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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strawberry Lion’s show poster for Five Children And It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who won the Hutch Awards in the first year of Killjoy Covid? Time to doff the cap to….

Who warranted a doffing of the Hutchinson cap in a year when the arts world faced an unparalleled struggle? Here comes the flood of recipients…

TODAY marks the first anniversary of the imposition of Lockdown, a year when killjoy Covid has cast the arts into darkness, but the artbeat refused to stop.

Here CharlesHutchPress doffs its cap to those who kept the flame alive in the 2020-2021 Hutch Awards, while scowling at a few irritations too.

Uplifting experience of the year? The first socially distanced live theatre enterprise, Park Bench Theatre, mounted by Matt Aston’s Engine House company in the Friends Garden at Rowntree Park, York.

On the bench: Matt Aston, director of the Park Bench Theatre season at Rowntree Park. Picture: Livy Potter

Three solo shows, Chris Hannon in Samuel Beckett’s First Love, Cassie Vallance in Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Lisa Howard in Aston’s lockdown play Every Time A Bell Rings, were all first class, and this venture surely will be rolled out again in Summer 2021.

Summer ventures that reminded you why culture matters, dear Rishi: Badapple Theatre’s tour of back gardens with Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly; Alexander Flanagan Wright and Phil Grainger’s week of two-handers, full of music and poetic magic at Stillington Mill; the collaboration between the NCEM, Fulford Arms and The Crescent for a series of acoustic double bills in St Margaret’s churchyard in Walmgate; York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate.

Phil Grainger and Alexander Flanagan Wright at Stillington Mill . Picture: Charlotte Graham

York is still the home of pantomime, part one: Dame Berwick Kaler’s comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House had to be stabled for a year, but his former home, York Theatre Royal, took panto to the people with the Travelling Pantomime, the first venture with new partners Evolution Productions, full of wit, energy, fun and mischief.

York is still the home of pantomime, part two: York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate. Nik Briggs, director turned debutant writer, assembled a cast of fabulous Yorkshire talents and West End choreographer Gary Lloyd for a slick slice of “musical theatre with pantomime braces on”. The Biles Beanstalk publicity campaign was a gem too.

Josh Benson as the comic turn in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime

Family show of the year: John Godber and his family bubble of wife Jane, actress daughter Martha and stage manager daughter Elizabeth staged his Sunny Side Up! premiere at the socially distanced Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. “Seeing all those masks, at first it felt more like being in an operating theatre, not a theatre,” said John.

Solo stage performance of the year outside York: Polymath Polly Lister, playing everyone and everything, from Gerda and Kai and a “silly Sorceress” to a Goth raven poet and a grumpy Brummie deer, in Nick Lane’s Christmas show for the SJT, The Snow Queen, transformed from a five-hander to a one-woman show under Covid restrictions and all the better for it.

Polly Lister in one of eight roles in The Snow Queen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Lockdown audio show of the year: Alan Ayckbourn x 2, first recording new play Anno Domino with his wife, Heather Stoney, for the summer and then continuing the multiple role-playing in a ghost story for winter nights as he revisited his 1994 play Haunting Julia, both for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. His master’s voice, as you have not heard him before, at 81.

Television art show of the year: Grayson Perry and wife Philippa hosting Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4, championing people’s art with such empathy, wisdom, wit and love.

For your lockdown listening pleasure: Alan Ayckbourn recorded two plays at his Scarborough home. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Festivals that would not lie down but embraced the virtual instead: York Early Music Festival and Christmas Festival; York Festival of Ideas; Aesthetica Short Film Festival, much lengthened online.

Reinvention of a festival at short notice for Covid times: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, revamped by artistic director Jamie Walton to still go ahead with socially distanced audiences in a Welburn Abbey marquee with the apt theme of Revolution in August.

Comedy innovation of the year: Your Place Comedy livestreams, wherein a monthly double bill of comedians performed from their living rooms into yours.

Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi: one of the double bills for Your Place Comedy

Organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer, rounded up ten, then a dozen,  independent Yorkshire and Humber venues to support three series of remote gigs by the likes of Mark Watson & Lucy Beaumont, Shappi Khorsandi & Justin Moorhouse and Hal Cruttenden & Rosie Jones.

Resilient spirits of the year: Chris Sherrington, Fulford Arms; Delma Tomlin, NCEM; Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai, The Crescent; Cherie Federico, Aesthetica; Greg and Ails McGee, According To McGee; Kate Bramley, Badapple Theatre.

