York’s indie galleries are ready for end-of-lockdown green light for Christmas

Proprietor and curator Craig Humble outside the new home of the Art Of Protest gallery in Walmgate, York

YORK’S independent art galleries are ready to reopen for business as soon as Government guidelines allow, asserts According To McGee director Greg McGee.

“The most accurate litmus test of a city’s cultural health is the amount and state of its indies,” says Greg, “And going by that gauge, the city is culturally doing fine, despite the most challenging year in living memory.” 

Culture being consigned to quarantine for the majority of 2020 means creative outlets have been forced back to the drawing board. “But now they await the moment when they can resume doing what they do best: celebrating unique, idiosyncratic items,” says Greg.

Art Of Protest gallery director Craig Humble concurs: “There are over a dozen of us, and, as varied as we are, we add a crucial element to the city-centre experience. I’m sure I speak for the rest of my contemporaries when I can confidently say we are doubly committed to bringing top-quality art to the browsing and buying public.”

Although the doors are closed at his gallery, newly relocated to Walmgate, Craig has not stopped working. “All the galleries in York are available now for enquiries and website sales. We are all of us often working in the galleries or on our computers, closely monitoring incoming questions and requests. Click and Collect pertains to independent galleries too.”

At present filling his gallery walls with Richard Barnes’s new works of York and the North York Moors, Greg wants to assure collectors and buyers that the art and crafts available for purchase will make for ideal gifts and stocking fillers.

“We can never rival the mainstream behemoths that have continued to churn through sale and demand, even in the middle of lockdown,” he says. “But there’s an undeniable magic in visiting indie galleries.

“The customer knows that the financial transaction will benefit the city directly, and the individuality of the items purchased makes for more memorable gifts.”

“There’s an undeniable magic in visiting indie galleries,” says According To McGee co-director Greg McGee

Craig believes the enjoyment of mooching on the streets of York and experiencing independent galleries, either coming across them by chance or intentionally making a visit, is a key part of the value of galleries.

“No-one wants a city centre that has been given over solely to the most mainstream outlets,” he argues. “In that sense, Indie York, who have helped us on social media and on their increasingly important maps, have brought awareness to this issue for years.”

Sara Amil-Smith, of Indie York, says: “York has a vibrant and diverse mix of long established, independently owned galleries, offering traditional and contemporary work. These galleries often collaborate and have good relationships with local makers and artists. 

“When you support a local gallery, you are supporting a wider community of local artists and makers, which is particularly important during these challenging times.” 

Greg points to the groundswell of support found for the galleries on social media and in the houses of the patrons who support them. “The list is growing: Art Of Protest; Blossom Street Gallery; Blue Tree Gallery; Braithwaite Gallery; Corner Gallery; The Crescent community venue; Gillygate Framing; Holgate Gallery; Janette Ray Booksellers; Kentmere House Gallery; Lotte Inch Gallery; Pyramid Gallery; The Hilt, and According To McGee,” he says.

“If we can ask people who love art and are passionate about starting or augmenting a collection, please wait until the doors of these galleries open again in December or take advantage of the online experience and make queries or make purchases.”

Greg continues: “Every gallery director I know is keeping on top of the online requests and sales that are coming in. Culture is just as open to the click-and-collect experience as anything else.

“There’s something for everyone; you will genuinely be helping to maintain the local cultural economy, and York will be one more step away from subscribing to the anonymity that has bled other cities dry. The best place to start is to grab an Indie York map. See you on the trail!”

How saying farewell to David Bowie in rabbit form set scribbler Terry Brett on his way to penning cartoon book for hospice

Bertt deBaldock’s first #GoodRabbitGone: David Bowie

IT began with 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.

“I had to do something when I heard about Bowie’s death. So I drew him as a rabbit. Bertt x,” explains the introduction to Good Rabbits Gone, a cartoon compendium of death notices for “inspiring individuals, all of them ‘one in a million’, who passed into their own preferred alternative dimension during the years between 2016 and January 2020; portrayed as rabbits”.

Bertt deBaldock is the nom de scribble of Terry Brett, colour-blind artist, ukulele player, long-ago chartered surveyor and now long-running proprietor of Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, York, whose book is raising funds for St Leonard’s Hospice in a 300-copy limited-edition print run.

Why rabbits, you may be asking. “I grew up surrounded by fields that were full of hares and rabbits,” says Terry. “The hares are very proud and confident creatures, but rabbits are extremely vulnerable. They are more successful than hares, because they are constantly on the look-out for trouble. Nice that the meekest creature on the planet is also one of the most prolific and content.

Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett, aka cartoon scribbler Bertt deBaldock, with a stand of his Good Rabbits Gone books outside his shop in Stonegate, York

“The cartoon image was inspired by my two daughters’ pet rabbit that I looked after. I’ve been drawing a cartoon of that rabbit in a comic-style Christmas card for 25 years. When Bowie died in 2016, I drew the rabbit with a lightning flash [from the Aladdin Sane album cover], just as a way of acknowledging the man. Then I put it on Twitter and it started an obsession!”

That very first #GoodRabbitGone read: “Ground control to Major Tom, There’s something wrong! 10 January 2016, age 69. The man who sold the world”. “Bowie was such a vulnerable young man trying to find his way as a performance artist who fortuitously discovered he could write brilliant songs and re-invent pop music to express himself,” says Terry.

“I think he struggled with the stardom and hid behind invented personas. But in the end, he became himself again – and really quite nice. We all do this. Even Donald Trump might! (Though he probably hasn’t got enough decades left to do so).

In each cartoon valedictory, “drawn in a rush at the time of passing” for publishing on Twitter and Facebook, the wording and imagery feed off each other: affirmation of how we recollect both visually and verbally.

