“VERY flat, Norfolk,” opined Noel Coward in Private Lives.
Seeking rather more than flatness, CharlesHutchPress will be on vacation Broadly speaking for a week.
Hopefully, the arts world will have been delivered world-beating, but delayed Cultural Recovery Fund grants by then. Over to you, Mr Dowden, before it is too late and the world of live theatre, music and comedy is flatlining.
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, has appointed Hannah Wakelam as its first Young Ambassador.
Musical theatre performer Hannah, 19, was responsible for setting up and running the online Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest reached its final last weekend, won by York performer and composer Ed Atkin.
Through this virtual contest and other online competitions, Hannah raised more than £1,200 for the Haxby Road theatre’s £90,000 Raise Tthe Roof appeal and boosted the theatre’s youth following.
She approached the JoRo theatre early on in its campaign to suggest ways she could help in raising funds for the roof appeal for the Art Deco building. The Yorkshire’s Got Talent online contest quickly attracted entrants and followers and membership of its Facebook group surged to almost 4,000.
Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s events and fundraising director, says: “Hannah’s enthusiasm and support for our cause are infectious. She’s achieved huge things in a short space of time and has brought the theatre’s Raise The Roof appeal to the attention of thousands of people.”
In recognition of those achievements, the theatre has decided to name Hannah as its first Young Ambassador. “This new role will see Hannah supported by the board of trustees as she continues to raise awareness of the theatre among younger theatregoers,” says Graham.
A delighted Hannah says: “The support for the Yorkshire’s Got Talent competition and the money it raised blew me away! I absolutely love this theatre, I’ve performed in it so many times and we need it to survive so that it can exist as a training ground for young people, both on and off stage.”
Although Yorkshire’s Got Talent may be over, Hannah continues to work with the theatre’s fundraising and marketing teams, creating online content for Facebook and Instagram.
Video tours of the JoRo will be available to view soon, seen through Hannah’s eyes and in her words, and soon too she will be launching a huge raffle for the appeal. Already she is on the lookout for prize donations.
Highlighting the opportunities that the JoRo offers to young people, only last week York-born actor David Bradley lent his support to the roof appeal.
“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre has been a vital part of the city for many years,” says the Harry Potter and Game Of Thrones star. “I know from personal experience that it has provided opportunities for so many young people and I will always be grateful for that. I fully support the Raise The Roof appeal and wish it every success.”
Last Sunday’s Yorkshire’s Got Talent final was decided by a public poll, the contest judges and six other West End and Broadway industry professionals. Ed Atkin emerged as the winner, beating Fladam (silly-song duo Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter) and Jordan Wright.
The judges were Wakefield performer Laura Pick, who was playing Elphaba in Wicked in the West End until lockdown, West End regular and cruise ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and Ripon vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.
Industry professionals involved in judging were Rachel Tucker, Kerry Ellis, Natalie Paris, Matthew Croke, Nicholas McClean and Paul Taylor-Mills.
YORK Musical Theatre Company celebrate The Best Of British in Sunday night’s online concert.
“Expect lots of British musicals and composers. Lots of Lloyd Webber, Lionel Bart, Tim Minchin, a bit of Noel Coward and lots more,” says company publicist and regular cast member Anna Mitchelson.
Before you quibble, “but isn’t Tim Minchin Australian?”, the comedian, actor, writer, musician and songwriter was born in Northampton, England, to Australian parents, who then raised him in Perth, Australia. Happy 45th birthday to Tim next Wednesday, by the way.
Recorded remotely, Sunday’s 7.30pm programme opens with a group rendition of Who Will Buy?, from Oliver!, followed by Matthew Clare performing Cronos’ Plea, from Prometheus Bound, and Marlena Kelli and David Martin’s duet, Could We Start Again, Please?, from Jesus Christ Superstar,
Martin Harvey sings the title song from Tell Me On A Sunday; Eleanor Leaper, Wait A Bit, from Just So; Chris Jay, Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven; Chris Gibson, Leaning On A Lamp Post, from Me And My Girl, and Marlena Kelli, Sleepsong, from Secret Garden.
