Fiona Shaw to talk at LGBT History Month show of Tell It To The Bees at City Screen

Anna Paquin and Holly Grainger in Tell It To The Bees

YORK author Fiona Shaw will discuss the screen adaptation of her novel Tell It To The Bees after the 6.30pm screening of Annabel Jankel’s film at City Screen, York, on March 4.

This live question-and-answer session will mark the conclusion of LGBT History Month, when Fiona will be interviewed by Dr Hannah Roche, lecturer in 20th century literature and culture at the University of York.

Under discussion will be Fiona’s 2009 book and its ten-year journey from page to screen, and the audience will have the chance to ask questions.

Tell It To The Bees is set in small-town 1950s’ Britain as a doctor develops a relationship with her young patient’s mother. Lydia Weekes (played by Holliday Grainger) is distraught at the break-up of her marriage, but when her young son, Charlie (Gregor Selkirk), makes friends with the local doctor, Jean Markham (Anna Paquin), her life is turned upside down. 

York author Fiona Shaw: Q and A at City Screen, York, on March 4

Charlie tells his secrets to no-one but the bees, but even he cannot keep his mother’s friendship to himself. In the claustrophobic 1950s, however, the locals do not like things done differently.  As Lydia and the doctor become closer, rumours start to fly, threatening to shatter Charlie’s world. 

Fiona will be selling and signing copies of Tell It To The Bees after the screening, along with copies of her most recent novel, 2018’s Outwalkers. 

In addition, she has volunteered to visit book groups in York and the surrounding area. If interested, please contact Fiona via her website, fiona-shaw.com.

Tickets for March 4’s event are on sale on 0871 902 5726 or at picturehouse.com.

Beatles filmmaker Tony Palmer to give talk at Harrogate Film Festival. Fab Four footage to be shown too

Film-maker Tony Palmer with The Beatles’ John Lennon

TONY Palmer, one of Britain’s greatest-ever music film-makers, will make a rare appearance at an exclusive event at next month’s Harrogate Film Festival.


The BAFTA-winning director, now 77, will reflect on working with a glittering array of Sixties and Seventies musicians in their heyday in Rock Goes To The Movies at the RedHouse Originals Gallery, Cheltenham Mount, Harrogate, on March 12.

Under discussion at 7pm will be The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Rory Gallagher, Cream, Frank Zappa, The Who, Donovan and many more, complemented by a special screening of rarely-seen footage of The Beatles, shot at the height of the 1960s by the influential and ground-breaking Palmer.


The festival event will be hosted by stalwart Harrogate Advertiser journalist Graham Chalmers, promoter of Charm events in Harrogate, in conjunction with Harrogate Film Society.

The sleeve artwork for All You Need Is Love, Tony Palmer’s series on The Story Of Popular Music


The London-born film-maker and cultural critic has more than 100 films to his name, ranging from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher (Irish Tour ’74) and Frank Zappa (200 Motels), to his classical profiles of Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn, John Osborne, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, Benjamin Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams and more besides.

Palmer, who served an apprenticeship with Ken Russell and Jonathan Miller, made the landmark film All My Loving, the first ever about pop music history, first broadcast in 1968.


He was responsible too for the iconic live film Cream Farewell Concert, shot at the supergroup’s last-ever show at the Royal Albert Hall: a memorable night with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in 1968.


All You Need Is Love, Palmer’s prime-time, 17-part TV series documenting popular music in the 20th century, was hailed as “the best and most important television survey of popular music ever” when first shown in 1977.

The Beatles: rare screening of Tony Palmer’s film of the Fab Four will be a highlight of the Harrogate Film Festival event on March 12

Among more than 40 international prizes Palmer has won over the past 50 years are 12 gold medals from the New York Film Festival, along with numerous BAFTAs and Emmy Awards.


