoming exhibition Scarborough: Our Seaside Town at Scarborough Art Gallery. All pictures: Tony Bartholomew

SCARBOROUGH Art Gallery’s summertime exhibition will look at life in a seaside town. as seen through the eyes of Scarborough people. 

Curated by Esther Lockwood, Scarborough: Our Seaside Town will run from Tuesday, May 18 to Sunday, September 12.

Esther interviewed team members from Scarborough Museums Trust, asking for their personal views and recollections of life by the sea year-round before selecting items from the trust’s extensive collections.

An early 20th century traditional deckchair from the Scarborough Museums Trust collection

These will include an early 20th century ice cream cart that once operated on Scarborough’s South Bay beach; the East Coast resort’s Pancake Bell, rung to signal the start of the unique tradition of skipping on the seafront on Shrove Tuesday, and other seaside ephemera, paintings, vintage photographs and postcards.

A clifftop diorama will provide the backdrop to a display of seabirds from the trust’s taxidermy collection, complete with smells.

Esther says: “I hope this exhibition will help the collections to be seen afresh through the eyes of the people who work at Scarborough Museums Trust.

Ela Bochenek, documentation assistant at Scarborough Museums Trust, with Bathers In Sunlight, by Zdzislaw Ruszkowski (1978), part of Scarborough Art Gallery’s Scarborough: Our Seaside Town exhibition from May 18.

“Their thoughts and memories are the lens for interpretation, and their voice is prominent, rather than the more traditional curator’s voice, meaning that visitors can enjoy familiar objects in a slightly different way.

“I hope this will spark intergenerational conversation and encourage visitors to share their own reminiscences and recollections of living or visiting Scarborough.”

Exhibition visitors will be encouraged to contribute by sharing stories, memories, photos, videos and more besides on social media, using the hashtag #OurSeasideTown. The posts then will appear on a social media wall in the gallery.

A Scarborough brochure, circa 1950s, from the Scarborough Museums Trust collection

Simon Hedges, head of curation, exhibitions and collections at Scarborough Museums Trust, says: “Scarborough: Our Seaside Town is about immersing yourself in a memory, not just the object or image but also the sounds and the smells: a trigger to a different time and place.

“Our recreation of the 1950s’ museum diorama has not only the sound of the nesting birds of Bempton Cliffs, but that very distinctive smell awaits you as well.”

Scarborough Art Gallery has been awarded the VisitEngland We’re Good To Go industry standard mark, signifying adhetence to Government and public health guidance with regard to Covid-19. 

Scarborough Museums Trust operations assistant Charlotte Munday with a clifftop diorama, showing East Coast seabirds, in the Scarborough: Our Seaside Town exhibition

Scarborough: Our Seaside Town will be exhibited on the ground floor and will be fully wheelchair accessible. Visitors for the foreseeable future will be asked to book a slot via the trust’s website at scarboroughmuseumstrust.com. Details will be posted shortly.

Entry to Scarborough Art Gallery is by annual pass at a cost of £3 that gives unlimited entry to both the gallery and the Rotunda Museum for a year. Once the gallery reopens under lockdown easement measures, opening hours will be 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sundays, plus Bank Holidays.

Detail from a 1931 map of Scarborough by Edward Bawden, from the Scarborough Museums Trust collection

York Early Music Foundation receives £25,000 from Culture Recovery Fund to benefit NCEM and Beverley music festival

“This support ensures that we can continue promoting our year-round programme of events and to re-open our doors into the summer,” says Delma Tomlin, director of the York Early Music Foundation and the NCEM

THE York Early Music Foundation, the charitable body that administers the National Centre for Early Music, will receive £25,000 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The foundation is one of more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the second round of awards.

The grant will aid the foundation to recover from loss of income over the past year, and the CRF2 monies also will help to ensure that the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival can take place again in May 2021.

This will enable the foundation to welcome both a small, socially distanced, audience and a new online public to the Beverley event, as well as supporting East Yorkshire school-aged children to enjoy their music-making.

The Beverley festival, postponed in 2020, is supported by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is acknowledged as one of the region’s cultural highlights.

Delma Tomlin, director of the York Early Music Foundation and the NCEM, said today: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Arts Council England for awarding us this much-needed grant. This support provides an important lifeline to help the organisation recover from lost revenue, ensuring that we can continue promoting our year-round programme of events and to re-open our doors into the summer.”

The York Early Music Foundation is among thousands of cultural organisations across the country to benefit from awards of more than £300 million from the Culture Recovery Fund announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today.

More than £800 million in grants and loans has been awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The second round of awards made today will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations “transitioning back to normal” in the months ahead. 

Mr Dowden said: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced.

“Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors, helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work. 

“We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

The funding awarded today comes from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, together with Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

Only One Question for…Juliet Forster, York Theatre Royal creative director

Juliet Forster: Leading York Theatre Royal’s creative work and community work

IN the re-shuffle of job titles at the Theatre Royal since the onset of the pandemic, you have upgraded from associate director to creative director. What is the significance of this change, Juliet?

“I’ve taken a shift in responsibilities. As associate director, I was part of the creative team overseeing all the programming, both in-house and touring, as well as heading up our creative work with young people.

“Now I’m focusing specifically on what we create ourselves. We’ve been looking at models of working that have been emerging in other theatres, since Damian [Cruden] left his post as artistic director in July 2019.

“The programme here used to be so much built around our own work with a bit of touring. Now, there are more co-productions and we spread out who’s directing the shows, like they do at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, for example.

“No longer having an artistic director, under chief executive Tom Bird, we now have a theatre maker as part of the bigger programming team, with producer Tom Freeth and associate artist John R Wilkinson, collaborating together, and I now lead our creative work and our community work.”

Forster and Forster’s The Machine Stops starts again, now online from York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre UPDATED 1/4/2021

Caroline Gruber (Vashti), Maria Gray (Machine 2) and Gareth Aled (Machine 1) in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

AS Covid-19 took its relentless grip, Juliet Forster kept finding her thoughts returning to E M Forster’s The Machine Stops, the stage adaptation she first directed for York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre in 2016.

“What was in my head was how we would be struck by it even more under Covid,” she says.

“Over this last year, I have thought about this piece many times as the world around us seemed to grow more and more like the incredible world that E M Forster imagined.

“And it’s even more striking today than it was at the time: things like human contact and human touch becoming something that’s almost taboo, things that didn’t seem relevant back in 2016 but are really, really striking and even more relevant now.”

This spring, The Machine Stops is starting up all over again, available to watch on a Theatre Royal webcast until April 5. Reactions so far have affirmed Juliet’s own feelings. “People are saying how eerily relevant it is,” she says.

“No windows; no natural day and night; no physical communication”: the life that Kuno (Karl Queensborough) wants to escape in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

E M Forster’s 1909 short story is set in a futuristic, dystopian world where humans have retreated far underground and individuals live in isolation in “cells”, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. 

“That’s what has felt very strange, particularly the lack of human contact: the things that we laughed at in 2016, but now we’re all having to try to avoid each other,” says Juliet.

Adapted by Neil Duffield, The Machine Stops premiered in the York Theatre Royal Studio in  May and June 2016 at the outset of a three-venue run and was revived there in February 2017 before embarking on a national tour of nine venues. 

Juliet’s stage premiere won the Stage Production of the Year in the 2016 Hutch Awards. “In the year when Phillip Breen directed the York Minster Mystery Plays on the grandest scale and York Theatre Royal re-opened with Bryony Lavery’s new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, it wasn’t the expected big hitters that left the deepest impression,” Hutchinson said in The Press, York.

“Instead, an obscure EM Forster sci-fi work, The Machine Stops, became a play for our times in the hands of the Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster and Pilot Theatre in the Theatre Royal Studio.

York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster

“Amid the stench of Brexit and Trump intolerance, here was a cautionary story of science friction and human heart told superbly artistically by a cast of four, writer Neil Duffield and electronic composers John Foxx and Benge with humanity’s worst and best attributes thrust against each other.”

Esther Richardson, Pilot Theatre’s artistic director, shares Juliet’s thoughts on The Machine Stops’ rising resonance: “When we produced The Machine Stops in 2016, it already seemed an eerily prescient piece of work. A story-world in which humans have become isolated from one another and living underground, communicating only through screens, offered an engaging space for reflection on perhaps the pitfalls of how our relationship with technology had been evolving,” she says.

“To be able to explore this in a live theatre space with an audience gathered together in person and with their technology switched off made it all the more dynamic a tale.

“It’s fantastic that, having spent the last year in different forms of isolation and on screens, we have the opportunity to share this great production, which will now sing with new meaning, meeting a new audience in a new context.”

The Machine Stops features a soundtrack composed by John Foxx, electronic music pioneer and founder of Ultravox, and analogue synth specialist Benge. The production was directed by Forster and designed by Rhys Jarman, with lighting design by Tom Smith and movement direction by Philippa Vafadari.

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson. Picture: Robert Day

It stars Caroline Gruber as Vashti, Karl Queensborough as Kuno, Maria Gray as Machine/Attendant and Gareth Aled as Machine/Passenger.

Analysing the reasons why The Machine Stops transferred so convincingly to the stage, Juliet suggested in 2017: “When you use human beings to the height of their potential, theatre is at its most interesting; when you realise the incredible ability of human body; but at the same time, you can’t shoehorn that into a play. Here, though, to represent the Machine through movement, it absolutely suited it.

“It also helped that we had the finest soundtrack for a play in living memory, composed by John Foxx and Benge.”

That soundtrack went on to form much of the music on the John Foxx And The Maths album, The Machine, released in 2017 on the Metamatic Records label with artwork by Jonathan Barnbrook, the designer for David Bowie’s last two studio albums, 2013’s The Next Day and 2016’s Blackstar.

Caroline Gruber as Vashti in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

The filmed recording was edited by digital wiz Ben Pugh for its release online, with kind permission granted by the E M Forster estate. “We had taken a three-camera capture of the show in 2016 in the Theatre Royal Studio, when we were thinking of doing a streaming, but we didn’t have permission at the time, but now we do,” says Juliet.

“I asked Ben to do the editing because he’s fantastic at pulling digital theatre shows together, and it works really well on screen.”

The Machine Stops is available to view for free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PW5yk2G5pE, although York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre are asking for donations from viewers, with all contributions being split equally between them.

What was Charles Hutchinson’s verdict in May 2016?

Gareth Aled as Machine 1 in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

The Machine Stops, York Theatre Royal/Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal Studio

IN between those two pillars of early 20th century English literature, A Room With A View in 1908 and Howards End in 1910, E M Forster wrote a science-fiction short story, apparently in response to the outpourings of H G Wells.

It was pretty much ignored until being included in an anthology in the 1930s, but now it should take its rightful place alongside the prescient works of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

York Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster has cherished wishes to present it since 1999, and at last everything has fallen into place in a brilliant re-opening show in The Studio.

Forster and Forster makes for a perfect combination, assisted by her choice of writer, the experienced Neil Duffield; electronic musicians John Foxx and Benge in their first theatre commission, and designer Rhys Jarman, whose metallic climbing frame stage and hexagonal floor tiles could not be more fitting.

Centre stage is Vashti (Caroline Gruber), soft-boned, struggling to walk and wrapped in grey swaddling wraps, as she embraces her new, post-apocalyptic, virtual life run by The Machine, in the wake of humans being forced underground to self-contained cells where everything is brought to you: food, ambient music; lectures; overlapping messages.

John Foxx: Soundtrack hits the right note

No windows; no natural day and night; no physical communication; all you need is at the touch of the screen beside you as technology rules in this dystopian regime. It is the age of the internet, conference calls and Skype, the age of isolation (and the teenage life), foretold so alarmingly accurately by Forster.

In the best decision by Juliet Forster and the writer, they have decided to represent the omnipresent Machine in human form, cogent cogs that slither and slide and twist and turn acrobatically, responding to Vashti’s every request, with an urgent physicality that has you worrying for the health and safety of Maria Gray and Gareth Aled.

Not that The Machine is merely compliant. Just as Winston Smith rebels in Orwell’s 1984, Vashti’s son Kuno (Karl Queensborough), on the other side of the underground world, craves breaking out into the old world above the artificial one, to breathe real air, see the sky, feel the sun on his face, but The Machine will do its utmost to prevent him.

Queensborough’s physical performance, as the desperate Kuno puts himself at risk, is even more remarkable than the gymnastic Machine double act, as he hurls himself around the frames.

Forster’s production has bags of tension, drama, intrigue, and plenty of humour too, especially when Gray and Aled transform into a plane attendant and passenger. Throughout, the Foxx and Benge soundtrack hits the right note, futuristic and mysterious, yet noble too when Kuno makes his move.

Nothing stops The Machine Stops: it is 90 minutes straight through, a story of science friction told superbly artistically with humanity’s worst and best attributes thrust against each other.

Review: Copyright of The Press, York

Romeo and Juliet Forster as York Theatre Royal creative director makes Shakespeare show with Justin Fletcher for CBeebies

From Mr Tumble to…Peter the Clown in Romeo And Juliet: Justin Fletcher does Shakespeare for CBeebies. Picture: CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet

JULIET Forster has cut it as a director of Romeo And Juliet many times. Now she has sliced Shakespeare’s “two the two hours’ traffic of our stage” to 45 minutes, maybe 50, for CBeebies’ show tomorrow morning.

“I did joke about that at rehearsals because my previous production, at Blenheim Palace, ran to three hours and 15 minutes,” says Juliet, York Theatre Royal’s creative director.

She had been lined up for the children’s television production as long ago as December 2019. “Anna Perowne, who has produced the performance, had newly taken over BBC Shakespeare, having worked previously for the Royal Shakespeare Company,” says Juliet.

“It was partly that thing of a new producer looking at it in a new way, wanting to work with a director who would allow more input from the actors.

Evie Pickerill as Juliet in CBeebies’ Romeo And Juliet, Picture: CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet

“She’d found the Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre production of Romeo And Juliet I’d just done at Blenheim that summer, and when we met, we got on immediately. Then, put that together with the fact I’ve done a lot of children’s theatre and plenty of Shakespeare.”

The list runs deep for Romeo And Juliet alone. “In 2005, I did a Family Day at the RSC with children and parents taking part in a Shakespeare workshop,” says Juliet. “I’ve done an interactive version of Romeo And Juliet with some very young children and a youth theatre version at York Theatre Royal.

“I’ve adapted it for five to seven year olds in a way for them to tell the story; I adapted it for a Pilot Theatre production and I’ve directed it with a teenage cast in a play-in-a-week school project I ran with my old company years and years ago in the Midlands.”

Who better, then, to direct yet another variation on Shakespeare’s tragic story of young love and feuding families than Juliet? “We were supposed to record it last May, but the pandemic delayed it until we could kick off working on it again in December,” she says.

Zach Wyatt as Romeo in CBeebies’ Romeo And Juliet. Picture: CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet

CBeebies’ Romeo And Juliet combines Shakespeare’s characters with the additional roles of William Shakespeare himself and a librarian. “What the producer wanted was a good cohort of recognised CBeebies faces and actors, so I watched the other two CBeebies’ Shakespeare shows, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, to see how they were done,” says Juliet.

“We talked about ‘why do a complicated play for such little ones?’, but then we talked about the positive messages in there: the families putting an end to their feud and the importance of not giving in to bad things too easily, instead looking to live in peace and to put a stop to the fighting.

“That made it a show very much for the CBeebies audience, in this case for two to seven year olds…though lots of older children watch it too; they just don’t admit it!”

Juliet worked with Nathan Cockerill on the script, calling on her past experiences of adapting the text. “I looked back at what I’d left in and taken out for the five to seven-year-olds’ script I wrote and fleshed it out from there, also looking at my Pilot Theatre script to see how I’d edited it down for that show,” she says.

Juliet Forster: York Theatre Royal creative director and director of CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet

“Nathan was someone who’d worked with CBeebies before, and we worked on a script knowing that Shakespeare and a companion or companions always feature in a CBeebies Shakespeare show. This time Shakespeare is much more involved.”

Juliet has directed a cast of 15, featuring such CBeebies names as Andy Day, Chris Jarvis, Jennie Dale, Gemma Hunt, Rebecca Keatley and Justin Fletcher, of Mr Tumble fame, as Peter the Clown. Zach Wyatt, from Shakespeare’s Globe, will play Romeo; Evie Pickerill, Juliet.

“We rehearsed it and filmed it at Leeds Playhouse, all done and dusted two weeks ago, with just one day of filming with three runs of the show, making it like a piece of live theatre, though we couldn’t have an audience, of course,” says Juliet.

Joining Forster in the production team were designer Rhys Jarman, renewing their creative partnership from A View From The Bridge and The Machine Stops at York Theatre Royal, choreographer Hayley Del Harrison, lighting designer Will Evans and costume designer Mary Lamb.

The Librarian and William Shakespeare in CBeebies’ Romeo And Juliet. Picture: CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet

“We then rehearsed from March 9, five days, then four days of tech and rehearsals, then filming,” says Juliet. “It was absolutely joyful because we were always keeping the young television audience in mind, how to carry them through such a tricky story.

“To have those experienced CBeebies performers and Shakespeare actors was invaluable. They set the tone. That was part of what was interesting for me as I’ve never made anything specifically for the telly before, but at the same time thinking about making something for a live audience, though that wasn’t the case!

“What we had to do was to get the best ‘blocking’ [the cast’s positions on stage], trying to make it as right as possible for the camera, but still making it very theatrical as Shakespeare is theatre.”

CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet will be shown on CBeebies tomorrow (2/4/2021) at 9.30am and soon after on BBC iPlayer.

Copyright of The Press, York

Jennie Dale as the Nurse in CBeebies’ Romeo And Juliet. Picture: CBeebies Presents: Romeo And Juliet

When Pocklington Arts Centre was home to Penny Arcadia…Jon Marshall tells all online

Jon Marshall, of Magic Carpet Theatre and the Inner Magic Circle, who will present a live online talk on the history of the building now known as Pocklington Arts Centre

FROM Penny Arcadia To Pocklington Arts Centre, the story behind the historic Market Place venue, will be told by magician and performer Jon Marshall in an online event on May 4.

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) has been staging events for more than 20 years, but should you be wondering what the Grade II listed building was once used for and how it came to be the award-winning arts hub it is today, Jon has the answers. 

Tales of fire-eaters, magicians and amusements all will feature in the 7.30pm illustrated talk as Jon, director and performer with Hull company Magic Carpet Theatre, takes his audience on a trip down memory lane, delving into the origins of the building formerly known as Oak House, dating back to the 1700s. 

“The talk promises to be a fascinating and entertaining online event unveiling the story behind the building from doctor’s house, to cinema, and museum housing Europe’s largest collection of amusement machines, to East Yorkshire’s premier arts venue,” says PAC director Janet Farmer. 

Jon, a member of the Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star, promises a fascinating and entertaining evening, replete with tales of former owners of the building Jon and Pat Gresham.

From Penny Arcadia To Pocklington Arts Centre: Jon Marshall’s online audience will hear tales of the Gresham family, who once owned the historic venue. Pictured are Pat and Jon Gresham with their son Maxwell

“They were larger-than-life local characters, cinema proprietors and museum curators,” he says. “All will be revealed about the exploits and colourful adventures of Jon, who was once a magician, fire-eater, pantomime promoter and sideshow showman.

“The audience will also hear about Pat, who was determined that when the Penny Arcadia closed, the building should not become yet another retail unit but instead should provide entertainment and a service to the people of Pocklington and the surrounding area. 

“I had the privilege of knowing the Gresham family for over 50 years, so participants will be able to see many previously unpublished photographs and images from over the years.”

Jon’s company Magic Carpet Theatre are regular performers at PAC and last October they recorded two shows there for streaming for free on PAC’s YouTube channel: Magic Circus from January 7 to 21 and The Wizard Of Castle Magic from February 18 to March 4, both with financial assistance from the I Am Fund and Smile Foundation.

From Penny Arcadia To Pocklington Arts Centre will take place live on Zoom. Tickets go on sale at £5 each at 10am tomorrow (1/4/2021) at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

To keep up to date with all of PAC’s planned online and live events, follow PAC on Facebook @pocklingtonartscentre, Instagram @pocklingtonartscentre and twitter @PocklingtonArts.

Director Jon Marshall as the Ringmaster, showing his frustration with Steve Collison’s Clown in Magic Carpet Theatre’s Magic Circus

The York Dungeon heads into the streets for horrible haunted history walking tour

YORK’S darkest history will be coming to light soon as The York Dungeon springs its frighteningly fun but family-friendly walking tour on the haunted historic city.

Letting out the creeps from Friday, April 16, the spooky new tour will run Friday to Sunday with a range of start times throughout the day.

“Family day trips and city sightseeing have been limited over the past year, yet as the UK prepares to exit lockdown, we have the perfect plan for an eerie and exciting day out,” announces The York Dungeon.

Taking The York Dungeon above ground, guests will be led on a tour of hair-raising historic locations by two of the Clifford Street visitor attraction’s most/least loved characters.

Horrible tales of York’s murky past will be wrapped up in suspense and surprises as families discover “the real tales of the city” labelled as one of Britain’s most haunted.

General manager Andy Turner says: “We’re so excited to be able to bring our family-favourite dungeon experience out of the shadows and onto the streets of York.

“The York Dungeon has been an experience for so many before, yet never like this. Guests can learn about the history of York, while visiting landmarks, and there may be a few spooky surprises along the way.”

Tours will depart from outside The York Dungeon at 12 noon, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Guests must pre-book tickets via The York Dungeon website, thedungeons.com/york/, with prices starting at £6.50 for adults and £5.50 for children.

Each City Walking Tour will be limited to 15 “peasants”, so early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. All children aged five to 15 must be accompanied by an adult aged 18 or over. 

For customer safety, the new tour has been fully adapted to be Covid-19 secure, including social distancing, limited tour size and the entirety of the tour taking place outside.

York Theatre Royal and BBC Radio York team up for Good Friday and Easter Sunday instalments of York Radio Mystery Plays

Director Juliet Forster, top left, and the cast for The Resurrection at a rehearsal on Zoom

BBC Radio York will broadcast two more instalments of the York Radio Mystery Plays in collaboration with York Theatre Royal.

While the Theatre Royal has been closed in Lockdown 3, actors and creatives have been working behind the scenes to record The Crucifixion for Good Friday and The Resurrection for Easter Sunday.

The plays have been adapted by Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster and writer husband Kelvin Goodspeed from excerpts from the York Mystery Plays, dating back to the 1300s, for recording by a combination of community and professional actors. 

These latest recordings follow on from the audio versions of Adam And Eve, The Flood Part 1, The Flood Part 2 and Moses And Pharaoh, broadcast on BBC Radio York last June.

“I’m delighted to have returned to the York Radio Mystery Plays series this Easter,” says Juliet. “The York Mystery Plays are part of the DNA of this city. They belong to the people of York and have brought people together to create, perform, watch, laugh and cry since the 14th century.

“The longevity of these potent plays clearly demonstrates how vital the collective act of storytelling is and has always been to human beings, and how much we need to explore and reflect together on our experiences and understanding of the world.”

The sourcing of the scripts, recruitment of actors and provision of music has been conducted by the Theatre Royal. In keeping with the social-distancing rules, the production required the actors to rehearse remotely on Zoom, then record their lines on a smart phone from home, whereupon the recordings were sent to BBC Radio York for mixing and collating into finished crafted instalments.

Acting assistant editor Allan Watkiss says: “We’re excited to be working with York Theatre Royal once again to keep the centuries-old tradition of the Mystery Plays alive during the pandemic.”

York Radio Mystery Plays director Juliet Forster

The York Mystery Radio Plays project is part of the Theatre Royal’s Collective Acts, a programme of creative community engagement taking place while the building is closed under Coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Joining director Juliet in the production team are Edwin Gray, composition, foley and sound design, and Madeleine Hudson, Theatre Royal Choir musical director, songs.

The cast for The Crucifixion is: Andrew Isherwood, as John; Daniel Poyser, 1st Soldier; Toby Gordon, 2nd Soldier; Adam Kane, 3rd Soldier; Ged Murray, 4th Soldier; Stephanie Wood, Mary, mother of Jesus; Joe Osborne, Pilate; Jared More, Jesus; Elizabeth Elsworth, Mary Cleophas; Maria Gray, 1st Thief on the cross, and Kelvin Goodspeed, 2nd Thief on the cross.

Poyser, Gordon, Kane, Murray, Wood, Osborne, More and Elsworth reprise their roles in The Resurrection, performing alongside Sarah Woodmansey as Angel, Dora Rubinstein as Mary Magdalene and Maggie Smales as Caiaphas.

“Like we did before, we’ve gone for a mix of professionals and community actors, but everyone is new for this production as we’ve moved from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and I wanted to reflect that by using new voices,” says Juliet.

BBC Radio York will air The Crucifixion on Good Friday, April 2, at 6.30am and 1.30pm; The Resurrection on Easter Sunday, April 4, 6.30am and 9.30am. They will be available too on BBC Sounds at bbc.co.uk/radioyork

Actor credits:

Elizabeth Elsworth performed in the York Mystery Plays 2012 and the Wagons Festivals in 2014 and 2018. She appeared in York Theatre Royal’s community productionsBlood + Chocolate, In Fog and Falling Snow and Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, as well as several productions for York Shakespeare Project and York Settlement Community Players.