Mick Liversidge contributes Gonna Build A Mountain, from Stop The World I Want To Get Off; David Martin, Music Of The Night, from The Phantom Of The Opera; Peter Wookie, The Song That Goes Like This, from Monty Python’s Spamalot, and Mick and Jessa Liversidge, You And I, from Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
Moizie Murphy performs Noel Coward’s Epitaph For An Elderly Actress; Jessa Liversidge, My House, from Matilda The Musical, and Sam Coulson, the title song from Sunset Boulevard.
Musical director Paul Laidlaw, who has put Sunday’s programme together, closes the concert at the piano with an Ivor Novello tribute to Joan Welsman, who died last month. Her husband, Jim Welsman, is a former chairman of YMTC.
The Best Of British will be streamed on YMTC’s YouTube channel at:
“IT’S a strange and challenging time to be opening a business,” admits York commercial photographer Duncan Lomax after turning his front room into Holgate Gallery.
“Why now? I think people are looking for some good news,” reasons Duncan. “People are stimulated by visual art, perhaps now more than ever.They’ve been stuck at home in lockdown, observing their walls on Zoom, and they’re now more aware of their homes, so in that sense maybe it’s a good time to set up a gallery.
“People are looking for a connection with what they put on their walls or in their rooms, so why would you buy three stones with a white stripe for your mantelpiece?
“That’s why, at Holgate Gallery, it’s not just pretty pictures of York, though there’ll always be a demand for that, but I’d like to think that we can challenge people more. With the creative photography I do, it’s deliberately imperfect and more abstract than the commercial work, which has to be perfect and generally done to someone else’s brief.”
The gallery address is 53, Holgate Road, a Grade 2-listed building that previously housed Bridge Pianos before Duncan and his wife Tracy moved in, turning the frontage from white to a deeply satisfying blue.
Holgate Gallery becomes only the second contemporary photographic art-space to be set up in York since the much-missed, pioneering Impressions Gallery deserted Castlegate for Bradford’s Centenary Square in 2007.
Since July 2013, fellow commercial photographer Chris Ceaser has run Chris Ceaser Photography in early 15th century, Grade 2-listed, timber-framed premises at 89 Micklegate, focusing on his own landscape photographs of York, Yorkshire and beyond.
By comparison, Duncan will complement his commercial and abstract photographs and humorous faux Penguin Book cover prints with a regularly changing stock of work by other artists “who might not otherwise have the space to exhibit”.
Mostly they will be local, but in the first instance, the spotlight falls on Cold War Steve, the alias of Birmingham digital-collage political satirist Christopher Spencer, with his 250,000 followers on Twitter for his classical painting pastiches and predilection for incorporating EastEnders’ Steve “Phil Mitchell” McFadden alongside the Westminster double act of Johnson and Cummings at every opportunity.
“You don’t have to look too far to see which side he’s on,” says Duncan. “It’s putting two fingers up to the Establishment, and not everyone will like it, but he’s just been awarded a Doctor of Arts honorary degree at Wolverhampton University, so he’s now Dr Cold War Steve!”
You can sense Duncan’s enthusiasm for stretching his wings beyond running Ravage Productions Photography. “Doing commercial photography, you spend three hours ‘in the field’ and then just as much time doing the editing, marketing and updating the website. I’ve always thought that feels like time wasted, though it’s not, because it’s part of the job, but I most enjoy being behind a camera.
“So, I thought, is there a way of being creative while also doing the [commercial] job? When we bought the piano shop, it needed everything doing to it, but I could see it being a gallery, shop and editing facility for me as well as a home, so rather than being on my own when I’m working, it becomes a more social experience and another string to the bow related to the commercial photography, while it keeps pushing me on the creative side.