Firestarter: Bertt’s farewell to The Prodigy’s Keith Flint

“That’s why it felt good to draw an image of Bowie on the day he died. On later Good Rabbits, I started to try and capture the subject’s face and character,” says Terry.

“I find great satisfaction in the process of reading up about the individual and then trying to capture the character. The words chosen to go with the cartoon become important later, to add humour or some sort of gravitas.

“I’m trying to express some sort of reason as to why that individual gained notoriety. It’s not always easy, but in the process of finding importance I become quite attached to the character. If I cannot find something that feels important, I wait until an image comes that amuses me.”

2016 turned into the annus horribilis of impactful deaths: Sir George Martin; Sir Terry Wogan; Ronnie Corbett; Victoria Wood; Muhammad Ali, the knock-outs kept coming. Was it a pure coincidence that Terry started the series that year?

Terry Brett’s favourite: Bertt’s goodbye to barcode inventor Norman Joseph Woodland

“It was because Bowie’s death moved me,” he says. “I also learnt to play and sing The Man Who Sold The World on my ukulele on the same day, which I played at our band rehearsal that evening.

“This was the year that I turned 60. I was quite shocked that someone who had been such an important part of my culture had died in his sixties. When you are 50-something, old age seems decades away. At 60, you suddenly wonder ‘where did the previous decade go’?”

Bertt’s 2016 list took in R.I.P. America, 8 November 2016, The Day They Elected To Trump. “I have a general rule, not to do politicians or make political comment. I am apolitical, as is this rabbit,” he wrote. “However, I felt so sad to witness this day. It felt like morality and fairness had been washed away.”

Terry says: “I’m naturally inclined to think of myself as left of centre and last year I joined the Green Party for the first time, just to encourage them. I’ve been an environmental campaigner since the 1980s, when I was on the Greenpeace payroll as a fundraising coordinator.

High flier: Bertt’s tribute to Mary Ellis

“Having said that, I was born into a very right-wing society and have respect for the views of many people I know who have right-wing views. To me, party politics are a distraction from the main issues such as respect, kindness, fairness and love for one another.”

Trump’s election resulted from left and right arguing between themselves about ideology, suggests Terry. “They should be more focused on core values and they would find that they want the same thing, which is the respect of others,” he argues.

“Trump’s objectionable behaviour and the pedalling of false opinions stirred up a crazed following that has been very detrimental to society in the USA and here in the UK. I felt very sad to see Trump elected as president, so I drew the flag as a rabbit, with all the stars sliding off.”

Terry used to keep a list of deaths through the year, writing them down in a notebook by the side of his bed while listening to Today on BBC Radio 4. “But the internet has made me a bit lazy; it’s so easy to look them up now!” he says.

Terry Brett holds a copy of Bertt deBaldock’s cartoon book, compiled in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice

Good Rabbits Gone Volume One In A Million takes in, for example, Sir Roger Moore (Shaken: 14 October 1927; Not Stirred: 23 May 2017), Sir Ken Dodd (Tickled to death 11 March 2018) The Prodigy’s Keith “Firestarter” Flint (Sparked: 17 September 1969; Snuffed: 4 March 2019). Note the witty yet poignant wording each time.

“When I draw the cartoon, I scribble a few words that come to mind. Later, I started to put them in the book and erased the original words,” says Terry. “I started to think of synonyms for ‘birth’ and ‘death’ that were appropriate to the individual – maybe a line from a song lyric or song title.

“In the case of barcode inventor Norman Joseph Woodland – my favourite of all in a late addition to the book – I wrote ‘Barcoded Sep 6 1921’ and ‘Beeped December 9 2012’. I like to imagine him reading it and laughing.”

What qualities make someone qualify at Bertt’s pearly gates for a memorial testimonial? Cultural icons? Influences on Terry’s life? His book shelves? “I need to feel a response and I need to feel stirred to make the effort to draw something,” he says. “I miss quite a lot of people and later feel I should have included them.

Bertt’s memorial to Monty Python’s Terry Jones, who died on January 21 2020

“So, the first quality is probably their notoriety, then I start to look at what they actually did. Some of these people I knew nothing about until they died. And there are two, Bryan ‘Yogi B’ Smith, my yoga teacher, and Don Walls, a wonderful poet, who were important to me in York but not at all famous.” 

Volume 2 is taking shape through 2020. “A few of my favourites are Vera Lynn, with a Spitfire and Hurricane flying over the white cliffs of Dover; Tim Brooke-Taylor; Terry Jones, as a naked rabbit playing the piano with the phrase ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’; Nobby Stiles, holding the World Cup in one hand and his false teeth in the other,” says Terry.

“There’s Toots Hibbert, the first musician to use the word ‘Reggay’ (sic); guitarist Julian Bream (Picked 15 July 1933; Plucked 14 August 2020); Peter Green, of Fleetwood Mac; actress Olivia de Havilland (Gone with the Wind)…

“…Supreme Court Judge and women’s rights campaigner Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Honor Blackman; Julie Felix; composer Ennio Morricone, entangled in spaghetti; the astronomer Heather Couper, and Beatles photographer Astrid Kirchherr.”

RIP composer Ennio Morricone, as recorded by Bertt

Terry finished the book in Lockdown 1 but the pandemic has prevented him from holding a proper launch at Pyramid Gallery. Instead, take it as read from this piece that copies are available by emailing pyramidgallery.com or ringing 01904 641187. A suggested donation of £10 should be made to St Leonard’s Hospice at justgiving.com/fundraising/terry-brett5.

“During Lockdown 2, I’ve been placing a table outside my shop – closed at present – with copies of the book and collecting boxes for St Leonard’s. I’m inviting passers-by to take a copy and donate online or put money in the boxes,” he says.