Toby Gordon as Lucifer in the 2016 York Minster Mystery Plays, when he memorably switched to playing Jesus during the last week of the run

Toby Gordon appeared in the York Mystery Plays 2012 as Workman, in the 2016 York Minster Mystery Plays as Lucifer and in Two Planks & A Passion as Edward Young. Other credits include Antigone (Barbican, London) and The Great Gatsby(Guild of Misrule).

Maria Gray trained at East 15 Drama School (BA Acting) and Flic Circus School in Turin, Italy. She works as an actor, voice-over artist and movement director. Credits include Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre); The Machine Stops (York Theatre Royal/Pilot Theatre); The Beggars Opera(York Theatre Royal) and The Girl Next Door (Teatro Regio). Shewas movement director for A Midsummer Night’sDream and Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre) and Elves And The Shoe Makers (York Theatre Royal).

Andrew Isherwood has been performing on York stages since the York Mystery Plays in 2012, taking on leading roles in classical and musical productions for Pick Me Up Theatre, the York Shakespeare Project and at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre. He regards playing Max Bialystock in The Producers as his career highlight so far.

Jared More trained at the Newcastle Theatre Royal, graduating from the Project A actor training programme in 2019. He is a creative associate of York company Riding Lights, where his credits include Roughshod Deliver, The Selfish Giant and The Kaleidoscope Tour, as well as writing and editing on various projects.

Ged Murray’s first role in the Mystery Plays was as Joseph in the 1992 production at York Theatre Royal. He has since been in the cast in 1996, 2000 (again as Joseph), 2012 and 2016, along with being involved in the Wagon Plays since their resurrection in 1994. He last appeared in the Plays in December 2019 as Shepherd One in the Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s Nativity. His wider acting roles range from Shylock in York Shakespeare Project’s The Merchant Of Venice to the Dame in village pantomimes. 

Exchange of views: Paul Joe Osborne’s Sergeant-Major Reg Drummond and Rory Mulvihill’s Acting Captain Teri Dennis in Privates On Parade in March 2019 . Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Paul Joe Osborne featured in the 2012 York Mystery Plays 2012 but that time at the other end of the Bible, starring as Noah in the Potters Cast. He has played assorted characters at York Theatre Royal Studio in The Seagull, Twelfth Night, Breathing Corpses and Waiting For Godot and Sgt Drummond in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Privates On Parade at Theatre @41 Monkgate. He has also explored TV and film opportunities too in Peaky Blinders, Coronation Street, Ghost Stories and the York comedy horror Chestersberg.

Daniel Poyser trained at Arden School of Theatre.  He has played multiple roles for the National Theatre, as well as appearing in The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess Theatre, London); The Crucible (West Yorkshire Playhouse); The Island and The Three Musketeers (Young Vic, London); Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Les Blancs (Royal Exchange, Manchester); An Enemy Of The People (Sheffield Crucible); Blue/Orange(nominated for MEN Best Actor Award), The Merchant of Venice and The BFG (Bolton Octagon), and Strangers On A Train, Arms And The Man and Blue/Orange (Theatre by the Lake, Cumbria). He has myriad television and radio credits too.

Dora Rubinstein trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Credits include A Page A Day (Northern Stage), Cinderella (Cast, Doncaster), Digital Ghost Hunt (York Theatre Royal), Peter Pan and Aladdin (The Dukes, Lancaster), The Wizard Of Oz (Leicester Square Theatre), Romeo And Juliet and Macbeth (Young Shakespeare Company) and The Ballad Of Robin Hood (Southwark Playhouse). She performs and teaches circus skills, such as contortion and acrobatics, and is developing an interactive circus/theatre show for families in partnership with Dance City, Newcastle. 

Maggie Smales is a York theatre maker with both directing and acting credits. She has directed The Stepmother; an all-female Henry V; Blue Stockings and When The Rain Stops Falling. Among her acting roles: York Mystery Plays, A Winter’s Tale, Coriolanus, Follies, Legacy, Twilight Robbery and Tom’s Midnight Garden.

Stephanie Wood trained at the Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art and worked professionally for several years, most notably appearing in the cult TV show Knightmare as Elita the Cavern Elf.She has been involved in many of York Theatre Royal’s community shows and was last seen as Arkadina in Chekhov’s The Seagull, whose run in the Theatre Royal Studio concluded shortly before the first lockdown.

Sarah Woodmansey is training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London, on the contemporary performance practices course. She has acted in York Theatre Royal productions of In Fog And Falling Snow, Dick Whittington (And His Meerkat), The Beggar’s Opera and Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes.

Grayson Perry’s Covid-crocked “lost pots” exhibition confirmed for May 28 opening in York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art

Kinky Sex: Grayson Perry’s first ceramic plate in 1983

GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery, The Pre-Therapy Years, will run from May 28 to September 5.

This touring show will be held in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) in the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced for a June 12 to September 20 run in York in 2020 until the pandemic intervened. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry-

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, The Pre-Therapy Years re-introduces the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist made between 1982 and 1994.  

Gathering the 70 works has been facilitated by crowd-sourcing through a national public appeal, resulting in the “lost pots” being put on display together for the first time since they were made. 

Dr Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics at York Art Gallery, says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the ground-breaking early works of such a renowned and influential artist. 

“It is fascinating to see how his craft has progressed and evolved since he began working as an artist. His early ceramic works show that the distinctive style, themes and characters have always been central in his decoration.”

Armageddon Feels So Very Reassuring, 1988, by Grayson Perry

Helen continues: “To be able to bring these works together for public display, many of which are usually hidden away in private collections, is absolutely thrilling.  

“We are very much looking forward to seeing Grayson Perry’s ceramic works displayed in the beautiful Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery alongside our own collection of British studio ceramics.” 

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories.

The exhibition “represents a unique opportunity to enjoy the artist’s clever, playful and politically-engaged perspective on the world”. Often challenging and explicit, these works reveal the early development of Perry’s distinctive voice that has established him as one of the most compelling commentators on contemporary society. 

Essex, by Grayson Perry

Explaining how The Pre-Therapy Years came together, curator Catrin Jones says: “When we proposed the exhibition, Grayson responded really positively because, he said, ‘no-one knows where those works are’.

“So, we asked the public and were absolutely overwhelmed by the response. What followed was an extraordinary process of rediscovery as we were contacted by collectors, enthusiasts and friends, who collectively held over 150 of his early works.”

The first task was to process photos of the pots, plates and drawings that arrived in the inbox, followed by asking all manner of questions about the works and from where they came.

“We logged all the pottery marks and provenance information, as well as the wonderful stories of how their owner came to have a genuine Grayson Perry,” says Catrin.

Meaningless Symbols, 1993, by Grayson Perry

She and her team next sat down with Perry to look through the extraordinary and varied selection of artworks. During this process, he remarked that seeing the works again was a powerful reminder of his “pre-therapy years”, and an exhibition title was born.

The show begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium. From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-1980s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in works of explosive energy. Although the majority of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs, perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.  

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years begins in 1982, when Perry was first working as an artist and then charts his progress to the mid-1990s, when he became established in the mainstream London art scene.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Grayson Perry of his exhibition, The Pre-Therapy Years

The exhibition provides a snapshot of a very British time and place, revealing the transition of Grayson’s style, starting out with playful riffs on historic art, such as old Staffordshire pottery, along with crowns (the mixed-media Crown Of Penii, 1982) and thrones (Saint Diana, Let Them Eat S**t, 1984), inspired by his fascination with Princess Diana.

Gradually, he progressed into a style that is patently his own: plates and vases rich with detail that tell tales of our times and experiences, such as 1989’s Cocktail Party.    

Much of the iconography of Perry’s output has an angry, post-punk, deeply ironic leaning, combining cosy imagery with shocking sexual or political content.  

Many of the works displayed in The Pre-Therapy Years tell a very personal story, particularly in the evolution of Claire, who first appeared in the early 1980s, inspired by such powerful women as television newsreaders and Princess Diana, rather than the exuberant child-like figure Perry created after her “coming out” party in 2000.  

The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Grayson Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories

Accompanying the rediscovery of Perry’s artworks, the Holburne Museum is illustrating the exhibition with photos and snapshots of the era, again sharing hitherto unseen glimpses of Perry as he journeyed from angry, ironic young artist to one of British art’s best-loved figures. 

After completing his art degree in Portsmouth in 1982, Perry moved to London and lived in a Camden squat with the singer Marilyn and Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, collectively enjoying creative freedom while sharing limited resources.

During these early years, Perry encountered the Neo Naturists, a group of freewheeling performance artists, whose visual and creative approach would have a profound impact on him.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, first exhibited at York Gallery in July 2015

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said curator of ceramics Helen Walsh on its arrival.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

Melanie featured subsequently in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, from August 20 last year.

In All Its Familiarity Golden, one of Grayson Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries shown at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Last year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley. Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born Perry.

2003 Turner Prize winner Perry kept himself busy in Lockdown 1 by launching Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the lockdown through art, in a six-part series on Channel 4 from April 27 2020 that attracted a million viewers a week.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry, as he looks forward to his 2021 tour, Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

From his London workshop, the Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer took viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in themed shows designed to “encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation”.

Grayson’s Art Club has returned for an on-going second series, presented by Perry in tandem with his wife, the author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry.

Looking ahead, outré artist and social commentator Perry has a York-bound live show in the late-summer.

In his own words: Despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, booked into York Barbican for September 6 on night number five of this year’s 23-date tour. Sheffield City Hall awaits on September 10; Harrogate Convention Centre on November 27.

The tour poster for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

What will be on Perry’s mind?  “Let Grayson take you through an enlightening and eye-watering evening in which this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” his show patter promises.

“Join Grayson as he asks, and possibly answers, these big questions in an evening sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.”

Perry, who turned 61 on March 24, has had an artistic career spanning 40 years, revealing a diverse expertise in “making lemonade out of the mundanity of life”. Such as? In 2015, he designed A House For Essex, a permanent building constructed in the North Essex countryside.

Last autumn, he presented Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip, a three-part documentary travelogue on Channel 4, exploring the meaning of the American Dream in today’s disunited United States of America.

Tickets for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Stereophonics to have a nice day on East Coast at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

STEREOPHONICS are to return to the Yorkshire coast this summer for a July 28 concert at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

Kelly Jones’s Welsh four-piece last played Britain’s largest outdoor concert arena on a sold-out July 19 2018. Tickets go on sale via ticketmaster.co.uk at 9am on Friday, April 2.

Promoter Peter Taylor, of Scarborough OAT programmers Cuffe and Taylor, says: “Stereophonics’ show here in 2018 has to go down as one of the best-ever at the venue. Fans have been demanding their return ever since; we are absolutely delighted to be welcoming them back this summer for what is going to be another legendary night.”

Formed in 1992 in the village of Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley, Wales, Stereophonics have accrued seven number one albums, the latest being their 11th studio set, Kind, in 2019. Twenty-five Top 40 singles have been chalked up too, making the summit in 2004 with Dakota.

Kind added the likes of Fly Like An Eagle, Bust This Town, Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day and Hungover For You to a back catalogue of such Jones gems as Local Boy In The Photograph, The Bartender And The Thief, Just Looking, Dakota, Have A Nice Day, Pick A Part That’s New, Maybe Tomorrow, Mr Writer and It Means Nothing.

At Scarborough OAT, founding members Kelly Jones, vocals and guitar, and Richard Jones, bass, will perform alongside Adam Zindani, guitar, Jamie Morrison, drums, and long-term touring keyboardist Tony Kirkham.

Jones last played a North Yorkshire gig at York Barbican in September 2019, introducing songs from Kind ahead of its October release on the Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day tour. In Jones’s words at the time, “this tour is about overcoming things and moving on from obstacles and building strength from that”. Kind duly ascended to number one.

Kelly Jones playing York Barbican in September 2019. Picture: Simon Bartle

Anne-Marie to play Scarborough Open Air Theatre with Hrvy and Gracey on August 29

Anne-Marie: Scarborough Open Air Theatre debut this summer

ANNE-MARIE will head to the Yorkshire coast on August 29 for a headline concert at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

The chart-topping Essex singer-songwriter will be joined at her Sunday show that August Bank Holiday weekend by Hrvy and Gracey. Tickets will go on general sale at 9am on Friday, April 2 via ticketmaster.co.uk.

Nine-time BRIT Award nominee Anne-Marie Rose Nicholson, from East Tilbury, near Thurrock, is a former West End child star who has notched four UK top ten singles and 4.5 billion global streams.

Her 2016 breakthrough, Alarm, has been followed by further lead-artist hits Ciao Adios and Friends, with Marshmello, in 2017; 2002, with Ed Sheeran, and Rewrite The Stars, with James Arthur, in 2018, Birthday in 2020 and Don’t Play, a number two success with KSI and Digital this year.

Hrvy: Singing Holiday in Scarborough over August Bank Holiday weekend

Anne-Marie, who will turn 30 on April 7, has been a featured artist, alongside Sean Paul, on Clean Bandit’s 2016 number one, Rockabye; Artists For Grenfell’s 2017 number one, Bridge Over Troubled Water; David Guetta’s Don’t Leave Me Alone in 2018, Live Lounge Allstars’ 2019 chart-topper Times Like These and Rudimental’s Come Over in 2020.

On March 20, millions tuned in to witness Anne-Marie’s debut Grand Final win on ITV’s The Voice UK as she mentored Scotsman Craig Eddie to victory.

Further buoyed last year by his cheeky-chappie performances with Janette Manrara on Strictly Come Dancing, Hrvy already had progressed from singing in his bedroom to signing his first record deal at 15 and achieving hits with Holiday, Phobia, Personal, Me Because Of You and Good Vibes.

After two sell-out British and European tours, Hrvy – real name Harvey Leigh Cantwell – has signed a new global record deal at 22 with BMG.

Gracey: Supporting Anne-Marie at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Gracey, a platinum-selling songwriter since the age of 16, has written for Rita Ora, Olly Murs and Kylie Minogue and had a top ten smash with Don’t Need Love, her 2020 collaboration with 220 Kid.

Gracey – 23-year-old Grace Barker from Brighton – has since released Empty Love, a collaboration with Australian singer Ruel, and her second EP, The Art Of Closure.

Peter Taylor, of Scarborough Open Air Theatre (OAT) promoters, says: “We are absolutely delighted to announce a headline show this summer with Anne-Marie, supported by Hrvy and Gracey.

“Anne-Marie has had hits around the world, and we’ve had so many requests to bring her here to Scarborough OAT. This is not only going to be a very popular announcement but one of the must-see shows of the summer.”

Moths matter, says artist Sarah Gillespie as they “hum quietly” in Castle Howard show

Ermines, mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

DEVON artist Sarah Gillespie will present Moth at Castle Howard, near York, from May 29 to September 5.

The exhibition is the result of an ongoing project that, for the past two years, has seen Sarah research, draw and engrave common English moths by way of highlighting their dramatic and devastating decline and celebrating their overwhelming importance. 

“If what I have been given is the ability to focus, to pay attention, and if there is even the remotest chance that in attending lies an antidote to our careless destruction, then that’s what I have to do – to focus,” she says. “It’s not enough but it’s necessary.”

Common Quaker, mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

Moth will feature all 22 of Sarah’ mezzotints as well as a new work, her largest mezzotint to date. Measuring a monumental 2ft by 3ft, Peppered Moth marks a stark change to a process normally measured in inches and not feet.

Sarah will live onsite in the grounds of Castle Howard as part of a month-long artist’s residency, where she will study its moth population and produce new works in response, including one created publicly during visiting hours.

Castle Howard’s publicity for Moth rallies to the defence of an insect “frequently considered a pest, deeply unloved by most humans and grossly misunderstood and overlooked in favour of the more colourful, daylight-dwelling butterflies. However, moths are more numerous and more varied.

Yellow Tail, mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

“They are a major part of our biodiversity and hold vital roles in the wildlife ecosystem as pollinators, recyclers, and food for bats and beloved songbirds.”

Highly topically, the United States-based pharmaceutical company Novavax has used moth cells to create its coronavirus vaccine. Part of the Lepidoptera group of insects, meaning “scaly winged”, moths matter.  From the silk road to ultra-new vaccines, life is tied up with moths.

Since 1914, it is believed that around 62 species of moths have become extinct in Britain alone. In the last 35 years, the overall number of moths here has fallen by around one third owing to habitat loss, intensive farming, commercial forestry and light pollution.

Hebrew Character, by Sarah Gillespie

Species such as the well-known Garden Tiger have fallen in number by 80 per cent or more. Sarah’s work “draws attention to this catastrophic collapse while tenderly celebrating their unseen nocturnal lives, exquisite diversity and the poetry of their common English names”. 

Her use of mezzotint – a labour-intensive tonal engraving technique used widely between the 17th and early 19th century – is key in rendering the nocturnal quality of both the subject matter and the works themselves.

It is only through repeated careful and gradual scraping and polishing of the copper mezzotint plate that these soft gradations of tone and rich and velvety blacks are revealed.  At times presenting themselves in all their astounding detail and at others disappearing altogether, Sarah’s moths hum quietly, a gentle reminder of what may disappear permanently.

Pale Emerald, mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

The creation of the Peppered Moth mezzotint is of particular relevance to Castle Howard, whose landscaped gardens provide the ideal location for its own large and varied moth population.

During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the species experienced a rapid evolutionary mutation, causing it to turn black. The Peppered Moth’s unusual colour change saw it darken in response to its habitat that became increasingly polluted and soot covered, allowing it to camouflage and escape predators.

It was in industrial Yorkshire cities, close to Castle Howard, that the phenomenon was observed in 1848, a full ten years ahead of Charles Darwin’s world-recognised theories on natural selection.

Peppered Moth, smaller, mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

The introduction of clean air laws in the 1960s saw the previous speckled variety return. Creating a mezzotint on this large scale has been a significant feat for Sarah, taking her a number of months to perfect.

The Peppered Moth will become a focal point for the Moth exhibition, not only for its sheer size but to reflect the tenacity of these creatures and the geographical ties to Castle Howard behind this particular species’ fascinating evolutionary story.

Nicholas and Victoria Howard, owners of Castle Howard, say of the exhibition: “We were first introduced to the work of Sarah Gillespie about eight years ago and quickly realised that she was one of the greatest landscape and nature artists of her generation.

Small Phoenix, mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

“We are therefore delighted to be hosting her exhibition, Moth, at Castle Howard and contributing, albeit in a small way, to raising awareness of both the beauty and ecological importance of these magical creatures.”

Throughout the exhibition, numerous bookable events will be taking place at Castle Howard in collaboration with Sarah Gillespie and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, highlighting the importance of moths in the natural world.

As well as talks, the public will be able to join breakfast and dusk walks, viewing these elusive creatures in their natural habitat, as well as a weekly online live streamed event that will see Sarah release moths caught humanely overnight within Castle Howard’s grounds.

White Ermine Moth , mezzotint by Sarah Gillespie

She also will demonstrate the work that goes into making and printing her intricate mezzotints as she creates a new piece inspired by her month-long residency at Castle Howard, with the process able to be viewed in person and real time by visitors. All event and booking information can be found at castlehoward.co.uk.

Sarah Gillespie: Moth will be accompanied by a revised second edition of the ar4tist’s previously sold-out book of the series. The new hardback edition features three additional moth prints, an introduction by author and naturalist Mark Cocker, alongside a specially gifted poem by Alice Oswald.

It is available to buy at £45 from Castle Howard’s gift shop and directly from Sarah’s website,  sarahgillespie.co.uk/editions/moth/.

Sarah Gillespie, Devon artist and printmaker, exhibiting Moth at Castle Howard from May 29 to September 5

Who is Sarah Gillespie?

 SETTLED with her family in the south-west region of Devon, Sarah is an artist of integrity and skill in observing and representing the natural world, focused primarily on the countryside of England that surrounds her daily.

Born in Surrey, she studied at the Atelier Neo Medici in Paris and the Ruskin School of Fine Art at Oxford University. She was awarded the Egerton Coghill Prize for landscape painting, and the international Elizabeth Greenshield Award for figurative painting in her early career.

She is known for the mezzotint printmaking technique that she has adopted to capture the half-tones and gradients of the limited palette of black and white and subtle shades of brown and grey she uses to create her work.

Sarah is a member of the RWA (Royal West of England Academy). In 2019, her work was recognised at the International Mezzotint Festival in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where she was awarded the prize for Adhering to the Traditions and Skills of Graphical Work. To find out more, go to: sarahgillespie.co.uk.

Today is the day to Discover Effortless Living in York as Bull release debut album

Band and the banner: Bull take to the River Ouse on the album launch day for Discover Effortless Living as the artwork hangs from Millennium Bridge, York

BAND formed: 2011. Debut album released on major label: March 26 2021. No wonder York alt-rock  dandies Bull rolled out a large banner of the cover artwork for Discover Effortless Living from Millennium Bridge today.

“It feels great. I’m really excited,” says songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Tom Beer, revelling in one of the most joyful stories in the history of York’s music scene, as the first buds of spring deliver Bull’s 13-track flourish on EMI Records, in conjunction with York promoters, producers and proponents of potent pop, Young Thugs.

“We’ve been working on bringing out the album all year [since signing to EMI last July] and it’s just exciting that it’s done and ready to go.”

Ten years to reach this zenith, and you thought elephants had a long gestation period. “We didn’t know we’d ever get to this point. We’d never bet on it,” admits Tom, after Bull became the first York act since Shed Seven in October 1993 to sign to a major label.

“It definitely feels all the more significant because it’s not only a year’s work. Everything we’ve done has been incremental, learning as we go, for years.”

Are Bull the hardest working band in York, Tom? “I’m not sure we can be called that! I’ll give that to The Howl & The Hum. Not that we haven’t worked hard, but we’ve always just done what we wanted to do. When you work at something you love, it’s not work, is it?” he says. “I’ve only just started calling it ‘work’ in recent years.”

Going Green: The artwork for Bull’s first single for EMI, a song written as long ago as 2012

Bull have hit the roof, in the best way possible. “We’ve just played a gig on the EMI roof,” reveals Tom. When? “Um…I only remember dates in the future.”

Sometime in March, anyway, as Tom, guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bass player and artist Kai West followed in the London footsteps of The Beatles in their last public performance on the Apple offices rooftop at Savile Row on January 30 1969 and U2 in a not-so-secret gig atop BBC Broadcasting House on February 27 2009 to launch their 12th album, No Line On The Horizon.

The Beatles, U2, what esteemed company Bull are keeping. “We’ve actually been called The English Beatles, which we quite liked!” says Tom.

“We had a few meetings at The Golden Ball [York’s first community co-operative pub in Cromwell Road] and came up with a few whacky ideas, and originally we thought we’d just try to play on the roof without telling EMI, just doing it on the day, maybe with the help of the janitor.”

Instead, it developed into a full-blown performance, playing all 13 tracks from Discover Effortless Living. “It will be broadcast on Jericho Keys’ BBC Music Introducing show on BBC Radio York tomorrow [27/3/2021, from 8pm],” says Tom.

“As for actually releasing it, we’re pitching it to various sources, but it will be available to watch via our Facebook site on a date to be confirmed.”

“Everything we’ve done has been incremental, learning as we go, for years,” says Bull’s Tom Beer on the day their debut album arrives

Bull made their little piece of rock’n’roll history on that rooftop. “Apparently we’re the first band to play on EMI’s offices, at the Universal Music building next to King’s Cross [Four Pancras Square, to be precise],” says Tom.

“It was insane! Like, the food that day was better than anything we’d eaten in years! The roof must be 20 storeys up. Brilliant up there, but cold. It was bracing to say the least. We even had a drone photographing us that looked as big as a helicopter! We’re editing that now.”

No fewer than seven singles were released from Michael Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller, and Bull are on his tail with Eugene this week becoming the fifth from Discover Effortless Living, in the wake of Green, Bonzo Please, Love Goo and Disco Living.

Tom’s mini-symphony of self-flagellation spans the various stages of feeling down on yourself – from lethargy and frustration to anger – using tempo changes to “paint an audio picture”. In its brief visit of only two minutes and 38 seconds, the idiosyncratic song manages to be both melancholy and spritely at the same time.

“It’s a real kick-yourself-when-you’re-down song,” says Tom. “I wrote Eugene when I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing. It’s kind of a self-hate song, you know when people talk about self-love? It’s not that. I’m slating myself; it moves through the key changes and different moods, and ends in a way that mocks the sadness, another form of self-deprecation!”

One of the red apples from Bull’s animated video for new single Eugene

Recalling penning Eugene, Tom says: “I felt rubbish at the time but I did feel better for writing it. The problem is singing it for ten years, still having to revisit that apathy, but hopefully it’s preventative to getting back to that state.”

Mulling over the kick-yourself-when-you’re-down subject matter: “I used to listen to a lot of Elliott Smith [the American singer-songwriter who took his own life with a knife in 2003],” says Tom. “There’s a line in High Fidelity: ‘What comes first? The music or the misery? I had a down year when I wrote Eugene…but I think the answer might be ‘music’, though…”.

Who’s Eugene, Tom? “We used to name a lot of our songs around our original drummer Louis’s friends, such as Eddie’s Cap. We like the idea of giving the song a name, as opposed to lifting it from a lyric.

