TODAY is the start of York Design Week, a festival for change that will seek to design a positive future for the city under five themes: Play, Re-Wild, Make Space, Trust and Share.
In Covid-19 2020, the festival will feature in-person events with social-distancing measures in place, complemented by a wide range of online workshops, exhibition seminars and talks.
Look out for workshops bringing together homeless people and architects to work on solutions for housing; sessions on innovation and rule-breaking; an exhibition inspired by a York printing firm; discussions on community art and planning and city trails designed by individual York citizens.
Go to yorkdesignweek.com for the full programme, plus information on social distancing and events that will be accessible online.
Supported by the Guild of Media Arts, York Design Week is also teaming up with organisations such as SEED, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Wild Streets to educate, inspire and demonstrate the creative ways to reduce carbon emissions and increase biodiversity.
York Design Week co-founder Rich Corrigan, from the Dogeatcog Agency, says: “We’ve worked hard to ensure all our events are as inclusive and immersive as possible, as York Design Week is an opportunity for people of York to really make their mark, actively shaping the city into a place we want to spend our time.”
Fellow co-founder Rebecca Carr, owner of the Kaizen Arts Agency, says: “We believe that to enable good change we need to create a population of activists, people who make space to do what they love, for the right reasons.
“We want to see York’s citizens take control of their local environment and communities to help shape the city they want to live in. York Design Week is one of those opportunities for people to start making their mark.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on myriad festivals, in particular leading to the recourse to mounting many events online, but Rebecca looks on the bright side. “It’s been good in one way because it’s made us think bigger and further out, and hopefully the consequence will be that it will draw people to York for next year’s York Design Week,” she says.
“Both universities in York have been really supportive in putting together this year’s event and the York Festival of Ideas has been very helpful too.”
York Design Week has received £1,000 from the Guild of Media Arts and a Citizens Cultural Fund campaign on GoFundMe has raised a similar sum, but essentially this is a volunteer-run festival of free events.
“Coronavirus shut down funding applications and then when they did open again, we didn’t have enough time to write a good enough application in time for this year’s event,” says Rebecca.
“We decided we would just crack on and do it…and we’re grateful for the backing that we have received.
“In the absence of major funding, we’re relying on word of mouth, communities and people caring about what happens to York in future to spread the word about the week ahead.”
Summing up why York Design Week is an important contributor to the York culture and community diary, Rebecca says: “We’re trying to bring about more participatory decision-making in the arts and city life because we really care.
“All the team involved in running York Design Week really want to invest in York and Design Week shows that.”
Delighted to back York Design Week, Olivia Chatten, Master of the Guild of Media Arts, says: “It’s a major opportunity to show how creativity in design and active participation can make York a better place to work, live and play.”
Heading to the yorkdesignweek.com website, the first words that greet you are: “Be an activist”. What a positive start to the week ahead.
“It’s all about taking away as many barriers as possible, opening up York Design Week to families and young people, who might not usually engage in such events,” says Rebecca. “We want to empower the next generation to shape their city.”
Let the York Design Week team have the collective last word: “Our aim is to create a city of activists who engage day to day in making stuff better, in small ways and big ways. We all have the power to shape positive change.
“We hope together we can move towards a shared vision of a happier, more sustainable, fairer and more creative future for our city.
“So, if we know where we want to go, how do we want to get there? Join us for some events where we explore different ways and means of creating a city fit for future generations.”
That’s opposite Walmgate Bar, should you be wondering, after a change from the original intention to mount the Good Neighbours project in The Groves, only for the City of York Council’s much publicised/controversial traffic measures to scupper that plan.
Never mind the bollards. Focus on Layerthorpe. “Please arrive promptly as we may have to cancel your slot if you arrive more than 5mins late,” the email warned.
Welcome to Good Neighbours, wherein “individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, taking place in York city centre”.
A limping CH clocked in 3mins late, cutting it fine. “IMPORTANT: Bring a (charged) mobile phone with access to the internet (4G),” the email advised. “This will be a self-guided outdoor walk so do remember to dress appropriately and take care whilst engaging with the work, as you will be responsible for your own safety.” It is not easy to walk and keep on looking at the phone simultaneously, CH was to discover.
“Would you mind being filmed?” CH was asked before partaking in the dress rehearsal. No problem…unlike CH’s phone, whose data juice had run dry on holiday in Norfolk. Not a problem, CH was assured, by the guides, one filming all the while, the other (a familiar face from the York arts scene) conducting a Covid-secure safety check, hand sanitiser stern lecture and Green Cross Code reminder et al.
Stringent phone-cleaning measures ensued as CH was provided with an all-important mobile to follow instructions on a walk that should take you ten to 15 minutes but was destined to run rather longer thanks to CH’s initial ineptitude.
Can your friends experience Good Neighbours with you, you may be wondering. The answer is: “We would encourage each adult to book their own slot as this experience has been designed to engage one person at a time. We do however exempt children accompanying parents and carers supporting individuals with access needs from this guidance.”
CH was being guided around the streets and housing of the Layerthorpe Neighbourhood, but nevertheless still imagined the solo experience…although you are never alone when you are on the phone and assorted instructions and text messages keep popping up, as you follow the green Good Neighbours logos and white arrows on the pathways.
Suddenly CH came across a young man in a tracksuit dancing to rave music, crushed tinny in his hand. “Is that noise irritating you?” asked one irritated neighbour in a vexed text. Would you just let him be, or ask him to turn it down? Live and let live, CH suggested. Not the answer one neighbourhood watcher wanted to read.
By now, the raver was raving in a different way, asking if CH thought he was a chav and “you better move on, mate”. No problem, exit CH…but then came a message that Punch the dog was missing. Would CH help to look for him? And guess who was being accused of taking poor Punch. Rave on, crazy dancer.
