York novelist Tim Murgatroyd’s debut play Sea Stones journeys into a dark night of the soul by the sea at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Father and daughter: Mick Liversidge’s Phil Goodman and Raqhael Harte’s Sophie Goodman in the dark in Sea Stones. Picture: Chris Mackins

AFTER eight novels, with his ninth on the way, Tim Murgatroyd has written his debut play, Sea Stones, an emotional, suspenseful night of the soul when four people are brought together in a lonely house by the sea.

Two fathers. Two daughters. Each confronted with the consequences of the past as a high tide is turning and tests to their relationships are escalating. Tests that might cost them not only their dearest hopes and loves, but their very lives. “The truth can set you free. Or drown you,” says York writer Tim.

Sea Stones will be premiered from tonight (14/11/2023) at Theatre@41, Monkgate, by Lumar Productions, the York company run by film and stage director Martin Handsley, with a cast of Mick Liversidge as Phil Goodman, Raqhael Harte as Sophie Goodman, Ian Giles as Ratko Ilich and Ukrainian-born York Opera mezzo-soprano Polina Bielova as Jana Ilich.

Introducing the storyline, Tim says: “The play opens in 2000 in a small town in the former Yugoslavia celebrating a new millennium. It is ten years since bloody civil war tore the Communist federation apart, unleashing horrific ethnic conflict.

“But some legacies are not easily forgotten, especially when the victims find no justice and the so-called victors are unpunished, even rewarded.”

Roll forward to 2008: “All around the world, greed-fuelled banking systems are collapsing, creating new victims among the ‘little people’ who trusted in their institutions and leaders. New winners and losers, all over the world.

“But some people never accept losing. It’s not just the corrupt bankers who seek to claw back what they can. The stage is set in an isolated cottage by the sea for further crimes against the best sides of human nature: love, reconciliation and compassion. Or perhaps, this time, for redemption.”

Martin was captivated immediately by Tim’s compelling story on two grounds. “Sea Stones delves into the intricate tensions and dynamics between fathers and their daughters, a theme that resonated deeply with me as I’m the proud father of three girls,” he says.

Money talks in Sea Stones: Mick Liversidge’s Phil Goodman and Raqhael Harte’s Sophie Goodman in negotiation with Ian Giles’s Ratko Ilich. Picture: Chris Mackins

“This is also a story how history never quite dies. My personal experience as an aid worker during the Yugoslav Civil War [travelling from Leeds in 1992 to bring refugees from Bosnia to the UK] provided me with a profound understanding of the challenging circumstances the characters in the play find themselves in.

“Even in 2023, the world continues to grapple with the same issues that the play addresses. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine serves as a stark reminder that war and its aftermath still haunt us. That’s why we’re so excited to bring Sea Stones to life on stage, setting free the power of theatre to illuminate and provoke thought about the enduring challenges our world faces.”

Tim felt “more poacher than gamekeeper” when writing Sea Stones. “My career as a published writer has been exclusively as a novelist,” he says. “Eight in print to date, two of them translated into Chinese.

“I have written stories about Ancient China, a dystopian Yorkshire, even silent cinema musicians in York, but I had never written a play. So it came as a surprise when I found myself scribbling down stage directions, then dialogue, that would emerge as Sea Stones.

“It began with a man in a lonely cottage by a pebbly beach startled by the arrival of a car where no-one comes. Dark memories of the Yugoslav Civil War and anger at injustices in the world crept into his home with the sound of waves grinding the shingle.

“Then came a long-lost daughter corrupted by money and greed, dragging far worse in her wake, and the stage was set for conflict: love, morality, and bare survival. As the character Phil Goodman says: ‘Sometimes we touch, connect, brought together by the tide. Sometimes we grind each other into sand like millstones. Sometimes we just break apart’.”

First play for Tim, first stage directing challenge for Martin: “I’ve directed film before, which is completely different,” he says. “I never thought I’d enjoy theatre because it’s so ephemeral, whereas you put everything into getting the image right, you film it and it’s there forever.

“However, what I’ve learned with this production is that theatre’s ephemeral nature is what it’s about, being in the now, what’s going on live in front of you. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’ve become a volunteer at Theatre@41, doing tech work, working behind the bar. I just love it.

The other father and daughter: Ian Giles’s Ratko Ilich and Polina Bielova’s Jane Ilich in Sea Stones. Picture: Chris Mackins

“The fact that Sea Stones is a great play and we’ve got great actors helps as well! I’ve been with this play for over a year, and still the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I hear certain lines being said.”

Whether as a novelist, or now as a playwright, Tim says: “At the heart of all this writing is storytelling. If you think about how humans understand the world, it’s through stories, with bigger narratives in plays and novels.

“With novels, you can use descriptions, whereas plays rely on what’s being stated or implied by the characters in speech, so the real challenge was to make sure the play’s dialogue was naturalistic, but not too naturalistic because I wanted to have deeper philosophical and emotional layers to the characters’ experiences.”

Sea Stones has taken three years to evolve. “That’s when Tim first contacted me and sent me a copy of the original script,” recalls Martin. “I read it but just didn’t think I’d be the one to stage it. But then Covid came along, and afterwards I just wanted to do something different after the film.

“Tim contacted me again, we got some actors together, did some readthroughs and made sure that the heart of the story would remain, but we would need to lose some of the dialogue to make it more pacy.”

Further challenges were to secure a theatre for the production and to find the right cast. Tick and tick, albeit with changes in one role. “We’ve ended up with the highly experienced Ian Giles as our fourth iteration of Ratko Ilich,” says Martin. “He’s bringing a level of confidence to the role that we were struggling with before, and lots of humour too, and we have an ensemble that gets on really well.”

Ian has made such an impact that Tim is writing a role expressly for him in his next play. Meanwhile, Tim and Martin have found a way to integrate Polina Bielova’s operatic singing in Sea Stones. “I can guarantee people will have tears in their eyes,” says Tim.

Actress and yoga teacher Raqhael Harte brings 15 years of acting and performance studies, coupled with a few years of York productions, to her role as troubled daughter Sophie. “She’s a Scottish actress and when she auditioned, I just loved her accent and knew it work really well in the play,” says Martin. “Her character is jarring, and her voice can be quite jarring too, so she’s the whole package.”

“These characters can be contradictory in their beliefs and behaviour because people are contradictory,” says Sea Stones playwright Tim Murgatroyd

Summing up his play, Tim says: “Essentially it’s about two parallel father-daughter relationships, with each one casting light on the other, and from that they learn lessons, some hard, some redemptive, but all of them life-changing.

“In many ways, the play is designed to work on two levels: the parent/child relationships and the wider content of the world, referring to the Yugolsav war and to the 2008 banking crisis, with questions about corruption and  human behaviour in a difficult, flawed world.

“That makes it incredibly relevant to today, where there’s corruption that’s pretty much not even hidden now, and all the violence and war that we see on our TV screens every night. We ask, ‘are we powerless? What can a good parent do?’.”

Important to Tim too was the need to make the characters believable. “Looking at human nature, these characters can be contradictory in their beliefs and behaviour because people are contradictory, and you have to get that complexity across – which can be challenging for everyone involved, not only the writer.

“What I’m hoping the audience will take from the play is not only an emotional journey but also a lot of tension because the potential for violence is always lurking in what I’ve written, so in that sense it’s not just about their relationships but also about survival.”

As indicated by the title, the sea is a significant character in the play too. “A lot of the meaning of the play comes from the dialogue, but plenty will come from metaphors too, where you’re trying to connect the audience with places and feelings they have experienced. The sea is perhaps the best example of that,” says Tim. “It represents movement and change, and characters being swept along by the tide of history.”

