Say Owt’s spoken-word squad return from lockdown lull with Bad Betty Press guests and York poets at Fulford Arms tonight

York punk poet Crow Rudd: On the Say Owt bill tonight

SAY Owt, York’s rowdy but loveable spoken-word and poetry gang, are bringing Bad Betty Press up north tonight for a 7.30pm bill of open-mic spots and featured wordsmiths at the Fulford Arms.

“Bad Betty Press are an independent publisher boasting some of the finest poets in the UK, and for this show we have open-mic spaces for poets local to York and surrounding towns and villages or people who have never performed with us before,” says Say Owt artistic director Henry Raby.

Those who filled in the form https://forms.gle/GGdBsB3CTEiS1bw56 were being informed by today if they had been selected at random.

The cover artwork for Crow Rudd’s debut collection

Tonight’s “super selection of super spoken worders” at the first Say Owt live event since December 2020 comprises York punk poet Crow Rudd and Bad Betty Poetry guests Kirsten Luckins and Tanatsei Gambura.

Crow Rudd (they/them) is a disabled nonbinary queer published poet and slam champion whose work focuses on mental health, grief, politics and the power of cuddles. Creator of Sad Poets Doorstep Club, founder of the UK Trans & Nonbinary Poets Network and reigning Stanza Slam champion, their debut collection ‘i am a thing of rough edges’ is out, published by Whisky & Beards.

Kirsten Luckins: Poet, performer and spoken-word theatre-maker

Kirsten Luckins, a poet, performer and spoken word theatre-maker from the north-east coast, puts the emphasis on compassion and playfulness in her multi-artform, collaborative creative practice.

She has toured two award-nominated spoken-word shows and is a director, dramaturg and creative producer. She is artistic director of the Tees Women Poets collective and co-founder of the Celebrating Change digital storytelling project, where she teaches creative memoir writing.

Tanatsei Gambura: Zimbabwean poet, intermedia artist and cultural practitioner

Zimbabwean poet, intermedia artist and cultural practitioner Tanatsei Gambura was the runner-up in the inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize for the manuscript Things I Have Forgotten Before, published this year by Bad Betty Press.

Drawing from personal experience, her work explores the themes of black womanhood in the context of post-colonial immigration, global geopolitics and cultural identity. She is an alumnus of the British Council residency, These Images Are Stories, and her work has been recognised by United Nations Women and the Goethe Institut.

Say Owt’s always high-energy shows are supported by funding from Arts Council England. “Tonight’s event will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this October. Best of all, admission is free,” says Henry, who will co-host the show at the Fulford Arms, Fulford Road, with Stu Freestone.

Say Owt co-hosts Henry Raby, left, and Stu Freestone

Bertt deBaldock launches Covid-era second volume of Good Rabbits Gone tributes in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice

The artist behind the mask: Terry Brett in his nom d’art guise as The Scribbler, memorial tribute cartoonist Bertt deBaldock

YORK cartoonist Bertt deBaldock’s new volume of rabbit valedictories to celebrities and remarkable individuals covers February 2020 to July 2021.

“That happens to be the period of the start and possible end of the pandemic,” says Terry Brett, the Pyramid Gallery owner and artist behind “The Scribbler” Bertt’s memorial works.

“Hence Good Rabbits Gone 2 has a subtitle, The Covid Years, and the book looks like a strange diary of the pandemic,” he reflects ahead of Saturday’s launch.

The 92 pages contain tributes to luminaries such as Terry Jones of Monty Python, rock’n’roll pioneer Little Richard, World Cup winners Nobby Stiles and Diego Maradona, television and radio personality Tim Brooke-Taylor, forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn and Bond Girls Honor Blackman and Dame Diana Rigg, alongside the most venerable Bond, Sir Sean Connery.

“But also there’s a visual list of several pandemic crises such as ‘lockdown’, ‘beer going down the drain’ and the ‘demise of the office’, all portrayed as rabbits,” says Terry.

Bertt deBaldock’s first Good Rabbits Gone tribute: David Bowie with his Aladdin Sane sash

First prompted by the exit stage left of David Bowie on January 10 2016 – the day the music died in a year when it died again and again and again [Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day] – Terry set about drawing cartoons “in a rush” at the time of the “unique individual’s” passing and publishing them on Twitter and Facebook at #GoodRabbitsGone.

He then assembled 64 celebrities, accompanied by his own tributes or memories, in Good Rabbits Gone, Volume One In A Million, published in November 2020 in a Covid Lockdown project where he gave away 200 limited-edition copies and raised £1,700 for St Leonard’s Hospice from donations.