“Eugene is named after Joe G, Joseph G. Louis used to call him Gorgeous G. So Eugene. My brother Paddy’s band are called Eugene Gorgeous after this guy too.”

The video is an animated gem in a collaboration with artist friends of the band that reflects the song’s different moods. Band members Dan and Kai set the ball rolling with a burst of DIY Claymation before handing over to artists Jack Iredale, Rory Welbrock, Roxy Linklater and Tom’s sister, Holly Beer, who each tackled a different animation style.

York band Bull pictured in….Scarborough. Picture: Amy D’Agorne Craghill

“With all those key changes, the song’s a bit of a rollercoaster, and we wanted to mirror that in the visuals, splitting it into animated sections, but we also thought: ‘Does it need something to tie it together?’, so we made the arbitrary decision, or maybe not, that all the animations had to feature a red apple,” says Tom. First Adam and Eve, then Snow White, now Bull!

Summing up the album as “13 songs written and rocked on between the years 2012 and 2020”, Tom elaborates on the origin of the title: “It’s taken from the opening lyric to the final track, Disco Living. We wanted to use a lyric from the album and felt like this was a good one.

” I first saw the words Discover Effortless Living in London, written on the side of a mansion being built and thought it was funny. It also ties in with ideas around class, new beginnings, a golden era of prosperity, and hoping to have life ‘in the bag’.”

What would constitute “effortless living”, Tom? “I just think it’s a contradiction in terms. That’s what was funny about it. Effortless living? I don’t think anyone would want to discover it. Effort is surely worth the effort?” he says.

“My idea of discovering how to live is to take things slowly; finding joy in the little things; having lots of different things on the go at the same time, and not worrying about any of them too much. Maybe lockdown has been a necessary change of pace. A nice change of pace. It’s the first time I’ve had a routine since school.”

Spread out: The artwork for Bull’s debut album, Discover Effortless Living

Tom finds joy in going for walks. “I love walking in suburbia; it’s my favourite thing. I’ve always loved it. You have really good conversations on walks, and I love discovering roads and parts of communities I’ve not seen before,” he says.

Now those discoveries are as much in Scarborough as elsewhere after moving from York with girlfriend Martha – band member Dan’s sister – a year and a half ago.

“Martha is a midwife and it was either Oxford or Scarborough that she would be working in. It was time we lived together; we both liked Scarborough; it’s close, so I can go to York, rehearse all day, then get back to Scarborough.”

Tom and Martha are living in Castle Road. “We’re south-facing, so out of the window we have incredible views of the South Bay,” he says.

“In fact, Castle Road is where we made the album cover, at St Mary’s Church. We knew we wanted somewhere with beautifully green grass, the greener the better. I called the church up on the phone, to ask if we could use the churchyard [where Haworth novelist Anne Bronte is buried, by the way].

Richard Hawley pictured at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, for the album cover for Coles Corner

“I said, ‘can we have it between 10am and 5pm, if we clean up afterwards ourselves?’, and this man very kindly said ‘yes’.”

To create the cover image, Bull combined items they found on the street with “lots of flowers we picked”. “I hope they’ve grown back,” says Tom. “A bunch of people came up to ask ‘what are you  doing?’, and once we told them, they said, ‘oh, that’s nice’. Some people even sat and watched!”

And so, St Mary’s Church churchyard becomes the second Scarborough setting for a landmark album sleeve, after the Art Deco frontage of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, at the former Scarborough Odeon, graced the cover of Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner, released in September 2005.

The band portrait at the top of this interview was taken in Scarborough too by Amy D’Agorne Craghill. “There’s this amazing place on the North Bay. From the castle, you walk through the castle walls to woodland with all these orange-coloured rocks and that’s where Amy took it,” says Tom.

A further Bull image in Scarborough came about when they stumbled across 100 gnomes in a woman’s garden. Who could resist using gnomes for a picture? Not Bull. Permission was duly forthcoming.

What’s next? Bull in a china shop?

On the edge: “We didn’t know we’d ever get to this point. We’d never bet on it,” says Tom Beer of Bull’s progress to a major-label debut album

Track listing for Bull’s Discover Effortless Living: Bedroom Floor; Love Goo; Green; Shiny Bowl; Eugene; Eddie’s Cap; Serious Baby; Perfect Teeth; Find Myself A Job; Bonzo Please;
In A Jar; Smoke and Disco Living.


Hush, hush, here comes the York Spring Fair & Food Festival at York Racecourse in June

A 1933 Hush Hush train

TWO York companies are joining forces to hold the inaugural York Spring Fair & Food Festival in the Clocktower Enclosure at York Racecourse from May 28 to June 6.

James Cundall’s company, Jamboree Entertainment, and Johnny Cooper, of Coopers Marquees, are bringing together one of the largest vintage funfairs seen in North Yorkshire for many years and a food festival that will showcase the “very best artisan products from Yorkshire and beyond”.

Running over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend and through school half-term week, the event will conform to all prevailing Government guidelines regarding Covid-19.

The Vintage Funfair comprises a collection of restored vintage rides from the golden era of fairgrounds. Among them are an exhilarating 1936 Speedway; a rare Brooklands Dodgems from 1937 and a 1930s’ Chair-o-Plane, as well as a beautiful Carousel, Twister, Lighthouse Helter-Skelter, Octopus and Big Wheel. 

Three children’s rides will include the oldest ride, Hush Hush, the Monorail train, dating from 1933, as well as five game stalls offering prizes every time.

Co-producer James Cundall, chief executive officer of Jamboree Entertainment, says:  “It’s exciting to be able to put together a vintage funfair on a scale that hasn’t been seen in York for decades.  

“The rides are visually stunning with artwork going back almost 90 years.  There will be rides and game stalls for all ages, so it’s a great opportunity to get out and have fun in a Covid 19-compliant environment.”

The Food Festival will showcase approximately 40 artisan food and drink producer stalls and will be one of the first times that the public can interact with local food and drink suppliers.

Co-producer Johnny Cooper, CEO of Coopers Marquees, says: “As we emerge from the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown, we are thrilled to be staging one of the first events in Yorkshire that will place the very best Yorkshire products before an audience hungry for an exciting day out.”

Both Jamboree Entertainment and Coopers Marquees are York-based, family-owned companies. The team at Jamboree Entertainment brings 25 years of experience in producing live entertainment worldwide and, closer to home, produces the award-winning Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland ice rink and funfair, Sounds In The Grounds concerts and the Great Ryedale Maze at Sherburn.  

Coopers Marquees was established in the 1990s and is now the tenth largest marquee company in the UK, supplying a range of structures to events large and small, including numerous food festivals.

The York Spring Fair & Food Festival will be open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission will be £3 for adults; children aged 12 and under, free. This excludes rides and game stalls, which will cost £3 per person.  £1 of the admission fee will be donated to Ryedale Special Families, a charity that supports families with disabled children and young people, for their New Building Fund. 

Tickets will go on sale on Tuesday, March 30 at ticketsource.co.uk/yorkspringfair.  Booking in advance is recommended as numbers will be restricted under Covid regulations.  If unsold, tickets can be bought at the gate.

Further information can be found at yorkspringfair.co.uk; food or drink suppliers interested in taking a pitch at the event should email admin@yorkspringfair.co.uk.

Jamboree Entertainment will present three Sounds In The Grounds concerts in the Clocktower Enclosure this summer: Beyond The Barricade on June 25; Abba Mania, June 26, and A Country Night In Nashville, June 27.

York singer songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich to release sobering but uplifting To Carry A Whale album this summer

“A whale is heavy to carry. It’s gonna hurt you to carry it, but it’s also beautiful, and it’s a miracle to be able to carry all that at all,” says Benjamin Francis Leftwich explaining his new album title

YORK singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich will release his fourth album, To Carry A Whale, on June 18.

The following month will mark the tenth anniversary of his debut, the 100,000-selling Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm, made at the age of 21 when he became the Dirty Hit label’s first signing.

The new album takes its name from Ben revealing it is the first he has written and recorded entirely sober, a state he has maintained since spending 28 days in rehab in January 2018. “To Carry A Whale is an observation on what it’s like to be a sober alcoholic addict a couple of years in,” he says.

“A whale is heavy to carry. It’s gonna hurt you to carry it, but it’s also beautiful, and it’s a miracle to be able to carry all that at all.

The artwork for Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s new album

“My gratitude is my acceptance of that flawed character and the peace that goes with that, and the title acknowledges that.”

Such is Ben’s confessional nature in his song-writing. “I think that’s the deal I made with myself a long time ago. There’s no distinction between my musical life and my personal life and I write with compulsion,” he says.

“I still consider myself a baby [as a writer]. Maybe I should hide, but I don’t. I just kind of choose it; this way of being. It’s what it is. I’ll still answer your questions! I’m not here to hide things: a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Take the song Slipping Through My Fingers: “It’s that feeling of ‘Where did he go?’. ‘Where did she go?’. ‘Where did the time go?’. I think that addicts and alcoholics do have that mindset, very, very intensely, and it’s a painful mindset,” says Ben. “I describe it as a ‘hole in the soul’.

“Song-writing is a really special thing, a privilege and a responsibility, and it’s something that I love, but it’s good to leave your ego at the door,” says Benjamin Francis Leftwich

“So, writing such a song is cathartic. Totally. Singing from the heart, sharing my experiences, my hopes, that’s one of the things that keeps me well.”

What has Ben learned in the decade since Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm? “I’d probably say, ‘Speak to people you love about your problems. Don’t try to carry everything’ – and ‘well done on signing to an independent label’,” he decides.

After Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm in 2011, After The Rain in 2016 and Gratitude in 2019, here comes To Carry A Whale, comprising ten tracks led off by lead single Cherry In Tacoma, out now.

The recordings were made over a restless four-month span last year, divided between Ben’s home in Tottenham, London, Urchin Studios in Hackney, a hotel room in Niagara and a Southend studio owned by Ben’s friend Sam Duckworth, alias the musician Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

Lasting impact: Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s 100,000-selling debut album in 2011, Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm

Duckworth produced much of the record, sharing production duties with Eg White, noted for his collaborations with Adele, Florence + The Machine and Sam Smith.

Eg White, Ben? How come? “I’ve worked with a producer called Josh Grant for a while, a dear friend of mine, and one day he said, ‘would you like to go over and meet Eg?’. I thought. ‘yeah, I’d love to’, and on that day we wrote Every Time I See A Bird, which is on the new album,” he says.

“Then we worked on Cherry In Tacoma, which I started in America but then hit a wall with it, but then Ed helped to bring it to fruition.”

Ben thrives on co-writing, whether with fellow York songwriter Sam Griffiths, of The Howl & The Hum, or a couple of upcoming days with James Morrison. “It’s great to work with other people,” he reasons.

When he was 21: Benjamin Francis Leftwich in York a decade ago after releasing his debut album

“Song-writing is a really special thing, a privilege and a responsibility, and it’s something that I love, but it’s good to leave your ego at the door. The song exists above us and we’re here to catch it.

“Occasionally you get an artist that goes it alone, but Kanye West co-writes, Taylor Swift co-writes, Adele co-writes. Ninety five per cent of the time, resistance to collaboration is only fear.”

Ben has relished recording with Sam Duckworth. “It’s really important, when there’s an energy there, you just have to grab it. Sam stayed with me at my place for ages when we were making the album. Some people do that 9 to 5 thing with their song-writing, which I respect, but it’s not my way and it’s not Sam’s way,” he says.

“Sometimes I might be going to bed, and then I’ll playing the guitar, and a song starts developing and you don’t go to bed!”

Just as Ben enjoys working with myriad musicians, so he believes in the need to travel for inspiration. “I’m not into the idea of just staying in any one city. It’s very limiting,” he says. “Early on, sometimes people want to put a belt around you to stop you from travelling, but I say ‘fly’.” Or as Sam Duckworth would urge: Get cape. Wear cape. Fly.

Travel has led to such new compositions as Sydney, 2013, Tired In Niagara and Cherry In Tacoma. “Tacoma is close to the Pacific Ocean, near Seattle, and it’s a place I’ve spent a lot of time; my godmother lives out there and I love to stay there,” Ben says.

As for a different form of travelling, going on tour to play his news songs: “We do have tours pencilled in, and I’d imagine I’ll be announcing them within the next two months.” Watch this space.

Track listing for To Carry A Whale: Cherry In Tacoma; Oh My God Please; Canary In A Coalmine; Tired In Niagara; Every Time I See A Bird; Wide Eyed Wandering Child; Sydney, 2013; Slipping Through My Fingers; Talk To You Now and Full Full Colour.

New single: The artwork for Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s Cherry In Tacoma

Everything’s going to the wall as The Postman delivers street art tribute to key workers in Guardians Of York murals

Steve Wasowa, ICU doctor, York District Hospital, turned into street art by The Postman

YORK public art pioneers Art Of Protest Projects and The York BID are collaborating on a street art series of murals to “honour and elevate pandemic key workers from York”. 

They are working with The Postman, the anonymous international street artist collective tasked with creating the ancient city’s first urban art installation to celebrate the Guardians Of York, who helped to keep York moving when the city – and the world – came to a standstill during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Inviting people back into the city once Lockdown 3 eases, Jeff Clark, director of Art of Protest Projects, says: “Helping people to realise the difference that urban art can make to a town or city, through its presence in York, has been something we’ve been working towards for a long time.

Gill Shaw, Boots retail worker

“To be able to do it with such outstanding artists like The Postman, as well as our homegrown heroes, was beyond anything I could have imagined when we first set out.”

Eleven essential workers, all of them York residents, were recorded by a professional film crew in the closed Debenhams store in Davygate, giving their account of the hardships of working through the upheaval created by the pandemic, and all had their portrait photographs taken.

Taking part were: Becky Arksy, primary school teacher; Pauline Law, police officer; Sally and Mark Waddington, York Rescue Boat; Martin Golton, street cleaner, and Steve Wasowa, ICU doctor, York District Hospital.

Steven Ralph, postal worker

So too were: Steve and Julia Holding, owners of the Pig and Pastry, in Bishopthorpe Road, and founders of the Supper Collective; Steven Ralph, postal worker; Gill Shaw, Boots retail worker, and Brenna Allsuch, ICU nurse, York District Hospital.

Their images have been transformed into murals by The Postman collective, whose favoured artistic medium is pop-culture paste-ups, rooted in punk, wherein they express themselves in brightly coloured, edgy, urban portraits, varying from street artworks of Nelson Mandela in South Africa to pop stars in Los Angeles.

“As the Guardians project builds momentum, we realise more and more how important it is to tell the stories of the people behind the masks,” say the mystery duo with roots in graffiti culture. “The key workers that have carried us through the last year inspired us and made a difference to everybody’s lives.”

Pauline Law, police officer

The Guardians Of York will be displayed on city-centre walls in a three-month installation from April 9 to July 9, in a show of gratitude to key workers timed to coincide with the relaxation of lockdown restrictions and the reopening of many of the city’s “non-essential” businesses, potentially from April 12.

Recalling the dissolving street art of York memorial artist Dexter, The Postman will be applying their paper-based large-scale artworks to walls with wheat paste, their impermanent form of art fading and washing away over time, duly creating a buzz as people seek them out before they disappear.

Jeff Clark has worked closely with Andrew Lawson, executive director of York BID (Business Improvement District), who says: “The BID has supported a couple of street art projects in the city over the past few years and its new five-year business plan outlines how it would like to provide more support in this area.

“To be able to do it with such outstanding artists like The Postman, as well as our homegrown heroes, was beyond anything I could have imagined when we first set out,” says Art Of Protest Projects director Jeff Clark

“The Guardians Of York is an apt project to kick off reopening in 2021, as it will add a splash of colour to the city, while reminding the public of those local heroes who have worked hard to keep us all safe.”

Jeff’s art and media company delivers large and small-scale exhibitions, murals and projects, both nationally and globally, but he was particularly keen to bring alive a new project in his home city, where he previously invited Static – alias Scarborough street art duo Craig Evans and Tom Jackson – to construct murals on the floor of the Art Of Protest gallery, in Little Stonegate, at Brew York, Walmgate, and down a Coney Street alleyway in October 2018.

“By nature I’m a bit of a hippie, but I have the connections to deliver on my beliefs, working on projects in London, New York and Los Angeles ” says Jeff, whose upcoming ideas stretch to creating an open-air museum and laser art (that will not be mere pie in the sky).

Mark Waddington, from the York Rescue Boat team

“I don’t see why I can’t bring my ideas to my home city, so that’s why I’m working with Andrew Lawson, discussing at length how we might implement such ideas, starting with this installation trail with high impact for three months.

“Projects could look at York heroes of the past, but it would be churlish at the moment to do right now when the biggest heroes are our key workers.”

Jeff was keen too to break away from the prevailing images of such workers. “Rather than having yet more tired faces, we want to remind people that there is hope and a path out of this pandemic.

Julia Holding, Pig and Pastry co-owner and Supper Collective co-founder

“It is a world of fear, love and compassion, but these portraits not only show us that, yes, these workers do work that keeps the world going round, but they go home to their families, and they all want to make the world a better place than they came into.”

Mounting the Guardians Of York is a passion project for Jeff and The Postman.  “They like to do street art that makes a difference, and my partner is an NHS frontline worker, so I’ve seen every day how Covid has worn them down, sacrificing their own health. It’s no wonder that nurses have gone down, had to stop working, because they’re frazzled,” he says.

“They’ve had to go into a war-like atmosphere, where normally you’d do a tour and then be sent home, for a break, but that’s not been the case. That’s why my heart and soul has gone into this project.”    

Martin Golton, street cleaner

Let the last word go to project participant Brenna Allsuch, ICU nurse and project support manager to boot. “Telling my story in such a real and raw way has helped me to understand the weight of this year, and to reflect on all the highs and lows,” she says.

“Beyond that, it’s made me feel like I’m part of a community, a collective of people that have not stopped going.”

To watch a video about the project, go to: https://youtu.be/7cUpnE1M-sw

“Telling my story in such a real and raw way has helped me to understand the weight of this year,” says ICU nurse Brenna Allsuch

Copyright of The Press, York

More Things To Do in York and beyond in the months ahead and at home now. List No. 29, courtesy of The Press, York

Becky Gee, curator of Fine Art at York Art Gallery, with Michael Lyons’ 1993 sculpture Amphitrite in the Artists Garden in May 2019. Picture: Charlotte Graham

ONLINE entertainment is still ruling the Stay Home world, but more promoters are announcing shows for the summer as the recovery roadmap begins to twitch our cultural satnav. Charles Hutchinson reaches for his diary.

Last chance to see: Michael Lyons’ Ancient And Modern sculptures, York Art Gallery Artists Garden and Edible Wood

THE free display of large-scale works by late Cawood sculptor Michael Lyons behind York Art Gallery will close on April 11.

On show in his biggest ever exhibition on York soil are nine sculptures created between 1982 and 2000, inspired by nature, myth and ancient cultures, with the central space dominated by Amphitrite, a large painted steel structure evoking the sea that he fashioned in 1993.

Opened in late-May 2019, Ancient And Modern originally was booked to run until May 2020, but has remained in place through these pandemic times.

Caroline Gruber as Vashti in E M Forster’s The Machine Stops, now starting up again in a York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre webcast. Picture: Ben Bentley

Recommended resonant webcast of the week and beyond: The Machine Stops online

YORK Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre’s 2016 co-production of The Machine Stops can be watched at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/the-machine-stops-webcast/ until April 5.

Adapted for the stage by Neil Duffield, E M Forster’s 1909 short story is set in a futuristic, dystopian world where humans have retreated far underground and individuals live in isolation in “cells”, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. 

Director Juliet Forster says: “It’s even more striking today than it was at the time we staged it: things like human contact and human touch becoming something that’s almost taboo, things that didn’t seem relevant back in 2016 but are really, really striking and even more relevant now.”

Ensemble Augelletti: Recording for the Awaken online weekend at the National Centre for Early Music, York

Springtime celebration of music online: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music, York, Saturday and Sunday

THE NCEM’s Awaken weekend will present York countertenor Iestyn Davies and Fretwork, the all-male vocal group The Gesualdo Six, I Fagiolini and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, Ensemble Augelletti and The Consone Quartet.

The six-pack of online festivities will celebrate the sublime sounds of spring, recorded in a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”.

Among the architectural gems will be Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and the NCEM. Full details can be found at ncem.co.uk/awaken.

Becky Lennon and Jules Risingham: Ready to host Thunk-It Theatre’s online youth theatre sessions

Online youth theatre opportunity: Thunk-It Theatre sessions with Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s youth theatre partnership with York company Thunk-It Theatre is to continue for a second series of online drama classes.

Becky Lennon and Jules Risingham’s all-levels drama sessions for children aged six to 11 will be held on Zoom every Sunday during term-time from April 25 to May 30.

The 10am to 11am sessions for Years 2 to 6 children will include fun games, exercises and storytelling, aiming to encourage confidence building, life and social skills, creativity and positivity. Participants will work collaboratively to create a short performance that will explore storytelling. To book, go to pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Abba Mania: Booked for Sounds In The Grounds at York Racecourse

Live music returns to Knavesmire: Sounds In The Grounds at Clocktower Enclosure, York Racecourse, June 25 to 27

NORTH Yorkshire impresario James Cundall’s Sounds In The Grounds is adding a new location to its picnic-concert portfolio for summer 2021.

Complying with Covid-19 guidelines, the Clocktower Enclosure of York Racecourse will play host to the Beyond The Barricade celebration of musicals on June 25, Abba Mania on June 26 and A Country Night In Nashville on June 27.

The capacity will be capped at 1,400 for the fully staged productions with LED screens on either side of the stage. Tickets are on sale at: soundsinthegrounds.seetickets.com.

Paul Winn: Co-organiser of the 2nd York Blues Festival in July

Here comes a dose of the blues: York Blues Festival, July 24, 12.30pm to 11pm

THE 2nd York Blues Festival will be held on Saturday, July 24 at The Crescent Community Venue, York, organised by Paul Winn and Ben Darwin.

No strangers to the British Blues scene, they present Blues From The Ouse on Jorvik Radio and are members of York band DC Blues.

Winn and Darwin have booked a bill of Robbie Reay; The Swamp Hoppers; Dori & The Outlaws; John Carroll; Dr Bob & The Bluesmakers; DC Blues and Nick Steed Five. Tickets are on sale at yorkbluesfestival.co.uk, thecrescentyork.com and earwormrecords.co.uk.

Racing cert: Shed Seven will ride out at Doncaster Racecourse next May after moving post-racing gig…again

Sheds on the move…again: Shed Seven, Live After Racing, Doncaster Racecourse, May 14 2022

YORK heroes Shed Seven’s twice-postponed post-racing gig at Doncaster Racecourse will come under starter’s orders on May 14 202.

First diarised for August 15 2020, then May 15 this spring, each show was declared a non-runner under the Government’s pandemic lockdown restrictions.

Let Donny Races wax lyrical: “So don’t have your friends asking ‘where have you been tonight?’ We have ‘high hopes’ that ‘the heroes’ Shed Seven will deliver an outstanding night of music. ‘It’s not easy’ but you’d be stuck to find a ‘better days’ entertainment in Doncaster next summer.” To book raceday tickets, go to: doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on/

Graham Gouldman, second from left, will be returning to York Barbican with 10cc

Gig announcement of the week: 10cc, York Barbican, March 26 2022

10cc will play York Barbican next spring in the only Yorkshire show of their 13-date Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour.

“It’s difficult to express just how much we have missed playing live and how much we want to be back playing concerts for you,” says Graham Gouldman, the one group founder still in the touring line-up. “We look forward to seeing you all again in 2022.”

Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk and ticketline.co.uk.

Change of day at the races for Shed Seven. Doncaster Racecourse gig moves to 2022

Shed Seven: New day at the races confirmed for Doncaster show

SHED Seven’s Live After Racing gig at Doncaster Racecourse will come under starter’s orders for a third time on May 14 2022 after two false starts.

The York band’s outdoor Donny debut had to be scrapped twice, first booked for August 15 2020, then May 15 this spring, but each show was declared a non-runner under the Government’s pandemic lockdown restrictions.

The Sheds will now be chasing winners as well as Chasing Rainbows in the first post-racing Music Live event of the 2022 Doncaster Racecourse season.

Let Donny Races wax lyrical: “Enjoy a day out at the races, soaking up the British summertime [albeit in May] with a glass of something refreshing watching the horses race by, before the night sweeps in and the music kicks off.

“Finding fame within the Britpop scene in the ’90s, Shed Seven hit dizzying heights with their single Chasing Rainbows and their debut album Change Giver. They have released several albums since then, with Going for Gold – The Greatest Hits the latest release. [Not true, fact pedants. Live album Another Night, Another Night came out on December 18 2020. Going For Gold’s reissue on gold vinyl glistened on May 31 1999].”

Shed Seven’s latest album: Another Night, Another Town

Anyway, you were saying, Donny? “So don’t have your friends asking ‘where have you been tonight?’ We have ‘high hopes’ that ‘the heroes’ Shed Seven will deliver an outstanding night of music. ‘It’s not easy’ but you’d be stuck to find a ‘better days’ entertainment in Doncaster this summer.”

After that glut of Sheds’ song titles, here comes the tickets advice: “Secure your ticket early to guarantee entry as we are expecting huge sales for this massive band!” To book, go to: doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on/music-live-featuring-shed-seven.