From the moment of arrival in the John Cooper Studio, audiences will be surrounded by the rhythmic roll of crashing waves with the high tide on its way. “I love the sound of the sea, and we use it as background in pretty much all the scenes set at the cottage,” says Martin.

The poster for Lumar Productions’ Sea Stones at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Tim adds: “It’s almost like a musical soundtrack in this play. There’s a theory that we evolved from aquatic apes and that’s why we have this immediate bond with the sea.”

Sea Stones is “as uncomfortable as possible” for the audience, or “intimate”, as Tim prefers to describe the viewing experience. “By creating four contrasting characters, I can show the different facets of humanity, so we see good in the play, sometimes incredibly heroic good deeds, but also the bad in people, the potential for corruption, which creates dramatic tension,” Tim concludes.

Lumar Productions present Sea Stones, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight (14/11/2023) to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk. Running time: 100 minutes plus interval.

Back story: Lumar Productions

SMALL independent film, video and theatre production company dedicated to creating innovative content and storytelling, delivered with energy and passion. Its latest film feature, Wiccan, is scheduled for release in 2024.

The company is run by Martin Handsley, an IT professional, who reinvented himself after a life-altering event as an actor, writer, producer and director.

Writer’s profile: Tim Murgatroyd

READ English at Hertford College, Oxford University, and now lives with his family in York. Internationally acclaimed author of several novels of historical fiction, a dystopian series, whose latest novel, October 2022’s The Electric, is set in the glamorous world of silent cinema in York in 1919.

Former weekly columnist for The Press, York.

Sea Stones is his first play. His next novel, Dust Of The Earth, will be published next year.

For a preview of Sea Stones, visit: https://youtu.be/pviM6iKB0dw

Rick Broadbent returns home to find the soul of Yorkshire then and now in Now Then

Rick Broadbent: Exiled Yorkshireman, The Times journalist and author

IT began inauspiciously in the library of the old Yorkshire Evening Press building in Coney Street, York.

Rick Broadbent was 16/17, living in Tadcaster, twixt York and Leeds, and was on work experience. His first taste of journalism, in the mid-1980s.

“I certainly made an impression because I remember writing an obituary of someone who hadn’t died. Can’t remember the guy’s name, but relatively obscure. Jeremiah…”

Deep in the labyrinth of cuttings files, he found a Jeremiah, but the wrong one as it turned out. “It was clearly a baptism of ineptitude,” says the award-winning author and journalist for The Times for more than 20 years, recalling his cub reporter howler.

Rick would leave Yorkshire at 18 to study at Reading University – one of three northerners at a southern university, alongside a Scouser and a Geordie – but Yorkshire has never left him. So much so, his latest book is Now Then: A Biography Of Yorkshire, whose publication today is accompanied by a Meet The Author tour that visits St Peter’s School Memorial Hall, York, tomorrow, as well as South Cave, Malton, Ilkley, Sheffield, Farsley and Ripon.

As he writes in the book’s final words: “I live in Dorset, but Yorkshire is where I’m from and, more often than not, where I’m at. It’s a state of its own and a state of mind. That’ll do.”

He depicts a “remarkable county, swathed in world-stopping beauty and practical magic, stunning in positive and negative ways, but it’s like the Hotel California – you can check out, but you can never leave”.

The Leeds-born “exiled Yorkshireman” has written a humorously honest, unsparing, celebratory biographical mosaic, not a hagiography. “I loved the place but had sometimes loathed it too”, writes the outsider with the insider’s knowledge.

Broadbent acknowledges the tropes, the ee bah gums, the Stereotykes, as one chapter is headed – Boycott’s batting, ferret-leggers and folk singers without flat caps on Ilkley Moor – as he seeks the true soul of the Texas of England and ponders whether “Yorkshireness” even matters in a shrinking world.

Social history, memoir and reportage, high hills and flat vowels, are woven into the mosaic of Yorkshire now and Yorkshire then, ordinary Yorkshire and its extraordinary lives. “What I didn’t want to do was do a chronological history,” he says of his task of representing a Yorkshire “so large, multifarious and unmanageable”.

Hence the diversity of interviews, from rock stars (Richard Hawley) to rhubarb growers, ramblers to William Wilberforce’s descendants, William and Dan, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, to Barnsley bard Ian McMillan.

“I thought, you have to pool all this information, draw these disparate places and stories into themes and sections.” In a nutshell, Outsiders. Workers. Writers. Miners. Minstrels. Artists. Yorkists. Stereotykes. Champions. Ramblers. Chefs. Pioneers. Legends. Seasiders. Now. Then.

As a starting point, he dug up his own past, before turning to Britain’s largest county at large. Excavating his father’s remains from a Tadcaster graveyard in 2011, gathered in a coffee jar, to be scattered at sea in accordance with his wishes at Lamorna Cove, in Cornwall, where the Broadbents had always holidayed and family members had since gravitated south. “It was not so much scattering ashes as throwing rocks at seagulls,” he recalls with typical Broadbent humour.

Cornwall and Yorkshire share common ground: a belief that devolution and self-sufficiency from such natural riches would suit each county. “From that moment I started to think about the Yorkshire we had known. It felt like a severing of roots, and leaving again made me reconsider,” Rick writes. “Basically, I wanted to know if we had made a mistake by chucking Dad off the Cornish coast.”

Explaining the choice of a Yorkshire greeting with a nod to past and present for the title, he says: “It just seemed a natural title to me. Evocative of Yorkshire. If you live there, you have every right to gripe, but when you move from Yorkshire, your pride grows in exile; like the further away you are, your affection for the Knaresborough Bed Race grows in direct proportion to the likelihood of you never having to attend it.

“One of the key goals of the book is getting away from the stereotypes. Some of it is because of Yorkshire’s size; some of it is down to the stereotype Yorkshire personality. In that chapter, I mention the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, but the best ones are by Harry Enfield and Hale & Pace.”

Stephen Millership’s cover illustration for Rick Broadbent’s Now Then: A Biography Of Yorkshire

That “’ear all, see all, say nowt”, stiff-necked stereotyping means Yorkshire has a defined image like no other county. Hence the tea towels, the Ey Ups, the Nora Battys.

“But when people talk of Yorkshire as ‘God’s Own Country’, they’re not talking about inner-city Sheffield, but the dales and moors and All Creatures Great And Small,” says Rick. “It’s a badge of honour, a badge of pride.”

Stephen Millership’s cover illustration depicts York Minster on fire (“I asked for the fire to be on there,” says Rick); a band stand, but with Jarvis Cocker, arms aloft, rather than a brass band; Kes’s kestrel, but no ferrets; colliery and cricket; White Rose flag and dry stone wall; farmer and sheepdog; viaduct  and verdant pastures. “The ferret is mentioned but only to show how people reduce this huge county to two or three tropes,” says Rick.

Battles of distant days, Towton and Marston Moor, feature as does the battle of Orgreave in the Miners’ Strike.  “I wanted to look at Yorkshire’s industrial heritage: when [Margaret] Thatcher was doing that to the mining communities, wrecking them with no after-plan. Or talking about the Grimethorpe Brass Band story, the Brassed Off story, but also the steel industry and shipbuilding,” says Rick.

“Looking at common themes, one of them is of Yorkshire being abandoned, now with HS2, and that feeds into the desire for devolution. Going back to being victimised in the Harrowing of the North [in William the Conqueror’s reign); the purging of the dales under Elizabeth I.

“These things come down to being abandoned and neglected, and I wanted to reflect that, rather than have some ee-bah-gum fun with the book. Johnny Giles said ‘being Leeds United [the “Dirty Leeds of Don Revie’s 1960s-’70s], we just had to defend ourselves’, and it’s the same with Yorkshire.”

