More Things To Do in York and beyond as Dickens tales, dames and Damon drop in. List No. 59, courtesy of The Press, York

What the Dickens? Yes, James Swanton is reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas at York Medical Society

FROM boyish Boris to Dame Edna, Christmas concerts to panto dames, Dickensian ghost stories to solo Damon, Charles Hutchinson has highlights aplenty to recommend.   

Dickensian Christmas in York: James Swanton’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, York Medical Society, on various dates between December 2 and 13, 7pm

AFTER the silent nights of last December, York gothic actor supreme James Swanton is gleefully reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas performances of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes.

“I’ve scheduled extra performances of A Christmas Carol: the perfect cheering antidote, I feel, to the misery we’ve all been through,” says Swanton. “But the two lesser-known stories are also very relevant to our times.”

A reduced capacity is operating for Covid safety, meaning that tickets are at a premium on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Boris: World King, under debate at Theatre@41

Political debate of the week: Boris: World King, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE year is 1985 and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has plenty going for him, being young, posh and really rather blond. However, his efforts to become President of the Oxford Union debating society have been thwarted.

Never fear. Boris always has a cunning plan up his sleeve. Cue time travel, classical allusions and good clean banter in Boris: World King, Tom Crawshaw’s comedic exploration of a young man’s ambition and humanity explored as a half-hour one-man show. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Richard Kay: Co-directing York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir’s Christmas concerts

Harmony at Christmas: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Citadel Singers, Christmas Traditions 2021, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, Tuesday to Friday, doors 7pm

AFTER delivering an online Christmas concert via Zoom to an international audience in 2020, York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir return to live concerts for Christmas Traditions 2021.

The Citadel allows room for cabaret seating downstairs and balcony seating that can ensure safe distancing is maintained, while the show retains its format of carols old and new, Christmas songs, festive readings and sketches. Box office: arkevent.co.uk/christmastraditions2021.

The poster for Damon Albarn’s night at the double at York Minster

York gig(s) of the week: Damon Albarn, York Minster, Thursday, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

DAMON Albarn quickly added a second special intimate album-launch show at York Minster after the first was fully booked in a flash.

The Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen leader now plays two sold-out concerts in one night in his first ever York performances, marking the November 12 release of his solo studio recording The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows.

Albarn, 53, has been on a “dark journey” making this album in lockdown, exploring themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth.

Martyn Joseph: Lockdown reflections on landmark birthday on new album, showcased in concert at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

Gig of the week outside York: Martyn Joseph, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

“THE Welsh Springsteen”, singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, will be showcasing his 23rd studio album, 1960, a “coming of age” record with a difference, in Pocklington.

Last year, amid the isolation of the pandemic, Penarth-born Joseph turned 60 on July 15, a landmark birthday, a time of self-reflection, that shaped his songs of despair and sadness, gratitude and wonder, and gave the album its title. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Alistair Griffin: Series of Big Christmas Concerts in York

Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 3 (sold out) and December 10, 8pm; Alistair Griffin’s Candlelit Christmas, Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, December 11, 8pm

ON December 3 and 10, a brass band greets revellers, then York singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert takes a musical journey from acoustic traditional carols to Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues. “Sing along and sip mulled wine while enjoying the fairytale of old York,” says Griffin’s invitation.

On December 11, he switches from St Michael-le-Belfrey to a candle-lit Holy Trinity Church. “Take a seat, or in this case, a medieval pew and soak in the festive atmosphere,” he says. Cue mulled wine, Christmas tunes, acoustic festive numbers and a Christmas carol singalong. Box office: alistairgriffin.com.

York playwright Mike Kenny: New production of The Railway Children with his award-winning script at Hull Truck

On the right track show of the week outside York: The Railway Children, Hull Truck Theatre, running until January 2

YORK playwright Mike Kenny has revisited his award-winning adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children – first staged so memorably by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum – for Hull Truck’s Christmas musical.

Directed by artistic director Mark Babych in the manner of his Oliver Twist and Peter Pan shows of Christmases past, original music and dance routines complement Kenny’s storytelling in this warm-hearted, uplifting tale of hope, friendship and family, set in Yorkshire. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk.

Faye Campbell: Brushing up on playing Cinderella in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, opening on Friday

Evolution, not revolution, in pantoland: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, December 3 to January 2

YORK Theatre Royal’s post-Berwick era began last year with the Travelling Pantomime, establishing the partnership of Evolution Pantomimes’ man with the Midas touch, Paul Hendy, as writer and Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster as director.