“I might find there’s no interest in photography in York, but I’m pretty certain there is, and not just for my work, so this gallery is not an ego trip.”
Duncan has been the official photographer for York Minster for several years, notably for the 2016 York Mystery Plays, and has shot portraits, marketing images and PR material for all manner of businesses both in the city and at large.
He also has taught photography to degree level and his pictures have appeared many times in the local and national press, from The Press and YorkMix to the Yorkshire Post, the BBC and The Times.
Born on the Wirral and brought up in Warrington, Duncan played guitar in early Nineties’ Widnes “baggy wannabees” and two-time John Peel Session band 35 Summers, but he was just as likely to be holding a camera as a guitar.
“I’ve always had a camera; I’ve always been interested in photography,” says Duncan, who gives talks to camera clubs to give a different slant on taking pictures beyond landscapes and wildlife.
“I went to see Echo & The Bunnymen in 1982, when they were playing this secret gig where no-one knew where it would be when they bought a ticket. I got right to the front with my mum’s thin Instamatic camera, and there were no press photographers, but there I was, leaning on the stage, with all this dry ice everywhere, hiding the camera away because you weren’t supposed to be taking pictures. The next day I sold the photos at school, so that lit the spark for me.”
Duncan went on to work in PR, but as a writer. “I was always jealous of the photographers,” he recalls. So jealous that the camera would eventually win out because he thinks like a photographer at all times.
“You are constantly looking at the light, checking it, looking outside, and then you see this mackerel sky, and you know you have to stop and go and get the camera,” he says.
“Sometimes, with a photograph, it’s about pre-visualising…but then accidents can happen. That’s serendipity, but more normally, nine times out of ten those circumstances don’t come together.
“You almost know the shot before you take it, but whether you’re able to get it is another thing; whether you can manipulate it and be in control of the camera. Everything has to come together, not only technically but also emotionally. That’s where you get the story.”
He highlights a distinction between the amateur and the professional. “When I was giving a club talk, I remember asking, ‘Who’s shot a landscape photo of Robin Hood’s Bay?’. All the hands went up, but then I said: ‘Hands up, who’s shot a portrait one?’ and no hands stayed up…whereas I’m always thinking of where the headline can go on the picture,” says Duncan.
The photographer’s eye enables him to “show something that you can see that someone else can’t in that situation”, by using such a technique as underexposure.
“But what you don’t do in either commercial or press photography is let the camera lie,” Duncan says. “Though if you’re doing a commercial shot and you notice there’s a fag end on the floor, you do take it out of the picture.”
Among Duncan’s most memorable photographic work is his remarkable portfolio for the 2016 York Mystery Plays, especially those capturing actors in character, but neither on stage nor posed. “I did those 15 seconds after they came off stage. They weren’t meant to be ‘nice’ pictures, but pictures while they were still in the moment, which is different from portraiture,” he says.
The relationship between photographer and subject is one of trust, requiring skills of communication and connection. “What puts them at ease, I think – and I say this to everyone – is that I tell them, ‘I’m not trying to catch you out’, which is different from some press photographers, whose job is to do exactly that,” says Duncan.
“I’ll ask them, ‘what are you looking for from this photograph?’, as it’s about gaining their trust. That’s the bit I really enjoy; getting that interaction, even if I’m there to photograph a building, I’ll interact with the site manager.”
Duncan’s work spans commercial, portrait, event, PR, creative, architectural and travel photography. Can he ever switch off? “If you come across me on a rare day off, I’ll still have my camera with me, so when we go on a walk, my wife hates it as we’ll take three times as long as we otherwise would!” he says.
“Like when we went to Cuba earlier this year, I just had to film the textures of the walls as they tell a story in their amazing colours: they give such a sense of place to Cuba.”
Those Cuban colours are now framed in Pantone style and for sale at Holgate Gallery, the new calling card for Nineties’ guitarist, ace photographer and now gallery owner and curator Duncan Lomax.