Relegation-bound Leeds United were “a constant drain” on lifelong fan Broadbent’s enthusiasm throughout his writing project and feature as they “disappoint their fans week after week” in “the most controversial poem ever written”, Tony Harrison’s V, a Leeds work full of verses and versus and verbal V signs that strikes a chord with Broadbent’s own sentiments.

“I was a kid when it came out and I remember we giggled at the swear words at school. All those complaints came in when it was on TV. But reading it again, it’s all so relevant, with all that class division.”

You can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha’ can’t tell him much, as the saying goes, but Now Then will tell Yorkshiremen and outsiders alike plenty, from stories of industrial neglect and forgotten tragedies to the Bronte Sisters and Marks & Spencer, a lost albatross to a stuffed crocodile.

“I’m fascinated by that phrase, ‘it’s where you’re from and where you’re at’.  For me it means taking your roots with you, though others say it’s where your mind’s at. But I read it differently: you can take Yorkshire with you wherever you are. Doing this book, as the outsider from inside, that feeling is stronger than ever.”

Now Then:  A Biography Of York, by Rick Broadbent, published in hardback by Allen & Unwin/Atlantic Books on October 5.

York Literature Festival presents Rick Broadbent in conversation on Now Then: A Biography Of Yorkshire, St Peter’s School, Clifton, York, tomorrow, 7pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rick’s Meet The Author tour of Yorkshire also takes in Festival of Words, South Cave Library, near Hull, Saturday, 1.30pm, sold out, with Yorkshire Tea and Cake. St Michael’s Church, Malton, Saturday, 7.30pm, presented by Kemps Books; box office, kempsgeneralstoreco.uk/pages/events.

Ilkley Literature Festival, Ilkley Grammar School, Hall B, Sunday, 3.45pm; ilkleyliteraturefestival-tickets.ticketsolve.com. In Conversation at La Biblioteka, Eyre Lane, Sheffield, Tuesday, 6.30pm; labiblioteka.co.

Farsley Literature Festival, Truman Books, Town Street, Farsley, near Leeds, Wednesday, 6.30pm; trumanbooks.co.uk. An Evening with Rick Broadbent, Ripon Arts Hub, Allhallowgate, Ripon, presented by The Little Ripon Bookshop, Thursday, 7pm; littleriponbookshop.co.uk/events.

Each event will be a talk, followed by a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

Ian Donaghy launches Never Stop Drawing book for ‘just different’ children of all ages

Drawing a crowd: Author Ian Donaghy, centre, and illustrator Alfie Joey with All Saints RC School Year Seven students Molly, left, Sophia, Gabriel, Ava and Florence at Tuesday’s York launch of Never Stop Drawing at the Explore York Hungate Reading Cafe. Already Ian has led the children in a session on the book at All Saints. Picture: David Harrison

YORK author Ian Donaghy will launch his latest book, Never Stop Drawing, in his native North East this evening (27/9/2023) at Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at 6pm.

Illustrated by Alfie Joey, the book champions never letting the flame of creativity die in a story full of colour, hope and inspiration for children aged eight to 108.

Drawn in: A young reader enjoying Never Stop Drawing

Billed as “the children’s book every grown-up needs to read before it’s too late”, Never Stop Drawing encourages readers to “find what you love and never stop”.

Former Maths teacher turned conference speaker, author, dementia charity champion and long-standing frontman of York party band Huge to boot, Ian says: “The world needs to stop asking how clever you are and instead ask how are you clever?”

This sporting life… but Albie, left, is more interested in pens than penalties in this Alfie Joey illustration from Never Stop Drawing

Yesterday evening, over tea and cakes baked by Sue Stewart, he launched two editions of the book – one with Joey’s illustrations, the other with spaces left blank for readers to draw their own pictures – at Explore York’s Hungate Reading Café, where he had spent many an hour crafting the text.

In the tradition of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, he held up placards, one saying: Different NOT Worse. Different NOT Less. Just Different. #NeverStopDrawing.

Colourful character meets colourful character: Author Ian Donaghy presents a copy of Never Stop Drawing to Eurovision pop star Sam Ryder at August’s Yorkshire Balloon Fiesta at Castle Howard

From the Tow Law-born author of wellbeing books Dear Dementia, The Missing Peace and A Pocketful Of Kindness, Never Stop Drawing is dedicated to Ian’s daughter, the singer and musical theatre student Annie Donaghy, “who views the world in a beautiful, different way, often seeing things that many of us miss”.

Ian hopes the book will make its way into schools and children’s wards in hospitals and already that is happening. Tomorrow, he will give a talk to the British Library at Malmaison, Rougier Street, York.

Muddled thinking: Why give dyslexia such a difficult label to spell, ponder author Ian Donaghy and lead character Albie in Never Stop Drawing. Illustration: Alfie Joey

“It’s a book about a little lad called Albie, who’s different. Different, not worse. Different, not less. He’s just different – and that’s fine. Socks don’t know they’re odd,” says Ian. “Let’s embrace the differences and make the world fit around people instead of us hammering the same round pegs into the same square holes.

“We’re all different and that’s a good thing, Imagine how dull the world would be if we were all the same.”

Booking up their ideas: Author Ian Donaghy and illustrator Alfie Joey at the York launch of Never Stop Drawing at the Explore York Hungate Reading Cafe. Picture: David Harrison

Published by ID Publications and printed by YPS Printing Services in Elvington, both versions of Never Stop Drawing are available from neverstopdrawing.co.uk and bigian.co.uk.

Did you know?

NEVER Stop Drawing illustrator Alfie Joey is a writer, comic, actor, impressionist, singer, presenter and artist/cartoonist. He hosted the flagship breakfast show on BBC Radio Newcastle from 2009 until his last broadcast on October 28 2022.

The last word: Albie “went to sleep after a life of reams and dreams” in Never Stop Drawing’s closing chapter. Illustration: Alfie Joey

More Things To Do in York and beyond, from a remote island murder trail to science lessons. Hutch’s List No. 39, from The Press

Mark Simmonds, left, Martyn Hunter and Ian Giles rehearsing Pick Me Up Theatre’s And Then There Were None at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

AND then there were ten as Charles Hutchinson picks his cultural highlights, from Christie mystery to prints aplenty,  Wax words to science explosions, extinction fears to singers’ farewells.  

Thriller of the week: Pick Me Up Theatre in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, running until September 30, 7.30pm (except tomorrow and Monday); 2.30pm, today, tomorrow and next Saturday

TEN strangers are summoned to a remote island. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they are unwilling to reveal and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder.

As the weather turns and the group is cut off from the mainland, the bloodbath begins and one by one they are brutally murdered in accordance with the lines of a sinister nursery rhyme in Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, directed for York company Pick Me Up Theatre by Andrew Isherwood, who will play retired Inspector William Blore too. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Michelle Hughes’s Kilburn White Horse, on show at York Printmakers Autumn Fair

Print deadline: York Printmakers Autumn Fair, York Cemetery Chapel and Harriet Room, today and tomorrow, 10am to 5pm

IN its sixth year, the York Printmakers Autumn Fair features work by 26 members exhibiting and selling hand-printed original prints, including Russell Hughes, Rachel Holborow, Michelle Hughes, Harriette Rymer and Jo Rodwell.

On display will be a variety of printmaking techniques, such as linocut, collagraphs, woodcut, screen printing, stencilling and etching. Artists will be on hand to discuss their working methods and to show the blocks, plates and tools they use.

Pulling a face: Comedian Phil Wang returns to York on his Wang In There, Baby! tour

Seriously silly: Phil Wang, Wang In There, Baby!, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

AFTER his Netflix special, David Letterman appearance, role in Life & Beth with Amy Schumer and debut book Sidesplitter, Phil Wang discusses race, family, nipples and everything else going on in his Philly little life in his latest stand-up show, Wang In There, Baby! Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Cinder Well: Songs of mystery at The Band Room, Low Mill. Picture: Georgia Zeavin

Gig of the week outside York: Cinder Well, The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale, North York Moors, tonight, 7.30pm

CINDER Well, multi-instrumentalist Amelia Baker’s experimental American roots project, showcases her mysterious April 2023 album, Cadence.

