Stranded in France, Kyiv City Ballet’s first show since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at York Theatre Royal on June 14 has sold out

Poised: Kyiv City Ballet are heading to York Theatre Royal for one night

KYIV City Ballet’s first British performance since Ukraine came under attack from Russia at York Theatre Royal on June 14 has sold out.

One hundred per cent of ticket sale proceeds will be donated to UNICEF’s Ukraine Appeal from the two-and-a-half-hour special performance that will be split into two parts under the direction of Ivan Kozlov and Ekaterina Kozlova. A class from the Kyiv City Ballet company will be followed by excerpts from ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. 

York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird personally invited Kyiv City Ballet to perform in York after learning of the company being stranded in France, where they were on tour as the war broke out in Ukraine. The dancers have stayed there ever since, given that it is too unsafe for them to return home to Ukraine.

“We are proud that York is able to stand in solidarity with Kyiv,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, who has invited Kyiv City Ballet to the Yorkshire city

“It’s a huge honour to be hosting Kyiv City Ballet at York Theatre Royal,” says Bird. “This is the company’s first UK appearance since their city came under attack, and we are proud that York is able to stand in solidarity with Kyiv by supporting these extraordinary dancers for this one-off visit.” 

City partners in York have come together to make this fundraising performance a reality. Make It York, City of York Council and York BID are all supporting the Theatre Royal with organisation and logistics to bring Kyiv City Ballet to the city. 

Eurostar and LNER have stepped in to arrange the company’s return travel from France to York; Visit York members Elmbank Hotel, Malmaison, Middletons, Sandburn Hall, The Grand, The Principal and York Marriott have offered to accommodate the company and crew during their stay, while City Cruises and Bettys will be providing additional hospitality. A Civic welcome awaits at Mansion House.

Class act: Kyiv City Ballet will combine a dance class with excerpts from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker in June 14’s fundraising show

First Bus will support on the visa costs to bring the company to York; remaining costs and company fees for the performance will be covered through corporate sponsorship. 

Sarah Loftus, managing director of Make It York, says: “We are so proud of our city pulling together to bring the Kyiv City Ballet to York. This is a special opportunity to celebrate world-class performers, while raising vital funds for the people of Ukraine. The generosity of businesses and residents in York has made this possible.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “In what are incredibly dark times, it has been heartening to see York’s response as the city has come together to show our support and solidarity with our Ukrainian friends here in York and in Ukraine.

“Art has a unique way of uniting people and that’s certainly what we need more now than ever ,” says Councillor Darryl Smalley as he welcomes Kyiv City Ballet to York

“From donations and heart-warming signs of solidarity to housing refugees, it’s clear that we as a city are united and ready to do all we can to stand with Ukraine and its people.

“Art has a unique way of uniting people and that’s certainly what we need more now than ever. I’m grateful to all those involved for their support in setting up this amazing event. It will certainly be an emotional and wonderful evening for a crucial cause.”

Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, says: “It is always good to hear of high-quality cultural offerings coming to York, but for our city to attract the Kyiv City Ballet will feel really special.

“We are so proud of our city pulling together to bring the Kyiv City Ballet to York,” says Sarah Loftus, Make It York’s managing director

“Many of us feel helpless on how we can support Ukraine, but I know residents and businesses will want to show support and solidarity, as well as celebrate the visit of a world-renowned group of performers.” 

Adam Wardale, chair of Hospitality Association York (HAY) and general manager at Middletons Hotel, said: “The members of HAY are incredibly proud to be able to offer Ukraine’s Kyiv City Ballet performers accommodation throughout their stay in York.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to support Ukraine, showing solidarity while also celebrating the arts.”

Kyiv City Ballet: York to host first UK appearance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Young talents’ work to go on digital display at According To McGee after Easter’s New Visuality art camp at Bar Convent

Director Greg McGee, right arm raised, leads the cheers at New Visuality’s Easter Art Camp for York school children

YORK charity New Visuality is to illuminate the wall of its gallery window space at According To McGee with the artwork of the city’s young talent.