Oh, and should Sheds fans be wondering what to wear, this is the official Donny Dress Code: “Most racegoers choose a smart casual outfit when attending the races and we discourage sportswear and ripped jeans. There are more formal dress codes in place for some of our premier ticket options as well as hospitality and restaurant packages.” Going for gold, maybe?

Shed Seven Live After Racing is the second Sheds’ open-air gig in Yorkshire to have a new date confirmed. Their all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, has moved from June 26 to August 28 this summer.

Joining the Sheds that West Yorkshire day will be Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and Leeds United-supporting York group Skylights, plus the Brighton Beach DJs. Tickets for this Futuresounds Events concert are on sale at £42.50, premium seats £55, at lunatickets.co.uk, seetickets.com and gigantic.com.

Thunk It again as Becky and Jules’s online youth theatre returns for second term

Ready for a second term: Thunk-It Theatre youth theatre duo Becky Lennon and Jules Risingham

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s youth theatre partnership with York company Thunk-It Theatre is to continue for a second series of online drama classes.

In response to popular demand, Becky Lennon and Jules Risingham’s all-levels drama sessions for children aged six to 11 will be held on Zoom every Sunday during term-time from April 25 to May 30.

The 10am to 11am classes for Years 2 to 6 children will include fun games, exercises and storytelling, aiming to encourage confidence building, life and social skills, creativity and positivity by giving children a space to express themselves openly and develop connections with other young people. 

During the six-week term, participants will work collaboratively to devise and create a short performance designed to explore storytelling. 

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with Thunk-It Theatre to bring the joy and fun of the performing arts to children at this time.

“The classes delivered so far have proved to be really popular,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

“The classes delivered so far have proved to be really popular, so we’re really looking forward to building on this success and eventually welcoming young performers through our doors for their classes, just as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”

The youth theatre was born out of a free project run by Thunk-It in January and February, delivering similar sessions online to alleviate the stress of home schooling for young people and their parents and carers. 

Becky and Jules hosted the inaugural series of youth theatre classes from February 28. “We’re so excited to continue building on the success of our first block of online drama classes and seeing this fantastic youth theatre partnership with PAC continue go from strength to strength.”

Series Two tickets are on sale at £35 per child with a sibling discount at £30. To find out more and to book a place, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Alternatively, for further information, email thunkittheatre@gmail.com.

Thunk-It Theatre’s poster for term two of Thunk-It Youth Theatre

Who won the Hutch Awards in the first year of Killjoy Covid? Time to doff the cap to….

Who warranted a doffing of the Hutchinson cap in a year when the arts world faced an unparalleled struggle? Here comes the flood of recipients…

TODAY marks the first anniversary of the imposition of Lockdown, a year when killjoy Covid has cast the arts into darkness, but the artbeat refused to stop.

Here CharlesHutchPress doffs its cap to those who kept the flame alive in the 2020-2021 Hutch Awards, while scowling at a few irritations too.

Uplifting experience of the year? The first socially distanced live theatre enterprise, Park Bench Theatre, mounted by Matt Aston’s Engine House company in the Friends Garden at Rowntree Park, York.

On the bench: Matt Aston, director of the Park Bench Theatre season at Rowntree Park. Picture: Livy Potter

Three solo shows, Chris Hannon in Samuel Beckett’s First Love, Cassie Vallance in Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Lisa Howard in Aston’s lockdown play Every Time A Bell Rings, were all first class, and this venture surely will be rolled out again in Summer 2021.

Summer ventures that reminded you why culture matters, dear Rishi: Badapple Theatre’s tour of back gardens with Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly; Alexander Flanagan Wright and Phil Grainger’s week of two-handers, full of music and poetic magic at Stillington Mill; the collaboration between the NCEM, Fulford Arms and The Crescent for a series of acoustic double bills in St Margaret’s churchyard in Walmgate; York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate.

Phil Grainger and Alexander Flanagan Wright at Stillington Mill . Picture: Charlotte Graham

York is still the home of pantomime, part one: Dame Berwick Kaler’s comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House had to be stabled for a year, but his former home, York Theatre Royal, took panto to the people with the Travelling Pantomime, the first venture with new partners Evolution Productions, full of wit, energy, fun and mischief.

York is still the home of pantomime, part two: York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate. Nik Briggs, director turned debutant writer, assembled a cast of fabulous Yorkshire talents and West End choreographer Gary Lloyd for a slick slice of “musical theatre with pantomime braces on”. The Biles Beanstalk publicity campaign was a gem too.

Josh Benson as the comic turn in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime

Family show of the year: John Godber and his family bubble of wife Jane, actress daughter Martha and stage manager daughter Elizabeth staged his Sunny Side Up! premiere at the socially distanced Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. “Seeing all those masks, at first it felt more like being in an operating theatre, not a theatre,” said John.

Solo stage performance of the year outside York: Polymath Polly Lister, playing everyone and everything, from Gerda and Kai and a “silly Sorceress” to a Goth raven poet and a grumpy Brummie deer, in Nick Lane’s Christmas show for the SJT, The Snow Queen, transformed from a five-hander to a one-woman show under Covid restrictions and all the better for it.

Polly Lister in one of eight roles in The Snow Queen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Lockdown audio show of the year: Alan Ayckbourn x 2, first recording new play Anno Domino with his wife, Heather Stoney, for the summer and then continuing the multiple role-playing in a ghost story for winter nights as he revisited his 1994 play Haunting Julia, both for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. His master’s voice, as you have not heard him before, at 81.

Television art show of the year: Grayson Perry and wife Philippa hosting Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4, championing people’s art with such empathy, wisdom, wit and love.

For your lockdown listening pleasure: Alan Ayckbourn recorded two plays at his Scarborough home. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Festivals that would not lie down but embraced the virtual instead: York Early Music Festival and Christmas Festival; York Festival of Ideas; Aesthetica Short Film Festival, much lengthened online.

Reinvention of a festival at short notice for Covid times: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, revamped by artistic director Jamie Walton to still go ahead with socially distanced audiences in a Welburn Abbey marquee with the apt theme of Revolution in August.

Comedy innovation of the year: Your Place Comedy livestreams, wherein a monthly double bill of comedians performed from their living rooms into yours.

Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi: one of the double bills for Your Place Comedy

Organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer, rounded up ten, then a dozen,  independent Yorkshire and Humber venues to support three series of remote gigs by the likes of Mark Watson & Lucy Beaumont, Shappi Khorsandi & Justin Moorhouse and Hal Cruttenden & Rosie Jones.

Resilient spirits of the year: Chris Sherrington, Fulford Arms; Delma Tomlin, NCEM; Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai, The Crescent; Cherie Federico, Aesthetica; Greg and Ails McGee, According To McGee; Kate Bramley, Badapple Theatre.

Samantha, with the marks from her PPE mask still visible after a shift, by Karen Winship

Statement-of-pandemic-times exhibition of the year: Karen Winship’s portraits of NHS frontline workers, first at York Art Gallery, then on the railings at All Saints Church, Pocklington. Harrowing yet life-affirming too.

Gallery launch of the year: Photographer Duncan Lomax’s Holgate Gallery in his front room in York.

Kitchen-synch drama of the year: York drag diva Velma Celli’s chic cabaret shows online from a Bishopthorpe kitchen and a riverside abode with flood water lapping at the door. Alter ego Ian Stroughair also had a ball as Flesh Creep in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk.

A message to you, Rishi: York Theatre Royal pledges that York will pull together in lockdown

Sign of the times: York Theatre Royal’s morale-boosting, we’re-all-in-this-together retro lockdown poster, in Keep Calm And Carry On wartime mode, designed by marketing manager Olivia Potter

Most irritating words of the year: Ramp up; pivot; baked-in; granular; lockdown…again; uptick; Stay Alert; postponed; cancelled; closed; non-viable.

Song of the year: Bird song, although Bonnie & The Bailers’ Baby Drive ran it close.

The Howl & The Hum: album of the year

Album of the year: the always-touched-by-your-prescience-dear Human Contact by The Howl & The Hum.

Good news of the year: The ebullient Bull becoming the first York band to sign to a major record label since Shed Seven. Raise a glass to Tom Beer and co, whose album, Discover Effortless Living, will be out on Virgin EMI Records on Friday (26/3/2021).

Frustration of the year: The much improved second iteration of the York Mediale, the festival of digital media arts, defied budget cuts only to be cut short by Lockdown 2, meaning many missed out on the Kit Monkman-led art installation People We Love at York Minster and the Human Nature triptych of installations at York Art Gallery. It must be hoped People We Love can be revived.

People We Love: Kit Monkman’s Covid-curtailed installation at York Minster

Missed most: Interaction; connection; communication; banter; bursts of cheers and applause and…spontaneity.

Gone but not forgotten: Martin Witts’s Great Yorkshire Fringe; poet, writer, storyteller, blogger and performer Adrian Spendlow; Café Concerto, in High Petergate, York; York City at Bootham Crescent.

10cc confirm York Barbican on March 26 as only Yorkshire show of 2022 spring tour

Graham Gouldman, second from left, with his fellow 10cc members

10cc will play York Barbican on March 26 2022 in the only Yorkshire show of their 13-date Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour.

“It’s difficult to express just how much we have missed playing live and how much we want to be back playing concerts for you,” says Graham Gouldman, the one group founder still in the touring line-up. “We look forward to seeing you all again in 2022.”

Joining bass player, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Gouldman, 74, on stage will be Rick Fenn, lead guitar, bass and vocals, Paul Burgess, drums and percussion, Keith Hayman, keyboards, guitars, bass and vocals, and Iain Hornal, vocals, percussion, guitar and keyboards.

The inventive, influential 10cc – Stockport four-piece Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley – attained 11 Top Ten hits and more than 15 million album sales in the UK alone, topped off by three number ones, Rubber Bullets, Dreadlock Holiday and the ubiquitous I’m Not In Love.

Over recent years, Gouldman’s 10cc have toured worldwide, gigging in Australia, Canada, Japan, Iceland, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, the USA, across Europe and throughout the UK, not least performing to 60,000 people at British Summer Time (BST) Festival in Hyde Park, London. They last played York Barbican in March 2019.

Tickets for March 26 2022 are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk and ticketline.co.uk. 

Graham Gouldman, left, leading 10cc at York Barbican in March 2019. Picture: Paul Rhodes

Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti awaken online audience to spring music in lockdown as part of NCEM’s weekend

Olwen Foulkes at Ensemble Augelletti’s recording of A Spring In Lockdown for the National Centre of Early Music’s Awaken online weekend. Picture: Ben Pugh

ENSEMBLE Augelletti will make their York debut on Saturday at the National Centre for Music’s online weekend celebration of the rise of spring, Awaken.

Founded and directed by recorder specialist Olwen Foulkes, the young, up-and-coming ensemble will perform A Spring In Lockdown, an intriguing tale of 18th century music-making from an English debtors’ prison.

Premiered at 3pm on Saturday (27/3/2021), on sale until April 23 and available to watch on demand until April 30, the concert will feature Olwen, recorders; Ellen Bundy and Alice Earll, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; Carina Drury, cello; Harry Buckoke, double bass; Toby Carr, theorbo, and Benedict Williams, chamber organ.

Winner of the FBAS Young Artists Competition in Italy in 2019, the ensemble explores the chamber music and concertos performed on the London theatre stages in the first decades of the 18th century.

Ensemble Augelletti members, led by recorder player Olwen Foulkes, front, centre

Hence Olwen’s focus on trumpeter John Grano in A Spring In Lockdown: “In the spring of 1729, Grano, dubbed ‘Handel’s trumpeter’, was serving the end of a sentence, incarcerated in the infamous Marshalsea debtors’ prison,” she says.

“The prisoner kept a diary detailing his musical exploits as he composed, taught, organised concerts, and tried to maintain a performance schedule from the ‘home’ of his cell.

“Our concert will explore some of his fascinating diary entries from a very different kind of lockdown and will include music that he was performing, writing, and listening to, by Francesco Geminiani, Grano, William Corbett, John Baston and of course Mr Handel.”

Ensemble Augelletti recorded the concert at the NCEM’s home of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on March 15. “I’d been there in the past, performing Shepherds Of Bethlehem with Fieri Consort at the York Early Music Christmas Festival in December 2019,” says Olwen.

“The one thing we found strange was taking a bow to an empty room, which made us realise how much we miss playing to an audience,” says Olwen Foulkes of Ensemble Augelletti’s performance for Awaken

“But this is the first time the ensemble has played there. Since lockdown started last March, it was one of the few times we could play together because the NCEM is such a big space.”

How did Olwen settle on A Spring In Lockdown for Saturday’s concert? “Delma [NCEM director Delma Tomlin] offered us some proposals, giving me the chance to propose this programme, which is completely bespoke for the Awaken festival,” she says.

“I’d been reading the diary of John Grano, a trumpeter, flautist and recorder player, written in 1728, when, in some ways, London was very similar to now. So much of the musician’s experience resonated with us today, reading of when he was working in West End theatres, at the Haymarket and the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

“Grano was the principal trumpeter in Handel’s orchestra for 15 years and is likely to have played in the premiere of Handel’s Water Music.

A socially distanced line-up of Ensemble Augelletti in pandemic times

“For our concert, one of the pieces we’ll play will be the only surviving publication of Grano’s music.”

Ensemble Augelletti made the recording with Ben Pugh, omnipresent at the NCEM’s online recordings for the 2020 York Early Music Festival and Early Music Christmas Festival.

“The one thing we found strange was taking a bow to an empty room, which made us realise how much we miss playing to an audience,” says Olwen.

“I last played to a full audience a year ago, on March 15, with Dramma Per Musica at the Barnes Festival, and the last performance by Ensemble Augelletti was to a very, very small audience in the London Sound Galler, for an online festival with The Gesualdo Six in September.”

Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti released their debut album, Indoor Fireworks, in November 2019, taking the name Augelletti [little birds] from the aria Augelletti Che Cantate from the first act of Handel’s opera Rinaldo.

The artwork for Indoor Fireworks, the album by Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti released on Barn Cottage Records in 2019

“We’d been playing together for a while, and when I did that CD, I was thinking about where I wanted the group to progress, and I thought it would be lovely to have a new identity for the group, so I said, ‘Can we call ourselves an ‘ensemble’?’ and that’s when we became Ensemble Augelletti,” says Olwen.

Her ensemble has plans to make a new recording this year, but Olwen will remain quiet on its exact nature, subject to the outcome of a “big funding application”. “But I can say it’s really exciting and will be another project celebrating musicians that we don’t necessarily know of as a composer,” she says.

Unlike so many of us whose first encounter with playing music is a forlorn blow on a recorder, Olwen’s journey was different. “I actually started playing the recorder second! I started with the violin when I was five,” she recalls. “I didn’t start the recorder till I was 11 and that was to keep my sister Ethnie – now an acoustic and electronic composer – company in a recorder group.

“I just fell in love with the recorder at the point, but I’d found that love in the opposite way to the usual graduation to another instrument!”

Olwen Foulkes played violin first before discovering the recorder at the age of 11

Olwen went on to study at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London from the age of 13 to 18, and later as the Christopher Hogwood Scholar at the Royal Academy of Music, and a career specialising in recorders has ensued.

Once the easing of pandemic strictures allows, she would love to perform to an audience in York, taking a bow in more familiar fashion. “It is such a lovely place to play,” she says.

The Awaken weekend will run online on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28. The full programme and ticket details can be found at ncem.co.uk.

How to view
The Awaken weekend of concerts will be shown on ncem.co.uk. On the day before the festival starts, all bookers will be emailed the viewing links and clear navigation to the concerts from the home page will be added.

The NCEM advises: “Please ensure that you have a strong broadband connection, and you may want to use external speakers or headphones to maximise your experience. If you experience any difficulties with the concerts, please contact us and we will do our best to help you via ncem.co.uk.”

The Machine Stops starts again, now online from York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre

Caroline Gruber (Vashti), Maria Gray (Machine 2) and Gareth Aled (Machine 1) in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

YORK Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre’s co-production of The Machine Stops will be available to watch online from tomorrow (23/3/2021) to April 5.

E M Forster’s 1909 short story is set in a futuristic, dystopian world where humans have retreated far underground and individuals live in isolation in “cells”, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. 

Adapted by Neil Duffield, The Machine Stops premiered in the York Theatre Royal Studio in  May and June 2016 at the outset of a three-venue run and was revived there in February 2017 before embarking on a national tour of nine venues. 

Forster’s stage premiere won the Stage Production of the Year in the 2016 Hutch Awards. “In the year when Phillip Breen directed the York Minster Mystery Plays on the grandest scale and York Theatre Royal re-opened with Bryony Lavery’s new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, it wasn’t the expected big hitters that left the deepest impression,” Hutchinson said in The Press, York.

“Instead, an obscure EM Forster sci-fi work, The Machine Stops, became a play for our times in the hands of the Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster and Pilot Theatre in the Theatre Royal Studio.

Karl Queensborough as Kuno in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

“Amid the stench of Brexit and Trump intolerance, here was a cautionary story of science friction and human heart told superbly artistically by a cast of four, writer Neil Duffield and electronic composers John Foxx and Benge with humanity’s worst and best attributes thrust against each other.”

Move forward to 2021, to the reflective words of director Juliet Forster, York Theatre Royal’s creative director, who says: “Over this last year, I have thought about this piece many times as the world around us seemed to grow more and more like the incredible world that E M Forster imagined.

“And it’s even more striking today than it was at the time: things like human contact and human touch becoming something that’s almost taboo, things that didn’t seem relevant back in 2016 but are really, really striking and even more relevant now.”

Esther Richardson, Pilot Theatre’s artistic director, says: “When we produced The Machine Stops in 2016, it already seemed an eerily prescient piece of work. A story-world in which humans have become isolated from one another and living underground, communicating only through screens, offered an engaging space for reflection on perhaps the pitfalls of how our relationship with technology had been evolving.

“To be able to explore this in a live theatre space with an audience gathered together in person and with their technology switched off made it all the more dynamic a tale.

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson. Picture: Robert Day

“It’s fantastic that, having spent the last year in different forms of isolation and on screens, we have the opportunity to share this great production, which will now sing with new meaning, meeting a new audience in a new context.”

The Machine Stops features a soundtrack composed by John Foxx, electronic music pioneer and founder of Ultravox, and analogue synth specialist Benge. The production was directed by Forster and designed by Rhys Jarman, with lighting design by Tom Smith and movement direction by Philippa Vafadari.

It stars Caroline Gruber as Vashti, Karl Queensborough as Kuno, Maria Gray as Machine/Attendant and Gareth Aled as Machine/Passenger.

The filmed recording was edited by Ben Pugh and will be released online with kind permission granted by the E M Forster estate.  

Analysing the reasons why The Machine Stops transferred so convincingly to the stage, Juliet suggested in 2017: “When you use human beings to the height of their potential, theatre is at its most interesting; when you realise the incredible ability of human body; but at the same time, you can’t shoehorn that into a play. Here, though, to represent the Machine through movement, it absolutely suited it.

York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster

“It also helped that we had the finest soundtrack for a play in living memory, composed by John Foxx and Benge.”

That soundtrack went on to form much of the music on the John Foxx And The Maths album, The Machine, released in 2017 on the Metamatic Records label with artwork by Jonathan Barnbrook, the designer for David Bowie’s last two studio albums, 2013’s The Next Day and 2016’s Blackstar.

The Machine Stops will be available to view for free at pilot-theatre.com/webcast, kick-started by the online premiere at 7pm tomorrow. York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre welcome donations from viewers, with all contributions being split equally.

What was Charles Hutchinson’s verdict in May 2016?

The Machine Stops, York Theatre Royal/Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal Studio

Caroline Gruber as Vashti in The Machine Stops. Picture: Ben Bentley

IN between those two pillars of early 20th century English literature, A Room With A View in 1908 and Howards End in 1910, E M Forster wrote a science-fiction short story, apparently in response to the outpourings of H G Wells.

It was pretty much ignored until being included in an anthology in the 1930s, but now it should take its rightful place alongside the prescient works of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

York Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster has cherished wishes to present it since 1999, and at last everything has fallen into place in a brilliant re-opening show in The Studio.

Forster and Forster makes for a perfect combination, assisted by her choice of writer, the experienced Neil Duffield; electronic musicians John Foxx and Benge in their first theatre commission, and designer Rhys Jarman, whose metallic climbing frame stage and hexagonal floor tiles could not be more fitting.

Centre stage is Vashti (Caroline Gruber), soft-boned, struggling to walk and wrapped in grey swaddling wraps, as she embraces her new, post-apocalyptic, virtual life run by The Machine, in the wake of humans being forced underground to self-contained cells where everything is brought to you: food, ambient music; lectures; overlapping messages.

Gareth Aled as Machine 1 in The Machine Stops

No windows; no natural day and night; no physical communication; all you need is at the touch of the screen beside you as technology rules in this dystopian regime. It is the age of the internet, conference calls and Skype, the age of isolation (and the teenage life), foretold so alarmingly accurately by Forster.

In the best decision by Juliet Forster and the writer, they have decided to represent the omnipresent Machine in human form, cogent cogs that slither and slide and twist and turn acrobatically, responding to Vashti’s every request, with an urgent physicality that has you worrying for the health and safety of Maria Gray and Gareth Aled.

Not that The Machine is merely compliant. Just as Winston Smith rebels in Orwell’s 1984, Vashti’s son Kuno (Karl Queensborough), on the other side of the underground world, craves breaking out into the old world above the artificial one, to breathe real air, see the sky, feel the sun on his face, but The Machine will do its utmost to prevent him.

Queensborough’s physical performance, as the desperate Kuno puts himself at risk, is even more remarkable than the gymnastic Machine double act, as he hurls himself around the frames.

Forster’s production has bags of tension, drama, intrigue, and plenty of humour too, especially when Gray and Aled transform into a plane attendant and passenger. Throughout, the Foxx and Benge soundtrack hits the right note, futuristic and mysterious, yet noble too when Kuno makes his move.

Nothing stops The Machine Stops: it is 90 minutes straight through, a story of science friction told superbly artistically with humanity’s worst and best attributes thrust against each other.

Review copyright of The Press, York

York band Miles And The Chain Gang to release single All Of Our Lives on March 28

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles Salter and his band have a new single out on Sunday

YORK band Miles And The Chain Gang release their third digital single, All Of Our Lives, on Sunday (28/3/2021).

The acoustic song was written in the late-1990s by Syd Egan, a friend of frontman Miles Salter, the group’s regular songwriter.

Joining Miles and band members Billy Hickling (drums) and Tim Bruce (bass) on the recording are fellow York musicians Karl Mullen, guesting on piano, and Holly Taymar-Bilton on backing vocals.

The Chain Gang’s lead guitarist, Alan Dawson, lives in Scotland, while guest accordion player Sam Pirt resides in East Yorkshire.

All Of Our Lives was recorded and mixed in January and February by Jonny Hooker at York’s Young Thugs Studios, above the South Bank Social Club in Ovington Terrace, and filmed by Dave Thorp during Lockdown 3. 

“I’ve been singing the song for 20 years,” says Miles. “Lee Heir, a friend of the band who has been helping with PR, said we should put it out, and he kept asking me to do so. In the end, I relented. I was a bit wary because it’s quieter than our first two releases, but everybody who has heard the song loves it.” 

Set in Manchester, with references to St Peter’s Square and Oxford Road, All Of Our Lives tells the story of an ambiguous relationship. “I wanted to film in Manchester, but lockdown made everything problematic, so in the end we did it in York,” says Miles.

The resulting video features shots of Miles playing guitar, Leeds-based actor Lucy Marshall and cameraman Dave Thorp in the role of Big Issue Salesman. 

Miles And The Chain Gang have picked up airplay on Jorvik Radio and YO1 Radio, as well as on several internet radio stations, and they also have been working on social media, with content spread across numerous platforms and sites, drawing 20,000 YouTube views of their second release, Drag Me To The Light. 

“Two years ago, we didn’t have anything, but now we have a presence on Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It feels like things are building,” says polymath Miles, who is also a published poet, storyteller, presenter of Jorvik Radio’s weekly arts show and former organiser of the York Literature Festival.

One frustration for Miles And The Chain Gang has been a lack of concerts. “The last time we played a gig was at the end of 2019,’ says Miles. “Anybody involved in live music has felt the disappointment over the last year. We’ll get back to gigs as soon as we can.” 

Miles and the band have been recording songs at Young Thugs, and plans are shaping up for more releases. “We’ve got some really good songs,” he promises.

All Of Our Lives will be released on Spotify, iTunes and YouTtube on March 28. A trailer for the track and the video can be viewed at: youtube.com/watch?v=cgJxCk5xxw8.

Emilie Knight moves to director for York Shakespeare Project’s 2021 Sonnet Walks

Knight’s move: Emilie Knight will direct York Shakespeare Project’s Sonnet Walks in 2021 after playing Covid Nurse in Sit-down Sonnets at a socially distanced Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, in September 2020. Picture: John Saunders

YORK Shakespeare Project has appointed Emilie Knight to direct the 2021 Sonnet Walks in a plan to resume open-air theatre in York as soon as conditions allow. 

Anticipating the granting of Government permission for outdoor events, but awaiting confirmation on what level of social distancing will be required, YSP is delighted to make the appointment. 

