YORK’S new spring festival weekend will showcase the city’s musicians, performers, comedians and more besides on April 2 and 3.
Organised by Make It York, YorkLife will see more than 30 performers and organisations head to Parliament Street for a free open event from 11am to 9pm each day with no need to book tickets in advance.
The Saturday headliners will be Big Donaghy’s long-running York party band Huge; the Sunday bill will climax with The Howl & The Hum in their biggest home-city performance since gracing York Minster on May 25 2021.
Both bands will play the main YorkLife stage as part of a programme curated by York’s Music Venue Network, presenting such York acts as Bull, Kitty VR, Flatcap Carnival and Hyde Family Jam.
An array of interactive sessions will be held by York organisations, taking in theatre workshops, instrumental workshops, face painting, comedy and dance performances, plus fire performers and circus acts.
The main stage on Parliament Street will have an open viewing area with a 500 capacity, while a covered stretch tent will hold a York Gin bar and seating area for 90 people with a one-in, one-out policy.
YorkLife is supported by City of York Council’s ARG (Additional Restrictions Grant) funding, which aims to boost businesses impacted by Covid-19. The April 2 and 3 programme has been curated with York residents in mind and to support the city’s recovery from Covid.
Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “Our cultural sector is the lifeblood of our communities. There is so much talent in York, from musicians to comedians and poets to performers, which makes our city so vibrant and unique.
“YorkLife is an excellent way to celebrate our home-grown musicians and performers, particularly after what has been a challenging few years for us all. I would encourage residents to join the festival and enjoy the best of York’s own talent.”
Sarah Loftus, Make It York’s managing director, says:“YorkLife is a celebration of York talent and culture, from our street musicians to our community groups. We want to really celebrate the sense of community in York and we’re encouraging residents to join the party and see some of the hottest talent York has to offer.”
Chris Sherrington, from the York Music VenueNetwork, says:“It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to showcase some of York’s amazingly talented artists who have developed their careers across the city of York’s many great grassroots music venues.
“As part of YorkLife weekend, we’re looking forward to celebrating the return of live music to the city and enjoying the wonderful variety of music for one and all. This event has been a true cooperative effort of York’s event industry and creatives and we look forward to working on future events.”
To find out more about YorkLife, head to visityork.org/yorklife. The full line-up will be announced later this month.
Confirmed acts and workshops
The Howl & The Hum; Huge; Bull; Kitty VR; Flatcap Carnival; Hyde Family Jam; Floral Pattern; Bargestra and Wounded Bear.
Mud Pie Arts: Cloud Tales interactive storytelling;
Thunk It Theatre: Build Our City theatre workshop;
Gemma Wood: York Skyline art;
Fantastic Faces: Face painting;
York Mix Radio: Quiz;
York Dance Space: Dance performance;
Burning Duck Comedy Club: Comedy night;
Henry Raby, from Say Owt: Spoken poetry;
Matt Barfoot: Drumming workshop;
Christian Topman: Ukulele workshop;
Polly Bennet: Little Vikings PQA York performing arts workshop;
THE Indian Variant may be dampening down hopes for June 21, but Charles Hutchinson’s diary is still filled with hope, concerts, festivals, exhibitions and a Minster livestreaming.
Livestreaming of the week ahead: The Howl & The Hum, Live At York Minster, Tuesday, 8pm to 9.30pm
YORK rock band The Howl & The Hum are performing a one-off streamed concert in the Nave of York Minster on Tuesday, with tickets available via Brudenell.ticketco.events/.
The 8.15pm setlist will be built around last year’s debut album, Human Contact, whose prescient title chimed with pandemic times as such contact became more restricted, even barred. New material may well feature too. “I reckon it will,” says frontman Sam Griffiths.
A fistful of outdoor gigs: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, York, in June
SONGS Under Skies will return to the NCEM’s churchyard gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, next month.
Five outdoor acoustic double bills from 6.30pm to 8.30pm will comprise Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft on June 1; Kell Chambers and Nadedja, June 2; Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell, June 14; Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.