This Saturday, Good Rabbits Gone 2, Volume Two To Infinity will be launched at Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, between 11am and 3pm, when Bertt deBaldock will be on hand to sign copies.

Funded by the gallery, the new book again will be given away, and once more voluntary donations to the charity are invited. “From my experience with the first volume, people enjoy being given the book,” says Terry. “Most of those people have then offered a donation, at the gallery or via justgiving.com/fundraising/Terry-Brett6.”

Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett with his second volume of Good Rabbit Gone valedictories

Here, Terry answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on rabbits, death notices, the balance between imagery and wording, the impact of Covid on Good Rabbits Gone and the choice of charity for donations.

For those new to Good Rabbits, why did you choose rabbits as the motif for your valedictory tributes, Terry?

“When my daughters were ten and seven, they had a pet rabbit, which I looked after. We were making a family wall-hanging using stencils. This rabbit appeared as I was cutting a shape in card using scissors. I’ve now been drawing it on Christmas cards for 26 years.

“When David Bowie died, I felt a great sadness. It just seemed natural to me to draw a rabbit for him. Then, three weeks later Terry Wogan. Gradually I started to add facial features to the drawings. After four years, I had 64 drawings and the pandemic lockdown gave me some time to put them in a book.

“It might seem weird to be creating memorials to people by representing them as a rabbit, but I don’t see the need to question it too much. I find the act of drawing helps relieve the sense of loss and my own anxiety about mortality. The process of reading about the individual’s life and trying to capture a tiny segment of their character in a simple drawing is a little bit cathartic. 

“The rabbit body and ears create a limitation in the final drawing, preventing each portrait from being too complicated or serious. All the individuals become united by the addition of rabbit ears!”

Rock’n’roll over and out: Bertt deBaldock’s farewell to Little Richard

Or, in a nutshell…?

“There’s a long-held belief in the Bertt/Brett household that if you have lived a good life, well, let’s say a mostly good life, i.e. if you have been nice or have achieved something for the benefit of others, then when you die you will become a rabbit.”

How do the newly RIP VIPs quality for a Bertt deBaldock tribute? Has that changed at all for Volume Two?

“Well, most names who hit the headlines qualify on the basis that they have done something amazing in their life. I can’t really tell whether or not they have actually been a good human being, though with many people there’s so much written about them, that there’s no closet in which to hide the skeletons. 

“I was disappointed not to be able include Motown producer Phil Spector, ruled out on the basis that he was found guilty of second-degree murder. There are many others that I could have included, lots of actors and actresses, but I like to find some other attribute in their make-up that goes beyond acting.

Honor Blackman: Wartime despatch rider, judo black belt and Bond Girl

“Honor Blackman, for instance, was a Second World War despatch rider and a judo blackbelt before she became an actress. Reading about iconic individuals fascinates me.”

Do you consider the wording to be as important as the imagery, with much greater scope than on a gravestone?

“I want to make the page entertaining or give the impression that the individual was a person of substance. Some people’s faces, or eccentric dress, say most of what needs to be said, but the addition of a quotation can put across something of great importance to that individual.

“For Albert Roux, I merely added his quote ‘Don’t let love interfere with your appetite’, which says all you need to know about a man who holds food up above all other human needs.

“But I enjoyed adding a bit of humour to that with the dates of his birth and death: Hors D’oeuvres 8 Octobre 1935, Digestif 4 Janvier 2021. As well as being amusing, it tells the reader that he was both a chef and French. 

Bertt deBaldock’s food for thought on Albert Roux OBE

“Sometimes, I like to add an anecdote about myself or my family. Some people have said that these are their favourite pages! For the astronaut Michael Collins, I say only a little about him as Apollo Command Module pilot and the moonwalk by Neil Armstrong, but a lot about me delivering newspapers in the rain, while they were at the crux of their mission. It brings things down to earth a little.”

This set of tributes covers the Covid period: how much does that cast a shadow over the memorials,  even prompting the subtitle and your reflection that it “looks like a strange diary of the pandemic”?

“The whole world was in a state of panicked confusion. Some of these great people died of Covid.  I was really shocked that Tim Brooke-Taylor was an early victim. I felt that if he can’t be saved, then we are all very vulnerable.

“The book would have been incomplete without some acknowledgement of the pandemic, and I wanted to record some poignant moments, such as the Thursday night applause we gave to the NHS and essential workers.