“It’s going well and it’s wonderful to be able to chat to people about it. About 40 books have been picked up in the first two weeks and donations are going into the boxes. So, thank you for donating to a wonderful hospice that could not exist without public support.”

Terry’s father, Maurice Brett, founder of Stevenage Flying Club, died of prostate cancer in 2002. “He checked himself into a hospice only 24 hours before he died. I don’t think he could come to terms with it until he went to the hospice,” he says.

Olivia de Havilland’s passing, depicted by Bertt

“He was working on a magazine article about a vintage aeroplane three days prior to that. Going to the hospice gave him control and was a way of making the decision to let himself die. Hospices give the terminally ill dignity. I think I want to make sure I get a place when my time comes.”

Contemplating what gravestone humour may lie n store for Terry himself, he says: “Mine could say…something like ‘Borrowed a pencil: 19 April 1956; Burrowed with a pencil: ….,’ but I’ve always been a really bad time keeper, so I think it should be ‘Late Again’.”

Covid-19 2020 has been a year of vulnerability, fretful uncertainty of both present and future and an increased awareness of death, making Good Rabbits Gone all the more pertinent.

“We’re all having to come to terms with our mortality,” says Terry. “Mine was the first generation in human history to be able to expect to live to over 60. Maybe that was a short-lived expectation. I hope not though!” 

Good riddance: Bertt’s latest death certificate for Donald Trump’s toxic brand of political posturing

Should you be wondering No 1.

Why use the name Bertt deBaldock?

“A particular friend in my youth always called me ‘Bertt’ and I was born in Baldock, well, a mile away in a tiny hamlet called Bygrave, in north Hertfordshire,” explains Terry.

“I use the French preposition ‘de’ in the same way that it is used in the name ‘DeBrett’s’, which is basically a list of the most influential people, many of whom are deceased or about to be.”

Valedictory to Vera: Bertt’s last note for Vera Lynn

Should you be wondering No. 2

How does colour-blindness affect you in your artistic work, Terry?

“I’m red/green colour-blind…a bit of a handicap for anyone involved in the arts.  I prefer to call it ‘colour confusion’,” he says.

“I can actually see all colours, but sometimes one confuses another. I can tell green from brown, but sometimes get them mixed up.”

Scarborough Museums Trust’s lockdown digital commissions stay at home online

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust’s lockdown-launched series of New Digital Commissions from leading British artists is complete and available online.

The project was introduced by the trust in response to the first lockdown in March as a “dynamic new approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming during the Coronavirus crisis”.

Key to the series was a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality of access and innovative ways to promote this message. A diverse range of artists – Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice’s Fiona MacDonald – created digital artworks for release online over the spring and summer across social-media platforms.

Lucy Carruthers’ Animal Archives. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

Trust chief executive Andrew Clay says: “It’s been so important this year for people to have access to the arts and culture: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Curator Dorcas Taylor says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before. We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Scarborough Museums Trust has provided a range of access tools to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Among them have been visual guides, in the form of “social stories”, by Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm that give audiences downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content. Subtitles and audio descriptions have been used wherever possible.

Kirsty Harris’s Whispers From The Museum. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

The New Digital Commissions all can be found on YouTube at http://bit.ly/SMTrustNDC, other than Jane Poulton and Kirsty Harris’s projects at https://www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/stardust/ and www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/learning/family-resources/ respectively.

Lucy Carruthers’ film, Animal Archives: Rewilding The Museum explores how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Interested in the relationship between inside and outside, all the more pertinent during lockdown, she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place is a multi-layered touring and participatory project that uses community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges around home, identity, and displacement.

Jade Montserrat made a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis for the New Digital Commissions project

It started in 2019 in Brighton and Hull and saw the social experiment, which invites honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Kirsty Harris created Whispers From The Museum, a six-part online and immersive adventure for children and families, inviting them to read George’s logbook, discover amazing museum objects and take part in art and craft activities. 

Wanja Kimani made a film, Butterfly, that follows a walk from a child’s eye view as she spent more time noticing the world around her and sensory experiences became amplified.

A still from Wanja Kimani’s film Butterfly

Jade Montserrat produced a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis that explores the impact of lockdown and chronicles the process of making, and new ways of being, that encourage mutual support and acts of care.

Jane Poulton produced a series of photographs and text called From Stardust To Stardust, focusing on personal objects she owns as she considers whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they may bring. 

Feral Practice’s film, The Unseesables, explores themes of extinction by focusing on three “unseeable” birds: the great bustard, the corncrake and the great auk. Examples of all three can be found in the trust’s taxidermy collection.

A still from Feral Practice’s film The Unseeables

What next?

Some of the New Digital Commissions artists will be participating in What If? at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda from April 24 to August 30 2021.

Next year’s exhibition will explore “the civic responsibility of museums and their collections and how we could introduce wider narratives into our spaces to make our institutions relevant to both the world and our local community”. 

York Art Gallery acquires significant works by four female 20th century artists

Men And Barges, oil on canvas, by Prunella Clough. Copyright: Estate of Prunella Clough

YORK Art Gallery has acquired four 20th century works by female artists after a successful application to Derbyshire School Library Service, whose doors were closed in 2018.

The paintings by the influential British artist Prunella Clough (1919-1999), Margaret Mellis (1914-2009), Marion Grace Hocken (1922-1987) and Daphne Fedarb (1912-1992) will go on display in York next year.

Following the closure, 90 works were chosen by the closest museum authority, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, while a further 315 were offered to other galleries across the country, to ensure they were kept in public collections for visitors to enjoy. This was made possible through funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.

Tropical Birds, oil on canvas, by Daphne Fedarb. Estate of Daphne Fedarb

Becky Gee, York Art Gallery’s curator of Fine Art, says: “We are thrilled to have acquired these fantastic works for York’s permanent collection. All four are by brilliant women artists who have played a significant role in shaping their respective areas of the modern British art scene.

