Feral Practice’s film in lockdown The Unseeables reawakens three extinct birds

Great Auk, clay head, work in progress for Feral Practice’s The Unseeables

THE Unseeables, a tale of extinction in three birds by filmmaker Feral Practice, is the latest digital commission in lockdown by Scarborough Museums Trust.

The 11-minute film, looking at the “the strange and polarised relationships humans have with other species”, can be seen on the trust’s YouTube channel (bit.ly/TheUnseeablesNDC) from Tuesday, June 16.

Feral Practice, the alias of artist and researcher Fiona MacDonald, explores loss, reparation, extinction and conservation, via the interwoven stories of three birds “lost” to Scarborough, now surviving only as specimens in the Scarborough Collections.

Corncrake facing left, for Feral Practice’s The Unseeables

The first is the sad and harrowing story of the Great Auk. The SMT collections house a single egg of a great auk, a large flightless bird that became globally extinct in 1844.

The auk’s demise was brutal, cruel, and driven by profit; most were killed for their down. As they approached extinction, every specimen was coveted by museums, ultimately putting the prestige of an auk exhibit above the survival of a species.

In the Scarborough Collections too are taxidermy examples of the great bustard and the corncrake.

Great Bustard eye, for Feral Practice’s The Unseeables

The great bustard became extinct in the UK in the early 1800s, but diminishing populations still exist in Central and Southern Europe and Asia, where the huge, “showy” males perform glorious ruffle dances for their female harems.

In Britain, the bird has been the subject of a reintroduction project that has succeeded in establishing a breeding population on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

The distinctive voice of the shy Corncrake was once integral to the British rural soundscape. Corncrakes started declining, however, as agriculture became mechanised, and by the late 1930s they were absent from much of England, not least Yorkshire, despite once having been widespread across the North of England.

Great Bustard performance body and bird, for Feral Practice’s The Unseeables

Now, they are confined largely to the islands off the west of Scotland and the northern isles of Orkney and Shetland. To save the bird, British conservationists seek to educate and persuade landowners.

The film narrates the birds’ stories alongside imagery that weaves together close-up footage of the Scarborough Collections exhibits with found footage and sculptural responses by Feral Practice, in an “impossible attempt to conjure the lost birds in their studio”.

Feral Practice says: “As we comprehend (or re-learn) the complex warp and weft of ecological thinking, and understand landscapes as self-creating masterpieces of which humans can never be masters, can we step back from our urge to manipulate, exploit and control? Will we allow other species the space they need to flourish alongside us on their own terms?”

Great Bustard performance feathers in two colours for Feral Practice’s film The Unseeables

Scarborough Museums Trust wants The Unseeables to be accessible to everyone, so the film is captioned and a parallel audio experience is available for those who might find this helpful. 

Defining Feral Practice’s artistic practice, Fiona says: “We work with human and non-human beings to create art projects and interdisciplinary events that develop ethical and imaginative connection across species boundaries.

“Our research draws on artistic, scientific and subjective knowledge practices to explore diverse aesthetics and create suggestive spaces of not knowing nature.” 

Painting the egg for Feral Practice’s The Unseeables

Feral Practice is the artist-in-residence for 2020-2021 at Dunham Massey, a National Trust Georgian house, garden and deer park in Cheshire.

The Unseeablesis one of a series of new digital commissions in lockdown from Scarborough Museums Trust in response to the Corona crisis. The trust has asked artists Feral Practice, Kirsty Harris, Jane Poulton, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Lucy Carruthers and Estabrak to create digital artworks for released online across assorted social-media platforms.

Still , gold spiral, for Feral Practice’s The Unseeables

Stay zombie alert! Today is Zomblog Zero Day. “Join us online,” say York filmmakers

Everything stops for zombie: Zomblogalypse filmmakers Hannah Bungard, Tony Hipwell and Miles Watts

ZOMBLOGALYPSE filmmakers Miles Watts, Hannah Bungard and Tony Hipwell are holding Zomblog Zero Day today for all zombie movie enthusiasts.

“Zomblog fun is coming on Tuesday, all day,” they say on Twitter. “Zomblog is the series we shot that serves as a prequel to the web series and indeed the movie [Zomblogalypse], and a sort of reboot. A prebootquel, if you will. We move with the times.”

For Zomblog Zero Day, these cult York filmmakers will be posting all six Zomblog episodes at Facebook.com/Zomblogalypse and commenting below each one. “We’re encouraging you to watch and ask us anything,” they say. “We’ll also be posting outtakes and surprises along the way. Join us!”

Watts, Bungard and Hipwell are purveyors of a “cult zombie-blog-apocalypse-web-comedy-horror-series and now a big silly movie for 2020”.

At last! Screen entertainment returns to York next month as drive-in cinema parks up for three days on Knavesmire

A DRIVE-IN cinema with social distancing rules will take over Knavesmire for three days next month in York.

Meeting Coronavirus regulations to ensure entertainment can return to York, interaction between staff and customers will be kept to a minimum, with cars parked two metres apart and those attending expected to remain within their vehicles for the duration of the screening.