Rock music aficionado Graham Chalmers will conduct a question-and-answer session with Palmer, and all eyes will be on the rare screening of Palmer’s Beatles film, featuring All You Need Is Love and a script by Fab Four insider Derek Taylor. Clips from Cream Farewell Concert 1968 will be shown too.


Rock Goes To The Movies with Tony Palmer is the latest in an ever-expanding line of contemporary culture events at the independent RedHouse Originals gallery, home to original artwork and limited-edition prints by international artists since 2010.  Pop artist Sir Peter Blake, rock music photographer Gered Mankowitz (of The Rolling Stones and Hendrix fame) and Wirral rock band The Coral have made appearances there.


Tickets are on sale at harrogatefilm.co.uk, on 01423 502116 or in person from Harrogate Theatre. More information on the 2020 Harrogate Film Festival at harrogatefilm.co.uk.

Phoenix rising anew in Joker as you have never seen it before…with an orchestra at York Barbican

Out of step with all around him: Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Joker

JOKER – Live In Concert will bring Todd Phillips’s award-laden film to York Barbican with live orchestral accompaniment of Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score on May 17 at 7.30pm.

Preceded by the world premiere at the Eventim Apollo, London, on April 30, the international tour has further Yorkshire shows at Hull Bonus Arena on May 16 and Sheffield City Hall on June 24.

Central to the emotional journey Joaquin Phoenix’s character Arthur Fleck takes through Phillips’s film is Guðnadóttir’s beautifully haunting, BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award- nominated score.

The fusion of looming industrial soundscapes with raw, emotive string-led melodies – led  by a lone cello – creates a melancholic shroud marked with moments of hope, unfolding gradually to become a fever pitch of disquieting tension. 

Phillips’s music will be brought to life by a full orchestra to build a “vivid, visceral and entirely new Joker viewing experience”.

The London premiere will be conducted by Jeff Atmajian, the conductor and orchestrator of the original soundtrack; Senbla’s Dave Mahoney will take over for the UK tour dates, including York Barbican.

The poster artwork for Joker – Live In Concert

Hildur Guðnadóttir, the first-ever solo female winner of the Golden Globe for Best Original Score, also won a Grammy for her score for HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl. “I’m thrilled to get to see and hear Joker in the cinema with a live orchestra,” she says.

“When we recorded the music, the orchestra brought such depth and detailed attention to the performances that we were all literally holding our breaths during most of the recording sessions. It was a beautiful trip. I’m so happy to get to go there again and for an audience to experience that too.” 

Director Todd Phillips says: “I speak for the entire Joker team when I say how thrilled we are to be working with Senbla and Ollie Rosenblatt on JokerLive In Concert. I think it’s a wonderful way for audiences to experience Hildur Guðnadóttir‘s haunting and immersive score, while bearing witness to Joaquin Phoenix’s descent into madness as Arthur.”

Joker already has won the Golden Globe, BAFTA and Critics’ Choice awards for Best Actor and Best Original Score and is nominated for 11 Academy Awards, more than any other film. Those nominations for the Oscars awards ceremony include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Music/Score.

Tickets for Joker – Live In Concert at York Barbican go on sale at Friday at 10am on 0203 356 5441, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office; Hull, 0844 858 5025 or bonusarenahull.com; Sheffield, 0114 278 9789 or sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

Pianist Kieran White to “break the silents” at Helmsley Arts Centre screening of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr

Buster Keaton, right, in Steamboat Bill, Jr

YORK composer, pianist, busker, tutor and Buster Keaton aficionado Kieran White will be Breaking The Silents at Helmsley Arts Centre on February 1.

Accompanied by White’s expressive, playful, gag-driven piano score, the Stoneface silent classic Steamboat Bill, Jr, will be shown at 7.30pm “as it was originally intended to be seen in an authentic re-creation of the early cinema experience in the picture houses of the 1920s”.

Let Kieran make his case for why someone would want to see a black-and white, silent 1928 Buster Keaton film in 2020, the age of endless reheated Disney classics and myriad Marvel movies.

