Sonita Gale delighted by response to immigration documentary as Hostile draws full house to City Screen show and Q&A

Dashka Varsani, filmed for Hostile when her Community Response Kitchen faced closure in the pandemic

SONITA Gale’s British immigration documentary Hostile played to a capacity audience at City Screen, York, on Tuesday evening.

Made during the pandemic, with contributions from George The Poet and composer Nitin Sawhney, her debut film highlights the UK’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities.

Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the feature-length documentary reveals the impact of the evolving “hostile environment”.

“This is the term used by the British government in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere they wanted to create for migrants, with the intention of provoking them to leave of their own accord,” says Sonita, who was born in Wolverhampton into a working-class migrant family from India.

Hostile explores how the lives of international students, members of the Windrush generation and ‘Highly-Skilled Migrants’ have been affected.

The stakes are high. An NHS IT engineer has spent tens of thousands of pounds on visa applications and is still waiting for settled status. A member of the Windrush generation has not recovered from detainment due to a lack of paperwork, in what came to be known as the Windrush Scandal. International students, now destitute, face deportation, and community organisers are struggling to feed these vulnerable communities without government support.

Anthony Bryan, who features in the Windrush detainment story in Hostile

Archival footage is used by Gale to depict the history of the British Empire, as well as charting the UK’s immigration policies over recent years to illuminate how we arrived at the situation we are in today.

“After decades of hostile immigration policies, Britain has reached a crisis point,” says Sonita. “With Brexit, the Points Based Immigration System and the Nationality and Borders Bill taking effect, the film asks: once the ‘hostile environment’ has targeted all migrants, who will it extend to next?”

That question was among those addressed by Sonita in a question-and-answer session hosted by CharlesHutchPress editor Charles Hutchinson, who opened out the discussion to the audience for further questions and comments, not least from Paul Wordsworth, co-ordinator of York City of Sanctuary.

Since 2016, this charity has played a vital role in supporting and welcoming people who come to York – the  UK’s first Human Rights City – seeking a new life.

“More than ever we need to work together to help people fleeing war, persecution, poverty and climate change,” says the charity’s website. “The necessary steps of financing specialised legal help, finding accommodation and work, plus education and language support, are just a few of the ways in which we lead.”

Reflecting on Tuesday’s screening and Q&A, Sonita says: “What a special evening for me. The evening was a sell-out and we had a very engaged audience. Questions were around legislation, bills, accountability and where we are heading. There was a genuine positive feeling that progression is ahead if we collectively come together.

Kill The Bill protestors in Hostile

“We were asked by older audience members how they could see Hostile on the TV and when it would be out as they want their families to see it. People also spoke of their own experiences, which was very heartfelt.”

Sonita reports screenings continuing to sell out across the country. “Please check out our ticket page at www.hostiledocumentary.com/tickets to see when there’s a screening near you,” she advises.


“They will continue until the end of March, and then the ‘impact tour’ begins for Hostile across April, May and June. We’re really hoping for a broadcast deal soon to continue to get these stories out there.”

What is the Hostile Environment?

“The UK Home Office’s hostile environment policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the United Kingdom as difficult as possible for people without leave to remain, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’,” says Sonita. “The term was coined in 2012 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May.

“Since 2010, the Government has launched a wave of attacks on the human rights of undocumented people – meaning people who can’t prove they have a right to live in the UK.

“The idea is to make life in the UK as unbearable as possible for migrants by blocking access to public services and pushing them into extreme poverty. Under the hostile environment, employers, landlords, NHS staff and other public servants have to check your immigration status before offering people a job, housing, healthcare or other support.”

Hands united in protest in Hostile

‘Britain has reached a crisis point’, as charted in Sonita Gale’s Hostile documentary on immigration at City Screen

The poster for Sonita Gale’s documentary Hostile, showing at City Screen, York, this evening

TICKETS are selling fast for this evening’s 5.55pm screening of Hostile, Sonita Gale’s documentary focusing on the UK’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities. A question-and-answer session with the director will follow.

Told through the stories of four participants from Black and Asian backgrounds, the feature-length film reveals the impact of the evolving “hostile environment”.

“This is the term used by the British government in 2012 to illustrate the atmosphere they wanted to create for migrants, with the intention of provoking them to leave of their own accord,” says Sonita.

Hostile explores how the lives of international students, members of the Windrush generation and ‘Highly-Skilled Migrants’ have been affected.

The stakes are high. An NHS IT engineer has spent tens of thousands of pounds on visa applications and is still waiting for settled status. A member of the Windrush generation has not recovered from detainment due to a lack of paperwork, in what came to be known as the Windrush Scandal. International students, now destitute, face deportation, and community organisers are struggling to feed these vulnerable communities without government support.

Archival footage is used by Gale to depict the history of the British Empire as well as charting the UK’s immigration policies over recent years to illuminate how we arrived at the situation we are in today.

“After decades of hostile immigration policies, Britain has reached a crisis point,” says Sonita. “With Brexit, the Points Based Immigration System and the Nationality and Borders Bill taking effect, the film asks: once the ‘hostile environment’ has targeted all migrants, who will it extend to next?”