To cut a long story/short walk shorter, after various encounters and stressful text messages, CH ended up having to knock on a door to ask if Punch was inside. “Go away”, a woman at the window suggested. She had just filmed CH at her doorway on one of those new-fangled home-security/delivery check cameras filling up TV advertising slots right now.
No sooner had CH “gone away” than a young woman from across the street aggressively started asking CH, “What do you think you’re doing? I’ve been watching you. Why have you got your phone out?”
CH was beginning to feel Punch-drunk by now, a Neighbourhood Watch novice assaulted from all sides, nervously awaiting his Good Neighbours Personality verdict at firstname.lastname@example.org. It never came, alas.
So, what was the purpose of this York Mediale outdoor project, brought to the 2020 festival by Klasien van de Zandschulp and Natalie Dixon of affect lab, an Amsterdam research hub and creative studio with a focus on the relationship between technology and communities, mounted against the backdrop of an increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown?
“As places across the country head back into lockdown, there’s a lot of debate around ‘community policing’ and the micro-politics of communities,” they say.
“Love them or loathe them, the introduction of neighbourhood Whatsapp and Facebook groups has changed the way we communicate with our neighbourhoods, whether that’s positively or negatively, particularly in the already tough times of Covid.”
The lab duo note: “The introduction of fines and government ministers weighing in on whether it’s OK to snitch on our neighbours for breaking the rules has put community policing at the top of the agenda.”
Oh joy, what a wonderful time we are all having in Covid-19 2020, when Layerthorpe’s student residences reinforce the town-versus-gown frown that is growing across the face of the city.
CH’s verdict? Snooping, no, but pulling together to help each other via Whatsapp and Facebook, yes. Oh, and keep an eye out for Punch.
York Mediale runs Good Neighbours until Sunday, October 25. To book a walk, go to: yorkmediale.com.
TELLING stories around a fire is an early form of theatre, one that is to be celebrated in the nationwide Signal Fires Festival this autumn.
Among those taking part are York company Pilot Theatre and new Scarborough community producing company Arcade, who are collaborating on Northern Girls, an hour-long, socially distanced, fire-lit outdoor performance on October 27 and 28 in the YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough YO11 1DY.
At 7pm each night, Pilot and Arcade will set freethe stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline and were encouraged to write and present tales that matter to them most in 2020.
Next week’s performances will feature short commissioned pieces from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles, complemented by work created with York spoken-word artist and tutor Hannah Davies and a group of young women from Scarborough.
A signal fire is defined as “a fire or light set up in a prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration”, now re-purposed amid the Coronavirus crisis for the arts to “signal the vibrancy of touring theatre and the threat our industry continues to face”.
“This whole Covid situation has made it important to create theatre support networks across the country, with the issues faced by smaller companies, mid-scale companies and larger companies,” says Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson.
“If there has been any upside, it is that the theatre network across the country is far stronger now.”
The idea for the Signal Fires Festival came from English Touring Theatre and Headlong Theatre, building on the original desire to highlight the work of companies who do not have their own theatre base. “We were also thinking about ‘what can we do for freelancers in theatre’ and, most important of all, ‘how can we send out a fire signal that we want to bring back theatre stronger than ever?’,” says Esther.
Pilot’s link-up with Arcade is rooted in Rach Drew and Sophie Drury-Bradey running the Scarborough company. “We knew Rach from her work at York Mediale and I’ve known Sophie for a long time from when she was at the Albany, when she asked me to develop some work with new writers, 15 years ago,” says Esther.
“It was then a coincidence that Sophie had come to Scarborough, but when this project came about, to amplify northern women as leaders as well as writers, it was just a natural progression to say, ‘What do you think, guys, about doing this project together?’.”
The theme of Northern Girls resonated with Esther not only because “Pilot has always been about helping those who are disadvantaged in the community”, but also because of her childhood on the North East coast.
“I lived in Redcar from the age of three to 11, so I’d always had this tug to do something on the coast. I’m someone who left there and has had a career in theatre but I keep in touch with people who live there,” she says.
“I’m aware of the lack of investment in those places, and the direct effect that has on young people and women in particular. So, this project was about creating an opportunity to unlock what people can do when they set their hearts and minds to it.”
Esther was keen to achieve a geographical spread of four female writers, all still in the process of establishing themselves. “Maureen Lennon is from Hull and I was aware of her work for Middle Child Theatre that is full of insight into working-class lives,” she says.
“Asma Elbadawi is a spoken-word artist and professional basketball player Bradford, and she’s someone we’ve been excited about for a while but we hadn’t found a project for her.
“Northern Girls was perfect for her to bring her perspective of growing up as a hijab-wearing girl in West Yorkshire.”
Zoe Cooper is an award-winning playwright from Newcastle. “Again, I’d been aware of her for a while, but if you think about women playwrights from the North, there’s Middle Child’s work in Hull, Charley Miles at Leeds Playhouse, but in the North East, there seems to be a dearth of female writers, so we’re delighted to be featuring Zoe’s work,” says Esther.
Charley Miles, from the Hambleton village of High Kilburn, first came to attention with her lyrical moorland village drama Blackthorn at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016, and her all-female Yorkshire Ripper play, There Are No Beginnings, was the first to be staged when the Leeds Playhouse re-opened last October.
“We wanted writers from different places because we want to continue this process, to explore how we might take this writing project to other communities to develop new works,” says Esther.
She is pleased too by the impact of York writer Hannah Davies on the four women she has been working with in Scarborough: Amy-Kay Pell, Shannon Barker, Ariel Hebditch and Claire Edwards.
“Hannah is not just a wonderful writer but also she’s wonderful at working with young writers,” says Esther. “She has a really special gift for inspiring new writers, nurturing them and getting them to nurture themselves, in this case Amy, Shannon, Ariel and Claire.”
Asma Elbadawi will present her own work, while Laura Boughen, Laura Elsworthy, Siu-See Hung and Holly Surtees-Smith will perform the others, working with directors Esther Richardson, Gitika Buttoo, Oliver O’Shea and Maria Crocker.