“I drew the hands clapping in rainbow colours, with the hands gradually becoming rabbits. This is a subtle dig at the Government. If they think that saying thank-you to NHS is enough, then they don’t understand what the public is feeling about the years of under-funding the NHS.

“Sometimes, I like to add an anecdote about myself or my family. Some people have said that these are their favourite pages!” says Terry Brett, with reference to his Michael Collins memorial

“If all we can do is applaud the NHS for the sacrifices made, then the NHS itself will become a [Bertt] rabbit. Other European nations were better prepared for the crisis than the UK, more ventilators, more nurses and better provision of PPE. It was right to clap for the NHS but they need more funds and better planning. 

“I didn’t set out to make points about the politics, but it just couldn’t be ignored. There was also a lot of humour put out on social media about Covid. I think it helps us all get through.”

How have you responded to Covid in the broader subject matter for (with reference to ‘Lockdown’, ‘Beer Going Down The Drain’, ‘Freedom – Italy’ and ‘The Demise Of The Office’)?

“The Demise Of The Office was added in right at the end. It was difficult to find a tag that would be amusing. It’s just a boring subject that I needed to find some humour in.

“I was looking for something to say about the Minke whale that died after swimming up the Thames, which was too upsetting to turn into humour. Once I decided to put these two stories together, it became very poignant. The empty streets tempted the Minke Whale to move in! It’s one of my favourite pages.

Freedom – Italy, March 2020, by Bertt deBaldock

“To keep it light-hearted, I also gave an office block some rabbit ears, as if the building itself has died. The page about ‘Beer’ was fun, though the knowledge that 50 million pints went down the drains was a catastrophe that could have been avoided.”

Usually, your tributes raise a nostalgic smile, but do Covid-related tributes have to be more serious?

“There are only four people featured here that I know for sure died from Covid – Dr  Li Wenliang, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Alexander Thynn and Captain Tom Moore – but I suspect that many others have had Covid but it’s just not been mentioned to the press as a cause of death. 

“Four Covid cases out of a total 72 people is probably about a third of the proportion of Covid deaths to non-Covid deaths for the whole population, so we should have expected the number in this book to be about 12. 

“I had considered including the first nurse and the first bus driver etc who died, but I don’t feel it would be appropriate to make entertainment out of such tragedy. Which makes me question why it seems appropriate to pay tribute in a humorous manner to celebrities. I do wonder if it is appropriate and whether or not they would choose to be included or not, but I can only guess at what their response might be.

The fundraising Yorkshireman, Captain Sir Tom Moore, who walked and walked and walked towards his 100th birthday in aid of the NHS

“So, in answer to this question, I think the cause of death makes no difference as to the way I would represent the individual, except perhaps in the case of Dr Li Wenliang, whose demise was especially sad, unjust for political reasons, premature and included here to make a point about the gross ineptitude of the authorities and leaders in China, who could have mitigated the effects of the virus by making different decisions.

“In a broader sense, I hope that most of the individuals here, if they could make a comment, would like what I have done or at least find it mildly amusing, though some of the scribbled portraits might not really do the person justice!

“I would love to know what the Queen would think of my tribute to Prince Philip, but I’m not expecting a knighthood for it. We are very fortunate to live in a culture that allows freedom of expression without fear for our lives!”

Why will donations be going to St Leonard’s Hospice from the charity launch night?

“My father died of prostate cancer at the too early age of 76. Partly because he wasn’t diagnosed. I asked him if was angry about the disease and he told me to go and get a test. I felt sorry for him because he was in denial about his predicament.

Bertt deBaldock’s cartoon drawing to mark the passing of Prince Philip. “I would love to know what the Queen would think of my tribute, but I’m not expecting a knighthood for it,” says Bertt

“He simply carried on life as if there was nothing to concern himself about, but when the time came, he booked himself into a hospice and died the next day. I think the existence of the hospice allowed him to take control and make that decision. You cannot just book yourself into a hospital and who would want to?

“The hospice doctor simply chatted to him and asked him what he wanted, to which he answered, ‘ice cream’. He was dead two hours later. I’m proud of him for that. And I want to tell everyone that dying can be dignified and that the hospice movement do this very well.

“I have supported St Leonard’s Hospice ever since that day. The hospice is largely funded by donations from individuals, as well as government grants. I feel the hospice needs to have independence.”

Bertt deBaldock/Terry Brett launches Good Rabbits Gone 2 at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, on Saturday (16/10/2021) with a book-signing session and charity fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice from 11am to 3pm.

