THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the National Centre for Early Music, the other online.
Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures in place in the mediaeval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, from December 4 to 12, complemented by a new online weekend festival to be enjoyed from the comfort of home.
After the success of the streamed York Early Music Festival, held remotely from July 9 to 11, the NCEM will present York Christmas At Home from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.
York Early Music Christmas Festival’s live concerts will be staged with socially distanced cabaret-style seating and the option to pre-order drinks, including a warming mulled wine. Tickets cost £20.
The line-up comprises:
Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, December 4, 4.30pm and 7pm;
The Marian Consort, The Great Mystery, December 5, 4.30pm and 7pm;
Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, December 7, 4.30m and 7pm;
Joglaresa, Bring Us Good Ale, December 8, 4.30pm and 7pm;
The York Waits, The Waits’ Wassail, Music for Advent & Christmas, December 9, 4.30pm and 7pm;
Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, mezzo-soprano, Frederick Long, baritone, and Peter Seymour, harpsichord, Bacchus Is A Pow’r Divine, December 12, 4.30pm and 7pm.
In addition, the 7pm concerts by Joglaresa on December 8 and The York Waits the next night will be live-streamed, with tickets available at £10.
The York Christmas At Home programme will feature many of the NCEM’s favourite artists, who have “worked tirelessly to deliver a joyful selection of music, guaranteed to lift the spirits”.
The concerts will include works by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi, Dowland and many others, with harpsichords, recorders, lutes, trumpets, oboes, theorbos and glorious voices, plus verse by John Donne, George Herbert and others.
A York Christmas At Home festival pass costs £50, covering all nine concerts, while individual concerts cost £10.
Artists taking part are:
The Marian Consort in a programme of vocal music from Renaissance Italy;
The Chiaroscuro Quartet, performing Mozart’s late Prussian Quartets;
Palisander with their Mischief And Merriment programme;
Illyria Consort, performing seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe;
Singers Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston and Frederick Long exploring the theatrical genius of Purcell and John Blow with harpsichordist Peter Seymour;
Theorboist Matthew Wadsworth and cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth, sharing an extravaganza of Venetian music;
Spiritato!, presenting The Leipzig Legacy with music by Bach and Fasch;
Steven Devine, continuing his 2020 project to share Bach’s Preludes & Fugues: Book 3;
Stile Antico, completing the weekend with a return to the Renaissance for their very own Nine Lessons and Carols.
Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says: “The York Early Music Christmas Festival was created in 1997 to introduce audiences to the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the Medieval to the Baroque, intertwined with the sagas, stories and tales of the north.
“This year, I’m delighted to be able to carry on the tradition, welcoming audiences to our beautiful home, St Margaret’s Church. I’m also thrilled to spice things up, introducing our online festival York Christmas At Home, an array of amazing music, which can be enjoyed well beyond Christmas and into Twelfth Night.”
Full programme details for both Yuletide festivals can be found at ncem.co.uk. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk/york-christmas-at-home/
MAIJA Blåfield’s aptly named The Fantastic has won the Best of Fest at the 2020 tenth anniversary online edition of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival.
More than 300 films competed for the awards in the BAFTA Recognised festival in York, ranging from poignant documentaries that tap into the climate crisis to touching dramas about loss and forgiveness.
At Sunday evening’s close of the six-day festival, the live-streamed awards ceremony was hosted by regular master of ceremonies Greg McGee, following the judging by experts from Film4, BFI Network, ICA London and Nowness.
Winning awards at ASFF can bolster the success of the stand-out films, as shown by past winners going to receive Oscars, such as Chris Overton’s sweet-natured The Silent Child and Benjamin Cleary’s Stutterer.
Keep an eye out for The Fantastic after Maija Blåfield’s film garnered both the Best of Fest and Best Documentary awards. In this short, eight former North Koreans discuss illegal foreign movies they watched in their homeland. How did they imagine the reality based on fictional films? The Fantastic is not about North Korea, Blåfield says.
Further awards went to:
Hijack Visionary Filmmaker Award
Thinking About The Weather, directed by Gardar Thor Thorkelsson
DESPERATE to resolve his anxieties about the looming climate apocalypse, the filmmaker embarks on an odyssey around Britain, speaking to coastal inhabitants resting on a rising coastline, as well as Extinction Rebellion protestors.