More good news has just come his way too: he has been selected to participate for the first time in York Open Studios next April.
Holgate Gallery’s opening times will vary but will be updated regularly at www.holgategallery.co.uk and on Facebook. Visits also can be arranged by appointment via firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHEN Joseph Theatre artistic associate Simon Slater is teaming up with theatrical dynasty luminary Jemma Redgrave to present a rehearsed reading of Simon Woods’ Hansard.
Directed by SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, the reading will take place in the Round at the Scarborough theatre on Tuesday, October 20 at 7.30pm.
A witty and devastating new play, Hansard premiered at the National Theatre, London, in August 2019.
On a summer’s morning in 1988, Tory politician Robin Hesketh has returned home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana, but all is not as blissful as it first seems.
Diana has a stinking hangover, a fox is destroying the garden, and secrets are being dug up all over the place. As the day draws on, what starts as gentle ribbing and the familiar rhythms of marital sparring quickly turns to blood-sport.
Robinson enthuses: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have attracted two actors of the stature of Jemma and Simon to bring a reading of Simon Woods’ brutally funny, but ultimately moving, political satire to the SJT.”
Jemma Redgrave played the title character in four series of Bramwell from 1995 to 1998 and has a recurring role in Doctor Who as Kate Stewart, head of scientific research at UNIT. Her wide and varied theatre and film career has included the role of Evie Wilcox in the Bafta Award-winning Merchant Ivory adaptation of Howards End in 1992.
Simon Slater was born and grew up in Scarborough. He played Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia! in the West End for five years, had a regular role as Inspector Kite in the ITV series The Bill and narrates audiobooks, such as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
He is in demand too as a musical director, latterly for the National Theatre’s Amadeus, and he has composed more than 300 original scores for theatre, film, television, radio and theatre, not least for the past four Christmas shows at the SJT. He will be doing likewise for The Snow Queen this December.
After Hansard, Slater will perform Bloodshot, Douglas Post’s one-man thriller, in the Round from October 21 to 24 at 7.30pm plus a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.
In a story of vaudeville, murder, magic and jazz set in London in 1957, Derek Eveleigh is a skilled photographer, very down on his luck.
A mysterious envelope arrives from a stranger, asking him to take secret pictures of an elegant young woman as she walks in Holland Park. The reward is handsome, but the irresistible assignment takes a sudden, shocking turn.
Entangled and compelled to understand, Derek is led into a seedy Soho nightlife populated by dubious characters. What do an Irish comedian, an American saxophone player and a Russian magician have to do with the bloody event he has witnessed? And how are these men connected to the woman in Holland Park?
In seeking the truth, Derek finds his whole life turned upside down as Post’s thriller examines the turbulent human heart and keeps you on the edge of your seat in Patrick Sandford’s surprise-laden production.
The SJT has introduced comprehensive Covid-secure measures for the safety and comfort of its audiences and has been awarded both the VisitEngland We’re Good To Go industry standard mark, signifying its adherence to Government and public health guidance, and UK Theatre’s See It Safely standard mark. Full details can be found at https://www.sjt.uk.com/were_back
Bookings for Hansard go on sale from £10 from 10am tomorrow (October 2), and please note that under social-distancing restrictions, numbers are extremely limited for this one-off event.
To book for Hansard or Bloodshot (tickets already available), visit sjt.uk.com/whatson or call the box office on 01723 370541, open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings.
YORK Theatre Royal is launching Pledge Ahead, an initiative that asks audiences and the wider community for financial support, seven deeply wounding months into the Coronavirus arts crisis.
The pledge will take the form of buying vouchers that can be exchanged later for theatre tickets once the still-closed building re-opens. More details can be found at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Launching the scheme, executive director Tom Bird said: “Lots of people have been asking what they can do to help the theatre at this critical time.
“By pledging ahead, our audiences can continue to support us while our building is closed and look forward to using their vouchers as soon as we are able to re-open our doors and welcome everyone back.”
