Elvis is back in the building in Baz Luhrmann’s movie. Did he take care of business? Chalmers & Hutch decide

The poster artwork for Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis

WHAT we saw in Austin Butler’s Elvis and Tom Hanks’s Colonel Parker is revealed in Episode 97 of culture vultures Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson’s arts podcast, Two Big Egos In A Small Car.

Under discussion too are: Beatle Paul at 80 at Glastonbury; Graham’s charmed DJ skills on a Knaresborough dancefloor and Chemical Brothers’ thunderous rave at Castle Howard.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/11013513

Meanwhile, in Episode 96…

The artwork for A Light For Attracting Attention, the debut album by The Smile, alias Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner

CHAMERS & Hutch check out Thom Yorke’s Smile. Graham makes Danish news then dissects David Hepworth’s book on the rise and fall of rock’n’roll stars, Uncommon People. Charles demystifies the York Mystery Plays, “on the waggon” for 2022.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/10899683

More Things To Do in and around York for June 18 to June 26, as the Romans invade again. List No. 87, courtesy of The Press

Cherie Gordon in Everyday, on tour at York Theatre Royal in Deafinitely Theatre’s 20th anniversary tour. Picture: Becky Bailey

FROM the Pride parade to Roman festivities, Americana musicians to English prog legends, defiant deaf theatre to bracing art, Charles Hutchinson savours a diverse diary ahead.

Empowering play of the week: Everyday, Deafinitely Theatre, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

FOUR people come together to perform a ritual of community and catharsis. Gathering up true stories of deaf women and non-binary people’s experiences of surviving abuse, they form a witches’ coven like no other, replete with a cauldron of newt’s eyes and butterflies, deep scars, and blazing signs.

Commissioned by New Diorama Theatre, Deafinitely Theatre’s playful, urgent, defiant world premiere by writer-director Paula Garfield combines British Sign Language and oral English as it draws on interviews to explore domestic abuse and mental health in the deaf community. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Davina De Campo: Performing at York LGBT Pride at Knavesmire

Fiesta of the week: York LGBT Pride, June 18, from high noon

THE York Pride Parade leaves from outside York Minster at Duncombe Place. Best advice: arrive at 11.45am, ready for departure at 12 noon, with the parade arriving at Knavesmire (Tadcaster Road end) between 1pm and 1.30pm.

On the main stage, hosts Miss Sordid Secret and DJ Kira introduce live music and entertainment from Nadine Coyle, Davina De Campo, Duncan James, Marcus Collins and Jo O’Meara. York Pride is a free family-friendly event, but donations are welcome.

Dolphin Hotel, by David Finnigan, at According To McGee, York

Exhibition launch of the week: Contemporary Painting: Elementals and Synthesis by Freya Horsley and David Finnigan, According To McGee, Tower Street, York, June 18 to July 11

EXHIBITING Freya Horsley, from York, alongside David Finnigan, from Scarborough, is “not so much a duo show, more like two exhibitions in one gallery,” says According To McGee co-director Greg McGee.

“Freya and David are far removed in terms of subject and mark making, but there’s enough intersection to be able to build an event like this.”

Horsley’s Elementals works focus on seascapes full of bristling light and spray, serenity and inner-lit joy; Finnigan’s four new Synthesis paintings are geometric abstractions influenced by sound and modulation. 

Sunday’ll be the day for That’ll Be The Day! at Grand Opera House, York

Tribute gig of the week: That’ll Be The Day!, Grand Opera House, York, June 19, 7pm

THIS long-running show, now into its 36th year, celebrates the golden age of rock’n’roll and pop from the 1950s through to the 1980s.

That’ll Be The Day combines comedy sketches and impersonations with stellar vocals and musicianship, fronted by director, producer and vocalist Trevor Payne. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Courtney Marie Andrews: Third time lucky for Phoenix singer-songwriter as she returns to Pocklington at last

Americana gig of the week: Courtney Marie Andrews, Pocklington Arts Centre, June 19, 8pm

AMERICAN singer, songwriter, poet, musician and now artist Courtney Marie Andrews makes her long-awaited return to Pocklington this weekend.

Phoenix-born Courtney, 31, twice had to postpone the follow-up to her December 2018 gig. The focus was expected to be on the 2021 Grammy-nominated Old Flowers, but now that she has announced the October 7 release of ninth album Loose Future on Fat Possum, hopefully she will showcase new material too. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Yes, it is Yes: Playing Close To The Edge at York Barbican

Progressing to the past: Yes, York Barbican, Wednesday, 8pm

PROG rock pioneers Yes’s Album Series Tour 2022 celebrates the 50th anniversary of Close To The Edge, the September 1972 album inspired by Siddharta and their “state of mind” at the time.

Wednesday’s concert combines the iconic album in full with further Yes classics, performed by Steve Howe, guitars, Geoff Downes, keyboards, Jon Davison, vocals, Billy Sherwood, bass guitar, and Jay Schellen, drums and percussion. Legendary Yes artwork artist Roger Dean opens the show with a video wall of images and graphics and a reflection on his long history with the band. Tickets remain valid from the postponed May 19 2021 date. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Felice Brothers, James, second from left, and Ian, right, with band members Will Lawrence and Jesske Hume

If you are yet to discover…The Felice Brothers, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

THE Felice Brothers, the folk rock/country rock band from the Hudson valley of upstate New York, are led by Ian and James Felice, joined on this tour by Will Lawrence on drums and Jesske Hume on bass.

Inspired equally by Woody Guthrie and Chuck Berry, they began in 2006 by playing subway platforms and sidewalks in New York City and have since released ten albums, the latest being 2021’s From Dreams To Dust. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Charge! The Eboracum Roman Festival is on its way

Festival of the week: Eboracum Roman Festival, June 25 and 26, all day

THE Legions of Rome take over York Museum Gardens for a packed weekend of outdoor festivities featuring a Roman Living History Encampment between 10am and 5pm each day; the Kids Army and Roman-themed family activities run by Playful Anywhere from 11am to 3pm on both days. Entry is free.

Head inside the Yorkshire Museum to discover Roman treasures, especially the new exhibition The Ryedale Hoard: A Roman Mystery.  

Authors of Roman fiction and non-fiction will chat and sign books in the Tempest Anderson Hall from 10am to 4pm each day.

The Chemical Brothers: Get ready for Block Rockin’ Beats at Castle Howard

Big beat of the week: The Chemical Brothers, Castle Howard, near York, nearer Malton, June 26; gates open at 5pm 

HEY boy, hey girl, electronic pioneers The Chemical Brothers are taking to the stately-home grass this summer as Manchester big beat duo Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, both 51, galvanize rave diggers.