From July 3 to 5, ten family favourites and blockbuster films will be shown on large LED screens with the sound transmitted to the audience’s car radios. Food and drink can be ordered in advance and will be delivered to individual cars. 

No joking: Cinema will return to York next month, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and all

The big-screen promoters, Teesside company Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema, have confirmed a line-up of The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Frozen 2, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman, A Star Is Born, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction and Joker. 

The organisers, who have been involved in entertainments and event management for 30 years, plan to have four screenings per day, lasting from morning to late-night.

Tickets cost £15, adults, £10, children, and can be booked at dukescinema.epizy.com.

The York open-air screenings will be part of a summer series of stops by the North Eastern mobile cinema, also calling in at venues in Darlington, Sunderland and “Teesside” (sorry not to be more specific!).

Nothing much happening in these loosening Lockdown days? Everything still being called off? Here are More Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 7

On your mask, get set…go…where?

EXIT stage left 10 Things To See Next Week In York for the still unforeseeable future in these woolly-thinking lockdown times when everyone’s gone to the beach…or Burnsall.

Make do with entertainment at home and now farther afield, in whatever configuration, as you stay alert to working out how to interpret the Government’s green-for-go rules, in the stultifying shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic that has higher figures in York than elsewhere in North Yorkshire, lest we forget.

From behind his door a little more ajar, but still nervous about comings and goings, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Your Place Comedy….from their places: Simon Evans and Jo Caulfield go online for a laugh

Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans, Your Place Comedy, streaming into your living room from theirs, Sunday, 8pm

AFTER Mark Watson and Lucy Beaumont in April, followed by Simon Brodkin and Harrogate’s Maisie Adams in May, Yorkshire’s virtual comedy project Your Place Comedy returns this weekend with a double bill of BBC Radio 4 stalwarts, Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans.

Led by Selby Town Hall manager Chris Jones, ten small, independent Yorkshire and Humber venues unite to present a fundraising evening of humour on the home front, broadcast live from Caulfield and Evans’s living room to yours for free at yourplacecomedy.co.uk. Donations are welcome afterwards.

Here comes the wickedly fabulous Velma Celli, York’s kitchen cabaret diva

Something Fabulous This Way Comes, Velma Celli’s Equinox, June 13, 8pm

DRAG diva deluxe, Velma Celli, the cabaret creation of York actor Ian Stroughair, invites you to “join me in my kitchen as I celebrate all my favourite witchy and misunderstood characters from movies and musicals”.

“Equinox is a love letter to all the witches and magical creatures who have graced our stages and screens, from Wicked to The Wizard Of Oz and every belty enchantress from the coven in between,” says Velma, who will sing the siren songs of the hags and creatures that go bump in the night as she weaves her cabaret magic at the witching hour, when daylight and darkness are almost equal.

Since going into lockdown in Bishopthorpe after an Australian tour, Ian has presented two Velma shows online from Case de Velma Celli: a fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice on May 2 and Large & Lit In Lockdown on May 16. Tickets for Equinox cost £7 at: ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-equinox-live-stream-tickets/10604915.

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney: Performing together for the first time in 56 years in his audio play Anno Domino. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

If you haven’t heard Alan Ayckbourn’s Anno Domino yet, why not…?

GOODBYE Alan Ayckbourn’s 83rd play, Truth Will Out, postponed at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Hello instead to his 84th play for lockdown times.

Ayckbourn has not only written and directed it, as per usual, but he performs in the audio recording too, marking his return to acting, 56 years after his last appearance on a professional stage in Rotherham.

In one of his lighter pieces, charting the break-up of a long-established marriage and its domino effect on family and friends, Ayckbourn, 81, and his wife, actress Heather Stoney, play four characters each, aged 18 to mid-70s. “We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says Ayckbourn of a world premiere available for free exclusively on the SJT’s website, sjt.uk.com, until noon on June 25. 

York Festival of Ideas had a bright idea: let’s go online for a Virtual Horizons fortnight

York Festival of Ideas, staying alert and staying home until June 14

FESTIVAL after festival has bitten the dust in Covid-19 2020, but if one event could be guaranteed to come up with a different idea, it would be…the York Festival of Ideas.

Consequently, ideas are still blooming in June, as the University of York invites you to go on a “journey of discovery that will educate, entertain and inspire you from the comfort of your own home”, under the banner of Virtual Horizons.

The festival team has worked hard with their partners to bring together a diverse programme of talks, music, activities and community trails. Topics range from author Tansy E Hoskins revealing what exactly your shoes are doing to the world (Foot Work, June 6, 1pm), to scientist Phil Ball discussing genetic editing, cloning and the growth of organs outside the body (How To Grow A Human, June 8, 6pm).

Or, if you need your topicality topping up, how about trenchant broadcaster and political commentator Iain Dale mulling over “the phenomenon” of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a talk “big on comedy and fun” (The Book Of Boris, tomorrow, June 5, 6pm)? Comedy? Fun? Just what we need to tackle the Corona crisis.