What is the Hostile Environment?

“The UK Home Office’s hostile environment policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the United Kingdom as difficult as possible for people without leave to remain, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’,” says Sonita. “The term was coined in 2012 by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May.

“Since 2010, the Government has launched a wave of attacks on the human rights of undocumented people – meaning people who can’t prove they have a right to live in the UK.

“The idea is to make life in the UK as unbearable as possible for migrants by blocking access to public services and pushing them into extreme poverty. Under the hostile environment, employers, landlords, NHS staff and other public servants have to check your immigration status before offering people a job, housing, healthcare or other support.”

Tickets for Hostile are on sale at: picturehouses.com/cinema/city-screen-picturehouse. CharlesHutchPress editor Charles Hutchinson will host the Q&A.

What makes Hawkwind a ‘countercultural institution’? Ask Oz Hardwick, whose photographs at City Screen speak volumes

Hawkwind keyboardist Tim Blake and guitarist Dave Brock in concert . Picture: Oz Hardwick

YORK poet, musician, academic and photographer Oz Hardwick is exhibiting “very much a labour of long-standing obsession” at City Screen, York.

On show in the upstairs corridor until February 19 are his photographs of Hawkwind, one of the earliest space rock groups, who formed in Ladbroke Grove, London, in 1969 and have since gone through many incarnations, taking in hard rock, prog rock and psychedelic rock.

Lemmy, later of Motorhead, and Silver Machine, the June 1972 single that peaked at number three, are but part of a story that Oz has photographed from 1980 to 2021.

For many years he has focused on poetry and the academic world, way back in the 1970s, Plymouth-born Oz trained as a photographer, combining that skill with his passion for music and alternative culture.

Over the years, he has contributed to many album covers and books, most recently being the main photographic contributor to Martin Popoff’s Hawkwind: A Visual Biography, published by Wymer last year.

Oz exhibited a selection of his photographs at a festival at the Alhambra in Morecambe in 2018. “Then I was going to have a little exhibition to coincide with the band’s York Barbican show on their 50th anniversary but that didn’t quite work out,” he says.

“And so, it was going to be City Screen to coincide with the 50th anniversary of their first album [August 1970’s Hawkwind by Hawkwind], which was in 2020, so that didn’t happen either.

“But here it is at last, upstairs in City Screen, a bit of a celebration of a countercultural institution that’s probably been more influential than most people realise and is still going strong.”

Oz Hardwick: Poet, musician, professor of creative writing and photographer

Here Oz answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions about that “labour of long-standing obsession”.

What first drew you to Hawkwind, Oz?

“In 1972, I was a 12-year-old boy who loved music, with a particular enthusiasm for glam rock and a growing interest in heavy rock that came via my elder sister’s friends. I’ve read many times how David Bowie’s Starman on Top Of The Pops ‘changed everything’ for many people, and I remember the performance.

“However, it was the week after that Silver Machine appeared and for me that was really exciting. It’s up on YouTube now, but in those days all your friends would be watching the same thing at the same time, and I recall having to ask a friend the next day what this band had been called, because the clip – filmed in concert and cobbled together to accompany the single (and watched on a black-and-white TV) – had absolutely blown me away.

“I had no idea what was making some of those noises, the energy was like nothing I’d heard, and the band looked unhinged. It wasn’t just an exciting new group; it was a little glimpse of an alternative universe, which looked way more exciting than the one I was in. These people weren’t dressing up like Bolan and Bowie (who I really liked, by the way);  there was a sense of this being real

“And then, when I finally acquired an album the following year – the monumental Space Ritual – there were passages of poetry accompanied by unearthly electronic sounds. I’d picked up a love of poetry by osmosis from my grandfather who lived with us.

“He’d had no education, really, but had a passion for the Lake Poets and Burns, who were deeply attached to the places where he’d grown up and become a farm worker, and this was something which set that linguistic energy into the cultural context in which I was growing up – pop music, Apollo-era science fiction, and so on. And the artwork was amazing, too. It was the full package.”

Lemmy, photographed by Oz Hardwick in his post-Hawkwind years leading Motorhead. Not featured in the City Screen exhibition

Did you meet Lemmy [Hawkwind’s bass player from 1972 until being fired in 1975, when he formed Motorhead]?  If so, what are your memories?

“Lemmy was still in the band when I first saw Hawkwind in Plymouth Guildhall in February 1974, but I didn’t meet him until the early Motorhead days.

“When they started out, they were getting awful reviews and nobody much was interested as they were slogging around fairly grotty little clubs. I, of course, turned up to their first Plymouth gig early – I always wanted to get down the front – and the first few of us to arrive were roped into carrying a grand piano down the fire escape.

“Those were the days. It meant we got to hear the soundcheck, and I think we were let in free, too. And there was a bit of a tongue-tied greeting.

“They played a few times locally while they were still struggling along, and the band were always really welcoming, chatty, funny and down-to-earth. Then they went off to be pretty huge and no longer played to small but passionate audiences in sticky-floored clubs. “However, several years later I was at an open-air Hawkwind gig at Crystal Palace – the legendary event at which they shared the stage with Vera Lynn – and during the afternoon I happened to be walking vaguely towards Lemmy in the field.