Safe Water, directed by Mario Dahl
A GIRLl walks right to the edge of the board, breathing deeply, ready to make the biggest jump of her life, but what awaits her down there? Safe water is more important than ever.
The Passerby, directed by Pieter Coudyzer
ON a summer’s day, the paths of two boys cross unexpectedly. The Passerby considers what happens when two lives become intertwined and the possibilities emerge of a new journey together.
Best Artists’ Film
Factory Talk, directed by Lucie Rachel and Chrissie Hyde
FACTORY Talk is an intergenerational conversation about identity, sexuality and masculinity. Through the clanging of metal, they make small talk, but the dialogue turns away from mere nostalgia.
Maradona’s Legs, directed by Firas Khoury
DURING the 1990 World Cup, two Palestinian boys are looking for Maradona’s Legs: the last missing sticker they need to complete their World Cup album and win a free Atari.
The Conversation, directed by Lanre Malaolu
THROUGH a dynamic fusion of movement and dialogue, The Conversation explores the challenges black people experience when communicating their racial experience to white partners.
The Present, directed by Farah Nabulsi
ON his wedding anniversary, Yusef and his daughter Yasmine set out to the West Bank to buy a gift. Between the soldiers, roads and checkpoints, how easy is it really to go shopping?
Softer, directed by Ayanna Dozier
DOZIER examines the demands that black women’s bodies be made “softer” – be that in their voice, manners, or, critically, their hair. This experimental short plays on grooming rituals.
Baba, directed by Sarah Blok and Lisa Konno
A COMBINATION of design and documentary, blending elements of truth, fiction and constructed narrative. Baba provides a surreal but nonetheless light-hearted portrait of a Turkish immigrant.
Best Music Video
Adventure, directed by Zak Marx
ADVENTURE explores the world of competitive moto-racing in finely textured, surreal miniature. It follows the #2 rider as he ruminates in the shadows of world champion Jammin’ Jackie Hudson.
Night Bus, directed by Jessica Ashworth and Henrietta Ashworth
DRIVING through the nocturnal streets of London on the eve of her 30th birthday, a night-bus driver discovers a supernatural entity who has boarded her vehicle and threatens to stay.
Best 360 Film
VR Free, directed by Milad Tangshir
VR Free explores the nature of incarceration while capturing the intimate reactions of inmates as they encounter virtual reality and immersive videos of life outside of prison.
Best Feature – Documentary
Neighbors, directed by Tomislav Zaja
AN observational documentary about people who experience mental illness but are leaving their institution after decades spent in isolation. Zaja’s film follows the individuals as they venture out into the big unknown.
Best Feature – Narrative
How To Stop A Recurring Dream, directed by Edward Morris
FACED with a split custody break up, a family’s older daughter kidnaps her hostile sister in order to embark on a journey and reconnect before they are forced to part. Shot in and around locations pertinent to the director’s childhood.
York Youth Award
Talia, directed by Cara Bamford
TALIA loves nature. She’s always looking for new ways to slip out of the house, exploring the world beyond her front garden. But after being caught, her father forbids her to leave without permission.
One award is yet to decided: Festival Pass Holders can vote for the People’s Choice Award until November 30. To do so, they must choose their favourite film by clicking the “Vote Now” button within each ASFF programme.
In her closing speech on Sunday, ASFF director Cherie Federico said: “I am so pleased with the films this year: they are talking about topics that are so important to me, as a person, a mother, a friend…a festival director.
“Equality. It’s just one word but, for me, it is the most important word in all languages. It means that the world has equilibrium and that we are joined rather than divided.
“There is only one future and one way out of this pandemic and that is it: we just break down all barriers and remember we are one. This is our time, right now on Planet Earth. It’s incredibly powerful when you digest it.”
American Cherie, a New Yorker who crossed the Big Pond to study at York St John University and never left York, turned her thoughts to the fractious US election. “I didn’t realise how much Trump’s presidency affected me until Biden won. I cried. It was an overwhelming sense of relief that we could turn a corner, we could end a fascist regime masquerading as a democracy.
“We could overcome all the injustices, racism and prejudice. I am be proud of who I am and where I come from again.”
Cherie continued: “I cannot even begin to explain how this makes me feel. We were heading somewhere that mirrored 1930s’ Europe and I found it terrifying. It would keep me awake at night.
“I am so very grateful that the hate will now end. I know it’s just the beginning because you can’t undo some of that which has been done, but we can try and that gives me hope.”