After the 2020 road show, here comes the full-scale return to the main house for Cinderella, starring CBeebies’ Andy Day (Dandini), last winter’s stars Faye Campbell (Cinderella) and Robin Simpson (Sister), Paul Hawkyard (the other Sister), ventriloquist comedian Max Fulham (Buttons), Benjamin Lafayette (Prince Charming) and Sarah Leatherbarrow (Fairy Godmother). Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Unmasked: Barry Humphries tells all at the Grand Opera House, York next April

Hottest ticket launch of the week: Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, April 13 2022

AUSTRALIAN actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure Barry Humphries will play only one Yorkshire show on his 2022 tour, here in York.

Set to turn 88 on February 17, he will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of alter egos Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. Hurry, hurry, for tickets on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Blueberry Academy learns how to be creative with Christmas shopping in York

Louisa Atkinson: Blueberry Academy learner and Christmas Fair participant

BLUEBERRY Academy is preparing to make Christmas shopping that little bit more creative in York.

Supporting Learning and Employment Services for adults with learning difficulties, the Academy’s curriculum ensures creativity leads to items being available to buy not only at Blueberry Pop Up Shop on Micklegate, but also at two high-profile events.

Namely, the Pop Up Christmas Market at Homestead Park, Water End, tomorrow (27/11/2021) and Blueberry Academy Christmas Fayre at Melbourne Centre, Escrick Street, on Wednesday (1/12/2021), both from 11am to 3pm.

Blueberry Academy has partnered with New Visuality director Greg McGee to help give the creativity a boost. “Blueberry Academy and their staff do such a great job that I found I didn’t have to do much,” he says.

The poster for Blueberry Academy’s Pop Up Christmas Market

“The timing was convenient, in that New Visuality’s project, Our Style, funded by an award from the National Lottery Community Fund, is up and running.

“In this project, we’re looking at how fashion depends on someone else’s ideas of beauty, but style comes from within and strengthens inner confidence. The Blueberry Academy Fair was a perfect place to get started.”

Available to buy at the Pop Up Market and Christmas Fair will be snoods, candles, paintings and prints, all created by people who are working towards greater independence and confidence. 

Blueberry learner and Christmas Fair participant Louisa Atkinson says: “I’ve really enjoyed being creative in this project and learning the necessary skills. I’m excited to see what the public thinks.

The poster for Blueberry Academy’s Christmas Fayre at the Melbourne Centre

“These events are a good opportunity for not only our friends and family but members of the public to come and see what Blueberry Academy does best.”

Greg is philosophical about how events like these can change the way shoppers think at this time of year. “By this time next week, I shall have completed all of my Christmas shopping, and all of it will have come from the Pop Up Market or the Christmas Fair,” he says.

“Not only is it a chance to redefine Christmas shopping as an opportunity to get away from the crowds and the mainstream, and not only are you buying genuinely desirable and beautifully finished items, but you can directly help a whole cohort of people get their craft out there too. Shopping doesn’t have to be stressful; it can be magical.”

Take a look at Greg’s film at: https://fb.watch/9wD3Y2P31s/

Ben Arnup’s ‘slightly eccentric’ new ceramics launched at Pyramid Gallery tomorrow in Christmas Collection show

Barn, box-form ceramic, by Ben Arnup

YORK ceramist Ben Arnup opens the Christmas Collection exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, tomorrow at 11am.

On show until January 20 will be new work comprising 24 small and medium pots that feature trompe l’oeil effects with his flattened box forms and a new departure in his style wih vase and beaker forms.

“Collectors of his work will be surprised to hear that an eminent ceramic artist who has built his career on the basis of trying to trick the eye has this year progressed into the realm of vessels that are not compressed to an almost flat form,” says Pyramid Gallery curator and owner Terry Brett.

“But they will also be pleased that nothing in Arnup’s world is regular and that each vessel here in this show succeeds in being slightly eccentric.

“Ben has always experimented with surface decoration, using micro-thin layers of coloured clay to create a marble effect or applying textured coloured slips to differentiate different sides to a cube. The new work incorporates both of these techniques to pleasing effect.”

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett holding ceramics by Ben Arnup. Behind him are paintings by Mick Leach

Arnup’s interest in ceramics started at home. Blessed with a sculptor and a potter as parents, he grew up learning ceramics skills and technology.

Originally trained as a landscape architect, he worked in the industry until 1984 when he returned to making pots, heavily influenced by the design process. Previously working in Ross Moor and with his father near Holtby, he now lives and works in York.

From the beginning of his career as a potter, his pieces were always shallow, with trompe l’oeil illusions. For the first 15 years, his work was high-fired stoneware in an oil reduction kiln; now this fellow of the Craft Potters Association fires to an oxidised stoneware in an electric kiln to achieve cleaner, brighter colours.