Expect such dancefloor nuggets as the chart-topping Setting Sun and Block Rockin’ Beats, Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Let Forever Be, It Began In Afrika, Star Guitar, Galvanize, Do It Again. Got To Keep On and Go. Camping will be available. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as city welcomes Ukrainian dancers and bees buzz. List No. 86, courtesy of The Press

Poised for Theatre Royal performance: Kyiv City Ballet dancers, heading from Paris to York

FROM Ukrainian dancers to the ukulele, hairdryer music to German comedy, a new but ancient story to medieval street plays, Charles Hutchinson has a fiesta of ideas for venturing out.

Cultural/political event of the week: Kyiv City Ballet, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm, sold out

AT the invitation of Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, the dancers of Kyiv City Ballet are to perform in Britain for the first time since taking up temporary residence in Paris after Russia invaded Ukraine. All ticket sale proceeds from the sold-out show will be donated to UNICEF’s Ukraine Appeal.

Under the direction of Ivan Kozlov and Ekaterina Kozlova, a company dance class will be followed by excerpts from  Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, contemporary pieces and a premiere. 

To bee or not to bee: The Mind Of A Bee is the subject of Lars Chittka’s online talk on June 14 at 8pm at the York Festival of Ideas

Festival of the week: York Festival of Ideas, today to June 24

UNDER the banner of The Next Chapter, more than 150 free in-person and online events promise to educate, entertain and inspire in a festival of speakers, performers, panel discussions, family fun activities and guided tours.

Topics span archaeology to art, history to health and politics to psychology, from the natural history of slime to female Rugby League players; secret Beatles lyrics to the mind of a bee; Holgate Mill to Frankie Howerd. Head to yorkfestivalofideas.com to download a brochure.

Thomas Truax with The Hornicator, left, and Mother Superior, two of his wonderfully weird instruments

Double bills of the week: Songs Under Skies, Mayshe-Mayshe & Thomas Truax, Monday; Testament and Maddie Morris, Wednesday, National Centre for Early Music, York, both 7pm

SONGS Under Skies takes over the gardens of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, for the third time for two nights of outdoor live music by four musicians making their NCEM debuts.

Mayshe-Mayshe, alias Alice Rowan, blends dreamy art-pop with rich storytelling, her songs incorporating choral vocals, vintage synths and the occasional hairdryer. Thomas Truax, an American musician with a mad scientist’s brain, utilises weird self-made instruments in songs about insects, trees, technology and all things lunar.

Lyrical rapper, human beatboxer and composer Testament is joined BBC Radio2 Young Folk Award winner Maddie Morris, from Leeds, whose protest songs address LGBTQ rights, feminism and trauma issues. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Formidable on four strings: George Hinchcliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Anarchy in the Ukulele? George Hinchcliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday, 7.30pm

QUESTION: Who is to blame for the worldwide phenomena of ukulele orchestras and ukulelemania? The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, that’s who!

Led by George Hinchliffe, these independent rock-stars of the “bonsai guitar” promise entertainment, joy, fun, strum and artistry on four strings on all manner of cover versions from the pop, rock and musical worlds beyond. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

How the land lies: Storyteller Alexander Flanagan Wright deep in thought in the the field behind Stillington Mill

Storytelling premiere of the week: Alexander Flanagan Wright, Monster, Work In Progress, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm. UPDATE: 13/6/2022: POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Ticket holders will be refunded.

A BLOKE in a fancy suit is stood in the Nevada desert. A warrior holding the head of Medusa is stood on top of a hill. The sky is lit bright with the neon lights of Vegas. We are trying to set foot in places no-one has ever been.

So runs the introduction to Alexander Flanagan Wright’s Monster, wherein he sets out to tell a story about finding places that we should never have found, about the difference between discovery and ownership, and the need to be a hero.

“Some of that story happens now. Some of it happens millennia ago. All of it is to do with people,” he says, welcoming instant feedback at the story’s close. Box office: atthemill.org.

Roarsome! The Tyrannosaurus Rex rocks up in Dinosaur World Live

Children’s show of the week: Dinosaur World Live, York Theatre Royal, June 17, 4.30pm; June 18 and 19, 11am and 2pm

DARE to experience the dangers and delights of this interactive family show for age three upwards as intrepid explorers discover a prehistoric world of remarkably lifelike dinosaurs in a mind-bending 50-minute Jurassic adventure whose arrival in York just happens to coincide with the big-screen opening of Jurassic World Dominion.
Watch out for the flesh-eating, giant Tyrannosaurus Rex and the supporting cast of a Triceratops, Giraffatitan, Microraptor and Segnosauris. A 15-minute meet and greet post-show offers the chance to be up close and personal with these creatures. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Wringing endorsement for German comedian Henning Wehn

Comedy top-up? Just say Wehn: Henning Wehn, It’ll All Come Out In The Wash, York Barbican, Friday, 8pm

HENNING Wehn, Germany’s Comedy Ambassador and former marketing ideas man for Wycombe Wanderers Football Club to boot, plays York Barbican for the first time since his impatient Great Yorkshire Fringe gig in July 2019, Get On With It!

On his return, Wehn gives everything a good rinse as he wrings sense out of the nonsensical. “An unbiased look at a certain virus might be inevitable but I have no agenda,” says Wehn. “I just happen to be always spot on. It’s a curse.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Duran Duran: Playing the stately pile of Castle Howard

Open-air gig of the week: Duran Duran, Castle Howard, near York, Friday, supported by Dry Cleaning; gates open at 5pm

FRESH from one outdoor engagement by the Buckingham Palace gates with guest guitarist Nile Rodgers at last Saturday’s Platinum Party At The Palace, Duran Duran play another in Castle Howard’s grounds.

The Birmingham darlings of New Romantic synthpop will be complementing last weekend’s brace of Notorious and Girls On Film with such Eighties’ favourites as Planet Earth, Save A Prayer, Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Could last October’s 15th studio album, Future Past, feature too? Tickets update: still available at castlehoward.co.uk or ticketmaster.co.uk.

Taking the chair: Paul Morel in Oddbodies’ one-man King Lear

Shakespeare shake-up of the week: Oddbodies’ King Lear, Helmsley Arts Centre, June 18, 7.30pm

ARMED with only a drum, a guitar, a knife and a chair, Oddbodies’ inventive, irreverent one-man account of Shakespeare’s King Lear is told from The Fool’s point of view by writer-performer Paul Morel.

Directed by John Mowat, he brings all the characters from this sad and sorry tale to glorious life, from the bipolar Lear to the bastard Edmund, haughty Goneril to poor deluded Gloucester, oily Oswald to sweet Cordelia and mad Tom, in a fast, funny, poignant and ultimately heart-breaking production full of physical ingenuity and visual flair. Box office: 01439 771700 or at helmsleyarts.co.uk.

