REVIEW: Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, York Early Music Christmas Festival

Palisander: First concerts for nine months in this Covid-blighted year

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival: Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4, evening

THE latest lockdown ended just in time to allow York Early Music to open its Christmas festival before a real audience.

There were only about 30 of us, to be sure, seated at small tables in ones or twos, but what a difference over livestreaming. Best of all, it inspires the players. Palisander confessed that these two performances – there had been one in the afternoon – were their first for nine months. You would not have guessed.

The period of Advent, or preparation for Christmas, has lost much of its original intent. It was once a time of strict fasting – not a bad idea in these days of sedentary constraint – to be followed by a 12-day yuletide blowout of Mischief and Merriment, the title of this concert.

Palisander’s quartet of recorders ranged all over the Tudor and Stuart periods, with occasional sorties into traditional and modern repertory, an invigorating mix.

Recorders cover a vast rainbow of colours, from the pipsqueak garklein, barely six inches long with only three finger-holes, to the avuncular contrabass, which stands over six feet tall. The whole panoply was on display here.

Players changed instruments on the move, so that as many as ten different ones were heard in a single piece. Toes began to tap at once in dances by Susato and Arbeau, which prepared the ground for a lively quintet of English numbers, three by Antony Holborne, marked by subtle use of staccato.

Several carols were woven into the tapestry, most with tasty but idiomatic harmonies arranged by one of the group, Miriam Monaghan. They included the spring song from Piae Cantiones (1582), nowadays better known through Good King Wenceslas.

Most of the mischief and merriment in the Elizabethan court was organised by the Lord of Misrule. He would surely have selected Toby Young’s Recorder Revolution!, which was pleasingly anarchic and lots of fun. Similarly, a theatre suite, played in masks, reflected Stuart customs. All were given with enthusiasm and joie de vivre that were infectious.

I had not previously thought that an hour of nothing but recorders could be so entertaining. You live and learn.

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Christmas Festival opens today…and it’s live at the NCEM

Welcome to the 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival: Palisander reach for their recorders for today’s opening brace of concerts. Picture: Marc McGarraghy

CHRISTMAS arrives today at the National Centre for Early Music with the reopening of its doors for the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival.

Recorder quartet Palisander will launch the festivities at the Covid-secure St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, with two socially distanced concerts at 4.30pm and 7pm.

The festival of live concerts will run until December 12, complemented by the inaugural York Christmas At Home festival of streamed concerts from December 11 to 13. Full details, including tickets and concert times, can be found at ncem.co.uk.

Look out for Martin Dreyer’s reviews of Palisander’s Mischief & Merriment programme today and Illyria Consort’s How Brightly Shines The Morning Star on December 7 in CharlesHutchPress.

Post-Lockdown 2, lights on for More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No 20, courtesy of The Press, York

Travelling players: York Theatre Royal pantomime stars Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Williams’ hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic. Picture: Ant Robling

EXIT LOCKDOWN 2, enter Tier 2 for York and North Yorkshire, Tier 3 for next-door neighbours The Humber and West Yorkshire.

That means plenty of openings and re-openings for Charles Hutchinson to highlight, but no roads leading to Leeds, Hull or…Pocklington.

The pantomime season in York

NO Dame Berwick Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the still-closed Grand Opera House, alas, but after two nights at the Theatre Royal this week, York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around York’s wards until December 23.

Dame for a laugh: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Trott in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Audience members will vote for whether they want to see Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington or Snow White. All performances have sold out but more may yet be added.

Tickets are still available for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, directed by Nik Briggs and choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd at Theatre @41 Monkgate from December 11 to January 3. Fans of York drag diva Velma Celli should look out for creator Ian Stroughair’s transformation into baddie Flesh Creep.

The Marian Consort: Live at the NCEM for the York Early Music Christmas Festival and online for York Christmas At Home

Festival at the double for 2020: York Early Christmas Music Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 12 and York Christmas At Home, December 11 to 13

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the NCEM, the other online. Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures and cabaret-style seating at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, complemented by a new digital weekend festival.