“We are particularly pleased to acquire our first Clough: an artist who was so influential in her depiction of the post-war British landscape in the 1950s. Men And Barges combines Clough’s focus on working men and women with her later abstract compositions and we look forward to sharing this striking painting with our audiences.” 

Councillor Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council leader and cabinet member for strategic leadership, culture and tourism, says: “This is part of an exciting and pioneering project for Derbyshire County Council and we welcome the confidence the Museums Association has placed in us to get this right.

My Room, St Ives, Cornwall, oil on board, by Marion Grace Hocken

“For a long time, museums have been nervous about the disposal of objects, so this is an innovative project that will see items being re-homed in a transparent way, considering what is the best place for the object while ensuring it is not lost to the public where possible.”

Coun Lewis adds: “Across the country, pictures of great interest and in some cases great worth, are kept in storage or in private collections. One of the aims of this project is to try to ensure that doesn’t happen with the items in these collections. We are very pleased that York Art Gallery is able to receive these pictures and to exhibit them in its galleries.”

Clough’s Men And Barges will be joined on York Art Gallery’s walls by Daphne Fedarb’s painting Tropical Birds, Marion Grace Hocken’s My Room, St Ives, Cornwall and Margaret Mellis’s Vence Landscape (South Of France). 

Vence Landscape (South Of France), oil on canvas,  by Margaret Mellis. Copyright: The Margaret Mellis Estate, courtesy of The Redfern Gallery

Fedarb’s work makes a key addition to the Exhibition Square gallery’s small number of works by lesser-known British artists associated with the Surrealist movement, also complementing works by fellow London Group members Mary Fedden and Stanislawa De Karlowska. 

Margaret Mellis was part of an influential group of abstract artists that worked in St Ives at the outbreak of the Second World War. Her early figurative landscape,  Vence Landscape (South Of France), helps to tell the story of her turn to abstraction through her use of block colours and simplified forms.

Mellis had a varied and exciting circle of artist friends, many already represented in the York Art Gallery collection, as are works by her sister, Anne Stokes, in the gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) collections.

Marion Grace Hocken likewise based herself in St Ives and her work, My Room, St Ives, Cornwall, complements other St Ives School artists in the gallery’s collection, such as Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, with whom Hocken established the Penwith Society of Arts. Hocken also was close to Bernard Leach, who is represented by 72 ceramics in the CoCA collections. 

Lockdown 2: Will it end in tiers? Meanwhile, More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No. 19, courtesy of The Press

Here comes the flood: Rowntree Park viewed from the Reading Cafe balcony in sodden November. Now we wait for the vaccine dove but meanwhile the arts will not be beaten into retreat

LOCKDOWN 2 wears the mask of uncertainty for another fortnight until the next Government proclamation on whether it will all end in tiers or not.

Leaving predictions to the betting shops, this column will state the facts as they stand now on what – definitely or hopefully – will be happening in the weeks and months ahead as we wait for a prick to make a difference.

Charles Hutchinson consults his diary, written in pencil just in case, to help to fill yours.

Look who’s taking part in the first #yramathome on November 22

Virtual shopping goes arty for Christmas: York River Art Market online

AFTER summer stalls by the Ouse were Covid-cancelled, York River Art Market will host a series of online markets in the lead-up to Christmas.

The #yramathome Virtual Winter Art Markets will run from 10am to 5pm each Sunday from November 22 to December 20, plus the last Saturday before Christmas Day, December 19.

Online shoppers can browse and buy artworks from a selection of 20-plus different “indie makers” at each market day via Instagram. Information on each weekend’s makers, along with instructions on how to shop, will be shared via the York River Art Market (YRAM) Facebook page.

Snowfall In The Woods, mixed media on board, by Sharon Winter at Blue Tree Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week: The Christmas Show, Blue Tree Gallery, York, online initially

ORIGINAL paintings by Colin Cook, Giuliana Lazzerini, Nikki Monaghan and Sharon Winter feature in The Christmas Show, the latest Blue Tree Gallery exhibition in York until January 16 2021.

Lockdown 2 means the show is starting online only at bluetreegallery.co.uk/christmas-show-2020, but the Bootham gallery will re-open in December, subject to the new Government rules and regulations.

Driftwood sculptures by Natalie Parr, Christmas-themed ceramics by Kath Cooper and oxidised steel hanging decorations by David Mayne will be tempting Christmas buyers too.

Say Owt alumni Stu Freestone, left, Henry Raby, Hannah Davies and Dave Jarman in pre-Covid days. Now they head online for a live-stream tomorrow

Live-stream of the Week: Say Owt’s Lovely Lockdown Lyricism, Friday (20/11/20200), 7pm to 7.45pm

SAY Owt, York’s battleground for warring wordsmiths in slam clashes and regular host to spoken-word artists du jour, switches to online transmission for a night of alliteratively entitled Lovely Lockdown Lyricism.

Whirling wisps of wordy wonder in Livestream 2: In Owt/Shake It All About, will be Say Owt’s A-team of anarchic administrator Henry Raby, co-founder Stu Freestone, associate artist Dave Jarman and playwright, tutor, theatre director and slam champ Hannah Davies.

Tune in for “good Friday vibes” at facebook.com/events/283791622875447. Looking ahead, Say Owt hopes to re-convene in socially distanced mode at The Crescent, York, on December 11.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Let it snow in York: Badapple Theatre Company, The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre are to revive their 2019 Christmas show, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.

Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.

The animals are desperate for sleep, but with the onset of climate change, the weather is just too warm. Step in Mellor and Benham’s intrepid heroes, who decide they must seek out the mysterious Snow Dancer if there is to be any chance of ever making it snow for Christmas.

