YORK theatre-in-education company Mud Pie Arts are launching Drama For Recovery workshops, marked by a cycle ride to every primary school in York on April 14 and 15.
The start of a new school term brings the promise of the return of visiting artists, York drama practitioners Nicolette Hobson and Jenna Drury, who want to help York children recover from a stressful year through drama games.
Drama For Recovery comes as a response to teachers reporting that some children are struggling to adjust to life back in school, finding problems in working together and concentrating on tasks.
Calling on more than 20 years’ experience in education and youth theatre, Mud Pie Arts understand that regular drama games can build skills in co-operation and focus.
“Drama is the ideal tool to build life skills such as teamwork and empathy,” says Jenna. “We know that drama lets children express their creativity. After a time of feeling powerless, our form of play gives children a voice and a choice. It’s powerful stuff! Plus, of course, our sessions are often full of laughter, which is a great stress-buster for all of us.”
Mud Pies Arts are inviting teachers to book a day of drama that will include every child in the school. “Teachers will have the opportunity to learn the simple games, so that, with regular bursts of drama play, all children will benefit,” says Jenna.
“What’s more, this week I’ll be delivering our leaflets to all 63 state primaries by pedal power! From Stensall to Wheldrake, Rufforth to Elvington, that’s over 55 miles of local lanes.
“We want to show our commitment to education with this gesture of determination. Luckily, we live in a wonderfully compact, green city!”
Mud Pie Arts also will offer primary schools a teaching package for eight to 11 year olds to build resilience through Operation Last Hope,a fantasy role-play that requires the children to complete a quest to rehabilitate an endangered species.
Nicolette and Jenna created the films, audio and resources for this scheme, after being awarded a micro-commission in January from IVE at Arts Council England.
Mud Pie Arts wasted no time in lockdown, writing and recording open-ended Cloud Tales and posting them as a free resource on their website. They have taught remotely and won commissions to make storytelling films for home schooling, and these stories and the duo’s film, Meet Florence Nightingale, are still available to all.
Schools can contact Mud Pie Arts to discuss bespoke drama or storytelling workshops. “We hope teachers will welcome artists back to schools soon,” says Nicolette. “It is possible to do this safely. The arts are essential for child development and well-being, after such a long year of disruption to young lives.”
To contact Mud Pie Arts, go to: mudpiearts.co.uk.
Did you know?
MUD Pie Arts deliver drama-based curriculum workshops and interactive storytelling performances to children aged three to 11 throughout Yorkshire.
YORK singer-songwriter Gary Stewart will release his lockdown album, Lost, Now Found, on June 14, the day before his 40th birthday.
“The album was recorded at home and is pretty much all me, with the exception of a few musical friends, like Rosie Doonan, Ross Ainslie and Mikey Kenney,” says the left-handed guitarist, who can also be spotted playing drums for Hope & Social on a regular basis.
Perthshire-born Gary cut his teeth performing on the Leeds music scene for ten years before moving to York. Writing songs in the folk/pop vein, and influenced by the major singer/songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s – Paul Simon, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and assorted members of The Eagles – he has released three albums and two EPs to date.
Now comes Lost, Now Found, comprising material written between April and June 2020, shortly after the first pandemic lockdown was announced.
“When Covid-19 struck in late March 2020 and it became apparent that the nation would be indoors for some time, I made the decision (after a short period of squander sponsored by I-Player and Netflix) to try and write some songs after quite a hiatus,” says Gary.
“As a professional procrastinator, my fear was that I wouldn’t stick with it or even bother to give myself a fighting chance. Thankfully, I took up the threads of a song, Leopard, that had been kicking around my head and notebook for 18 months or so and got to task.
“What emerged was a knitted patchwork of a song, drawing initially on one specific personal experience, but extended to a more general introspective of my character and unified under the familiar question: can a leopard change its spots?”
The answer: “Well, given that this self-confessed ‘pro procrastinator’ managed to finish a song in lightning time – by his own standards – and continued to write another nine songs within a period of three months, I would say ‘yes’,” says Gary.
“The speed at which Leopard arrived (boom) gave me the confidence to continue writing. The ‘stay at home’ rule allowed me the chance to spend time broadening my chordal vocabulary (something I have wanted to do since ‘discovering’ The Beatles last year); to go further than the usual ‘three chords and the truth’.”
“Technophobe” Gary ventured into the realm of D.I.Y musician for Lost, Now Found, playing, recording, mixing and producing the album as a solo work.
“Arts Council England enticed me to apply for some funding, with its Developing Creative Practice fund helping me to secure the purchase of a laptop, an interface and a couple of really nice microphones,” he says.
“This in turn led me down the rabbit-hole and into the Wonderland of home-recording, the next two months being spent learning a new trade on-the-go while recording the ten new songs.
“This involved learning how to place microphones; how to record tracks; how to edit and ‘comp’ takes; latency; how to use compressors and reverbs; how to be patient; how to ‘really’ shout and swear. At 39 years old, I did not expect to be in the position of being able to learn a new skill and apply that skill so quickly. Another facet that fits neatly into the leopard/spots adage.”