As with last September’s debut series, the socially distanced, Covid-safe season two will be presented in association with The Crescent community venue, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance. Box office: at tickets.ncem.co.uk.
Children’s art show of the week in York: Hope projections, According To McGee, York, tonight, tomorrow, then Wednesday to Friday for the next two weeks, 6pm to 9pm nightly
HOPE springs nocturnal in a collaboration between primary school artists from York and around the world at York gallery According To McGee.
Under the title of Hope, the artwork will be on display in light projections in the window of the Tower Street gallery in a creative response to the pandemic.
Digital artists Nick Walters is overseeing evenings featuring projections of 350 artworks selected from 3,000 images from cities in 33 countries.
Jab in the arm for art: Sue Clayton’s 21 exhibition, NHS York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar, York, until June 13
WHAT a captive audience for Sue Clayton’s portrait exhibition of children and young adults with Down Syndrome, presented in association with Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC).
As many as 3,000 people a day are attending the Askham Bar vaccination centre to receive a jab in the “Tent Of Hope”, where biodegradable prints of Sue’s paintings are in place.
The theme of 21 symbolises the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have, Sue’s energetic son James among them.
Gig announcement of the week in York: Manic Street Preachers, York Barbican, October 4
WELSH rock band Manic Street Preachers’ 14-date autumn itinerary will showcase the September 3 release of their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament, on Columbia/Sony.
In a departure from 2018’s Resistance Is Futile, the new record is the first Manics’ studio set to be conceived initially on piano rather than guitar.
James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore last played York Barbican in May 2019. Their support will be The Anchoress, the Welsh-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and author Catherine Anne Davies. Tickets sales go live tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Gig announcement of the week outside York: Culture Club, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, August 14
EIGHTIES’ icon Boy George and Culture Club are off to the Yorkshire seaside in a new addition to the packed Scarborough Open Air Theatre programme.
Bexleyheath-born frontman and fashion innovator George O’Dowd, who turns 60 on June 14, will perform alongside original band members Roy Hay and Mikey Craig in a “stunning live band”. Tickets go on sale for the 8,000-capacity show via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 9am.
Festival launch of the week: York Early Music Festival 2021, July 12 to 16
PRESENTED by the National Centre of Early Music, the classical York Early Music Festival 2021 will have the theme of Encounters, most vitally between audience and artists after lockdown loosening.
Among the guest artists will be violinist Rachel Podger; lutenist Jacob Heringman; bass Matthew Brook; the Monteverdi String Band; harpsichordist Steven Devine; The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments; La Vaghezza and Ensemble Clement Janequin.
Taking part too will be vocal ensemble Stile Antico and Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk. Upcoming too will be YEMF 21 Online, from July 15 to 18, featuring festival concerts and commissioned highlights.
No Deer Shed 11 festival, but here comes Deer Shed: Base Camp Plus, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, Thirsk, July 30 to August 1
AFTER last summer’s Base Camp, Deer Shed Festival co-directors Oliver Jones and Kate Webster have created Base Camp Plus with a female-headlined main stage, live music, DJ sets, comedy and shows. As with last year’s event, each camping pitch will contain its own Portaloo and washing facilities.
Jane Weaver, Dream Wife and Porridge Radio are the headliners; York bands Bull and New York Brass Band will be playing too; John Shuttleworth, Mark Watson and Angelos Epithemiou lead the comedy.
The organisers will adhere to the Step 3 restrictions in place since Monday, limiting the capacity, with social distancing and face coverings in covered areas. For tickets, go to: deershedfestival.com/basecampplus.
And what about?
Velma Celli in Love Is Love: A Brief History Of Drag, York Theatre Royal, May 29,8pm
YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli’s fabulous contribution to York Theatre Royal’s reopening Love Season will be one of Velma’s regular cabaret shows, re-titled Love Is Love: A Brief Of History Of Drag specially to meet the love brief.