Kate Rusby wishes you a Happy Holly Day in her streamed Carol concert after having to cancel her Christmas tour

Christmas concert at home: Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day, December 12, 7.30pm

THE 2020 Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.

However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12.

At this special concert, streamed worldwide, expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: familiar Carols but set to unfamiliar tunes; wintry Rusby songs; sparkly dress, twinkling lights; her regular folk band and brass quintet; Ruby Reindeer and a fancy-dress finale. For tickets, go to: katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/

Elf and safety measures: Christmas films lined up for Covid-secure Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema: Winter Wonderland at Elvington Airfield

Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20

AFTER Knavesmire in July and Rufforth Airfield for Halloween, the apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema finds a new Covid-secure home for Christmas: Elvington Airfield. Father Christmas, elves and screen characters will be driving by too.

December 18 will offer Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

The Friday and Saturday programmes will start at 12 noon; the Sunday shows at 11am. Audio will be transmitted via a specially assigned FM frequency direct to vehicles’ radios and food can be delivered to customers’ cars.

Come Home, Tim: Yorkshireman Tim Booth will lead James to Leeds First Direct Arena next autumn

Looking ahead to 2021: Red Rose stalwarts James and Happy Mondays to invade the White Rose

JAMES have had to forego their traditional winter tour in 2020. Moving on, however, they will play Leeds First Direct Arena on November 25 2021, supported by fellow Manchester mavericks Happy Mondays.

“Feels like a new dawn to trumpet a celebratory tour, a week after the first news of hope,” said Clifford-raised frontman Tim Booth on Twitter. ”So looking forward to seeing you.” 

Tickets will go on general sale from 9.30am tomorrow with more details on the Live page at wearejames.com. Look out for a new James live double album and DVD, Live In An Extraordinary World, on December 11.

York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime cast members Anna Soden, left, Faye Campbell, Josh Benson, Robin Simpson and Reuben Johnson in rehearsal on Tuesday

And what about?

As trailered previously, York has two upcoming pantomimes. York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around all 21 wards from early December with a choice of three shows, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White.

York Stage will be full of beans from December 11 to January 3 at Theatre @41 Monkgate with writer-director Nik Briggs’s production of Jack And The Beanstalk, choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd.

At home, TV is in the crowning season: The Crown season four and The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and the crowning of The Great British Bake Off champion on Channel 4 on Tuesday night.

Albums to discover: Elvis Costello’s Hey Clockface; Fleet Foxes’ Shore, This Is The Kit’s Off Off On and, what joy, Songhoy Blues’ Optimisme.

May Tether as Jill in York Stage’s pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk

Shop ‘closes’ after only one day, but Gerard Hobson’s choice is to keep the animal magic coming. Here’s how…

Gerard Hobson’s choice of shop-window dressing at the old Bulmers building in Lord Mayor’s Walk, York

QUESTION. Which York shop opened on a Wednesday, only to close the very next day, but could yet run for a year?

The answer is Gerard Hobson Printmaker, in the old Bulmers building just beyond the corner where Monk Bar turns into Lord Mayor’s Walk.

Linocut artist Gerard was rudely interrupted by Lockdown 2’s killjoy claw tapping on his shoulder, but the lights illuminating his lampshades are still on: a beacon to the boxing hares in this former zoologist’s beautifully decorated window display and the walls beyond with their abundant bursts of wildlife and nature in myriad forms: prints; cut-outs; mugs; tea towels; cushions; cards and more.

“Having planned to open on November 4, before the new measures were then announced, I had to put all my efforts into opening for one day before lockdown,” says Gerard, a regular participant in York Open Studios at his Clifton home studio.

“Over the next month, I’m using the shop [frontage] as a means of getting myself known to a wider audience in York and continuing to sell my art and products online.

Cut-outs by printmaker Gerard Hobson on show at his new shop in York

“We’re operating a click-and-collect service where people can email me with enquiries or orders and they can either pick up from the shop on a certain day – probably Saturdays – or we’re doing free deliveries on orders over £15 in a ten-mile radius from York.”

Bringing the outdoors inside, Gerard’s work is full of joy: a joyfulness that permeates his decision to go ahead with his shop launch. “Although the timing in these matters was not perfect, I decided to open a shop in York against the tide of shop closures,” he says.

“I had a fantastic day on the Wednesday opening and am very positive about what this next month might bring.”

So much so that in the city with the highest net loss of chain-stores outlets in the UK in the first half of 2020 (55 in total), Gerard ponders: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if empty shops could be used by independent businesses for this period up to Christmas to run their businesses out of.

“York could become alive with shop-window displays offering click and collect or home deliveries.”

Gerard Hobson at work in his studio in Clifton, York

Here Gerard Hobson answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on opening shops in Covid times, window shopping, York’s city-centre future and his plans for 2021.

What prompted your decision to go against the tide by opening a shop at this difficult time, Gerard?

“York is a very small place and I happen to know the landlord of the old Bulmers building. He hadn’t any plans for the shops and asked me if I would like to use one of them to sell my art for a couple of months leading up to Christmas; with the idea that if it was a success, I could continue the lease into the new year.

“I had never thought of opening a shop before but thought it seemed like a great opportunity; especially with lots of shops closing in York, I thought I would buck the trend.” 

How did you go about designing the shop and how does it contrast with your Open Studios and Christmas shows at your home and on a grand scale in the gallery, grounds and gardens of Beningbrough Hall earlier this year?

A stack of cards designed by Gerard Hobson on display at his shop

“When I first looked at the shop, a lot of work still needed doing to it. It hadn’t even got a floor. I liked the fact the back wall was just breeze blocks, which gave it a more industrial feel, which would work well as my work space. I didn’t want it to feel too polished or formal.

“I measured it up and then sourced pre-loved pieces of furniture in and around York. The exception was the shop counter. I know a chap who sells large slabs of wood, so I bought a piece of elm from him and made the counter base out of a large pallet.