Multi-instrumentalist Gary has enlisted the help of a handful of musician friends to “add colour” to assorted songs. Rosie Doonan, who has worked with Peter Gabriel, duets with Stewart on Hot To Trot, Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja and Lost, Now Found, and Mikey Kenney, from Band Of Burns, lends string arrangements to Rainy Day Lover and Sailors And Tailors.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Ross Ainslie, from Treacherous Orchestra and Salsa Celtica, plays whistle on Front Lines, while Sam Lawrence and James Hamilton contribute woodwind and brass respectively to the opening track, Tailspin.
Lost, Now Found captures the sound and feel of a 1970s’ era singer/songwriter record. “My D.I.Y approach to recording, coupled with my musical influences, help give the album its lo-fi sonority: warm-sounding acoustic guitars and drums; plate reverb vocals, and instruments captured as naturally as possible, with very little effect,” says Gary. “Think Tapestry meets Tea For The Tillerman.”
Stylistically, the album embraces 1960s and 1970s’ artists alongside more contemporary folk/pop luminaries: The Beach Boys’ drums and vocal-harmony influence are apparent on Hot To Trot and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja; John Martyn and Nick Drake bounce off each other in Tailspin; lead single Leopard has a Villagers vibe, while the plaintive feel of Still Crazy-era Paul Simon is present on Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and the title track.
“These are ten songs that I’m really proud of,” says Gary. “Songs that deal with themes I constantly return to both consciously and sub-consciously: fabrics of my character that I’d like to change (Leopard and Chest); procrastination (Hot To Trot) and redemption, coupled with new beginnings (Tailspin) and straight-up love songs (Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja).
“Then there are the songs that are woven more indelibly and intertwined with the time and situation in which they were written: songs about the triumph over adversity of the NHS (Front Lines) and family loss, both physical and mental (Sailors And Tailors and Lost, Now Found).
“These compositions, to me, are a step-up musically and thematically from what I normally write. I think they’ve been captured really well on record and I hope you like listening to them very much.”
Gary Stewart’s Lost, Now Found is released on June 14 on CD, 12“ vinyl and download.
Just how multi-instrumentalist is multi-tasking Gary Stewart?
ON Lost, Now Found, he contributes vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, hi-string guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, keys, xylophone, glockenspiel, congas, bongos, shakers, triangle, tambourine, finger cymbals, temple blocks and…thighs. Oh, and he recorded, mixed and produced the album.
Did you know?
GARY Stewart plays drums for Leeds band Hope & Social and guitar for Rosie Doonan, performs at Big Ian Donaghy’s A Night To Remember charity nights at York Barbican and hosts the New York Greenwich Village-inspired acoustic hootenanny, The Gaslight Club, run by Dead Young Records every Monday at Oporto!, in Call Lane, Leeds.
He also fronts a seven-piece line-up that tours the UK with Graceland: A Celebration of Paul Simon’s Classic (plus a generous handful of other Simon classics for good measure). In the diary for September 18 is a York gig at The Crescent at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12.50 (more on the door) at seetickets.com.
YORK Theatre Royal is to receive £324,289 from the second round of the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.
The St Leonard’s Place theatre is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from this tranche of awards, announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Friday, from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
“This award is critical to York Theatre Royal and will support the re-opening of the theatre in May with The Love Season,” says the theatre’s announcement.
“We’re delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful,” says Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird. “This award ensures that York Theatre Royal can look ahead to the future with confidence and a renewed sense of purpose as it helps us to play our role in supporting arts for the community in York.
“I would call this funding more about recovery and reopening, whereas the last round was still ‘emergency’ funding.”
Tom continued: “It’s brilliant news for us, and we’re obviously very chuffed as this £324,289 grant allows us to support The Love Season, which we’ll be announcing on April 7. We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back to the theatre in May with an exciting and varied programme of work that celebrates what we’ve all been missing this past year; human connection, the live experience, and a sense of togetherness.”
More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in this round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund as a “much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead”.
This comes on top of more than £800 million in grants and loans awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The funding awarded on Friday is drawn from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
In the initial surge of the Covid-19 crisis, Arts Council England (ACE) set up a £160 million Emergency Response Fund package, with nearly 90 per cent coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support.
York Theatre Royal received £196,493 from ACE’s emergency fund to help to cover costs in the fallow months from last July to September 30. “The ACE grant was about ‘What do you need right now not to collapse?’,” said Tom at the time.
Last October, the Theatre Royal was awarded £230,000 from the Cultural Recovery Fund to assist the theatre until March 31.
While the emergency and recovery funding has been vital, it has not prevented the Theatre Royal from having to cut its permanent staff by one third – seven voluntary redundancies and nine staff made redundant – last September after extensive consultations, as well as cutting all ties with the neighbouring De Grey Rooms.
“You have to bear in mind that normally we have a £4.5 million turnover each year, with 89 per cent of our annual income being generated through selling tickets [combined with associated revenue streams, such as the bars and café],” says Tom.
“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.”
York Theatre Royal – the longest-running theatre in England outside London – hosted two socially distanced preview performances of The Travelling Pantomime last December but otherwise the main-house and Studio stages have been dark since March 15 last year.
CharlesHutchPress will cover next Wednesday’s announcement of The Love Season – socially distanced and Covid-safe – with an interview with Tom Bird to follow. At the core of the season will be Coronation Street and Broadchurch alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh starring in her husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…from June 1 to 5.
THE York Early Music Foundation, the charitable body that administers the National Centre for Early Music, will receive £25,000 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
The foundation is one of more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the second round of awards.