Samantha, with the marks from her PPE mask still visible after a shift, by Karen Winship

Statement-of-pandemic-times exhibition of the year: Karen Winship’s portraits of NHS frontline workers, first at York Art Gallery, then on the railings at All Saints Church, Pocklington. Harrowing yet life-affirming too.

Gallery launch of the year: Photographer Duncan Lomax’s Holgate Gallery in his front room in York.

Kitchen-synch drama of the year: York drag diva Velma Celli’s chic cabaret shows online from a Bishopthorpe kitchen and a riverside abode with flood water lapping at the door. Alter ego Ian Stroughair also had a ball as Flesh Creep in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk.

A message to you, Rishi: York Theatre Royal pledges that York will pull together in lockdown

Sign of the times: York Theatre Royal’s morale-boosting, we’re-all-in-this-together retro lockdown poster, in Keep Calm And Carry On wartime mode, designed by marketing manager Olivia Potter

Most irritating words of the year: Ramp up; pivot; baked-in; granular; lockdown…again; uptick; Stay Alert; postponed; cancelled; closed; non-viable.

Song of the year: Bird song, although Bonnie & The Bailers’ Baby Drive ran it close.

The Howl & The Hum: album of the year

Album of the year: the always-touched-by-your-prescience-dear Human Contact by The Howl & The Hum.

Good news of the year: The ebullient Bull becoming the first York band to sign to a major record label since Shed Seven. Raise a glass to Tom Beer and co, whose album, Discover Effortless Living, will be out on Virgin EMI Records on Friday (26/3/2021).

Frustration of the year: The much improved second iteration of the York Mediale, the festival of digital media arts, defied budget cuts only to be cut short by Lockdown 2, meaning many missed out on the Kit Monkman-led art installation People We Love at York Minster and the Human Nature triptych of installations at York Art Gallery. It must be hoped People We Love can be revived.

People We Love: Kit Monkman’s Covid-curtailed installation at York Minster

Missed most: Interaction; connection; communication; banter; bursts of cheers and applause and…spontaneity.

Gone but not forgotten: Martin Witts’s Great Yorkshire Fringe; poet, writer, storyteller, blogger and performer Adrian Spendlow; Café Concerto, in High Petergate, York; York City at Bootham Crescent.

Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble lined up for last Your Place Comedy livestream on March 28

Stay Home entertainers: Your Place Comedy double bill Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble

THE final Your Place Comedy virtual double bill for now is confirmed for March 28,  starring Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble live from their living rooms.

“It might be the last one ever, it might not…but there are certainly no more planned at the moment,” says online event founder and organiser Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall arts centre.

“It feels poignant doing the press for next weekend’s Your Place Comedy as Monday marked the first anniversary of the last live show in Selby Town Hall: Wah! frontman Pete Wylie on March 14 2020.

“Who would have thought that a project we started to bridge what everyone assumed would be a small gap in activity would still be the only game in town a whole year on? What a strange place the world has become!”

The collaborative comedy club Your Place Comedy was launched on April 19 last spring with a remote bill of Mark Watson and Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont, compered by Tim FitzHigham, who has since hosted each livestreamed show.

Gathered behind the driving force of Chris Jones, ten small, independent venues across the north came together to “provide their audiences with some much-needed laughter during these difficult times”. 

Compere Tim FitzHigham and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson on screen at the first Your Place Comedy livestream last April

“In a nutshell, I was frustrated that the traditional relationship between venue, artist and audience – the venue providing the artist with income and the audience with entertainment – has been eroded for the foreseeable future by Covid-19 and I wanted to find a way to re-create that,” said Chris at the time.

“So, I’ve got ten venues from around Yorkshire and the Humber to chip in a small amount of money to put on a live stream comedy gig this Sunday (April 19).

“Their contributions to Your Place Comedy go towards paying the artists a guaranteed fee at a time when all live income has been taken away, and, in exchange, venues get a show to sell to their own audiences as one of their own, helping maintain those vital relationships with audiences they have nurtured over the years.”

Chris speculated: “If the first one is a success and this looks like a sustainable model, I would hope to do several more through the lockdown period and possibly beyond.”

The first show drew more than 3,500 viewers, Watson very much at home in his pyjamas and Beaumont telling a rather bizarre bedtime story from the homemade pub that her husband, comedian Jon Richardson, has built in their house.

Lucy Beaumont chose her home-built pub as the location for her Your Place Comedy set

“3,500 viewers! That’s considerably more than their combined capacities,” said Chris afterwards. “The show went even better than we had imagined, to say the whole project was put together from scratch in the space of two weeks by three people with no live streaming experience!”