Returning to matters ASFF, Cherie had wanted to host a street party in York to mark the tenth anniversary. “Instead, it’s me in my office by myself, but I know that you are there and have been enjoying our masterclasses, film programmes and everything that is on offer,” she said after Covid-19 enforced the online edition. All of those session are On Demand until the end of the month.”
Looking ahead to ASFF 11, Cherie signed off: “Until 2021, when we can hug, kiss, dance and laugh in the streets! We must all come together in person and celebrate equality, creativity and diversity.”
Greg McGee, ever lyrical co-owner of According To McGee, hosted the live-streamed awards ceremony from his Tower Street gallery.
Introducing the event, he said: “This year, the pandemic has subordinated everything in its path. Most of the consequences have been dreadful. Some have been tentatively positive and conversely more human.
“Nowhere else has that been more explicit than cinema. It’s your creativity and new narratives that are making life in Lockdown bearable. In terms of quality, this has been the best ASFF yet, and never has it been more crucial or vital.”
Greg continued: “The tenth-year anniversary is not the Great Gatsby party we would have liked, but the films themselves vindicate what has been a decade of evolving, striving quality. “One of the most sensitive litmus tests of any genre is how well it exports. There are approximately 50 countries represented in this year’s ASFF, such as USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, Lebanon, France, Spain, Denmark, China.
“Every one of the films have connected and have lost none of their power through the intimacy of being watched at home. This year’s festival has really shown us the power of modern film, and how it can sensitise us, change us, enhance us, or quicken the beat of your heart, and I have to say nowhere is that more elegantly distilled than in Aesthetica Short Film Festival. Here’s to the next 10 years.”
Addressing the online audience of film-makers and film industry personnel, Greg concluded: “If anyone is going to successfully bequeath a multi-faceted celebration of culture, cinema and, ultimately, optimism, it’s ASFF, and it’s you, of course, with your hard work and your vision that provides the building blocks upon which this global event can continue to thrive.
“Here’s to ASFF21. The 11th one will be the biggest one. Slainte! Salute! And ba-da-bing.”
Review: Signal Fires Festival, Northern Girls, Pilot Theatre and Arcade, YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough, October 27 and 28
ALAS, we are confined to keeping only the home fires burning as Lockdown 2: The Sequel beds in from Thursday, putting live theatre back in its box for at least a month.
Yet in this desperate year, nights such as the Northern Girls showcase for female voices have risen from the ashes of 2020 to make the Signal Fires Festival a heart-warming herald of how theatre can diversify to survive the stultifying Covid strictures that have left the industry under threat.
Over the years, CharlesHutchPress has reviewed productions staged in York in an echoey multi-storey car park and at a pop-up Elizabethan theatre built on a car park. Now, the Tarmac surface of the Scarborough YMCA Theatre car park can be added to that list, on a Tuesday night of numbing exposure to the autumn elements that made the glowing presence of four fire pits so welcome to complement scarves and the now de rigueur masks.
Ben Cowens’ silvery lighting of a lonely tree added magic to the setting and provided a point of focus for the performers brought together by pioneering York company Pilot Theatre and Arcade, the new Scarborough community producers
The time-honoured tradition of telling stories at the fireside lies at the heart of Signal Fires, albeit that everyone was keeping their social distance, sitting in pods of two, rather than huddling around the heat, all wearing a headset for clarity of sound, as is the norm at outdoor performances this year.
Each commissioned vignette was a solo piece – a concentrated artform but practical for Covid times – setting free eight stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline, as Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson did when growing up in Redcar until the age of 11. Linking them altogether was the theme of what mattered most to writers and performers alike in 2020.
Here was a chance to see a quickfire new work by fast-rising High Kilburn playwright Charley Miles, setting the bar high with the opening Erosion, performed by professional debutante Holly Surtees-Smith, who returned for Rant, by Amy-May Pell, one of four new writing talents nurtured for Northern Girls by York theatre-maker, playwright and tutor Hannah Davies.
Richardson and Arcade’s Rach Drew spread the net wide along the coastline to fish out stories from Zoe Cooper, from Newcastle (Kat/Cassie, performed by Laura Elsworthy) and Maureen Lennon, from Hull, whose rousing The Scarborough Porpoise marked Northern Girls’ second professional stage debut by the bravura Laura Boughen.