The title refers to the cycles of our turbulent lives, to the uncertain tides that push us forward and back, as Cadence drifts between two far-flung seas: the hazy California coast where Baker grew up and the wind-torn swells of County Clare, western Ireland, that she has come to love. Box office: thebandroom.co.uk.

Ministry of Science Live: Lighting the flame for experiments in Science Saved The World at Grand Opera House, York

Explosive children’s show of the week: Ministry of Science Live in Science Saved The World, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 12.30pm and 4pm

MINISTRY of Science take an anarchic approach to science communication, looking at the scientists, engineers and inventors who have shaped the modern world, while proving that each and every one of us has the ability to change our world for the better.

Expect 20ft liquid nitrogen clouds, exploding oxygen and hydrogen balloons, fire tornados, hydrogen bottle rockets, ignited methane and even a self-built Hovercraft. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Confronting ecological disaster: Stephanie Hutchinson in A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction at York Theatre Royal. Picture: James Drury

Play of the week: A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

DIRECTED for York Theatre Royal by Mingyu Lin, Miranda Rose Hall’s play heads out on a life-changing journey to confront the urgent ecological disaster unfolding around us. Part ritual, part battle cry, this “fiercely feminist off-grid” one-woman show offers a moving evaluation of what it means to be human in an era of man-made extinction.

Leeds actress Stephanie Hutchinson will be joined at each performance by eight cyclists, who will ride specially adapted bicycles to power the electricity required for lighting and sound. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Ruby Wax: A search to find meaning on a series of life-changing journeys

Waxing lyrical: Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought, York Alive festival, Grand Opera House, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

IN 2022, American-British actress, comedian, writer, television personality and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax, 70, began a search to find meaning, booking a series of potentially life-changing journeys. Even greater change marked her inner journey, as charted in her book I’m Not As Well As I Thought and now in her “rawest, darkest, funniest show yet”. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

The Manfreds: Last tour together for singers Paul Jones and Mike D’Abo on 60th anniversary itinerary

Nostalgia of the week…for the last time: Maximum Rhythm’n’Blues with The Manfreds, Grand Opera House, York, Friday

JOIN legendary pioneers of Sixties’ British rhythm & blues The Manfreds as they celebrate 60 years in the business. Vocalists Paul Jones, 81, and Mike D’Abo, 79, are touring together for the final time, alongside long-standing members Tom McGuinness, Rob Townsend, Marcus Cliffe and Simon Currie, to rejoice in Do Wah Diddy Diddy, If You Gotta Go, Go Now, Pretty Flamingo, My Name Is Jack and Mighty Quinn. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company: Three performances in one day at the NCEM

Dance at the treble: Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company, Art Of Believing Special Edition, National Centre for Early Music, York, October 1, 3.30pm, 6pm and 8.30pm

LAST at the NCEM in November 2022, the Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company returns to York for three performances in one day of Art Of Believing, a 90-minute show suffused with emotion, passion and grit.

Works from Martinez’s Herald Angel Award-winning production Art Of Believing will be complemented by previously unseen pieces performed by musicians, singers and dancer Gabriela Pouso. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Kenny Thomas: Rediscovered songs and big hits on the Him Tour 2024 at Grand Opera House, York

Looking ahead: Kenny Thomas, Him 2024 Tour, Grand Opera House, York, May 19 2024

ISLINGTON soul singer-songwriter Kenny Thomas will front his all-star band in York on his nine-leg British tour next spring, showcasing songs from his “lost” third album, the never-commercially-released Him, alongside his greatest hits.

“Over three decades on from when I first started out, this tour demonstrates that soul music is here to stay,” says Thomas, 55, whose Best Of compilation will be out on November 3. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

In Focus: Stephanie Hutchinson on starring in a one-woman show for the first time in A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction

Stephanie Hutchinson: Starring in one-woman, whole-world drama A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction at York Theatre Royal

STEPHANIE Hutchinson had never imagined she would do a one-woman show.

Come Wednesday, however, the Leeds actress will be giving her solo turn for five performances in “a bold experiment in eco theatre-making” and a “fiercely feminist off-grid production” at York Theatre Royal.

The title, A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction, is an indication that this Headlong, London Barbican and York Theatre Royal co-production will be unlike anything you have seen before.

Hands up anyone who has witnessed a stage production powered by bicycles. Only The HandleBards on their open-air Shakespeare travels come to mind.

Strictly speaking, Stephanie will not be on her own. Eight cyclists per performance will be pedalling away to power lights and microphones, while the York Theatre Royal Choir will be participating too.

After a Barbican run, Miranda Rose Hall’s play is on a zero-travel tour using an eco-friendly blueprint. The rest of the production, from local actor to cyclists, is provided by the theatre hosting the show, culminating in York next week.

“I don’t want the audience to feel they’re just being talked at,” says Stephanie. Picture: James Drury

Stephanie sees it as a co-operative production, not only a one-woman show. “I’ve not seen A Play For The Living but heard a lot about it,” she says.

Her character, a dramaturg called Naomi, pressed into impromptu service as an actress, is fearful of death but is determined to confront fears about an impending ecological disaster.

“What caught my eye was just how sustainable the production is,” she says. “Naomi is described as a woman in her 20s who is scared of dying. She’s already had to go on stage and act in front of people. She’s confronted that fear. Now she’s facing her fear of dying and wants to have a conversation about it.

“I like how interactive it is. It’s not just me, not just a verbal splurge. She wants to know what others are thinking. I don’t want the audience to feel they’re just being talked at.”

Despite the subject, A Play For The Living is not all gloom and doom, emphasies Stephanie. There are funny moments. Gloomy and funny is her hope for the experience.

Stephanie Hutchinson in Badapple Theatre’s production of Elephant Rock, part of the TakeOver festival at York Theatre Royal in May last year

“I don’t think it’s just a message play,” she says. “Naomi’s having a conversation, making the audience aware of what she’s found during her research. It’s also like an ode to the Earth as well because the Earth has given us so much but in return we’re not treating it back very well. It’s almost like she’s blessing the Earth and thanking it. But we do need to be careful – if we keep going the way we’re going, future generations might not have it.”

Stephanie was last seen on York Theatre Royal’s main stage in Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre’s Elephant Rock during the TakeOver season in May 2022. Her other credits include Shake The City, based around the clothworkers’ strike in Leeds in 1970, staged at both Leeds Playhouse and Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

All this is something of a surprise for Stephanie who did not nurse acting ambitions from a young age. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a teenager. Then when I was 15, 16, I was going to theatre classes where you’d do singing, dancing, acting and I was like, ‘I quite actually like this – can I do it at uni or go to a drama school?’.

“So, at 18, I went to Salford University and graduated with a BA (Hons) Performing Arts. I’ve managed to carry it on, although I’m not quite sure how I’ve done that. My ambition is just to keep on going because I can’t really see myself doing anything else. Even in my day job, I do role play and that’s acting on the side. Acting is getting paid for doing what I love.

“I thought I would never do a one-person show. I am feeling very happy where I am at the moment. Very happy.”

More Things To Do in York and beyond when truth will out for tips for trips on days ahead. Hutch’s List No. 38, from The Press

Dawn French: Frank confessions of a comedian at York Barbican

FRENCH comedy, a very English murder thriller, state-of-the-nation politics and police procedures stir Charles Hutchinson into action for the week ahead.