After holding creative workshops for 25 participants over Easter and renewing its collaboration with University of York’s SplashBy, New Visuality will mount a showcase of digital projections of art, films, and slogans at the Tower Street art space from early May to early June.

“Not only do we want to get the projections up and running before the summer evenings take over,” says charity director Greg McGee. “But also the artwork has been so good, and the links made between grassroots football clubs, community cafés and the city’s heritage so healthy, that a digital exhibition in our window opposite the newly refurbished Clifford’s Tower makes perfect sense, especially if it’s to be done in a timely manner.”

New Visuality’s Art Camp sessions, funded by City of York Council’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme, focused on healthy eating, physical exercise and how to reflect these issues in painting and digital art.

New Visuality Art Camp participants at Bar Convent at Easter

Teenage art ambassadors from York High School, All Saints School, Millthorpe School, and Archbishop Holgate’s School led the sessions. “Generally, the younger people came from the west of York,” says Greg, “So the visual reference points were West Bank Park, Hob Moor, Acomb Front Street and Acomb Green, but there was also a York-wide conversation to be had.

“One thing we found was that there are so many young people who haven’t experienced heritage in their city, so we organised a trip to Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre.

“As ever, the welcome was warm and the experience was a real buzz, especially the reading session we had with internationally published author Karen Langtree.”

Bar Convent staff were delighted to see the young artists sit down and draw, take photos with professional cameras and listen to the excerpts.

“I Hope We Can Play Footy”: Artwork by Erin from the New Visuality Art Camp, soon to feature among the digital projections at According To McGee

Volunteers manager Lauren Masterman says, “It was a joy to welcome these young artists to the Bar Convent. They brought great energy and enthusiasm as they explored the chapel and the collections in our exhibition, and it was lovely to see how much they enjoyed Karen Langtree’s interactive storytelling session. We’re very much looking forward to seeing the artwork they have produced.”

The activities were fuelled each day with fresh food from Choose 2 Cafe, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in Hull Road. “The food was great and led to lots of discussions on how fast-food outlets manipulate catchy slogans and attractive colour schemes to reel you in,” says Greg.

“To help hammer home how important a healthy lifestyle is, we knew we had to get in someone who the young people could relate to, so we gave grassroots football club York RI a call.”

Step forward Under-14s players Matteo and Niall. “Their careful guidance and knowledgeable overview of what to eat and how to make fresh fruit as attractive an option as fast food were humbling,” says Greg.

Food, football and now art ambassadors: Niall, left, and Matteo, from the York RI Football Club’s Under-14s team, dispensing healthy tips and fodder at the New Visuality Art Camp

“As far as we’re concerned, Matteo and Niall can proudly call themselves art ambassadors and can count on similar paid opportunities in the future. I’m looking forward to watching them continue to help develop the creativity of the young people we work with.”

Matteo was delighted to take part in the activities, “It was great to be around creative people and help inspire them with how to draw art linked with sport and to give advice on what to eat and how to exercise.” 

Look out for the digital projections in the window of According To McGee from May 5, every night from 5pm to 10pm, for a month. “The artwork itself is excellent, and now we have the technology we can get it out in an elegant, immersive way and allow it to develop with the artwork from future art camps,” says Greg.

“Watching this project evolve from a school holiday art camp into a far-reaching collaboration with York schools, Bar Convent, and York RI Football Club has been a highlight of my career.”

The Howl & The Hum, Bull and Huge to play Make It York’s new YorkLife festival weekend in Parliament Street in April

The Howl & The Hum: York Life headliners on April 3

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.

Big Ian Donaghy: Fronting Huge on the YorkLIfe main stage on April 2

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 Venue Network, 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. 

Bull: Home-city gig for York’s first band to sign to a major label since Shed Seven

Confirmed acts and workshops

Musicians

The Howl & The Hum; Huge; Bull; Kitty VR; Flatcap Carnival; Hyde Family Jam;  Floral Pattern; Bargestra and Wounded Bear.

Workshops:

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; 

Innovation Entertainment: Circus workshops. 