“We live in an instant world. A world governed by consumerism and technology. What we want, we can get just by clicking a mouse. We have forgotten how to slow down. How to breathe,” he says.

“But Buster takes us back to a time when time itself was a different thing entirely. A time when moments were savoured, rather than squandered.”

York pianist Kieran White

From past experience of his Breaking The Silents shows, White anticipates a largely middle-aged and older audience, but he believes Keaton’s comedic elan should appeal to “anyone with a love of history, a nostalgia for days of yore and an unfettered imagination”.

“Breaking The Silents offers a wonderful evening for all the family,” he says. “A lot of belly laughs. An appreciation of Buster’s incredible athleticism and craftmanship but, most of all, a reawakening of that state of wonderment that children have but never know they have.”

The relentless pace of Keaton’s comedy on screen leaves no gap, no rest, no breath, in White’s score, but still he finds room for quickfire references to the Steptoe And Son theme music, Porridge and The Barber Of Seville.

“The joy of Steamboat Bill, Jr is the raw energy,” says Kieran. “You know that if the stunts went wrong then would be no take two.”

White’s piano has accompanied screenings of Keaton’s 1927 film The General at locations as diverse as Helmsley Arts Centre, the Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton Park and City Screen, Fairfax House and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York.

Last September, he presented a Breaking The Silents double bill of The General in the afternoon and Steamboat Bill, Jr in the evening at the JoRo. White’s labours of love had necessitated 11 days of writing for The General, a little longer for Steamboat Bill, Jr, drawing on his love of both Keaton’s comic craft and the piano.

Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr’s never-to-be-forgotten stunt scene

“I was very inspired by my grandfather,” he says, explaining why piano was his instrument of choice. “He was a superb pianist and made the most complex music sound effortless.

“Ever since a very early age, I’ve been fascinated by puzzles too, particularly chess. Watching Pop play was like sitting inside a gigantic engine, seeing gears mesh, listening to the sound of tiny hammers. Music chose me!”

Where next might Breaking The Silents venture? “I think what I do is unique. Ultimately, I’d love to perform all over the world,” says Kieran.

In the meantime, here is a recommendation from York filmmaker Mark Herman, director of Brassed Off and Little Voice, to head to Helmsley Arts Centre on February 1 for the Keaton and White double act.

“Kieran White’s score and his live accompaniment raises an already almost perfect film to fresh heights,” he said after seeing The General. “It’s a shame that Buster Keaton never knew that his flawless performance could actually be enhanced.”

The next film to receive the White piano touch will be Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. “It’s another silent but not laugh dependent!” says Kieran. Watch this space for updates on its progress to a screen near you.

Tickets cost £12, under 18s £6, on 01439 771700 or at helmsleyarts.co.uk.

This is why Castle car park in York will be closed on Saturday…

The poster image for Eye Project, the short film for the Castle Gateway project, being shown on Clifford’s Tower, York, on Saturday

EYE Project, a new short film made by four York artists, will be shown in a free outdoor screening on Clifford’s Tower, Tower Street, York, on Saturday evening.

Created as part of the Castle Gateway consultation project, the film recalls the history of the Castle Gateway, where the River Ouse and River Foss meet, while also celebrating its future possibilities. 

Emanating from the site of the former York Castle, the area covers the length of Piccadilly, the Coppergate shopping centre, Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of Yorkshire and runs through to St George’s Field and the Foss Basin.

Artists Rich Corrigan, Jade Blood, Julia Davis Nosko and Mat Lazenby worked with hundreds of young York people and InkBlot Films to “explore the ways we can shape and influence the future of Castle Gateway through a major development of the site”. 

Overseen by Kaizen Arts Agency and English Heritage, Eye Projectwill be shown from the Castle car park between 5.30pm and 8.30pm on Saturday as part of this weekend’s York Residents Festival.