Comedy gigs of the week: Dawn French Is A Huge Twat, York Barbican, tonight and tomorrow, 7.30pm

HER show is so named because, unfortunately, it is horribly accurate, says self-mocking comedian and actress Dawn French. “There have been far too many times I have made stupid mistakes or misunderstood something vital or jumped the gun in a spectacular display of twattery,” she explains. 

“I thought I might tell some of these buttock-clenching embarrassing stories to give the audience a peek behind the scenes of my work life.” Tickets update: Limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Tonight, meanwhile, Sarah Millican plays a Work In Progress gig at Pocklington Arts Centre at 8pm. Sold out already alas.

A scene from Original Theatre Company’s touring production of Torben Betts’s new play, Murder In The Dark, starring Tom Chambers and Susie Blake. Picture: Pamela Raith

Thriller of the week: Original Theatre Company in Murder In The Dark, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

TOM Chambers and Susie Blake star in Torben Betts’s new ghost story chiller cum psychological thriller, set on New Year’s Eve, when a crash on a deserted road brings washed-up singer Danny Sierra and his dysfunctional family to an isolated holiday cottage in rural England.

From the moment they arrive, inexplicable events begin to occur…and then the lights go out, whereupon deeply buried secrets come to light. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Robin Simpson: Pantomime dame and storyteller, bringing Magic, Monsters and Mayhem to York tomorrow afternoon. Picture: Joel Rowbottom

Children’s show of the week: Magic, Monsters and Mayhem with Robin Simpson, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb Road, Acomb, tomorrow, 4.30pm

YORK Theatre Royal pantomime dame Robin Simpson – he will be playing Dame Trott in Jack And The Beanstalk this winter – switches to storyteller mode to journey back to magic school on Sunday afternoon.

He will be telling stories of wonderful creatures, exciting adventures and “more magic than you can wave a wand” as he places the audience in charge of an interactive show ideal for Harry Potter fans.  Suitable for Key Stage 2, but smaller siblings are welcome too, along with Potter-potty grown-ups. Box office: bluebirdbakery.co.uk.

Hannah Baker, left, Harvey Badger, Eddie Ahrens and Rachel Hammond in Mikron Theatre’s A Force To Be Reckoned With. Picture: Anthony Robling

Police spotted operating in the vicinity: Mikron Theatre in A Force To Be Reckoned With, Clements Hall, Nunthorpe Road, York, tomorrow, 4pm

IN Amanda Whittington’s new play for Marsden travelling players Mikron Theatre, fresh from police training school, WPC Iris Armstrong is ready for whatever the mean streets of a 1950s’ northern market town can throw at her.

Joining forces with fellow WPC Ruby Weston, they make an unlikely partnership, a two-woman department, called to any case involving women and children, from troublesome teens to fraudulent fortune tellers. Box office: 07974 867301 or 01904 466086, or in person from Pextons, Bishopthorpe Road, York.

Kathryn Williams and Polly Paulusma: Songwriters at the double at Pocklington Arts Centre

Songwriting bond of the week: Kathryn Williams & Polly Paulusma: The Big Sky Tour, Pocklington Arts Centre, Tuesday, 8pm

AS label buddies on One Little Independent Records, Kathryn Williams and Polly Paulusma met on a song-writing retreat. They wrote songs together and tutored courses at Arvon Foundation and as their friendship developed and strengthened, they supported each other over lockdown.

It seemed a foregone conclusion that they would tour together at some point. Finally, those Thelma and Louise dreams – hopefully without the killing or the cliff finale – come true on a month-long itinerary, playing solo sets and uniting for a few songs. Box office: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Mike Skinner: The Streets’ composer-turned-filmmaker discusses his debut film in Q&A appearances at Everyman Leeds and Everyman York

Streets ahead: Mike Skinner’s film The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light and Q&A, Everyman Leeds, September 21, 8pm; Everyman York, September 25, 7pm

THE Streets’ Mike Skinner presents his debut feature film, the “neo-noir” clubland thriller The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light, in an exclusive Q&A tour to Everyman cinemas.

Birmingham multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Skinner funded, wrote, directed, filmed, edited and scored his cinematic account of the seemingly mundane life of a DJ whose journey through London’s nightclubs turns into a tripped-out modern-day murder mystery. Each screening will be followed by a live question-and-answer session with Skinner, giving an insight into the music and story behind the film. Box office: thestreets.co.uk.

Mark Thomas: Comedian stars in Ed Edwards’s one-man play England And Son at York Theatre Royal Studio

Political drama of the week: Mark Thomas in England And Son, York Theatre Royal Studio, September 22, 7.45pm; September 23, 2pm and 7.45pm

POLITICAL comedian Mark Thomas stars in this one-man play, set when The Great Devouring comes home: the first he has performed not written by the polemicist himself but by playwright Ed Edwards.

Edinburgh Fringe award winner England And Son has emerged from characters Thomas knew in his childhood and from Edwards’s lived experience in jail. Promising deep, dark laughs and deep, dark love, Thomas undertakes a kaleidoscopic odyssey where disaster capitalism, Thatcherite politics and stolen wealth merge into the simple tale of a working-class boy who just wants his dad to smile at him. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rowntree Park, by Jo Rodwell, one of 26 printmakers taking part in the York Printmakers Autumn Fair

Print deadline: York Printmakers Autumn Fair, York Cemetery Chapel and Harriet Room, September 23 and 24, 10am to 5pm

IN its sixth year, the York Printmakers Autumn Fair features work by 26 members, exhibiting and selling hand-printed original prints, including Russell Hughes, Rachel Holborow, Michelle Hughes, Harriette Rymer and Jo Rodwell.

On display will be a variety of printmaking techniques, such as linocut, collagraphs, woodcut, screen printing, stencilling and etching. Artists will be on hand to discuss their working methods and to show the blocks, plates and tools they use.

Sir Alan Ayckbourn: The truth will out when he takes to the SJT stage tomorrow afternoon. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

In Focus: Theatre event of the week: Alan Ayckbourn’s Truth Will Out, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tomorrow, 2.30pm

IN a rare stage appearance, Sir Alan Ayckbourn plays Jim in a rehearsed reading of his Covic-crocked 2020 SJT premiere Truth Will Out, joined by John Branwell, Frances Marshall and the cast of his 89th play, Constant Companions.

Truth Will Out is an up-to-the-minute satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation, wherein everyone has secrets. Certainly former shop steward George, his right-wing MP daughter Janet, investigative journalist Peggy and senior civil servant Sefton do.

Enter a tech-savvy, chippy teenager with a mind of his own and time on his hands to bring their worlds tumbling down, and maybe everyone else’s along with them, in Ayckbourn’s own “virus” storyline, written before Coronavirus stopped play.

“It’s ‘the one that got away’, with most of the cast in place, and we even did a season launch,” says Sir Alan. “The play was one of my ‘What ifs’: what if a teenager invented a virus that brought the whole thing down. A ‘virus’ play, like Covid, with the virus escaping and the play ending in the dark, waiting till dawn.”

Racism, trade unionism and infidelity all play their part in Truth Will Out too. “It’s a melting pot of wrongdoings,” says Sir Alan. Tickets update: limited availability on 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Selby Town Hall’s autumn season combines new acts and returning favourites with illustrious award winners. Who’s playing?

Daniel Rodriguez: Former Elephant Revival frontman leads his folk quartet at Selby Town Hall on November 9

SELBY Town Hall’s autumn and winter season opens on September 16 with an already sold-out Work In Progress performance by Hull comedian Lucy Beaumont, star of Meet The Richardsons, The Great Celebrity Bake Off and Taskmaster.

The newly launched programme features multiple Grammy winners, Edinburgh Comedy Award nominees, Juno winners, BBC Folk Award recipients and multi-million selling chart toppers, with performers from the worlds of music, stand-up, theatre, poetry and broadcasting.