The Your Place Comedy template has since sustained three series of lockdown livestreams from living rooms, kitchens and attics, free to watch on Facebook and YouTube via www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk, but with an option to donate.

The debut fundraiser elicited £3,500 in donations for the participating venues, and all monies raised since then have been distributed evenly among the supporting venues as they navigate their way through challenging financial times.

The first two series in the venue-focused initiative to bring fun to fundraising brought together Selby Town Hall; The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; Shire Hall, Howden; Otley Courthouse; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres.

For the latest series, Howden’s Shire Hall has dropped out because all staff are furloughed – “they’re still very supportive but didn’t want to feel like they were riding on the coattails of everyone else’s work,” says Chris – and newly on board are The Civic, Barnsley, Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, and Rural Arts, at The Courthouse, Thirsk.

Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi: At the double on September 27 last year

In 2020, the online platform presented Watson and Beaumont (April 19), Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam (May 10), Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans (June 7), Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes (August 30), Shappi Khorsandi and Justin Moorhouse (September 27) and Robin Ince and Laura Lexx (October 25).

The Stay Home comedy double bills have resumed in 2021 with Josie Long and Ahir Shah on January 24, followed by Hal Cruttenden and Bridlington-born Rosie Jones on February 28.

Now come TV regulars and Taskmaster champions Lou Sanders and Ed Gamble. “I’m pretty excited about this line-up: both stellar performers and both still on the rise,” says Chris. “Hopefully with those names we can get good engagement and, as the young people on social media say, ‘do some numbers’. If this is to be the last show, it’s a great one to go out on.”

Introducing next weekend’s acts, Chris says: “Lou Sanders is one of Britain’s fastest-rising and most original comedy performers. Having won the Comedians’ Choice Award for Best Show at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe – voted for entirely by fellow comics – she has gone on to star in Aisling Bea’s sitcom This Way Up, appear as a guest on QI, Would I Lie To You, The Unbelievable Truth, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Live At The Apollo, and perform on The Late Late Show With James Corden in the USA.

“Best known as a regular panellist on Mock The Week, Ed Gamble’s television credits include the Royal Variety Show, Live At The Apollo, QI and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, while he’s also the co-creator of hugely successful food and comedy podcast Off Menu, alongside James Acaster.

Lou Sanders: “One of Britain’s fastest-rising and most original comedy performers,” says Your Place Comedy organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer

“Both Lou and Ed have been crowned winners of Taskmaster and the two will be competing against one another in a forthcoming Champion of Champions series.”

As ever, the compere will be Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler, presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge and Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee.

As ever too, the livestream will be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast, to support both performers and venues.

“All face continued uncertainty as lockdown regulations once again prevent theatres from opening,” says Chris. “The venues involved in Your Place Comedy have now been either closed, or severely restricted in what they can deliver, for over a year.

“I don’t think, back in March 2020, any of us in our wildest dreams would have foreseen that 12 months on, the need to connect with audiences in novel, innovative ways would still be so vital, and that engaging with arts and culture online would have become the norm.

Chairman of the bored? Ed Gamble will look to liven everyone up from his living room on March 28

“It’s been so heartening to see the entire live entertainment industry pulling together though, and a real thrill to be able to collaborate remotely with different venues in a project which may otherwise never have come to pass.”

Roll on next weekend. “Sunday, March 28 will be our final scheduled show, although I hope not the last one ever, and I’m delighted that two acts with such impressive live and broadcast CVs have signed up to take part,” says Chris.

“It’s not often that you get the chance to see performers of their calibre deliver a live set without having to pay a penny, so do make the most of it and join us for another night of stellar laughs.”

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the March 28 show, visit www.yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Fitz the bill: Tim FitzHigham has hosted every Your Place Comedy livestream since last April

More Things To Do in York and beyond in the months ahead and while staying home, List No. 28, courtesy of The Press, York

Bethany, from York artist Sue Clayton’s exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day, on show outside All Saints Church, Pocklington

THE diary is beginning to turn from blank to much more promising, even if online and home entertainment is still the order of the day, but Charles Hutchinson is feeling positive and so are event organisers.

Outdoor exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day: Sue Clayton, 21, All Saints Church, Pocklington, March 19 to April 19

YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton will celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) on March 21 with a month-long open-air exhibition on the railings of All Saints Church in Pocklington.

Self Portrait, by York artist Sue Clayton

Her collection of 21 portraits is inspired by children and adults with Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James. She has chosen the theme of 21 both to mark the date of WDSD and to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have.