L’Apothéose in the grounds of the National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, York, in 2019. Picture: Jim Poyner

Fieri Consort and L’Apothéose, National Centre for Early Music streamed concert, June 13

THE NCEM, in Walmgate, York, continues to share concerts from its archive on Facebook and online. On June 13 comes the chance to enjoy music by past winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, a double bill featuring Fieri Consort from 2017 and last year’s winners L’Apothéose.

To view Fieri Consort and L’Apothéose in concert for free at 1pm, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk.

Cotton Bud Carousel Horse, by Vivien Steiner: Inspiration for the Scarborough Great Get Together postcard competition. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust/Vivien Steiner

Scarborough’s Great Get Together, June 19 to 21

ORGANISED by We Are Scarborough and Say Hello Coast, this event is inspired by the Jo Cox Foundation’s national Great Get Together: a celebration of the late Labour MP’s life and her vision of bringing people together.

This year, it will take place online and will include three competitions: creating a postcard comp on the theme of Scarborough Fair; song lyrics and a multi-genre comp for writers, poets, model-makers and performers. 

For more information on the Scarborough Great Get Together, full details on entering the competitions and more about Scarborough Fair and its history, go to: facebook.com/TheGreatGetTogetherScarborough or wearescarborough.co.uk/.

Voice of an Angel: Christie Barnes recording her role in the York Radio Mystery Plays remotely from home

York Radio Mystery Plays, on BBC Radio York, Sunday mornings throughout June

YORK Theatre Royal and BBC Radio York are collaborating to bring the York Mystery Plays to life on the airwaves in four 15-minute instalments on the Sunday Breakfast Show with Jonathan Cowap from this weekend.

Working remotely from home, a cast of 19 community and professional actors has recorded Adam And Eve, The Flood Part 1, The Flood Part 2 and Moses And Pharaoh, under the direction of Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster.

Jane McDonald: New date for her Let The Light In concert at York Barbican next summer

Seek out the good news

YORK River Art Market in July and August, ruled out by social-distancing rules. York Early Music Festival’s summer of Method & Madness in July, called off. Jane McDonald’s Let The Light In concert at York Barbican tonight, lights out. The list of cancellations may show no sign of abating, but you can always look ahead by searching for event updates on websites.

York River Art Market? Charlotte Dawson and co promise a return to Dame Judi Dench Walk in 2021. York Early Music Festival? Watch this space for the possibility of an online version of this summer’s festival emerging. Wakefield wonder Jane McDonald? Lights up on July 4 2021.

The Howl & The Hum: York band release their debut album

And what about…

The debut album for our disconnected times, Human Contact, by York band The Howl & The Hum. Jorvik Viking Centre’s Discover From Home, digital resources for stay-at-home exploration, such as videos, downloads and audio recordings about Viking life and culture. Garden centres, the real green-for-go sign of lockdown easement. Castle Howard reopening its gardens and grounds; bookings only. Walks on Hob Moor, to the Railway Pond. Crepes at Shambles Market. Pextons reawakening for DIY needs and more on Bishopthorpe Road.

Joys of a daily walk in lockdown are captured in Wanja Kimani’s film Butterfly

Wanja Kimani’s lockdown film Butterfly: Inspired by the daily family walk

WANJA Kimani’s Butterfly, a new film inspired by the everyday pleasures of a daily family walk, will be released on June 2 as the latest digital commission in lockdown from Scarborough Art Gallery.

Butterfly is filmed from the perspective of two children adjusting to life during the Coronavirus lockdown and collects encounters from their walks, when they appreciate nature and music in particular.

Suitable for all ages, Kimani’s six-minute film can be seen on Scarborough Museums Trust’s YouTube channel, https://bit.ly/SMTbutterfly, from next Tuesday morning.

One of Butterfly’s highlights will be a performance of Over The Rainbow, from The Wizard Of Oz, played on violin, piano and accordion by two music teachers from their doorstep.

A still from Wanja KImani’s film Butterfly, released on June 2

Kimani, who lives in Cambridgeshire, says: “We heard beautiful music coming from the house one day and put a note on the door to ask if we could film the following day.

“It’s not something we would usually have heard: all of these things are coming together because we’re all forced to be at home.”

Kimani asks both herself and the viewer: “What can we learn from listening even closer to our natural world, which seems to be revelling in our absence? How can the small but magnified details of our journey change how we engage when all of this is over?

“In this digital commission, I am exploring objects from the natural world through the eyes of children, who instinctively collect and curate everyday objects simply by noticing them. 

“What can we learn from listening even closer to our natural world, which seems to be revelling in our absence?” ponders Wanja Kimani in Butterfly

“The title, Butterfly, sums up spring for me: a sign of new life, light and a reminder that things are working even when we don’t see them. It’s something that my youngest has just learned how to draw and is so proud of it.” 

Scarborough Museums Trust wants Butterfly to be accessible to everyone. Consequently, the film includes audio description and captioning, for those who might find this helpful. A transcript is available to download too.