“Amazingly, he stopped me and asked how I was. He was a fully-fledged rock star by then, but he still remembered those people who supported the band when there weren’t all that many of us. And I don’t think many people would be like that.”

Hawkwind’s stage set with the band logo at its heart. Picture: Oz Hardwick

You know the drill: “First three numbers only. No flash”. What are the challenges of photographing a band in concert under those circumstances?

“They will insist on moving about! I think the particular challenge with rock music is the lighting changes. It’s true with many artists, but Hawkwind were always particularly tricky as there was never much light on the band, who were quite often shadowy figures against brighter backgrounds. There’s still some of that, but less so than there used to be.”

Do you prefer photographing a band on stage, in the studio or off-guard?

“I much prefer photographing bands on stage. I’ve done some more posed off-stage work from time to time, but my enthusiasm has always been for capturing artists doing what they do, rather than imposing myself too much on things.

“When I was training as a photographer, I got really into theatre work, and it grew out of that, I think. Also, I’m a very socially awkward person (cripplingly so when younger), so it’s good to vanish into the background.

“In relation to this, I have to say how generous Hawkwind were, letting this awkward young bloke with a camera onto the side of the stage, into the dressing room, and so on. Again, I think this is probably quite unusual, to say the least.”

Where and when did you train in photography?

“I was at Plymouth College of Art in the late 1970s. I’d already learned the basics there on Saturday mornings while I was at school and I’d taken an O-level, so it was the logical next step – and I had no idea what else I might do.

“I’ve never been very career oriented. I’m now professor of creative writing over at Leeds Trinity University, but it’s not something I ever intended: I just always wanted to create things and was looking for ways to do so that worked for me. These days I only do a little bit of photography and it’s mostly writing, but they’ve both been constants for years, with just the balance shifting.”

Hawkwind: Black Sword. Picture: Oz Hardwick

You describe Hawkwind as a “countercultural institution”. In what ways?

“They emerged from that vibrant countercultural movement which had a bit more edge and political substance, which drew on agit-prop theatre, cutting-edge graphic design, the alternative press, and so on.

“They were effectively the ‘house band’ of that culture, supporting various causes, and while things have changed immensely, they have remained on the edge. They were at the heart of the free festival culture of the 1980s, for example, and they still have close associations with the Sea Shepherd and wildlife charities in particular.

“And they are a band who have evolved their own community, too, with their own small festivals and also taking artists under their wing to an extent.” 

How have Hawkwind “probably been more influential than most people realise”?

“Anyone with a vague interest in ‘classic’ rock music will know Silver Machine but the chances are good that they won’t know anything else. Their influence is disproportionate, though.

Hawkwind founder member Dave Brock: 53 years and counting. Picture: Oz Hardwick

“Because of the directness of their music and their disdain for the mainstream, they were a major – and frequently cited – influence on punk rock, while most of their contemporaries were being derided.

“Their experiments with electronics fed into ambient and New Age soundscapes and that was one of the roots of synth-pop, and the extended, repetitive structures are one of the foundations of the dance music that evolved from the late 1980s and continues to do so. In the diverse niches of contemporary alternative rock, they’re pretty much everywhere.”

Playing devil’s advocate, what does it take for a band to survive for 53 years on one hit?

“Now, that’s a complex one to answer, but part of it, I suspect, is that there was just the one hit. The follow-up, Urban Guerilla, was famously withdrawn amidst controversy as its release coincided with terrorist attacks, and that was pretty much it for pop stardom.

“Instead, they used the money from Silver Machine’s success to fund the elaborate staging of their ambitious Space Ritual tour, which led to the double album that is still regularly cited as one of the best live rock records ever.

“With the live reputation they built up, they didn’t really need to be on Top Of The Pops. I guess the ‘what if?’ scenario raises the question of whether, if they had managed a couple of follow-up hits, they might have had a brief flare at the top and just disappeared once they started slipping down the ratings.

“Interestingly, a couple of albums in recent years have made higher chart placings than anything they’ve released since the mid-’80s, so things haven’t worked out too bad. And, of course, they still have the instantly recognisable big hit on pretty much every ’70s rock compilation that gets released, which in itself is one up on thousands upon thousands of bands.”

Huw Lloyd-Langton in his days as a Hawkwind guitarist. Picture: Oz Hardwick

When did you first photograph Hawkwind; when did you last photograph them?

“My earliest (not great) photos are from 1980, the most recent from 2021. As it happens, though, the first time I ever took a camera to a gig was a Motorhead show in, I think, 1978, so there’s a connection there.”

What is the story behind you exhibiting your Hawkwind photos at a festival in 2018?

“The band organise their own little festivals and suchlike. In 2018, they had a weekend at the Alhambra in Morecambe, which was put together with poet, performer and all-round good guy Matt Panesh, to contribute towards keeping this beautiful old theatre open in quite a deprived part of the country.