This frank, fearless, funny and fiery feminist tale was chosen for the finale, such was its potency and desire for freedom, riding the waves amid the porpoises.
British-Sudanese spoken-word artist (and basketball player) Asma Elbadawi performed her own work, The Girl Next Door, reflecting on growing up as a hijab-wearing girl in Bradford.
Lighting the torch for breaking barriers and finding liberation, Northern Girls also introduced new works by Shannon Barker, from Scarborough (First Date), and York College A-level student Ariel Hebditch (Yin And Yang), both performed by Siu-See Hung.
Claire Edwards, writer of the past five Scarborough YMCA Theatre pantomimes, here changed tack to make waves with Waves in a second monologue for the outstanding Laura Elsworthy.
Good news too, Signal Fires will not merely turn to ash. Suitably fired up by Northern Girls, Esther Richardson is keen to roll out this pioneering writing project in other communities too.
AFTER the tiers of a clown, now comes the even greater frustration of Lockdown 2 from today, knocking the growing revival of arts, culture and life in general back into hibernation.
Nevertheless, in one chink of light, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has decreed that theatre companies can continue rehearsing shows in Covid-secure workspaces, behind closed doors, with a view to lockdown being lifted in early December.
Whether that turns out to be a mere fairytale, only time will tell, so please forgive the unpredictability of what may or may not be happening.
Charles Hutchinson picks through the debris of Lockdown 2 to find signs of artistic life for now and the months ahead.
It’s started and it won’t finish until November 30: Aesthetica Short Film Festival online
YORK’S tenth anniversary Aesthetica Short Film Festival opened on Tuesday, switching from a spread of historic and modern locations to a digital and live-streamed festival for home entertainment, enlightenment and education on phones, TV sets, tablets and computers.
Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands this week, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.
Masterclasses, guest speakers, panel discussions, guest film programmes and an industry market are further highlights of an online festival unimpeded by the new lockdown. Go to asff.co.uk for tickets and to download the full programme.
Fighting off the new lockdown blues: Badapple Theatre’s Theatre On Your Desktop podcast
GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has added a new Kate Bramley play to its Theatre On Your Desktop series as it extends its lockdown season of free podcasts.
Click on https://badappletheatreonyourdesktop.podbean.com/ for The World Is Still Next Door, artistic director Bramley’s account of some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment as Mo and her young son search for a place to fight off the lockdown blues.
Set during four sunny days in May in deep lockdown, Bramley’s play seeks to capture the power of soundscapes to inspire imagination. “I got really interested in the idea of creating a new short piece with many voices of varying ages and accents, as well as delving into sound montages that evoke settings from our local Yorkshire all the way to Watamu Beach in Kenya,” says Kate. “With a bit of Badapple signature magic-realism thrown in for good measure.”
Travelling Pantomime, not travailing pantomime, as the show must go on…hopefully: York Theatre Royal’s alternative neighbourhood watch
YORK Theatre Royal began rehearsals in the billiards room on Tuesday for associate director Juliet Forster’s Travelling Pantomime production.
It could still be pot luck whether the first collaboration between Evolution Pantomimes and the Theatre Royal will go ahead, everything hanging on Lockdown 2’s fate, but plans are taking rapid shape to cement the itinerary for a tour of 21 York wards from December 3, plus York Theatre Royal performances too.
Just Josh magician and entertainer Josh Benson, Robin Simpson’s Dame Dolly, Anna Soden’s Fairy/Singing Captain, Faye Campbell’s Jack/Dick and Reuben Johnson’s villainous Fleshcreep/Ratticus Flinch will rehearse three pantomimes, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White, all scripted by Evolution’s Paul Hendy, for each show’s audience to vote for which panto they want to see.
The other Jack And The Beanstalk in York this Christmas: York Stage at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, December 11 to 30
YORK Stage are going full team ahead with their inaugural pantomime, to be staged in the Covid-secure John Cooper Studio, where Perspex screens will be in place for the first time for the traverse staging.
Writer-director Nik Briggs has added West End choreographer Gary Lloyd to his production team, proclaiming: We’re taking our West End-worthy panto to the next level with the addition of Gary to our company.”
Jordan Fox, May Tether, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Ian Stroughair, Danielle Mullan, Emily Taylor and Matthew Ives will be the cast bringing life to Briggs’s debut panto script.