The public will have an opportunity to have a say about the area’s future during the screening by using #eyeprojectyork. 

Andrea Selley, historic properties director at English Heritage, says: “Any consultation process is interesting but this one has been particularly so: listening to the views that young people have about that the Castle Gateway space and seeing the passion and creativity of their ideas has been fascinating and insightful.

“Clifford’s Tower, centred so prominently in the city centre, is an apt place to project such a creative community-led project and we’re pleased that the tower has been part of this.” 

The poster for Conflux, one of three Castle Gateway project commissions

Rebecca Carr, Kaizen Arts Agency’s artistic director, says: “We aim to bring York residents into this conversation who wouldn’t usually engage in a traditional consultation. This project is presenting different ways to share ideas; it creates another way to explore the place, while at the same time activating the site, and beginning to shape it into the place we might want it to be.

“People sometimes feel as if their voice isn’t heard, or their opinion is not valued, so we’re really excited to be part of a team that aims to change that.”

Eye Project is the third in a trio of art commissions to be presented as part of City of York Council’s consultation on Castle Gateway, using art to reference the past while looking to the future of the iconic city-centre site. 

Another of the commissions, Conflux, an hour-long audio walk collaboration between Hannah Davies’s Common Ground Theatre and Hannah Bruce & Company, can be downloaded and experienced until December 2020, with more details at cgtheatre.co.uk/portfolio/conflux/.

Councillor Darryl Smalley, City of York Council’s executive member for culture, leisure and communities,says: “Throughout the My Castle Gateway project, we’ve looked to innovate and bring fresh ideas to capture the views of residents, businesses and visitors about how the area can be regenerated for the next generation. 

“It’s fitting that the car park will be closed for the day [Saturday, January 25] to showcase these ideas from York’s young people, along with local artists, because one of the key features of the masterplan is to relocate Castle car park to St George’s Field with a new purpose-built multi-storey car park. 

“I would urge people to come along and see the short film to discover the heritage behind the Castle Gateway site and the ambitious opportunities that lie ahead for the area.” 

The project is funded through Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool, a scheme that allows local authorities to retain growth in business rates for local investment. Public funding comes from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, with further support from City of York Council, York Mediale and the University of York music department.

Please note: Castle car park will be closed on January 25 for the Eye Project event.

Iconic Hyde Park Picture House redevelopment work to start soon. On The Road screenings launched

Architects Page Park’s redevelopment design for the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds

THE Hyde Park Picture House, Britain’s last remaining gas-lit cinema, is to close its doors next month for a major redevelopment of the Grade II listed cinema in Brudenell Road, Leeds.

Work will begin at the end of February after a £2.3 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant was secured for the Picture House Project, enabling the iconic building to undergo essential repair and restoration work, alongside the creation of new accessible facilities and a second screen.

From mid-February, the cinema will go On The Road for a film programme that will run throughout 2020, presenting screenings of new independent films, documentaries, cult classics and family favourites, working in tandem with such Leeds venues as Leeds University Union, Heart in Headingley, The Brunswick and the Brudenell Social Club.

On Tuesday this week, Hyde Park’s head of cinema, Wendy Cook, and Mark Johnston, of project architects Page Park, delivered an update to partners and stakeholders, detailing the ways in which the cinema’s unique heritage features will be repaired, most significantly the  nine gas lights.

Architects Page Park’s design for the new second screen in the Hyde Park Picture House basement

Wendy Cook said: “Hyde Park Picture House’s story has been over 100 years in the making, shaped by hundreds of thousands of film lovers. Having the opportunity to safeguard the cinema for another 100 years is both a privilege and a pleasure.”  

At Tuesday’s event, Francis Lee, the BAFTA-nominated writer and director of the 2017 Yorkshire film God’s Own Country, was confirmed as the Hyde Park’s inaugural patron.

Lee, who grew up on his family’s farm at Soyland, Calderdale, is an avid supporter of the Leeds cinema. His new film, Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, is set for release later this year.