Vaccine Day, by Bertt deBaldock

REVIEW: Yotam Ottolenghi: A Life In Flavour, York Theatre Royal, September 21

Yotam Ottolenghi: Food for thought and thoughts for food at York Theatre Royal

TO complement this season’s York Food and Drink Festival, here was the Food and Think fiesta, more talk than fork.

Jerusalem, Simple and Flavour cookery book writer Yotam Ottolenghi, London restaurateur and delicatessen doyen and Middle Eastern recipe magician for the Guardian, would be in the hot seat rather than serving up hot action on the hob this evening. Unlike the comedy-infused combination of cooking and conversation in The Hairy Bikers’ live shows, for example.

Instead, legs as elongated as his Ottolenghi surname as he took to his chair, Israeli-born chef Yotam settled elegantly into answering a series of home-cooking and London-in-lockdown questions from Observer journalist and Yotam enthusiast Rachel Cooke with charm, warmth and a studious disposition, yet one flavoured with amusement and observant humour.

Hosted by Penguin Books, with signed copies of Ottolenghi Flavour to be collected in the foyer afterwards in a ticket and book deal, the Cooke and the cook show was more than a plug for that “flavour-forward, vegetable-based” book, and thankfully there was no such “flavour-forward” jargon in raconteur Ottolenghi’s responses.

He was quick to dispel the myth he was a vegetarian, or indeed vegan, for all his famed love of preserved lemons, although how he elevates fruit and vegetables is key to his cooking, along with his love of less-appreciated ingredients such as the tang of sumac.

He recalled his Jerusalem upbringing as the son of a chemistry professor and high school principal, enjoying shopping in food markets and tending to his mother’s herb garden, and later his literature studies, before heading to Europe, first Amsterdam and then London, ostensibly to study further, but the call of the kitchen took over.

Inevitably, the discussion turned to the pandemic, when everything stopped for tea and every other meal chez Ottolenghi. The downside of lockdown for Yotam was all the “terrifying” uncertainty brought on by the requirement to shut his restaurants and the decision to do likewise with his delis, but the upside was time spent in the kitchen at home, reaching, like so many, to the back of the store cupboard to feed his young sons, Max and Flynn.

He kept the dishes simple, with his children as his tasting panel. Fellow members of his Ottolenghi Test Kitchen “superteam” did likewise, and the collective results are now in print, published on September 30, as Shelf Love.

He poured out his enthusiasm for hummus as you should have it, as a meal in itself with pitta and chickpeas, rather than that magnolia of supermarket tubs. This is what his audience of pans people came for: the inside knowledge on how to improve and how to improvise dishes, how to make the most of long-neglected polenta and wholegrain rice. From back of the cupboard to back of the net.

Ottolenghi’s 75 minutes of culinary chat concluded with a Q and A, where we discovered his favourite herb and spice – coriander and cumin respectively – and we vowed to take his advice to always add freshly chopped tomatoes to the tinned variety.

Yotam and York had come together for one night, a dinner date of sorts, but you should not expect the flowering of a beautiful relationship. Ever the controlling perfectionist, he likes to be within an hour’s reach of all his restaurants, ruling out expansion beyond London, he said.

You will just have to reach for his books instead on an ever-expanding shelf.

Stacey Dooley investigates young people’s mental health at York Barbican show next February – and you can ask her questions

Stacey Dooley: In Conversation in York, with the chance for the Barbican audience to put questions to the investigative journalist and documentary maker next February

INVESTIGATIVE journalist, television documentary maker, show host, author and 2018 Strictly Come Dancing champ Stacey Dooley will be In Conversation at York Barbican on February 16 2022.

Dooley, 34, will be on tour for 20 dates promoting her new book, Are You Really OK? Understanding Britain’s Mental Health Emergency, wherein she explores the mental health crisis in Britain and its impact on young people in particular, inspired by her two most recent documentaries on the subject.

Dooley will “open up the conversation about mental health in young people, to challenge the stigma and stereotypes around it”.

“Having worked in collaboration with mental health experts and charities, Stacey will responsibly share the stories of young people in the UK directly affected by mental health issues, in order to shine a light on life on the mental health frontline and give a voice to young people throughout the UK who are living with mental health conditions across the spectrum,” her tour publicity states.

In addition, Dooley will touch on related, broader topics that she has tackled in her documentaries – poverty, addiction, identity and the pressures of social media – and look back on the stand-out moments and interactions from her wide-reaching career.

Alongside her BBC investigative series, the Luton-born documentary maker and author of On The Frontline With The Women Who Fight Back is the presenter of BBC One’s This Is My House, BBC Two’s DNA, BBC3’s Glow Up and W’s Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over.