All the short pieces address the barriers that women face, with each story being “in some sense an act of liberation”. “With everyone writing to the same theme, straight from the heart, some plays are more political, but they all make you think about things you might not have thought about otherwise,” says Esther.
The “fire” setting will be fire pits in the car park. “At first we wanted to do it by the sea, but there are loads of problems doing a show with a fire on the beach, not least the tides!” says Esther.
Pilot Theatre and Arcade present Northern Girls for the Signal Fires Festival, at YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough YO11 1DY, on October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm.
The recommended age is 14 plus. Please bring headphones. Each £10 ticket is sold for a clearly marked bubble that can seat one or two people. Audience members must wear a mask on arrival and throughout the performance.
WE may be beset by tiers before bedtime, but the arts world will not lie down meekly in the face of the pandemic’s second wave. Instead, Charles Hutchinson highlights events on-going, on the horizon and online.
The rule of six, over and out: Robin Ince and Laura Lexx, Your Place Comedy, live-streaming on Sunday, 8pm
YOUR Place Comedy, the virtual comedy club launched in lockdown by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones and ten independent Yorkshire and Humber arts venues, concludes with its sixth line-up this weekend.
The last laugh will go to The Infinite Monkey Cage co-host Robin Ince and Jurgen Klopp’s number one fan, Laura Lexx, introduced by remotely by regular host Tim FitzHigham, alias Pittancer of Selby, as they perform from their living rooms into yours. The show is free to watch on YouTube and Twitch via yourplacecomedy.co.uk, with donations welcome afterwards.
Online literary event of the week: Matt Haig, The Midnight Library, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, streaming from 8am tomorrow (October 23)
MATT Haig, the award-winning author with the York past, discusses his latest novel, The Midnight Library, a tale of regret, hope and forgiveness set in the strangest of libraries, one that houses second chances.
Exhibition of the week and beyond: Human Nature, York Mediale/York Museums Trust, at Madsen Galleries, York Art Gallery, until January 24 2021
THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature combines the British premiere of Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson’s sensory woodland short film Embers And The Giants with two York Mediale commissions.
London immersive art collection Marshmallow Laser Feast look at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem in nature inThe Tides Within Us.
Manchester artist and animator Rachel Goodyear’s Limina combines a surrealist, Freudian and Jungian series of animations and intricate drawings, responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection as she offers glimpses into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.
Fired-up event of the week: Northern Girls, Pilot Theatre and Arcade, at Scarborough YMCA Car Park, for Signal Fires Festival, October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm
YORK company Pilot Theatre team up with new Scarborough arts makers Arcade to present Northern Girls by firelight for the nationwide Signal Fires Festival.
The one-hour performance sets free the stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline, encouraging them to write and present tales that matter most to them in 2020.
Short pieces commissioned from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles will be complemented by York spoken-word artist Hannah Davies’s work with a group of young women from Scarborough.
Both eyes on the future festival of the week ahead: York Design Week, October 26 to November 1
SUPPORTED by York’s Guild of Media Arts, the York Design Week festival will seek to design a positive future for the city under five themes: Re-Wild, Play, Share, Make Space and Trust.
In Covid-19 2020, the festival will combine in-person events with social-distancing measures in place, and a wide range of online workshops, exhibition seminars and talks.
Look out for workshops bringing together homeless people and architects to work on solutions for housing; sessions on innovation and rule-breaking; an exhibition inspired by a York printing firm; discussions on community art and planning and city trails designed by individual York citizens. Go to yorkdesignweek.com for full details.
Barrie’s back: An Evening With Barrie Rutter, The Holbeck, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, Leeds, November 7, 7.15pm
BARRIE Rutter OBE is to return to the stage for the first time since his successful treatment for throat cancer.
The Hull-born titan of northern theatre, now 73, will perform his one-man show at The Holbeck, home to the Slung Low theatre company in Leeds. The Saturday night of tall tales and anecdotes, poetry and prose will be a fundraiser for the installation of a new lift at the south Leeds community base, the oldest social club in the country.
“I’m absolutely thrilled at the invitation from Alan Lane and his team at Slung Low to perform at The Holbeck,” says Rutter. “What goes on in there is truly inspirational and I’m delighted support this wonderful venue.”
Family business of the autumn: John Godber Company in Sunny Side Up!, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 28 to 31; Hull Truck Theatre, November 17 to 22
THE waiting for Godber’s new play is over. The world premiere of the ground-breaking former Hull Truck artistic director’s Sunny Side Up! will be a family affair, starring John Godber, his wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha, while daughter Elizabeth will be doing the stage management.
Written and directed by Godber, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! depicts a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it. “Join proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in this seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about,” invites John.
Looking ahead to 2021/2022: Dance shows at the treble at York Barbican
STRICTLY Come Dancing’s glittering weekend return to BBC One was a reminder that regular professionals Anton du Beke, Giovanni Pernice, Graziano di Prima, Aljaz Škorjanec and Janette Manrara are all booked to play York Barbican sometime over the rainbow, Killjoy Covid permitting.
Ballroom couple Anton & Erin’s: Showtime celebration of Astaire, Rogers, Sinatra, Garland, Chaplin, Minnelli, Bassey, Tom Jones and Elton John has moved from February 19 2021 to February 18 2022.
Aljaz and Graziano’s Here Comes The Boys show with former Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev has switched to June 30 2021; Aljaz and Janette’s Remembering The Oscars is now booked in for April 21 2021, and Giovanni’s This Is Me! is in the diary for March 17 next year.
News just in: Rob Brydon in An Evening Of Song & Laughter, York Barbican, April 14 2021
WOULD I lie to you? Actor, comedian, impressionist, presenter and holiday-advert enthusiast Rob Brydon is to play with a band in York. It’s…true!