Kimani says: “Thinking about how this work will be accessed has made me pause and reflect on how the tools I use can be used to enrich the experience of diverse viewers. It made me consider how my work may be viewed and what different audiences may need to engage with the work. 

“By embedding access in the process, the work has allowed me to experiment with how different senses engage with work, with the second part of the work attempting to level out the point of entry.”

“Butterfly is something that my youngest has just learned how to draw and is so proud of it,” says filmmaker Wanja KImani

Through film, textiles and installation, Kimani’s repertoire of work “explores memory, trauma and the fluidity within social structures that are designed to care and protect but have the potential to mutate into coercive forces within society”.

She imposes elements of her own life into public spaces, creating a personal narrative where she is both author and character. In 2018, her performance piece  Expectations was included in the Laboratoire Agit’Art presentation during the Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art in Dakar, Senegal.

In 2019, she presented her work at Art Dubai and as part of a group show, Yesterday Is Today’s Memory, at Espace Commines, in Paris, France. 

The digital commission series forms part of Scarborough Museums Trust’s response to the Corona crisis, asking Kimani, Kirsty Harris, Jane Poulton, Feral Practice, Jade Montserrat, Lucy Carruthers and Estabrak to create digital artworks for release online across assorted social-media platforms over the next few months.

Game Of Thrones star David Bradley and comedian Rosie Jones become patrons for Theatre @41’s exciting plans post-Covid

York actor David Bradley: New patron at Theatre @41, Monkgate, York

GAME Of Thrones, Afterlife and Harry Potter actor David Bradley is among a host of new patrons pledging their support to Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

York-born Bradley, 78, who also starred in Broadchurch and played Jesus Christ in the 1976 York Mystery Plays, is joined by Bridlington-born Rosie Jones, a comedian, actress and scriptwriter, from 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Mock The Week, who has cerebral palsy, and New York playwright/composer Stephen Dolginoff, whose shows Thrill Me: The Leopold And Loeb Story and Monster Makers played in York in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Comedian Rosie Jones: Supporting Theatre @41’s plans for the future

Further names to wade in with their backing are actors Karen Henthorn, from the National Theatre’s War Horse, In The Flesh and The Trouble With Maggie Cole, and John McArdle, from Brookside, Emmerdale and Frantic Assembly’s Things I Know To Be True at York Theatre Royal in November 2017.

The board also welcomes Felicity Cooper, daughter of the theatre’s founder, the late John Cooper, and former chairman Jim Welsman, who worked tirelessly within the York arts scene, first as chairman of York Musical Theatre Company, then as founder and director of the York New Musical Festival, before retiring from the Monkgate theatre’s board last year.

New patron Karen Henthorn. Picture: Neilson Reeves

“Our new patrons have agreed to ensure this intimate venue not only survives but thrives through the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond,” says Joe Wawrzyniak, who succeeded Jim in the chairman’s post last autumn.

“The charity’s board of trustees approached them as part of an exciting development plan for Theatre @41, enlisting a host of patrons to get people talking about this hidden gem as we make ambitious plans for post-lockdown.”

Actor John McArdle: Pledging support to Theatre @41

Theatre @41 opened in 1998, under the inspirational leadership of John Cooper, who transformed the Victiorian building from scratch into a black-box theatre. Now, the venue, with rehearsal rooms and a dance studio to boot, plays host to York Stage Musicals, Pick Me Up Theatre, Once Seen Theatre Company, York Shakespeare Project and Rigmarole Theatre, among others.

Alexander Flanagan Wright’s cult-hit immersive jazz-age production of The Great Gatsby had a swell time there too, staged by The Guild Of Misrule in winter 2016 and 2018.

From New York to York: Playwright and composer Steven Dolginoff backs the way ahead for Theatre @41 from across the Pond

“Theatre @41 gives York an intimate performance space alongside bigger venues such as the York Theatre Royal and Grand Opera House, in much the same way London’s Menier Chocolate Factory and Southwark Playhouse are as vital to the capital’s arts scene as the big West End theatres,” says Joe.

“Looking ahead, we have a great vision for Theatre@41 and we want to shout it from the rafters. What better way to get started than to involve a high-profile group of patrons who are all passionate about the arts? Everyone is keen to get involved: we’re very lucky to have this wonderful new group on board.”

Jim Welsman: former chairman, now patron

Joe adds: “We’re home to Nik Briggs’s York Stage School, which encourages young people to get involved in performance; Robert Readman’s Pick Me Up Theatre, who regularly present new writing and premieres, and Once Seen Theatre Company, who specialise in working with adults with learning and physical disabilities. We can now boast patrons who represent some of the areas of the arts that we work in.

“It’s our mission to keep the vibrant, inclusive spirit of Theatre@41 going, and for this fabulous, versatile venue to continue to grow.  Our new patrons will be there to help us all the way.”