“In order to create a colourful fluid field for the trompe l’oeil image I laminate a porcelain veneer onto a stronger clay body,” he says. “The drawn illusion is complemented by the colourful rhythm in the base clay.

Barn, box-form ceramic, by Ben Arnup

“The pots are an exploration of the way we see. The onlooker will be well aware of the frail illusion and the contradiction between what is suggested and what is tangible. I like to play a game: setting the prosaic nature of clay against the unlikely structures of the drawings.”

Arnup will be at Pyramid Gallery between 11 am and 2.30pm tomorrow to greet collectors and explain his making methods and inspirations for the work. Wine and refreshments will be served.

On the walls are paintings by York artist Mick Leach and work by Scottish artists Ian MacIntyre (paintings) and Hilke MacIntyre (ceramic reliefs and linocut prints), while an array of many different types of 3D art is provided by sculptor Jennie McCall, glass maker Catherine Shilling and potters Dylan Bowen and Katie Pruden.

As always, the window and cabinets on the ground floor are filled with hand-made jewellery by more than 50 British jewellery designer/makers.

Gallery opening hours are 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 4.30pm on Sundays. Much of the work can be seen and bought via the gallery website at pyramidgallery.com.    

In late-70s schooldays, no-one liked Abba, except Graham’s classmate, Guy Gibson

Forty years on: ABBA’s voyage back to the recording studio

NOW, even podcaster Graham Chalmers has bought into ABBA’s return after 40 years, buying comeback album Voyage.

Hear his verdict in Episode 65 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car, under questioning from Charles Hutchinson. Together they then recommend 2022 releases that could just be fabber than Abba.

Under discussion too are next January’s relaunch of bespoke Charm gigs in Harrogate; seeing/not seeing Soft Cell’s home-coming 40th anniversary show in Leeds…and Colin Firth’s hair in Eva Husson’s new upstairs/downstairs film Mothering Sunday.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9570139

Peter Miller’s landscapes, bales and rivers bring a slice of Yorkshire to Partisan café

The White Horse From Fields Near Kilburn, Summer 2020, oil painting by Peter Miller

FOR 40 years, Peter Miller ran Ken Spelman’s Bookshop, on Micklegate, in York.

Now, he is completing a hattrick of exhibitions since the bookseller’s closing chapter, retirement in 2012, on the same side of the cobbled street, at Partisan, Florencia Clifford and Hugo Hildyard’s vibrant artisan café on the same side of the cobbled street.

Filling the café’s upstairs walls with God’s Own Country colour, Peter is exhibiting From Kilburn To Hawnby, his series of landscape oil paintings of North Yorkshire, until November 30.

“This is the third show I’ve had in the last few years, after Ken Spelman’s Bookshop in 2014 and Scampston Hall, near Malton, in 2015,” he says. “As with the first two, the paintings explore landscape, in this case North Yorkshire.

At easel: Peter Miller at work on an oil painting in his studio. Note the angle of his chair

“The first one featured Eskdale to Scarborough; the second one, for Scampston Hall, focused on the Wolds, and what you notice is that Yorkshire is such a big county with these completely different landscapes.

“The pictures are representational and are painted in a modest spirit of connection with place, but as with all painting, colour, tone and composition increasingly have become the real subject of the pictures.”

Miller’s tale behind his latest show begins on the Wolds. “I was approached by Florencia and Hugo to do an exhibition because they’d been out to a mutual friend, Una McCluskey’s house, beyond Kilnwick Percy, with its fantastic view of the Vale of York,” he recalls.

“Some years ago, I did a picture of that view for Una for her kitchen, and when Florencia and Hugo saw it, they said, ‘gosh, who did that?’. I’d known them for a long time, and in fact they approached me before the pandemic, saying they’d love to host an exhibition of my work…but of course it then got put back.”

Boltby Scar, Summer 2020, by Peter Miller

Peter is an enthusiastic walker, blessed with a painter’s appreciation of landscape. “I’d done a lot of walks between Hawnby and Kilburn before the first lockdown, getting out and about, and then, in between lockdowns, I was able to refresh my memory of certain landscape scenes,” he says.

“I then did the paintings in my studio based on studies and photographs: Kilburn to Hawnby is an area I know well because I go up to Shandy Hall in Coxwold, where I’m involved with the Laurence Sterne Trust, and I enjoyed doing the studies in different seasons, such as studies of the White Horse in spring, summer and autumn.

“Put together, the pictures form a tangible evocation of time spent in the wonderfully varied Yorkshire landscape.”

Peter’s love of walking takes him to the Wolds most weeks, packing up a sandwich and stretching the legs over eight to ten miles. “It’s very seldom that we experience weather bad enough to make us abandon the walk; the Yorkshire weather is often better than people imagine, and walking over the landscape is very sustaining,” he says.