Picking out highlights, Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones says: “One of the most critically acclaimed comedians of the past decade, Kieran Hodgson, will be performing Big In Scotland here on October 6.

Kieran Hodgson: Big In Scotland, hopefully big in Selby too on October 6

“It was the talk of this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe, where Two Doors Down star Kieran received a fourth nomination for comedy’s most prestigious prize, the Edinburgh Comedy Award. Only James Acaster has gained more nominations in the 42-year history of the award.”

Author and comedian Sam Avery will return to Selby on November 18 with his show for mums and dads, How Not To Be A Terrible Parent, while the monthly £10 comedy club will be back for a second year, with English Comedian Of The Year Josh Pugh, Seeta Wrightson and Will Duggan playing the first Comedy Network gig on September 24.

Next come Tony Law, Molly McGuinness and Jack Gleadow on October 29;  Nathan Caton, Tom Lawrinson and Jessie Nixon on November 26 and Brennan Reece, Harriet Dyer and Justin Panks on December 17.

Sam Avery: Offering tips on How Not To Be A Terrible Parent on November 18

Lucy Beaumont leads off a host of sold-out comedy nights by poet-comedian Brian Bilston on September 21, Stephen K Amos: Oxymoron, October 14, Chris McCausland: Work In Progress, November 22, and, heading into 2024, Omid Djalili: Work In Progress, February 1.

A similar picture can be painted for music gigs: Shawn Colvin, on September 23, Hue & Cry, September 30, Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri, October 27, and China Crisis, November 17, are all fully booked.

“We’re delighted to be hosting Illinois singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin for the smallest date by far on a rare tour of the UK – her first in ages – for the much-lauded Song of the Year Grammy winner,” says Chris.

Shawn Colvin: Selby Town Hall will be “the smallest date by far” on her rare British tour

Tickets are still available, however, for “five stellar acts from North America with an astonishing 19 Grammy Awards between them”, points out Chris. “Fourteen of those belong to globally renowned banjo player Ron Block, best known for his work with bluegrass behemoths Alison Krauss & Union Station. Ron will be playing a full band show alongside Ireland’s BBC Folk Award nominee Damien O’Kane to create what the pair describe as ‘a banjo party’ on October 5,” he says.

“Daniel Rodriguez, former frontman of wildly popular Colorado folk band Elephant Revival, visits the UK for the first time this autumn with his top quartet, playing Selby on November 9, fresh from a United States stadium tour supporting The Lumineers.

“On January 18 there’s a return for Juno-winning Canadian close harmony trio Good Lovelies, followed by a January 26 debut for two-time Grammy-winning bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien, performing alongside his wife, Jan Fabricius.”

Sharon Shannon: Selby date on February 3 2024

Two Irish folk luminaries will be making returns to Selby: Dublin’s two-time BBC Folk Award-winning singer and bouzouki player Daoirí Farrell on October 21 and County Clare’s multi-million selling accordion and fiddle player Sharon Shannon, leading her trio on February 3. Next year too, Scottish traditional duo Ally Bain & Phil Cunningham will head to North Yorkshire on March 28.

On December 15, in his new show, BBC broadcasting heavyweight ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris and Beatles expert Colin Hall will discuss The Songs The Beatles Gave Away to other artists, before Selby Town Hall spreads its festive wings on December 20 to stage Brass At Christmas in Selby Abbey, featuring Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band.

On the theatre front, Enid Blyton: Noddy, Big Ears & Lashings Of Controversy finds Liz Grand playing the “remarkable and controversial woman loved by children but vilified by the BBC, teachers, critics and librarians” on November 2.

Liz Grand: Performing new play about “the turbulent life of Britain’s most successful children’s author, Enid Blyton” on November 2

” I’m really pleased with the quality and range of shows we’ve got coming up,” says Chris. “We’ve got a great mix of new acts and returning favourites, with some pretty illustrious award winners among the artists lining up this autumn and winter.

“I’m particularly excited to be welcoming one of the country’s smartest and most inventive comedians, Kieran Hodgson, with one of the biggest buzz shows from last month’s Edinburgh Fringe, as well as a brand-new play from acclaimed actor Liz Grand about the turbulent life of Britain’s most successful children’s author, Enid Blyton. From banjos to The Beatles and poetry to pop, there’s a fantastic range of shows taking place.”

Tickets can be booked on 01757 708449 or at selbytownhall.co.uk.

Lucy Beaumont: Sold-out Work In Progress gig opens Selby Town Hall’s new season on September 16

More Things To Do in York and beyond when steam rises and a robot falls in love. Hutch’s List No. 36, from The Press, York

Playwright and director Alan Ayckbourn and actress Naomi Petersen in the rehearsal room for the Stephen Joseph Theatre premiere of Constant Companions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

AYCKBOURN and android love, traction engines and farming photography, comic fantasy and anecdotal Love stories keep Charles Hutchinson busy as summer exits stage left.

Premiere of the week: Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Thursday to October 7

IN Alan Ayckbourn’s 89th play, Lorraine is a fabulously successful lawyer of a certain age. Jan Sixty is the janitor of her building, an android of indeterminate age. In a not-too-distant future, where humans have turned to artificial friends for companionship without compromise, can Lorraine and Jan find true love?

“Reading so much about the inevitable arrival of AI into our society – some would say it’s already here! – I felt a cautious look forward might be in order,” says Alan. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

The skill of tractor pulling at the Yorkshire Traction Engine Rally at Scampston Hall. Picture: Outdoor Shows

Full steam ahead: Yorkshire Traction Engine Rally, Scampston Hall, Scampston, near Malton, today and tomorrow, 9am to 5pm

THE Yorkshire Traction Engine Rally, organised by Outdoor Shows, takes over Scampston Hall’s parkland this weekend. Among the steam fair attractions will be tractor pulling, steam engines, classic cars, vintage tractors, classic motorcycles, fairground organs, miniature steam engines, stationary engines and vintage commercials.

In the main arena, Flyin Ryan and his motorcycle stunt team deliver daredevil antics, comedy routines, fire stunts and arena entertainment, while the Scarborough Fair Collection stages two days of music and magic extravaganzas. Box office: scampston.co.uk or outdoorshows.co.uk.

The George Harrison Project: Here come the songs at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre tonight

Recalling the “quiet Beatle”: The George Harrison Project, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight, 7.30pm

MARKING the Beatles legend’s 80th anniversary, this tribute show to George Harrison embraces his Fab Four, solo and Traveling Wilburys supergroup years.

Here come Here Comes The Sun, Something, Taxman, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass, Got My Mind Set On You, Handle With Care, Give Me Love, What Is Life, If I Needed Someone, Cheer Down and many more. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

The 2023 poster for York Unleashed Comic-Con

Geek of the week: York Unleashed Comic-Con, York Racecourse, Knavesmire, York, tomorrow, 11am to 5pm

YORK actor David Bradley, from the Harry Potter films, Game Of Thrones and Doctor Who, leads the guest appearances at this weekend’s “geekiest, nerdiest” gathering. Lee Boardman, Clive Russell, Richard Gibson and Kit Hardman will be there too, along with comic creators and authors Sasha Ray Art, Carolyn Craggs, Lindsey Greyling, KS Marsden, Kelvin VA Allison Paolo Debernardi, Victoria Bates and Ben Sawyer.

Look out too for Geeky Attractions on three sites, including a Back To The Future time machine, a retro gaming area, Star Wars display, children’s activities, art area, stage talks, cosplay masquerade and geeky market selling merchandise and collectables. Tickets update: available on the door from 11am.

The artwork for Don Pears and Singphonia’s concert The Great American Songbook – From A To Z

Fundraiser of the week: Don Pears and Singphonia presents The Great American Songbook – From A To Z Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow, 4pm

DON Pears and Singphonia explore the vast scope of the Great American Songbook from the 1900s to the present, from Al Jolson to Beyoncé, covering spirituals and jazz through rock’n’roll and Rat Pack standards to modern hits, not forgetting musical theatre too.