York Christmas At Home will be streamed from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

Performing live will be Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour. Add The Chiaroscuro Quartet, Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Spiritato!, Steven Devine and Stile Antico to that list for the At Home programme.

On your mask, get set, go: Susan Bower’s Christmas Party 2020, newly on show at Kentmere House Gallery, York

Post-Lockdown 2 gallery re-opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from this evening (3/12/2020)

NEW work by Susan Bower, John Thornton and Rosie Dean has arrived at Kentmere House Gallery in good time for Christmas. Ann Petherick will re-open her home art-space tomorrow evening from 6pm to 9pm, followed by weekend opening each Saturday and Sunday until December 20 from 11am to 5pm.

Oils, watercolours, pastels and original prints by 70 British artists are on display, along with books, greetings cards and Christmas cards exclusive to the gallery.

Visits arranged by appointment will be resuming too, on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or by emailing ann@kentmerehouse.co.uk.

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

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

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

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

Welcome back: Stu Freestone wants a word with you at Say Owt’s December 11 return to live performance

Owt and about again: Say Owt word weavers at The Crescent, York, December 11, 7pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, are back in live action for the first time since the summer for a night of socially distanced spoken word at The Crescent, re-opening that night with Covid-secure measures and a seated capacity of 60.

Stepping up to the mic will be Say Owt’s A-team of Henry Raby, Hannah Davies, Stu Freestone and Dave Jarman, joined by special guest poets Katie Greenbrown and Ruth Awolola.

“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Raby. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves.”

A guided quest with Potions Professor, magical spells and afternoon tea add up to A Very Magical Christmas on the streets of York

New children’s attraction of the week in York: A Very Magical Christmas, York city centre, until January 5

FROM the creators of A Very Magical Adventure comes A Very Magical Christmas: a live interactive theatrical quest with magical spell-casting and a fun, festive afternoon tea with special effects to knock your socks off. Even a visit from old St Nicholas is promised.

The quest will begin at St Michael le Belfrey, where you will meet your guide, the Potions Professor from Old Jacob’s School of Magic, who will teach you how to cast spells and find clues that will lead you to the secret location of the wizard school. For more details, go to averymagicaladventure.co.uk.

A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail: Solve clues at Beningbrough Hall on various dates in December

Children’s attraction of the week outside York: A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail, Beninbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, December 5 and eight other open days, 10am to 3pm

GRAB a £2 goody bag per child while stocks last, complete with an activity sheet, pencil, certificate, badge and play pack, to embark on a family-friendly Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Trail in the Beningbrough Hall gardens and grounds.

The task is to solve the clues to help Peter and his friends prepare for the winter ahead, while spotting nature in all its seasonal glory. Expect to find Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail before having your photograph taken beside the Peter Rabbit board.

Do check availability of the goody bags before setting off at nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Ghost story for Christmas: Alan Ayckbourn has voiced all the roles for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s audio version of his 1994 play Haunting Julia. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

And what about?

TUNE into Alan Ayckbourn’s ghost story for a winter chill, his 1994 play Haunting Julia, in an audio version for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, with all three roles voiced by Ayckbourn, at  sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5.

Don’t miss the SJT’s Christmas show, Nick Lane’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, starring Polly Lister at some shows, Jacoba Williams at others, from December 7 to 31.

York Barbican has been busy booking shows for 2021: artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry’s existentialist distraction from the very meaningless of life, A Show For Normal People, September 6;  London indie-pop trio Scouting For Girls, October 10; astronaut Tim Peake’s Journey Into The Unknown, November 2, and comedian Sarah Millican’s Bobby Dazzler, November 12 and 13.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry

Stephen Joseph Theatre ready to open Christmas Selection Box of festive films

The Stephen Joseph Theatre’s artwork for the Christmas Selection Box film season

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, will unwrap a Christmas Selection Box of festive screen favourites from December 15 to 24.