This is the second outdoor display to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown at this location after fellow York artist Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes exhibition from late November to early January.

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor will perform at the NCEM’s Awaken online concert series

Springtime celebration of music online: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music, York, March 27 and 28

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

The online festivities will celebrate the sublime sounds of spring in a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”. Among the architectural gems will be Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and the NCEM. Full details can be found at ncem.co.uk/awaken.

The Minster men: The Howl & The Hum promote their livestreamed concert at York Minster in the ultimate publicity shot for any York band

“Unique” livestreamed concert: The Howl & The Hum, York Minster, May 25

YORK alternative rock band The Howl & The Hum will perform a “unique set to compliment the unique venue” of the Nave of York Minster in a one-off 8.15pm concert livestreamed via ticket.co.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Sam Griffiths, bassist Brad Blackwell, guitarist Conor Hirons and drummer Jack Williams will combine selections from last May’s prescient album Human Contact with fan favourites and new material recorded in lockdown.

The Howl & The Hum will be the first rock act to play York Minster since York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on March 29 2019. Tickets are on sale via thehowlandthehum.com/.

Wynne win situation: Castle Howard Proms will go ahead this summer with tenor soloist Wynne Evans

Confirmed for the summertime: Castle Howard Concerts Weekend, August 20 to 22

CASTLE Howard has announced this summer’s concerts weekend will go ahead, in light of the Government’s roadmap rollout.

First up, in the open air at the North Yorkshire country house, will be house music brand Café Mambo Ibiza on August 20, presenting Roger Sanchez, Judge Jules, Julie McKnight (live PA), Ridney and Robin S (live PA), with more big names still to be announced for the Ibiza Classics at the Castle celebration.

Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, from the Go Compare adverts, will be joined by soprano Victoria Joyce and the London Gala Orchestra for the al fresco Castle Howard Proms on August 21.

Four vocalists from We Will Rock You, a five-piece rock band and The Elysium Orchestra will combine for Queen Symphonic on August 22. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.

Piece in our time at last: Shed Seven move all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall yet again, now in the diary for August 28

Sheds on the move: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, August 28

YORK heroes Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, is being rescheduled for a third time, now booked in for August 28.

Joining the Sheds that West Yorkshire day will be Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and Leeds United-supporting York group Skylights, plus the Brighton Beach DJs.

August 28? Doesn’t that clash with Leeds Festival, co-headlined that day by Stormzy and Catfish And The Bottlemen? Indeed so, but “let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” quips lead singer Rick Witter.

Shoe-in: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, playing the SJT this spring

The Greatest News In The History Of The World…The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…tour to open in Scarborough from May 18 to 22

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Covid-safe reopening show will be the first tour dates of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, the hit one-woman play that Ian Kershaw wrote for his wife, Coronation Street alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Directed by Raz Shaw, it heads out on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road, as Hesmondhalgh narrates the story of two neighbours and the people on their street, navigating the audience through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love. 

Hesmondhalgh says: “It’s a beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.”

The Shires: Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle move York Barbican gig from 2021 to 2022

York-Shires: The Shires, York Barbican, put back by 12 months

BRITAIN’S biggest-selling country act, The Shires, are rescheduling their May 23 show at York Barbican for May 6 2022.

York is the only Yorkshire venue of their rearranged 25-date tour, when Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle are billed to be joined by Texan country singer and songwriter Eric Paslay. 

“The songs mean so much to us personally, but there really is nothing like looking out at our fans in the crowd and seeing how much of an impact they can have in someone else’s life,” say The Shires. “It’s truly a very special thing”.

And what about?

STILL stuck at home, check out Mindhunter on Netflix, Unforgotten on ITV and Sophia Loren’s Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds. Seek out Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’s new lockdown album, Carnage.

Cave in: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis create Carnage, available digitally now and on CD and vinyl from May 28

Milton Rooms to reopen with four May events as Scott Garnham becomes patron

Scott Garnham, the new Milton Rooms patron, pictured when playing the lead in Nativity in the West End, alongside the show’s “secret Santa”, Queen guitarist Brian May, no less

THE Milton Rooms is counting down the days until it can reopen its Malton doors with four events lined up to kick-start the May reawakening.

First up, Yorkshire singer and guitarist Martin Gough returns with his One Man Rock Show on May 21; next, the Dickens Society presents Dickens And The Language Of Flowers, a fascinating talk looking at the meaning of flowers and how the Victorians loved sending secret messages in a well-chosen bouquet, on May 23. 

Ryedale Blues Club resumes blues service with District Blues, a mix of Americana and rockabilly, on May 27, and 2018 Britain’s Got Talent star Mandy Muden brings her magic, cabaret and stand-up comedy to Malton on May 29.