Musical director Pears and his group of York singers perform solos, duets, and group numbers, taking in Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John Denver and The Carpenters in a fundraiser for the JoRo. Box office: 01904 501395 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Don’t Stop Believin’ in Eighties’ hits galore at the Grand Opera House, York

Tribute show of the show: Don’t Stop Believin’, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

JUMP aboard the midnight train, heaven is a place on Earth called York, for this end-of-the-night anthems spectacular, a new feelgood tribute show that promises a crazy, crazy night of non-stop, singalong favourites.

Hits by Blondie, Bryan Adams, Cher, Rainbow, Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, Starship, Europe and Belinda Carlisle feature among the 30 songs in this high-energy theatre production with “a sizzling cast, fantastic costumes and amazing light show”. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

In the name of Love: Comedian and TV panellist Judi has plenty to say at York Theatre Royal

Anecdotes of the week: The One Like Judi Love, York Theatre Royal,  Thursday, 8pm

EXPECT unrelenting, humorous anecdotes from “the one like Judi Love” on her first official talk tour, full of stories from the Hackney stand-up comedian and presenter’s life.

Regular Loose Women panellist Love, 43, has appeared on Taskmaster, The Jonathan Ross Show, The Graham Norton Show, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and the Royal Variety Performance too. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Alligator Gumbo: foot-stomping rhythms, tap-away tunes and raucous singalongs at Stillington Mill

Getting the swing of things: Alligator Gumbo, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Friday, 7.30pm

SUMMER At The Mill welcomes Alligator Gumbo for a night of swing/jazz from the New Orleans heyday. In particular, the Leeds seven-piece focuses on the raw music of the roaring 1920s, largely improvised with melodies and solos happening simultaneously.

Performing extensively for more than ten years, Alligator Gumbo have played international jazz festivals and clubs throughout the country with their good-natured mix of foot-stomping rhythms, tap-away tunes and raucous singalongs. Bar At The Mill will be running from 6.30pm, alongside the wood-fired pizzas. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/942447.

Ryan Gosling’s Ken and Margot Robbie’s Barbie in the summer’s biggest hit as Barbie heads outdoors into the Museum Gardens for a Movies In The Moonlight screening

Outdoor cinema: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, Museum Gardens, York, Mamma Mia!, September 8,  7.30pm, and Barbie (12A), September 9, 7.30pm

PICTUREHOUSE Outdoor Cinema returns to the York Museum Gardens for open-air screenings of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2008 Abba hit-laden musical rom-com Mamma Mia! (PG) and this summer’s splash-of-pink box-office smash, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (12A). Free samples of Mochi Balls from ice cream makers Little Moons can be enjoyed on both nights.

Whether on a girls’ night out or a family & friends evening, audience members are encouraged to dress up – and sing along too on the Mamma Mia! Night. Box office: picturehouses.com/outdoor-cinema/venue/york-museum-gardens.

The yearning and the yawning when showing sheep: One of Valerie Mather’s photographs from her Fields, Folds and Farming Life exhibition at Nunnington Hall, opening next Saturday. Picture: Valerie Mather

Exhibition launch of the week: Fields, Folds and Farming Life, Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near York, September 9 to December 17; 10.30am to 5pm, last entry at 4.15pm, with reduced winter hours from November 24

FIELDS, Folds and Farming Life, an exhibition by Yorkshire documentary, travel and portrait photographer Valerie Mather, captures candid moments from a year in the lives of upland farmers in Bransdale, a valley and surrounding moorland in North Yorkshire.

The combination of Mather’s work and specially produced films and artwork reveals the hard work and determination of the farming community in navigating the ever-changing agricultural world to achieve a better farming future for people, the environment and wildlife. No booking is required; exhibition included in admission price at this National Trust property. More details at nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/yorkshire/nunnington-hall.

Dame Joan Collins goes Behind The Shoulder Pads in new book and autumn tour, heading to Grand Opera House, York

“Some stories, though, I have only ever shared with my friends…until now!” says Dame Joan Collins

TO coincide with the release of her memoir Behind The Shoulder Pads, Hollywood legend, author, producer, humanitarian and entrepreneur Dame Joan Collins will embark on a 12-date autumn tour with husband Percy Gibson by her side.

Returning to the Grand Opera House, York, where they presented Unscripted in February 2019, they will field audience questions and tell seldom-told tales and enchanting anecdotes on October 2, accompanied by rare footage from Dame Joan’s seven decades in showbusiness. 

“I’ve had many amazing adventures in my life. Some stories, though, I have only ever shared with my friends…until now!” says Dame Joan, introducing her 19th book, Behind The Shoulder Pads: Tales I Tell My Friends, published in hardback, e-book and audio by Seven Dials/Orion Publishing Co on September 28.

Dame Joan, who turned 90 on May 23, has “always believed one should retain some mystery in life and hide a knowing smile behind one’s shoulder pads”. In the book and on the tour, she will share her most memorable moments in and out of the limelight.

The book charts her journey from her early years as a young star in the golden era of Hollywood to stamping her stilettos in Dynasty; from the glittering heights of Saint Tropez to the busy Oscars season in Los Angeles over the years.

Joan writes movingly of her grief and adventures with her sister, the late author and actress Jackie, delving deeper into the ups and downs of love and relationships and her happiness with husband Percy.

Filled with a cast of household names, such as the late Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Princess of Wales, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine and Warren Beatty, Behind The Shoulder Pads promises to “delight and shock in equal measures”.

When a sore throat put paid to Dame Joan’s interview by voicemail with Charles Hutchinson, she very kindly answered questions by email instead.

When did you first wear shoulder pads, Dame Joan?

When Nolan Miller and I were collaborating in the early days of Dynasty we were looking at the couture shows from Paris because I said to him, ‘Alexis is a sophisticated global society lady, and she would be at the forefront of fashion’.

“In the Fifties we all wore shoulder pads. They made our hips look slimmer; our waists look trimmer; they were more flattering than an Italian waiter.”

When did you last wear shoulder pads?

“I still wear them. The structured look will never go out of fashion.”

Has York ever featured in your career or indeed in your life beyond the stage and screen?

“York is the seat of England, and I am a patriotic Englishwoman!”

What’s right with the British film industry?

“A lot. The talent is world class. You can see it in the number of awards we get every year.”

What’s wrong with the British film industry?

“What is wrong with the movie industry as a whole, whether in Britain or America. There is so much product that a lot of it is self-indulgent.”

The cover for Dame Joan Collins’s new memoir, published on September 28

What was the last film you saw and what was your verdict?

“Plane, starring Gerard Butler. Completely unbelievable and thoroughly enjoyable as a result.”

What did you learn about yourself in writing the memoir Behind The Shoulder Pads?

“Which opinions have changed over time, and which haven’t.”

Is glamour still what it used to be or has this age of social media gossip stripped away the air of mystery that once prevailed?

“I don’t know that glamour and social media gossip are necessarily interlaced. I think glamour still exists and social media doesn’t necessarily affect it, but if you’re talking about copycats on social media, there have always been ‘wannabees’ and pale imitations.”

What advice were you given that has stuck with you for life?

“Do it yourself because you’re the only one who will care about you.”

In turn, what advice would you give to a fledgling talent looking to fly high on stage and screen?

“Don’t bother unless you have the hide of a rhinoceros and willing to take rejection at every turn. And if you make it: live simply and stay humble.”

What would you still like to do that you have not done yet as an actress, author, producer, humanitarian and entrepreneur?

“When you put it that way, I guess not much! I like working, so I’ll continue!”

 Where are you most at home: on stage, in front of a camera or at home?