2022 York Mystery Plays artistic director Tom Straszewski, pictured with Jess Murray, who is directing The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene for the Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners

Street plays of the month: Guilds of York present York Mystery Plays, York city centre, June 19 and 26, 11am onwards; The Mysteries In The Market, Shambles Market, June 22 and 23, 7.30pm

EIGHT plays from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays will be wheeled around York city centre on wagons for Sunday performances, processing from College Green (free) to St Sampson’s Square (free), St Helen’s Square (free) and King’s Manor (ticketed).

Those plays include York Guild of Building’s Creation To The Fifth Day; the Company of Butchers and Riding Lights Acting Up’s The Crucifixion and Death Of Christ, the Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners’ The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene and the Company of Merchant Adventurers’ The Last Judgement, directed by Alan and Diane Heaven, no less.

In addition, a selection of five plays will be staged in special Midsummer midweek performances at the Shambles Market (ticketed, limited to 100). Box office: yorkmysteryplays.co.uk.

More Things To Do in and around York as chocolate spreads the love over Easter break. List No. 78, courtesy of The Press

WHAT’S in the chocolate box of Eastertide delights? Charles Hutchinson unwraps the goodies in store, from a sweet-flavoured festival to a musical premiere, a Led Zeppelin legend to two Big shows.

My cocoa shoe: Edible high heels at York Chocolate Festival

Festival of the week: York Chocolate Festival, oozing chocolate in Parliament Street, York, until Easter Monday, 10am to 5pm

RUN by York Food Festival and Make It York, York Chocolate Festival returns over the Easter weekend for the first time since 2019 in celebration of York’s heritage as the Chocolate City.

More than 40 stalls are complemented by workshops, demonstrations by chocolatiers, a chocolate sampling trail and chocolate pairing sessions with wine and whisky for adults. Look out for stands selling specialist origin chocolates, eggs, cakes, truffles, brownies, macarons, chocolate-flavoured drinks and liqueurs, even savoury outliers such as chilli jams, artisan pizzas and pies. Entry is free; some events are ticketed.

Robert Plant and Suzy Dian fronting Saving Grace, on tour at Grand Opera House, York

York gig of the week: Saving Grace with Robert Plant and Suzy Dian, supported by Scott Matthews, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7pm

SAVING Grace, the folk-blues co-operative led by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, play York tonight, followed by a further Yorkshire gig at Halifax Victoria Theatre on April 26.

Singer and lyricist Plant, now 73, will be joined on the April and May tour by Suzi Dian (vocals), Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar) and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic, baritone guitars, cuatro). Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Celebrating the music of The Dubliners: Seven Drunken Nights rolled into one Sunday in York

Irish jig of the week: Seven Drunken Nights – The Story of The Dubliners, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

FROM their roots in O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin, Seven Drunken Nights raises a toast to the 50-year career of The Dubliners, telling the story of the Irish folk band that took the world by storm.

Irish musicians, singers and storytellers will evoke the atmosphere, theatre and cultural history of Ireland while invoking the spirit of Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, John Sheahan, Ciaran Bourke and Jim McCann on a tour that will take in 20 countries in 2022 and 2023. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Bonding together: The BBC Big Band perform the 007 hits, shaken and stirred, at York Theatre Royal

Bond and band in harmony: The BBC Big Band, The Music Of James Bond…and Beyond, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

THE BBC Big Band are joined by guest vocalists Emer McPartlamd and Iain Mackenzie for a celebratory concert inspired by the music of James Bond film franchise.

Theme songs by York composer John Barry feature prominently in a set list sure to include Diamonds Are Forever, Thunderball and Goldfinger, alongside Monty Norman’s James Bond theme.

Expect a selection of more contemporary songs from the 007 musical library too, performed in the BBC Big Band’s inimitable style. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

BIG news: CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher is heading for York Theatre Royal on the BIG Tour

Children’s show of the week: Justin Fletcher in Justin Live, The BIG Tour, York Theatre Royal, Thursday and Friday, 11am and 2.30pm

CBEEBIES superstar and children’s favourite Justin Fletcher presents an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular extravaganza on The BIG Tour.

Justin is a TV institution, piling up BAFTA award-winning appearances on Something Special, Justin’s House, Jollywobbles, Gigglebiz and Gigglequiz, as well as providing character voices for Tweenies, Boo, Toddworld and Shaun The Sheep, latterly voicing Shaun in the Aardman movie Farmageddon. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Normal service resumed: Grayson Perry presents his rearranged Harrogate performance of A Show For Normal People on Friday

Who-knows-what-to-expect arty gig of the weekGrayson Perry in A Show For Normal People, Harrogate Convention Centre, Friday, 7.30pm

IN his own words, despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue A Show For Normal People, Grayson’s enlightening, eye-watering evening where existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. “You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” he promises.

At a show rearranged from last autumn, Grayson asks, and possibly answers, the big questions on a night “sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.” Box office: harrogateconventioncentre.co.uk.

York Stage Musicals’ poster for the York premiere of Calendar Girls The Musical

Musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Calendar Girls, Grand Opera House, York, Friday to April 30

THE true story of the Calendar Girls from Rylstone Women’s Institute has been turned into a beautifully poignant musical by writer Tim Firth and composer Gary Barlow.

Join York Stage Musicals as they bring the show to York for the first time. “Be prepared to laugh and cry throughout a truly memorable evening filled with unforgettable songs that prove there is no such thing as an ordinary woman,” says producer Nik Briggs. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

The Chemical Brothers: Big beats and dance moves at Castle Howard this summer

Rave of the North Yorkshire summer: The Chemical Brothers at Castle Howard, near Malton, June 26

HEY boy, hey girl, electronic pioneers The Chemical Brothers will take to the grass at Castle Howard this summer.

Manchester big beat duo Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, both 51, will galvanize rave diggers in the North Yorkshire stately home’s grounds where gates will open at 5pm for the night ahead of Setting Sun, Block Rockin’ Beats, Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Let Forever Be, Galvanize, Go et al. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.

The Chemical Brothers go outdoors at Castle Howard for big beat summer concert

The Chemical Brothers: Block rockin’ beats at Castle Howard this summer

HEY boy, hey girl, electronic pioneers The Chemical Brothers will take to the grass at Castle Howard this summer.

Manchester big beat duo Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, both 51, will galvanize rave diggers at a June 26 gig in the North Yorkshire stately home’s grounds, near Malton, where gates will open at 5pm.

Formed by the two university friends in 1989, The Chemical Brothers have chalked up 13 million record sales with such dancefloor nuggets as the chart-topping Setting Sun and Block Rockin’ Beats, Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Let Forever Be, It Began In Afrika, Star Guitar, Galvanize, Do It Again. Got To Keep On and Go en route to multiple Grammy awards.