Join her on February 16 for a thought-provoking, inspiring and informative evening with a chance to try your own hand at journalism by asking Stacey questions.

Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Berrt DeBaldock launches second volume of Good Rabbits memorials with fundraiser for Refugee Action York at Pyramid Gallery

Author and artist Berrt deBaldock, alias Terry Brett, with his Good Rabbits Gone 2 book at Pyramid Gallery, York

BERRT deBaldock will be raising funds for Refugee Action York from his second volume of cartoon-rabbit tributes to celebrities and remarkable individuals.

Under his nom d’art, the 92-page book is the work of Pyramid gallery owner and curator Terry Brett, who draws the rabbit memorials at the time of the individual’s death, compiling them for his charity project with his tributes or memories of the person.

“Good Rabbits Gone Volume Two To Infinity covers February 2020 and August 2021, which happens to be the period of the start and possible ‘end’ of the pandemic. Hence the book has a subtitle, The Covid Years,” says Terry, who will hold a charity launch at his gallery in Stonegate, York, on Wednesday, October 6 from 6pm to 8.30pm.

“It looks like a strange diary of the pandemic. We have tributes to luminaries such as Terry Jones of Monty Python, rock’n’roll pioneer Little Richard and television and radio personality Tim Brooke-Taylor, Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn and Bond Girls Honor Blackman and Dame Diana Rigg, alongside the most venerable Bond, Sir Sean Connery.

“But also we have a visual list of several pandemic crises such as ‘lockdown’, ‘beer going down the drain’ and the ‘demise of the office’. All portrayed as rabbits.”

Bertt deBaldock will sign copies of Good Rabbits Gone 2 at the launch, where donations are invited to Refugee Action York, with proceeds going towards the charity’s work in helping refugees settle into life in Great Britain.

Refugee Action York (RAY) was founded in 2002 to challenge myths and misconceptions about refugees and asylum seekers and to raise awareness of the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers make to our society.

RAY works with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from within and around the City of York, providing a safe meeting point where people can seek information and support, learn new skills and languages and form lasting friendships. Through providing this support, RAY hopes to empower individuals to assist them in rebuilding their lives.

In addition to the sessions and services offered by the charity, RAY campaigns on behalf of local asylum-seeking families and their relatives who are under threat of detention and/or deportation.

RAY participates in the annual Refugee Week in York as part of a national and international awareness-raising campaign.

Author Berrt says: “I wanted to do a tribute to a friend and fellow musician and artist, Jean Moss, who died in July aged just 73. Philip, her husband, had been actively supporting Refugee Action York and Jean was a supporter of the charity.

“So I’ve decided to split the proceeds between St Leonard’s Hospice and Refugee Action York. The book will be launched at the event for RAY on October 6 and then there will be another event for St. Leonard’s in November.

“I feel good about supporting RAY, always having been one to welcome migrants from other cultures into our community. With so many negative vibes about migrants into the UK – mostly associated with Brexit – I think it’s now vital that we welcome all refugees, demonstrate that we care and help them to integrate.”

The book itself, paid for by Terry’s business Pyramid Gallery, is being given away. Donations are voluntary. 

“From my experience with the first volume, released last November, people enjoy being given the book. Most of those people have then offered a donation, sometimes via the website JustGiving.co.uk.

“The fundraising page for St Leonard’s is listed as Terry-Brett6 and the fundraising page for RAY is Terry-Brett7, so people can choose which they prefer.”

More Things To Do in and around York as creative night market launched. List No. 49, courtesy of The Press, York

Big news! York artist Freya Horsley, right, and gallery co-director Ails McGee with Freya’s paintings Turning Tide and Liquid Light at According To McGee, York

BIG paintings, a night market, thrillers at the double, cookery chat, an anniversary celebration, a long-awaited Scottish return and a brace of comedians are the diverse focus of Charles Hutchinson’s attention.

Exhibition of the week: Freya Horsley, Contemporary Seascapes, According To McGee, York, running until October 11

ACCORDING To McGee is playing host to the biggest paintings the Tower Street gallery has ever exhibited: Liquid Light and Turning Tide, two mixed-media works on canvas by Freya Horsley.

The York artist is displaying a new series of seascape paintings depicting the Cornish, Scottish and north east coastlines.

“Her art makes you look twice because it has a calming quality and, like a good sunrise, it makes you go ‘wow!’,” says co-director Greg McGee.