Hay Bales II, near Felixkirk, Autumn 2020, by Peter Miller

With that in mind, you might expect Peter to be a plein-air painter, but not so. “There are very strong arguments for plein-air painting, but I prefer to carry the scene in my mind’s eye, have it there and then re-create it, re-living the moment of being there, because it’s not just a picture of being there in the open air: it has veracity in paint and tone, and I find that being at one remove suits me better.

“Whereas with plein-air painting, the light is changing all the time and I would find that very distracting.”

Peter uses watercolours and acrylics for sketching but favours oils for his paintings. “I’ve never really mastered the watercolour technique, which is very difficult,” he says. “I find oil to be the most sympathetic medium because you can move it around on the surface; you can point over it, you can mix in, blend in, the oils, whereas with acrylics, the surface is dry within half an hour.

“I love how, with oils, you can paint in the sky and two days later you can feather it around and change it a bit. That freedom is not something I would want to give up. It’s such a satisfactory feeling working with oils, and then when it’s finished, you apply the varnish that gives it an intensity that rather flatters it.”

In the mix: Peter Miller mid-painting in oils

Born in 1947, Peter grew up in Chiswick. “But when I was a boy, I lived with my grandparents for three years in Blackpool; my grandfather was a commercial artist there but loved the countryside and I used to go on sketching trips with him,” he says.

“I learned the basics of paintings from this lovely old man, and that was my starting point. In fact I did think of going to art school, but I felt it would be limiting my options too much, so instead I studied history as a degree.”

Peter’s grandfather, meanwhile, has his own place in Blackpool’s history. “At the age of 75, he was called out of retirement to repaint the 4,000 square feet of the Tower Ballroom ceiling after the fire of 1955,” he says.

“He had to re-create The Carnival of Venice series of murals, going up 120 ft of scaffolding to start each day’s painting in his mid-70s, with only one helper to mix the colours. The mural now has a preservation order on it.

Hay Bales and Field, near Felixkirk, Autumn 2020

“He was also invited to paint a scene that could be seen behind famous Tower Ballroom organist Reg Dixon as he emerged from below, choosing to paint Isle Of Capri, in honour of Gracie Fields, who sang that sing.”

Peter first came to York in 1965, initially as an undergraduate at the then-new University of York, but like many since, he ended up staying, running Spelman’s, latterly in partnership with Tony Fothergill, until the canvas and cloth called.

“In that time, I’ve always had close links with the Friends of York Art Gallery, helped to set up a modern art gallery in Grape Lane and held regular art exhibitions at the bookshop from the late 1970s,” says Peter.

One such artistic association has come in handy for the latest exhibition. “Many of the frames were given to me by my artist friend John Langton, who’s now in his late-80s and no longer paints,” reveals Peter. “I availed myself of them and then did the paintings to fit the frames! It ended up being the cheapest exhibition I’ve ever done!”

Peter Miller: From Kilburn To Hawnby, Landscape Paintings of North Yorkshire, on show at Partisan, Micklegate, York, until November 30. Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm; Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 4pm.

The River Rye at Hawnby, Early Autumn 2020, by Peter Miller

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as musicals abound, comedy turns angry and Madchester revives. List No. 58, courtesy of The Press, York

So frustrated: Paul Chowdhry has his say on Covid, fame, England’s football team and Tom Cruise’s chopper at the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

IMAGINE if you could have a busy week ahead? Let Charles Hutchinson fill your diary.

Angriest comedy gig of the week: Paul Chowdhry, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

AFTER barely surviving the pandemic, British-Asian stand-up Paul Chowdhry tackles the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and why the rules of six only worked for white people in Family-Friendly Comedian (No Children).

Two years of pent-up frustration go into this new tour show, where Londoner Chowdhry also discusses fame, England football fans and Tom Cruise landing his helicopter in someone’s garden. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Chesca Cholewa: Writer of Imagine If Theatre Company’s My Old Man

Studio play of the week: Imagine If Theatre Company in My Old Man, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight, 8pm

IMAGINE If Theatre Company, from Leeds, is touring a part-theatre, part-film production of Chesca Cholewa’s humorous and heartfelt play My Old Man.

When Michal Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha (played by Cholewa), finally moves out, his whole world changes. The school dinner-lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves on to the street, and Michal (Paul Shelley) has to face his biggest battle yet as My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of this old, blind Polish soldier. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk.

Songs and Stables’ leadership: Kate Stables brings her band This Is The Kit to The Citadel tomorrow night

Experimental gig of the week: This Is The Kit, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

KATE Stables’ experimental folk quartet This Is The Kit return to York for a special show at The Citadel, the former Salvation Army HQ, presented by Please Please You, The Crescent and Brudenell Presents. Support comes from Nuala Honan and Pavey Ark. Box office: brudenellsocialclub.seetickets.com.