In total, Rowlands and Simons have delivered nine studio, one live, five compilation, two remix, five mix, one soundtrack and two videos albums, six extended plays, 15 promotional singles and 32 music videos.

Their latest album, April 2019’s No Geography, secured two more Grammys. Last year, Rowlands and Simons released the single The Darkness That You Fear and produced new mixes for their Radio Chemical project for Sonos Radio and the multi-sensory centrepiece of Electronic – From Kraftwerk To The Chemical Brothers.

Made in tandem with live visual creators Smith & Lyall, Electronic became the most successful exhibition in the history of London’s Design Museum.

The Chemical Brothers will be Castle Howard’s second concert of Summer 2022, following New Romantics’ heartthrobs Duran Duran on June 17.

Camping at Castle Howard will be available for both events. To book tickets, go to: castlehoward.co.uk.

Duran Duran to play outdoor concert at Castle Howard on June 17

Duran Duran: Castle Howard concert

DURAN Duran will play the first show in a new concert series in the grounds of Castle Howard, near York, on June 17.

This will be their second outdoor gig in North Yorkshire in nine months, after closing the 2021 summer season of Scarborough Open Air Theatre concerts last September.

Emerging from the New Romantic synthpop scene in the early 1980s, the Birmingham band have gone on to sell 100 million records and chalk up 21 British Top 20 singles and 18 American hits.

Songs such as Planet Earth, Girls On Film, Save A Prayer, Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, The Reflex, The Wild Boys, Is There Something I Should Know and A View To A Kill have brought them nine gold, six platinum and three multi-platinum records, eight lifetime achievement awards, two Grammy awards, two Ivor Novello awards and two BRITs.

Singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor are noted for fusing art, technology and fashion with pop hooks, while still looking to innovate and re-invent their sound after 42 years together.

Last October, they released their 15th studio album, Future Past, featuring collaborations with Giorgio Moroder, Mark Ronson, Graham Coxon, Erol Alkan, Tove Lo, Mike Garson, Ivorian Doll and CHAI, on their first studio recordings since Paper Gods in 2015.

Tickets for Duran Duran and special guests are on sale via castlehoward.co.uk or at ticketmaster.co.uk.

The concert poster for Duran Duran at Castle Howard

It may be warm outside for this time of year, but the White Witch has turned Castle Howard to ice for Christmas In Narnia

On the home straight: Christmas In Narnia at Castle Howard, All pictures: Charlotte Graham

THE last chance to experience Christmas In Narnia fast approaches at Castle Howard, near York, where magical furniture and storybook scenes have been installed this winter.

Inspired by C S Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, the North Yorkshire country house invites visitors to step through the wardrobe door to explore a world of festive adventure in a dazzling interpretation of the places familiar to Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. 

“For our displays, visitors don’t just step into the world of Narnia, they retrace the steps of the Pevensie children from their familiar surroundings at the home of Professor Digory Kirke into the world of perpetual winter ruled over by the White Witch,” says Charlotte Lloyd Webber, who has returned to Castle Howard for a fourth year to orchestrate the displays that run through through the John Vanbrugh-designed house. 

“Taking our explorers through the bedrooms of the children gives a hint of the character traits that become amplified in the magical world, before we step out of the wardrobe into the frozen lands.”

A soundscape by Karen Monid accompanies the trip around the house, evoking both the 1940s and the magical world to add an extra dimension and atmosphere to the visit.

Once back on the China Landing, the imposing door of the mirrored wardrobe awaits: the traditional entry point to Narnia. Stepping through a tunnel of fur coats, once through the wardrobe, visitors will discover that icy fingers of frost have touched every part of the path with a blizzard of white.

Stepping through the wardrobe door…

In the distance, the lamp-post marker surrounded by Mr Tumnus’s abandoned presents beckons visitors into a frozen world, where the White Witch’s enemies have been turned to stone. The Antique Passage is filled with frozen animals, twigs and icicles.

The Great Hall is usually the warm heart of the Castle Howard Christmas displays, but not this time. Under the White Witch’s icy gaze, the evergreen tree – standing at 28ft, making it probably the largest real indoor decorated tree in the country – has been caught in a snowstorm.

Every branch is covered with snow and thousands of icicles, together with a constellation of tiny, glistening white lights.  Placed centrally beneath the dome, it is as though the spruce tree has grown out of the floor.

Stepping from the Great Hall into the Garden Hall, visitors enter the epicentre of the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia’s domain, and there they find the White Witch, larger than life, frozen in time and covered in hundreds of icicles, on board her sleigh.  Projections and sounds bring the scene to life and continue into the White Witch’s palace. 

An icy passageway through the Cabinet rooms leads out of the land of snow, whereupon visitors return to the warmest and most comfortable place in all Narnia: Mr Tumnus’s house. The snow has started to melt and elements of the forest have taken refuge, winter evergreens growing over the fireplace, with its roaring blaze, and real trees creating a sylvan atmosphere.

The re-emergence of Christmas comes with the Fox’s dining room, set out for a magnificent feast with his woodland friends beneath an arbour dressed in glittering red to create a canopy above the table. 

An icy passageway at Castle Howard

Celebrations continue next door with the colours of the ocean in the Turquoise Dining Room, providing a backdrop for Narnia’s mermaids, singing at the coronation of the Pevensie children.

Onwards to the Long Gallery, where visitors will marvel as they mark the return of Aslan – and Father Christmas – to the magical kingdom. Stepping through another wardrobe door, they encounter suspended rainbow wooden Christmas trees and dancing lights en route to the Octagon, where the four thrones of the Pensive Kings and Queens await.

Located directly above the four thrones is a new feature for this winter, bringing the Octagon ceiling into play through the magic of projection, courtesy of digital-mapping pioneer Ross Ashton and Karen Monid, the team behind the Northern Lights light and sound installation at York Minster in June 2018 and October 2019.

The ceiling appears to open to reveal a starry sky above with an animation that evokes the very essence of Christmas. 

Narnia would not be the complete without its noble lion. A giant model of Aslan, fashioned from pages from the CS Lewis novels painted gold, oversees the Long Gallery, surrounded by sculptures of other woodland animals.

The visit concludes in the Castle Howard Chapel, where a Nativity scene has been laid out by the main altar, and where Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s donation tree stands, dressed with wooden ornaments decorated by children from Slingsby Primary School.

Bretta Gerecke stands by the Great Hall’s 28ft spruce tree, “caught in the White Witch’s snowstorm, every branch covered with snow and thousands of icicles and a constellation of tiny white lights”

“We are incredibly proud of this winter’s displays and very grateful to our friends at Harper Collins for permitting us to tell the Narnia story in Castle Howard’s unique way,” says the Hon Nicholas Howard, guardian of Castle Howard. 