The grant will aid the foundation to recover from loss of income over the past year, and the CRF2 monies also will help to ensure that the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival can take place again in May 2021.
This will enable the foundation to welcome both a small, socially distanced, audience and a new online public to the Beverley event, as well as supporting East Yorkshire school-aged children to enjoy their music-making.
The Beverley festival, postponed in 2020, is supported by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is acknowledged as one of the region’s cultural highlights.
Delma Tomlin, director of the York Early Music Foundation and the NCEM, said today: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Arts Council England for awarding us this much-needed grant. This support provides an important lifeline to help the organisation recover from lost revenue, ensuring that we can continue promoting our year-round programme of events and to re-open our doors into the summer.”
The York Early Music Foundation is among thousands of cultural organisations across the country to benefit from awards of more than £300 million from the Culture Recovery Fund announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today.
More than £800 million in grants and loans has been awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The second round of awards made today will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations “transitioning back to normal” in the months ahead.
Mr Dowden said: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced.
“Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors, helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.
“We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”
The funding awarded today comes from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, together with Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
YORK is hosting the world’s largest online Viking festival, That Jorvik Viking Thing, from today (15/2/2021) until Saturday.
The digital diary in Lockdown 3 will be filled with chart-topping music, live-streamed events for all ages, virtual tours and the first-ever 360-degree immersive video of Jorvik Viking Centre’s celebrated ride through Viking-age York.
Against the backdrop of the Jorvik Viking Festival – the largest Viking festival in Europe – being unable to take place in the pandemic, organisers from York Archaeological Trust have created an online festival based on the concept of the “Thing” – a Viking public assembly.
Six days of exclusive new online content and live broadcasts will culminate with an evening with Nordic folk composer Einar Selvik, whose band Wardruna’s latest album, Kvitran, hit the top of the iTunes album chart in January.
At 7.30pm on Saturday, Einar will discuss his Nordic music, demonstrate instruments and perform a selection of his latest compositions. Ticket holders will be invited to send their questions for a live Q&A session hosted by music journalist and film-maker Alexander Milas.
Gareth Henry, events manager for York Archaeological Trust, has been tasked with putting together the online festival. “For many people, the February half-term is synonymous with Vikings as we’ve been hosting a festival for more than 35 years,” he says.
“Whether that be families drawn by the thrilling combat displays and spectacle of hundreds of Vikings marching through the city, or academics here for our annual symposium, where the latest research from all over the world is presented by leaders in the field of Viking studies.
“We can’t replace the crowds, but we can offer several hours of Norse-themed fun, including our most ambitious live-streamed series of events, live from Jorvik Viking Centre, on the final day of the Thing (20/2/2021): perfect preparation for the evening with Einar Selvik.”
The transition of many elements of the festival to online events has been “fairly straightforward”, according to Gareth. “Our family favourite events, like Poo Day, when children can recreate their own version of the Lloyds Bank Coprolite – the world’ most famous fossilised poo, which is on display within Jorvik Viking Centre – will be broadcast online,” he says.
“So will craft workshops, learning spinning and leather working – with packs posted out before the event – and our lecture programme. In many ways, these can reach a far wider audience than we can usually accommodate in our York venues, and we’re already seeing tickets for the symposium being bought by people all over the world.”
Reaching new audiences has been a key focus for That Jorvik Viking Thing, particularly the use of technology to help deliver the festival programme, with funding from Innovate UK and Arts Council England helping the Jorvik team to explore new opportunities, including the virtual visit.
“When most museums talk about virtual visits, they use static 360-degree cameras at set locations for visitors to jump from place to place to view the collection from fixed perspectives,” says Gareth.
“We’ve been working with a local company, Vidaveo, to create a completely immersive version of our ride through Viking-age York. Using a smart phone, tablet or even a VR [virtual reality] headset, you can ‘ride’ in one of our time capsules with our resident Viking guide, Fastulf, for the sounds and sights of 10th century Coppergate. The only thing we can’t include are the smells.”
Best-selling children’s authors are giving their support to That Jorvik Viking Thing, in the form of Cressida Cowell, Francesca Simon, Hilary Robinson, David MacPhail, Robert J Harris and Paul Tillery IV all recording extracts from their Norse-themed children’s books.
The Jorvikanory videos will be available throughout the week, as will a series of podcasts, one featuring Horrible Histories author Terry Deary.
In light of York Archaeological Trust’s attractions being closed, ticket sales from premium events will provide an important source of income. “Our two main fundraisers are the Evening with Einar Selvik, which has created quite a stir around the globe, and a special Mead Tasting Evening with the Lancashire Mead Company,” says Gareth.
“Participants in that evening will receive a box of mead samples, delivered to their home, and then receive expert tutelage on the mead-brewing process and flavours created. Our original allocation of tickets sold out very quickly, so we have doubled capacity for this event, and only have a small handful of tickets left.”
A virtual tour of Jorvik Viking Centre by Dr Chris Tuckley is proving “incredibly popular”. He will leave the time capsules behind to walk visitors around the attraction, pointing out detail – based on real archaeological evidence – that went into reconstructing the past.