“As an artist, it’s fantastic when someone says you can do what you like with the space – the perfect blank canvas!”

What did your learn from mounting the Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition at Beningbrough Hall? Was it a perfect union of location, theme and artform? Discuss...

Gerard Hobson with one of his installations at Beninbrough Hall, near York

“Working at Beningbrough was a huge learning curve for me. The National Trust were amazing at allowing me free rein to use the grounds as I wished to install the exhibition.

“There are times when you really doubt what you are doing and think the whole thing just isn’t going to work. So, it’s a huge relief when it eventually comes together and all the risks are worth it!” 

You have been stoical about the Lockdown fates playing their hand. How will the shop operate through lockdown? 

“The announcement of the second lockdown was quite sudden but opening for just one day was great. Lots of my regular customers and friends dropped in on the day and it went much better than I had anticipated.

“This year has been so uncertain, especially for the arts, so I didn’t get down about it closing. I thought, ‘I have this shop window; what a great opportunity to advertise my art’, so I’ve put a notice in the window to allow people to window shop and buy through my website.”

On the case: Assorted items by Gerard Hobson for sale via click and collect at his York shop

How long into the new year do you envisage running the shop? Is it a pop-up shop or might it turn into a longer-term enterprise?

“My brother-in-law, Robert Feather, had a jewellery shop on Gillygate for many years, so he’s been very helpful in giving advice. My plans are to run the shop for a year so that I can look at the bigger picture and work out the ebbs and flows of retail (of which I’m sure there are many!).” 

How would you improve the city-centre streets of York?

“I find on the whole that York’s city centre has become a very sad shopping experience. When you go to other European countries, their towns and cities are full of interesting and diverse independent shops. Yet York has such great potential.

“Wouldn’t it be great to see lots of small independent shops, rather than lots of empty ones? It seems such a shame that high rental prices and business rates stop small businesses from setting up.”

Hare today, but thankfully not gone tomorrow, even though Lockdown 2 forced Gerard Hobson to close his shop after only one day

What’s coming up for you in 2021?

“2021 looks like it could be a very exciting year for me. As well as running the shop, I’ll be taking part in York Open Studios in April, which is always an exciting event to be part of.

“I’m running a couple of linocut courses at the RHS Harlow Carr gardens in Harrogate, as well as several classes throughout the year from my house.

“I’ll be working on more indoor installations and artworks for Little Green Rascals Organic Day Nurseries in York. I’ve known the owner, Vanessa [Warn], for many years and we share the same passion that a child’s space, where they learn and grow, should be nurturing and have a homely feel about it.”

Dressing the dresser: Gerard Hobson displays more of his wildlife wonders

Busy, busy! Anything else?!

“I’m also planning an exhibition at York Hospital.”

And finally, putting on your salesman’s hat, sum up what can be bought from the shop…

“Everything for sale in the shop has my designs on it. Limited-edition hand-coloured prints; bird, animal, tree and mushroom cut-outs; cards; mugs; cushions; coasters; chopping boards;  lampshades; tea towels; notepads and wrapping paper.

“There are even some handmade candles made locally. I didn’t make them but I did the logo on the box. Something for everyone, I hope.”

York River Art Market’s online winter days are a hit even before opening. Here’s why…

York River Art Market’s latest notice

ALL spaces for independent artists and makers for York River Art Market’s series of online markets in the lead-up to Christmas are fully booked.

The #yramathome Virtual Winter Art Markets will run from 10am to 5pm each Sunday from November 22 to December 20, plus the last Saturday before Christmas Day, December 19.

Online shoppers can browse and buy artworks from a selection of 20-plus different “indie makers” at each market day via Instagram.

Information on each weekend’s makers, along with instructions on how to shop, will be shared via the York River Art Market (YRAM) Facebook page, both in the run-up to the events and during them.

On market days, the artists will be set up via their own Instagram accounts to showcase live videos of their stall and individual images of each item for sale, with details on medium, size and price.

Artists and craft makers seeking to sell artworks from the comfort of their own home under the YRAM umbrella are paying £10 per day to cover administration, advertising and the chance to promote and sell work via Instagram.

Artists and makers on the list for November 22, the first #yramathome market day

Looking ahead to the markets, organiser Charlotte Dawson says: “Shoppers can simply find details of each artist attending the up-and-coming market day via the YRAM Facebook page, which will guide them to each artist’s own Instagram page.

“Here, shoppers may browse the images of each indie maker’s artworks for sale and follow the maker’s simple instructions of how to claim/buy each handcrafted item.”

Charlotte foresees the Virtual Winter Art Markets being welcomed by makers and shoppers alike. “So many physical arts and craft events have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19, such as the York River Art Market’s fifth summer besides the River Ouse,” she says.

“I realise that a Virtual Art Market is a completely different experience to being besides the river, with art exhibited all along the railings down Dame Judi Dench Walk by Lendal Bridge.

“However, I do hope that this version can give support to indie makers and also offer a different and fun experience for shoppers, where they can connect directly with the artist and browse the virtual market place, via Instagram, at their leisure and from their own home.” 

#yramathome dates for the diary are: November 22 and 29; December 6, 13, 19 and 20, 10am to 5pm. For information and updates, follow YRAM at @yorkriverart on Instagram and at @yorkriverartmarket on Facebook.

Blue Tree Gallery launches The Christmas Show online for now but hopefully….

Snowfall In The Woods, mixed media on board, by Sharon Winter

ORIGINAL paintings by Colin Cook, Giuliana Lazzerini, Nikki Monaghan and Sharon Winter feature in The Christmas Show, the latest Blue Tree Gallery exhibition in York until January 16 2021.