“The displays look marvellous at any time of the day, but I am particularly fond of the late afternoon and evening, as the light fades outside, making the glow of all the lights and candles inside the house seem just that little brighter.  Even when you step back outside of the house into the winter evening, the avenue of illuminated trees running the length of the drive looks picture perfect.”

To reduce crowding, fewer people have been allocated a place per time slot, prompting the Castle Howard team to open the house until later on Saturdays throughout the run and Friday evenings in December.

“In previous years, we’ve hosted twilight visits on occasional evenings as we moved closer to the festive season, but this year, we’re adding soundscapes and projections that look particularly spectacular as the daylight fades,” says Abbigail Ollive, head of marketing. 

Christmas In Narnia at Castle Howard is the work of the returning Charlotte Lloyd Webber and Bretta Gerecke and their team of specialist designers, lighting experts and even a “baublographer”, whose task was to instal dozens of trees, thousands of baubles and tens of thousands of fairy lights for the displays. 

“When it came to planning this year’s installation, the Howard family were very keen that it should go back indoors and Narnia was a great idea. Nick [Nicholas Howard] used to work in publishing and had a very good relationship with the C S Lewis estate,” says Charlotte.

“It absolutely makes sense to do a story theme in a house like this, which was designed by a dramatist,” says Charlotte Lloyd Webber

“Victoria [Howard] had always been resistant to stories previously, but now, after seeing Christmas In Narnia, she’s saying, ‘OK, what’s next?’!

“It absolutely makes sense to do a story theme in a house like this, which was designed by a dramatist [Vanbrugh].”

Bretta agrees. “The rooms in this house feel episodic, suiting story scenes, and the apotheosis is how the Long Gallery is set out.”

Going back to the original books for inspiration for these displays has been a “fantastic” experience for Charlotte’s team. “C S Lewis writes with such colour and attention to detail, and yet it has given us scope to put our own individual interpretation on this magical world to weave familiar parts of Castle Howard into the story,” she says.

Charlotte finds resonance in 1940s’ wartime experiences being echoed by the pandemic’s lockdowns and restrictions of 2020 and 2021. “What struck us was the poignancy of the four children going through the worst disaster of the 20th century, the Second World War, and now we’re going through the worst disaster of the 21st century so far.

“What we wanted to do was emphasise the sense of stepping out of what’s happening in the world now, to step through the wardrobe door into the magical world of Narnia.”

The Octagon ceiling “opens to let in the universe”

Ross Ashton talks of a prevailing feeling of doom and existential crisis being lifted by experiencing Christmas In Narnia, before Bretta adds: “That’s what makes the pay-off in the Long Gallery so rewarding. That sense of hope. That final room is joyful and hopeful, but you have to have some tragedy first to have that release of potential joy.”

The Christmas displays at Castle Howard always take the form of a journey, but this year the experience has expanded to become multi-sensory, heightened by Ross Ashton’s projection and Karen Monid’s soundscape. “One of the things about the sense of sound is that it happens in real time and you have to be constantly alive to that, to let it reveal itself, as we can only take in things in real time too,” she says.

“It is the sound that envelops you, goes all around you, giving a voice to the room and the design, and because we’re telling a story in each room, the sound has to respond to that. I had to make a decision, room by room, as to what the important sounds should be.”

Rather than arriving with a fixed soundtrack for the 38 rooms, Karen had to consider the acoustics of each room, “rooms that could ring like bells,” she says. “When it came to choosing the sound of the wind, I went for a low-pitched variation, so it could travel down the passageways without having to turn the volume up.

“The Garden Room and the Great Hall have the same wind sound too; the idea is that it should keep pulling you onwards. That’s why I’ve tuned the winds all in the same key.”

Every detail is planned carefully. “There are curated tracks in the rooms, such as for the Mermaids’ music, which I put together with no bass in it because I wanted to take that weight out of the sound, so you feel lifted,” says Karen.

Aslan, the lion, made from paper from the C S Lewis books

When Karen and Ross work in tandem on a project, the sound always comes first, and then Ross plays his creative hand. “It’s the end result you’re interested in,” he says. “You react to the space; Castle Howard has a theatrical design and this space is a gift. Here it’s a half dome, an octagon, and in the room, there’s all this amazing décor to wonder at.

“It’s an unusual space; you look at it to see how it inspires you and I think it has an Arabic feel to it, with that Eastern flavour being different to Narnia – and of course Aslan is the Turkish word for ‘lion’.”

Ashton’s constantly moving animated projection design “opens the roof to reveal the universe to give a spectacular ending to the trail”. “You see Aslan, and of course the lion is the emblem of Castle Howard, and you see Father Christmas too, who turns up at the end of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe,” he says.

How can Charlotte and her team trump Christmas In Narnia? “That’s what we try to do each year…but it’s not a competition!” she says. “Next year we’ll find something totally different for a theme, maybe a fairytale, but definitely totally different.”

Christmas In Narnia runs at Castle Howard until January 3. All time slots are sold out, but any returns automatically will become available to book via castlehowardchristmas.seetickets.com/timeslot/christmas-in-narnia. Tickets include timed access to the house, with full access to the gardens and adventure playground.

What’s on the menu? More Things To Do in York and beyond, hopefully, but check for updates. List No. 62, from The Press, York

Waiter! David Leonard’s Vermin the Destroyer, left, and A J Powell’s Luvlie Limpit survey what’s left of the Ye Olde Whippet Inn menu as Martin Barrass’s Dunkin Donut offers advice in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

GIVEN the ever-changing Omicron briefings, Charles Hutchinson has a rubber as well as a pencil in his hand as he highlights what to see now and further ahead.

Still time for pantomime unless Omicron measures intervene part one: Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, until January 9

BACK on stage for the first time since February 2 2019, grand dame Berwick Kaler reunites with long-standing partners in panto Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and A J Powell.

After his crosstown switch to the Grand Opera House, Kaler steps out of retirement to write, direct and lead his first show for Crossroads Pantomimes, playing Dotty Donut, with Daniel Conway as the company’s new face in the Essex lad title role amid the familiar Kaler traditions. Look out for the flying horse. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Come join the rev-olution: Stepsisters Manky (Robin Simpson), left, and Mardy (Paul Hawkyard) make a raucous entrance in Cinderella. Alas, the Theatre Royal panto is now on hold until December 30 after a Covid outbreak

Still time for pantomime but only after a week in self-isolation: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, ending on January 2 2022

COVID has struck three cast members and understudies too, leading to the decision to cancel performances of Cinderella from today until December 30.

Fingers crossed, you can still enjoy Evolution Productions writer Paul Hendy and York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster’s panto custom-built for 21st century audiences.