The Market Place arts and community venue has a new patron, the award-winning Ryedale actor, singer and theatrical producer Scott Garnham, a local lad who first appeared at the Milton Rooms in 1995 in a Ryedale Youth Theatre production of The Boyfriend, aged ten.

As well as many annual Ryedale Youth Theatre productions, Scott appeared in multiple pantomimes at the Milton Rooms. He started in Little Red Riding Hood, then played Baby Bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In his teens, he was either the comedy double act or village idiot in Dick Whittington, Aladdin, Goody Two Shoes and Jack And The Beanstalk and shined as Buttons in Cinderella.

After graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow, he has carved out a career in the West End, notching up credits in Billy Elliot The Musical, Les Miserables and Made In Dagenham, as well as in Matt Lucas’s Pompidou for the BBC. He has created the international vocal group The Barricade Boys too, playing the Grand Opera House in York in March 2018.

“I will forever owe a huge debt to the Milton Rooms and the people who work so tirelessly to ensure this wonderful community building is still a key part of Malton and the surrounding area,” says Scott. 

‘’It was my first experience of ‘theatre’, being lucky enough to perform with a diverse group of ages, cultures and life experiences. I enjoyed dancing with friends at their many discos and found gifts attending art and craft fairs. 

‘’I feel lucky to have grown up where a community building, such as the Milton Rooms, played such a vital and important role in mine and many other people’s lives. Long may it continue.’’

The Milton Rooms’ Covid-safe accreditation has been extended for 2021 by UK tourism body Visit Britain. Under the Government’s roadmap out of Coronavirus lockdown, indoor entertainment venues are expected to be allowed to reopen after May 17 with Covid-secure restrictions in place.

Venue manager Lisa Rich says: “We’re delighted to have someone like Scott on board and we’re really excited at the prospect of being able to open again in a limited way in May and hopefully fully reopening if all restrictions are removed in June.’’

Tickets for all four events can be booked at: themiltonrooms.com/events/

Oh, Deary! Harrogate shows on Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain tour cancelled

History on the move: Neal Foster and Morgan Philpott will be performing Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain on later spring dates than first planned on the Car Park Tour. Picture: Mark Douet

HORRIBLE blow for Harrogate, as the Government roadmap out of the lockdown has consigned the April 3 performances of Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain at the Yorkshire Event Centre to history.

Other dates on the nationwide Car Park Tour booked originally for before April 12 have been rearranged after the proposed timing of the Government’s four-step plan necessitated a later itinerary.

Seventeen locations will accommodate the tour, ranging from racecourses to sports stadia, showgrounds to an airport, an exhibition centre to country houses, but no new space in the diary could be found for the Great Yorkshire Showground show in Harrogate.

By contrast, the April 5 performance of the live-action version of Barmy Britain at Harewood House, near Leeds, has been switched to Sunday, May 2 at 11am.

Tickets holders have been notified of the changes but tickets are still available via carparkparty.com, priced at £39.50 upwards, plus £2.50 booking fee. Further information can be found there too.

Heads you lose: Horrible Histories’ King Henry VIII will not be heading to Harrogate after all

The Barmy Britain tour will present two actors playing a multitude of classic characters from barmy and horrid British history, taking in Queen Boudica, King Henry VIII, Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin, Queen Victoria and plenty more besides.

Based on Terry Deary’s broad-humoured historical books of the same name, Horrible Histories have transferred from page to stage for 18 live shows presented by Birmingham Stage Company, as well being made into a musical sketch comedy television series.

In the Covid-safe Car Park Tour show, on tour from April 13 to May 3, families sit in their cars watching the actors on stage and on a large screen while listening live on their radios and, if so inclined, honking their horns in appreciation.

Birmingham Stage Company and “concept creators” Coalition Agency “plugged the pantomime-less gap” with Horrible Christmas and now they are teaming up again for two Horrible Histories tour shows: Barmy Britain and Gorgeous Georgians & Vile Victorians.

Neal Foster, actor-director of Birmingham Stage Company, will be joined on stage by Morgan Philpott. I’m over the moon to be back on tour with Barmy Britain after its hugely successful tour last summer,” he says. “It’s weird and wonderful to be performing in car parks and to see the audience having fun behind their windshields. We can’t wait to get back out there”.

Harewood House, here we come: Morgan Philpott, left, and Neal Foster , will take a humorous journey through history in Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain on May 2 on the Car Park Tour. Picture: Mark Douet