Other online content available for the first time will includes a series of Meet The Vikings films, exploring crafts, weapons, food and many other aspects of Viking life; an adventure with the hapless Arnor, as he hunts around his village for a lost ring, and two live Twitch sessions where experts review Norse-themed computer games from 1984’s Viking Raiders to 2020’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla to test authenticity and fun.
A chapter from a traditional Viking saga, The Saga Of Refr The Sly, will be released each day to encourage visitors to return.
Jorvik Viking Festival normally takes place during the school holidays, so the York Archaeological Trust education team took the opportunity to create a special preview event, That Jorvik Viking Thing: School’s Week, that ran from February 8 to 12, offering free content, such as twice-daily live-streamed presentations for schools and home educators across the world.
Much of the pre-recorded content of That Jorvik Viking Thing went live at 10am today and will remain accessible until midnight on Sunday, February 21 at jorvikthing.com, where tickets for paid-for events can be booked. Visitors to That Jorvik Viking Thing can donate to York Archaeological Trust online.
For full details of the That Jorvik Viking Thing programme, go to: jorvikthing.com
HULL Truck Theatre has designed a city-wide learning programme to be launched on Tuesday (2/2/2021), in response to schools not reopening until March 8 at the earliest.
Recognising the mounting pressure on parents, carers and teachers to keep students engaged through home schooling, Hull Truck @ Home School will run throughout February, providing work for 20 freelance writers, composers and actors.
Introducing young audiences to drama and theatre-making with a glimpse “behind the scenes” of the creative industry, the specialist programmes will engage primary and secondary school learners, helping to harness both literacy and drama skills.
Key Stage 1 and 2 students – aged five to 11 – will have access to a twice-weekly “drop” of video content and downloadable printable learning resources, every Tuesday and Thursday, that can be accessed via a dedicated area on the Hull Truck website.
The Create & Play primary learning programme of eight ten-minute online drama lessons has been written specially for each Key Stage audience. Available on-demand, the lessons can be accessed at any time after the publication date and incorporated into weekly lesson plans.
Key Stage 1 resources will include content, exercises and activities centred around famous children’s stories, such as The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Key Stage 2 will cover subjects ranging from storytelling to stand-up and poetry, and among those delivering the sessions will be Nicola Stephenson (Mrs Hubble, from the BBC’s The Worst Witch) and Hull Truck regular Amy Thompson (from Channel 5’s Milkshake!).
Hull Truck also will be working with Hull secondary school pupils and teachers to produce an original soap opera, Consequences, set in Hull during lockdown.
Writers, actors and a Hull Truck director will work with students to generate ideas, write scripts and guide direction, culminating in the production of a 25-minute weekly episode to be aired on Hull Truck’s YouTube channel every Friday at 5pm.
The project will comprise of 12 sessions, with two-hour classes taking place every day from Monday to Thursday. Classes will consist of drama exercises, dramatic writing, coaching and directing actors.
Janthi Mills-Ward, Hull Truck’s executive director, says:“We understand and empathise with the challenges facing teachers, parents and the city’s young people, which is why as a key cultural contributor within the local community we felt passionate about stepping up to offer our support, creating something relevant, creative and engaging.
“The grant we received from Arts Council England as part of the Cultural Recovery Fund in October 2020 has been instrumental in ensuring we can deliver a project of this nature, vitally keeping our local communities connected.”
Janthi adds: “Although we’re currently unable to reopen our doors to welcome audiences back to see work on-stage, we have been able to repurpose our creativity through designing a city-wide learning programme that will benefit Hull’s young people and teachers.
“The content builds on key skills such as literacy, with an injection of theatre and drama. We’re also proud that this project has enabled us to support the creative industry, as we’ve employed 20 freelancers to support the delivery of the project, including writers, composers and actors.
“Our Youth Theatre provision continues to be delivered weekly via the powers of Zoom. We have made these sessions free for participants for the rest of the term, using the donations kindly gifted by audiences who enjoyed Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker. This creative platform offers young people a much-needed outlet for escapism and some fun with their peers.”
Among the Hull secondary schools that have signed up to take part in the soap opera project are Boulevard Academy, Sirius North Academy, Ron Dearing UTC and Archbishop Sentamu Academy.
Annie Cooper, head of English at Boulevard Academy, says: “As a school, we are always looking for amazing opportunities for our students and so we jumped at the chance to be involved.
“Such an exciting project would always be a welcome addition to our English and creative arts curriculum, but it is especially important at the moment, when there are so few opportunities for students to be involved in creative activities in the wider world.
“This is a great chance for our students to experience the wonderful world of theatre and develop their writing and creative talents alongside professionals; I know they are going to find it immensely rewarding.”
If you are educating from home and want to use the Create & Play learning resources but have limited access to a computer or printing facilities, please contact Hull Truck Theatre via firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for printed copies to be sent directly to your home address.
For more information on Hull Truck @ Home School, go to hulltruck.co.uk/home-school
YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are undertaking their most ambitious project, against the tide of the pandemic.
Building Back Creative People And Places is aimed at providing commissions and mentoring to 15 artists who have struggled to engage in their creative practice during the pandemic.
Under the new programme, Yorkshire Trios is connecting five writers, five directors and five actors to create five ten-minute solo performances, planned initially for staging at the Gillygate pub, in Gillygate, on January 15 and 16 until Lockdown 3 was imposed.