“I’m always at home in every place because I enjoy what I do.”

Please sum up yourself in six words…

“As I wrote in the prologue of my last book, My Unapologetic Diaries: ‘I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt and a loyal friend.”

What did you not talk about on your last York visit that you particularly want to discuss this time?

“What did you not ask me the last time in York that you particularly wanted to know about?”

Now that question and answer must wait until the next time, Dame Joan.

Dame Joan Collins, Behind The Shoulder Pads, Grand Opera House, York, October 2, 7.30pm, in the only Yorkshire show of the tour. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Why doesn’t York have a good arts festival, asks Miles Salter. Here comes York Alive, full of music, comedy and the spoken word

Miles Salter: Director of the new York Alive festival

THE inaugural York Alive festival of comedy, spoken word and music will be held in late-September and October in the city’s theatres, music venues and pubs.

Director Miles Salter and his team are working with venues throughout York to deliver an “exciting and dynamic” programme of events this autumn.

Ending a seven-year itch, York Alive marks Miles’s return to co-ordinating festivals in York, where he programmed York Literature Festival from 2008 to 2016.

“I learned a huge amount running York Literature Festival: how to put on engaging events, how to make sure people heard about it, and I’m still driven by the same desire, wanting to see York have an exciting, inspiring, great arts festival,” says the York published poet, storyteller, York Calling podcaster, broadcaster and songwriting frontman of Miles And The Chain Gang.

“We have so much to offer. Badging things together helps to raise awareness of the fantastic arts scene in York.”  

Helen Mort: Poet and novelist, performing at York Alive on October 10 at the Victoria Vaults, York

Under the York Alive banner, the festival acts will perform at venues across York, including York Barbican, the Grand Opera House, National Centre for Early Music and Victoria Vaults pub. 

Among the contributing acts will be musicians Howard Jones, Paul Carrack and Gabrielle; comedian, author and presenter Ruby Wax; poet Helen Mort, spoken word performer Luke Wright and Miles himself in myriad guises.

For blues lovers, York band DC Blues, American guitar wizard Toby Walker and fast-emerging Belfast guitarist Dom Martin will be in action at the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, where Miles is the gig programmer. 

“The team behind this new festival live and work in the city,” says Miles. “Friendly and intimate, York is one of the best places to live and work in the UK. Visitors love coming to our historic city, but York is more than Romans and Vikings.

“Today, it’s home to so many talented writers, artists, actors, comedians, filmmakers, musicians and dancers. That’s why we want York Alive to celebrate this talent, as well as our great venues and fantastic city, by showcasing some of the best art and culture that’s happening in York this October.

Paul Winn of York band DC Blues: Booked for York Alive on October 6

“There’ll be a brilliant mixture of music, comedy and spoken word, and we’re delighted to include some events run by other venues and promoters in York.” 

Miles has one regret. “Stopping my involvement in York Literature Festival in 2016 was a mistake really,” he says. “It was a bit like when Berwick Kaler said he was retiring from the Theatre Royal pantomime, but then wanted to go back to playing the dame again.

“I wish I hadn’t made the decision but I was in a bad place at the time, but my ambition was always to broaden it out to include other things: some theatre, comedy and music, some cross-artform combinations, like when we put on folk musician Martin Carthy with crime writer Peter Robinson at the NCEM. Now we can do that with York Alive.”

Miles has not sought any funding. “My passion is just to see a really good arts festival running in York. Why haven’t we got one already?” he says. “I thought what happened when Martin Witts’s Great Yorkshire Fringe came to an end in 2019 was an awful loss to the city.

“I must be crazy to try, but I hope that York Alive can become a regular yearly event.”

Ruby Wax: Opening show under the York Alive banner, presenting I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was at Grand Opera House, York, on September 28

York Alive: Calendar of Events

September 28, 7.30pm, Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was, Grand Opera House. October 2, 7pm, Toby Walker, guitar virtuoso, Victoria Vaults. October 4, 8pm Luke Wright, spoken word, Victoria Vaults. October 6, 7pm DC Blues, Victoria Vaults. October 8, 7.30pm, neo-classical Gifts From Crows Trio, National Centre for Early Music.

October 10, 8pm, Helen Mort and Miles Salter, poetry, Victoria Vaults. October 11, 7pm, Howard Jones: Celebrating 40 Years 1983 – 2023, York Barbican. October 12, 7.30pm, The Waterboys, York Barbican. October 14, 10.30am, Stories with Miles (Salter), children’s show for ages 6 to 10, The White Horse, The Green, Upper Poppleton, York.

October 15, 4pm, Miles And The Chain Gang, Victoria Vaults, free entry. October 19, 6pm to 7:30pm Dylan Thomas: 70 Years On, York Stanza’s Professor John Goodby in conversation with Miles Salter, Marriott Room. October 19, 7.30pm, Paul Carrack, York Barbican.

October 21, 7pm, Gabrielle: 30 Years Of Dreaming Tour, York Barbican. October 21, 7pm, The Very Grimm Brothers (poet Adrian Mealing and guitarist John Denton), plus Miles Salter, Victoria Vaults. October 24, 7pm, Samantha Fish & Jesse Drayton, American blues and rock, York Barbican. October 27, 8pm, Dom Martin, Buried In The Hail Tour, Victoria Vaults.

REVIEW: Lizzi Linklater’s verdict on York author Julie Fearn’s debut novel Northern Pole, launched at Spark: York on June 10

Author Julie Fearn

NORTHERN Pole is a novel with a story behind the story – how the author came to write such an authentic-feeling novel.

But first, Northern Pole tells the story of Roman Kozynski, a Polish refugee arriving in Northern England after the Second World War, determined to build a new life for himself.

In 1940, 14-year-old Roman was ripped away from his family when the Gestapo arrested them in German-occupied Warsaw. Roman escapes, and we meet him in Italy, then in a resettlement camp in Northern England.

There were camps all over England and one outside of York in Sherriff Hutton. Roman meets and falls in love with Bridget, a headstrong Irish woman, and they embark on a passionate relationship. At the same time, Roman continues his search for his missing family. When he reunites with his mother, things do not go as expected, and all hell breaks loose.

The cover artwork for Julie Fearn’s Northern Pole

Northern Pole is beautifully written, its descriptive passages gorgeous, observations of décor, architecture and body language built with unerring precision and often devastating effect. The novel, with its twists and turns, never fails to grip.

The author’s family history influenced Northern Pole. When she inherited a series of documents written in Polish and even Latin – birth and marriage certificates – from her late father’s past and had them translated, a story began to form in her imagination – one that would dip in and out of the ‘truth’ that she says can never be known because the participants are long since gone.

But the novel is a tribute to all those whose lives are torn apart by war, who must leave everything behind, sometimes even their identity. Northern Pole is a timely reminder that little has been learnt from history when refugees still flee from tyranny. Above all, it’s a cracking good read.

Northern Pole is available from Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=northern+pole+by+julie+fearn&crid or from a link on


Review by Lizzi Linklater, York poet and creative writing lecturer

Did you know?

POEMS by Lizzi Linklater are soon to appear in a 2023 anthology edited by Artemesia Arts and published by Mosaique Press. On the competition judging panel for the book were poet Roger McGough and Artemesia Arts co-founder and poet Sheila Scholfield Large.

Julie Fearn: the back story

JULIE is a Bradford-born, York-based independent author.

Northern Pole is her first novel, set in the 1940s and inspired by her family history.

Her father was a Polish refugee who made a new life in Bradford in 1946.  

The book launch

THE launch event will be held at Spark: York, on Saturday, June 10, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

“Drinks and nibbles will be provided and you will be treated to poet Lizzi Linklater inviting me to read a small section from Northern Pole,” says Julie. “And I hope she will read one of her glorious poems to you all.”