Nicolette Hobson and Gemma Drury of Mud Pie Arts: Hosting Cloud Tales interactive storytelling workshops at YorkLife

Next Door But One seek performing artists for Opening Doors workshop, mentoring and networking programme in February

Next Door But One: Opening doors to support York’s performing arts freelancers

IT is no secret that the arts haves been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As many theatres roll out their plans to “Build Back Better”, York community arts collective Next Door But One are focusing their support on the city’s freelancers, delivering another series of free professional development workshops. 

Various UK surveys throughout the Covid pandemic have highlighted how seven out of ten parents and carers, nearly two thirds of disabled practitioners and 70 per cent of those who identify as being from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background are thinking they will need to leave their careers in the creative industries.

Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“These figures are extremely concerning for a number of reasons” says Next Door But One’s artistic director, Matt Harper-Hardcastle. “Not only is our own team created from these different artists, but without the correct continued investment, the arts risks taking huge steps backwards in respect of access, representation and diversity.

“As a small theatre company, dependent on the skilled freelancers within York, it is important we look after our people.” 

Last year, Next Door But One ran their first programme of professional development, funded by Arts Council England, for 27 performing arts professionals, offering workshops on fundraising, facilitation, directing and scriptwriting, as well as group mentoring sessions and networking opportunities.

Next Door But One’s Opening Doors: Offering professional mentoring support

“Ninety per cent of participants on this programme had lost most of their freelance work, were struggling to secure new opportunities or had considered a change in career,” says associate director Kate Veysey.

“From our previous cohort, we supported many to secure future employment and to raise funds for their own projects (notably £50,000 in Develop Your Creative Practice funding through Arts Council England).

“But the overriding feedback was on the importance of Next Door But One creating a new network for participants to support one another through the difficult time of the pandemic. A network which is still helping people flourish.” 

Next Door But One associate director Kate Veysey

Next Door But One are now mounting a similar programme, Opening Doors, that hopes to do just that, says Matt. “If people need some direction, or support on what they should do next, or what might be possible for them; that’s what we hope to offer,” he reasons.

Opening Doors will begin this month (February 2022), funded by the City of York Council, York Centre for Voluntary Services and Make It York, and Next Door But One are looking for individuals to register their interest if engagement in this programme would be of use to them.

“The process is quick and open to any performing arts professional, from new graduates, emerging or re-emerging artists, or those who just need support to get back on their desired track, based in or around York,” says Matt.

Workshops. Mentoring. Networking. Next Door But One are opening doors for York’s arts community

“Some workshops will be in person, at the company’s new home of The Gillygate pub, in Gillygate, while others will be virtual and will be run by industry leading directors, producers, fundraisers, casting directors and playwrights.”

To register your interest, go to www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk or if you have any questions about the professional development programme, send an email to kate.ndb1@gmail.com. 

If you are reading this, are thinking of registering your interest, but are still unsure, here is what one of last year’s participants said: “

Uthink Pop Up Piccadilly studios & gallery to close with final art events this weekend

Art attack: Shark, mural by Replete, at Piccadilly Pop Up, Piccadilly, York

THE Uthink Piccadilly Pop Up art studios and gallery must vacate their temporary premises in York,by the end of the month after being served notice by the re-developers.

In 2019, the charity Uthink PDP (People Developing People) took over York’s former tax office headquarters at 23, Piccadilly, when it was sold by City of York Council and began renting out space to York artists.

“Since August 2020, we’ve opened to the public every Saturday to showcase our work, give or take a plague or two,” says Richard Kitchen, one of Piccadilly Pop Up’s founders and artists.

“We now comprise 15 artists, including some who have exhibited elsewhere, some who have been selected for York Open Studios, a handful of young artists, from York College, on our mentoring programme, and a nationally renowned graffiti artist and muralist.

“Our work ranges from painting and drawing through abstract art and collage to photography, sculpture and installation. There’s even some poetry.”