Barrass is back: Bev Jones Music Company in Strictly Xmas In The Park, Rowntree Park, Amphitheatre, York, December 13, 2pm
MARTIN Barrass will be starring in a York pantomime after all this winter. Dame Berwick’s perennial comic stooge may be missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, but now he will lead the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park.
As part of Bev Jones Music Company’s Covid-secure, socially distanced, open-air performance, Barrass will tell a few jokes and orchestrate the song-sheet rendition of You Can’t Put A Better Bit Of Batter On Your Platter Than A Good Old Yorkshire Pud.
Barrass will wear black and pink to honour the late Bev’s favourite colour combination.
Early notice: York Early Music Christmas Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 13
AS the NCEM website states: “We are planning for these concerts to go ahead and are still selling tickets. If the situation changes, we will of course be in touch.”
Fingers crossed, then, for a socially distanced festival in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, featuring Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour.
Among the highlights, on December 9, festival favourites The York Waits will present The Waits’ Wassail: Music for Advent and Christmas: Carols, songs and dance from across medieval and renaissance England and Europe, played on shawms and sackbuts by York’s Renaissance town band.
A hat-trick of new shows on the East Coast: Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol at Scarborough Open Air Theatre
IN quick succession, Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol have been confirmed for Cuffe and Taylor’s ever-expanding programme at Britain’s biggest purpose-built outdoor concert arena.
Booked in for July 7, Birmingham glam pop band Duran Duran will introduce their first new material since 2015, alongside such favourites as Save A Prayer, Rio, Girls On Film and The Reflex.
Glaswegian singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi sold out two nights at Scarborough OAT in 2019 and says he is “buzzing” to be returning on July 25 next summer. “It’s a great venue, the crowds there are always unreal and so here’s to another unforgettable night,” he says.
Snow Patrol’s sold-out 2020 Scarborough show had to be scrapped under Covid restrictions but Gary Lightbody’s band are now booked in for July 3 2021. Tickets for all three shows go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.
And what about?
THE Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.
However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Days on December 12 at 7.30pm (GMT). Expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: sparkly dress, twinkling lights, her regular folk band, her “brass boys”, Ruby the reindeer and a fancy-dress finale.
Tickets go on sale on Friday (6/11/2020) via https://katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/
LOCKDOWN 2: The Sequel will not affect the tenth anniversary edition of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York.
ASFF already had decided to go virtual in Covid-19 2020 for its history-making online run from tomorrow (3/11/2020) to November 30, inviting you to “Discover New Cinema At Home”.
“The online programme brings a wealth of new opportunities for digital visitors, though returning patrons can enjoy the same diverse and forward-thinking identity that ASFF has defined over its ten-year lifespan,” says director Cherie Federico.
“With this ground-breaking blend of virtual developments and steadfast programme of short films, masterclasses, guest programmes and development opportunities, ASFF promises a festival this year like no other.”
The film programme features 300 works in the Official Selection across 12 short film genres, released in six daily curated strands from November 3 to 8, entitled Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places And Identity;Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal Narratives and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.
This year’s extensive Guest Programmes presents specially curated screenings from 13 organisations. Key topics and themes include Defining Gay Cinema, Tales From Isolation, Documenting Modern Britain, Indigenous Cinema, I Still Can’t Breathe and The Future Of AI.
Showcase Screenings offer films from London College of Communication, London College of Fashion, Arts University Bournemouth, Regent’s University London, University of York, York St John University, University of Lincoln, Falmouth School of Film and Television and Ravensbourne University.
Here are ten hotly anticipated events to be experienced from the comfort and safety of your own home, as picked by Cherie, from a festival with 450 films, 100 industry events, 50 masterclasses and one online platform.
ASFF Ten Year Anniversary Guest Programme, released online on November 3
IN this one-off honorary event, ASFF welcomes back alumni from the past nine editions of the festival to present specially curated short film strands that define the turbulent times that we face today.
Turning the spotlight on the climate crisis, global migration and the evolution of technology, this rousing and interrogative collection of films provides a visionary time capsule for audiences.
Virtual Industry Marketplace, available to visit from November 3 to 30
MORE than 40 exhibitors from film festivals, screen agencies and many more will congregate on ASFF’s new virtual platform for this networking event.
For emerging talent and industry practitioners, this is the perfect chance to meet the people you need to boost your film-making career.
I Still Can’t Breathe Directors Notes and Can We Talk DXB, released online on November 3
THE death of George Floyd in May at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sent the world spinning on its axis.