“Hawkwind played a couple of times, along with assorted friends and relations; there were performances of plays by the late Robert Calvert (who, along with mainstay Dave Brock, wrote Silver Machine) and amongst the peripheral events and attractions I had a small photographic exhibition, with a number of pictures that had been on album covers, in books, and so on.”

How did you select the photos now on show in the City Screen corridor?  

“The exhibition features most of those I had printed for Morecambe, along with a few more oldies and some taken in 2021. Though it was another terrible year for the performing arts, Hawkwind managed a couple of shows.

“The highlight was definitely their Hawkfest over a sunny weekend in north Devon last summer. With a little under a thousand attendees and a great line-up – including two sets by Hawkwind and various members playing with other bands – and a lovely bunch of like-minded people getting together after months of lockdowns, it was a wonderful celebration of the music and of that community I mentioned earlier. There are a few photos from that weekend.”

Mr Dibs: Hawkwind’s vocalist, cellist, guitarist and bass player from 2007 to 2018. Picture: Oz Hardwick

How has the art of rock music photography changed over the past 40 years?

“I think it’s changed in the way all photography has changed. In the 1980s and 1990s, you’d really read the performance and get a few gems from your 36 or maybe 72 frames. Nowadays, anyone with a phone can get a couple of good shots from the 600 they take, all of which they upload onto Facebook.

“If I can get a bit cosmic for a second, though, the relationship between a photographer and the performance is very, very different. There’s an intensity of focus in the moment, coupled with a kind of acquired second sight, whereas I suspect someone waving their phone over their head is outside the moment. But we can maybe talk about ‘art’ another time!”

Which camera do you favour?

“The shorthand techie answer is Nikon for film and Canon for digital. Really, though, it’s anything that can capture a decent image (and most can) because all a camera does is capture what you see. It’s much more about looking than technology. As an aside, I do rather like seeing what the flaws in really poor cameras can do – I do like a bit of chaos.”

Do you keep a list of the album covers and books to which you have contributed photographs?

“I’m really bad at keeping records. I’ve built up quite a body of work in both writing and photography and am generally looking at the current project and the next thing. In terms of Hawkwind, the photos that have given me most satisfaction are the front cover and booklet of The Flicknife Years box set of 1980s’ recordings.

“I was following the band all over and really immersing myself in that wonderful world I glimpsed on Top Of The Pops back in ’72, and the idea of having something on the front of an album just seemed like fantasy.

“There were two United States reissues in the’90s – Zones and Do Not Panic – that came with posters of my photos, which were special to me in themselves, but also my parents had them on their hall wall for the rest of their lives and would proudly show them to all visitors. “Beyond that, there are a lot of album covers by the band and also off-shoots (there are a lot of ex-members after 53 years).

“Of the books, I’ve a number of pictures in Ian Abrahams’ Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins, the revised edition of which has one of mine on the front; and last year’s Hawkwind: A Visual Biography, by Martin Popoff, has well over 200 of my pictures, including the front cover. “Again, there are other books and magazines and so on. None of which I could even have imagined as I sat dumbstruck in front of that rented black-and-white telly half a century ago.”

Oz Hardwick’s Hawkwind exhibition runs at City Screen, York, until February 19.

Oz Hardwick’s book cover for Martin Popoff’s Hawkwind: A Visual Biography

More Things To Do in York and beyond as panto takes over an airfield car park. List No. 61, courtesy of The Press, York

Finding his feet: Jared More’s Fizzy Finn with Meg Blowey’s Tink the Cobbler in Riding Lights Theatre Company’s “crackling new Christmas adventure”

PLAN B may need its own Plan B amid the Omicron surge, but Charles Hutchinson seeks to be positive – in Christmas spirit only – until otherwise informed.

Children’s show of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company in Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet, Friargate Theatre, York, today to December 23

JON Boustead’s “crackling new Christmas adventure” addresses children’s mental health problems arising from lockdowns and separation from family and friends.

Finn is a fidget whose brain is ablaze with an unbreakable buzz that fizzes to his fingers and tickles his toes, or it would do if he could only find his feet in a 50-minute story of fear and bravery suitable for children aged five to 11.

The show’s magical blend of vivid storytelling, original music by Patrick Burbridge and creative puppetry is presented by Jared More’s Fizzy Finn and Meg Blowey’s Tink the Cobbler. Box office: 01904 613000 or at ridinglights.org/fizzy-finn.

Christmas Eve would not be complete in York without…City Screen showing It’s A Wonderful Life

Christmas film tradition of the week: It’s A Wonderful Life (U) at City Screen, York, today, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Christmas Eve

AN elderly angel is sent from Heaven to help desperately frustrated businessman George Bailey (James Stewart) as he contemplates suicide.

Taking George back through his life to point out what good he has done, the angel shows him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

Frank Capra’s classic from 1946 is a Christmas Eve big-screen staple: City Screen has shows that day at 3pm and 6pm. Box office: 0871 902 5747 or at picturehouses.com.