Nothing happening in these slightly loosened Lockdown limbo days. Everything called off. Here are More Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 6

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

EXIT 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future in Stay Alert, but still sort-of-inert, Baby-Step Britannia. Make do with home entertainment, wherever you may be, in whatever configuration that you interpret the Government’s green-for-go rules now permits in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. From behind his door ajar, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney in their Scarborough garden. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Arts event of the week ahead and beyond: Alan Ayckbourn’s Anno Domino, online from May 25 to June 25

WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic meant Truth Will Out would not be out this summer at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, Alan Ayckbourn responded by writing a new play in lockdown, Anno Domino.

And not only write and direct it, but perform in the audio recording too, marking his return to acting, 58 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.

What’s more, former radio producer Ayckbourn, 81, has teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, his co-star in that 1964 production, to record the new show.

His 84th play takes the form of an audio account of the break-up of a long-established marriage and the domino effect that has on family and friends, Ayckbourn and Stoney playing four characters each, aged 18 to 75. “We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says Ayckbourn, who also supplied the sound effects.

The world premiere of Anno Domino will be available for free exclusively on the SJT’s website, sjt.uk.com, from noon on Monday, May 25 to noon on June 25. 

York Musical Theatre Company in Off-Stage But Online 2, Sunday, 7.30pm

AFTER the success of the inaugural Off-Stage But Online! concert on April 26, York Musical Theatre Company return with a second digital performance on Sunday, live on the company’s YouTube channel from 7.30pm.

This weekend’s programme is compiled by musical director Paul Laidlaw again and features 25 numbers performed at home by Matthew Ainsworth, Jessa & Mick Liversidge, John Haigh, Eleanor Leaper, Chris Hagyard and Florence Taylor, among others.

Expect video recordings of numbers from Rent, Les Miserables, Heathers, A Chorus Line, Follies, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Company and Showboat.

Fieri Consort: Online concert from the National Centre for Early Music archives

National Centre for Early Music streamed concerts, May 30 and June 13

THE NCEM, in Walmgate, York, continues to share concerts from its archive on Facebook and online. The next will be on Saturday, May 30, featuring one of the last concerts by the European Union Baroque Orchestra, captured in March 2017.

On June 13 comes the chance to enjoy music by past winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, a double bill featuring Fieri Consort from 2017 and last year’s winners L’Apothéose.

To view these concerts for free at 1pm, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk.

Barbara Marten in the role of Heworth housewife and suffragette Annie Seymour Pearson in York Theatre Royal and Pilot Theatre’s community production Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes

Still streaming: Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, York Theatre Royal Collective Arts programme

YORK Theatre Royal is streaming the 2017 community play Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes for free on its YouTube channel until May 31.

Co-produced with Pilot Theatre, this outdoor and indoor production was performed by a community cast of 150 and a choir of 80, taking the form of a protest play that recalled how women in York ran safe houses, organised meetings, smashed windows and fire-bombed pillar boxes as part of the early 20th century Suffragette movement.

“Now the stage is dark and the streets are empty, but looking back to the way in which that show brought people together, inspiring them in so many ways, is a wonderful reminder of the power of theatre and community,” says playwright Bridget Foreman.

York artist Sue Clayton’s stairs, newly painted in rainbow-coloured trim

Activity of the week: Decorating your house in the bright spring light

BE inspired by York portrait artist Sue Clayton, whose painting of Sainsbury’s trolley attendant Andrew Fair, from her York Heroes series in 2018, appeared on the first episode of Grayson Perry’s Channel 4 show Grayson’s Art Club.

“The urge to paint left me temporarily, which frightened me, but home decorating began instead and my creativity was encouraged this way, from ripping up the stairs carpet and painting the stairs in rainbow colours to remember this period, through to painting a cupboard with a Chinese heron/crane,” she says.

Maybe a Chinese heron would be too ambitious as a starting point, but painting the stairs in rainbow colours…?

 Jeff Beck: New date for York Barbican show in 2021

Still keep trying to find good news

LEEDS Festival in late-August, cancelled. York Early Music Festival’s summer of Method & Madness in July, off. Jeff Beck at York Barbican this week, not now. The list of cancellations shows no sign of coming to an end, but always look on the bright side of strife by seeking out updates on websites.

Leeds Festival at Bramham Park will return in 2021; so too will York Early Music Festival. As for Jeff Beck: there is a hi-ho silver lining there too. The legendary Wallington guitarist and two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, now 75, has re-arranged his gig for April 22 2021.

Jonathan Williams’s stained-glass artwork for our Corona crisis times 

Clap for Carers

STAND by your doors, bang a gong, at 8pm every Thursday, no excuses. Theatre-goers, concert-goers, save your hand-clapping for our NHS doctors, hospital staff, carers, volunteers and key workers.

If one work of art encapsulates a city in gratitude, and in prayer, step forward Jonathan Williams’s stained glass window of York Minster and York Hospital in rainbow union.

Lips/ink: A pensive Simon Armitage, Yorkshireman of words, both spoken and written

And what about…

NEW albums by Badly Drawn Boy, The 1975 and The Dears. Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s new series of interviews on BBC Sounds and his appearance and musical choices on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. Channel 4’s Gogglebox for weekly political insight. Going to a garden centre, where plant salvation awaits.