York artist Karen Winship, taking part in the Inspired Christmas event at York Cemetery Chapel

Christmas shopping? Opportunity presents itself at Inspired, York Cemetery Chapel, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

INSPIRED, the annual Christmas show by York artist and designer makers, will be held at York Cemetery Chapel, in Cemetery Road, York, this weekend.

Taking part will be Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, collage printmaking; Angela Newdick, collage and surface pattern design; Adi French and Karen Winship, painting, and John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture.

PQA York’s poster for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at the JoRo

Children’s show of the week: PQA Productions in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow and Saturday, 7.30pm

PAULINE Quirke Academy (PQA) York journeys under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, adapted from Disney’s Broadway show and film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of sacrifices made for love and acceptance.

Young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her magical ocean home and fins behind for the world above. First, however, she must defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula and convince Prince Eric she is the girl whose enchanting voice he has been seeking. Separate casts perform the two shows. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt, Alexandra Mather and Andrew Roberts in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny

Witty and warm songs of the week: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

FLADAM duo Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter take to the Theatre@41 stage with thespian friends Alexandra Mather, Andrew Roberts and Andrew Isherwood for two shows of musical comedy joy.

Fladam’s own topical witty ditties will be complemented by a celebration of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins, Victoria Wood and more. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Scarlett Waugh, left, and Libby Anderson: Sharing the role of Dorothy in NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

Sparkling slippers of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday (23/11/2021) to Saturday

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz, led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy.

Further roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Phoenix rising again: Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate their 40th anniversary this autumn, opening their tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance celebration of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in 40 Years Of Phoenix, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

PHOENIX Dance Theatre launch their milestone 40th birthday programme at York Theatre Royal, bringing together highlights from the Leeds company’s groundbreaking history.

Phoenix will combine celebration and reflection in a show featuring Lost Dog duo Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer’s Pave Up Paradise; former artistic director Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart Of Chaos; Henri Oguike’s Signal; Shapiro and Smith’s satirical piece Family and Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece Harmonica Breakdown. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Director Nik Briggs, left, choreographer Emily Taylor and lead actors Sophie Hammond and Damien Poole at the launch of York Stage Musicals’ festive show, Elf! The Musical

Christmas musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Elf! The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 25 to December 3

YORK Stage Musicals present the York premiere of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s Elf! The Musical, directed by artistic director Nik Briggs.

Based on Will Ferrell’s 2003 film, Elf! follows orphan child Buddy to Santa’s North Pole abode, where, unaware he is human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.

Given Santa’s permission, Buddy (Damien Poole) heads to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help the Big Apple to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Amaka Okafor: Taking part in the staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland at Friargate Theatre, York

Play readings of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company presents Maryland, Friargate Theatre, York, November 26, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

TWO staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s 30-minute protest play will feature Amaka Okafor, from the original Royal Court Theatre cast, Laura Pyper, Mark Holgate, Cassie Vallance, Kesiah Joseph, Patricia Jones and Meg Blowey.

Kirkwood wrote Maryland as a “passionate and furious act of resistance to draw attention to the shocking numbers of women who repeatedly suffer violent abuse throughout Britain. The play is not specific; it addresses issues of police behaviour and a culture of violence against women and girls”.

After sold-out performances in London, the Royal Court offered Maryland for free for theatre companies to perform in solidarity and protest. York company Riding Lights has taken up that opportunity, with associate director Bridget Foreman directing the readings. Box office: 01904 613000.

James: Teaming up with Happy Mondays for a Manchester night out in Leeds

Gig of the week ahead outside York: James and special guests Happy Mondays, Leeds First Direct Arena, November 25, doors, 6pm

ALL of 33 years ago, Factory label mates James and Happy Mondays first toured together. Now, two of Manchester’s champion bands reunite for a November and December arena tour.

 “Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink,” tweeted Tim Booth, James’s Clifford-born frontman, when announcing the dates with rapscallion rascals Shaun Ryder, Bez and co.

James, who played Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer, will be showcasing their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June. Box office: firstdirectarena.com. Stage times: Happy Mondays, 7.30pm; James, 9pm.

Mim Robson launches Grapevine Project online exhibition, linking works by 120 photographers, writers and creators

The first image from the Grapevine Project’s Vine #9 by Richard Little, sent on anonymously to Adele Karmazyn, who did likewise when forwarding her work to Rich Whittington. View them in turn for a demonstration of how each artwork influences the next

THE Grapevine Project, a collaborative York art project and exhibition of 120 artists, writers and creators, each creating work influenced by fellow participants, is launched online on Friday. 