“Another lockdown as we open our new show means the gallery is closed, but we are now online till re-opening again in December, we hope,” says Gordon Giarchi, owner of the gallery in Bootham.

“As well as some stunning new paintings from Colin, Giuliana, Nikki and Sharon, we also have some lovely new ceramics, glass, sculpture and jewellery, which would make the perfect gifts and stocking fillers this Christmas.

”Look out for driftwood sculptures by Natalie Parr, Christmas-themed ceramics by Kath Cooper, oxidised steel hanging decorations by David Mayne and linocuts and handmade Christmas cards by Giuliana Lazzerini.”

Christmas cards, handmade by Giuliana Lazzerini

The Christmas Show has gone live on the gallery website at bluetreegallery.co.uk/christmas-show-2020 for views and sales.

Colin Cook, based near Whitby, is a West Londoner who moved north in 1989 to teach at a further education college, specialising in drawing, painting, photography and digital imaging.

“After many years of teaching, I began exhibiting again about five years ago,” he says. “The subject matter and inspiration for my paintings is taken from the north eastern coast and moors and the Lake District. The paintings are representational, based on observation of the constantly changing and intriguing light.

“Most of my paintings are about creating an atmosphere through the use of dramatic light and bold mark making. Compositional tension is important and hopefully created by the careful arrangement of the different pictorial elements: colour, texture, light, etc.”

A Sunny Evening At Saltwick Bay, North Yorkshire, acrylic on canvas, by Colin Cook

Colin’s paintings are reliant on careful “under-drawing” to create the structure for the looser brush marks to sit on. “The strongest shapes are worked in with large brushes and the smaller areas of specific focus are developed later,” he says.

“I prefer to work with acrylic paints and enjoy the flexibility that working with a water- based medium gives. Sometimes, the paint is heavily ‘impastoed’; on other occasions, it is built up in layers or glazes. Acrylic allows for a certain immediacy as it dries fairly quickly.”

Blue Tree Gallery artist-in-residence Giuliana Lazzerini was born in Seravezza, near Pietrasanta in Tuscany, moving to Yorkshire in 1987. “My work is varied and often developed from an idea encountered during a journey that takes me in an unknown territory, where I grow as an artist,” she says.

“I usually work in small series of paintings, where memory and imagination come to interplay. Time made me more familiar with the English northern landscape and it finally has left a mark in some of my work, as I become more intrigued by its drama and atmosphere.”

Dales Glow, acrylic on canvas, by Giuliana Lazzerini

Nikki Monaghan, who has a studio at Falkirk, Scotland, studied at the Scottish College of Textiles, subsequently working over the years as an interior stylist, designer and artist, while contributing to community arts too.

“My subject matter ranges from narrative landscapes and seascapes to quirky birds and figures,” she says. “I love colour and my paintings evolve by layering up acrylics and oil pastels, creating textures within them.”

Nikki’s work varies in size, ranging from small paintings that concentrate on a particular subject, to larger canvases where scenes evolve.

“Working from memory allows my work to take on a stylised abstract feel,” she says. “I’m influenced by many things: the weather, the Scottish landscape, how I feel when I wake up in the morning, anything that sticks in my head! There are no set rules.”

Gypsophilia And Carnations, mixed media on wood panel, by Nikki Monaghan

Sharon Winter graduated from University College, Scarborough, with a first-class degree in Fine Art in 2001, staying on for another year to do a post-graduate certificate in painting, specialising in tempera painting techniques.

Since then, she has exhibited in Yorkshire galleries and undertaken several artist residencies and her work has been commissioned by Scarborough and Bridlington Hospital.

She has designed and painted theatre “flats” for the Spotlight Theatre in Bridlington and the Bridlington Old Town Association and completed a book illustration project in collaboration with poet John Fewings.

“I work with oils, acrylics, and mixed media,” says Sharon. “I love Pre-Renaissance art, especially the gold-embellished icons and medieval illustrations, and the work of artists such as Marc Chagall, Stanley Spencer and Gustav Klimt.

Christmas-themed ceramic, by Kath Cooper

“I’m interested in combining abstract, sometimes decorative, pattern with figurative subjects inspired by myths, memories and dreams.”

For as long as she can remember, Sharon has loved painting and drawing. “I paint from my imagination, inspired by folk tales, poetry, and dreams,” she says. “I build up layers of paint, collage, gold leaf and text until the images, landscapes, characters and narratives have emerged.”

Whatever happens following the Lockdown 2 update after December 2, The Christmas Show will continue online until the January 16 closing date.

“We are wishing you lots of goodwill, health and happiness this Christmas and hope you enjoy the exhibition, whether online or, hopefully, from December 3 in the brick and mortar gallery, depending on the new Government guidelines,” says Gordon. “We will keep you posted.”

McGee responds to Lockdown 2 with Richard Barnes window shopping launch

York artist Richard Barnes making his socially distanced delivery of his new York and North York Moors works to According To McGee. Standing in the doorway is gallery co-director Ails McGee

ACCORDING To McGee is still putting art in the shop window despite the here-we-go-again impact of Lockdown 2.

“Culture is in quarantine, but collecting great art continues,” says Greg McGee, co-director of the distinctive yellow-fronted gallery in Tower Street, York.

”And if the doors have to close then we’ll use our window to sell our paintings. It’s opposite Clifford’s Tower – we get a lot of footfall – and it’s huge.”

Lockdown: The Sequel has prompted Greg and co-director Ails McGee to launch the Window Shopping series of exhibitions, kicking off with According To McGee’s biggest-selling artist, Richard Barnes, former head of art at Bootham School.

York Minster: A perennial subject matter for York artist Richard Barnes, featuring once more in his Window Shopping exhibition

“Famed for his man-sized portraits of York, Richard’s latest collection, York And God’s Own County, has some of the largest cityscapes and landmarks he has ever produced,” says a delighted Greg.