What is invariably present but often overlooked in maritime paintings? The sea. Not so at May 26 online film night and Q&A

A still from Hondartza Fraga’s Upon A Painted Ocean, 2015

THE online tide comes in for The Sea Around Us, the latest film night at home from Scarborough Art Gallery, on May 26 at 7pm.

Six short films and audio recordings will be accompanied by a question-and-answer session with artists Daniel & Clara, Hondartza Fraga and Amy Sharrocks, from the Museum of Water.

Under discussion will be their depictions of the sea and its use more generally as an artistic subject.

Dutch Fishing Boats, by John Wilson Carmichael, 1860, Scarborough Collections, Scarborough Art Gallery

Among the films looking at the sea as an element of marine paintings will be:

Louis Lumière, La Mer/The Sea, 1895, 35 seconds: One of the first films ever screened to the public, shown at the first such screening in Paris in December 28 1895.

Hondartza Fraga, Upon A Painted Sea, 2015, 2.58 minutes: A film that seeks to bring a focus back to the sea that is “otherwise only a backdrop in paintings depicting the military and economic power of the Dutch republic”.

Daniel and Clara, Exterior Series, EXT. WAVES, 2017, 21 minutes: Part of a series that strips away as many other elements as possible to focus on the direct relationship between the recording device – in this case a VHS camera – and the natural environment.

“The sea as a subject in its own right is often overlooked,” says Gallery Screenings Online film programmer Martha Cattell

Martha Cattell, Scarborough Museums Trust’s guest film programmer, says: “Scarborough Art Gallery has a great many marine paintings in its collection. The sea as a subject in its own right is often overlooked and, more widely, often absent in discussions on marine-painted subjects.

“This screening will reconsider this and think about the main subject that is usually present in marine paintings, but so often overlooked: the sea. It will consider water through the personal, political and material.”

The Sea Around Us forms part of the Gallery Screenings Online series, held on the last Tuesday of each month, each night featuring films selected to give audiences a new perspective on both visiting exhibitions and the permanent Scarborough Collections, followed by a Q&A.

The Brig ‘Herbert’, ship portrait, by M Scurr, 1843, Scarborough Collections, Scarborough Art Gallery

Each gallery screening will have optional live captions from a stenographer; downloading the app version of Zoom is recommended for those wishing to use this function.

A visual guide, or “social story”, will be created too, with illustrations by Scarborough artist Savannah Storm, to explain the format and accessible elements of the screening.

Access to the Gallery Screenings Online event on May 26 is by password only, available, along with a link, by emailing Martha at Martha.cattell@smtrust.uk.com. Please email the same address for access to the social story.

Isabelle, ship portrait, by unknown artist, 19th century, Scarborough Collections, Scarborough Art Gallery

The Q&A and introduction also will be available post-event on Scarborough Museums Trust’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw

For further information on Hondartza Fraga, go to https://www.hondartzafraga.com; Daniel & Clara: https://daniel-clara.co.uk; Amy Sharrocks and the Museum of Water: http://www.museumofwater.co.uk.

York’s grumpiest publicans Fred & Sharon clash online in puppeteer Freddie Hayes’ fast, furious and funny Facebook film

York puppeteer Freddie Hayes with grouchy Fred, her puppet pub landlord

YORK puppeteer, performer and producer Freddie Hayes is to release her short comedy film, Fred & Sharon, online on May 29 to cheer up the city in lockdown.

“The ten-minute film involves my beloved puppets from Fred’s Microbrewery that I performed with during last summer’s Great Yorkshire Fringe in York,” says Freddie, whose filmic collaborator was Nico Jones from Hidden Door TV. 

“Gone are the days of Spitting Image, so here comes the York equivalent, for all your lockdown viewing pleasures.”

Freddie’s film depicts two unhappily married puppets, Fred and Sharon, owners of a dated York boozer. “But with a shift in British drinking culture, the business is now in jeopardy and Fred must venture into the dangerous world of ‘The Hipster’ to save the pub,” says the puppeteer. “But will there be strings attached?”

For the film, Freddie’s puppets popped out at diverse locations around the city, from Spark: York to Young Thugs Studios, True Story café to Coney Street. “Now, if you’re missing the pub during quarantine, tune into my puppet comedy on May 29 at 8pm,” says Freddie. “Join the live watch party via Facebook@FreddieDoesPuppets.”

Looking ahead, Freddie has submitted Fred & Sharon for the tenth anniversary Aesthetica Short Film Festival, to be held in York from November 4 to 8. “So, fingers crossed for that,” she says.

Fred takes to the streets of York

Charles Hutchinson puts the questions to puppeteer Freddie Hayes, no strings attached.

When and where did you make the film?

“Fred & Sharon has taken about a year to put together with Nico Jones, filmmaker from hiddendoor.tv.

“The film is divided into two different worlds: Fred and Sharon’s old-school social club and the hipsters of York.