Mostly based in York, these artists anonymously received a work, to which they had to respond creatively before then anonymously passing their own work on to the next artist.

“The resulting exhibition is a marvellous online display of painting, poetry, film, sculpture and more, and demonstrates the hidden threads of influence and creativity that connect those in the arts, even in times of isolation and separation,” says organiser and multi-disciplinary artist Mim Robson.

Initiated by Mim at the start of lockdown, the project began with 11 photographers, who each anonymously submitted an image to be forwarded to artists. “These artists then produced a new artwork in response, starting a thread of work that grew into a ‘grapevine’ of original art, poetry, film, sculpture and more,” she says.

“The process led to a series of beautifully interwoven transitions of thought, ideas and themes, demonstrating art’s ability to communicate and connect people. Every submission was passed on anonymously to the next artist, who would create a work in response, resulting in 11 separate ‘vines’ of art, each made up of 11 artists.” 

Adele Karmazyn’s White Tails, from the Vine #9 thread of the Grapevine Project

The artists, although primarily based in Yorkshire, are spread across Britain and even into Europe. “The project has resulted in a rich and varied collection of work that celebrates our differences while also looking at what connects us,” says Mim.

“All of the artwork created is wonderful in its own unique way, and the results within each group are fascinating.”

The project ran for almost a year and is now at a stage where the art is ready to be revealed to the world on Friday in an open-ended online exhibition.

“The Grapevine Project started as a simple idea that transformed into a huge discovery of how artists take inspiration and make it their own,” says Mim. “I’ve loved seeing the threads of ideas and themes grow and evolve in each of the 11 vines within the project”

To view the exhibition from Friday, go to: thegrapevineproject@outlook.com.

Rich Whittington’s Reflection, the third image in sequence from Vine #9 of the Grapevine Project. Note the reflection of Adele Karmazyn’s work in the deer’s eye

York artist Linda Wormald to host Christmas event at Garden Gallery & Shop

Christmas gifts at The Garden Gallery & Shop, hosted by York artist Linda Wormald from November 18 to 20

YORK artist Linda Wormald’s Garden Gallery & Shop will host its Christmas preview event from Thursday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Entry is free but you will need to book a time slot at eventbrite.co.uk/e/christmas-gift-preview-at-the-garden-gallery-shop-tickets-210308377017.

“Indulge in a complimentary mince pie and glass of prosecco – or juice if you’re driving! – and be the first to browse an array of exquisite Christmas gifts hand-made by York artists and makers,” says Linda, who runs her gallery and shop at 3, Windmill Lane, York, YO10 3LG.

“If you’re seeking something truly unique that you can’t get on the high street, the Garden Gallery has something for everyone, from jewellery to ceramics, home decor pieces to fine art. Look out for some incredible hand-made Christmas cards in our popular card corner.”

“If you’re seeking something truly unique that you can’t get on the high street, the Garden Gallery has something for everyone,” says artist Linda Wormald

Located near the University of York, the Garden Gallery & Shop was set up in her garden by Linda, who had a building especially constructed to fulfil her concept.

“Surrounded by rich woodland and my contemporary garden, the gallery elicits creativity in abundance and is the perfect location to showcase my paintings in oils and acrylics,” she says.

In May, Linda, 72, expanded the gallery to accommodate works by other renowned artists and makers, most notably artists who have participated in York Open Studios and who sell their work internationally.

“This charming collective of artists and the inviting location make it a real pleasure to run” she says. “We’ve had such a wonderful response so far and the gallery looks enchanting in preparation for the Christmas season.

“We are fully Covid-compliant, and contactless payments will be accepted.”

South Bank Studios host art & craft winter fair for Christmas shopping on Nov 13

Carolyn Coles’s studio at South Bank Studios, Bishopthorpe Road, York

SOUTH Bank Studios, an artists’ group based at Southlands Methodist Church, York, open their doors and studios to the public for their annual Art & Craft Winter Fair on November 13. 

From 10am to 5pm, 28 artists are exhibiting jewellery, ceramics, lino prints, textile art and fine art paintings and prints, all available to buy, just in time for Christmas. Entry is free.

“There has never been a better time than now to support local artists” says Donna Maria Taylor, one of the event organisers and artists from the studios in Bishopthorpe Road. “The South Bank Studios ethos is to build our community, so we decided that as well as showcasing our own work, we would invite other artists and makers to join us at the fair. 

“We have a great range of artists showing, such as Carolyn Coles, Caroline Utterson, Jane Dignum, Lincoln Lightfoot, Richard Whitelegg, Mandi Grant and Fiona Lane, to name just a few. There really will be a fantastic selection on offer.”