Targeted at drawing in children with magical storytelling, silliness aplenty and pop songs, Cinderella has a thoroughly modern cast, ranging from CBeebies’ Andy Day as Dandini to Faye Campbell as Cinders and ventriloquist Max Fulham as Buttons, with his Monkey on hand for cheekiness.

Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard’s riotous step-sisters Manky and Mardy and puns galore add to the fun. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

A wintry landscape by Julia Borodina, on show at Blossom Street Gallery, York

Buy now before her prices go up! Julia Borodina, Into The Light, Blossom Street Gallery, York, until January 31

JULIA Borodina will be competing in Sky’ Arts’ 2022 Landscape Artist of the Year, set for screening in January and February. Perfect timing for her York exhibition, Into The Light, on show until the end of next month.

Bretta Gerecke, part of the design team behind Castle Howard’s Christmas In Narnia displays, stands by the 28ft decorated tree in the Great Hall. Picture: Charlotte Graham

THE Christmas tree of the season: Christmas In Narnia at Castle Howard, near York, until January 2

CASTLE Howard has topped past peaks by installing a 28ft spruce tree from Scotland in the Great Hall as part of the Christmas In Narnia displays and decorations.

 “We believe that this is the largest real indoor Christmas tree in the country, standing around eight feet higher than the impressive tree normally installed in Buckingham Palace,” says the Hon Nicholas Howard, guardian of Castle Howard. 

“It’s certainly the largest we have had, both in terms of height and width at the base, which has a huge footprint in the Great Hall – but thankfully leaves a gap on either side for visitors to walk right around it.” Tickets for Christmas In Narnia must be booked before arrival at castlehoward.co.uk.

York Community Choir Festival: Eight diverse concerts at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

Choirs galore: York Community Choir Festival, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 27 to March 5 2022

EIGHT shows, different every night, will be the format for this choral celebration of how and why people come together to make music and have fun.

At least four choirs will be on stage in every concert in a festival featuring show tunes, pop and folk songs, world music, classical music, gospel songs, close harmonies, blues and jazz.

From primary-school choirs through to teenage, young adult and adult choirs, the choral configurations span male groups, female groups and mixed-voice choirs. Proceeds will go to the JoRo theatre from ticket sales on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

David Ford’s poster for his Interesting Times tour, visiting Pocklington Arts Centre in March

If you see one sage and rage singer-songwriter next year, make it: David Ford, Interesting Times Tour 22, Pocklington Arts Centre, March 10 2022, 8pm

EASTBOURNE troubadour David Ford will return to the road with an album of songs documenting the tumultuous year that was 2020.

May You Live In Interesting Times, his sixth studio set, charts the rise of Covid alongside the decline of President Trump. Recorded at home during various stages of lockdown, the album captures the moment with Ford’s trademark emotional eloquence and dark irony.

After the imposed hiatus times three (and maybe four, wait and see), the new incarnation of Ford’s innovative, incendiary live show promises to demonstrate just what happens when you shut such a creative force in a room for two years. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Sir Tom Jones: Playing Scarborough Open Air Theatre for a third time next summer

Amid the winter uncertainty, look to next summer’s knight to remember: Sir Tom Jones at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 26 2022

SIR Tom Jones will complete a hattrick of Scarborough Open Air Theatre concerts after his 2015 and 2017 gigs with his July return.

In April, the Welsh wonder released his 41st studio album, the chart-topping Surrounded By Time, featuring the singles Talking Reality Television Blues, No Hole in My Head, One More Cup of Coffee and Pop Star.

Sir Tom, 81, will play a second outdoor Yorkshire concert in 2022, at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on July 10. Box office for both shows: ticketmaster.co.uk.

Flying dreamers: Elbow showcase their ninth studio album in Scarborough next July

Deep in the bleak midwinter, think of days out on the Yorkshire coast part two: Elbow, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9 2022

MAKE Elbow room in your diary to join Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter and Pete Turner on the East Coast in July.

Formed in 1997 in Bury, Greater Manchester, BBC 6 Music Sunday afternoon presenter Garvey and co chalked up their seventh top ten album in 2021 with Flying Dream 1.

Released on November 19, Elbow’s ninth studio album was written remotely in home studios before the lifelong friends met up at the empty Brighton Theatre Royal to perfect, perform, and record the songs. Box office: ticketmaster.co.uk.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Isata Kanneh-Mason at Ryedale Festival, 25/7/21

Isata Kanneh-Mason: “There is considerable brainpower behind Isata’s virtuosity. All she needs now is to step back a little from signposting what composers are saying,” opines Martin Dreyer. Picture: Robin Clewley

Ryedale Festival: Isata Kanneh-Mason, Duncombe Park, Helmsley, July 25

MANY of us first encountered Isata (‘Eye-suh-tuh’) at Ryedale three summers ago when she made a powerful impression partnering her cello-playing brother, Sheku, at Castle Howard.

Still only 25, she is striking out more and more as a solo pianist. This was the second, late-afternoon programme she gave at Duncombe Park, with sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven framing a Chopin ballade and Gubaidulina’s Chaconne.

Mozart’s Sonata K.457 in C minor dates from 1784 and was written only three weeks before the ‘Hunt’ string quartet. It was published with the Fantasia in the same key, which fascinatingly was given later in the festival.

Its key often denotes passion in Mozart, so Isata was entirely within her rights to hammer out the opening arpeggio, not least because it forms the basis for the whole development section. But she positively melted into the major-key second theme, a lovely contrast.

There was much delicately delayed ornamentation in the slow movement, which allowed its melody to glow, reminding us of Beethoven’s allusion to it in his Pathétique sonata. Although she did not shirk the anger in the finale, she tempered it with regret by allowing it to breathe when rests allowed.

The temperate opening of Chopin’s Second Ballade belied the thunder to come. Here we had no mere storm, more of a hurricane. She generated huge power, especially in her left hand, and did not hold back.

Gubaidulina’s substantial score, full of dark colours, often demands a heavy bass line against rapid passagework in the right hand: Isata was equal to every challenge. But when tenderness was needed – the composer’s much-lauded “spiritual renewal” – her fingers twinkled over the keys. We could have done with a touch more of such subtlety.

 She attacked Beethoven’s First Sonata, in F minor, with its “skyrocket” theme echoing the opening of the Mozart, with considerable panache, but rather more aggressively than a hall this size really warranted. Still, her adrenalin was surely flowing freely and she was nothing if not bursting with ideas.

At least in the Adagio there was genuine serenity and almost the only sustained pianissimo of the programme. There were clean, crisp contrasts in the minuet and trio and dazzling motor-rhythm in the lightning finale.