The mini-festival of films and show recordings for all ages will feature the Royal Opera House’s The Nutcracker; It’s A Wonderful Life; Die Hard; Love Actually; Home Alone and The Muppet Christmas Carol.  

Presented on the McCarthy screen at the former Odeon cinema, the screenings will be OC (open captioned), where stated.

The Christmas Selection Box comprises:

The Royal Opera House’s 2016 production of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker, Royal Opera House, recorded in 2016, December 15, 6.30pm; December 17, 1.30pm

PETER Wright’s interpretation of The Nutcracker has been enchanting children and adults alike since its first performance by the Royal Ballet in 1984.

Filmed in 2016, this charming and magical production of Lev Ivanov’s 1892 ballet, combined with Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous, iconic score, are presented in a festive period setting with vivid designs.

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), December 16, 6.30pm, and December 18, 1.30pm

JAMES Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers, as Clarence the angel, star in Frank Capra’s classic festive fantasy, considered by many to be the greatest Christmas film ever.

Bruce Willis lighting up Die Hard

Die Hard (1988), December 17 at 6.30pm; December 18 at 6.30pm; December 19 at 1.30pm (OC)

JOHN McTiernan’s action thriller is the ultimate “Is it or isn’t it a Christmas movie?”. Definitely it transformed Alan Rickman from a British stage actor into a top-notch international screen villain, starring alongside Bruce Willis, Alexander Godunov and Bonnie Bedelia in a wild romp around Los Angeles’s Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve.

Bill Nighy in Love Actually

Love Actually (2003), December 19, 6.30pm; December 21, 6.30pm

THERE are stellar casts…and there are stellar casts. Love Actually finds room for Bill Nighy; Colin Firth; Liam Neeson; Emma Thompson; Martin Freeman; Joanna Page; Chiwetel Ejiofor…

…Hugh Grant; Martine McCutcheon; Andrew Lincoln; Nina Sosanya; Julia Davis, Alan Rickman and Adam Godley. Even Ant and Dec sneak in there.

Then accommodate cameos from Billy Bob Thornton, January Jones and Jeanne Moreau, and it must be one of the starriest movies ever.

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone

Home Alone (1990), 30th anniversary screenings, December 21, 1.30pm; December 22, 6.30pm; December 23, 1.30pm

SCHITT’S Creek fans will enjoy seeing a young Catherine O’Hara as Kate, trying desperately to return home to her eight-year-old son Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), who has been left – yes – home alone and apparently at the mercy of two ruthless burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Guess who comes out on top!

Michael Caine as Scrooge with Kermit and co in The Muppet Christmas Carol

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), December 22, 1.30pm; December 23, 6.30pm; December 24, 1.30pm

IT should not work, but it does: the Muppets’ take on the Dickens Christmas story sees Michael Caine’s Scrooge meet his match in Kermit and Robin the Frogs’ Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, alongside all the familiar Muppet characters. It all adds up to the perfect introduction to a perennial favourite for younger members of the family.

Tickets can be booked at sjt.uk.com/whatson or on 01723 370541 (Tuesday to Saturday, 12 noon to 5pm, or to 8pm on days with live performances, for both phone calls and in-person bookings).  

Let’s dance! 2021 Young Composers Award at NCEM to take leap into new direction

Palisander: Dynamic young recorder quartet will be performing the competing composers’ works on award day at the 2021 NCEM Young Composers Award in York

THE call-out for entries for the 2021 NCEM Young Composers Award in York is under way.

Launched on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show today, the annual competition invites composers aged 25 and under to write a new work for recorder quartet.

Each year, the award is presented by the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, in association with BBC Radio 3, joined for the 2021 award by the vibrant young recorder quartet Palisander.

This major national award is open to young composers resident in the UK and is divided into two categories: 18 years and under and 19 to 25 years.