South Bank Studios’ poster for the November 13 art and craft winter fair

When selecting artists and makers to take part, South Bank Studios made sure that collectively they would offer a varied price range, so no-one should miss out, says Donna.

“But it’s not just about shopping,” she continues. “The studios will be open, so visitors get a chance to look behind the scenes. We will also have performances from the York Music Centre ensembles, including the Senior Concert Band (10am), the Guitar Ensemble (11am), the Senior Folkestra (11.30am) and Big Band (12.30pm). There will be delicious homemade refreshments from the church team too.” 

Since the group was formed in 2018, South Bank Studios have been involved in community projects and also hold workshops. For more information on the artists and what’s going on, visit their website, southbankstudios.co.uk.

South Bank Studios’ artist Mandi Grant

More Things To Do in and around York as pioneering dating show is game for laughs and love. List No. 57, courtesy of The Press

Seasick Steve: Just him, his home-made guitar and you at York Barbican tonight

CHARLES Hutchinson recommends veteran blues at the double, quilts, a dating show, chaotic Hitchcockian comedy capers, a Brahms Requiem and a Geordie comic out to dazzle.

Solo show of the week: Seasick Steve, Just Steve, A Guitar And Your Tour, York Barbican, tonight, 8pm

LAST year, American DIY blues veteran Seasick Steve released two albums, July’s Love & Peace and November’s Blues In Mono, his tribute to trad acoustic country blues recorded with a microphone from the 1940s as Steve performed the songs direct to an old tape machine. 

Now, York-bound Steve says: “I‘m lookin’ forward to coming and playing for y’all. Just gonna be me, you and my guitar. A few songs and a few stories, kinda like we just hangin’ out together! Gonna be fun. See ya there.” Tickets update: limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Sanna Buck, Stephen Wright and Aran MacRae look on as a prone Daniel Boyle takes centre stage in rehearsal for York Settlement Community Players’ The 39 Steps. Picture: John Saunders

Play of the week: York Settlement Community Players in The 39 Steps, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight until Sunday

PATRICK Barlow’s riotous West End comedy hit marks the Settlement Players’ return to live performance for the first time since March 2020.

Harri Marshall’s cast of eight takes on the challenge of combining John Buchan’s 1915 novel with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film scenes in a blend of virtuoso performance and wildly inventive stagecraft, playing 150 characters between them as the mysterious 39 Steps chase Aran MacRae’s Richard Hannay’s on a nationwide manhunt. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Hey, it’s The Manfreds: Playing the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be? It’s even better at Maximum Rhythm N’ Blues with The Manfreds and Georgie Fame, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE Manfreds and Georgie Fame team up for a celebration of Sixties rhythm & blues in an all-star line-up with hits galore to match.

Original Manfred Mann members Paul Jones, Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness are joined by Family’s Rob Townsend on drums, Marcus Cliffe on bass and Simon Currie on saxophone and flute, plus former member Mike D’Abo to share lead vocals, and Blue Flames leader Fame on keyboards. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Ready to dazzle: Sarah Millican kicks off a three-night run at York Barbican tomorrow

Three-night run of the week: Sarah Millican: Bobby Dazzler Tour, York Barbican, tomorrow to Sunday, 8pm

SOUTH Shields humorist Sarah Millican’s new show, Bobby Dazzler, is doing the rounds on her sixth international tour.

“You’ll learn about what happens when your mouth seals shut, trying to lose weight but only losing the tip of your finger, a surprisingly funny smear test, and how truly awful a floatation tank can actually be,” says Millican, who has “spent the last year writing jokes and growing her backside”. Tickets update: limited availability at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Masks, of the non-Covid protection variety, will be worn by participants in ventriloquist Nina Conti’s dating show. Picture: Matt Crockett

Game show of the week: Nina Conti: The Dating Show, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

FAST-TALKING, faster-thinking ventriloquist Nina Conti and her cheeky Monkey host a pioneering new dating show for participants picked from the York audience.

What’s in store for the chosen ones? Apparently “she’ll be like Cilla Black with masks. Derailed. Not so much a Blind Date as a re-voiced one.” In a nutshell, they wear masks, she/Monkey talks, with no promise that true love will be found. Box office: atgtickets.com/york. 

Matthew Miller’s Golden Bird quilt from his Cloth & Colour installation at York Theatre Royal from Saturday

Exhibition launch of the week: Matthew Miller’s Cloth & Colour quilts, York Theatre Royal foyer, from Saturday to November 30

BASED in London, but from York, multi-media artist Matthew Miller launches his debut quilt installation in the first Beyond The Gallery Walls pop-up project to be mounted by Lotte Inch Gallery.