There is considerable brainpower behind Isata’s virtuosity. All she needs now is to step back a little from signposting what composers are saying and allow her audience’s imagination freer rein.  But it was good to have her back.                                                                                                            

Review by Martin Dreyer

“Moths are much more interesting than butterflies,” asserts mezzotint artist Sarah Gillespie in her Castle Howard exhibition

Moth of the day: Peppered Moth, Sarah Gillespie’s latest and largest mezzotint, 2ft by 3ft in size, completed in February and now being exhibiting for the first time at Castle Howard

MOTHS have a bad press and basically The Bible is to blame.

Or so says mezzotint artist and moth crusader Sarah Gillespie, whose remarkable exhibition can be discovered by day at Castle Howard, near York, until September 5.

“It’s just for some reason, we are so ignorant about moths,” says Sarah, speaking during her residency at the Head Gardener’s Cottage in the walled Rose Garden.

Part of the Lepidoptera group of insects, meaning “scaly winged”, moths are “deeply unloved”, “grossly misunderstood” and dismissed as “pests”, in favour of the more colourful, daylight-dwelling butterfly, and yet moths are more numerous and more varied, as the exhibition publicity asserts.

“Moths are much more interesting than butterflies. They really are. Butterflies are so boring by comparison. Did you know, there are more diurnal flying moth species in the UK than butterflies?” says Sarah.

Sarah Gillespie at work on the meticulous, methodical mezzotint print-making process

Er, no, but anyway, back to that bad press/fake news about The Bible’s disparaging words. Moths flutter through the pages of The Great Book on no fewer than ten occasions, but none has had such a detrimental impact on the moth’s reputation as the Gospel according to St Matthew, chapter 6, verse 19: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”

“We associate moths with making holes in wool, but not one of the 2,500 species of larger moths does that. Moths don’t eat clothes. It’s only the larvae of one species of micro moth that does it. Some adult moths don’t even have mouth parts, and those that do tend to use them just for pollinating.”

The exhibition is the result of an ongoing project that, for the past two years, has seen Devon artist Sarah research, draw and engrave common English moths by way of highlighting their dramatic and devastating decline and celebrating their overwhelming importance. 

Since 1914, it is believed that around 62 species of moths have become extinct in Britain alone. In the last 35 years, the overall number of moths here has fallen by around one third owing to habitat loss, intensive farming, commercial forestry and light pollution.

“If what I have been given [through making mezzotints of moths] is the ability to focus, to pay attention, and if there is even the remotest chance that in attending lies an antidote to our careless destruction, then that’s what I have to do – to focus,” says Sarah. “It’s not enough but it’s necessary.

White Ermine Moth, mezzotint, by Sarah Gillespie

“It’s just for some reason, we are so ignorant about moths. We think of them of them as nocturnal, as the butterflies of the night – the French call them ‘papillon de nuit’ – but many are diurnal.

“It doesn’t help that a lot of people were spooked by the moth in the poster for The Silence Of The Lambs [Jonathan Demme’s 1991 American psychological horror movie]. It’s called the Death’s-Head Hawkmoth because it has what looks like a skull on the back of its head.

“But, in fact, the Death’s Head Hawkmoth has nothing to do with death at all. It goes into beehives to eat honey and the bees happily let it in. It’s not parasitic; it doesn’t hurt the bees; it just takes their honey! The larvae eat potato crops.”

Apart from that, what did moths ever do for us, Sarah? “They’re pollinators. They’re re-cyclers. The reason their larvae eat your cashmere jumpers is to break down animal hair. They evolved to be part of that entropy. Otherwise, we would be drowning in animal hair,” she says.

“They’re a crucial part of the food chain too. Bats eat them on the wing, but we’re seeing a drop in bat numbers over farmland because farmers use pesticides to get rid of moths.”

The infamous poster for The Silence Of The Lambs with a Death’s-Head Hawkmoth covering Jodie Foster’s lips

Anything else? “The UK’s Blue Tit population needs 35 billion moth caterpillars a year to eat. They time the hatching of their chicks for when the caterpillars are around,” Sarah highlights.

“If you wonder why we no longer hear cuckoos like we used to…cuckoos had adapted to eat the hairy caterpillars of the Tiger Moth, but Tiger Moths are down in number by 83 per cent over the past 30 years because of pesticides.

“We tend to think of moths in their adult form but they’re in a cycle and because that’s entangled with other species, they’re the canary in the coal mine in this country, being so entangled with biodiversity and ecosystems.

“The RSPB brought out a report in May that said we are the worst country in the G7 at looking after at our biodiversity. We have only 50 per cent of diversity left. Moths are a huge part of that decay, being a vital part of the food chain and pollinators – and yet we’re afraid of them.

“It’s a depressing story, and no-one wants a depressing story right now, but we do just about have time to turn it around.”

Artist Sarah Gillespie with a moth trap. As if sitting for a portrait, moths may remain still when Sarah draws them

Hence Sarah’s work seeks to “draw attention to this catastrophic collapse while tenderly celebrating moths’ unseen nocturnal lives, exquisite diversity and the poetry of their common English names”. 

The resulting Moth exhibition features all 22 of her mezzotints as well as a new work, her largest mezzotint to date. Measuring a monumental 2ft by 3ft, Peppered Moth marks a stark change to a process normally measured in inches and not feet.

Her use of mezzotint – a labour-intensive tonal engraving technique used widely between the 17th and early 19th century – is key in rendering the nocturnal quality of both the subject matter and the works themselves.

Only through repeated careful and gradual scraping and polishing of the copper mezzotint plate are these soft gradations of tone and rich and velvety blacks revealed.  At times presenting themselves in all their astounding detail and at others disappearing altogether, Sarah’s moths hum quietly, a gentle reminder of what may disappear permanently.

“I originally trained in Paris in 16th and 17th century methods of oil painting, and right from the beginning of my art career, I’ve had an interest in old, or arcane, techniques,” she says.

Printing the mezzotint of a Garden Tiger Moth

“When I went to the Ruskin [School of Art] in Oxford, I preferred the print room to the art studio and that’s where I did my first mezzotints, but it’s a technique that’s not taught in art schools because it’s too slow – you have to rock the plate in 64 different directions! – and it takes too long for the way art is taught now.

“I always painted and drew as well, but the reason I chose mezzotints for the moths is that with mezzotints, the image is drawn out of the darkness. You scrape and burnish the copper plates to create the lights and half-lights, and that seemed to speak to me very well of moths, as we only half see them: they are half here, half not here.”

A further reason coloured her decision to favour mezzotints. “I’m more comfortable with form and pattern than I am with colour, and we think that moths see in the blue-green spectrum, so I went with the blue spectrum for the prints,” says Sarah.

“If you look at form and pattern, rather than colour, sometimes it has more emotional resonance in monochrome. It’s the same with the impact of black-and-white photographs.”