Joe Alexander Shepherd: York pianist returns to the NCEM tonight

Pianist of the week: Joe Alexander Shepherd, National Centre for Early Music, York, tonight, 7.30pm

YORK pianist and composer Joe Alexander Shepherd combines beautiful contemporary and classical music with a Christmas ambience tonight, complemented by special guest appearances by singer-songwriter Wounded Bear and singer Amelia Saleh on his return to the NCEM. Expect new compositions, by the way.

Shepherd composed the music for UEFA’s First World War Truce video, starring footballers Sir Bobby Charlton, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale, and for a UK Women’s Rugby Football Union advert.

Concert proceeds will go to the Charlie Gard Foundation to support families affected by mitochondrial disease. Box office: 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

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

Finale of the week: Uthink Piccadilly Pop Up art studios and gallery, 23 Piccadilly, York,  today and tomorrow

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

Since August 2020, the studios opened to the public on Saturdays to showcase work by 15 artists, ranging from painting, drawing, abstract art and collages to photography, sculpture, installation and poetry.

Today, public opening will be from 12 noon to 6pm; on Sunday, a festive market and extended art exhibition will run from 11am. Admission is free.

Shed Seven: Two “Shedcember” nights in Leeds on the Another Night, Another Town tour

Gigs of the week outside York: Shed Seven, Another Night, Another Town – Greatest Hits Live Tour, Leeds O2 Academy, Monday and Tuesday

SHED Seven have restarted their Covid-stalled tour after calling off December 10 to 16’s run of shows to next March when a member of the touring party tested positive.

Earlier this week, the York band tweeted: “Excited to confirm that the tour will resume this Friday [December 17] in London – let’s finish what we started!! New dates for the shows that were postponed will be announced next week. Shed Seven ride again. See you down the front. X.”

Tickets are still available for both Leeds gigs at ticketmaster.co.uk/shed-seven-leeds. Doors open at 7pm each night.

Head’s up: Michael Head to play The Crescent on Tuesday

Cult gig of the week:  Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band, The Crescent, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

IN the wake of Adios Señor Pussycat in 2017, Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band are working on a new album, nearing completion.

Devotees of the 60-year-old Liverpudlian’s gilded songwriting brio can expect to hear new songs as well as much-loved nuggets from his days in Shack and The Pale Fountains. Pet Snakes support at this standing-only gig. Box office: thecrescentyork.seetickets.com/event/michael-head

Car Park Panto’s Horrible Christmas: Parking up at Elvington Airfield on January 2

Pantomime in a car park? Oh yes it is, in Car Park Panto’s Horrible Christmas, Elvington Airfield, near York, January 2, 11am, 2pm and 5pm

BIRMINGHAM Stage Company’s Horrible Histories franchise teams up with Coalition Presents for Car Park Panto’s 14-date tour of Horrible Christmas to racecourses, airfields, stadiums and a motor-racing circuit.

In writer-director Neal Foster’s adaptation of Terry Deary’s story, when Christmas comes under threat from a jolly man dressed in red, one young boy must save the day as a cast of eight sets off on a hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas.

At this car-centred, Covid-secure experience, children and adults can jump up and down in their car seats and make as much noise as they like, tuning in to the live show on stage and screen. Box office: carparkparty.com.

Rachel and Becky Unthank: York Barbican concert on Sorrows Away tour

Looking ahead to 2022: The Unthanks, Sorrows Away, York Barbican, May 31; doors 7pm

NORTHUMBRIAN folk sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank will perform forthcoming new album Sorrows Away and Unthanks favourites with an 11-piece ensemble in a co-promotion by York’s Please Please You, The Crescent and Black Swan Folk Club and Brudenell Presents from Leeds.

As the album title suggests, Sorrows Away promises to be a blues-belter and a step into the light for sisters known more for melancholia and, well, sorrow. For tickets for The Unthanks’ return to touring after a two-year hiatus, go to: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

City Screen to host screening of new film version of antique dealer drama Quinneys

A scene from Quinneys in the making by University of Leeds theatre and performance students

CITY Screen, York, will play host to a special screening of Quinneys, Dr George Rodosthenous’s film adaptation of Horace Annesley Vachell’s long-dormant play, on November 24.

As part of the Year of the Dealer, an Arts & Humanities Research Council project organised by the University of Leeds and led by Dr Mark Westgarth, actors from the university’s theatre and performance programme have made the full-length feature film.

Quinneys is a comedy-drama of love, money, social climbing and fakes and forgeries set in the world of antique dealing. Written in 1915 by Vachell (1861-1955) and based on the real-life antique dealer Thomas Rohan (1860-1940), the original play tells the story of Joseph Quinney, a hard-nosed Yorkshire antique dealer, stubborn but endearing and keen to see his daughter marry well.

The stage play was hugely popular in its day with performances all over the world but it was last performed more than 70 years ago. This new film version is the first in almost 100 years.

Please note, the 5.30pm to 8.30pm event on November 24 is private and fully subscribed and will be preceded by a wine and canapes reception.