Yes, Brydon and his eight-piece band will take to the road next year for 20 dates with his new show, Rob Brydon: A Night of Songs & Laughter, visiting York Barbican on April 14 on his second tour to combine songs and music with his trademark wit and comedy. Expect Brydon interpretations varying from fellow Welshman Tom Jones to Tom Waits, Guys And Dolls to Elvis Presley.
The 5ft 7inch Brydon last appeared at York Barbican for two nights of his improvised stand-up show, I Am Standing Up, in October 2017. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
And what about….?
HEADING out on the Indie York Medieval & Magical Treasure Trail, running from October 24 to November 1 for half-term entertainment, with full details at indieyork.co.uk.
Likewise, taking up the York Ghost Merchants’ cordial invitation to be spooked by the first annual Ghost Week on the same dates. Among the highlights in “the city of a thousand ghosts” are The Little York Ghost Hunt and The Ghost Parade (also part of the Indie York trail). Discover more at yorkghostmerchants.com.
EXIT York Mediale, the biennial festival launched in 2018. Re-enter York Mediale, recalibrated as a charity to create and deliver a year-round programme of digital arts events across the city.
What’s more, in response to the reaction to the debut programme two years ago, the international new media arts organisation will place a greater emphasis on working closely with York artists, young people and neighbourhoods.
In keeping with the wider arts industry, Covid-19 has had its killjoy impact on York Mediale 2020, although the festival retains its opening date of Wednesday, October 21.
“Prior to Covid, we were planning around 23 projects, but then the world changed,” says creative director Tom Higham. “We’ve had to re-structure our organisation and pivot how we go forward. We lost some funding and suddenly things that we had confirmed and things that were nearly over the line were off.
“We lost £70,000 straightaway, sponsor conversations were dead in the water and venues closed in the lockdown. But we did some speculating and reflecting, and we’ve managed to continue pursuing the small number of projects that would work for now.”
York Mediale 2.0 comprises six new commissions in the form of five world premieres and one UK premiere, in a festival now running from Wednesday into the New Year, whether in York neighbourhoods, online or at two cultural landmarks, York Minster and York Art Gallery.
By comparison, the first Mediale in 2018 was “the largest media arts festival in the UK”, drawing 65,000 people to cutting-edge events over ten days in celebration of York’s status as Britain’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.
Festival number one, being new, attracted the support of City of York Council, Make It York, Science City and both York universities. This time, the key funding has come from Arts Council England in a rise from £100,00 to £284,000.
“That is a vote of confidence, backing the second festival where we’ve had to create a new model to succeed in this new world,” says Tom, defining a festival that will feature artists’ installations and interactive performances, engaging audiences both in person and digitally.
“Initially, as the new kid on the block, it takes a while to build trust and make connections and to get under the skin of the city, but the projects that sought to connect with the communities, like the Inspired Youth film-making project, went very well.”
Tom continues: “The projects where we engage with parts of the city are much more honest and not forced, so this time it will be a festival focusing on how we connect with our loved ones, our community, nature and culture: themes that are prevalent and poignant in society now after months of lockdown and isolation.
“We looked closely at the works already submitted and worked to develop the pieces that would most closely examine these extraordinary times, picking out the ones that were safe to do and that people would engage with.
“All of these projects resonated with us at the start of 2020 but we could never have imagined how they could develop to so beautifully reflect our worries, hopes and relationships to our communities.”
The possibilities may have narrowed for York Mediale 2020, but that has not dampened Tom’s enthusiasm for festival number two. “The way we can do it amid the pandemic is to develop projects that are outdoors or online…not in dark places with electronic music, like last time,” he says.
“The positive spin is that maybe the dramatic shutdown that has affected the arts allows for a re-set in terms of who makes it, who it’s for and what is possible. It’s a jolt of DIY-ness that’s good for creativity. It strips the ‘bull’ out of what you’re doing and why.
“I think people are looking to build on the possibilities of Zoom to do something more creative with what is possible, and York Mediale can do that.”
Among those taking part in the festival will be Marshmallow Laser Feast, fresh from their show at the Saatchi Gallery in London; composer, musician and producer Elizabeth Bernholz, better known as Gazelle Twin, and Kit Monkman’s York arts collective, KMA, whose installations have transformed public spaces, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Shanghai’s Bund.
York Mediale 2020 audiences can discover how the human body is hardwired, synchronised and inextricably linked to nature; experiment with a new form of performance; and explore the invisible transaction between a person and a piece of art and how WhatsApp has shaped communities for the Covid generation at this year’s “diverse, digitally engaged and mentally stimulating” event.
Full details on Absent Sitters (October 21 to 25, online), Good Neighbours, in Layerthorpe, York (October 21 to 25), Human Nature’s triptych of installations at York Art Gallery (October 21 to January 24, York Art Gallery) and KMA’s People We Love, at York Minster (November 2 to 29) can be found at yorkmediale.com.
“Taking on fewer projects but with a longer shelf-life is the way forward for York Mediale, picking the right project, doing them rigorously, and then they can go on to other cities,” says Tom.
“Trying to develop projects like that is surely the longer-term vision for York Mediale, not being a receiving festival, not just inviting artists into the city, but doing something that’s in-depth, engaging with what’s already here and then taking it elsewhere too with the stamp of Made In York.
“Our responsibility as a comparatively small, new festival structurally is to find ways to push boundaries of technology and art.
“Like it has for all of us, this year has been grim, but to be able to focus on what we think we’re good at, fitting in with pushing our vision of the city, has been positive. The opportunity to be a bit more truthful with ourselves, to go where the energy and projects are in the city, to do that with artists from York that share our belief, that is progress.”
York Mediale 2020 highlights
Absent Sitters, online, October 21 to 25
GAZELLE Twin, a vital contemporary voice in the UK electronic music scene, collaborates with York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman and Ben Eyes and Jez Wells from the University of York music department to experiment with a new form of performance in Absent Sitters.
In this intimate, shared event, you will be guided by a “performer medium” to investigate what is live performance in 2020? The audience, participating via video call, will become part of an online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination” and the importance of “presence/absence” in a live event. “Are we live? Can we connect? Who are you?” it asks.