This series of short films, curated by digital platform Directors Notes and Can We Talk DXB, an online source dedicated to lifting Black voices, continues the conversations that grew louder as a result of Floyd’s brutal death with this charged and demanding programme of short films.
VR For Change: Beyond Entertainment, November 3, 3.30pm, Industry Channel 1
WHERE does the potential for VR and 360-degree filmmaking end? This focused discussion explores the possibilities that these rapidly advancing approaches to capturing content in medicine and education among other fields.
World Class Filmmaking: Making More With Less, November 4, 10am to 12 noon, Industry Channel 1
SECURING financing is a longstanding obstacle faced by emerging filmmakers as they take their tentative first steps into their careers.
It is vital, however, to learn the skills needed to create your vision on a modest budget. Step forward Lincoln School of Film and Media to host a resourceful panel discussion that will cover everything, from film production to marketing and distribution.
Re-Imagining The Film Industry: Beyond Covid-19, November 4, 1.30pm to 3.30pm, Industry Channel 2
AS this year’s online edition of ASFF highlights, the film industry has adapted since Covid-19 forced the world into lockdown. Courtesy of Ravensbourne University, this thoroughly constructed panel aims to address big questions that filmmakers hold with no clear end in sight to our current circumstances.
Iconic Cinema: Andrea Arnold in Conversation, November 6, 7pm, Industry Channel 1
MULTIPLE Cannes and BAFTA prize-winning English filmmaker Andrea Arnold joins ASFF 2020 for a deeply reflective, insightful career retrospect.
Chaired by Birds Eye View founder Mia Bays, Arnold will dissect the themes and inspirations behind her body of work, such as Cannes Jury Prize winner American Honey (2016), Fish Tank (2009) and her Oscar-winning short, Wasp (2005).
Presenting The Facts: Documentary Filmmaking, November 7, 12.30pm, Industry Channel 1
THE possibilities have never been greater for non-fiction filmmaking, but nevertheless it is not without its challenges. A panel of knowledgeable, successful documentarians will lend key advice to virtual attendees, with a special focus on short-form content.
A Life In Music: Barry Adamson In Conversation, November 8, 2.30pm, Industry Channel 1
FORMER Magazine and Birthday Party bassist and Nick Cave collaborator Barry Adamson will share his love of music and cinema in a special masterclass, hosted by Jason Wood, artistic director of HOME, Manchester. HOME arrtistic Director Jason Wood.
Adamson, whose music has appeared on the soundtracks of David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, has been instrumental to British pop culture for more than 40 years. “This is a must-see event for film and music lovers alike,” says Cherie.
Dame Judi Dench: An Icon Of Cinema, November 8, 4pm, Industry Channel 1
DAME Judi Dench, Oscar and BAFTA award-winning actress from York, will join ASFF 2020 for a special retrospective wherein she will draw on a lifetime of unforgettable portrayals and productions.
Festival tickets can be bought by signing up to ASFF’s online platform. These include:
The Unlimited Pass:Unlimited access to the platform, including screenings and masterclasses, sessions and panels, November 3 to 30.
The Festival Week Pass:Unlimited access to the festival platform, from November 3 to 8.
The Day Tripper Pass:Unlimited access to the festival platform for 24 hours from first log-in.
The Film Fan Pass:Unlimited access to all films from November 3 to 30. Not inclusive of masterclasses and sessions.
For tickets, go to: asff.co.uk/tickets. You can log in to ASFF 2020 on your TV, smart phone, tablet or computer.
As you celebrate the tenth anniversary of ASFF in York, what fills you with pride, Cherie?
“BRINGING a celebration of creativity, film, digital media and culture to the wonderful city of York, where I’ve been for nearly 20 years now.
“We’ve done something that no-one else in the country has done, fusing a cutting-edge festival with a city’s history, creating a bone-fide festival that last year drew over 26,000 people to York, which shows that we’ve got it right.
“The programme is right; the city of York is right, as we create an experience for both visitors to the city and people who live here, while also supporting York’s status as a UNESCO City of Media Arts.
“It’s been a heck of a journey and it took a lot of vision when nothing like this had been done in the city before, then growing it further and further each year. So, here’s to the next ten years.”
Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2020 runs online from November 3 to 30. Go to asff.co.uk to download the full programme.