“We want to hit the ground running just as soon as we’re permitted to,” says York Shakespeare Project (YSP) committee member Tony Froud.

YSP will make an announcement on performance dates and the audition process for Emilie’s production later in the spring.

Emilie is well acquainted with the Sonnet Walks, having appeared in three productions. First performing as a Sting-obsessed sonneteer in 2018 an d as Mother of the Bride and guide the following year, she found playing Covid Nurse in last year’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, was “one of the most affecting roles I’ve ever played”. 

York resident Emilie has made regular appearances with the Knaresborough Players and was involved in the York community projects Blood + Chocolate on the city streets in 2013 and Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes at York Theatre Royal in 2017.

Interested in all aspects of theatre, not least costume and tech, Emilie says it was only a matter of time before she would turn her attention to directing: “This is a new adventure for me and I’m thrilled to have been chosen to direct this year’s Sonnets production. 

Sting in the tale: Emilie Knight in York Shakespeare Project’s 2018 Sonnet Walks. Picture: John Saunders

“I’m very grateful to the YSP committee for entrusting me with this important feature of the canon.  I look forward to the challenge and hard work involved as I know it will be hugely rewarding. 

“I was made so welcome when I joined YSP, have learnt so much and have had so much fun.  I want others to share that experience too.”  

The Sonnet Walks were first performed by YSP in 2014, and since their revival in 2017 they have become an annual event. Until 2020, they took the form of a walk around the streets and snickelways of York, allowing audience members to meet a series of colourful local characters, each with a lively tale to tell and a Shakespearean sonnet to recite.

Last September, Covid-safe restrictions saw the format adapted to the Sit-Down Sonnets, with audience and cast members all socially distanced in the atmospheric setting of the Holy Trinity churchyard.

YSP is confident York audiences are crying out for the resumption of live theatre. “With theatres closed since March, last September’s Sit-Down Sonnets were hugely welcomed by actors and audience members alike,” says Tony Froud.

“We’re hoping for the same response for live performance this year.  By appointing Emilie now, we’re making sure that it will happen immediately guidance permits.”

Meanwhile, YSP is “hoping to revive” its production of Macbeth, postponed by Lockdown 1 ten days short of its first night in March 2020. Watch this space for any updates.

Ronan Keating moves Twenty Twenty tour date at York Barbican from 2021 to 2022

RONAN Keating is rearranging his Twenty Twenty UK tour date at York Barbican for a second time, but the title will not change to Twenty Twenty Two.

First moved from June 19 2020 to July 6 2021, the show has been rescheduled to January 23 2022.

A statement on the York Barbican website explains: “It was very much hoped that following the Government’s roadmap-to-lockdown-easing announcement, Ronan’s Twenty Twenty UK tour could take place as scheduled in the summer of 2021.  

“Despite efforts by Ronan’s team working closely with the venues, sadly it will not be possible for these tour dates to take place at this time, and as such the date has been rescheduled to January 23 2022. 

“Ticket holders should hold onto their tickets as they will remain valid for the rescheduled date.”  

The Twenty Twenty tour takes its title from the Twenty Twenty album that Irish boy band graduate Keating released in May 2020 on Decca Records to mark the 20th anniversary of his chart-topping solo debut, Ronan.

Twenty Twenty vision: Ronan Keating wanted to make “a greatest hits of brand new music”

“There’s not a lot of artists that have been lucky enough to do 20 years and still be here,” he said at the time,” appreciative too of sustaining solo and band careers. “I’m very honoured to have had that, so I wanted to mark it with an album like this.”

Dubliner Keating, who turned 44 on March 3, describes Twenty Twenty as “a greatest hits of brand new music”To help his 20th anniversary celebrations, he made two inspired choices: to dive into his back catalogue to revisit three of his biggest hits and, for some new numbers, to call in some friends.

First single One Of A Kind, despite its title, is a duet, wherein the Irishman is joined by Emeli Sandé. “I guess I’ve been known for those first dance songs at weddings and this has me written all over it,” says Keating. “It’s all about the night before the wedding, the day of the wedding and spending the rest of your life together.”

He decided the song demanded a duet partner, and for Keating there was only one choice: the Sunderland-born, Scottish-raised Sandé.“I was completely honoured when Emeli said she’d love to do it,” he says. “I was just blown away by her vocal. She’s obviously got a brilliant voice, and she’s a lovely, warm person, so the personality she’s brought to the song is just incredible.”

For Twenty Twenty, Keating had production assistance from his longstanding wingman, Steve Lipson, who has worked with such big hitters as Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox, Simple Minds, and Whitney Houston.

Among further collaborations were Love Will Remain with Clare Bowen, The One with Nina Nesbitt, The Big Goodbye with Robbie Williams, Forever And Ever, Amen, with Shania Twain and a 2020 version of When You Say Nothing At All with Alison Krauss.

Ronan Keating last played a York concert in July 2018 with Boyzone at the York Racecourse Music Showcase Weekend

Over the past 21 years, Keating has chalked up 30 consecutive Top Ten solo singles, 11 studio albums, multiple tours and 20 million records sales, on top of 25 million sold with Boyzone, as well as judging on The X Factor and The Voice in Australia; acting in television drama and film; playing Guy in the romantic Irish hit, Once The Musical, in the West End and co-hosting Magic FM’s breakfast show.

In York, Keating last performed with Boyzone at a York Racecourse Music Showcase post-racing show on July 28 2018 on their 25th anniversary tour. His last solo appearance in the city was at York Barbican on September 21 2016. In 2019,  the dangers posed by a massive thunderstorm led to his open-air solo concert at Castle Howard, near York, on August 4 being cut short.

To check on ticket availability for January 23 2022, go to: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

IN a second change of date, York Rocks Against Cancer is moving from July 17 this summer to January 8 2022.

All tickets remain valid for the new show; please contact your point of purchase with any questions.

Raising vital funds for York Against Cancer, the 7.30pm concert will feature The Emmerdale Band, featuring cast members from the Yorkshire soap opera; singer-songwriter Chris Helme, the former Seahorses frontman; Sister Madly and “the best musicians and singers York has to offer”. Expect a party atmosphere and a fun night.

New dates confirmed for The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…at York Theatre Royal and Hull Truck Theatre

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark,” says actor Julie Hesmondhalgh of husband Ian Kershaw’s The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…

GREAT news on The Greatest Play In The History Of The World for York Theatre Royal and Hull Truck Theatre audiences: revised dates are in place for Julie Hesmondhalgh’s one-woman show.

The debut tour of Ian Kershaw’s multi award-winning play should have opened at Hull Truck from January 29 and played York from February 16 to 20 as part of The Love Season. Lockdown 3 forced a delay, however, but now History will be made at York Theatre Royal from June 1 to 5 and at Hull Truck from June 7 to 12.

Tickets will go on sale in April at yorktheatreroyal.co,uk or 01904 623568 and at hulltruck.co.uk or 01482 323638, with the release dates yet to be announced.

Produced by Tara Finney Productions in association with Hull Truck Theatre, the tour will begin at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from May 18 to 22. All tour performances will be socially distanced with Covid-safe measures in place.

Winner of The Stage Edinburgh Award in 2018, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…takes a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road, as Coronation Street and Broadchurch alumnus Julie narrates the story of two neighbours and the people on their street, navigating her way through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love.  

Premiered at the Traverse Theatre at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe, the debut production transferred to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre Studio in September 2018 and to London’s West End in December 2019. Now, the show has been adapted for the 2021 tour in light of these Covid times and performances will be housed in the larger performance spaces of each theatre.  

Julie Hesmondhalgh: “Navigating her way through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love”

The show is written by Julie’s husband, the Bruntwood Award-winning Ian Kershaw, who has written for Coronation Street, Cold Feet and Shameless, and reunites her with award-winning director Raz Shaw after working together on Margaret Edison’s Wit at the Royal Exchange in 2016.

Explaining the play’s genesis, Julie says: “I had a notion, a romantic notion, that Ian should write a one-woman show for me and we could tour it together into our dotage, like travelling troubadours (or something).

“A couple of Christmases ago, he kept disappearing to the cellar for an hour at a time, wrapping presents maybe, I thought. And then he presented me with this lovely thing: a beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark.”

Let the show begin: a man wakes in the middle of the night to discover that the world has stopped. Through the crack in his bedroom curtains, he can see no signs of life at all, other than a light in the house opposite where a woman in an over-sized Bowie T-shirt stands, looking back at him. Over to you, Julie, from May 18.

Tickets for the SJT run are available at sjt.uk.com.

Yorkshire performance dates:

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, May 18 to 22, 7.30pm; 1.30pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday.

York Theatre Royal, June 1 to 5, 8pm; 3pm, Thursday and Saturday.

Hull Truck Theatre, June 7 to 12, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Thursday and Saturday.

Sounds In The Grounds summer concerts confirmed for York Racecourse enclosure

Beyond The Barricade: Les Miserables et al at the Clocktower Enclosure at York Racecourse on June 25

AFTER making its socially distanced debut in North Yorkshire last summer, impresario James Cundall’s Sounds In The Grounds is adding a new location to its picnic-concert portfolio for Summer 2021.

Complying with Covid-19 guidelines, the Clocktower Enclosure of York Racecourse will play host to Beyond The Barricade on June 25, Abba Mania on June 26 and A Country Night In Nashville on June 27.

Welburn producer Cundall says: “Audiences can come together and enjoy three evenings of best-loved and internationally renowned bands from their own designated picnic patch – for  two, four or six people – that will be socially distanced from others but close enough to share the fun.”

The capacity will be capped at 1,400 for the fully staged productions with LED screens on either side of the stage.

“We’re just trying to do some fun events for this summer, and we’re encouraging concert-goers to come in fancy-dress: will it be showbiz sparkle, platforms or cowboy boots?!” says Cundall, who is best known in York for two summers of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in a pop-up Elizabethan theatre on the Castle car park in 2018 and 2019.

Beyond The Barricade, now in its 22nd year, features past principals from Boublil and Schonberg’s Les Misérables in the West End and on UK tours performing much-loved songs from the greatest musicals, among them The Phantom Of The Opera, The Lion King, Evita, Miss Saigon, Chicago, Hamilton and Jesus Christ Superstar, topped off by a spectacular finale from Les Misérables.

From London’s West End to Las Vegas, Abba Mania is billed as the world’s number one touring tribute to the ubiquitous super-Swedes, playing more than 30 countries over the past two decades, delighting millions with platforms, flares and all the hits.

A Country Night In Nashville re-creates the energy and atmosphere of a buzzing Honky Tonk in downtown Nashville in a celebration of country music built around songs from its biggest stars both past and present.

Abba Mania: York Racecourse will be the platform for platforms on June 26

Returning by popular demand, York’s very own party starters, the New York Brass Band– a Glastonbury favourite too, by the way – will be the support act to each concert, performing a different repertoire every night, from jazz to Eighties’ pop to current hits.

Cundall has booked them for no fewer than 17 engagements this summer when his picnic-concert programme will return to 2020’s debut double act of Scampston Hall, near Malton, from June 11 to 13 and Ripley Castle, near Harrogate, from August 20 to 22.

In the new line-up of popular acts for these North Yorkshire country-estate venues will be The Definitive Rat Pack, One Night Of Tina and Killer Queen.

The Definitive Rat Pack presents an uncannily accurate recreation of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr in an evening of swing; Tina Turner’s greatest hits are rolled out in a rock’n’rollercoaster ride through four decades, and Killer Queen recall the iconic songs and showmanship of Queen’s shows in the late Freddie Mercury’s 1980s’ pomp.

Sounds In The Grounds concerts are designed to comply with all official guidance on Covid-19, ensuring audiences can enjoy live music outdoors in a safe and responsible way.

The picnic patches will be defined by painted lines in the grass arena within the grounds, with views of the racecourse and grandstands or stately home. They will be set out in alternating rows, with patches for two people, followed by a row of patches for four people, then for six people. The patches have been designed to be one metre apart within each row, with two-metre aisles between the rows.

Looking back on last year’s launch, Cundall says: “What happened was that Sounds In The Grounds came about because we were sitting in the garden, looking out, thinking, ‘surely there must be something we can do to get artists back to work?’.

“We thought, ‘what if we put people in ‘boxes’ for concerts in the open air, with patches of two, four and six?’.

A Country Night In Nashville: Presenting a country night in York on June 27

“After the shows, people came up and said, ‘that’s amazing, not just for Covid-safe conditions but for the future’. The advantage of this [configuration] is that you can book a patch like you book a theatre ticket: you have a guaranteed place.

“Everyone asked us to continue the concept, which we’ve done, and vaccine or no vaccine, the message is that in our 40s upwards, we’re not going to want to be really close up to other people at concerts.

“Our picnic patch concept enables patrons to pre-book their own designated space, thereby eliminating that mad scramble for the best site, which often mars an outdoor concert. Our audiences can turn up when it suits them and know they will have a safe and fun evening.”

Cundall already had settled on returns to Scampston Hall and Ripley Castle for “fun concerts by bands that play music you know, performed by musicians who’ve worked in shows you know in the West End”.

“Then, late in the day, we thought, ‘why don’t we do something at York Racecourse, where we could get 1,400 people in the Clocktower Enclosure?’,” he recalls.

“We’re thrilled to be adding York Racecourse to our list of prestigious venues!  These picnic concerts are a great opportunity to get together and enjoy a fun night of live music in a safe, socially distanced way. From the glorious Broadway classics to Dancing Queen and Dolly Parton, I hope we have something for everyone.”

He is delighted to have signed up the New York Brass Band too. “Without doubt, they are one of York’s best exports and it will be wonderful to get them on stage in their home city,” he says.

“Importantly, it’s an opportunity for both musicians and crew to showcase their talent again after months of inactivity during these difficult times.”

Artist’s impression of the Great Yorkshire Pantomime tented palace for Aladdin that may (or may not) be staged at York Racecourse in the winter

Cundall recalls the finale to last September’s last Sounds In The Grounds concert. “There was a feeling of ‘when will we see each other again’, so what’s key for us with the new season of shows is we’re trying to re-connect artists and audiences.”

York Racecourse may play host to another James Cundall entertainment enterprise in the winter ahead: the Great Yorkshire Pantomime production of Aladdin in a big top.

Produced by Cundall and directed by Chris Moreno, writer-director of the Three Bears Productions pantos at the Grand Opera House in York, the “tentomime” was first mooted for last Christmas, then confirmed for an Easter run from today (19/3/2021) to April 11 before killjoy Covid forced a postponement decision on January 18.

Billed as “a dream come true”, Aladdin would have played in a luxurious heated tented palace to an audience capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating.

The 36 performances would have been socially distanced and compliant with Covid-19 guidance, presented by a cast of 21, including nine principals, and a band on a 50-metre stage with a Far East palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects.

Will the show go ahead this Christmas? “We’re waiting to see what the Government will do on Covid measures before deciding on what we’ll do with the pantomime,” says Cundall. Watch this space.

Tickets for all Sounds In The Grounds concerts are on sale at soundsinthegrounds.seetickets.com with prices starting at £59 (plus booking fees) for a standard picnic patch for two people. All Covid-19 guidance from the Government is continuously monitored and followed.

Concert times at Clocktower Enclosure, York Racecourse:

June 25

Gates open at 4.30pm; New York Brass Band, 6pm; Beyond The Barricade, 7.30pm, concert finishes at 10pm.

June 26

Gates open at 4.30pm; New York Brass Band, 6pm; Abba Mania, 7.30pm; finale, 10pm.

June 27

Gates open at 3.30pm; New York Brass Band, 5pm; A Country Night In Nashville, 6.30pm; finale, 9pm.

Young Thugs Studio and Liina Turtonen team up for music production placement project for women and non-binary people

Liina Turtonen: Leading the Level music production placement scheme run by Young Thugs Studio in York

YOUNG Thugs Studio, in York, are to run a six-month placement in music production and studio engineering for women and non-binary people aged 18 to 25 under the title of Level.

Working in partnership with the Youth Music Incubator fund, Young Thugs are offering this opportunity to three people in York and surrounding areas to explore studio production and the chance to build skills as a studio engineer and producer.

Participants in this paid placement, funded through players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, will work with industry mentors, led by Liina Turtonen, to acquire knowledge, skills and a CV and gain direct access to industry professionals. 

No qualifications or previous studio experience is needed, although basic music software skills are required, and childcare and travel support can be provided.

“These are very exciting times at Young Thugs despite all the Covid shenanigans,” says Dave Greenbrown, co-director of the studios upstairs at the South Bank Social Club, in Ovington Terrace, York.

“Following on from York band Bull’s EMI deal [in tandem with Young Thugs], not only have we now secured our permanent home with a long lease at South Bank Social Club – saving the building at the same time – but we’re also now in receipt of this Youth Music grant to develop a Women In Music programme in York.”

Outlining the programme, co-director Jonny Hooker says: “Over a six-month period, you will receive ongoing one-to-one studio mentorship, personal development, and be given a chance to work on real-time projects with established artists and industry professionals. 

“We’re looking for three women or non-binary people who have a passionate interest in wanting to work in a studio environment. It’s OK if you have no qualifications or studio experience, but this opportunity does require you to have some basic music recording and production experience.”

Jonny continues: “Young Thugs will offer a bespoke support package for you that will cover your time, as well as help with things like childcare and travel if required. 

“This programme will give you a toolbox, live project experience and could open up opportunities for you to consider further or higher education and employment.

“This opportunity is open to all women and non-binary people who are 18 to 25 and we really want to hear from you.” 

To apply, you need to send your answers to the questions below in written, video or audio format to level@youngthugs.com by the closing date of March 31 2021.

* Your name, age and location?

* Why do you want to take this opportunity now?

* How would this opportunity help you moving forward?

* What previous music experience do you have?

* What other information do you feel we should know about you?

* Do you have any access requirements?

If you need this information in another format, send an email to level@youngthugs.com or call 07812 605833 for more details.

Summing up the Level project, Dave says: “Promoting Women in Music Tech over a six- month period, we will teach, train and mentor three women in music technology and production.

“With a chosen industry mentor and in a safe environment, they will work within a busy professional recording studio, working with female artists or bands to create a series of singles, EPs or an album of their choice from conception to release.”

Finnishing touches: Music producer and musician Liina Turtonen in her studio

RUNNING the programme for Young Thugs will be Nordic-born Liina Turtonen, and aptly for an international woman now living and working in York, CharlesHutchPress caught up with her on International Women’s Day.

“I’ve been in York for about four years and in the UK for eight years,” says Liina, from Finland, who lives in South Bank, where she has a home studio. “I first studied in Scotland, in Ayr, when I’d been travelling around the world from 18 to 21.

“I was in Glasgow, and I’d fallen in love with electronic music. I was supposed to be on my way to Australia but never got there.

“Instead, I studied commercial music at the Ayr campus of the University of West Scotland. Commercial music means ‘popular music’, and the course was a combination of many things, but I just fell in love with studios and technology. You’d find me in the basement, on the soundboards.”

Liina decided her next step should be an MA in music production and duly headed south to the University of York.

How did that go? “I would say it was among best things I’ve ever done,” she says. “York Uni was one of the most supportive environments I could have had, and that’s why I’ve been able to make advances in my career so quickly.”

Liina’s own trajectory tells only part of the story, however. “Only 2.6 per cent of the industry are women producers or engineers, and I would say that’s 2.6 per cent of the whole industry across the world,” she says.

“That tells us why something like this Level placement project is necessary and that’s why it’s great that Young Thugs are doing this for young musical talent in York. I think there’s a lot needed to make sure the levels are better for the future.”

Studying music production, “I always felt very alone as a woman”, reveals Liina. “I didn’t have any female lecturers. I’ve never been taught music production by a woman.

“There were two women in the tech department, but for my course, it was two women studying among 15 guys.”

What characteristics are needed in such an environment for a woman to thrive? “I would say one word: confidence…because confidence opens up all the conversations. Everything comes back to confidence,” says Liina. “What you’re up against is the social structure, the patriarchal society.

“The difference between male and female confidence is that, for men, lack of confidence doesn’t stop you doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but not having confidence can stop women from doing what they’re inspired to do. It’s so powerful that it literally stops us.

“It needs so much constant effort, so much courage, to be the minority in this industry. So much so, a woman may not want to go into a studio as the only woman there, feeling you’re not going to know what you’re doing, so you fear being called out. It’s about imposter syndrome, and there’s benevolent sexism too.”

Liina’s own experience affirms why the Level programme is so important to give more women and non-binary people the chance to break into music production to change the prevailing landscape.

“It’s such a strong feeling that even if you know how to do it, like going to university to study – that’s a very encouraging environment, but then you go into a space where you’re the only one that looks like you and people talk to you in a slightly different way, so you start thinking you can’t do it,” she says.

“I would say I’ve encountered that every single day of my career, every day I go into a studio. I go into the studio for the fifth time and I still have to prove that I’m worth it, both to myself and others, which is exhausting. It’s part of my everyday life to prove that I deserve to be where I am, but I have the courage to keep doing it.”

The Level project, with its emphasis on a safe environment to nurture women producers, working with women musicians, is but one avenue for Liina. The musician, songwriter, music producer and educator also hosts LNA Does Audio Stuff, her own music production-focused YouTube channel, featuring tutorials, reviews, vlogs and fun audio challenges.  

“I’ve been doing it for two years and it’s one of my key jobs,” she says. “I’ve just published a song made by 90 women and non-binary people, made long-distance with six women producers pulling it together.

“My channel is mostly an educational forum, but it’s also my point of view from my life.”

In addition, Liina is co-founder of Equalize Music Production with Emily Johnson, aka Emily J Electric, a performer, musician and DJ. Proud members of the Musicians’ Union and associates of the Yorkshire Sound Women’s Network, they deliver courses and workshops in music production, song-writing and performance…and creative confidence (that word again).

“Because of that we got to know Young Thugs, and that’s why I’m doing this project with them,” says Liina. “What they’re doing as a male-led organisation is exactly what every studio should do, asking what we need, which is not something I’ve seen before.”

Looking forward to working with three placement participants, Liina says: “I can’t wait to see them, bringing them to spaces where they don’t need to prove themselves every day.

“The great thing is that they don’t really need to know anything in advance; they just need to be passionate. This programme says: ‘Everybody is good enough. Just get yourself in there!”

Creating a safe space is vital. “Even as a professional music producer, I know studios are very male dominated, so many women I know prefer to work from home, but for Level we will make it a very approachable space,” says Liina.

“I feel very comfortable in a studio, and when we feel comfortable, men do too, making such spaces less toxic.

“We’re still far away from it not being like a locker-room male environment, but these projects fight against that environment for everybody. We want great music, great musicians, great producers, great engineers.”

Do apply, stresses Liina: “If there’s someone who really wants to apply, or someone has a daughter who wants to apply, but maybe needs some encouragement, then go on, apply, even if they’re not confident, because it’s an amazing opportunity.

“I wish I’d had this chance when I was starting because my journey would have been easier and more pleasant if it had been easier, and maybe that’s why I always work so hard to achieve things.”

Sue Clayton marks World Down Syndrome Day with 21 portrait salute in Pocklington

Sue Clayton’s portrait of Holly from her exhibition 21, opening tomorrow at All Saints Church, Pocklington

YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton is joining forces with Pocklington Arts Centre to present an outdoor exhibition, 21, in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.

On display on the railings of All Saints Church, Pocklington, from tomorrow (19/3/2021) to April 19, the 21 portraits are all inspired by children and adults who have Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James.

Sue, whose portraiture is marked by a vibrant palette and social purpose, has chosen the theme of 21 not only in a nod to World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) falling on March 21, but also to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have. 

21 will be the second such exhibition to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown after Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes outside “the Cathedral of the Wolds” from late-November to January 4.

Sue says: “I’m delighted to once again be teaming up with Pocklington Arts Centre to unveil 21 to mark World Down Syndrome Day. 

Todd, by Sue Clayton

“I take a huge amount of inspiration from my son James, who celebrated his 18th birthday in lockdown, so I’m very much looking forward to bringing this collection of portraits featuring children and adults with Down Syndrome at work and play to Pocklington. 

“I really hope it helps to not only celebrate some incredible people but also perhaps to challenge some people’s perceptions of Down Syndrome to coincide with this international awareness-raising campaign.”

The 21 exhibition comes a year after Sue held a record-breaking attempt to create the world’s largest pair of knitted socks at PAC, where the huge socks formed the backdrop to her studio exhibition Downright Marvellous At Large. 

The project involved keen knitters from the Pocklington community and beyond knitting and donating brightly coloured squares that were joined together to make the enormous odd socks. 

“Why odd socks,” you ask?  Odd socks are worn to mark WDSD as part of the global fundraising campaign Lots Of Socks to represent the odd number of chromosomes, whose shape matches a sock.  

“We’re delighted to be working with Sue Clayton once again on what promises to be a fantastic exhibition to help raise awareness of a worthwhile cause,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

Sue’s original Downright Marvellous! exhibition at PAC in 2015 mainly depicted young children who have Down Syndrome, but her new portraits in part focus on the “unrepresented and significant” social presence of adults with Down Syndrome at work and at leisure. This is in keeping with her artistic vision to “represent those who are sometimes socially unseen”.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to be working with Sue Clayton once again on what promises to be a fantastic exhibition to help raise awareness of a worthwhile cause. 