York Creatives Night Market: Debut night of arts, crafts, music, food and drink at Shambles Market tomorrow

York Creatives Night Market, Shambles Market, York, tomorrow, 7pm to 10.30pm

POSTPONED at short notice on August 20, the debut York Creatives Night Market goes ahead tomorrow in a chance to browse art and products by independent traders.

Street food, drinks and music all evening are on the menu too for this free event, open to all.

The Rusty Pegs: Tenth anniversary concert at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Celebrating ten years on: The Rusty Pegs, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 8pm

TEN years ago, York country band The Rusty Pegs formed, drawn from volunteers at the Monkgate theatre, who were asked to perform their debut gig there at a Raising The Roof fundraiser.

To mark a decade of making music together, the Pegs have decided to come full circle by performing an anniversary gig in the same place where it all started, this time launching the autumn season. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

No mistaking Justin Currie: Del Amitri return with Fatal Mistakes album for first York gig since 2002

Long time coming: Del Amitri, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.45pm

DEL Amitri follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a return to York Barbican after a 19-year hiatus.

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

“It’s been nearly 20 years since we toured with a new album, lord knows what took us so long,” says Currie. “The prospect of sprinkling our set with a few choices from Fatal Mistakes fills us with the sort of excitement that, for some men of our age, might call for light medication. We think the adrenaline will see us through.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

No smoke without ire: Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss blows his top at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week: Daniel Sloss: Hubris, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

SUNDAY’S gig is third time lucky for Scotsman Daniel Sloss, whose October 3 2020 and May 8 2021 visits were ruled out by the accursed Covid.

Sloss, 30, has sold out six New York solo off-Broadway seasons, appeared on American television’s Conan show ten times and toured to more than 50 countries. Now, at last, comes his new show, with special guest Kai Humphries.

Look out for Sloss’s book, Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die (And Other Comforting Thoughts On Family, Friends, Sex, Love, And More Things That Ruin Your Life), from October 12. For tickets for Sunday, go to: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

What’s cooking? Cookbook writer Yotam Ottolenghi finds flavour at York Theatre Royal on Tuesday

Flavour of the month: Yotam Ottolenghi, A Life In Flavour, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

CHEF, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi reflects on A Life In Flavour, provides cooking inspiration and signs copies of his “flavour-forward, vegetable-based” cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour, after the show on Tuesday.

West Jerusalem-born Ottolenghi will be discussing the tastes, ingredients and flavours that excite him and how he has created a career from cooking.

Expect “unique insights into how flavour is dialled up and why it works, from basic pairings fundamental to taste, to cooking methods that elevate ingredients to great heights”. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Dane Baptiste: Comedian with a chip on his shoulder at Burning Duck Comedy Club

The other comedy gig of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Dane Baptiste: The Chocolate Chip, The Crescent, York, September 23, 7.30pm

IN his own words, Dane Baptiste is now a “grown ass black man, too old to be concerned with chicken or trainers, too young to be considered a peer of Trevor McDonald”.

Has he got a chip on his shoulder? “Yes. A chocolate one,” says Baptiste, a south east London stand-up who once worked in media sales.

Noted for his boldly provocative material, he hosts the podcasts Dane Baptiste Questions Everything and Quotas Full. Box office: thecrescentyork.com/events.

The Rowntree Players’ poster for next week’s production of Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web

Web of the week: Rowntree Players in Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, September 23 to 25, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

DIPLOMAT’S wife Clarissa is adept at spinning tales of adventure, but when a murder takes place in her drawing room, she finds live drama much harder to cope with in Rowntree Players’ autumn return, directed by Howard Ella.

Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband arrives with an important politician, she enlists the help of her guests. 

In a conscious parody of the detective thriller, Christie’s Spider’s Web delivers suspense and humour in equal measure in an intricate plot of murder, police detection, hidden doorways and secret drawers. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

In the chair: Just Some Theatre in rehearsal for The Killer Question, heading to Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Mystery of the week ahead: Just Some Theatre in The Killer Question, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, September 25, 7.30pm

THE Silence Of The Lambs meets Last Of The Summer Wine in Dave Payne’s dark comedy thriller The Killer Question, marking the York debut of Manchester company Just Some Theatre.

Did The Chair game show champion Walter Crump’s obsession with death ultimately lead to his own? Inspector Black believes so, and now Crump’s dopey widow, Margaret, finds herself accused of her husband’s murder. 