“I’m delighted to be the patron of Hyde Park Picture House,” he said. “It’s a huge honour. The Picture House team have been very supportive of me from the beginning of my career as a film maker; our association beginning in 2012 when they screened my very first short film.

How the Hyde Park Picture House entrance foyer will look after the Page Park redevelopment

“Hyde Park Picture House is a vital part of the cultural identity of not just Leeds, but the surrounding area too, offering an incredible mix of cinema, community involvement and support to local film makers. I’m very excited to see how the Picture House continues to evolve and grow.” 

Meanwhile, sponsors Kirkstall Brewery will brew an exclusive beer with the cinema this spring as part of the Hyde Park’s community fundraising campaign, with 20 per cent from all sales going towards the project.

Under the Picture House Project, the 1914 cinema will undergo essential conservation work to the façade and existing auditorium, alongside the creation of new facilities, including a larger foyer space and the aforementioned second screen, to be located in the basement.

The project will allow the cinema’s rich history to be explored and celebrated through archival screenings, heritage tours and educational workshops, helping to tell the story of film making and film watching in the region.

Hyde Park Picture Picture House at night in architects Page Park’s redevelopment designs

In addition to the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, the project has received “significant backing” from Leeds City Council and the Garfield Weston Foundation, alongside funding support from Film Hub North, Leeds Inspired, the Pilgrim Trust, the Gwyneth Forrester Trust, the Co-op Community Fund and Friends of the Hyde Picture House.

The project continues to welcome match-funding contributions and will embark on a crowd-funding campaign when the redevelopment work begins. Individuals or businesses interested in sponsorship opportunities should contact Wendy Cook at wendy@hydeparkpictutrehouse.co.uk. 

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The Picture House is a rare cultural gem in our city and Leeds City Council is delighted to play a vital part in securing its future. 

“With work on the Picture House Project set to coincide with Channel 4’s move to Leeds and the opening of Screen Yorkshire’s new film office, it has never been a more exciting time for film and television in our city.

How the ground-floor extension will look at the Hyde Park Picture House

“Collectively, this brings us another step closer to making Leeds a truly innovative city, one that uses culture to shine a light on what is possible.”

Paul Scholey, chairman of the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House board, said: “As custodians of three of Leeds’s most historic cultural venues [Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds City Varieties Music Hall and the Hyde Park Picture House], we’re very proud of the important role Hyde Park Picture House plays in making our city so special.

“Finding a way to preserve historic buildings, which is both true to the story of the building and of value to the community who enjoy it, is a challenge. But with the support of the many fantastic partners we’ve had on this project, we feel more confident than ever that we have found that way forward, and as a result, the future of this wonderful gas-lit cinema is secured at last.” 

The Hyde Park cinema will remain open as normal until the end of February with a programme of the latest independent releases, such asJojo Rabbit, 1917, Waves, The Lighthouse and Parasite.

The entrance to the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds, built in 1914

Did you know?

OPENED in 1914, the Grade II listed Hyde Park Picture House, in Leeds, is one of Britain’s oldest cinemas.

Beginning its life shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, it gained popularity by screening patriotic dramas and newsreels to boost morale during the action.

The Picture House survived the advent of “talkies” in the 1920s and continues to screen independent, art house and classic films from around the world, as well as special live events with filmmakers, artists and academics.

The auditorium seating, from the stage, at the Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds

Did you know too?

The 12-month On The Road programme of pop-up screenings across Leeds from mid-February will have six strands, each linked with a specific venue:

New Indies at Leeds University Union (luu.org.uk);

Hyde & Seek at Heart and other venues (heartcentre.org.uk);

Creatures of the Night at The Brunswick (thebrunswick.co.uk);

Docs & Artists’ Moving Image at 42 New Briggate;

Memory Matinees at Heart. 

The full programme of screenings and events will be available to view from hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk in the coming days.