“The culmination of Absent Sitters will take place on London’s South Bank in Summer 2021 at the Royal Festival Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra,” reveals Tom Higham.
Good Neighbours, in Layerthorpe, York, October 21 to 25
GOOD Neighbours, from Amsterdam’s Affect Lab – interactive artist Klasien van de Zandschulp and researcher Natalie Dixon – is based on research into the micro-politics of communities and the increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown.
Individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, co-ordinated by Lydia Cottrell, in the Layerthorpe area of York.
“In this time of Black Lives Matter, living under lockdown and communities delivering to the vulnerable, Good Neighbours is a long-term study of how communities work,” says Tom. “It’s gone from village halls and pubs to WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups.”
Human Nature, at York Art Gallery, October 21 to January 24 2021
THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature is jointly curated by York Mediale and York Museums Trust, uniting for an ambitious show at York Art Gallery as a centrepiece of York Mediale 2020.
Embers And The Giants, a short film by Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson, makes its UK premiere, exploring human intervention through thousands of tiny drones mimicking a natural spectacle, suggesting a time when we will need to amplify nature in order to convince the public of its worth.
The Tides Within Us is a new commission from immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast that looks at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem within nature.
Fine artist Rachel Goodyear continues her exploration of animation-based work with Limina, a series of animations supported by her intricate drawings, each responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection; all offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.
People We Love, at York Minster, November 2 to 29
THIS new commission from Kit Monkman’s York creative collective KMA will be positioned in the York Minster Nave, where a new temporary “congregation” will be made up of a collection of five large high-definition screens, showing video portraits focused on people that have been filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love.
The viewer will not know who is being looked at but will experience the emotion on the face projected on screen before them, interpreting each unspoken story in People We Love.
Visitors can add their story to the installation as a pop-up booth will be on-site, ready to capture the love stories of the city without the need for words.
“People We Love is a passion project for Kit that he’s been talking about for ten years,” says Tom. “It’s a love letter to the citizens of York by the best media artist in the city. It’s for the people of York, by the people of York, but I think it’s a project that will continue to travel the world after York.
“I’ve been talking to Kit since 2016 about the seeds of what he’d like to do next, as KMA had not done a project for a few years and this was the one he wanted to do and then take to the world.”
CINEWORLD, York, and City Screen, York are both closed temporarily until further notice after the new James Bond film, No Time To Die, was put back in cold storage until next April, a full year after its original planned release date.
However, despite the rising second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, Charles Hutchinson continues to track and trace signs of artistic life, drive-in events and home entertainment.
Exhibition of the week outside York: Flourish, Woodend Gallery, Scarborough, until January 31 2021
RUN by Huddersfield’s West Yorkshire Print Workshop, Flourish brings together prints made by 13 nationwide artists shortlisted for this year’s Flourish Award.
Those artists are: Paulette Bansal; Suzanne Bethell; Louisa Boyd; Tony Carlton; Louise Garman; Pam Grimmond, from Markington, near Harrogate; Ian Irvine; Nick Loaring; Lucie MacGregor; Flora McLachlan; Lucy May Schofield; Claire Willberg and Susan Wright.
Online folk concert of the week: Chris While and Julie Matthews, Black Swan Folk Club, York, October 15, 7.30pm
BLACK Swan favourites Chris While and Julie Matthews will be playing this online concert exclusively for the York folk club and will conclude the night with a live question-and-answer session.
Tickets are on sale at: whileandmatthews.com/virtual-tour. “Once you’ve purchased a ticket, you’ll be able to watch the streamed performance whenever you want,” says organiser Chris Euesden. “Chris and Julie have been guests at the club and played for us in concert at the NCEM many times over the years and it’s always been a great evening.”
Folk-fused baroque’n’roll virtual gig of the week ahead: Joshua Burnell & Frances Sladen, Live In Your Living Room, October 17, 7.30pm
THE future of folk, alias York multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Joshua Burnell, will be joined by his partner, vocalist Frances Sladen, for a one-off online concert hosted by the East Riding Theatre, Beverley.
“We’ll be playing acoustic versions of songs old and new,” says Joshua, who released his futuristic new album, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep, last month.
What can viewers expect when they head to ERT’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/365072138001228/ for the free concert? “I’m still figuring out exactly how it’ll work!” says Joshua, winner of the Rising Star award in the 2020 Folking Awards. “But we’ll definitely be sharing tales that influenced the songs, as well as reflections on how the lockdown affected our musical process.”
In search of a thriller this autumn? Head to Bloodshot, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 21 to 24, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
SIMON Slater, the Scarborough-born actor and composer with West End credits galore to his name, returns home to perform Bloodshot, Douglas Post’s one-man thriller.
In a story of vaudeville, murder, magic and jazz set in London in 1957, Derek Eveleigh is a skilled photographer but very down on his luck.
A mysterious envelope arrives from a stranger, asking him to take secret pictures of an elegant young woman as she walks in Holland Park. The reward is handsome, but the irresistible assignment takes a sudden, shocking turn. Entangled and compelled to understand, Derek is led into a seedy Soho nightlife populated by dubious characters.
Drive-in fireworks event on Guy Fawkes Night: Autumn Lights, Elvington Airfield, near York, November 5, 5pm to 8.30pm
ELVINGTON Airfield will be the setting for Autumn Lights’ spectacle of light on Guy Fawkes Night in a drive-in event billed as “York’s biggest fireworks extravaganza”.
Look out for a hot air balloon nightglow (albeit with the balloon inflation dependant on the weather), fire shows and street food at this Covid-secure evening with car parking and space to get out and enjoy the show. Find out more at Facebook.com/autmunlightsuk and Instagram @autumnlightsuk.