“The trios have been formed and are writing and rehearsing on Zoom, but we’ll now be postponing the performances until we can do Covid-safe shows after lockdown,” says Next Door But One (NDB1) artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle.
“We did consider moving them online, but there was a real want from the full team to keep something that was live theatre in the calendar.”
Taking part are Mandy Newby, Joe Feeney, Dan Norman, Nicki Davy, Rachel Price, Becky Lennon, Lydia Crosland, Libby Pearson, Emily Chattle, Jenna Drury, Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow, Anna Johnston, Miles Kinsley and Nicolette Hobson.
“We’ll be offering them professional development and mentoring throughout 2021 to build their skills and retain their much-needed talent within the performing arts industry,” says Matt. “We want to make sure there are no losses to that cultural talent pool, which is so important to York.”
For their first project, themed around Moments Yet To Happen, thetrios are bringing together stories of “laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between that 2020 may have been lacking”.
“From the hearts of Yorkshire creatives, told in the heart of the city and into yours, Yorkshire Trios is here to remind you of the talent and stories that our community holds,” says Matt.
“The trios have worked on the new pieces for a week and we had an informal sharing on Zoom on Sunday, which, after the first full week of the new lockdown, was a really celebratory moment. All the trios were really grateful to have had a creative project to work on during this tricky time once again.
“In order to support our 15 new creatives, we have flipped our plan on its head so that we will now be running an intensive period of online professional development workshops, to keep the team connected and creative until restrictions ease, and we can pick the performances back up.
“We thought this was an important move as the fatigue and disappointment that is being felt by those in theatre due to a third lockdown is important to address.”
When the Yorkshire Trios performances can go ahead, they will “showcase writers of different genres, directors with different styles and actors with many different voices, but all with a Yorkshire heart”.
“There are so many reasons why Yorkshire Trios is important to us,” says creative producer El Stannage. “We know first-hand how difficult it has been to maintain a career in the performing arts through lockdown, especially for those who face any other socio-economic barrier.
“That’s why we want to provide an opportunity to create theatre, to invest in those careers with NDB1’s mentoring and professional development offers for 2021 and also to promote a sense of belonging, that many freelancers say they lack, by joining our growing ensemble.”
Buoyed by a grant from the York Small Charities Fund, administered by the Two Ridings Community Foundation, the company can cover core costs affected adversely by the pandemic.
“This means we have the vital opportunity to redevelop our strategy in partnership with those we work with and can look at the future sustainability of the company,” says Matt.
“What’s more, a substantial grant awarded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England is enabling us to deliver the new artistic programme of projects that provide opportunities for different communities as well as for local artists.”
Reflecting on Next Door But One’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the arts since last March, Matt says: “When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, like many theatre companies, we adapted our projects and delivery to keep the communities we worked with connected to creativity.
“During lockdown, we were able to secure funding from Arts Council England, the National Lottery Community Fund, Two Ridings Community Foundation and Comic Relief Community Fund to migrate five of our projects and productions online.”
In doing so, Next Door But One could provide paid employment for ten performing arts professionals and engage with 500 audience members and participants digitally.
“No matter what current rhetoric exists around the importance of the arts, we know first-hand how vital it is to the identity of many of us, especially within the Covid climate” says Matt.
“Our work since March has kept some of the most vulnerable members of our community connected both to one another and to meaningful activity when isolation and anxiety were on the increase.”
Matt points to Next Door But One helping people to navigate their emotions; giving others something enjoyable to anticipate; providing resources to groups and services who have really felt the struggle, and providing financial support to professionals in one of the hardest hit industries.
“I could not be prouder of what we have achieved as a team,” he says. “A big thank-you also goes to the funders and partners who have believed and invested in us during this difficult time.”
Looking ahead, the rest of Next Door But One’s 2021 programme will be made up of further developments of The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, working with children with learning disabilities in tandem with the Snappy Trust; a Forum Theatre series made with adults with learning disabilities; Playback Theatre training for adults with mental health problems, and a new production of Operation Hummingbird for York’s Dead Good Festival, run in partnership with St Leonard’s Hospice.
“Our ethos is that everything we do is rooted in something that is beyond theatre, where our impact goes beyond putting on a play and walking away,” says Matt. “We go into communities and leave something behind, where they learn new skills or feel connected with something they didn’t know existed before.
“That is the only way small theatre companies can survive, by having connections beyond the theatre world, whether with social care, children’s services, bereavement services or mental health.”
Rather than the philosophy of ‘If we build it, they will come’, Matt says: “It has to be the other way round. If we want to communicate with the community, we have to take theatre to people, rather than waving a flag in the air and saying ‘you must come to us’.
“We’re not tricking people into going to the theatre, but what we do feels natural, like running the workshops for the Camphill Village Trust (a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental health challenges), where we work through situations they may face in their lives.
“That’s always been my passion: not to put on end-on theatre shows but to think, ‘how can we use theatre to find whatever people need to find, whether for entertainment or the expression of their own story’.”
Setting up Next Door But One in 2012 was Matt’s way of making a grassroots connection with the community. “Some people don’t see theatre as a fundamental thing they need, so it’s important to think about how we package what we do, for example working on workshop that demonstrate people’s needs,” he says.
“It’s a case of meeting them where they are and then you can take them on a journey to doing more regular-style theatre workshops.”