To mark the “suddenness of the circumstances” behind the closure, Pop Up Piccadilly’s final events will be held this weekend to “celebrate all we have achieved during our tenancy”. On Saturday, public opening will be as usual, from 12 noon to 6pm; on Sunday, a festive market and extended art exhibition will run from 11am. Admission is free.

A morning-till-evening special exhibition, “commemorating our beloved building” with photographs, art, spoken-word contributions and possibly a sound installation or musical performance, was under discussion for December 21 but will not go ahead.

“We’d be very happy to see you this weekend, especially if you haven’t visited us before,” says Richard. “We were gaining quite a reputation for enterprise and innovation and were much loved and admired by many of our visitors.”  

REVIEW: The Local Authority, Naloxone Theatre Ensemble, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight until Saturday

David Taylor as Richard Carrol, left, Emma Turner as Tucker, Stewart Mathers as Dan Lucas and Karen Nadin as Tinger in a rehearsal scene from The Local Authority

LET York writer-director Tom Wilson introduce The Local Authority, his new anarchic farce framed around a chaotic, fractious local council emergency budget meeting.

“It’s very much a black comedy about embezzlement, chaotic, dysfunctional individuals and families and a community trying to come to grips with the burgeoning Covid pandemic,” he says. “The play has a lot of adult themes, such as drug taking and alcoholism, zany sex workers, high-level council corruption, irrational budget and public amenity cuts, disintegrating relationships and canines in nappies.”

City Of York Council’s financial conduct may be making the headlines this week, but we’ll leave that for another day, another play.

That said, Salford lad Wilson has his own experience of working for the local authority, as a drug and alcohol education advisor. “I thought I was being paid to take theatre around schools, but I ended up training the staff, the police, local colleges, universities,” he recalls. “It got very complex, and in the end, I did what writers do. I left.”

He also did what writers do: he kept writing, and now comes The Local Authority, his fifth play in 25 years, not a revenge play as such, but one where the inner Joe Orton is at work, sending up the failings of those charged with power.

Wilson has had to spend time in hospital, facing “death or amputation”, with the need to “get this gunge out”, ending up in the Covid ward to boot. He was in and out three times.

Metaphorically, The Local Authority is another way of “getting the gunge out”, Wilson having written “nonsense poetry and prose to get through the day” and make sense of the pandemic pandemonium and his ailing health.

The result is a messy play about messed-up times, fevered and fever-browed, erratic in performance and devil-may-care in spirit, a “pantomime on acid” by the end of its shorter second act.

Catching it on dress-rehearsal night meant there were bumps in the road, but like potholes, they may well still be there tomorrow and the week after, for that matter, if the play were still running.

A devotee of theatre of the absurd, Tom Wilson does not deal in clean-cut, awfully nice, middle-class drama: he prefers the nitty-gritty, the earthy, the punk, the warts, the boils, the gunge and all. It isn’t pretty and it is often foul-mouthed, in the way that Shameless is, but it is also “tongue in cheek, never serious” in a chance to “laugh at our oppressor and reclaim our smiles and freedom”.

What’s the story? Ruder and wilder than the infamous Handforth Parish Council meeting that went viral when we all needed a laugh in Lockdown 1, at its epicentre is Karen Nadin’s Lesley Carrol.

Hosting the aforementioned council emergency budget meeting on Zoom, as the Jackie Weaver of the piece, she is firm at first but gradually worse for wear, as council officers make ever more draconian, yet worryingly feasible, suggestions for £300,000 cuts that would not be out of place in a George Orwell dystopian futurist novel.

What’s novel? For the first act, the cast members are lined up on tables with tablets or laptops but also appear on Zoom, the defining motif of Covid times, on the screen behind them.

The Zoom feed is live and unpredictable, occasionally freezing and not always showing who is speaking but often focused on Rowan Naylor-Mayers’ wannabe soap actor Neil, or Kate Hargrave’s hippy Christine Nunn with her psychedelic Zoom background, or Joel Cambell’s Paul Engers, who has chosen to be pictured in front of a palm-treed paradise.