Rearranged concert of the month ahead: Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 17, 6pm and 8.30pm
KATHRYN Roberts and Sean Lakeman, partners in life and music, had to postpone their April 22 show at the NCEM. Now, instead, they will play not one, but two, hour-long shows, each featuring the same set list, as they mark 25 years of making folk music together.
To celebrate this milestone, the couple will revisit and reinterpret songs from the early days of folk supergroup Equation through to 2020’s album, On Reflection, with a nod or two along the way to their extracurricular musical adventures, in a whistle-stop tour through their artistic journey to date.
Limited seating will be available, each household/support bubble up to four people to be seated around small tables positioned at a two-metre social distance from others. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (October 9) at be on sale at email@example.com.
Looking ahead to next summer: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Werq The World, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 20 2021
COMBINING music, comedy, sassiness and lavish set-pieces to “create the biggest, brashest, most utterly glorious party night of the year”, the fourth UK and European RuPaul Drag Race tour show will see “an experiment gone wrong that sends Drag Race judge and 2019 Strictly Come Dancing contestant Michelle Visage spiralling through time with no way of returning home”.
Newly crowned Season 12 Drag Race winner Jaida Essence Hall, Asia O’Hara, Kameron Michaels, Plastique Tiara, Vanessa Vanjie and Yvie Oddly will be joined by stars from the latest latest USA, UK and Canadian seasons to “journey through iconic periods of history in the hope they will find their way back to the present day”.
Tickets for the only RuPaul’s Drag Race British outdoor show next summer, plus Olly Murs on July 10 and Nile Rodgers & Chic on August 20, are on sale via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.
And what about?
Taking an autumn break in Norwich, Norfolk and on the Suffolk coast.
“VERY flat, Norfolk,” opined Noel Coward in Private Lives.
Seeking rather more than flatness, CharlesHutchPress will be on vacation Broadly speaking for a week.
Hopefully, the arts world will have been delivered world-beating, but delayed Cultural Recovery Fund grants by then. Over to you, Mr Dowden, before it is too late and the world of live theatre, music and comedy is flatlining.
DAVID Lancaster, cutting-edge composer, York Late Music projects manager and head of York St John University’s music department, is back on course for the new academic year in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Going smoothly so far, but all fingers are crossed,” he says, when asked “How is the new term going?”.
“It’s the start of term like no other, and we’re aware that we could have an outbreak and/or be shut down at a moment’s notice, which does tend to push up the anxiety levels! Still, here goes for week 2.”
A university term “like no other” for Dr Lancaster continues the unpredictable path of a start-stop-restart year like no other, when all the usual channels of performance were removed overnight under the lockdown strictures imposed on March 23.
Out with the old order, in with the new, as David’s commission for Harrogate International Festivals, Eclipse, became the conversation piece of the hastily arranged inaugural virtual HIF Weekender, when 10,000 people from 60 countries viewed the online line-up of free arts events, exclusive clips and highlights from the July 23-26 programme showcased on BBC Radio 4.
David’s digital commission came to fruition against the stultifying background of lockdown. “The lockdown has proved to be a difficult time for all musicians, particularly for freelance performers, and the members of bands and choirs unable to work together,” he says.
“The impact on composers – who often work alone, in any case – has been significant for different reasons. All performances of my pieces since mid-March have been postponed or cancelled, and the uncertainties surrounding concerts have meant that performers, venues and festivals have been reluctant to make any firm plans for the future.”
Commissions dried up and deadlines, so important to David in providing motivation to complete pieces, disappeared. “Most of all, I miss the interaction and discussion with other musicians that takes place in planning meetings and rehearsals, and in the post-mortem after performances, when so many ideas are nurtured and developed,” he says.
Hence his delight – if trepidation too – at being approached by Harrogate International Festivals’ chief executive, Sharon Canavar, and board member Craig Ratcliffe, director of music at St John Fisher Catholic High School, with a “really great idea” for a new piece.
“Put simply, they wanted a short, fanfare-like composition for brass and percussion that could be recorded remotely by many players, locally, nationally and worldwide, that could be re-assembled in the studio to make a ‘live’ performance,” says David.
“Local brass bands would be contacted, and trumpet virtuoso Mike Lovatt – a good friend of the Harrogate festival – had very kindly agreed to record a solo track.”
Lovatt was a stellar signing, being professor of trumpet at the Royal Academy of Music and principal trumpet for both the John Wilson Orchestra and BBC Big Band.
Explaining the choice of title for his world premiere, David says: “We chose Eclipse to represent the idea that the Harrogate festival couldn’t take place this year – the concert halls, theatres and community venues had ‘gone dark’ – but that next year, the light would return and the festival and all its bright lights could resume.”
David wrote quickly, finishing the piece in only five days. “Oddly enough, I had previously composed a fanfare for a ceremonial occasion at the university – the installation of Reeta Chakrabarti as the new Chancellor – which had been postponed right at the start of lockdown, so I was able to draw upon and develop some of the rhythmic ideas from that piece in Eclipse,” he says.
“There was lots of material on my ‘cutting-room floor’ that I could rifle through, re-cycle and add to for the Harrogate festival piece. I was working on other things at the time, so writing Eclipse was a very pleasant interruption.”
Lockdown and the strange new world of Covid-19 2020 had an impact on David’s composition. “Obviously we all think about then time we are going through, and one of the reasons for being a composer is to get a better understanding of the world we live in as we hope to get back to some kind of normal when we can return to contact,” he says.
Eclipse “isn’t really a conventional fanfare,” suggests David. “I suppose there’s a hint of melancholy that reflects the current mood, but the ending is triumphant, and I hope that will serve us well when this piece is performed live, in front of an audience, when Harrogate International Festival returns in 2021,” he says.
“It would be lovely if Eclipse could complete its journey from darkness to light that way, when things have been so gloomy.”
More than 120 musicians joined forces remotely to record tracks, including players from Opera North, West End musicals and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, complemented by brass players from Qatar, Canada, the United States, South Korea and New Zealand, together with local brass bands and orchestras.