Second nature! Wildlife photographer Matt Bowden’s show at City Screen reopens

Barn Owl In Flight At Sunset, by Matt Bowden, from his Natural Landscape Of Yorkshire exhibition at City Screen, York

FILM and television location manager and photographer Matt Bowden’s exhibition of the natural world at large has re-opened at City Screen, York, after its Covid-enforced premature closure during lockdown.

“Born and bred in York, and growing up with such natural beauty on my doorstep in Yorkshire, meant it was almost inevitable I would develop an appreciation and interest in wildlife from an early age,” says Matt. “My grandfather, Eric Markham, was a keen bird-watcher, often taking me to local nature reserves for days out, binoculars around our necks.  

“Taking photographs is a big part of my job as a TV and film location manager, a 20-year career that has afforded me the opportunity to develop both my creative skills and passion as a photographer, while working on such titles as Phantom Thread, The Secret Garden and The Duke. 

“But the desire to capture images of wildlife came to me relatively late in life, as my growing interest in photography through my job collided with the joy and fascination that I found in the natural world that surrounded me.”

Bolty Reservoir, by Matt Bowden

The reactivated Natural Landscape Of Yorkshire exhibition in the City Screen café bar is bolstered by two new additions, one of a barn owl sitting on a post, the other of an owl in flight against a sunset backdrop.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to live near some amazing natural habitats and reserves, which offer a hugely diverse range of subjects,” says Matt. “I find owls of particular interest, having spent many hours studying their behaviour, feeding routines and hunting grounds.

“I relish the technical challenges inherent with photographing a bird that mostly hunts in very low light, making a successful capture all the more rewarding. I often use a hide, which allows me to get closer to my subject than I ever thought possible.”

Matt has just started location work on Carol Morley’s new film Typist Artist Pirate King, a hive of  activity that could not be further removed from his wildlife photography pursuits, where tranquillity and isolation provide “a perfect remedy for the chaotic and often intense lifestyle most of us find ourselves engulfed in”.  

Tawny Owl, Wheldrake Ings, North Yorkshire, by Matt Bowden

“The photographic challenge is not only the hours spent hidden in bushes and hides studying a natural subject, but more so to successfully create an image that proves to be both unique and artistically expressive,” says Matt, whose City Screen exhibition coincides with a pictorial feature in the September edition of Outdoor Photography magazine.

“In my photographs, the environment wherein the subject resides plays as important a role as the subject itself when forming a composition.  

“Yorkshire has such a diverse and rich tapestry of nature and landscapes, and that’s why I feel fortunate to be able to call it home.”

Matt Bowden’s exhibition, The Natural Landscape Of Yorkshire, runs at City Screen, York, until September 11.

York photographer Matt Bowden with his exhibition at City Screen, York

SNAP chat as Matt Bowden answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions.

Did you take photographs during lockdown and did you notice a difference to nature at that time?

“Lockdown meant I was unable to spend as much time in the field as normal, finding comfort in the garden instead. As restrictions eased however, and I was afforded more time with my camera outdoors, I certainly experienced a heightened awareness of the relevance and importance that wildlife, and the natural landscape, plays in all our lives.

“We’ve become victims to the strains and pressures of our modern world, and if one positive thing emerged from the devastation of the pandemic, it was a universal appreciation of our natural surroundings.

“While I’m certain hitting ‘Pause’ on excessive human activity would have given nature some much-needed breathing space, only time will tell if it has sparked a longer-term effect on the way we value, and consequently treat, the increasingly threatened natural world that surrounds us. I’ve taken some of my best images during the last year.” 

Barn Owl On A Post, by Matt Bowden

Why is nature your favoured subject matter?

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and being among nature. It is as complex and baffling as it is beautiful and exists all around us. For me, it’s a constant comfort that asks only for our limited respect and appreciation, in return for boundless joy and fascination. “

How did the feature in Outdoor Photography come about?

“I’ve enjoyed reading the magazine for a number of years now, which is a great means of gathering inspiration from other photographers’ work. Social media has its benefits, but finding creative focus among the sea of visual noise can be time consuming and draining.

“A publication like Outdoor Photography offers a very specific output, showcasing a high standard of work in the field I’m most interested in, without distraction. While I’ve always loved the idea of having my images featured in the publication, it was actually my hugely supportive partner, Grace, who pushed the process over the finishing line, submitting the initial images on my behalf.” 

“If one positive thing emerged from the devastation of the pandemic, it was a universal appreciation of our natural surroundings,” says Matt

What makes the perfect conditions for a photograph of nature?

“The right light, which is a luxury nature photographers can rarely rely on. There are so many elements that make a successful capture, and while the subject is always front and centre, the right light conditions play a huge part.

“Low, flat light levels provide not only huge technical challenges when trying to achieve high-enough shutter speeds to photograph an unpredictable and often fast-moving subject, but also make for a less-inspired final image.

“The photographs I’m most proud of were taken amid the warmth and beauty of early-evening sun, while it’s low in the sky and still bright enough to sufficiently light the landscape.”  

“Yorkshire has such a diverse and rich tapestry of nature and landscapes, and that’s why I feel fortunate to be able to call it home,” says Matt

What characteristics are required of the photographer? Patience? Calmness? Instinct?