The first act is too long, not least because the actors are largely static in their seats, except when Wilson has them step out front to deliver their proposed cuts, to add to the sense of absurdity.

He plays his ace in introducing the oil in the ointment, the slick council job executioner Dan Lucas (Stewart Mathers), to deliver his black-cap verdicts on who stays and who goes, as the climax of the  first hour.

Post-interval, The Local Authority becomes a more conventional, quicker-moving farce in Orton style in a swish flat. Corruption, cocaine, sex workers (Nadin’s Tinger and Emma Turner’s Tucker, in a deadpan scene-stealing cameo), the council bigwig (David Taylor’s Richard Carrol) and a policeman (Martin Handsley) are thrown into the maelstrom that envelops the potty-mouthed Lucas and his dippy acolyte Neil.

More spit than polish, more whack-a-mole than guacamole, The Local Authority is a tour de farce that goes off the rails, applies a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel, and is often blunt rather than sharp, but as ugly agit-prop theatre for 2021, it hits home hard.

Wilson also coins one of the best phrases for this age of pandemic deaths and ecological recklessness. “Nature has lost its temper,” bemoans the plastered Lesley. How right she is.  

Naloxone Theatre Ensemble presents Tom Wilson’s premiere of The Local Authority, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, August 5 to 7, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk

Can’t see the wood for the bricks? Then head to Chalmers & Hutch’s podcast

Ah, but they’re not bricks, as tree-hugger Hutch discovers close up. These wood blocks form part of Karin Van Der Molen’s sculpture, Shield, at the Himalayan Gardens, Grewelthorpe, near Ripon

BE pepped up by the one and only arts club badinage from Two Big Egos In A Small car podcasters Chalmers & Hutch, as they discuss Grewelthorpe’s jewel, the Himalayan Gardens; Velma Celli’s Drag Brunch; Metronomy’s English Riviera landmark; the “Top 20 Most Inspirational Novels”; York’s strange version of The Masked Singer and Cruella & Disney reboots.

Head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/8674205

No resurrection for Jesus Christ Superstar after council ‘admin error’, but what next for unstoppable Bev Jones Music Company?

Bev Jones Music Company cast members gather at Rowntree Park last September

THE York version of The Masked Singer is coming to a head.

Bev Jones Music Company’s open-air production should have opened at Rowntree Park amphitheatre this afternoon but instead Jesus Christ Superstar has turned into Jesus Christ Supersnag – all because of masks.

In a nutshell, producer Lesley Jones was given an edict 12 days ago by City of York Council that Claire Pulpher’s cast of 27 must wear masks when singing to meet Covid regulations, not least Claire herself in the role of Mary.

Oh, and the not-for-profit York company would need to pay for professional security staff too for safety purposes, to stop anyone who had not booked from congregating on the periphery. Oh, and could the company provide portable lavatories too, please?

All this came via an email to Lesley from a Public Health Specialist Practitioner Advanced. “Whilst I have every sympathy with anyone trying to deliver an event, we can only give them the advice we have and cannot offer anything other than what the government guidance allows at the time of review,” the council apparatchik wrote.

“It is also worth noting that as this is a musical and involves singing, there is specific reference in the performing arts guidance to singing and the additional risks this poses in relation to Covid transmission. This is not currently considered in the Covid plan supplied by the organiser.”

The official cited an extract from the guidance “requiring the event organiser to pro-actively discourage activities which can create aerosol such as shouting, chanting and singing…as this is a popular musical can we be assured this will be realistic or achievable? Also wearing face coverings reduces the mass of aerosol expelled when singing, so masks should be worn during the event. Probably not possible?”

Probably not possible? Impossible, decided Lesley, as the additional costs would be prohibitive, and so, down the drain went many hours of rehearsals and hundreds of ticket sales for today’s 3pm show and tomorrow’s 2pm and 5pm performances that would need to be reimbursed (a task now being handled by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office).

And yet everything had been possible when Bev Jones Music Company staged the socially distanced Strictly Live In The Park on September 13 last year, same location, but no requirement to mask up the singers. Just as York Stage had been able to perform shows at the amphitheatre from August 23 to 25 (York Stage Musicals revue) and September 18 to 20 (Jukebox Divas).