“I was so pleased that so many people got involved in putting Eclipse together,” says David. “When Harrogate International Festival first commissioned it, their intention was to use local brass bands from Ripon, Knaresborough and Harrogate, and then we started getting top players from West End musicals, Opera North and the RPO, with Craig using his contacts to draw in so many musicians.”
Eclipse subsequently was live-streamed for HIF At Home at 6pm on July 24 and made available on the festival website from the end of July.
Meanwhile, serendipitously for David, the new, alienating working conditions necessitated by the pandemic have chimed with a creative project he had in mind already. “Coronavirus has forced musicians to adapt to remote working, often making music independently of one another. Ironically, this is something I had been thinking about in 2019, long before lockdown,” he says.
“I wanted to explore asynchronous rhythmic elements in my music: passages in which players are not governed by a single, unifying pulse, but have opportunities to move apart from one another, to play independently, either individually or in small groups. Little did I suspect that I would be composing this music during a global pandemic in which we were all forced into working apart from one another.
“I have always been intrigued and fascinated by the non-verbal communication that takes place during ensemble performance: the way in which players send – and receive and interpret – visual and musical signals, and I wanted to incorporate some of these ideas into the fabric of a piece.”
The resulting work, Before I Fall Asleep, Again, The City…, takes its title from the first line of a novel by French author Alain Robbe-Grillet, whose use of multiple perspectives mirrors David’s own creative process. “It reflects my concept and it casts my piece into the domain of a recurring, if half-forgotten, memory,” he says.
“As always in my music, there is plentiful repetition; ideas move into the foreground then recede, only to return later in different contexts. I like the analogy of a person wandering aimlessly around a town, during which they regularly encounter sights previously seen from different directions, angles and perspectives: they experience familiar sights, unfamiliar sights, and the familiar ones in new guises.
“Memory plays an important role, so in the music I have tried to ensure that there are elements that will be recognised when they reappear, even if they are never quite the same each time.”
A research grant from York St John University enabled David to approach the new ensemble Trilogy with a view to performing it. “I was delighted when they agreed, but the ongoing pandemic has meant that all arrangements need to be provisional for the moment, though if all goes well, we are looking to perform it in York and London next year – and I can’t wait to hear it.”
As and when those performances can take place, the Trilogy performers will be placed as far apart as possible on stage. “Not in different rooms, or buildings, as they have to be able to co-ordinate, but we want to use the space they are in to the maximum,” says David.
“We hope to do it as part of the York Late Music 2021 programme in the St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel next May, and we’re still hoping to perform it in London next summer, in June.”
David is working on two more projects too. “One is a piece for a solo violinist, Steve Bingham, who works extensively with live electronics,” he says. “I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m firing off lots of questions to Steve.
“The other is a longer-term project, where I’m setting the sonnets of John Donne. Last year, two of his Holy Sonnets were performed in Oxford Town Hall – Death, Be Not Proud and At The Round Earth’s Imagined Corner – by Oxford Harmonic Choir, who now want me to do more.”
REVIEW: Thomas And Sally, Northern Opera Group, Merrion Street Rest Garden, Leeds, August 29
DAVID Ward will not take No for an answer. All through lockdown, as artistic director of Northern Opera Group, he kept up a flurry of releases about his plans for the company’s annual festival at the end of August, this year based around the history of opera in Leeds.
There was never doubt in his mind that the festival would not materialise. Luck was on his side, of course, and outdoor gatherings began to be allowed from the start of August.
So it was that a band of diehards gathered on the grass, suitably distanced and just round the corner from the Grand Theatre, on a cool, blustery day, to watch Thomas Arne’s two-act Thomas And Sally, or The Sailor’s Return.
Premiered at Covent Garden in late 1760, it was seen in Leeds not long afterwards, following publication of the full score the following year.
It has been Arne’s misfortune to be remembered almost exclusively for Rule, Britannia, the patriotic chorus from his masque Alfred (1740); Beethoven’s use of the tune for a set of piano variations undoubtedly enhanced its international appeal.
Arne, however, was a prolific composer of stage works in many guises. Several of these were afterpieces, short, often comic entertainments that lightened the atmosphere after a longer opera: Thomas And Sally, running to barely an hour, was one such. Its librettist was the Irish-born Isaac Bickerstaff, who also provided the text for Arne’s oratorio, Judith.
The story is a riff on a typical pastoral scenario. Innocent milkmaid Sally laments the absence of her fiancé Thomas, who has joined the navy. The local Squire sees an opportunity to capitalise, egged on by the worldly-wise matron Dorcas. When Thomas returns from the sea to claim his bride, he chases off the Squire, who is left to fume at Dorcas.
The piece is claimed as the first all-sung comic opera in English and certainly marks the first use of the clarinet by an English composer. Even as here with keyboard accompaniment, it was possible to appreciate how far Arne’s harmonic palette had broadened in the two decades since Alfred.
His vocal decorations also sounded much less perfunctory. That was partly a result of the excellent treatment the work received at the hands of four singers, none of whom had been before a live audience for at least five months.
Beth Moxon’s soprano breathed more life into Sally than the text really implied, and Michael Vincent Jones’s tenor Squire moved convincingly from quizzical to lusty under the tutelage of Dorcas.
Although also billed as a tenor role, Thomas really sits lower, closer to Purcell’s Aeneas, and Egan Llyr Thomas’s strong baritonal timbre was just what was needed.
But the real scene-stealer was Naomi Rogers, whose versatile mezzo inhabited the role of Dorcas to her fingertips, finding humour in the unlikeliest places. Jenny Martins wrought miracles at the keyboard in the chilly wind.
So engaging was David Ward’s production that the traffic beyond the railings – behind a shed – passed by unnoticed.
Most of the rest of the festival took place online, a notable exception being an excellent lunchtime recital by soprano Louise Wayman, to Ward’s accompaniment, in a chilly room with windows wide open. Her wide-ranging arias reflected 300 years of operatic history in Leeds, many of them mentioned in an online exhibition, Leeds Opera Story.