Such is the meticulous detail in Sarah’s mezzotint prints that it is easy to mistake them for photographs. Not so, there is a reason why a photograph is also known as a “snap”, whereas Sarah’s works of art take weeks, even months.

Sarah Gillespie’s sketch of a Poplar Hawk-moth

“At no point is it a photographic process; it’s a hand-drawn and hand-engraved process. Smaller mezzotints take two weeks to create; the 2ft by 3ft Peppered Moth took three months, just to make the plate,” she says. “Then you spend a week printing the plates.

“The conventional size is five inches by seven inches, and it’s not until now that I’ve done such a big one [Peppered Moth] because I had this idea that I didn’t want to spook people even more when they’re already spooked by moths!”

The creation of the Peppered Moth mezzotint is of particular relevance to Castle Howard, whose landscaped gardens provide the ideal location for its own large and varied moth population.

During the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the species experienced a rapid evolutionary mutation, causing it to turn black.

The Peppered Moth’s unusual colour change saw it darken in response to its habitat that became increasingly polluted and soot covered, allowing it to camouflage and escape predators.

Ye, mezzoting, by Sarah Gillespie

It was in industrial Yorkshire cities, close to Castle Howard, that this melatonic phenomenon was observed in 1848, a full ten years ahead of Charles Darwin’s theories on natural selection. “In Sheffield, for example, they were seen hanging out on birch trees, the moths now completely black,” says Sarah. “And they did that change so very quickly.”

Come the introduction of clean air laws in the 1960s, however, the previous speckled variety returned.

“Camouflage is massively important for moths; they’ve been in an evolutionary race with bats and likewise their caterpillars with plants,” says Sarah. “There are moths that look like bark, bird poo, lichen, leaves.

“They have several defences they use: camouflage and warning signs to scare off birds, such as flashing their colours as a second line of defence, or pretending to drop dead or even making noises to ward off bats.”

Finished in February, the Peppered Moth is now the focal point for the Moth exhibition, not only for its sheer size but to reflect the tenacity of these creatures and the geographical ties to Castle Howard behind this particular species’ fascinating evolutionary story.

“At no point is it a photographic process; it’s a hand-drawn and hand-engraved process,” says Sarah Gillespie

Why is Sarah drawn to moths like moths to a flame? “I started doing the mezzotints a few years ago when I was in one of those stages of being disillusioned with the art world as I was finding it narcissistic,” she says, starting out on an answer by a country route. “We are narcissistic as a species and the art world reflected that.

“Though I have many friends in the art world, I was ready for a change. Extinction Rebellion started, and while I wasn’t part of it, many friends were. I don’t like crowds; I like being in the country [she lives near Dartmouth], but I felt artists needed to respond to the biodiversity crisis.

“That’s why I decided to focus on a project rooted in biodiversity, and though this might sound wacky, the moths just offered themselves as a subject.”

How come? “I read Michael McCarthy’s book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature And Joy about the abundance of moths or, rather, lack of abundance, and it was a case of things eliding,” says Sarah, who was delighted that McCarthy subsequently came to Castle Howard on June 5 to give a talk.

“You don’t get as much to choose from as an artist as you might think, but sometimes a subject chooses you, and as soon as I started drawing moths, much more interesting things started happening for me.”

Common Quaker, mezzotint, by Sarah Gillespie

Such as? “My moth mezzotints are now in collections in America and they’ve been exhibited in Katharinaberg in 2019, Shanghai, and now Castle Howard. So, these invitations keep coming and doors keep opening; it does just feel a little like Alice In Wonderland. Coming up next is Hiroshima in the autumn.”

Will Sarah go to Japan? “No, the sky is for the moths and the birds. I don’t really like flying,” she says.

While living onsite as part of her month-long artist’s residency, Sarah has been awaking early to study Castle Howard’s moth population with a view to producing new works in response, including one created publicly during visiting hours.

Visitors have been able to watch her demonstrate the process that goes into making and printing her mezzotints. In addition, she has held a weekly online live streamed event wherein Sarah releases moths caught humanely overnight within Castle Howard’s grounds.

In her temporary workspace alongside the exhibition, Sarah has set up a printing press, courtesy of a York company. “Initially I borrowed a press from a friend, but it wasn’t suitable for mezzotints as you have to apply a lot of pressure,” she says.

“I decided to focus on a project rooted in biodiversity, and though this might sound wacky, the moths just offered themselves as a subject,” says Sarah. Picture: Kate Mount

“But once I put a request on Instagram, within 12 hours I’d received five suggestions, one advising I should contact Hawthorn Printmaker supplies in Murton. I rang at 9am and by 3pm they’d installed it – for free!”

She has loved her residency: “Nick and Vicki Howard have put me in a Vanbrugh-designed cottage in a walled garden, and I feel very lucky. They keep asking me if I’m comfortable and I just roar with laughter!” she says.

Sarah headed north with one other goal. “Castle Howard has sublime lime tree avenues and I hope to locate a Lime Hawk-moth, which is restricted to such trees,” she said on arrival. “Yorkshire is on the tip of their northernmost territories but I’m hopeful.”

Has she been successful? Maybe we shall learn the answer when Sarah returns to Castle Howard in August to appear on BBC1’s Countryfile.

Sarah Gillespie: Moth runs at Castle Howard until September 5. Entry to the exhibition is via the Stable Courtyard and is free of charge; a gardens ticket is not required.

Pale Emerald, mezzotint, by Sarah Gillespie

A REVISED second edition of Sarah’s book Moth is available to buy at £45 from Castle Howard’s gift shop and directly from Sarah’s website at sarahgillespie.co.uk/editions/moth/.

The new hardback features three additional moth prints and an introduction by author and naturalist Mark Cocker, alongside a specially gifted poem by Alice Oswald.

“Common” English Moth Names To Love

1. Dingy Footman

2. Chimney Sweeper

3. Coxcomb

4. Non-conformist [So non-comformist that it is now extinct, alas]

5. Small Fan-footed Wave

6. Pale Brindled Beauty

7. Smoky Wainscot

Setaceous Hebrew Character, mezzotint, by Sarah Gillespie . Note the bristly appearance

8. Double-Striped Pug

9. Feathered Gothic

10. Scalloped Oak

11. Setaceous Hebrew Character [‘Setaceous’ means bristly]

12. Garden Grass-veneer

P.S. Micro-moths tend not to have English names, graced only with their Latin name tags. “The English names for moths are our heritage, whereas a lot of the Latin ones are just random,” says Sarah.

In the name of love Moth Fact of the Day:

Moths make noises as a mating call and males can catch pheromones from females kilometres away.

Just One More Thing in defence of moths…

NOVAVAX, the United States-based pharmaceutical company, has used moth cells to create its Covid-19 vaccine.