Faced by more than one deadly twist in the tale, can Inspector Black solve the mystery? Will Margaret be home in time for Countryfile? Just as important, which actor – Peter Stone, Jake Urry or Jordan Moore – will play which character? The audience decides. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

York poets Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell launch collaboration on “Unknown” women of myth and history

Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell’s new poetry collection, Unknown, addresses the theme of women of myth and history “whose names should be on your lips”. Picture: Ceres

YORK poets, teachers and actor-directors Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell launch Unknown, a joint collection inspired by forgotten women from myth and history, online tonight (26/8/2021) at 7.30pm.

To “attend” the livestreaming, head to: eventbrite.co.uk/e/unknown-the-book-launch-tickets-166073970717?aff=eand

“Our publishers, Stairwell Books, have booked an online launch for us, as the in-person venue options weren’t entirely Covid-comfortable, so we’re potentially putting that off now until next year,” says Anna, a queer, bisexual writer, performer, translator and theatre critic of mixed British and Asian heritage, who writes flash fiction, auto-fiction, memoir and scripts for stage and screen, as well as poetry.

“I’ve been pretty much hibernating since March last year, but I co-wrote this collection with Liz last summer and it’s something we’ve created that we’re very proud of.”

Among those impressed already by Anna and Liz’s 27 poems on “women whose names should be on your lips” is Yorkshire poet and comedian Kate Fox, whose endorsement on the back cover reads: “Unknown introduces and re-introduces us to women who might otherwise slip through history and culture’s ever-widening female-shaped holes.

“These are brisk and beautiful poems. Works of reclamation like this are ongoingly necessary – which is frustrating – but when they’re done so well, they are a pleasure and a joy.”

“Works of reclamation like this are ongoingly necessary,” says poet Kate Fox of Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell’s Unknown poetry

Professor Emeritus Graham Mort enthuses: “Linguistically charged, rhythmically and technically assured, theatrically daring, this collection restores mythical and historical female figures to the human imagination.

“The poems are robust, playful, tender and compassionate and the work as a whole forms an unsentimental and richly detailed testament to women’s resistance.”

Unknown is a coming-together between two York women over a “shared love of women, inspired by those from history and legend who have touched our lives, or the world, and left us changed”.

“We first met at the Queer Book Club in York,” says Liz, a Welsh-born poet and writer of short stories and flash fiction, who provides private tuition in English, drama, and creative writing, runs creative writing groups for children and performs occasionally at open-mic nights in York during non-lockdown times.

“When I had Covid, Anna put some of her zines through my door, which was lovely as I was very bored and very ill, and though I’d always written, I’d never published my work, but that was the starting point for Unknown.”

Anna recalls: “I was furloughed from work at Macmillan Cancer Support and was palming off these zines on people who couldn’t escape from their homes! I got a call from Liz within ten minutes.”

York poets Anna Rose James, left, and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell. Picture: Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell

They settled quickly on a theme for their collaboration. “Just women to begin with, but then it became women who are under-represented in myth and history,” says Liz.

“We set ourselves the challenge of researching these women and then writing about poems about them.”

Anna, co-founder of Sonnet Sisters, Six Lips Theatre and The Podvangelist, says: “Some of the women are a lot more unknown than others, so that’s why the research expanded into taking in both misrepresented and under-represented women…

… “And we also considered how these stories might have been told if they’d not been told by men,” says Liz. “These are her-stories, not his-story.”

Helpfully, the collection includes an index of the subjects to facilitate readers reading more about the featured women, among them Medusa; Persephone; Ceridwen the witch; pirate captain Ching Shih; Gentleman Jack (Anne Lister); revolutionary pilots Bessie Colman and Major Marina Raskova; tennis champion Althea Gibson and characters from Norwegian folklore, Shakespeare and Tarot.

“The room where it happened”: Anna Rose James’s writing space. Picture: Anna Rose James

“We bashed out the first body of poems really early on, each writing a poem in a day, for an immediate response and then editing them later,” says Anna “Getting an instant reaction was lovely as normally writing poetry is solitary.”

Anna was drawn more to history, Liz more to myth. “I would always call myself a dreamer, but I think Liz pulls out all the vagaries of myths, whereas I respond to pulling out all the details of historical figures,” says Anna. “Liz responds to the lack of detail or basic plot lines when she engages with myths.”

Liz observes: “I think we write in really different ways but that works really well together, and the project has been really collaborative. It’s been great to have someone to bounce ideas off, whereas often I write with total autonomy.”

Happy to be a “figure of mystery” when performing at open-mic nights, Liz has a pamphlet on its way called Breaking (Out), published by Selcouth Station. “It’s about coming out as a lesbian when you’re married to a man, which is not a typical life journey but had to be done,” she says.