“An appreciation and love of the natural world is the most important characteristic, along with a creative vision of the final image. My favourite subject is the barn owl, and I always had an idea in my head of the shot I wanted, which allowed me the drive and focus to achieve it. 

“While composure, calmness and patience in the field are all important elements, having a passion for your natural surroundings and a clear vision makes this less of a considered discipline. 

“That said, the mental challenges inherent with spending hours isolated in the field, with hope and anticipation your only companion, should never be underestimated.”      

‘I’ve got the NHS bug,’ says York artist Karen Winship as she starts new series after Askham Bar vax centre show launch

Not Just A Vaccine: Karen Winship’s commissioned painting of Nimbuscare staff at York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar

YORK artist Karen Winship honours NHS staff in her new commission, Not Just A Vaccine, on show in the “Tent of Hope” at York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar.

Karen’s acrylic-on-canvas work features ten staff from the Nimbuscare team at the vaccination site, where her NHS Heroes exhibition will greet visitors until the end of summer as they wait for their jabs and rest afterwards.

Not Just A Vaccine was commissioned by exhibition promoters Pocklington Arts Centre, ahead of Winship’s poignant portraits of frontline NHS workers taking up temporary residence in York after earlier pop-up displays on the railings of All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and at Hull Waterside and Marina.

“I was approached to do the new painting when I was doing the publicity for the Hull Marina show in April/May time,” says Karen. “I took photographs of staff, and there are ten portraits within the painting, so it took time to arrange and to get the composition right. It needed 40 to 50 hours, which is unusual for me, as normally I ‘slap them out’ and they’re done!”

Michelle Philips, director of quality and patient experience (Nimbuscare), left; Dr Nick Bennett; Zoe Spowage, St John’s Ambulance first aider; Karen Winship, artist; Sam Chapter, security, and Melanie Carter, lead nurse, (Nimbuscare) stand in front of Karen’s specially commissioned artwork.

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) director Janet Farmer says: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been making art accessible for all by taking two exhibitions by two fantastic York artists, Karen Winship and Sue Clayton, on tour to various locations in the region.

“When the opportunity to take NHS Heroes to the York Vaccination Centre arose, we couldn’t think of a more fitting location for these stunning portraits that have been created by a very talented artist.

“We hope they brighten up the space while honouring all those who have worked so hard at this challenging time.”

Karen says: “It has just been incredible to have been able to have my work toured across the region and seen by so many people thanks to PAC, and now it is in such a fitting, poignant location.

“The specially commissioned piece really finishes the collection off nicely and is a timely and relevant tribute to the team at the York Vaccination Centre, as well as to all NHS staff who have worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic.

Michelle Philips, director of quality and patient experience (Nimbuscare), left, artist Karen Winship and Sara Morton, of Pocklington Arts Centre, at the launch of Karen’s NHS Heroes exhibition at York’s Vaccination Centre

“There’s still much work to be done and I hope my portraits bring some joy into the working day of the Nimbuscare team, as well the hundreds of daily visitors to the site.”

Around 1,500 people pass through the “Tent of Hope” at the Askham Bar NHS Vaccination Centre, where 3,000 visitors file through the site at its busiest times.

Michelle Philips, Nimbuscare’s director of quality and patient experience, says: “Showcasing art within the ‘Tent of Hope’ brightens up everyone’s visit to the vaccination centre and we’re so grateful to have yet another fantastic collection from the very talented Karen Winship. We’re delighted with the special piece of art she has done for us which will be treasured by us all.”

Karen started her career in graphic design before gaining her teaching degree and going on to work in a maximum-security prison as head of art. She paints mainly in acrylics, always looking for the narrative within an image, and that narrative at present revolves around the NHS.

Karen Winship’s acrylic portrait of her daughter Kelly, an occupational therapist at York Hospital, from the NHS Heroes exhibition

“I’ve got the NHS bug, so I just seem to be obsessed, or maybe ‘upset’ is the better word for how I feel about the way the NHS is being overrun at the moment, and staff are just not being cared for,” she says.

“You can see how stretched they are, because so many staff are off with Covid or they’ve been ‘pinged’, which means they’re even more down on numbers. They’ve had to deal with the Covid pandemic and they’re tyring to catch up with everything else, so I’m now doing a series showing the exhaustion of the paramedics, doctors and nurses.

“I’ve done three so far. I’ve got a source close at hand because my eldest daughter Kelly [who features in the original NHS Heroes portraits] is an occupational therapist at York Hospital.”

Karen has further sources of inspiration for her subject matter. “My ex-husband husband, Kevin, is a paramedic and my father – who’s no longer with us – was a paramedic. I use references such as Kevin’s uniform for stock images,” she says.

Constant And Great, from Karen Winship’s ongoing new series of NHS paintings

Among the new series is the tribute piece Constant And Great. “I’ve taken an image of the statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, outside York Minster, and adapted it for the painting, where the figure still looks like him but now he has logos of key workers.

“He still has his cape but now it’s more of a hero cape, and he has a pair of trainers, thrown off by his bare feet. He has a nurse’s uniform and a stethoscope around his neck, and he’s now holding a staff of life, rather than a sword, in one hand, and a mask in the fingers of his other hand.”