Banff Mountain Film Festival tour hits adventurous peaks at York Barbican in April

Hitting the heights on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour . Picture: Tony Tibbetts

THE Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour returns to York Barbican on April 21 with a new selection of action and adventure films.

The tour features two collections of films from the world’s best adventure filmmakers, with super-human challenges, soulful journeys and spectacular cinematography from the wildest corners of the planet.

Among them is Up To Speed, whose spotlight falls on the extraordinary discipline of speed climbing, soon to feature in the Olympic Games for the first time at Tokyo 2020. 

“We can’t wait to share the latest inspirational films from the world’s most prestigious mountain film festival on our biggest tour yet,” says British and Irish tour director Nell Teasdale.

“As well as exhilarating stories starring intrepid characters and pioneering journeys, an evening at Banff is a celebration of the great outdoors, with a vibrant atmosphere and a real sense of community. And we guarantee audiences will leave feeling inspired to have an adventure of their own.”

The tour’s films have been chosen from hundreds of entries for the Banff Mountain Film Festival, held every November in the Canadian Rockies. The UK and Ireland tour starts in Pitlochry, Scotland, on January 18 and finishes in Norwich on May 26, visiting 60 locations with 114 screenings along the way.

Aside from Up To Speed, film highlights include Home, wherein Oxfordshire adventurer Sarah Outen embarks on a four-year, human-powered traverse of the globe, travelling by bike, kayak and rowing boat across Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and finally the Atlantic.

The punishing elements, months of solitude and storms push Sarah to the mental and physical brink, as Home intimately and unflinchingly captures on her 20,000-mile odyssey.

Spectre Expedition charts the progress of Mission Antarctica: 1,000 miles, 200+kg of kit each, 65 days, three mates and one mountain, those adventurers being Brit Leo Houlding and teammates Jean Burgun, from France, and Kiwi Mark Sedon.

Using snow-kites to travel great distances, with massive loads, at speeds of up to 60kmph, this is the epic tale of a daring dream to reach the summit of one of the most remote mountains on earth: The Spectre in Antarctica.

In The Ladakh Project, French athlete Nouria Newman tackles a 375km solo kayaking expedition down the most remote and daunting rivers in the Indian Himalaya. Facing hair-raising moments, Nouria is forced to push herself to the edge of her limits, saying “I felt really vulnerable. I had a proper look at what my guts were made of.”

Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk, on 0203 356 5441 or by visiting the box office in person.

The director’s view on 20 years of City Screen as Tony Clarke looks at past, present and future of cinema-going in York

Buena Vista Social Club: tonight’s choice of film to mark 20 years of City Screen, York

JANUARY 7 2020 marks 20 years since City Screen, York, opened on its riverside site in Coney Street.

General manager Tony Clarke and associate general manager Cath Sharp have been there since the opening, and to mark the anniversary they have selected Buena Vista Social Club for a special show at 8.30pm tonight.

Tony says: “Wim Wenders’ film about ageing Cuban musicians has probably best stood the test of time, and so we’d like to show it again on our 20th anniversary and offer the screening free to Picturehouse members.” Please note, tickets are available to members only in person at the City Screen box office.

Ahead of tonight’s 20th anniversary screening, Tony Clarke looks back on two decades of City Screen. Charles Hutchinson asks the questions.

What are your first memories of City Screen opening in Coney Street, Tony?

“As with many regeneration projects like this, the construction works ran behind schedule – in a major way. We opened the doors without power to some parts of the building; we had to run extension cables from the parts of the building that did have power.

“When I started working at City Screen – which was mid-December 1999, so nearly a month before opening – the riverside bar was just a concrete floor. It was impressive to see how quickly this area was fitted out in a week or so.”

What were City Screen’s objectives at that time?

“They are not that dissimilar to our objectives today. They have always been to give customers the best cinematic experience by showing a broad range of films in auditoriums that are comfortable and where the presentation matters.