“Sue’s previous exhibitions at PAC have always proved to be so popular, so we’re looking forward to being able to make 21 happen as an outdoor event while the venue remains closed to the public. 

“We hope as many people as possible enjoy this truly unique and inspiring collection of works.”

Sue, from Wigginton, is drawn to portraiture because “it insists upon the idea that the more you look at a face, the more you see. Every single aspect – the eyelids, the nostrils, and the complexion – reveals the personality and character of every individual person”.

Sue Clayton with her York Heroes portrait of Andrew Fair, stalwart Sainsbury’s worker at Monks Cross

After making a radical mid-career change to become a full-time artist, self-taught Sue soon gained recognition from Britain’s Got Artists in 2012 and later as Outstanding Visual Artist in the York Culture Awards for her York Heroes project in 2017-2018, shown at York Hospital. 

Selected by the York public for Sue’s portrait challenge, the six “heroes” were Dame Berwick Kaler, York Theatre Royal pantomime legend; Mary Chapman, founder of Nuzzlets Animal Charity in Great Ouseburn; Professor Steve Leveson, York Against Cancer co-founder and chairman; Ian Donaghy, motivational public speaker, charity fundraiser, author and Huge singer; the late PC Suzanne Asquith, who was awarded a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work with young people, and Andrew Fair, the perennial friendly face on the trolleys at Sainsbury’s at Monks Cross.

Sue’s portrait of Andrew in uniform, with his yellow hi-viz jacket and orange Sainsbury’s name tag, subsequently featured on the opening episode of Grayson Perry’s Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 during Lockdown 1 last spring.

Influenced by Rembrandt, York artist William Etty and more contemporary painters such as Jenny Saville and Tim Benson, Sue enjoys working with dynamic colours to make marks “that should not be there but somehow work”, and her modus operandi is to capture both the likeness of her subjects and their inner life. 

During lockdown, she has been teaching weekly online art classes. To find out more about Sue’s classes and her work, visit sueclayton.com. For further information on World Down Syndrome Day, and how to show support by wearing odd socks on March 21, visit downs-syndrome.org.uk.

Self Portrait, by Sue Clayton

Here, CharlesHutchPress turns the spotlight on Sue Clayton with a broad canvas of questions.

How will you and James mark World Down Syndrome Day on Sunday, March 21, Sue?

“We’ll be definitely wearing our odd socks on WDSD. We’ll be donning the official design odd socks from the Down Syndrome Association, but everyone is warmly encouraged to show support by wearing any odd socks they like, with the odd socks representing the extra sock-shaped chromosome.

“We’ll also be taking part in an online disco party that starts at 3.21pm on Sunday, so beware some serious Mum dancing! The day before, James and I will be doing an online portrait workshop with James debuting as my model. All monies raised from this will go to the local Down Syndrome support group.”

Sue Clayton’s poster for Saturday’s workshop, marking son James’s debut as a model

What works make up the 21 portraits in 21 in 2021?

“The exhibition features seven new portraits of young people from our region, with a new sketch of James from his 18th birthday included. The other portraits have been selected from past Downright Marvellous exhibitions. There’s a range of mediums used this time from pen sketches, acrylic, oils and watercolour.”

Your past Pocklington Arts Centre exhibitions have been held indoors. This time, the works will be on show outside, becoming street art, on view to all. What extra oomph does that bring to this show?

Sue Clayton’s sketch of James on his 18th birthday

“Pocklington Arts Centre strikes again; they are such a great asset to the community. What a fantastic initiative this is. When most artists are struggling during this time PAC are helping by funding these exhibitions. 

“I’m particularly excited as I’m passionate about making art accessible for all. This way, art is shown in an open environment to people who may not go to art galleries. If people can’t go to galleries and art centres, they will come to you!

“The paintings are vibrant and positive; it’s great to think they might make people smile as they pass by All Saints Church. I’m hoping the portraits will dispense the label and instead focus on the individual.”

Artist Sue Clayton, centre, with Janet Farmer, director of Pocklington Arts Centre, and Dr Reverend Jake Belder at Friday’s launch of the World Down Syndrome Day exhibition, 21, outside All Saints Church, Pocklington

You say you want to “perhaps challenge some people’s perceptions of Down Syndrome to coincide with this international awareness raising campaign”. What do you think those perceptions are and how can they be changed?

“I hope to share the individual and unique character of any person I paint; these models are no exception. A misconception may be that people with Down Syndrome will live sheltered lives, never leaving the family home or having a job.

“Many adults with DS make a great contribution to society, working in paid jobs or volunteering within the community. My greatest wish for James in the future will be that he holds down a fulfilling job to him; has a strong, loving relationship and can live as independently as possible, all of which I hope for my daughter too, who doesn’t have DS.”

“Vibrant, young, positive”: The qualities radiating from Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal in a photograph that inspired Sue Clayton to paint her for the #portraitsfornhsheroes” national project in 2020. A new NHS commission is on its way

What are you working on and when might your next exhibition be?

“I’ll soon be working on a new commission linked with the NHS, which I am very excited about. More details to follow nearer the time.

“I’m also working on a project that incorporates both large-scale paintings of the portrait and the nude side by side. Yet again, I hope to challenge the perceptions we make of people as we view the same person in a different way: do these change and why?”

How are the Zoom art classes going?

“I’m loving delivering art classes via Zoom. I can’t believe I was so reticent at the start of lockdown; I love it now! The thing I have found lovely is the sense of community and friendship that can form in a virtual class. 

“I now have people from across the UK and even have someone Zooming in weekly from the Netherlands.”

Joe, by Sue Clayton

What has Zoom taught you about the possibilities of opening up to new opportunities?

“The beauty of the classes is no travelling to venues, no forgetting art materials, plus it allows freedom to experiment more with materials as everything is on hand at home.

“I do two watercolour paint-along sessions each week, which allow participants to see in detail how to create the painting. Everyone can view it easily on thier own screen.

“Also, reference photos are much easier to share and I’ve created an online gallery so we can look and share our work together, again building the sense of community. Many of my learners have had to shield, so this has been a great way to still participate and not feel so isolated during this time.

Bethany, by Sue Clayton

“From a personal point of view, I’ve linked to a lot of art talks myself, expanding my art history knowledge. I particularly enjoyed taking part in one from Washington DC examining Van Gogh’s letters and the paintings described within them. Great stuff!”

How have you dealt with lockdown x 3 as a creative person?

“When lockdown began this time last year, my yearning to paint portraits waned; I’m very pleased to say this didn’t last long. Discovering I could continue to teach was a real bonus as, like so many creatives, I was very anxious how I could still earn money.

“The classes have been essential on many levels. They feed my creativity as I need to think about new and exciting challenges for my learners, but it’s also a wonderful time with fellow painters as we share thoughts and ideas. 

“I’ve had the challenge of two children home-schooling and having a young person with special needs 24/7 can have its ups and downs but overall it’s been good. 

Andrew, by Sue Clayton

“I often compensate by working into the early hours but I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to do this and keep my loved ones safe. 

“It’s definitely been a time to learn for me; I’ve invested in learning more about art history. Excitingly too, I’ve now found avenues to link up with models far further afield than I ever thought possible, thanks to technology.”

What do you know about yourself that you didn’t know a year ago pre-Covid?

“Hmm…tricky question! Like so many people, I’ve had to embrace tech more and never thought I would enjoy it so much. I’ve learnt to have more patience as I’ve had to time apart from my partner but equally learned our love is very strong and how thankful I am that he’s in my life.

“I know I enjoyed slowing down a little and how much I appreciate those around me. I now know that I have the scope to teach to a much wider audience and I’ve loved how much I’ve enjoyed it.”

“I really like the way he shows respect for all the artists, whoever they are, allowing them time to talk about their art and listening,” says Sue of artist Grayson Perry on Grayson’s Art Club

Why has Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 been such a breath of fresh air for the art world in general, championing people’s art?

“Grayson Perry is just fantastic; I can’t wait to see him in York later this year [Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, York Barbican, September 6].

“The TV show is wholesome and heartening and really brings home the fact that art is for everyone and everyone can make it. He’s such a good communicator and shows an understanding of humankind with his empathy. 

“I really like the way he shows respect for all the artists, whoever they are, allowing them time to talk about their art and listening. The connection between [his wife] Philippa and Grayson is great to see too. In a time of crisis, it truly shows the power of art, to create, to distract, to absorb, to think, to just be!”

Sue Clayton’s exhibition, 21, is on display outside All Saints Church, Pocklington, from March 19 to April 19, presented in tandem with Pocklington Arts Centre. For Sue’s short video on 21, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=lpoeCJW3_5I.

Rebecca, by Sue Clayton

Pandemic community art project is bubbling up at South Bank Studios…and hurry, hurry, there’s still time to take part

Bubbling up: A Year Of Change: My Bubble project leaders Donna Maria Taylor and Katie Hill at South Bank Studios with bubble artwork submissions for the community art exhibition. Picture: Carolyn Coles/ Nicola Lee

THE first cases of the Covid-19 virus in the UK were identified in a York hotel, and today marks one year since the first UK lockdown was announced with the Government advice to “avoid unnecessary social contact”.

Soon to follow was the Stay Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives edict as lockdown kicked in March 23 2020.

A year on, Lockdown 3 has reinstated that mantra, and March 23 2021 brings a new deadline, in the form of the closing date for a pandemic community art project launched by South Bank Studios artists Donna Maria Taylor and Katie Hill on January 31 to “help people through lockdown and isolation”.

“Are you looking for an art project to do during lockdown,” they asked. “To mark this year, we’d like to invite our friends in York to take part.

“Even those of us lucky enough to have a studio outside of our homes have had to do much more work than usual at home, so we’d like to represent this by inviting you to make a small artwork at home on the theme of A Year Of Change: My Bubble.”

Bubble-shaped works must then either be delivered to Southlands Methodist Church letterboxes on either the Southlands Road or Nunmill Street entrances, marking the envelope FAO My Bubble, or posted to My Bubble  (South Bank Studios), Southlands Methodist Church, 97, Bishopthorpe Road, York, YO23 1NX.

The ever-expanding online exhibition is already up and running at southbankstudios.co.uk/onlinegallery, and a physical exhibition will follow at Southlands Methodist Church, once the lifting of lockdown restrictions permits the Covid-safe reopening of the church building.

“So that we can put all of the artworks together in 2D – and possibly 3D – forms for the physical exhibition, we’re asking that the artworks should be a specific size and shape,” say the organisers. “So the design must be contained within a circle, somewhere between 12cms and 21cms in diameter.”

For full details on how to take part in My Bubble, go to: southbankstudios.co.uk/art-project.

One of the bubbles for My Bubble. All the works are to be exhibited anonymously

Here, South Bank Studios community art project leaders Donna Maria Taylor and Katie Hill answer Charles Hutchinson’s questions on My Bubble:

What gave you the idea for this lockdown project, Donna?

“I decided I wanted to give something back. And being involved in a community art project was at the top of my ‘To Do’ list at the beginning of this year.

“For personal reasons, I wasn’t in a position to get involved in any of the projects many artists were getting involved in during the first lockdown: making masks, scrubs, painting portraits for NHS Heroes etc.

“I contacted Katie in mid-January to ask if she’d be interested in working with me on the project and we launched it by the end of that month.

“Since Katie had recently taken on the role of ‘studio rep’ for the loft studio spaces at South Bank Studios, she seemed like a good person to approach to work with on the idea. It’s always great to have others to work with on projects like this as you can throw ideas back and forth.

“Katie came up with the timescale idea, linked to the first Covid cases in York and the initial lockdown date [March 23] became the project’s deadline date. She also came up with the title ‘A Year Of Change’.

“We were originally looking at asking people to produce designs within squares but then the ‘My Bubble’ idea suddenly came to me in the middle of the night, as these things tend to do!

“It all happened quite quickly once the idea was formed, and since then we’ve been meeting on Zoom on a regular basis to discuss progress and look at different ideas on how we could promote the project. Our friends on social media have been brilliant at helping us to do that and we’re very grateful to them for that assistance.

“Initially we were going to limit the project to adults, but we soon realised that it would also give families a chance to do something creative together while they were stuck at home doing home schooling, so we opened it up to cover all age groups.”

What drew you to become involved in My Bubble, Katie?

“I’ve worked on a lot of community art projects in Leeds and only moved to York in January 2020, just before lockdown, so it’s been a strange time to arrive in a new city. This project was an opportunity to get involved in something with the local community, to get to know people and do something positive during a very challenging time for everyone.”

How many bubbles have come in so far?  How many do you anticipate exhibiting?

“We’ve had around 40 bubbles arrive so far and we’re expecting quite a few more will arrive in the next week – people love working to a deadline.

“We’ve been in touch with a number of groups in York who we hope will get involved, such as York Carers, York Mind and Refugee Action York, but we really don’t know how many we will receive until the deadline.

“We’d love to get 365, one per day of the year, but however many we get it will make a great exhibition.”

When will the exhibition open online and when might you hope to put the works on display at South Bank Studios?

“We’ve already set up an online exhibition on our website where we’re adding ‘bubbles’ as they come in. You can see it online at: https://www.southbankstudios.co.uk/onlinegallery.

“We’re also doing regular posts on our social media sites, and we’re planning to have an exhibition of all the ‘bubbles’ together at some point over the summer months and certainly hope to coincide this with the two York Open Studios weekends: July 10/11 and July 17/18.”

Why are community projects important to you?  Why are community projects important full stop?

Donna first: “I’ve always enjoyed working with other people and love to see all the original artwork that comes in when you ask people to get involved in something like this. I’ve been involved in many in the past – particularly in my association with York Learning – and in some ways it always amazes me how different the artwork produced is, although obviously I know it shouldn’t.

“Imagine if all the artwork that came in was exactly the same. Now that really would be worrying! I think projects such as this inspire people; they make them feel part of a whole and help to bring people together. Not to mention the huge therapeutic benefits that doing any sort of arts and crafts has on the health and wellbeing of individuals.

Katie: “The Covid crisis has highlighted many things, including the importance of connecting with your community, taking action to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing, and the value of creativity for mental health.

“Hopefully, this project brings those things together. Community projects are so important to create opportunities for people to connect with each other and to express themselves and their experiences.

“We were really aware that the last year has been a very mixed experience, with some severe hardship and distress, and as artists we really believe that doing something creative can help during challenging times.”

In a year of change, what changes have been for the better?

“It’s definitely been a time to get to know our local community and neighbours much better. We’ve also been able to connect online: as artists we’ve started to have regular online meetings, which has really transformed how the studios are run and the sense of community there.

“People have become more aware of local projects and businesses, plus there’s the huge environmental positives, of course.”

What changes have been for the worse?

“So many people have suffered in this last year. So many people have died, and so many have been separated from their loved ones for long periods of time.

“Some people have lost their livelihoods and it’s difficult to imagine how some of that will recover, including live music and theatre.

“Living with the anxiety of feeling vulnerable to a horrible virus for a year has been a huge challenge for mental health, particularly for young people, and for key workers. There have been many changes – some things will never be the same again.

“It’s certainly a historic time we’re living in and we’re grateful that we’ve been able to record this in some way.”

What challenges have been thrown at you as an artist and what have you learned over the past year about your artistic vision and practice?

Donna: “My theatre work has all dried up, of course. I’ve only actually had one theatre job in the last year. And all my teaching has moved online.

“Again, like everything, it seems there are positives and negatives. Not being able to get into the studios all the time has been strange, but the time the pandemic has afforded me has actually meant that I’ve had more time to experiment and move forward with my art, which I may not have been able to do otherwise.”

Katie: “I’m a lecturer and all of my teaching suddenly went online, which actually created a lot of time to do craft and artwork while talking on video calls.

Katie Hill preparing artworks for exhibit in A Year Of Change: My Bubble. Picture: Carolyn Coles/Nicola Lee

“In the first month of lockdown I crocheted three blankets and realised that I needed to find other things to do. I’ve started working in sketchbooks for the first time in years and am developing ideas for textile arts and surface pattern design.

“I’ve been taking lots of photos of leaves and flowers on my exercise walks, which I have then used as inspiration for artwork. I never used to go for walks at all, so that’s a huge change for me.

“I’ve also been able to learn some new techniques by attending online classes with artists all over the world. So, creatively it has been a time of huge growth for me.”

In what ways has South Bank Studios been able to connect with the community during lockdown?

“As well as setting up this community art project, we’ve started free online ‘Create and Chat’ sessions to help the studio and church community through lockdown and loneliness. We also ran a stall outside the studios before Christmas, as part of Planet South Bank’s Crafty Crawl, which was very successful.

“Our studios are housed within Southlands Methodist Church and the church does a lot of creative community projects too. They’ve just put a spring flower display in the church windows and had a community Christmas tree outside at Christmas time that people could add their own decorations and messages to.

“The church is also working on a community garden, which will be a great asset particularly if it continues to be safer to be outdoors. Maybe we can run some outdoor community art sessions in the summer.

“Another artist, Rebecca Mason, has also set up a fundraising page for Cancer Research, and our friends at Planet Food – who share the building on a Thursday – have continued to offer weekly support to members of our community through their zero food waste initiative.”

What is the symbolism of the circular shape for a piece of art in My Bubble?

“We wanted a format that would unify all of the artworks, so that people could do a range of art in different styles, but they would all fit together, so we knew we wanted everyone to do something that was the same shape.

“Obviously the ‘Bubble’ idea links to social bubbles in lockdown, so the circle fits with that idea too. We’ve received some gorgeous artwork so far: the circle idea is working really well.”

What pieces are you each doing for My Bubble?

Donna: “Mine will be based on a photograph I took on New Year’s Eve as I walked through the empty streets of York city centre in the early evening with my daughter. It was deserted and symbolises what York has been like throughout the various lockdowns.

“For those of us who live in York, we know that we’d usually find lots of revellers everywhere at this time on the evening of a New Year. It was quite eerie in a way.”

Katie: “Following on from my flower art from daily exercise walks, I’m drawing and painting a bubble full of plants and flowers, including plants that have connections to my friends and family.

“With much more time at home than usual, I’ve done a lot of work in my small garden and am enjoying growing plants that have been given to me by my family and friends over the years.

“It’s a way to feel connected to them when we can’t be together in person. For example, my front garden is full of pale pink Hesperantha that were given to me by my mother, from her garden, so I really think of her when I see them.

What are you both working on?

Donna: “I’m planning two new online classes,  Experimental Watercolours and Spring Sketchbooks, which I’ll be delivering on Zoom. Although most of my learners are based in York, I’m now also teaching people as far away as Edinburgh, Brighton and Herefordshire. I’m also workin on a new series for York Open Studios.”

Katie: “I started a full-time PhD in January at Northumbria University on Social Design, which is where we use design processes and design thinking to work with communities on social and environmental projects.

“I’m going to be doing a community project as part of it in 2022, so I’m planning that at the moment. I’m also teaching online: design history and theory, and employability skills for designers.”

Which South Bank Studios artists will be participating in York Open Studios in July?

“There’ll be seven of us exhibiting: Donna Maria Taylor, Carolyn Coles, Caroline Utterson. Colin Black, Nicola Lee, Rebecca Mason and Karen Winship. It’s definitely one of the highlights of this year for those of us who are taking part and we’ve been looking forward to it for a long time now. More details about the event can be found at: yorkopenstudios.co.uk.

“We’re also planning to have other events as the building opens up and we’re safely able to do so: further craft fairs, coffee mornings and art exhibitions/installations.

“As a studio community, we’ve lots of ideas for the future and very much look forward to things getting back to normal, so we can explore all the ideas that we do have, both within the studios themselves and also in the space in and around the building.”

Carolyn Coles: One of the South Bank Studios artists who will be taking part in York Open Studios at Southlands Methodist Church on two weekends in July

Where might we all be in a year’s time?

Donna: “This is a tricky one. Personally, I would imagine my theatre work will slowly come back, but I will certainly be continuing with my online classes for a while. I’d like to think that I could go back to some real-life teaching at some point too, but for now I’m just planning things a couple of months in advance.

“In many ways, as artists, we’re very lucky as we’re used to change and insecurity. Historically too, interesting/innovative art often comes from challenging situations and living through difficult times.

“Looking forward, I also like the idea of running further community art projects from South Bank Studios, so watch this space.

Katie: “It’s so hard to imagine. If you had said in March last year that we would still be in lockdown a year later, I would have found that difficult to believe, so that makes me think that progress will continue to be slow.

“I think we’ve experienced a huge and rapid change in our use of technology and those changes will stay with us, so in a year’s time we will still be doing a lot of work from home and online.

“I hope that as a community we will all be working on taking care of each other and healing some of the trauma caused by this year of the pandemic, and that we will continue to nurture our sense of community and our creativity.”

Submissions for A Year Of Change: My Bubble

A Year Of Change: My Bubble: how to take part

Submission deadline: Tuesday, March 23 2021

Exact requirements of your artwork:
Your design must be enclosed within a circle that is a minimum diameter of 12cms (the size of a CD) to a maximum diameter of 21 cms (the width of an A4 sheet of paper).

If your design is on a piece of paper, card or similar, please do not cut out the circle! Instead, leave it with at least a square around it.

“This is because we may join some ‘bubbles’ together to form a 3D display,” say the organisers. “You can decorate this area if you like but do be aware that it may have holes punched into it at a later date, or it may be cut off, depending on the final overall outcome. Therefore, please concentrate your main design within ‘the bubble’, which will not be tampered with.”

Your artwork must be lightweight enough to Blu Tack to a wall.

Your piece should be personal to you and inspired by your life in York during Covid-19 times. 

Donna and Katie are hoping for a range of responses but some of the ideas/themes you may wish to explore as initial lines of enquiry include: 

Neighbours; home school; working from home; loss; support for essential workers.

Or how about: hobbies and interests; walks or exercise regimes; your garden; view from you home; family & friends; specific objects that are important to you; home comforts; a close-up of a room in your house; your lockdown clothing/footwear?

You may use any medium you choose, so your artwork could be sewn, painted, drawn, collaged etc. Or you could use a mix of materials.

Important notice!

Only one entry per person.

Before submitting your artwork, you must ensure that you write the following information on the back (or write it on a separate sheet and include it as part of your submission):


Your name

Your age (if under 18)

A contact email address (PLEASE USE CAPITAL LETTERS)

A contact phone number

Your postcode

You may, if you wish, also write a short description about your piece/inspiration. Only a sentence or two will do but this is not absolutely necessary.

Where to deliver your artwork:

Please deliver you final piece through one of the letterboxes at Southlands Methodist Church, marking the envelope FAO: My Bubble. You will find the letterboxes at the Southlands Road and Nunmill Street entrances. 

Or post your finished artwork (making sure you add an appropriate stamp to cover the cost!) to:

“My Bubble” (South Bank Studios), Southlands Methodist Church, 97, Bishopthorpe Road York,  YO23 1NX.

If you are shielding and are unable to do either of the above, Donna and Katie can arrange to collect your artwork from your doorstep. Use this email address if this is the case: southbankstudiosyork@gmail.com


Communications:

After submitting your My Bubble artwork, all correspondence will then be via email. In taking part in the project, you will be added to the South Bank Studio mailing list that has been set up so everything can be collated, keeping you up to date on progress so far and physical exhibition dates.

By taking part you are agreeing that you are happy for your name, email address and contact number to be on this list. You will be asked at the end of the project if you would like to be deleted from this list – or you can, of course, unsubscribe at any time by sending in an email. 

Website/Social Media:

Donna and Katie will publish the images of the artwork produced on the website southbankstudios.co.uk and associated social media accounts, but individual names and contact details will not be published.

Further details on the project can be found at: southbankstudios.co.uk/art-project. Facebook:.https://www.facebook.com/SouthBankStudiosYork

Instagram: @southbankstudiosyork

https://www.instagram.com/southbankstudiosyork/


Donna and Katie’s exhibition plans:

“We are aiming to get 365 ‘bubbles’ to represent a year, but if we do not have enough entries by the deadline (March 23), we shall open it up, so there may be an opportunity for you to submit more than one piece after this date,” they say. “We will let you know via email if this is the case.”

Return of artwork:

Artwork will be available for collection after the exhibition has finished. You will be contacted via email to inform you of when it can be collected.

Additional information:  

If you would like any further information, or if you would like to take part in the project but do not have any materials, please contact Donna and Katie, who will do their best to help at: southbankstudiosyork@gmail.com.

Extra support if you need it:

Donna and Katie say: “We have designed this project in the hope that it will provide something positive for those who live within our city, although we appreciate that for some these times have been extremely challenging.

“Therefore, if you do feel like you need additional support in any way,we would encourage you to please reach out. Here is a really good link to the organisations and people in York who can help you and they are only a phone call or text away: https://www.livewellyork.co.uk/FeelRealYork.”

More bubbles than at a West Ham United home match…

Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble lined up for last Your Place Comedy livestream on March 28

Stay Home entertainers: Your Place Comedy double bill Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble

THE final Your Place Comedy virtual double bill for now is confirmed for March 28,  starring Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble live from their living rooms.

“It might be the last one ever, it might not…but there are certainly no more planned at the moment,” says online event founder and organiser Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall arts centre.

“It feels poignant doing the press for next weekend’s Your Place Comedy as Monday marked the first anniversary of the last live show in Selby Town Hall: Wah! frontman Pete Wylie on March 14 2020.