“I attended a gig at Young Thugs Studios in South Bank and I thought that the South Bank Social Club bar downstairs would be the perfect oldie-worldie backdrop for Fred and Sharon’s pub. 

“For the hipsters of York, I decided to film at True Story café as well as Spark: York. Hotspots for the trendy youths of York.”

Forgive me for not knowing, or not being a hipster for that matter, but where and what is the True Story café? 

“True Story is a vegan café on Lord Major’s Walk. The café has been really supportive with my work and has allowed me to put on performances and events there.

“It’s a real hidden gem in York and is worth a visit for the delicious food and amazing views of the Minster.” 

Fears of a frown: Pub landlord Fred at his grumpiest

Who is Nico Jones and how did you meet?

“Nico is a York filmmaker who’s directed films such as the Fall In Love With Independents viral video, for Indie York, and Chicken On A Raft for York music heroes Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

“We started working together through the close-knit York art community and I’d seen his work through online videos. 

“Nico was the brains behind the making of the film. As the director and script writer, he managed to capture the essence of the garish characters, Fred and Sharon, and compressed all of that northern spirit into a ten-minute short film.” 

How does making a puppet film differ from a live performance?

“Puppeteering for film differs considerably from a live show. Mistakes can be covered up and re-made in film production, whereas in live performance you rely on improvised banter and having a connection with the audience.

“It’s a bit of gamble performing live and I get very nervous. When it’s a good gig, it feels amazing and the adrenaline is a bonus. But a bad gig can make you feel idiotic and in a pit of hell. Especially when you’re waving around a drunk-old-man puppet to 50 audience members! 

“But with film you get up close and personal with the puppets, seeing every expression and emotion behind the movement. It was a fantastic feeling being able to refine each moment to make sure it was perfect for the film. 

A moment of sobering reflection for Fred

“Seeing Fred & Sharon on the big screen really brings them to life, so much so that you forget half-way through that they’re puppets.

“I think that’s what’s so fantastic about puppets, especially adult puppetry, as it allows grown-ups to slip into a more child-like mindset but still enjoy a bit of rudeness.” 

How did you settle on the ten-minute format?

“We settled on ten minutes of material as it was long enough for viewers to see the emotional trajectory – and short enough to spark interest. “Nowadays, if an online video isn’t funny within the first ten seconds, you will turn it off. So, having something short and sweet was the perfect compromise.” 

How are you dealing with life in lockdown limbo? It must be so frustrating as a performer…

“I’m coping well and have been entertaining myself with a lot of bad TV and karaoke. (I was given a karaoke microphone for my birthday, so I’m feeling very sorry for the neighbours right now!)

“I’ve been making puppets for a theatre commission during lockdown, which has kept me busy too.”

“Wrong”, said Fred, as he makes a point

Are you writing new material in response to these discombobulating times?

“My big plan at the moment is creating a solo show for Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2021. This may include a new act I’ve been working on called Ms Potato Head about a potato called Charlotte from New York that dreams of a showbiz cabaret career.

“So, I suppose it will have nothing to do with Corona at all and I might avoid the subject at all costs.” 

What do you do with your puppets when not in use? Lock them away in their own lockdown or keep them around you to inspire new material?

“Fred and Sharon are currently living inside a laundry bag in my attic. I’m sure Fred has a few words to say about current affairs but for now I’ve zipped him up.” 

And finally, any idea what the new Government mantra Stay Alert means?

“Can’t help you with that one. I guess ‘Stay Alert’ to me means ‘make puppets, not friends’?” 

Puppet and puppeteer

PEN PORTRAIT: Who is Freddie Hayes?

FREDDIE is a York puppet maker and performer who has toured around the UK with her handmade puppets and original performances at festivals, pubs and schools. These include Strut Club Cabaret and the Great Yorkshire Fringe in York; the Edinburgh Fringe; Shambala Festival and Moving Parts Festival.  Freddie works closely in the York community to promote creative events such as cabaret, workshops and comedy events. 

Nothing happening in these Lockdown limbo days. Everything off. Here are 10 Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 5

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

Exit 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future in Lockdown hibernation. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether together or in self-isolation, in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Street protest: The Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes cast on the march from York Minster Plaza to York Theatre Royal in 2017. Picture: Anthony Robling

Streaming of Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes, York Theatre Royal Collective Arts programme

YORK Theatre Royal is streaming the 2017 community play Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes for free on its YouTube channel until May 31.

Co-produced with Pilot Theatre, this outdoor and indoor production was performed by a community cast of 150 and a choir of 80, taking the form of a  protest play that recalled how women in York ran safe houses, organised meetings, smashed windows and fire-bombed pillar boxes as part of the early 20th century Suffragette movement.

“Now the stage is dark and the streets are empty, but looking back to the way in which that show brought people together, inspiring them in so many ways, is a wonderful reminder of the power of theatre and community,” says playwright Bridget Foreman.