Composers are asked to create a new work for recorder quartet based on any dance form from across all eras and cultures, from the bransle and the galliard to the Charleston and the tango.

The work may be a single movement rooted in a single dance form, a continuous movement that combines different dance forms, or a suite made up of two, three or four short movements. The entire piece should last between three to four minutes.  

Shortlisted composers will be invited to the award day at the NCEM on Thursday, May 13 2021 when the shortlisted compositions will be presented by Palisander in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox.  In the evening, Palisander’s Lydia Gosnell, Teresa Wrann, Miriam Monaghan and Caoimhe de Paor will perform each of the pieces for a panel of judges.

The two winning pieces, one from each age category, will be premiered by Palisander in a public performance at St John’s Smith Square, London, on May 20 2021 as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

“We can’t wait to hear what people come up with,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to introduce an exciting new element of dance into this year’s awards. This really helps us to open up the award, giving us the opportunity to work with an ever-broader community. 

“Palisander are well versed in supporting school groups and emerging musicians and we are thrilled to work with such a dynamic young ensemble.  We can’t wait to hear what people come up with!

“Shortlisted candidates will be able to enjoy an action-packed day of workshops in York with Palisander plus composer Christopher Fox. The winning compositions will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, a feather in the cap of any young composer.”

Alan Davey, the Beeb’s controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, says: “Supporting young talent and promoting new music are both central to BBC Radio 3 and we are proud to continue our commitment to supporting the next generation of composers inspired by early music.”

Palisander, all alumni from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, are “very proud” to be partnering with the NCEM and Radio 3 for next year’s award. “Our programmes, though rooted in history, are not bound by it. Contemporary compositions, arrangements and performance presentation play a central role in our concerts, so we’re eager to hear the next generation’s take on one of our favoured genres:  music to dance to!” say the London quartet.

“We look forward to introducing the young composers to our plethora of recorders of varying shapes and sizes, as well as the different timbres and extended techniques at their disposal. As passionate ambassadors of our instrument, we hope that the young composers will be as inspired as we are by the plentiful possibilities of the recorder family.” 

The closing date for registration is Friday, February 19, 5pm; the deadline for submission of scores is Friday, March 19, 12 noon. Shortlisted candidates will be informed on Friday, April 9 and will be invited to attend the award day and workshops in York on May 13. 

Terms and conditions and details of how to take part, including Palisander’s advice on composing for recorder quartet, can be found at: www.youngcomposersaward.co.uk/2021. Alternatively, email: info.composers@ncem.co.uk.

Christmas At Home with Palisander : York Early Music Christmas Festival launches an online weekend to complement the socially distanced concert programme at the NCEM. Palisander will play their part in both

PALISANDER will present Mischief & Merriment at the York Early Music Christmas Festival at the NCEM, Walmgate, York, on December 4 at 4.30pm and 7pm.

The recorder quartet of Lydia Gosnell, Miriam Monaghan, Caoimhe de Paor and Teresa Wrann will recall how Christmas was the highlight of the Tudor calendar when strict Advent fasting would be followed by 12 indulgent days of mischief and merriment.

These elaborate celebrations were presided over by the Lord of Misrule, who co-ordinated the Christmastide entertainments for the court. For their December 4 programme, Palisander will return to the NCEM to take on the role of Lords of Misrule, presenting festive songs and dances to keep toes tapping throughout December.

Traditional Renaissance settings of familiar carols will be paired with music to accompany the whopping 20-plus course Tudor Christmas dinner, complemented by Yuletide courtly dances and playful contemporary takes on the Lord of Misrule’s spectacles.

Palisander will showcase their full recorder family, from the six-inch garklein to the six-foot contrabass, plus everything in between, and among the featured composers will be Antony Holborne, John Dowland, Thoinot Arbeau and Michael Praetorius.