“Who would have thought that a project we started to bridge what everyone assumed would be a small gap in activity would still be the only game in town a whole year on? What a strange place the world has become!”

The collaborative comedy club Your Place Comedy was launched on April 19 last spring with a remote bill of Mark Watson and Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont, compered by Tim FitzHigham, who has since hosted each livestreamed show.

Gathered behind the driving force of Chris Jones, ten small, independent venues across the north came together to “provide their audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times”. 

Compere Tim FitzHigham and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson on screen at the first Your Place Comedy livestream last April

“In a nutshell, I was frustrated that the traditional relationship between venue, artist and audience – the venue providing the artist with income and the audience with entertainment – has been eroded for the foreseeable future by Covid-19 and I wanted to find a way to re-create that,” said Chris at the time.

“So, I’ve got ten venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to chip in a small amount of money to put on a live stream comedy gig this Sunday (April 19).

“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years.”

Chris speculated: “If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”

The first show drew more than 3,500 viewers, Watson very much at home in his pyjamas and Beaumont telling a rather bizarre bedtime story from the homemade pub that her husband, comedian Jon Richardson, has built in their house.

Lucy Beaumont chose her home-built pub as the location for her Your Place Comedy set

“3,500 viewers! That’s considerably more than their combined capacities,” said Chris afterwards. “The show went even better than we had imagined, to say the whole project was put together from scratch in the space of two weeks by three people with no live streaming experience!”

The Your Place Comedy template has since sustained three series of lockdown livestreams from living rooms, kitchens and attics, free to watch on Facebook and YouTube via www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk, but with an option to donate.

The debut fundraiser elicited £3,500 in donations for the participating venues, and all monies raised since then have been distributed evenly among the supporting venues as they navigate their way through challenging financial times.

The first two series in the venue-focused initiative to bring fun to fundraising brought together Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres.

For the latest series, Howden’s Shire Hall has dropped out because all staff are furloughed – “they’re still very supportive but didn’t want to feel like they were riding on the coattails of everyone else’s work,” says Chris – and newly on board are The Civic, Barnsley, Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, and Rural Arts, at The Courthouse, Thirsk.

Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi: At the double on September 27 last year

In 2020, the online platform presented Watson and Beaumont (April 19), Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam (May 10), Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans (June 7), Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes (August 30), Shappi Khorsandi and Justin Moorhouse (September 27) and Robin Ince and Laura Lexx (October 25).

The Stay Home comedy double bills have resumed in 2021 with Josie Long and Ahir Shah on January 24, followed by Hal Cruttenden and Bridlington-born Rosie Jones on February 28.

Now come TV regulars and Taskmaster champions Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble. “I’m pretty excited about this line-up: both stellar performers and both still on the rise,” says Chris. “Hopefully with those names we can get good engagement and, as the young people on social media say, ‘do some numbers’. If this is to be the last show, it’s a great one to go out on.”

Introducing next weekend’s acts, Chris says: “Lou Sanders is one of Britain’s fastest-rising and most original comedy performers. Having won the Comedians’ Choice Award for Best Show at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe – voted for entirely by fellow comics – she has gone on to star in Aisling Bea’s sitcom This Way Up, appear as a guest on QI, Would I Lie To You, The Unbelievable Truth, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Live At The Apollo, and perform on The Late Late Show With James Corden in the USA.

“Best known as a regular panellist on Mock The Week, Ed Gamble’s television credits include the Royal Variety Show, Live At The Apollo, QI and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, while he’s also the co-creator of hugely successful food and comedy podcast Off Menu, alongside James Acaster.

Lou Sanders: “One of Britain’s fastest-rising and most original comedy performers,” says Your Place Comedy organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer

“Both Lou and Ed have been crowned winners of Taskmaster and the two will be competing against one another in a forthcoming Champion of Champions series.”

As ever, the compere will be Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler, presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge and Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee.

As ever too, the livestream will be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast, to support both performers and venues.

“All face continued uncertainty as lockdown regulations once again prevent theatres from opening,” says Chris. “The venues involved in Your Place Comedy have now been either closed, or severely restricted in what they can deliver, for over a year.

“I don’t think, back in March 2020, any of us in our wildest dreams would have foreseen that 12 months on, the need to connect with audiences in novel, innovative ways would still be so vital, and that engaging with arts and culture online would have become the norm.

Chairman of the bored? Ed Gamble will look to liven everyone up from his living room on March 28

“It’s been so heartening to see the entire live entertainment industry pulling together though, and a real thrill to be able to collaborate remotely with different venues in a project which may otherwise never have come to pass.”

Roll on next weekend. “Sunday, March 28 will be our final scheduled show, although I hope not the last one ever, and I’m delighted that two acts with such impressive live and broadcast CVs have signed up to take part,” says Chris.

“It’s not often that you get the chance to see performers of their calibre deliver a live set without having to pay a penny, so do make the most of it and join us for another night of stellar laughs.”

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the March 28 show, visit www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Fitz the bill: Tim FitzHigham has hosted every Your Place Comedy livestream since last April

Anita Bowerman’s print of The Yorkshire Shepherdess is a hit…and so is the mug!

The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, holding Anita Bowerman’s artwork The Hay Meadows In Summer At Ravenseat at Anita’s Dove Tree studio in Harrogate

HARROGATE artist Anita Bowerman has created a new painting of The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, the hill farmer and mother of nine from ITV’s The Dales and Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm.

Painted in watercolour and gouache, The Hay Meadows In Summer At Ravenseat is available in a limited-edition print run of 450 and as a mug.

Each giclee print is signed by both Anita, who runs Dove Tree Art Gallery & Studio at Back Granville Road in Harrogate, and Amanda, who has featured previously in Anita’s fund-raising Christmas cards for Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

The idyllic scene captures Amanda in her shepherdess’s smock coat in the Yorkshire summertime in the ancient Hay Meadows with her nine children, animals, wildlife, insects and flowers and husband Clive on his tractor in the distance at their Ravenseat Farm in Swaledale.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess: The Hay Meadows In Summer At Ravenseat, watercolour and gouache, by Anita Bowerman, available as a giclee print…and a mug

“It took me a long time to create this scene using watercolour and gouache, a thick watercolour,” says Anita. “I love adding detail and telling a story in a picture. Amanda and her sheepdog Kate look adoringly at each other, the children play happily, picking flowers, chatting to each other and racing through the fields.

“There are some sheep, Tony the Pony with three girls surrounding him, a curlew, mole, hares, butterflies and lots more besides.”

Amanda enthuses: “Anita has illustrated a beautiful design featuring my family and animals at home in the hay meadows. She manages to capture all the details so intricately, from my favourite smock coat to the backdrop, animals, flowers and even my children.”

Anita then designed a fine bone china mug showing the same foreground scene, made for her by Duchess China in Stoke-on-Trent. “Amanda has served tea out of some of the mugs and sold them directly to walkers who visit her Ravenseat farm,” she says.

Artist Anita Bowerman and The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, on a visit to the Duchess China factory in Stoke-on-Trent

“Then, during one episode of Our Yorkshire Farm, the camera honed in on Raven, Amanda’s eldest child, who had just gone to university. She was holding one of the mugs as the interviewer asked her if she was missing home and her eyes welled up with tears.

“The camera held the pose for a while…. and Amanda started to get requests flooding in from viewers to buy the mug. Another order from Duchess was needed.”

Amanda, who has visited Duchess China with Anita, loves the mugs! “They are very special, they make a pretty gift and are not only collectors’ pieces but being fine bone china, they also make a jolly decent cup of tea,” says The Yorkshire Shepherdess, author, photographer and  public speaker.  

Although Anita’s studio and gallery in a refurbished 19th century former coach house in the French Atelier style has been closed for much of the time since the first lockdown last March, she has continued to paint throughout the pandemic.

Elephant Family decorations, in stainless steel, by Anita Bowerman

Not only her Yorkshire Shepherdess prints and mug have been proving popular, so too have Anita’s elephants and boxing hares, all being posted out during lockdown.

The Elephant Family decorations, in hand-polished stainless steel, are inspired by the Painted Elephant Festival in Jaipur, India.

“They’ve become a symbol of families struggling to get together during the pandemic,” says Anita, who has been donating ten per cent of the proceeds to the Elephant Family Charity to protect Asian wildlife and its habitat.

Anita’s signed limited-edition giclee print of Boxing Hares at RHS Garden Harlow Carr was inspired by this enchanted Harrogate garden, depicting the willow boxing hares at the moonlit Glow event held there.

All’s welly that starts welly: Harrogate artist Anita Bowerman launching her Give Cancer The Boot installation at Castle Howard last July

First making her name with her papercuts, Anita was the official artist of the Tour de Yorkshire and latterly an artist in residence at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens.

Last July, her commissioned Tree Of Life art installation of 191 stainless steel wellies on a Lime Walk tree at Castle Howard raised funds for Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Give Cancer The Boot appeal.

Looking ahead, Anita is planning to paint cherry blossom over the exterior of her studio in late-April to coincide with the Harrogate Stray’s cherry blossoms. “It’s an idea that seems to be catching on,” she says. “Damien Hirst is focusing on cherry blossom at the moment too!”

For more information or to acquire a print or mug, go to: anitabowerman.co.uk.

“Not only are they collectors’ pieces but being fine bone china, they also make a jolly decent cup of tea,” says Amanda Owen of Anita Bowerman’s mug depicting The Yorkshire Shepherdess

Paul Winn and Ben Darwin confirm summer date and line-up for 2nd York Blues Festival

Paul Winn: Co-director of York Blues Festival, blues radio presenter, promoter of Ryedale Blues Club and York Blues Club and manager and member of York band DC Blues

THE 2nd York Blues Festival will be held on Saturday, July 24 at The Crescent community venue, York.

This event was planned originally for April 4 last year and then rescheduled several times as the pandemic ground on. “All being well, fourth time lucky we can go ahead and bring you a day of fantastic blues in the great city of York,” say festival organisers Paul Winn and Ben Darwin.

No strangers to the British blues scene, they present Blues From The Ouse on Jorvik Radio and are members of York band DC Blues.

Winn-Darwin situation: Paul Winn and Ben Darwin confirm the line up for their 2nd York Blues Festival

Winn and Darwin have booked a festival bill of Robbie Reay; The Swamp Hoppers; Dori & The Outlaws; John Carroll; Dr Bob & The Bluesmakers; DC Blues and Nick Steed Five.

Doors will open at 12.30pm; Robbie Reay will kick-start the live music at 1pm and the festival day will close at 11pm. Tickets cost £12.50 in advance (£15 on the door), available from yorkbluesfestival.co.uk and thecrescentyork.com or from Earworm Records, Powells Yard, Goodramgate, York, earwormrecords.co.uk.

“The first event in 2019 was a huge success and was completely sold out,” say Winn and Darwin. “So, if you fancy a full day of blues, we strongly recommend getting your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.”

Eboracum Baroque combine with brewery for rowdy Purcell And A Pint virtual gig

Eboracum Baroque: Not only here for the beer on Saturday

YORK ensemble Eboracum Baroque are teaming up with Calverley’s Brewery for a rowdy YouTube and Facebook concert on Saturday (20/3/2021) at 7pm.

“It’s called Purcell And A Pint and is a virtual 17th century pub gig with catches, folk tunes and broadside ballads with a bit of beer tasting in the interval too,” says director and trumpet player Chris Parsons.

“It should be good fun and we hope audiences will be able to sing along at home for some of the programme.”

Eboracum Baroque’s collaboration with the Cambridge brewers will transport Saturday’s audience back to the alehouses of 17th century England for a night of rowdy drinking songs, popular fiddle tunes and folk songs that would have been performed in taverns across the British Isles.

“Have your drinks at the ready and join us for a good sing-song,” says Chris. “We’re delighted to be joined by Calverley’s Brewery, who will present a beer-tasting interval, readying us for the pubs re-opening later this year.” 

Among the highlights of the The Purcell And A Pint programme will be I Gave Her Cakes And Ale, Your Hay It Is Mow’d from King Arthur and The Jovial Broom Man and other classic folk tunes of the 17th Century.

“Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was notorious for liking a trip to the pub,” says Chris. “One story about Purcell’s death goes that he was late home from a rather heavy night and his wife locked him out and he succumbed to the cold.

“His bawdy catches and well-known broadside ballads would have been popular tunes to sing when having a pint. The raucous surroundings overflowed with music, alcohol, sex, gossip, fights, fumes, shouting, singing, laughing, dancing…our performance won’t have all of those!”

Eboracum Baroque’s poster for Saturday’s virtual concert

Taking part in Saturday’s concert alongside Chris will be baritone John Holland Avery; tenors Nils Greenhow and Gareth Edmunds; violinist Kirsty Main; recorder player Miriam Monaghan; cellist Miri Nohl and harpsichordist Seb Gillot, with audio and video editing by David Sims.

Looking ahead, Eboracum Baroque are to host Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, an online project for primary schools launched by the National Centre for Early Music, York, with funding from East Riding Music Hub.

“We’re really excited to be collaborating with the NCEM,” says Chris of a project that is suitable both for pupils who are in school or those learning from home.

This specially created work, based on the book The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, revolves around a live-streamed performance broadcast from the NCEM’s home, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on Tuesday, March 23 at 2pm.

The performance will be available to download from ncem.co.uk and can be accessed to watch again until Friday, May 28, and it will be accompanied by a raft of resources and activities, such as arts, crafts, drawing and painting.

Purcell And A Pint will be premiered on youtube.com/eboracumbaroque and facebook.com/eboracumbaroque on March 20 from 7pm to 8.30pm. For online tickets, go to: http://eboracumbaroque.co.uk/event/purcell-and-a-pint/  

Tickets for the March 23 livestream cost £15 for a standard ticket for the whole school, £10 for East Riding schools, and can be booked at: http://www.ncem.co.uk/story-orchestra-project/

Jessa and Mick Liversidge team up with Helmsley Arts Centre for Fields & Lanes song and poetry livestream tomorrow

Field work: Actor Mick Liversidge and singer Jessa Liversidge take the country air

EASINGWOLD singer Jessa Liversidge and husband actor Mick Liversidge will present the Fields & Lanes Livestream show from Helmsley Arts Centre tomorrow night (13/3/2021).

“Mick and I have been working on a collaborative project with the arts centre all about engaging communities creatively,” says community singing leader and music tutor Jessa. “Now, we’ve recruited some more field singers and outdoor performers to join us virtually for our performance at 7.30pm.”

Since the first Coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March 2020, Jessa and Mick have taken to performing outside to lift spirits and cheer those stuck inside. While Jessa sings in fields, Mick recites poetry down country lanes, and together they have devised Fields & Lanes, a celebration of poetry and song as well a celebration of the great outdoors.

Mick and Jessa perform with no accompaniment, their sincere and heartfelt delivery letting the poems and songs speak for themselves.

Last Saturday, Jessa notched her 50th “field sing”: a Saturday morning routine for the past 50 weeks wherein she “gets up and performs a song outdoors”.

“Over 50 songs now as some weeks I have done two,” she says, and you can watch that performance as she lists all the songs at https://www.facebook.com/JessaLiversidgeSinger/videos/207646327454590/ or on YouTube at https://youtu.be/a8bzyhocd-U.

“I might delay the field sing a bit if it’s snowing or raining, or I’ll shelter under a tree, but I find doing these songs really beneficial for me; doing it every week, having that fixed in my diary, knowing I need to do it on a Saturday morning,” Jessa says.

Mick, a professional actor on stage and screen for six years, and Jessa also performed a socially distanced Fields & Lanes Under The Willow Tree at Easingwold Community Library on a September Sunday afternoon and for Joseph Rowntree Theatre volunteers when testing the York theatre’s Covid-safety regime last October.

Mick LIversidge recording one of his Fields & Lanes poems in lockdown

Buoyed by the response to their outdoor pursuits, Jessa and Mick teamed up with Helmsley Arts Centre (HAC) to offer the Ryedale and wider community the chance to join the Fields & Lanes family in remote workshops.

“You will have the chance to develop singing or recitation skills and work towards your own pre-recorded performance, which will be featured in the livestream Fields & Lanes show on March 13,” read the invitation to recruits on the HAC website.

Places were strictly limited, enabling Jessa and Mick to work with both small groups and individuals on February 27 and March 6. Participants also received support, feedback and guidance from Jessa or Mick in between sessions and they are entitled to a gratis ticket for tomorrow’s livestream.

“We’ve found that singing and performing poetry outside has been both therapeutic and uplifting during these challenging times,” says Jessa. “We’ve enjoyed everything that comes with performing in the open air: the bird song, the fields, the winds, and we wanted to help others take part and feel the benefits.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Helmsley Arts Centre, who have provided the funding for a project to demonstrate how music and poetry can connect the community through creativity, and we’re delighted with the wide range of performers who have joined us, from seasoned professional performers to hobby singers and poets.

“In the workshops and individual sessions over the two weekends, we’ve worked on field singing and outdoor recitation techniques and created some collaborative performances. As a result, members of these groups will be appearing with us in the livestream via pre-recorded video.”

Tomorrow’s livestream viewers can expect a wide-ranging show featuring poetry from William Wordsworth to Spike Milligan, Lord Byron to D H Lawrence, and songs from folk standards to pop favourites and gospel classics, The Beatles to Bill Withers, Cilla Black to Carole King.

Poetry collaborators in tomorrow’s livestream are Bill Laverick, Helen Wilson and Maurice Crichton, from York Shakespeare Project and York Settlement Community Players, and Ted Naisbitt, from Sowerby, near Thirsk, performing one of his own poems, My Lakes, inspired by Wordsworth.

Helen Wilson, performing at last summer’s Sitdown Sonnets, presented by York Shakespeare Project at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York. Tomorrow she is taking part in the Fields & Lanes livestream

Mick worked with Bill, Helen, Maurice and Ted, each taking a verse from Wordsworth’s Daffodils and Sir John Betjeman’s Business Girls, reciting both on Zoom and in the open air.

New field singers taking part are Sinead Livingston, Mary Bourne, Madeleine Cordes, Gary Cordes, Cat Ellis, Caitlin Ellis, Sarah Boyle and Bill Laverick.

“They’re spread across the country from Essex to the North East,” says Jessa. “One of the positives of these times has been being able to work with people from all over the place!

“Sinead, Mary and Madeleine are all singing leaders, who I’ve been liaising with over the past year, all liking the idea of singing outside, and it’s been really great to have such high-quality people to work with.

“Mary runs choirs in Kingston and writes songs, and she’s been a friend for a couple of years. We’ve recorded a duet called My Call, where I recorded my part outside and as she’s ‘Choir Leader In A Kayak’, she’s done her part from a kayak.”

Introducing more of tomorrow’s remote singers, Jessa says: “Cat and Caitlin are a mother and daughter from Easingwold; Cat is in one of my choirs and I teach Caitlin. Sarah Boyle is a ‘hobby singer’ from York who’s joined one of my choirs, and Madeleine and Gary Cordes run a talent agency in Essex.

“In the first workshop, we did Stand By Me and The Water Is Wide, with me editing the virtual performances together and then last Saturday we worked on individual song choices.”

For tomorrow’s livestream, “bubble couple” Mick and Jessa will be performing live and alone in Helmsley Arts Centre, where the pre-recorded songs and poems will be projected on a screen.

“We’ve found that singing and performing poetry outside has been both therapeutic and uplifting during these challenging times,” says Jessa

The 7.30pm show marks a return to Helmsley Arts Centre for Jessa, after performing three of her one-woman shows there: ’Til The Boys Come Home, Some Enchanted Sondheim and Songbirds.

She has been a freelance singer and singing leader for the past 12 years, completing high-level training on performance, singing teaching and musical direction with Vocal Process and qualifying as a Vocal Health First Aider.

“From youth choirs and dementia-friendly groups to community choirs and private lessons, my sessions all have an encouraging atmosphere and a positive, inclusive ethos,” she says.

“I’m continuing to run my singing groups online – Singing For All and Community Singers Online, as well as the live YMHSing sessions for the York Music Hub – and I’m always looking for more singers of all abilities to join in.

“One new singer recently said, ‘you fill the screen with fun and enjoyment’ and I’d love to reach a few more of these people.” 

As testament to her teaching skills, Jessa has been nominated for two 2021 Music and Drama Education awards on March 24 for her inspiring work with singers of all ages in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Quite an honour and a big surprise!” she says. “I’ve no expectations of winning but will glam up and tune into the ceremony on the 24th anyway!”

Jessa is shortlisted for the #goldstars Award, for any teacher who has shown particular flair, creativity or compassion during this past year, and the Francesca Honley Inspiration Award, which honours an individual who has had a hugely inspirational impact on students of any age in their music-making. 

Outdoor pursuits: Mick Liversidge and Jessa Liversidge head out for a song and a poem in the Yorkshire air

“The person who nominated me mentioned the wide range of ways I have adapted and created different ways of inspiring people of all ages through singing, including the live sings and Zoom choirs for York Music Hub, song and music videos, live singing for all and field sings,” says Jessa, as she looks forward to listening to the 6pm online ceremony at https://www.musicdramaedawards.com/.

Looking ahead, Jessa says: “I’m definitely going to continue with the choirs online. I even have participants from Milton Keynes, Rochdale, Bedfordshire, and I’ve been able to engage in various ways, along with continuing my ‘real’ groups.

“I feel loyal to them all, so when lockdown eases under the Government ‘roadmap’, I’ll do hybrid ‘Room and Zoom’ sessions. I did one in October, which I enjoyed, though it is quite exhausting trying to do two things at once!”

Reflecting on 12 months under the pandemic cloud, Jessa says: “I’m really happy with the way I’ve managed to grow and create this past year despite everything, or actually out of necessity due to everything.

“I’ve developed a lot of skills, like a lot of people like me have. I’ve really enjoyed it, picking up technical skills, such as learning how to synch up people singing separately for streaming. It’s quite time consuming but I think it’s worth it, recording people standing alone in a field but then seeing themselves in a group online.”

Jessa is proof positive that singing is good for the soul, for physical health, for mental wellbeing. “Singing just lifts you and takes you somewhere else,” she says in her break from her online “three hat day” for this interview.

“Singing keeps me going. Today [8/3/2021] I’m running a Singing For All session; teaching a couple of pupils and doing a York Music Hub session at four o’clock, so I’ll be buoyant all day!”

Tickets for tomorrow’s 7.30pm livestream cost £8 per household. To book, go to: https://www.helmsleyarts.co.uk/whats-on/fields-and-lanes-livestream-from-hac.

All the Fields & Lanes poems and songs performed by Mick and Jessa outdoors can be found at the Fields & Lanes Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.

Alex Wright, Phil Grainger and Oliver Tilney combine on Half Man//Half Bull ancient myth songs to be experienced at home UPDATED 11/3/2021

On song: Phil Grainger in a recording session for Half Man//Half Bull

THE Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre had to cut short their 18-month international tour last March, the pandemic forcing Alexander Wright and Phil Grainger to fly back to North Yorkshire from Australasia.

A year later, however, a brand-new work, created in tandem with fellow theatre-maker Oliver Tilney, arrives in the form of Half Man//Half Bull, a narrative-led double album of two ancient myths and 20 original tracks to be “experienced at home”.

Fusing spoken word, electronica and soul, Half Man//Half Bull retells the interlinking myths of Theseus & The Minotaur and Daedalus & Icarus, presented in a listening pack designed by Lydia Denno that will be sent out in the post.

“We wanted people to be able to hold a beautiful piece of art in their hand, like holding an album cover, so Lydia’s artwork is part of the whole experience,” says Alex. “We also want people to carve out a bit of proper time to really listen to the work, rather than listening to it for the first time when you’re doing the washing-up or while you’re cooking.

“We’re also asking you to reach out to connect with other people by sending out postcards, and there are four cards from the listening pack to hide around your community too. You could even give someone a call, knock on someone’s door and say hello.

“The two stories say a lot about isolation, so it feels good to do something that’s an antidote to that. We didn’t set out to tell a story about this time of Covid lockdowns, but it just seems to have seeped into it.”

Lydia Denno’s artwork for Half Man//Half Bull

Over the past few years, Alex and Phil, friends since Easingwold schooldays, have taken their international award-winning shows Orpheus, Eurydice and The Gods The Gods The Gods to packed rooms across Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Bali and New York, performing an enthralling, electrifying brand of spoken word and live music.

Once back home, they teamed up with long-time collaborator Oliver Tilney – he played Jay Gatsby in Wright’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby for the Guild Of Misrule at 41 Monkgate, York, in 2016 – to create Half Man//Half Bull.

“From the get-go, we wanted to make a new piece of work that wasn’t contingent on being performed live,” says Oliver, who first brought the idea to Alex and Phil last June. “We didn’t want a watered-down version of something to give to audiences; we wanted to create a new piece of work in its correct form. For us, that form is a double narrative-led album.”

Oliver set about reading various Greek myths, seeking a way to connect two together. “The ones we’ve chosen are about becoming a parent; one is about a father loving a son, the other about a son loving a father,” he says.

“Most people don’t carry any sympathy for Icarus, thinking he’s rather brash, but I thought, ‘no, let’s make these characters human’.”

Alex, Phil and Oliver began work on Half Man//Half Bull on Zoom, but lockdown easement then enabled work to develop in Covid-safe conditions, both in Stillington in Alex’s studio at The Mill last October and at Crooked Room Studio in Strensall, York.