Whispers From The Museum: the new mystery adventure from Scarborough Museums Trust

Whispers From The Museum, online mystery adventures for children

ADVENTUROUS youngsters can solve a new online mystery, Whispers From The Museum, set at Scarborough Art Gallery and Rotunda Museum, from May 12. The buildings may be closed under the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions but strange messages have been appearing inside. Who or what is making them and what are they trying to tell us?

For six weeks, young people – and their grown-ups – can uncover stories about assorted Scarborough Museums Trust objects by completing online missions and challenges from their own home, set by Scarborough artist Kirsty Harris.

The stream team: Your Place Comedy double bill Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam, performing from their living room to yours

Your Place Comedy, streamed from their living rooms to yours

AT the initiation of Selby Town Hall arts centre manager Chris Jones, here comes gig two of Your Place Comedy, a Sunday night when comedians stream a live show via YouTube and Twitch from their living room into yours from 8pm. There is no charge, but you can make donations to be split between the ten small, independent northern venues that have come together for this Lockdown fundraising scheme.

After Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont and a pyjama-clad Mark Watson in the inaugural online gig, this weekend’s stream team will be Theresa May’s Tory conference P45 prankster Simon Brodkin and Harrogate’s Maisie Adam, as seen from home previously on last Friday’s Have I Got News For You.

Grayson Perry with his teddy bear Alan Measles on a visit to York in May 2014 to open the Meet The Museums Bears event

Inspired by Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4…

IF you have enjoyed Grayson Perry’s convivial call to art, Grayson’s Art Club, on Channel 4 on Monday nights, with portraits and animals as the two subjects so far, seek out the “Ultimate Artists’ Activity Pack”.

This downloadable artist activity pack is suitable for children and adults alike, with Grayson among the contributing artists. So too are Ampleforth College alumnus Antony Gormley, Mark Wallinger, Michael Landy, Gillian Wearing and Jeremy Deller.

The Art Is Where The Home Is pack is the creation of Sandy Shaw, director of the Firstsite Gallery in Colchester, who says the activities should be fun, done on A4 paper and ideally shared.

Drag diva Velma Celli’s poster for Large & Lit In Lockdown, her next online show

What next for Velma Celli, York’s drag diva?

AFTER last weekend’s concert streamed from a Bishopthorpe kitchen in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice, York’s international drag diva Velma Celli has confirmed another such online extravaganza.

Large & Lit In Lockdown will be large and live at 8pm on May 16. “All you need to do is get your tickets from the link below and a live link will arrive in your email inbox on the day of the show.

“Click on it at show time and BOOM! There she is,” says Velma, the spectacular singing creation of Ian Stroughair. Tap in: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-large-secret-york-venue-tickets/10581785.

Activity of the week: Rearranging your bookshelves

THANKS to Zoom and all manner of online visual services, placing yourself in front of your bookshelves is becoming the new normal, as tracked by the Bookcase Credibility Twitter feed, @BCredibility.

You may not go as far as J K Rowling, who re-arranged her books in colour sequences, but this is the chance to both gut your book collection and to find new ways to categorise those shelves, more imaginatively than merely alphabetically. This is spring cleaning with a new purpose.

Romesh Ranganathan: Rearranged York Barbican date

Still keep trying to find good news

POCKLINGTON’S Platform Festival in July, off. More York Races meetings, a non-runner. Deadpan comedian Romesh Ranganathan on Sunday at York Barbican, off; Whitby Fish & Ships Festival next weekend; the chips are down, alas. The list of cancellations grows like the wisteria adorning York’s houses this month, but you should keep visiting websites for updates.

Platform Festival? Negotiations are underway to move as many acts as possible to next summer. Romesh? His show, The Cynics Mixtape, is in the 2021 diary for May 15, still without an apostrophe in its title. Fish & Ships?  Sailing into harbour next May. York Races? Further updates awaited.

Woodland bluebells , Spring 2020

Venturing outdoors…

…FOR your daily exercise, be that a run, a cycle ride or a stroll near home, in a changing environment. If your route allows, check out the bluebells, now a glorious woodland haze, and the rhododendrons, bursting through too. In Rowntree Park, the ducklings are taking to the water, no need for armbands. Thank you, nature and the natural world, for keeping up our spirits.

Clap for Carers

STAND by your doors at 8pm every Thursday, no excuses. Theatre-goers, concert-goers, save your hand-clapping for our NHS doctors, hospital staff, carers, volunteers and key workers. How moving, too, to see familiar buildings bathed in blue light: a glowing tribute growing by the week.

Louis Theroux: New BBC radio series of interviews in lockdown

And what about…

NEW albums by The Strokes (the uncannily titled The New Abnormal); Lucinda Williams, Car Seat Headrest and Damien Jurado. Michael Henderson’s new state-of-the-nation book That Will Be England Gone, The Last Summer Of Cricket. The TV adaptation of Normal People, Sally Rooney’s story of complicated Millennial teenage love, directed by Room filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson on BBC Three, One and iPlayer. Louis Theroux’s lockdown interview series, Grounded, on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds. Parsnips, however you cook them.

Copyright of The Press, York