Window Shopping’s modus operandi addresses the necessity of locked-down galleries displaying their wares explicitly in the window space and making as much use of the wall space viewable from that vantage point as possible.

“I don’t think it’s a skill taught in curatorial lessons at art college, but these are strange times. ” says co-director Ails. “I organised with Richard a socially distanced drop-off of 15 new paintings, created at his garden studio.

“I was blown away by the quality of the new collection. He has always had a muscular, mischievous approach to composition and colour schemes, but these are stand-out works that show him at the top of his game.

According To McGee co-director Ails McGee with a panoply of new Richard Barnes paintings on display in the Tower Street gallery window opposite the reflected Clifford’s Tower, York

“I have filled the front gallery with his work, from floor to ceiling, and we have already made pre-exhibition sales. Not very minimal or a traditional art gallery approach, but the energy is unmistakable. Window shopping works.”

Richard, who lives in Huntington Road, had done some “window showmanship” of his own in the lead-up to this show. “The paintings I love most hit me in the gut and hit me in my soul,” he says.

“During [the first] lockdown, I exhibited the paintings I was making on the back of my studio, so people using the river path opposite could see them. Somehow the job of making paintings that might hit someone somewhere, or even just give them a bit of pleasure, seemed very worthwhile.

“The new set of paintings at According To McGee are those that people commented on most during those tense lockdown months.”

York artist Richard Barnes, caught up in a riot of colour in his paintings for an earlier show at According To McGee

Richard also became involved in a project to create a huge painting for the new mental health hospital for York being built a little further along the Foss river path [the now opened Foss Bank Hospital in Haxby Road].

“The smaller landscapes in the new exhibition are experiments with light and space that I used to inspire the largest landscape I have ever painted and am still working on,” he says.

Barnes’s work has been a building block of According To McGee ever since the gallery launched 16 years ago. “It is especially pertinent this winter,” says Greg. “I’m  honoured to act as the art advisor for the internationally well-regarded poetry zine,  Dream Catcher, whose December issue features the art of Richard Barnes exclusively, so this show chimes with that nicely.”

Casting an eye over the new works, Ails says: “Richard has always painted with the risk-taking energy of an excellent painter in his 20s, but there’s a stronger, fiercer element to this collection.

North Yorks Moors, as portrayed by Richard Barnes in his new God’s Own County series

“Maybe he has rediscovered a latent aggression, or mischief, or maybe it’s Lockdown. Either way, these paintings depict York as a modern city and the North York Moors as a location for contemporary landscapes better than any collection on the market. Come look through our gallery window and see for yourself.”

It is no secret that Richard, who has painted ceaselessly since the 1980s, will be bidding farewell York in the months ahead, selling both his studio and house. “Although I am leaving York and Yorkshire, I really hope I will continue my relationship with painting York and According To McGee,” he says.

“I want to thank Greg and Ails for supporting me and many other northern artists. What I have loved most about working with them is their attitude of ‘Why not?’.”

Watch out for news of his York Farewell Show at According To McGee in 2021. In the meantime, whether out exercising or shopping, take a breather in Tower Street to peruse Window Shopping: Richard Barnes, York and God’s Own County; expansive, bold and inviting eye contact behind glass until December 1.

More, more Moor: How do you like it? Another of Richard Barnes’s moorland Yorkshire paintings on sale in According To McGee’s debut Window Shopping show

York River Art Market seeks artists for online stalls for Christmas shoppers

Call-out to independent York artists and craft makers to take part in York River Art Market’s virtual winter markets at home in November and December

YORK River Art Market is going virtual in the lead-up to Christmas at #yramathome.

The series of Virtual Winter Art Markets will run from 10am to 5pm each Sunday from November 22 to December 20, plus the last Saturday before Christmas Day, December 19.

Online shoppers can browse and buy artworks from a selection of 20-plus different “indie makers” at each market day via Instagram.

Information on each weekend’s makers, along with instructions on how to shop, will be shared via the York River Art Market (YRAM) Facebook page, both in the run-up to the events and during them.

On market days, the artists will be set up via their own Instagram accounts to showcase live videos of their stall and individual images of each item for sale, with details on medium, size and price.

Artists and craft makers seeking to sell artworks from the comfort of their own home under the YRAM umbrella should contact yorkriverart@gmail.com for details. The cost will be £10 per day to cover administration, advertising and the chance to promote and sell work via Instagram.

“I do hope York River Art Market At Home can give support to indie makers and also offer a different and fun experience for shoppers, where they can connect directly with the artists,” says organiser Charlotte Dawson. Picture: David Harrison

Looking ahead to the markets, organiser Charlotte Dawson says: “Shoppers can simply find details of each artist attending the up-and-coming market day via the YRAM Facebook page, which will guide them to each artist’s own Instagram page.

“Here, shoppers may browse the images of each indie maker’s artworks for sale and follow the maker’s simple instructions of how to claim/buy each handcrafted item.”

Charlotte foresees the Virtual Winter Art Markets being welcomed by makers and shoppers alike. “So many physical arts and craft events have been cancelled this year due to Covid-19, such as the York River Art Market’s fifth summer besides the River Ouse,” she says.

“I realise that a Virtual Art Market is a completely different experience to being besides the river, with art exhibited all along the railings down Dame Judi Dench Walk by Lendal Bridge.

“However, I do hope that this version can give support to indie makers and also offer a different and fun experience for shoppers, where they can connect directly with the artist and browse the virtual market place, via Instagram, at their leisure and from their own home.” 

#yramathome dates for the diary are: November 22 and 29; December 6, 13, 19 and 20, 10am to 5pm. For information and updates, follow YRAM at @yorkriverart on Instagram and at @yorkriverartmarket on Facebook.