Theatre is supportive, suggests Matt. “As a gay, disabled man, I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a very inclusive experience in theatre. If anything can make an environment around which people address their needs, then theatre can create that,” he says. “That’s why a lot of our projects just start with meeting people, rather than taking a project to them.”
Next Door But One do not have a high profile, but Matt can live with that. “The perception of theatre is playing in big buildings, but not many people know about us because our work is not done in a highly visible domain,” he says. “We’ll be in back rooms in halls, or rooms meant for therapy, or portable cabins.
“We’re like the elves in The Elves And The Shoemaker, just getting on with it in small groups, but that’s our passion. It’s not known about because what gets airtime is the big show at the big place, but that’s why we’ve managed to keep working through each lockdown, because our work is rooted in so many communities, so we can hold people together.
“Because we’re community driven, we can do something for them and they can do something for us, whereas the big theatres, without that community benefit, are not seen as important at this time to get us through the global pandemic.
“By contrast, we know what our communities are already facing in this situation, knowing about what vulnerabilities they have that will be exacerbated at this time. We can show we’re a really important part of their life by staying relevant to the people we work with under the Arts Council’s Let’s Create scheme.”
EXIT York Mediale, the biennial festival launched in 2018. Re-enter York Mediale, recalibrated as a charity to create and deliver a year-round programme of digital arts events across the city.
What’s more, in response to the reaction to the debut programme two years ago, the international new media arts organisation will place a greater emphasis on working closely with York artists, young people and neighbourhoods.
In keeping with the wider arts industry, Covid-19 has had its killjoy impact on York Mediale 2020, although the festival retains its opening date of Wednesday, October 21.
“Prior to Covid, we were planning around 23 projects, but then the world changed,” says creative director Tom Higham. “We’ve had to re-structure our organisation and pivot how we go forward. We lost some funding and suddenly things that we had confirmed and things that were nearly over the line were off.
“We lost £70,000 straightaway, sponsor conversations were dead in the water and venues closed in the lockdown. But we did some speculating and reflecting, and we’ve managed to continue pursuing the small number of projects that would work for now.”
York Mediale 2.0 comprises six new commissions in the form of five world premieres and one UK premiere, in a festival now running from Wednesday into the New Year, whether in York neighbourhoods, online or at two cultural landmarks, York Minster and York Art Gallery.
By comparison, the first Mediale in 2018 was “the largest media arts festival in the UK”, drawing 65,000 people to cutting-edge events over ten days in celebration of York’s status as Britain’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.
Festival number one, being new, attracted the support of City of York Council, Make It York, Science City and both York universities. This time, the key funding has come from Arts Council England in a rise from £100,00 to £284,000.
“That is a vote of confidence, backing the second festival where we’ve had to create a new model to succeed in this new world,” says Tom, defining a festival that will feature artists’ installations and interactive performances, engaging audiences both in person and digitally.
“Initially, as the new kid on the block, it takes a while to build trust and make connections and to get under the skin of the city, but the projects that sought to connect with the communities, like the Inspired Youth film-making project, went very well.”
Tom continues: “The projects where we engage with parts of the city are much more honest and not forced, so this time it will be a festival focusing on how we connect with our loved ones, our community, nature and culture: themes that are prevalent and poignant in society now after months of lockdown and isolation.
“We looked closely at the works already submitted and worked to develop the pieces that would most closely examine these extraordinary times, picking out the ones that were safe to do and that people would engage with.
“All of these projects resonated with us at the start of 2020 but we could never have imagined how they could develop to so beautifully reflect our worries, hopes and relationships to our communities.”
The possibilities may have narrowed for York Mediale 2020, but that has not dampened Tom’s enthusiasm for festival number two. “The way we can do it amid the pandemic is to develop projects that are outdoors or online…not in dark places with electronic music, like last time,” he says.
“The positive spin is that maybe the dramatic shutdown that has affected the arts allows for a re-set in terms of who makes it, who it’s for and what is possible. It’s a jolt of DIY-ness that’s good for creativity. It strips the ‘bull’ out of what you’re doing and why.
“I think people are looking to build on the possibilities of Zoom to do something more creative with what is possible, and York Mediale can do that.”
Among those taking part in the festival will be Marshmallow Laser Feast, fresh from their show at the Saatchi Gallery in London; composer, musician and producer Elizabeth Bernholz, better known as Gazelle Twin, and Kit Monkman’s York arts collective, KMA, whose installations have transformed public spaces, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Shanghai’s Bund.
York Mediale 2020 audiences can discover how the human body is hardwired, synchronised and inextricably linked to nature; experiment with a new form of performance; and explore the invisible transaction between a person and a piece of art and how WhatsApp has shaped communities for the Covid generation at this year’s “diverse, digitally engaged and mentally stimulating” event.
Full details on Absent Sitters (October 21 to 25, online), Good Neighbours, in Layerthorpe, York (October 21 to 25), Human Nature’s triptych of installations at York Art Gallery (October 21 to January 24, York Art Gallery) and KMA’s People We Love, at York Minster (November 2 to 29) can be found at yorkmediale.com.
“Taking on fewer projects but with a longer shelf-life is the way forward for York Mediale, picking the right project, doing them rigorously, and then they can go on to other cities,” says Tom.