Oliver Tilney at work on Half Man//Half Bull

“There was a moment I recall where Ollie’s daughter was in a push chair and I was writing these ditties, and Ollie’s lyrics were so clearly coming from his experience of being a dad,” says Phil.

“More than before, the writing was a mixture of all three of us. With Orpheus, it was very clear that I wrote the music and Alex, the lyrics, but for The Gods The Gods The Gods, there were a couple of songs where Alex came up with the melody.

“Whereas with this project, we’ve all stuck our noses into all of it. Ollie and Alex were writing the first drafts of ideas, while I was building some benches at Alex’s mill. Then I came up with a few bits of guitar, but once that had been done and they’d come up with the skeleton of the stories, we fleshed everything out, with everyone coming up with lyrics and me writing tunes. We all pushed ourselves more than ever.”

Alex rejoins: “We’re lucky that we’ve all known each other and worked together for so long, so it never felt like we needed to define who was doing what, or who was in charge. It just felt organic.”

The trio have partnered up with 15 organisations to bring the idea to life, among them the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Theatr Clwyd, Leeds company Slung Low, Rural Arts, Thirsk, and The Barn Theatre, their involvement affirming the appetite for this type of work. 

Alex says: “We started talking with our brilliant pals at Streatham Space Project [a project that Oliver was involved in setting up], where we managed to bring a socially distanced version of Eurydice in September. It quickly became clear there would be an appetite for a theatre, or an organisation, to be able to deliver content to their audience while people couldn’t gather in a more traditional setting.”

Oliver adds: “Those 15 theatres and organisations around the country are helping us by each agreeing to distribute 100 copies, so that means we’ve pre-sold 1,500 copies, either to be given away to pockets of the community they want to contact through outreach work, or for some to be put on sale through the venues.”

Alexander Flanagan Wright and Phil Grainger on their travels, cut short by the need to head home last March

An Arts Council Project Grant allowed the Half Man//Half Bull team to grow: the trio have collaborated with producers, designers and host of musicians to realise this project, alongside the family of theatres, venues and partner organisations.

After years of touring, lockdown has provided a longer opportunity to create and develop, says Phil. “Alex and I have been writing and touring shows for a while, with an ambition to grow our sound. This felt like a great opportunity to work with more people, collaborate with more artists and, crucially, create some work for as many freelancers as we could afford,” he explains.

That team includes Aminita Francis, from BAC BeatBox Collective, as Theseus; Zimbabwean-born musician Tendaii Sitima, as Daedalus; designer Lydia Denno; music producer Isaac McInnis and project producer Charlotte Bath.

“We were also able to spend a lot of time at Crooked Room Studio working with Isaac McInnis, which really helped grow the sound,” says Phil. “It’s crucial that as this is an audio project, that it sounds flipping great.”

Lockdown 3 was imposed just as Alex, Phil and Oliver were part-way through the last recording session. “But because we were already ‘bubbled up, we were already in the right place to allows us to continue,” says Alex.

“It was lucky that we could continue unimpeded,” says Phil. “Pretty much everyone else, apart from our producer Isaac, was able to send us their parts, recording in their own homes or on Zoom.”

Phil Grainger and Alexander Flanagan Wright last August when The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre presented a week of socially distanced shows in Alex’s back garden at The Mill, Stillington, including Orpheus and Eurydice

Billed as “an epic storytelling adventure for our time”, Half Man//Half Bull is designed expressly as an At-Home experience. “For a project that is an album, a listening experience, something you do with your ears, we were really clear we didn’t want to make a cast recording of something that already existed; it had to be something that stood in its own right,” says Alex.

“For the vast majority of musicians and creative people, they are hard-wired to connect with other people, preferably gathered in one room, but this had to be different – though it does feel odd that we can’t all be together to launch it!”

Instead, Half Man//Half Bull is a form of home service. “If you buy it, you’ll get a physical pack through your door with artwork, listening instructions and an invitation to step back out into the real world,” says Alex.

“Normally we would be thinking about the physical space we’re performing a show in, but this time it’s a listening experience designed for people’s homes.”

Yet might Half Man//Half Bull be turned into a live performance? “While we were writing the album, we had a catchphrase that we banned each other from saying: ‘When we do the live show’,” recalls Oliver. “Instead, we concentrated on the album, but having worked together for so many years, we all have ambitions to do it live.

“We haven’t had many conversations yet, just touched on a few ideas so far, because our focus has been on the album.”

For further information and to buy the albums, go to: halfmanhalfbull.com.

Alexander Flanagan Wright during the making of Half Man//Half Bull

Michael Lyons’ Ancient and Modern show of outdoor sculptures to close on April 11

Becky Gee, curator of Fine Art at York Art Gallery, with Michael Lyons’ 1993 sculpture Amphitrite in the Artists Garden in May 2019. Picture: Charlotte Graham

THE last chance to see Ancient And Modern, Cawood sculptor Michael Lyons’ valedictory outdoor exhibition in York, is fast approaching.

The free display of large-scale sculpture in York Art Gallery’s Artists Garden and Edible Wood will close on April 11.

On show in the late Michael’s biggest ever exhibition on York soil are nine works created between 1982 and 2000, inspired by nature, myth and ancient cultures, with the central space dominated by Amphitrite, a large painted steel structure evoking the sea that he fashioned in 1993. 

Becky Gee, curator of Fine Art at York Art Gallery, says: “Michael’s incredible work has been shown around the world and in some of the most respected art institutions, and we’ve loved exhibiting it in the gardens here, feeling honoured to have housed his first large-scale exhibition in York, his home city.” 

Opened in late-May 2019, Ancient And Modern originally was booked to run until May 2020, but has remained in place through these pandemic times. “We were so pleased to be able to extend the exhibition and keep it open for visitors to enjoy on their daily walks through the gardens,” Becky continues. 

“The sculptures have brought a new dimension to the unique space and we’re thrilled with the positive response. The works complement and contrast with the ancient walls of St Mary’s Abbey and the more rustic landscapes of the Edible Wood, truly suiting their garden setting, and it’s been fascinating to see how they change as the seasons change how the gardens look.”

Cavalcade, by Michael Lyons, in the Artists Garden at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Before his sudden passing in April 2019, Michael Lyons said of the show: “To my knowledge, this is the first time such a large exhibition of outdoor sculpture has been shown in York – certainly for many years.

“It is a great pleasure to make a contribution to the cultural life of York in this way and I hope that the exhibition will help to make sculpture a more integral part of the city.” 

Becky recalls the “wonderful experience” of working on this exhibition with Michael before his passing. “His energy, warmth and creativity made a real impact on the gallery team and the show has proven to be a true celebration of the extraordinary skill and talent he possessed,” she says.

The York exhibition had been in the planning for many years, and once Becky took up her curator’s post in early 2019, she was able to work in tandem with Mr Lyons in the months before his death. They would liaise by phone and email and she visited his studio too.

“Michael was very enthusiastic, full of ideas, and spoke very eloquently about his sculptures, and he loved the space where they were to be exhibited. That inspired the Ancient And Modern title for the exhibition,” says the curator, who collaborated with the sculptor on the detailed wording to accompany each sculpture.

Working from the Cawood studio he established in 1977, Lyons’ sculptures range from small-scale to monumental, made in brass, bronze, clay and copper, with his exploration of the medium of steel resulting in an ambitious body of work equally at home in rural and urban landscapes.

Ancient And Modern exhibition curator Becky Gee is framed by Michael Lyons’ 1989 sculpture High Priest in the Artists Garden behind York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Although the sculptures are abstract, their starting point is often figurative, as seen in the exhibits Ace (1982), Michaelmas (1982), Mayflower (1983), High Priest (1989), Cavalcade (1990), Hornblower (1992) and the companion pieces Harvest: Ceres’ Key (2000) and Harvest: Demeter’s Dream (2000), as well as Amphitrite.

“Sculptures can be hard to fully comprehend until you see them in front of you, but Michael’s works feel like they have landed here and been here forever,” says Becky.

“The beauty of them is that you can sit on a bench in the gardens and appreciate how each setting has been carefully chosen. That was very important to Michael’s family when they came to see us installing the sculptures.”

Becky’s favourite piece is Cavalcade, the work placed closest to the gallery walls. The most colourful is Mayflower, a yellow disc that evokes the sun, made at Mayflower Engineering in Sheffield, hence its name. Whatever the weather, radiant sunlight has continued to shine in the Artists Garden, thanks to Lyons.

“It’s been a privilege to have Ancient And Modern, and if you’re local we hope you’re able to enjoy the display before it closes,” concludes Becky.

Michael Lyons: Ancient And Modern, on show in the Artists Garden and Edible Wood, behind York Art Gallery, until April 11. Opening hours are 10.30am to 4.30pm daily; admission is free.

Book an art-filled present for Mothering Sunday at Kentmere House Gallery

A selection of Mascot Media art books available via Kentmere House Gallery in York

IF you are seeking a delightfully arty present for Mothering Sunday this weekend, Kentmere House Gallery owner Ann Petherick has a recommendation for you.

Books from niche publisher Mascot Media are available exclusively in York via her gallery in Scarcroft Hill.

“Mascot Media is a small Norfolk publisher specialising in beautifully illustrated books featuring paintings by living artists, mostly of animals, birds or gardens,” says Ann. “The books are priced from £10 to £25; delivery within five miles of York can be arranged before the weekend.”

Kentmere House Gallery owner Ann Petherick

Yorkshire artists include Emerson Mayes; Janis Goodman; Hester Cox; the former President of the Printmakers’ Society, Hilary Paynter; linocut printmaker H.J. Jackson and many more.

The gallery stock of paintings and prints is available too. “Just email me with your requirements; examples can be emailed to you, shown to you at our door or delivered to your door,” says Ann, who can be contacted at ann@kentmerehouse.co.uk or on 01904 656507.

More Things To Do in York and beyond in the months ahead and while staying home, List No. 28, courtesy of The Press, York

Bethany, from York artist Sue Clayton’s exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day, on show outside All Saints Church, Pocklington

THE diary is beginning to turn from blank to much more promising, even if online and home entertainment is still the order of the day, but Charles Hutchinson is feeling positive and so are event organisers.

Outdoor exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day: Sue Clayton, 21, All Saints Church, Pocklington, March 19 to April 19

YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton will celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) on March 21 with a month-long open-air exhibition on the railings of All Saints Church in Pocklington.

Self Portrait, by York artist Sue Clayton

Her collection of 21 portraits is inspired by children and adults with Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James. She has chosen the theme of 21 both to mark the date of WDSD and to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have.

This is the second outdoor display to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown at this location after fellow York artist Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes exhibition from late November to early January.

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor will perform at the NCEM’s Awaken online concert series

Springtime celebration of music online: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music, York, March 27 and 28

THE NCEM’s Awaken weekend will feature York countertenor Iestyn Davies and Fretwork, the all-male vocal group The Gesualdo Six, I Fagiolini and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, Ensemble Augelletti and The Consone Quartet.

The online festivities will celebrate the sublime sounds of spring in a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”. Among the architectural gems will be Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and the NCEM. Full details can be found at ncem.co.uk/awaken.

The Minster men: The Howl & The Hum promote their livestreamed concert at York Minster in the ultimate publicity shot for any York band

“Unique” livestreamed concert: The Howl & The Hum, York Minster, May 25

YORK alternative rock band The Howl & The Hum will perform a “unique set to compliment the unique venue” of the Nave of York Minster in a one-off 8.15pm concert livestreamed via ticket.co.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Sam Griffiths, bassist Brad Blackwell, guitarist Conor Hirons and drummer Jack Williams will combine selections from last May’s prescient album Human Contact with fan favourites and new material recorded in lockdown.

The Howl & The Hum will be the first rock act to play York Minster since York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on March 29 2019. Tickets are on sale via thehowlandthehum.com/.

Wynne win situation: Castle Howard Proms will go ahead this summer with tenor soloist Wynne Evans

Confirmed for the summertime: Castle Howard Concerts Weekend, August 20 to 22

CASTLE Howard has announced this summer’s concerts weekend will go ahead, in light of the Government’s roadmap rollout.

First up, in the open air at the North Yorkshire country house, will be house music brand Café Mambo Ibiza on August 20, presenting Roger Sanchez, Judge Jules, Julie McKnight (live PA), Ridney and Robin S (live PA), with more big names still to be announced for the Ibiza Classics at the Castle celebration.

Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, from the Go Compare adverts, will be joined by soprano Victoria Joyce and the London Gala Orchestra for the al fresco Castle Howard Proms on August 21.

Four vocalists from We Will Rock You, a five-piece rock band and The Elysium Orchestra will combine for Queen Symphonic on August 22. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.

Piece in our time at last: Shed Seven move all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall yet again, now in the diary for August 28

Sheds on the move: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, August 28

YORK heroes Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, is being rescheduled for a third time, now booked in for August 28.

Joining the Sheds that West Yorkshire day will be Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and Leeds United-supporting York group Skylights, plus the Brighton Beach DJs.

August 28? Doesn’t that clash with Leeds Festival, co-headlined that day by Stormzy and Catfish And The Bottlemen? Indeed so, but “let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” quips lead singer Rick Witter.

Shoe-in: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, playing the SJT this spring

The Greatest News In The History Of The World…The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…tour to open in Scarborough from May 18 to 22

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Covid-safe reopening show will be the first tour dates of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, the hit one-woman play that Ian Kershaw wrote for his wife, Coronation Street alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Directed by Raz Shaw, it heads out on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road, as Hesmondhalgh narrates the story of two neighbours and the people on their street, navigating the audience through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love. 

Hesmondhalgh says: “It’s a beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.”

The Shires: Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle move York Barbican gig from 2021 to 2022

York-Shires: The Shires, York Barbican, put back by 12 months

BRITAIN’S biggest-selling country act, The Shires, are rescheduling their May 23 show at York Barbican for May 6 2022.

York is the only Yorkshire venue of their rearranged 25-date tour, when Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle are billed to be joined by Texan country singer and songwriter Eric Paslay. 

“The songs mean so much to us personally, but there really is nothing like looking out at our fans in the crowd and seeing how much of an impact they can have in someone else’s life,” say The Shires. “It’s truly a very special thing”.

And what about?

STILL stuck at home, check out Mindhunter on Netflix, Unforgotten on ITV and Sophia Loren’s Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds. Seek out Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’s new lockdown album, Carnage.

Cave in: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis create Carnage, available digitally now and on CD and vinyl from May 28

Milton Rooms to reopen with four May events as Scott Garnham becomes patron

Scott Garnham, the new Milton Rooms patron, pictured when playing the lead in Nativity in the West End, alongside the show’s “secret Santa”, Queen guitarist Brian May, no less

THE Milton Rooms is counting down the days until it can reopen its Malton doors with four events lined up to kick-start the May reawakening.

First up, Yorkshire singer and guitarist Martin Gough returns with his One Man Rock Show on May 21; next, the Dickens Society presents Dickens And The Language Of Flowers, a fascinating talk looking at the meaning of flowers and how the Victorians loved sending secret messages in a well-chosen bouquet, on May 23. 

Ryedale Blues Club resumes blues service with District Blues, a mix of Americana and rockabilly, on May 27, and 2018 Britain’s Got Talent star Mandy Muden brings her magic, cabaret and stand-up comedy to Malton on May 29.

The Market Place arts and community venue has a new patron, the award-winning Ryedale actor, singer and theatrical producer Scott Garnham, a local lad who first appeared at the Milton Rooms in 1995 in a Ryedale Youth Theatre production of The Boyfriend, aged ten.

As well as many annual Ryedale Youth Theatre productions, Scott appeared in multiple pantomimes at the Milton Rooms. He started in Little Red Riding Hood, then played Baby Bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In his teens, he was either the comedy double act or village idiot in Dick Whittington, Aladdin, Goody Two Shoes and Jack And The Beanstalk and shined as Buttons in Cinderella.

After graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow, he has carved out a career in the West End, notching up credits in Billy Elliot The Musical, Les Miserables and Made In Dagenham, as well as in Matt Lucas’s Pompidou for the BBC. He has created the international vocal group The Barricade Boys too, playing the Grand Opera House in York in March 2018.

“I will forever owe a huge debt to the Milton Rooms and the people who work so tirelessly to ensure this wonderful community building is still a key part of Malton and the surrounding area,” says Scott. 

‘’It was my first experience of ‘theatre’, being lucky enough to perform with a diverse group of ages, cultures and life experiences. I enjoyed dancing with friends at their many discos and found gifts attending art and craft fairs. 

‘’I feel lucky to have grown up where a community building, such as the Milton Rooms, played such a vital and important role in mine and many other people’s lives. Long may it continue.’’

The Milton Rooms’ Covid-safe accreditation has been extended for 2021 by UK tourism body Visit Britain. Under the Government’s roadmap out of Coronavirus lockdown, indoor entertainment venues are expected to be allowed to reopen after May 17 with Covid-secure restrictions in place.

Venue manager Lisa Rich says: “We’re delighted to have someone like Scott on board and we’re really excited at the prospect of being able to open again in a limited way in May and hopefully fully reopening if all restrictions are removed in June.’’

Tickets for all four events can be booked at: themiltonrooms.com/events/

Love bites in myriad forms as York Theatre Royal seeks artists for May 17 reopening

YORK Theatre Royal will reopen on May 17 with a celebration of York’s creativity, pending any Government update on the roadmap rollout.

A call-out has gone out to York artists – poets, writers, performers, singers, dancers and digital artists – to mark the return of live performance to the St Leonard’s Place building, 14 months since its Covid-enforced closure.

The Theatre Royal is commissioning a series of “love letters” from York artists – under the umbrella title Love Bites – to be performed on the opening night of The Love Season, a programme of plays based on the theme of love. The commissions will then be presented across the following fortnight as a prelude to the theatre production playing each night.

The theatre aims to commission 20 Love Bites love letters, each lasting up to five minutes. Artists will be offered £1,000 per commission plus £150 every time it is performed.

“The love letter could be to a person, a place, an object, the city of York itself – or anything else,” says York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster

Creative director Juliet Forster says: “We want artists working in any form or medium and living in York to join forces with us in celebrating the start of live performances when restrictions lift in May. 

“We’re looking for artists to create love letters through any medium. The love letter could be to a person, a place, an object, the city of York itself – or anything else. 

“We’re very keen to incorporate as wide a mix of art forms and interpretations of what a love letter is as possible. It could be a poem, a song, a piece of digital art, a dance piece, but should be able to be performed or shared both live and in digital form. 

“The piece should have a duration of up to five minutes. If the artist doesn’t want to perform the piece themselves, we will work with them on engaging an appropriate performer.”

“We’re ecstatic at the prospect of reopening in May with the much-anticipated Love Season,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird

Those interested in being commissioned are asked to write a short proposal for what their love letter might be and how it could be performed live and translated into digital form. They should submit links to their website or previous work too. 

Submissions must be emailed to commissions@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk by March 22 2021. Details of how to apply can be found on the website at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

York Theatre Royal is set to reopen for socially distanced performances from May 17, once Government restrictions are lifted. Chief executive Tom Bird says: “We’re ecstatic at the prospect of reopening in May with the much-anticipated Love Season.

“After the challenges that the pandemic has brought for freelance artists, we’re particularly delighted to be able to commission 20 York artists to relaunch the theatre programme with Love Bites. We’ll be announcing the remainder of the season in April. We can’t wait to welcome the people of York back to their wonderful theatre.”

Alex Wright, Phil Grainger and Oliver Tilney combine on Half Man//Half Bull ancient myth songs to be experienced at home

Phil Grainger in the studio, recording Half Man//Half Bull

THE Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre had to cut short their 18-month international tour last March, the pandemic forcing Alexander Flanagan Wright and Phil Grainger to fly back to North Yorkshire from Australasia.

A year later, however, a brand-new work, created in tandem with fellow theatre-maker Oliver Tilney, will drop today in the global digital form of Half Man//Half Bull, a narrative-led double album of two ancient myths and 20 original songs to be “experienced at home”.

Fusing spoken word, electronica and soul, Half Man//Half Bull retells the interlinking myths of Theseus & The Minotaur and Daedalus & Icarus, presented in a listening pack designed by Lydia Denno that will be sent out in the post.

Over the past few years, Alex and Phil, friends since Easingwold schooldays, have taken their international award-winning shows Orpheus, Eurydice and The Gods The Gods The Gods to packed rooms across Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Bali and New York, performing an enthralling, electrifying brand of spoken word and live music.

Artwork for Half Man//Half Bull

Once back home, they teamed up with long-time collaborator Oliver Tilney – he played Jay Gatsby in Wright’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby for the Guild Of Misrule at 41 Monkgate, York, in 2016 – to create Half Man//Half Bull.

“From the get-go, we wanted to make a new piece of work that wasn’t contingent on being performed live,” says Oliver, who first brought the idea to Alex and Phil last June. “We didn’t want a watered-down version of something to give to audiences; we wanted to create a new piece of work in its correct form. For us, that form is a double narrative-led album.”

The trio have partnered up with 15 organisations to bring the idea to life, among them the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Theatr Clwyd, Leeds company Slung Low, Rural Arts, Thirsk, and The Barn Theatre, their involvement affirming the appetite for this type of work. 

Alex says: “We started talking with our brilliant pals at Streatham Space Project, where we managed to bring a socially distanced version of Eurydice in September. It quickly became clear there would be an appetite for a theatre, or an organisation, to be able to deliver content to their audience while people couldn’t gather in a more traditional setting.”

Alex Wright at a recording session for Half Man//Half Bull

An Arts Council Project Grant allowed the team to grow: the trio have collaborated with producers, designers and host of musicians to realise this project, alongside the family of theatres, venues and partner organisations.

After years of touring, lockdown has provided an opportunity to create and develop, says Phil. “Alex and I have been writing and touring shows for a while, with an ambition to grow our sound. This felt like a great opportunity to work with more people, collaborate with more artists and, crucially, create some work for as many freelancers as we could afford,” he explains.

That team includes Aminita Francis, from BAC BeatBox Collective; Zimbabwean-born musician Tendaii Sitima; designer Lydia Denno and project producer Charlotte Bath. “We were also able to spend a lot of time at Crooked Room studios working with Isaac McInnis, which really helped grow the sound,” says Phil. “It’s crucial that as this is an audio project, that it sounds flipping great.”

Billed as “an epic storytelling adventure for our time”, Half Man//Half Bull is designed expressly as an At-Home experience. “If you buy, you’ll get a physical pack through your door with artwork, listening instructions and an invitation to step back out into the real world,” says Alex.

For further information and to buy the albums, go to: HalfManHalfBull.com.

Half Man//Half Bull: A double narrative-led album to be experienced at home

The credits:

Created by Phil Grainger, Oliver Tilney and Alexander Wright.

Guest artists: Aminita Francis as Theseus; Tendaii Sitima as Daedalus.
Project producer: Charlie Bath; music producer, Isaac McInnis; designer, Lydia Denno. 


Recorded and mixed by Isaac McInnis at Crooked Room Studios; mastering by David Lawrie.

Additional music: Frances Bolley, Tom Figgins, Isaac McInnis, Emil Ryjoch and Gavin Whitworth.


Additional voices:  Angie Alle, Hille Auvenin, Joanna Bongowska, David Calvitto, Laura Darling, Megan Drury, Inês Sampaio Figueiredo, Peter Groom, Lucas Jones, James Lawrence, MJ Lee, Serena Manteghi, Iona McInnis, Marnie Silver and Jess Zilleson.

With thanks to: Angie Alle, Anikdote, Darren Lee Cole, James Dale, Megan Drury, Luke Langley, Helen Simpson, Michael Slater, Simon Victor and Paul & Maggi Wright.

Made with: At The Mill, Stillington; Birmingham Hippodrome; NEAT; November Club; Rural Arts, Slung Low; SoHo Playhouse; Stephen Joseph Theatre; Storyhouse; Streatham Space Project; The Barn Theatre; Theatr Clwyd; Theatre Deli; The Place and The Roses Theatre.

Oliver Tilney: First brought the idea for Half Man//Half Bull to Alex Wright and Phil Grainger last June

Shed Seven move their all Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall for third time to August 28

Shed Seven: Yorkshire day out at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on the move again

YORK band Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, is being rescheduled for a third time.

The Coronavirus lockdown put paid to the original date of June 26 2020, first moved to September 19 2020, then to June 26 this summer.

Now, fourth time lucky, the Sheds’ show will take place on August 28. All the support acts first signed up for last June have confirmed their participation on the new date.

Joining the Sheds that West Yorkshire day will be Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and Leeds United-supporting York group Skylights, plus the Brighton Beach DJs.

Tickets for this Futuresounds Events open-air concert are on sale at £42.50, premium seats £55, at lunatickets.co.uk, seetickets.com and gigantic.com.

August 28? Doesn’t that clash with Leeds Festival, co-headlined that day by Stormzy and Catfish And The Bottlemen? Indeed so, but “let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” quips lead singer Rick Witter, aware of the predominance of teens at the post-exam-results gathering at Bramham Park.

This is the second outdoor Shed Seven show in 2021 to be in need of a new date. They should have been chasing winners as well as Chasing Rainbows at Doncaster Racecourse on May 15, but that Don 2021 Music Live debut is now a non-runner under the Government’s lockdown restrictions.

Witter con