When Lesley made the booking in February for the return to Rowntree Park, she planned the event in line with the council’s event management plans, requiring a Covid risk assessment and a health and safety assessment, plus contingency plans in the event of a terrorist attack or flooding.

Put in place were Covid testing for the cast; thermometer testing for cast, crew and public at each performance; ticket-only admission; the audience placed in socially distanced bubbles. The new normal, in other words.

The council’s later demands over masks and security came after its discussions with Public Health England and the Safety Advisory Group, but what was the difference this time?

City of York Council, in effect, made an admin error, as explained to Lesley Jones by Sarah Stoltz, the council’s director of public health, in an email on June 6. “One of my staff was asked by Trading Standards on 26th May 2021 to provide public health feedback to the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) on the proposals for your event,” she wrote. 

“I must stress, here, that the feedback in the email was only intended to be shared with SAG members for them to consider this, along with all the other expert advice from members of SAG, e.g. North Yorkshire Police, so that SAG could make a decision on whether the event should go ahead and what mitigations might need to be in place.

“We are in stage 3 of the government roadmap out of lockdown and so it is entirely appropriate that SAG undertook due diligence on the safety of the event, as happens with all events across York.”

Here comes the crucial part: “But the email was never intended to be shared with you and it did not constitute public health advice to you personally as the organiser; it was feedback to SAG and members would have considered the appropriateness of this feedback in due course,” said the director.

“However, it was shared and unfortunately taken out of context. I understand how angry and frustrated you must have felt in receiving it and can only apologise for the distress this has caused you.”

The explanation came too late to resurrect Jesus Christ Superstar, alas. “We were given such restrictive regulations by City of York Council, we had no option but to pull the production,” says Lesley, who is launching a formal complaint.

Is there any good news for Bev Jones Music Company devotees, however? “I must tell you that an ‘angel’ has appeared in the form of Jamboree Entertainment, who have offered us their professional [Sounds In The Grounds] festival stage on June 24 as compensation, if we could put together a music event suitable for the venue,” says Lesley.

“Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we’ve taken on the challenge, resulting in the aptly named Strictly Unstoppable, featuring every member of the JCS cast in a new-style production for The Bev Jones Music Company with the emphasis on ‘an evening of fun with massive pop tracks to suit all, plus a beer wagon to help the atmosphere’.

“For those who love festivals, this will be popular, with numbers such as Boogie Shoes, Forget You, Uptown Funk, Sweet Caroline, a Whitney Houston song, Somebody To Love, Barcelona, to name a few, plus a smattering of show tunes from Chicago and The Rocky Horror Show and dozens more. We want the audience to get up in their social bubbles and dance.”

Thready Pulse and J.See set bench mark with tranquil and mindful city-centre installation amid York’s shopping bustle

Bench mark: Jeff “J.See” Clark and Brenna “Thready Pulse” Allsuch stand by Art Of Protest Projects’ mural and photography installation in Parliament Street, York

TRANQUILITY through mindfulness is the aim of Art Of Protest Projects’ public street art collaboration with Thor’s Tipi Bar in York.

Project director Jeff Clark and communications  and support manager Brenna Allsuch are wearing different hats this time, bringing their own vibrant, uplifting mural and photography installation to Parliament Street at the epicentre of the city’s re-opened shopping streets.

Working under the monikers of Thready Pulse and J.See, respectively, muralist Brenna and photographer Jeff have created eight works for display on four benches to make their mark on the urban landscape.

Jeff Clark taking a photograph by York Minster

Focused on mindfulness and finding a quiet moment of peace in bustling and energetic surroundings, this series of installations – with large board canvases as backrests – features Brenna’s painted mountain range on one side and Jeff’s series of black-and-white cityscape photographs on the other.

“The aim of this collaborative project is to invite people to take a quiet rest as they soak in the city landscape,” says Jeff, whose latest project comes on the heels of the ongoing Guardians Of York, the AOP Projects and York BID collaboration with Brighton street artist collective The Postman to “honour and elevate” pandemic key workers from York.