York Christmas At Home will present nine online concerts in three days from December 11 to 13. Palisander’s Mischief & Merriment will be streamed at 1pm on December 12 and will be available to view on demand until January 6 2021. Tickets are on sale at: https://tickets.ncem.co.uk/en-GB/shows/palisander%20online/events.

Tickets for the York Early Music Christmas Festival can be booked at ncem.co.uk. Hurry, hurry, is the advice

In a nutshell…

YORK, Scarborough, Harrogate and North Yorkshire will be in Tier 2 from the end of Lockdown 2.

South and West Yorkshire and the Humber are doomed to Tier 3.

CharlesHutchPress will keep an eye on the impact on the arts: what’s on, what’s off, what’s what, in York and beyond.

As for London, the most densely populated city in the UK? Tier 2. What a surprise. The North-South divide rolls on…

York Early Music Christmas Festival at the double as online weekend is added to NCEM socially distanced live concerts

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.

Matthew Wadsworth: York Christmas At Home streamed concert with Kate Bennett Wadsworth

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 Marian Consort: Concerts at both the York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home

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.

Bethany Seymour, left, Frederick Long and Helen Charlston: On song at the NCEM and online

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;

Illyria Consort: Seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe

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/

Who won the awards at the 2020 online Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York?

Double winner: Maija Blåfield’s The Fantastic won both the Best Of Fest and Best Documentary awards on Sunday at the 2020 Aesthetica Short Film Festival

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.

The Conversation: Winner of the Best Dance award

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: Winner of the Best Advertising Award

Best Advertising

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.

Best Animation

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.

The Passerby: Winner of the Best Animation award

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.

Best Comedy

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.

Maradona’s Legs: Winner of the Best Comedy award

Best Dance

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.

Best Drama

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: Winner of the Best Experimental award

Best Experimental

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.

Best Fashion

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.

Night Bus: Winner of the Best Thriller award

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.

Best Thriller

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.

VR Free: Winner of the Best 360 Film award

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.

Neighbors: Winner of the Best Feature – Documentary award

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.

“So pleased with the films this year”: Aesthetica Short Film Festival director Cherie Federico

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. 

The Present: Winner of the Best Drama award

“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.” 

Thinking About The Weather: Winner of the Hijack Visionary Filmmaker Award

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 McGee: Hosting the live-streamed Aesthetica Short Film Festival awards ceremony from his gallery, According To McGee on Sunday evening

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: Focus on female new writing in Northern Girls for Signal Fires Festival

The tree-lit setting for Northern Girls in the YMCA Theatre Car Park in Scarborough. Picture: Matthew Cooper, Msc1photography

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

Asma Elbadawi performing Girl Next Door for the Signal Fires Festival. Picture: Matthew Cooper, Msc1photography

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.

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson leading a rehearsal for Northern Girls. Picture: Matthew Cooper, Msc1photography

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.

Holly Surtees-Smith making her professional debut in Northern Girls amid the smoke and fire of the Signal Fires Festival. Picture: Matthew Cooper, Msc1photograph

More Things To Do in York and at home in what’s left of Lockdown 2020 and beyond. List No. 18, courtesy of The Press, York

We face the second wave…but somewhere on the horizon….

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.

Films, films and yet more films: Aesthetica Short Film Festival has a feast of film to enjoy while being stuck at home in lockdown

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.

Kate Bramley’s latest podcast: “Some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment”

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.”

All roads lead to…21 York wards for York magician and entertainer Josh Benson in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime next month

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.  

Bean team: top row, from left, Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair and Livvy Evans; bottom row, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan

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.

Yorkshire Pudding Song: Martin Barrass will lead the Song Sheet singing at Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Xmas In The Park concert

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.

Helen Charlston: Performing at the York Early Music Christmas Festival

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.

Duran Duran: Making their Scarborough Open Air Theatre debut next summer

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.

Lewis Capaldi: “Buzzing” to be back at Scarborough Open Air Theatre in 2021

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.

Kate Rusby at Christmas…now online

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/