Artist Matthew and curator Lotte will be hosting the launch from 11.30am to 1.30pm on Saturday, happy to discuss his Cloth & Colour quilt designs. Interested in the ecological use of fabric in quilting, Matthew has used end-of-roll and pre-worn fabrics throughout his series of vibrant collages in cloth.

Alex Ashworth: Baritone soloist for Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at Saturday’s concert by the Chapter House Choir. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

Classical choral concert of the week: Chapter House Choir, York Minster, Saturday, 7.30pm

THE Chapter House Choir performs Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at York Minster in a rare opportunity to hear Brahms’s own arrangement written for piano – more intimate and transparent – with baritone Alex Ashworth, soprano Susan Young and pianists Eleanor Kornas and Polly Sharpe as the soloists.

This will be complemented by the world premiere of Lillie Harris’s Comfort, specially commissioned for Saturday’s concert. Box office: 01904 557200 or at yorkminster.org.

Open on Saturday: Carolyn Coles’s studio at South Bank Studios

Christmas shopping? Present opportunity at South Bank Studios’ Art & Craft Winter Fair, Southlands Methodist Church, Bishopthorpe Road, York, Saturday, 10am to 5pm

THE South Bank Studios artists’ group open their doors and studios to the public this weekend, when 28 artists will be exhibiting jewellery, ceramics, lino prints, textile art and fine art paintings and prints, all available to buy, just in time for Christmas. Entry is free.

Among those taking part are Carolyn Coles, Caroline Utterson, Jane Dignum, Lincoln Lightfoot, Richard Whitelegg, Mandi Grant and Fiona Lane. York Music Centre’s Senior Concert Band, Guitar Ensemble, Senior Folkestra and Big Band will be playing, and the icing on the cake will be the church team’s homemade refreshments.

Voila! C’est La Voix

Most glamorous show of the weekend: La Voix, Grand Opera House, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

FEISTY, flame-haired Royal Family favourite La Voix – the drag artiste creation of Chris Dennis – takes on the big divas and makes them her own in her Grand Opera House debut in The UK’s Funniest Redhead.

Billed as her “most glamorous show yet”, the 2014 Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist will be combining stellar songs and saucy gags, high energy and diva impersonations, glamour and gowns – eight of them – as she switches between the vocal tropes of Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Cher at the click of a finger. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Millie Manders and The Shutup: Definitely not shutting up at the Fulford Arms on Sunday night

Gig with attitude of the week: Millie Manders & The Shutup, Fulford Arms, York, Sunday, 8pm

MILLIE Manders & The Shutup spark up cross-genre punk with a lyricism that pokes fun, draws you in or leaves you questioning social norms, teamed to vocal dexterity, grinding guitars, irresistible horn hooks and a pumping rhythm section.

The Londoners will be airing songs from October 2020’s debut album, Telling Truths, Breaking Ties. Box office: seetickets.com/event/millie-manders.

Willy Mason: Nine-year gap after he made a record called Carry On, but carry on he does at last with Already Dead album and tour date in York. Picture: Ebru Wildiz

Overdue return of the week: Willy Mason, supported by Voka Gentle, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm; standing show

NEW York singer-songwriter and lovely chap Willy Mason returns with Already Dead, his fourth album of characterful, sharp left-field pop, folk and Americana but his first since 2012’s Carry On.

“Magic, miracles, ghosts, world leaders; these days it seems there’s little left to believe in,” says Mason. “Lies outweigh truth and even truth can be dangerous. 

“Already Dead explores honesty and deception, anonymity in the digital age, good intentions with unexpected consequences, freedom, colonialism, love, God and purpose, because now is the time to restore some much-needed faith.” Box office: thecrescentyork.seetickets.com/event/willy-mason.

Soft Cell: 40th anniversary home-coming concert in Leeds. Picture: Andrew Whitton

Oh, and amid all these York events, here is the gig of the week outside the city walls: Soft Cell, Leeds 02 Academy, Saturday, doors, 6pm

IN 1981, Leeds synth-pop pioneers Soft Cell topped the charts with their Northern Soul cover, Tainted Love. This weekend, they play a 40th anniversary home-coming gig with an early start, kicking off with a DJ from 6pm.

LGBTQ icon Marc Almond and producer/instrumentalist Dave Ball will play two sets: the first from 7pm embracing songs from their back catalogue and previewing their first album in 20 years, Happiness Not Included, out on BMG on February 25 2022.

In the second, from 8.20pm, they will perform 1981 debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret in full for the first time. Cue Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, Bedsitter, Memorabilia et al. Box office: myticket.co.uk/artists/soft-cell