“Placing art within an urban setting has the power to stop passers-by and encourage them to reflect on something they wouldn’t normally expect to see. It also draws people into the space and allows for conversation and engagement with friends and strangers alike.

Take a seat: Jeff Clark sits on one of his “Tranquility through Mindfulness” benches on Parliament Street, York

“This specific project uses various mediums in the form of paint, photography and construction to allow a multifaceted approach to urban seating and art.” 

Thready Pulse and J. See’s bench installation is dedicated to their beloved friend, Michael Feather, who passed away in April. “Michael was the father of our production manager and close friend, Craig Feather,” says Brenna.

“He sadly lost his battle with cancer just four weeks ago and we’ve all been feeling his loss. He was not an artist himself, but an amazing master joiner and carpenter who helped rebuild Chatsworth House [in Derbyshire].

In memory of Michael Feather: Brenna Allsuch and Jeff Clark pay tribute to their late friend’s love of nature and stillness with their bench installation for the public to enjoy tranquility amid the Parliament Street bustle

“Michael was a big part of our lives and his love of nature and stillness served as the inspiration for this piece. His continuous smile and curiosity with the world around him will be sorely missed, but our hope is that this project will serve as a reminder of his impact on his family and our community.”

Brenna and Jeff are grateful to City of York Council for funding and Make It York and York BID for their support. “We’re so excited for this installation to bring smiles and hopefully a feeling of peaceful mindedness to the city of York,” she says.

“Working on these murals and knowing they will be so prominently placed within the city allowed me to step outside of my usual practice and create a series of works that wants to invite people in, stop them in their tracks and allow them to just take a deep breath and refocus their busy mind.”

“Walking through a busy city centre, you don’t expect to come around the corner and see a large mountain landscape,” says Jeff Clark, as he applies his brush to Brenna Allsuch’s mural

Jeff adds: “Walking through a busy city centre, you don’t expect to come around the corner and see a large mountain landscape. Even better, as you walk away and reflect back on the installation, the other side features high-impact iconic black and white imagery of the city of York.”

Under his nom de l’art of J.See, multi-media artist and photographer Jeff Clark works with multi- layered images but predominantly 35mm black-and-white negative film that he then hand processes in a dark room, as well as digital images from various cameras.

Brenna Allsuch, alias Thready Pulse, is a hand-embroidery artist, mural designer and painter from her home studio in York. Trained as an ICU nurse, she is also AOP Projects as head of communications and project support manager. 

“I first painted a mountain mural on a wall in my home and fell in love with mixing colours and creating a sense of depth just by adding lights and darks together,” says muralist Brenna Allsuch

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Brenna moved around Australia and Europe – Norway, Germany and Ireland – and ended up in Austin, Texas, where she spent 15 years. “I moved to the UK almost four years ago and came to York because I wanted to leave the USA and settle in a city where I could raise my kids in a safer environment,” she says.

“Between the political landscape in the USA and having the ability to move abroad, thanks to having English citizen children, York seemed like a great place to settle, and I’m so glad I moved here; I absolutely love it.” 

If her mountain artwork looks familiar to you from another York locale, you are correct: she designed the glass-frontage display at Skosh, Neil Bentinck’s restaurant of the gods in Micklegate.

Mountainous task: Brenna Allsuch, alias Thready Pulse, at work on her bench mural in Parliament Street, York

“I’ve always loved the mountains and have always had an interest in murals,” says Brenna, who also uses mountains as a reference in her modern hand embroidery.

“I first painted a mountain mural on a wall in my home and fell in love with mixing colours and creating a sense of depth just by adding lights and darks together.

“Having painted the mountain mural for Skosh, it seemed like an easy choice when we were approached by Thor’s Tipis to create a backdrop on interesting urban benches. I’m excited to continue to explore mountain ranges as a form of murals, as well as other landscapes, both realistic and abstract.”