Joining Velma – the creation of York musical actor Ian Stroughair – will be two guest acts, Jordan Fox, Ian’s co-star in Jack And The Beanstalk, and Jessica Steel, together with backing singers Kimberley Ensor and Grace Lancaster, musical director Ben Papworth, drummer Clark Howard and guitarist Al Morrison.
Ian last appeared on the Theatre Royal in Kes at the age of 14, all of 24 years ago.
BULLet point: “If you find yourself in York tomorrow (15/5/2021), you may see a bit of BULL activity in and around Shambles Market as the York band will be serving up a BULL Boutique to sell all things BULL and also from their friends from Young Thugs Records. They’ll be busking around the city throughout the day.”
BAND formed: 2011. Debut album released on major label: March 26 2021. No wonder York alt-rock dandies Bull rolled out a large banner of the cover artwork for Discover Effortless Living from Millennium Bridge today.
“It feels great. I’m really excited,” says songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Tom Beer, revelling in one of the most joyful stories in the history of York’s music scene, as the first buds of spring deliver Bull’s 13-track flourish on EMI Records, in conjunction with York promoters, producers and proponents of potent pop, Young Thugs.
“We’ve been working on bringing out the album all year [since signing to EMI last July] and it’s just exciting that it’s done and ready to go.”
Ten years to reach this zenith, and you thought elephants had a long gestation period. “We didn’t know we’d ever get to this point. We’d never bet on it,” admits Tom, after Bull became the first York act since Shed Seven in October 1993 to sign to a major label.
“It definitely feels all the more significant because it’s not only a year’s work. Everything we’ve done has been incremental, learning as we go, for years.”
Are Bull the hardest working band in York, Tom? “I’m not sure we can be called that! I’ll give that to The Howl & The Hum. Not that we haven’t worked hard, but we’ve always just done what we wanted to do. When you work at something you love, it’s not work, is it?” he says. “I’ve only just started calling it ‘work’ in recent years.”
Bull have hit the roof, in the best way possible. “We’ve just played a gig on the EMI roof,” reveals Tom. When? “Um…I only remember dates in the future.”
Sometime in March, anyway, as Tom, guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bass player and artist Kai West followed in the London footsteps of The Beatles in their last public performance on the Apple offices rooftop at Savile Row on January 30 1969 and U2 in a not-so-secret gig atop BBC Broadcasting House on February 27 2009 to launch their 12th album, No Line On The Horizon.
The Beatles, U2, what esteemed company Bull are keeping. “We’ve actually been called The English Beatles, which we quite liked!” says Tom.
“We had a few meetings at The Golden Ball [York’s first community co-operative pub in Cromwell Road] and came up with a few whacky ideas, and originally we thought we’d just try to play on the roof without telling EMI, just doing it on the day, maybe with the help of the janitor.”
Instead, it developed into a full-blown performance, playing all 13 tracks from Discover Effortless Living. “It will be broadcast on Jericho Keys’ BBC Music Introducing show on BBC Radio York tomorrow [27/3/2021, from 8pm],” says Tom.
“As for actually releasing it, we’re pitching it to various sources, but it will be available to watch via our Facebook site on a date to be confirmed.”
Bull made their little piece of rock’n’roll history on that rooftop. “Apparently we’re the first band to play on EMI’s offices, at the Universal Music building next to King’s Cross [Four Pancras Square, to be precise],” says Tom.
“It was insane! Like, the food that day was better than anything we’d eaten in years! The roof must be 20 storeys up. Brilliant up there, but cold. It was bracing to say the least. We even had a drone photographing us that looked as big as a helicopter! We’re editing that now.”
No fewer than seven singles were released from Michael Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller, and Bull are on his tail with Eugene this week becoming the fifth from Discover Effortless Living, in the wake of Green, Bonzo Please, Love Goo and Disco Living.
Tom’s mini-symphony of self-flagellation spans the various stages of feeling down on yourself – from lethargy and frustration to anger – using tempo changes to “paint an audio picture”. In its brief visit of only two minutes and 38 seconds, the idiosyncratic song manages to be both melancholy and spritely at the same time.