The plea comes “at this critical time” when the Theatre Royal has revealed it has cut its permanent staff by one third – seven voluntary redundancies and nine staff made redundant – after extensive consultations.
In a further cost-cutting measure, the Theatre Royal also has confirmed it will not be renewing its lease of the neighbouring De Grey Rooms, home to rehearsals, workshops, staff offices and the below-stairs costume store, as well as weddings, parties, award ceremonies and performances in the glorious ballroom.
The “hand-back” will be completed this week after 11 years of renting the Grade 2-listed neo-classical Victorian building from York Conservation Trust.
The costume hire business will be re-located and will re-open in January; further announcements are awaited on exactly where, along with long-term plans for rehearsals, workshops and staff rooms once the Theatre Royal can re-open.
Bird said: “We have been forced to take some very difficult cost-saving decisions. It has been a devastating time for everyone involved but the theatre will survive and we are now looking ahead and planning for the future.”
Along with the redundancies, many more staff have taken cuts in hours and wages, to ensure the theatre survives, and the Government’s soon-to-disappear furlough scheme has played its supportive part too.
However, 89 per cent of York Theatre Royal’s annual income is generated through selling tickets and from associated revenue streams, such as the bars and café, from the tens of thousands of people who come through the doors of a theatre that underwent a £6.1 million redevelopment completed in 2016.
The Theatre Royal – the longest-running theatre in England outside London – reopened on April 22 that yearwith a new roof, an extended and re-modelled front-of-house area and a refurbished, reconfigured and redecorated main auditorium, with major improvements to access and environmental impact too.
Since the Covid-enforced closure in March, the Theatre Royal has reduced its costs “significantly”, the redundancies being the most draconian step so far.
“Like almost everywhere in British theatre, we have sadly had to reduce our team in order for the Theatre Royal to survive and provide a theatre for the community.
“There was zero ambiguity that it might have to happen, but all theatres are in this situation and I’m pleased that we have not closed any department, so we maintain producing expertise across the staff.”
Since lockdown, performances have been restricted to a Pop-Up On The Patio festival of 12 shows by diverse York performers on the Theatre Royal terracing from August 14 to 29, with a maximum audience of 35 at each show.
Cinderella shall not go to the ball this winter on the main stage, but instead the Theatre Royal and new pantomime partners Evolution Productions have announced the Travelling Pantomime, starring York magician, panto comic turn, actor and children’s entertainer Josh Benson.
The dates are yet to be announced, but the small-scale tour will visit sports centres, social clubs, halls and community centres in all 21 wards in York in December and January.
At each socially-distanced, Covid-secure performance, the audience will vote whether to watch Aladdin, Jack And The Beanstalk or Dick Whittington, all scripted by Evolution director and producer Paul Hendy and directed by Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster.
Meanwhile, the Theatre Royal expects to learn on Monday (October 5) whether its bid for a grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund has been successful…or not.
The theatre received £196,493 from Arts Council England’s Emergency Fund to help to cover July to September 30’s costs, and the latest grant application is “not a million miles from that figure,” confirmed Bird.
“The problem with an old building that’s so huge and hard to heat is that it costs £475,000 a year just to keep it open, without staffing, to cover heating, lighting, water and safety.
“Under Covid restrictions, things like the patio season and Travelling Pantomime are our direction of travel right now.
“It’s been brilliant to have done the patio shows and we’re totally over the moon with how that went; it was terrific giving local artists the chance to perform. Now we’re looking at further options for outdoor shows in York until it’s viable and safe to be back indoors.
“But we’re always mindful of the risk of a local lockdown, and the main task is to safeguard the future of the theatre and that’s going well but it’s a big fight.”
The Culture Recovery Fund grant, if approved, would cover October to March 31. “It’s a little bit more about recovery this time,” says Bird. “Last time, the ACE grant was about ‘What do you need right now not to collapse?’.