TWO of York’s four cinemas, Cineworld and the City Screen Picturehouse, are temporarily closed but the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is responding to Covid-19’s 2020 challenges to the film and events industry with its biggest programme yet.
What’s more, the tenth anniversary edition of this annual autumn highlight of the York culture diary will run all month, from November 3 to 30, rather than the six days first planned before lockdown. No wonder, director Cherie Federico calls it “this beast of a festival” that promises to be “the most exciting yet”.
ASFF 2020 will be held on your phone, TV set, tablet and computer, at home rather than around the city of York, in the necessary concession to taking the festival online for digital and live-streamed events.
“I gave myself an August 1 deadline to decide what festival we should hold, so what I was doing all the time was planning two alternative festivals: a hybrid one, both live and online, or a fully virtual one,” says Cherie.
“So, I’ve been doing double the work. August 1st came and I’m really glad to have made the decision then, as this is now going to be a massive, massive event with more than 100 events taking place online.
“My idea was that it would have to be a bespoke and special experience, something that people would invest time in, which is why we’re extending it to a month, with a month’s pass letting you have a festival in your front room, where you can connect with this amazing independent film content.
“Our festival supports creative industries, brings new to the attention of audiences and continues our ethos of the past nine years, but this year you have to log on online.”
Cherie had no qualms about making the festival digital for 2020. “Most people have a smart TV now, so the concept of watching films at home was already happening,” she says. “Running a festival that can be seen on your TV is almost keeping up with the times, so our festival is transferable, though it’s not replaceable as a live event.”
Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands from November 3 to 8, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.
That adds up to 60 films a day, 360 screenings in all, with festival viewers invited to acquire a Festival Pack comprising a festival bag, printed programme, lanyard, the latest edition of Aesthetica magazine and VR [Virtual Reality] cardboards.
“If you’re wondering how you can experience VR films at home, you can order a VR Aesthetica headset for £5.95 online from our website,” says Cherie.
“We’re also probably the only festival that has printed a programme this year, but we felt it was important to mark the tenth anniversary that way.”
Cherie hails another plus point of going digital. “You can pursue your particular interest like being able to watch all the documentaries in the festival if that’s your specialism, so you can create your own festival, but we also want to encourage people to do something they would not normally do, by watching all six strands, each chosen to raise important questions about the world we live in today,” she says.
These cumulative strands of short and feature-length films will be released to virtual passholders from 8am daily and will be available via the festival’s online viewing library until November 30.
ASFF 2020 also will feature 21 guest film programmes, taking in such themes as the climate crisis, new technology, Black Lives Matter and human rights. “Basically, we’re covering every topic that we’re facing as a society, so it’s a really poignant look at the world we live in now,” says Cherie.
Further highlights will be ten showcases for new talent, an online industry market and an industry programme of more than 50 masterclasses, spotlights and panel discussions, giving insights into film productions and exploring filmmakers’ motivations and expertise.
Actress and writer Maxine Peake will give a masterclass, and among the guest speakers will be Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold; BAFTA-winning filmmaker Sarah Gavron; BIFA-winning and Emmy-nominated documentarian Jeanie Finlay; Oscar- winning sound designer Glenn Freemantle and double Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Paul Franklin (Inception, Interstellar). So too will be animators, cinematographers, editors, production designers and representatives from Film4, BBC Films and Framestore.
One name leaps out from the masterclass programme: York-born Dame Judi Dench discussing her career on screen and stage on November 8 at 4pm. “I’ve been trying to get Dame Judi involved ever since we started the festival, and she said ‘Yes’ this time because of her connection with the city,” says Cherie.
“She’s very happy to lend us her support and expertise to our programme and we’re delighted she is taking part. It was confirmed six weeks ago when normally our programme would have been signed off.”
Looking ahead to next week, Cherie says: “The best thing with ASFF is that you always get a memorable experience, and 2020 will certainly be that with 300 films in competition and 200 other films showing.
“No stone has been left unturned in thinking about what the visitor experience should be like this year and how we can make it special. The digital festival is well designed, navigation online is easy, and we even have an instructional video on how to use this platform.
“Tickets are sold per house, so it becomes very good value for a family of four, and we’re still doing programmes for young children and young adults and still working with schools, where films will be screened this time.”
Tickets are available for 24-hour, seven-day and one-month film and industry passes, as well as a film-only pass for November. Go to asff.co.uk for tickets and to download the full programme.
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 after all this judging and being judged: 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 last judgement? 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.