“Trying to develop projects like that is surely the longer-term vision for York Mediale, not being a receiving festival, not just inviting artists into the city, but doing something that’s in-depth, engaging with what’s already here and then taking it elsewhere too with the stamp of Made In York.
“Our responsibility as a comparatively small, new festival structurally is to find ways to push boundaries of technology and art.
“Like it has for all of us, this year has been grim, but to be able to focus on what we think we’re good at, fitting in with pushing our vision of the city, has been positive. The opportunity to be a bit more truthful with ourselves, to go where the energy and projects are in the city, to do that with artists from York that share our belief, that is progress.”
York Mediale 2020 highlights
Absent Sitters, online, October 21 to 25
GAZELLE Twin, a vital contemporary voice in the UK electronic music scene, collaborates with York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman and Ben Eyes and Jez Wells from the University of York music department to experiment with a new form of performance in Absent Sitters.
In this intimate, shared event, you will be guided by a “performer medium” to investigate what is live performance in 2020? The audience, participating via video call, will become part of an online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination” and the importance of “presence/absence” in a live event. “Are we live? Can we connect? Who are you?” it asks.
“The culmination of Absent Sitters will take place on London’s South Bank in Summer 2021 at the Royal Festival Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra,” reveals Tom Higham.
Good Neighbours, in Layerthorpe, York, October 21 to 25
GOOD Neighbours, from Amsterdam’s Affect Lab – interactive artist Klasien van de Zandschulp and researcher Natalie Dixon – is based on research into the micro-politics of communities and the increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown.
Individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, co-ordinated by Lydia Cottrell, in the Layerthorpe area of York.
“In this time of Black Lives Matter, living under lockdown and communities delivering to the vulnerable, Good Neighbours is a long-term study of how communities work,” says Tom. “It’s gone from village halls and pubs to WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups.”
Human Nature, at York Art Gallery, October 21 to January 24 2021
THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature is jointly curated by York Mediale and York Museums Trust, uniting for an ambitious show at York Art Gallery as a centrepiece of York Mediale 2020.
Embers And The Giants, a short film by Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson, makes its UK premiere, exploring human intervention through thousands of tiny drones mimicking a natural spectacle, suggesting a time when we will need to amplify nature in order to convince the public of its worth.
The Tides Within Us is a new commission from immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast that looks at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem within nature.
Fine artist Rachel Goodyear continues her exploration of animation-based work with Limina, a series of animations supported by her intricate drawings, each responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection; all offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.
People We Love, at York Minster, November 2 to 29
THIS new commission from Kit Monkman’s York creative collective KMA will be positioned in the York Minster Nave, where a new temporary “congregation” will be made up of a collection of five large high-definition screens, showing video portraits focused on people that have been filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love.
The viewer will not know who is being looked at but will experience the emotion on the face projected on screen before them, interpreting each unspoken story in People We Love.
Visitors can add their story to the installation as a pop-up booth will be on-site, ready to capture the love stories of the city without the need for words.
“People We Love is a passion project for Kit that he’s been talking about for ten years,” says Tom. “It’s a love letter to the citizens of York by the best media artist in the city. It’s for the people of York, by the people of York, but I think it’s a project that will continue to travel the world after York.
“I’ve been talking to Kit since 2016 about the seeds of what he’d like to do next, as KMA had not done a project for a few years and this was the one he wanted to do and then take to the world.”
LEEDS Heritage Theatres has received £119,900 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help address the impact of COVID-19 on its three venues.
Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds City Varieties Music Hall and the Hyde Park Picture House cinema now operate under the collective Leeds Heritage Theatres umbrella, a re-branding announced amid the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
Since the doors to all three closed on March 17, the company has lost 99 per cent of its income, earned through ticket, bar and merchandise sales, and furloughed 96 per cent of staff; with a small team being kept on to manage customer refunds, reschedule performances and maintain necessary administrative functions.
Chief executive officer Chris Blythe said: “Since our venues ceased trading due to the pandemic, we have been doing everything we can to ensure our survival throughout this period, as well as prepare for the economic uncertainty that will follow, including drawing on our reserves which we had planned to invest back into our three heritage buildings.
“This grant is a lifeline, and while it won’t quite see us out of the woods – we are waiting to hear if we have been successful in our bid for emergency funding from the Government – we’re hugely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting us at this crucial time. It’s invaluable to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage for the benefit of all.”
The UK-wide funding, made possible by National Lottery players, was awarded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund. In all, £50million was made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector and to help organisations to start thinking about recovery. The money awarded to Leeds Heritage Theatres will be used to fund re-opening costs across the Grand and City Varieties, including signage and PPE.
Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing. All these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from this current crisis.
“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as Leeds Heritage Theatres during this uncertain time.”
Like Leeds Heritage Theatres, other charities and organisations across Britain affected by the pandemic are being given access to a comprehensive package of support of up to £600 million of repurposed money from The National Lottery. “This money is supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and span the arts, community, charity, heritage, education, environment and sports sectors,” said Kerslake.
Thanks to National Lottery players, £30 million is raised every week for good causes, including heritage of local and national importance. By playing the National Lottery, people up and down the country are contributing to the nationwide response to combatting the impact of Covid-19 on communities across Britain.
Explaining the Heritage re-branding that came into effect on August 26, Blythe said: “The planned name change, and brand launch were originally scheduled for April 2020, when we were hoping, and had plans, to announce the exciting news in a manner more fitting of our industry.
“Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, we had to postpone the announcement while we attended to more urgent matters, namely closing our three buildings and furloughing 96 per cent of our staff, while maintaining some business continuity. Now, after considerable work behind the scenes, we are ready to put the new name, brand and website into the public domain.”
Blythe continued: “While we have been trading for more than 30 years as Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Ltd, we have long known that the name was not befitting of our company, and the role our venues and people play within the Leeds arts scene.
“We knew we must choose a name that encapsulates our people, our venues, our heritage and our future, and will raise awareness, both regionally and nationally, of the breadth and quality of our shows/screenings and educational function.
“Now, more than ever, as our venues stand empty, it is important that we make people aware what Leeds and Yorkshire stand to lose if our venues close due to COVID-19.”
Leeds Heritage Theatres does not receive funding from Arts Council England and the company has been massively hit financially by the pandemic crisis.
“As we put forward our bid to receive funding from the Government’s arts rescue package, we know that competition is fierce, and we need the support of our loyal customers more than ever,” said Blythe.
“We’re asking that people, if financially viable, buy tickets, memberships and vouchers, or donate what money they can. In such dark times, theatre is a positive force: it provides an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to come together to share a common bond – a love of performance. Just when our future was looking so bright, we cannot let our theatres fade into the darkness.”
WANTED urgently, the plea went out. Open-air venues to host Badapple Theatre Company’s new short play. Apply promptly, help Badapple hit their required target in their 21st anniversary year and Arts Council England would back it.
Sure enough, such is the fond support for Green Hammerton’s “Theatre on your Doorstep” exponents that a list of North and East Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks was full as quick as a finger click.
ACE has provided a £14,998 grant that will cover not only the doorstep tour of Yorkshire actor and writer Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly, but also the “creative filming” of artistic director Kate Bramley’s smash-hit play Eddie And The Gold Tops for a November to February itinerary of film performances at familiar Badapple indoor venues under Covid-secure, socially-distanced guidelines.
This “Hybrid-Live” season opens with Suffer Fools Gladly’s September 15 to 23 run. Such was the ticket demand that doorstep destination number two presented three sold-out performances in one day – in the pantomime tradition of bygone days – under an awning on the terracing of a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden.
In one side, out the other, hand sanitiser stations at the garden entry and exit, socially scattered garden chairs, this was theatre-going for the Covid age, and Arts Council England should be thanked for making it possible.
You may have rather different feelings towards the Government’s flowery response to the plight of an arts world still largely stymied since lockdown, but we are where we are, sitting in a Yorkshire country garden watching two actors, Mellor and Anastasia Benham, working for the first time since lockdown. Indeed for the first time since they performed Badapple’s winter warmer, The Snow Dancer.
Mellor has created Suffer Fools Gladly in that time: a quick-moving, quick-witted hour-long comedy that delights in testing and tracing the merits of always having to tell the truth: a compulsion from which our parliamentarians seem to be socially distanced, alas.
Mellor is playing Ozzy, a Brummie-voiced jester, exiled by Queen Avril from the magical kingdom of Marillion, where he is replaced by the lying Jagger. Ozzy, Marillion, Jagger…are you spotting all the rock references? Plenty more are on their way, punk henchmen Sid and Nancy making their day too.
Through portal travel, Ozzy and his truth-dispensing marotte (the French word for a fool’s bauble) end up on Earth, where he strikes up an unlikely – but very likely in this upbeat, daft play – friendship with Earth girl Stevie (Benham).
She is 17, wont to be sceptical, even cynical, and expected to make the grades to study science at Oxford, with no time for fun, she complains.
Her rock-obsessed Yorkshireman father, the “mad dad” who named her after Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, has his mind on other things, forever reliving the 1980s. Queen to be precise, irresponsibly and misguidedly resolving to give up his job to be Freddie Mercury in a tribute band, although his singing voice is more lead than mercury. No wonder, her mum left him, says an exasperated Stevie.
Here we have two Queens in one show. The ubiquitous band and the autocratic ruler of Marillion (Benham’s second role), with a penchant for a bustle that “makes her bottom look big”, but Jagger won’t say that, whereas, stick in hand, Ozzy would.
Mellor and Benham have comedy-and-pathos chemistry aplenty from The Snow Dancer, and even with the requirement for two metres of separation at all times, they bond so well again as they move to and fro between multiple roles.
Under Mellor and Bramley’s brisk co-direction, they are a joy to watch, full of fun and invention, whether sending up teenage proclivities, regal divas or rock gods or spoofing Boris Johnson, so glad to be playing to an audience once more too.
From topical Covid references and a Cummings dig to Ozzy’s observation that butterflies are “just moths with make-up on”, Mellor’s script has lip and zip, quirky observation and home truths…and even a Sex Pistols lyric. “No future, no future, no future for you”? Wrong, Mellor definitely has a future as a writer as much as an actor with an ear for so many accents.
Whoever holds the marotte, truth will out in a fearless play where protagonists are caught between rock (music) and a hard place. Stick to the truth is the message here. Truth be bold, truth be told. Politicians, take note.
Suffer Fools Gladly’s September tour itinerary continues at:
19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm, sold out. 20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm, sold out. 20: Skipsea, 7pm, tickets available.