“It’s a real kick-yourself-when-you’re-down song,” says Tom. “I wrote Eugene when I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing. It’s kind of a self-hate song, you know when people talk about self-love? It’s not that. I’m slating myself; it moves through the key changes and different moods, and ends in a way that mocks the sadness, another form of self-deprecation!”
Recalling penning Eugene, Tom says: “I felt rubbish at the time but I did feel better for writing it. The problem is singing it for ten years, still having to revisit that apathy, but hopefully it’s preventative to getting back to that state.”
Mulling over the kick-yourself-when-you’re-down subject matter: “I used to listen to a lot of Elliott Smith [the American singer-songwriter who took his own life with a knife in 2003],” says Tom. “There’s a line in High Fidelity: ‘What comes first? The music or the misery? I had a down year when I wrote Eugene…but I think the answer might be ‘music’, though…”.
Who’s Eugene, Tom? “We used to name a lot of our songs around our original drummer Louis’s friends, such as Eddie’s Cap. We like the idea of giving the song a name, as opposed to lifting it from a lyric.
“Eugene is named after Joe G, Joseph G. Louis used to call him Gorgeous G. So Eugene. My brother Paddy’s band are called Eugene Gorgeous after this guy too.”
The video is an animated gem in a collaboration with artist friends of the band that reflects the song’s different moods. Band members Dan and Kai set the ball rolling with a burst of DIY Claymation before handing over to artists Jack Iredale, Rory Welbrock, Roxy Linklater and Tom’s sister, Holly Beer, who each tackled a different animation style.
“With all those key changes, the song’s a bit of a rollercoaster, and we wanted to mirror that in the visuals, splitting it into animated sections, but we also thought: ‘Does it need something to tie it together?’, so we made the arbitrary decision, or maybe not, that all the animations had to feature a red apple,” says Tom. First Adam and Eve, then Snow White, now Bull!
Summing up the album as “13 songs written and rocked on between the years 2012 and 2020”, Tom elaborates on the origin of the title: “It’s taken from the opening lyric to the final track, Disco Living. We wanted to use a lyric from the album and felt like this was a good one.
” I first saw the words Discover Effortless Living in London, written on the side of a mansion being built and thought it was funny. It also ties in with ideas around class, new beginnings, a golden era of prosperity, and hoping to have life ‘in the bag’.”
What would constitute “effortless living”, Tom? “I just think it’s a contradiction in terms. That’s what was funny about it. Effortless living? I don’t think anyone would want to discover it. Effort is surely worth the effort?” he says.
“My idea of discovering how to live is to take things slowly; finding joy in the little things; having lots of different things on the go at the same time, and not worrying about any of them too much. Maybe lockdown has been a necessary change of pace. A nice change of pace. It’s the first time I’ve had a routine since school.”
Tom finds joy in going for walks. “I love walking in suburbia; it’s my favourite thing. I’ve always loved it. You have really good conversations on walks, and I love discovering roads and parts of communities I’ve not seen before,” he says.
Now those discoveries are as much in Scarborough as elsewhere after moving from York with girlfriend Martha – band member Dan’s sister – a year and a half ago.
“Martha is a midwife and it was either Oxford or Scarborough that she would be working in. It was time we lived together; we both liked Scarborough; it’s close, so I can go to York, rehearse all day, then get back to Scarborough.”
Tom and Martha are living in Castle Road. “We’re south-facing, so out of the window we have incredible views of the South Bay,” he says.
“In fact, Castle Road is where we made the album cover, at St Mary’s Church. We knew we wanted somewhere with beautifully green grass, the greener the better. I called the church up on the phone, to ask if we could use the churchyard [where Haworth novelist Anne Bronte is buried, by the way].
“I said, ‘can we have it between 10am and 5pm, if we clean up afterwards ourselves?’, and this man very kindly said ‘yes’.”