“Our range of films encompasses quality mainstream, independent, arthouse and foreign language. We have always considered cinema-going to be a social event, so we offer great drinks and food in our cafe bar for pre-show or post-show get-togethers.”

What have been City Screen’s principal achievements over the past 20 years?

“We’ve built loyal and trusting audiences through our membership scheme and established City Screen as a cultural hub right in the city centre.”

The Buena Vista Social Club musicians playing in Amsterdam in April 1998

How has City Screen changed over those 20 years and do you think its role has changed within the York cinema scene?

“As a cinema, City Screen has changed with the shift in the industry to digital filmmaking and exhibition. Celluloid film has been succeeded by digital: we no longer use 35mm film and mechanical projectors; we now play ‘content’ in high definition from computer files, servers and digital projectors.

“This change in technology has enabled us to diversify our programme and screen productions live from the New York Metropolitan Opera or the National Theatre via satellite.”

What else?

“As a business, our cafe bar has grown in popularity with our food menu, dishes made fresh and to order, plus the range of drinks – not only barista-made coffee but the wines and beers.

“We’d always set out – and this is the ethos of Picturehouse as a company – to be a neighbourhood cinema with our roots firmly in the communities of York. I think we’ve achieved that.

“Our programming has expanded, not only with what is called alternative content, opera and theatre shows broadcast into the auditoriums, but also with new community-orientated programme strands such as Toddler Time, Big Scream, Autism-Friendly and Dementia-Friendly screenings.”

Where does arthouse cinema fit into film programming in 2020? Would you like there to be more arthouse screenings at City Screen?

“A fundamental aspect of Picturehouse’s programming and vision is to show arthouse films and this will continue to be the case at City Screen.

“There are particular programming strands where arthouse films are featured, such as the Discover strand, and we’ll be continuing to build audiences for this kind of cinema, which doesn’t always get the exposure it deserves.

How have cinema-going tastes and habits changed over the past 20 years?

“There are always technological changes that affect cinema-going tastes and habits – digital being the one I mentioned and the effect that has had on our programme with alternative content and the like.

“There are other technological innovations for experiencing cinema such as 3D, 4DX: innovations less appropriate to the City Screen experience, it’s fair to say. “There’s certainly an appetite for the big ‘tentpole’ event titles such as Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars and the latest James Bond, but always a very busy period around the awards season in the first few months of the year too. Last year, for example, saw the release of The Favourite and Green Book and this time Little Women and 1917.”

Before Sunset: City Screen director Tony Clarke’s favourite film of the past 20 years

City Screen is about so much more than showing films: question-and-answer sessions; satellite screenings of ballet, theatre, opera and exhibition openings in London; food and drink; exhibitions in the bar and the first-floor corridor; The Basement programme of music and comedy. Discuss…

“As you say, City Screen is so much more than showing films. We have a lot of cultural activity going on in the venue, whether this involves directors discussing their films and work in Q&A sessions, either in person or via a live satellite feed; live broadcasts of theatre and opera shows taking place in London or New York; an ongoing programme of art exhibitions in the bar or on the second floor that features the work of local artists and community groups,; plus a curated programme of performing arts events in the 100-capacity Basement with lots of comedy, music and cabaret.”

What has been your favourite film from the past 20 years?

“I know it’s part of a trilogy, but I’m going to choose Before Sunset [Richard Linklater’s 2004 sequel to his 1995 romantic drama Before Sunrise, again starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke].”

What makes for a good cinema-visit experience in 2020?

“A venue with a relaxing atmosphere, where friendly and passionate staff work, where the auditoriums are comfortable, and where the quality of the picture and sound are second to none.”

How do you see cinema and cinemas progressing over the next decade?

“The next decade will be interesting in how film, TV and on-demand streaming services in the home will affect cinema exhibition and cinema-going.