“We have interpreted the guidance for a grant in the best way we can and we hope the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council will see fit to support us in the best manner possible.”
Today, by the way, is Creative Performance Protest Day, a rallying call to “to highlight the Government’s failure to support the performing arts sector throughout the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Trafalgar Square, London, at midday will be among the focal points of a campaign whose urgency has been heightened by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new Job Retention Scheme not accommodating freelance arts workers in its definition of “viable” jobs.
ED Atkin has won Yorkshire’s Got Talent, the online contest organised by York teenage musical actor Hannah Wakelam in aid of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.
After weeks of searching for “the best talent that Yorkshire can offer”, the judges combined yesterday with guest panellists and the public to vote for the winner from a final three of Atkin, Jordan Wright and Fladam (the silly-song double act of Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter).
FROM the Brontë sisters to Morris dancing, happiness to self-help, Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre will present a themed season of play readings this autumn.
The six 7.15pm readings by professional actors will take place in front of a socially distanced audience, who can join in a discussion with the writer, director and actors at the end, potentially contributing to each play’s development.
Artistic director Paul Robinson says: “These readings give our audiences a sneak preview of some shows that may go on to have a full production at the SJT. One of our biggest successes in recent years, Christopher York’s Build A Rocket, started out this way.”
The first reading, Sarah Gordon’s The Underdog on October 7, will be performed by York actors Joe Feeney and Anna Soden, from Cosmic Collective Theatre, Houmi Miura and Monica Sagar. Casts for the other play readings will be announced soon.
Peeling back the legend of the Brontë sisters, The Underdog tells the story of the sibling power dynamics that shaped their uneven rise to fame from The Parsonage at Haworth, West Riding.
“Individual ambition and differing levels of success collide increasingly with the desire for group empowerment – which, let’s face it, is awkward. Especially when you’re the underdog, a.k.a Anne Brontë,” says Sarah, whose play The Edit played the SJT in Spring 2019.
On October 13, in Adam Hughes’s Joy, Joy is a never without a smile and always looks on the bright side of life, but when her son, Ryan, returns home following a messy break-up, she finds herself questioning what it really means to be happy.
In Tapped, Katie Redford’s comedy drama on November 3, three Co-op colleagues attend a failing self-help group in Stapleford, Nottingham.
Every Tuesday evening, Gavi holds motivational meetings in his garage, hoping to inspire his community, but when only bickering mother and daughter Denise and Jen turn up, clearly he has his work cut out.
Both wounded by tragedy, an Iraqi-Welsh Muslim woman and an ex-soldier, who live in multicultural Canton in Cardiff, find unexpected solace in each other’s company in Rebecca Jade Hammond’s Canton on November 10.
Hammond explores those rare fleeting relationships between two strangers of different backgrounds, living side by side in the same community, and how their interactions can be a catalyst for change.
In Worldly, on November 17, Jess knows she will survive Armageddon in Rachel Horner’s one-woman show about religion, family and unlearning everything you once knew.
She has done the training and read all the books and already she is planning what to name her pet panda on Paradise Earth. However, Jess realises that with organised religion comes unorganised chaos and not everyone is as faithful as they think they are.
Yorkshire actor Chris Chilton’s touching comedy With Bells On! concludes the season on November 24 with its story of salesman Morris, friendships and a passion for Morris dancing.
By day, Morris sells rubber valves but come nighttime, he is the Lord of the Dance, leading an unlikely group of friends on the road to the Morris Ring Regional Dance-Off.
The six readings will take place in the Round, except for Canton, booked instead into the McCarthy auditorium.
Tickets for individual play readings cost £5 each at sjt.uk.com/whatson or by calling the box office on 01723 370541, open Thursdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for phone calls and in-person bookings.
The SJT has introduced comprehensive measures for the safety and comfort of its audiences and has been awarded the VisitEngland We’re Good To Go industry standard mark, signifying its adherence to Government and public health guidance. For more details, go to: https://www.sjt.uk.com/were_back