Meanwhile, tonight she and Anna will read poems at the 7.30pm livestreamed launch, as will fellow writers Hannah Davies and Kali Richmond.

Pile-up: Copies of Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell’s poetry collection, available from stairwellbooks.co.uk. Picture: Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell

Who are Stairwell Books?

This York small press, based in Lowther Street, publishes the works of Yorkshire poets and writers, plus the international literary and arts journal, Dream Catcher.

Unknown can be bought at stairwellbooks.co.uk for £8 plus postage and packing.

The original black/acid green/harlot red cover design with an “historical-political context” for Unknown, later jettisoned in favour of the pink edition

CharlesHutchPress loves this “acid” alternative cover and ponders whether Stairwell Books would consider doing a print run, should Anna and Liz plan to do any readings at summer festivals.

“That’s absolutely something Liz and I had floated with Stairwell too,” says Anna. “We love the idea of limited-edition variants; we actually found it a bit difficult to choose our favourite from the options artist Lisa Findlay Shaw sent through.”

You are very welcome to send your support for such a variant to founder Rose Drew at rose@stairwellbooks.com.

Lisa Findlay Shaw can be found on Instagram at @thiscronecreates.

As the super-deluxe All Things Must Pass arrives, it’s time to ask: Is George the Fabbest solo Beatle ? For the answer…

HEAD to Episode 54 of Chalmers & Hutch’s arts podcast, Two Big Egos In A Small Car at: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/8979897.

Under discussion too are: the London lag and York boom after Step 4; Sharon Latham’s Noel Gallagher exhibition at RedHouse Originals, Harrogate; M Night Shyamalan’s hokum new movie Old, plus futurist novelist Julian Barnes on foreseeing no future for the arts in 1980’s Metroland. Should we be worried?

York illustrator Lucy Monkman launches handy home project book to untap “creative potential of everyday life” and coffee cups

York illustrator and now book “creator” Lucy Monkman with her Pizza Box Bag with Buckle

YORK illustrator and art tutor Lucy Monkman will launch her debut book, Made By Hand At Home, at The Blue House Bookshop, Bootham, York, this afternoon from noon to 3pm.

Lucy, of Kilburn Road,  has illustrated a number of books but this “celebration of the creative potential of everyday life” is the first she has written.

She draws on her years of experience as a freelance illustrator and 15 years as an art tutor of primary-school children. “The book developed from projects I created for children when, in Spring 2020, we were first asked to stay at home,” she says. 

“As an illustrator, I work from home, so in a number of ways my working life was largely unchanged last year. As an after-school art club tutor, however, my teaching was put on hold.”

In the hope of helping parents, who found themselves home-schooling, Lucy started to offer ideas for art projects on her social media. Many of these projects used the food and drink packaging brought home by her own children.

“The first staying-at-home period gave rise to an extraordinary outburst of creativity around the world,” she says. “Artists and makers offered creative ideas to people who suddenly found themselves at home and many had children to educate and to entertain.

The book cover for Lucy Monkman’s Made By Hand At Home, “a wry social commentary on our times”

“The public response to these ideas clearly showed people’s desire to be creative and the benefits of creativity on our well-being.” 

Lucy’s book celebrates the creative potential of everyday life, whether it is via a humble loo-roll tube or a takeaway coffee cup, offering artistic projects that use recyclable materials in the home.

“It covers a wide range of subjects, including chapters on colour and shape, making decorations and creating cardboard characters,” she says.

Writer and educator Gayle Johnson says of Made By Hand At Home: ‘In part a compendium of creative ideas, in part an accessible art history and in part a wry social commentary on our times, this inspiring book is a must-read for parents, educators and everyone interested in the visual arts.

“It invites us to live differently and to notice our interactions with the things that surround us more closely.”

The late-July publication is timed to coincide with the start of the school summer holidays, when many families face another period of staying at home. The book is available at various York outlets, such as The Blue House Bookshop, or can be ordered via Lucy’s website, lucymonkman.com. 

What can you do with a takeaway coffee cup? Lucy has an idea…

What can the arts learn from England at Euro 2020? We’re not talking tactics…

CHALMERS & Hutch apply Southgate’s template for an all-inclusive future in the latest Two Big Egos In A Small Car podcast.

Under discussion too are Nadine Shah and the streaming dilemma; Alan Ayckbourn vs Harold Pinter; why British avant-garde novelists fall behind their progressive counterparts, and the future of York’s Pop Up Piccadilly artists.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/8875394