To create the cover image, Bull combined items they found on the street with “lots of flowers we picked”. “I hope they’ve grown back,” says Tom. “A bunch of people came up to ask ‘what are you doing?’, and once we told them, they said, ‘oh, that’s nice’. Some people even sat and watched!”
And so, St Mary’s Church churchyard becomes the second Scarborough setting for a landmark album sleeve, after the Art Deco frontage of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, at the former Scarborough Odeon, graced the cover of Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner, released in September 2005.
The band portrait at the top of this interview was taken in Scarborough too by Amy D’Agorne Craghill. “There’s this amazing place on the North Bay. From the castle, you walk through the castle walls to woodland with all these orange-coloured rocks and that’s where Amy took it,” says Tom.
A further Bull image in Scarborough came about when they stumbled across 100 gnomes in a woman’s garden. Who could resist using gnomes for a picture? Not Bull. Permission was duly forthcoming.
What’s next? Bull in a china shop?
Track listing for Bull’s Discover Effortless Living: Bedroom Floor; Love Goo; Green; Shiny Bowl; Eugene; Eddie’s Cap; Serious Baby; Perfect Teeth; Find Myself A Job; Bonzo Please; In A Jar; Smoke and Disco Living.
STILL sworn to secrecy in December, York band Bull have now confirmed the long-mooted name and release date for their major label debut album, no bull.
Discover Effortless Living – a title abbreviated for last year’s single Disco Living – will be out on March 26, launched on EMI Records in conjunction with York music hive Young Thugs.
To celebrate, here comes the York alt-rockers’ fifth single, Eugene, released today on the back of Disco Living, Green, Bonzo Please and the Love Goo EP that closed out a year when Bull became the first York band to sign to a major label since Nineties’ chart regulars Shed Seven.
“I wrote the song when I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing,” says singer Tom Beer of his mini-symphony of self-flagellation that trips through the various stages of feeling down on yourself.
Moods of lethargy, frustration and anger are captured in the tempo changes of a song that is melancholic yet spritely simultaneously: typical tropes of Bull’s idiosyncratic song-writing.
“It’s kind of a self-hate song. You know when people talk about self-love? It’s not that. I’m slating myself,” reveals Tom. “It moves through the key changes and different moods and ends in a way that mocks the sadness, another form of self-deprecation!”
The accompanying video is again a collaboration with artist friends of Bull that reflects the song’s ever-changing moods. Guitarist Dan Lucas and bassist Kai West kick everything off with some DIY Claymation before handing over to artists Jack Iredale, Rory Welbrock, Roxy Linklater and Holly Beer, who each tackle a different animation style.
Discover Effortless Living promises a “cornucopia of alt. rock sounds, the band having refined their song-writing style into 13 indie bangers”.
“It features songs written and rocked on between the years 2012 and 2018, with Love Goo being the newest one on there, the freshest,” Tom says. “The album title is taken from the opening lyric to the final track Disco Living. We wanted to use a lyric from the album and felt like this was a good one.
“I first saw the words in London written on the side of a mansion being built on the Millionaire Mile and thought it was hilarious.
“I was on my way to Hampstead, got off somewhere wrong, which usually happens to me in London, and that’s when I saw the billboard – and the tune came to me immediately!
“The billboard was advertising what was going to be built behind: homes for ‘effortless living’, and that led to lyrics that tie in with ideas around class, new beginnings, a golden era of prosperity, and hoping to have life ‘in the bag’.”
Bull hope that 2021 will see them returning to the stage to promote their debut album, although December’s talk of an April tour, taking in York and Leeds, is yet to be set in stone amid the ongoing Lockdown 3. On Twitter today, however, they tantalise: “World’s largest Bull party at The Crescent as soon as.”
In the meantime, the track listing is rubber-stamped as: Bedroom Floor; Love Goo; Green; Shiny Bowl; Eugene; Eddie’s Cap; Serious Baby; Perfect Teeth; Find Myself A Job; Bonzo Please; In A Jar; Smoke and Disco Living.
Looking ahead, “we’ve written lots of new songs, progressing towards the next album,” says Tom.