Elsewhere, bass-baritone Neil Balfour and violinist Chloe Hayward commendably tackled extracts from ballad operas in five outdoor venues around Leeds.
Over the same weekend, the Orchestra of Opera North – or 13 members of it – led by the redoubtable David Greed, reopened Leeds Town Hall with Mendelssohn’s Octet and Mozart’s Symphony No 29.
Both were played with tight ensemble and considerable élan despite distancing, separated by tenor Nicholas Watts bravely duelling David Cowan’s over-keen piano in the first six numbers of Die Schöne Müllerin.
In every instance, Yorkshire grit won the day, but Ward’s dauntless optimism had led the way.
BORIS Johnson put on his serious face and hands act on Tuesday night to address the nation on the ins and outs of his Government’s latest Covid-clampdown measures: a stitch in time saves nine, Rules of Six, 10pm curfews and any number of other numbers that invariably add up to confusion.
However, Covid-secure, socially distanced theatre shows, exhibitions, cinema, comedy and concerts can continue, as well as home entertainment, of course.
Here, Charles Hutchinson tracks and traces signs of artistic life…with immediate results
Joint project of the week: Fields And Lanes Under A Willow Tree, Timeless Songs and Poems by Jessa and Mick Liversidge, outside Easingwold Community Library, Sunday, 2pm
INSPIRED by the “wonderful reaction” to the online streaming of their outdoor poetry and song performances in lockdown, creative Easingwold couple Jessa and Mick Liversidge present an hour of uplifting words and music in the open air this weekend.
The show will be Covid-safe and socially distanced; tickets are free, with a pay-as- you-feel collection afterwards, but must be acquired in advance on 07526 107448 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three is a magic number: Three Men In A Boat, Kick In The Head Productions, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 2.30pm
GILES Shenton takes the helm for 95 minutes in Kick In The Head’s one-man/Three Men show, a “rip-roaring barrel of fun” wherein he plays writer Jerome K Jerome and everyone besides in a delightfully ridiculous tale of men behaving badly while messing about on boats.
Shenton invites you to “join Jerome as he recounts the hilarious story of his boating holiday along the magnificent River Thames with his two companions, George and Harris, and Montmorency the dog”.
Living room laughs: Your Place Comedy: Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi, Sunday, online at 8pm
IN the fifth of six Your Place Comedy shows live-streamed from their living rooms into yours since lockdown, Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi form the digital double bill introduced remotely by compere Tim FitzHigham.
The virtual comedy project has been organised by Selby Town Hall manager Chris Jones in liaison with nine other independent North and East Yorkshire arts centres and theatres, with donations welcome after each free screening to be divided between the still-closed venues. You can watch on YouTube and Twitch with more details at yourplacecomedy.co.uk.
Exhibition launch of the week: Debbie Lush, Featured Artist, Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, and online at bluetreegallery.co.uk, Saturday to November 7
TEN new works by Devon landscape artist Debbie Lush go on show at Blue Tree Gallery from this weekend.
The former freelance illustrator, who ran a Somerset country inn for 13 years, draws inspiration for her vividly coloured coastal and rural landscapes from her walks with her dog along weather-beaten coastal paths, across muddy footpaths, through gateways and over fields and farmland.
“I love the act of brushing blobs of paints of varying thickness in bright colours on a surface, one over another, to assemble landscapes,” she says.
Antidote to isolation: Uninvited Guests’ Love Letters Straight From Your Heart, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and on Zoom on October 1, 2.30pm and 7.30pm
THEATRE company Uninvited Guests will construct a “completely digital, wholly personal and wonderfully live experience” at the SJT and on Zoom in “very different” afternoon and evening shows.
Performed by Jessica Hoffman and Richard Dufty, Love Letters Straight From Your Heart invites the audience’s words, song dedications and stories – sent in earlier – to the stage where they are given a new shape, look you straight in the eye and offer to dance with everyone in the room.
Only 45 tickets will be sold for each show to maintain intimacy, but any number of audience members can sit at screens to watch what unfolds in 60 to 75 minutes.
Latest Christmas show to be confirmed: Riding Lights Theatre Company in The Selfish Giant, storytelling theatre on film online, for primary schools
YORK company Riding Lights say, “We can’t come to you, but we can still bring exciting entertainment into every classroom with our online version of The Selfish Giant.
“The Giant is angry. He’s been away for a long time and returns to find children playing in his beautiful garden!
Every day after school, they come and run about, laughing and playing games under the blossom on his peach trees, listening to the delightful songs of the birds. So, he puts up a big wall and an even bigger Keep Out notice to put a stop to all that. Then winter seizes the garden in its icy fingers.”
Riding Lights ask primary school to book the online show via: https://ridinglights.org/the-selfish-giant-no/costs-and-booking/.
Looking ahead to Irish gigs at the double: Clannad, York Barbican, March 10 2021 and Daniel O’Donnell, York Barbican, October 21 2021
CLANNAD are booked in to play York Barbican on March 10 on their Farewell Tour, but let’s see where Boris Johnson’s new Rule of Six Months’ More Misery leaves that show. Fingers crossed, we can wave goodbye to social distancing by then to enable bidding adieu to the ethereal purveyors of traditional Irish music, contemporary folk, new age and rock, led by Moya Brennan.
Meanwhile, tickets go on sale at 9am tomorrow (Friday) at yorkbarbican.co.uk for Kincasslagh crooner Daniel O’Donnell’s return to the Barbican on October 21.
And what about…?
A visit to Duncan Lomax’s new photographic exhibition space, Holgate Gallery, opening officially from tomorrow in Holgate Road, York, to show work by the 2016 York Mystery Plays official photographer and political satirist Cold War Steve.
The York Printmakers Virtual Print Fair, running until October 4, with daily updates at https://www.facebook.com/YorkPrintmakers/