“Cinemas have always adapted and developed, so that they retain something different and unique about their experience for customers. It’s an event and a night out to go to the cinema to see a film rather than watch at home – I suppose cinema and cinemas will progress along these lines.”

York enters 2020 with four cinemas – City Screen, Everyman, Vue and Cineworld – all in very good, ultramodern order. Can a city of York’s size embrace that number of cinemas, and what does it say about the popularity of film-going that we now have that many?

“Four cinemas in York does mean there will be increased competition between them all. York has a regional draw so will attract cinema customers from further afield, but most likely to those venues outside of town with car parking, so Cineworld and Vue Cinema are certainly popular in York.”

What distinguishes City Screen from the others?

“The programme is more diverse and curated to audiences, it has a wonderful city-centre location on the river with great views, and the staff and the quality of service are great too, which all offers a unique experience for customers.”

Will there be further celebrations of City Screen’s 20th anniversary?

Yes, they will continue throughout 2020 with more special events once the ‘Oscar season’ is over, so keep an eye out for those too.”

City Screen marks 20th anniversary with Buena Vista Social Club screening

The Buena Vista Social Club musicians playing in Amsterdam in April 1998

JANUARY 7 2020 will mark 20 years since City Screen, York, opened on its riverside site in Coney Street.

General manager Tony Clarke and associate general manager Cath Sharp have been there since the opening, and to mark the anniversary they have selected Buena Vista Social Club for a special show at 8.30pm that night.

Tony says: “Wim Wenders’ film about ageing Cuban musicians has probably best stood the test of time, and so we’d like to show it again on our 20th anniversary and offer the screening free to Picturehouse members.” Please note, tickets are available to members only in person at the City Screen box office.

The film poster for Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club

The City Screen cinema is partly new-build and partly a conversion of the old office and printworks of The Yorkshire Herald, whose name is still emblazoned across the top of the building. 

Since May 1987, York Film Theatre (YFT) had operated City Screen at Tempest Anderson Hall, Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens. In 1997, however, YFT entered into a ground-breaking public/private partnership with a commercial arts cinema group, coincidentally called City Screen Limited, to create a new art-house cinema in the centre of York. 

In 1998, the new partnership won an Arts Council Lottery Award of £2.37 million, a sum matched by City Screen Ltd, to buy and renovate the Yorkshire Herald newspaper building that had stood derelict since 1989. 

Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara  Portuondo in Buena Vista Social Club

The new City Screen, York, opened for business in January 2000 with a first programme of Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club, Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead, Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey and Simon Beaufoy and Billie Eltringham’s The Darkest Light.

In Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Cuba’s  rich and colourful past comes vividly to life as the Paris, Texas and Wings Of Desire director documents American musician Ry Cooder’s return to Havana.

There Cooder had recorded the Grammy Award-winning Buena Vista Social Club album, still the biggest-selling world music recording of all time, with veteran musicians Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Eliades Ochoa, Omara  Portuondo and Compay Segundo.

This dream team of players from Cuban music’s golden age introduced the rhythms of Son, Bolero and Danzón to a new audience, making them instant international stars.

Compay Segundo performing with the Buena Vista Social Club musicians

Never a regular band, however, The Buena Vista Social Club had gone their separate ways after that 1997 album, but Cooder’s return brought them together again in 1998 to look back to the halcyon days of Cuba’s music scene, when the rich and famous travelled from all over the world to listen to them.

In the film’s climax, their music comes alive anew as they rehearse for their first – and only – performance in the United States at a sold-out Carnegie Hall in New York

Looking forward to introducing the January 7 screening, Tony says: “”Our wine supplier, Bibendum, has generously provided us with some Prosecco to enable us to give members a free drink on the night to toast City Screen on this anniversary, and we’ll even have our head chef make some birthday cake as well. 

“What’s more, the celebrations will continue throughout 2020 with more special events once the ‘Oscar season’ is over, so keep an eye out for those too.”

Charles Hutchinson