Brenna Allsuch, ICU nurse, embroiderer, mural artist and Art Of Protest Projects project manager, poses beside street art collective The Postman’s mural of her in Bishopthorpe Road for their Guardians Of York installation. Picture: Dave J Hogan

Explaining the moniker Thready Pulse, Brenna says: “It comes from the medical term defined as ‘a scarcely perceptible and commonly rapid pulse that feels like a fine mobile thread under a palpating finger’.

“I’ve practised as a registered nurse for eight years, most recently working in the intensive care unit at York District Hospital, and when I first delved into the world of embroidery art about three years ago, I thought this was a fitting name for me, suggesting my love for both medicine and fibre arts.”

Her work as an ICU nurse in pandemic times has seen Brenna feature in The Postman’s series of Guardians Of York street art murals. Look out for her, shock of pink hair and all, on the end wall of Millie’s, the grocery store on Bishopthorpe Road.

Writing on the wall: Note the cacophony of words emanating from The Postman’s mural of Brenna Allsuch for the Guardians Of York installation series

NCEM director Delma Tomlin nominated for Freeman of City of York status…following in the footsteps of Dame Judi Dench

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

DR DELMA Tomlin MBE, founder and director of the National Centre for Early Music, has been nominated to receive the status of Honorary Freeman of the City of York. 

The decision will be made next Thursday (17/12/2020) at a special full council meeting of City of York Council, which “may lawfully appoint a person or persons who have, in its opinion, rendered eminent services to the city as outlined in Section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972”.

The meeting will consider nominations for awarding the title to both Delma, as busy as ever this week hosting the York Early Music Christmas Festival at the NCEM, and York historian Alison Sinclair. 

The last time this status was awarded was in 2014 to Lord Crathorne and, if the status is awarded next week, Delma and Alison will be following in the footsteps of the only women honoured since 2002: actor and national treasure Dame Judi Dench and Quaker, peace campaigner and long-serving head teacher of The Mount School, Joyce Pickard, who died in September 2017.

Delma’s nomination comes in recognition of her commitment to arts and culture in York over the past 40 years. She helped to secure significant funding to establish the National Centre for Early Music to deliver early music, world music, folk and jazz in the converted St Margaret’s Church building in Walmgate.

The NCEM stages the summer York Early Music Festival and its winter marrow, the York Early Music Christmas Festival, this year running a series of socially distanced concerts from December 4 to 12, complemented by the inaugural York Christmas At Home festival, streamed online from December 11 to 13. In addition, beyond York, she programmes the annual Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival.

The NCEM is recognised internationally for its promotion of Early music, also hosting the NCEM Young Composers Award and running a vibrant education and outreach programme, working with the communities of York throughout the year.   

“I have had so much fun with all the projects I’ve been involved in and, in this rather miserable year, it’s wonderful to be offered something so joyful,” says Honorary Freeman of the City of York nominee Delma Tomlin

In 2000, Delma was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of York in recognition of her work in the City of York. In 2008, she was appointed an MBE for services to the arts in Yorkshire in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

In 2018, she was made Cultural Ambassador for the City of York and was named Cultural Champion at that year’s York Culture Awards. In 2022, she will become the first female Governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers.

Reacting to today’s nomination, Delma said: “As someone who has lived in York for 40 years, I couldn’t be more pleased or imagine more of an honour. The city has given me such opportunities, and the people have always been extraordinarily welcoming.

“I have had so much fun with all the projects I’ve been involved in and, in this rather miserable year, it’s wonderful to be offered something so joyful.” 

Councillor Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council, said: “Given their eminent services to our city, I am delighted to support the award of Honorary Freedom of the City of York to both Delma Tomlin and Alison Sinclair.

“York has a rich history of freemen, with records dating back to 1272, making it an honour of great historical importance rarely awarded. It has been fascinating to read the nominations for Delma and Alison and learn more about the outstanding work they have done for both the city and its residents, in particular in the fields of heritage, culture and music.

“If the nominations are approved at the council meeting, a subsequent Civic occasion would then take place later next year to recognise and formally celebrate the honour.”