Karen is “not sure what’s going to happen next with the series”, but says: “It would make sense, as it’s all about the NHS, to have the paintings put on show at York Hospital, but I already have my series of dementia paintings there, so I don’t really know what the plans are.

“Hopefully, I’ll get them shown at City Screen and I’ll approach York Art Gallery, as they’ve both shown my NHS Heroes portraits.

“These paintings are bursting out of me right now. I think one of the dementia paintings has been taken down at the hospital for being ‘too depressing’, but that’s what we’re going through. These are troubled times.”

Karen Winship’s self-portrait as she worked on her NHS Heroes painting of daughter Kelly

Karen Winship’s poignant NHS Heroes portraits show launched at Hull Marina

Mother and daughter: Karen Winship’s self-portrait of her painting her portrait of Kelly, an NHS occupational therapist

YORK artist Karen Winship’s poignant tribute to the selfless work of front-line NHS workers during the Covid-19 pandemic is on display at Hull Waterside & Marina until June 20.

Eleven of Karen’s NHS Heroes portraits were first shown at York Art Gallery in the Our Heroes Welcome thank-you to essential workers from August 1 when Lockdown 1 eased last summer.

Last August too, 13 more made their debut at City Screen, York, where the exhibition included a montage of all 24 that is being gifted to York Hospital by Karen, whose self-portrait of herself painting one of the NHS Heroes completes the collection.

The original paintings have been presented to the sitters, but the 24 portraits have been given a new life, reproduced on biodegradable boards for outdoor display by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) at a larger size than the originals.

Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes portraits on the railings at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington

First shown side by side on the railings at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, from late-November to January, the portrait prints have headed further east to Hull, where they can be viewed for free, thanks to PAC joining forces with the marina managers, Aquavista.

“I’ve had a great response to the portraits so far, so it’s incredible that Pocklington Arts Centre is now taking the exhibition on tour into the wider community,” says Karen, whose work also features in Portraits For NHS Heroes, a fund-raising book for NHS charities.

“It’s been such a challenging time for everyone, especially our NHS front-line workers, and this was my way of recognising everything they do for us, so it’s fantastic that this recognition can be expanded even further. Art doesn’t get much more accessible than an open-air exhibition.

“I’m delighted to see my portraits lining the railings along Hull Marina, which is a landmark in itself, and I hope the public enjoy them too.”

Amanda, by Karen Winship, from her NHS Heroes series of portraits

NHS Heroes is one of two pop-up touring exhibitions being taken into communities across the region by PAC. York artist Sue Clayton’s collection of 21 portraits celebrating children and young adults with Down Syndrome was unveiled last Tuesday at the NHS York Vaccination Centre, at Askham Bar, for browsing by those attending jab appointments in the “Tent of Hope” until June 13. Plans are being put in place for the “21” show to transfer to Hull Marina after Karen’s show closes.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “Making our exhibitions accessible to the public despite the pandemic has been really important for us, and the feedback has been really positive, so we’re very much looking forward to enabling even more people to see these incredibly poignant portraits created by the talented Karen Winship.

“We think they will make for a striking display along the marina. Our thanks to Aquavista for helping to make this possible.”

York artist Karen Winship with Aquavista manager Graham Richardson and Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer at Hull Waterside & Marina

Aquavista took over ownership of Hull Waterside & Marina last year and were only too keen to support PAC’s pop-up exhibition plans. Manager Graham Richardson says: “We’re delighted to support this fantastic initiative. The marina is a popular visitor destination, so we hope to see lots of people coming to view the portraits over the next few weeks.”

Karen, artist and educator, had begun her career as a graphic designer, later gaining a teaching degree and subsequently working for 15 years at a maximum-security prison as head of art.

Embarking on her journey as a professional artist in 2012, she is “living the dream” in her words, not least as a community-minded artist who enjoys “giving back” through her involvement in community art projects.

NHS Heroes is her latest public-spirited endeavour, this one inspired by Tom Croft’s #portraitsfornhsheroes project for artists to complete a free portrait in appreciation of the NHS for gifting to the worker depicted.

Karen Winship’s portrait of Samantha, from the NHS Heroes exhibition and Portraits For NHS Heroes fund-raising book for NHS charities

“There was a shout-out on Facebook across the country from Tom Croft, calling for artists to take part, and I was inundated with ten requests. Then I appeared on Look North and got even more,” says Karen.

“Tom Croft has now put together a book of 300 of the portraits, including one of mine, the one of Samantha, when she hasn’t got a mask on, but you can see all the creases on her face from the mask.

“Portraits For NHS Heroes is available in hardback on Amazon with all proceeds going to NHS charities.”

Among Karen’s portraits is one of her daughter, Kelly, who works for the NHS as an occupational therapist, bringing home the challenges faced by frontline workers in the pandemic. “I even had to do her portrait from photographs,” says Karen, to whom most of her subjects were unknown.

Kelly, NHS occupational therapist and daughter of artist Karen Winship, from NHS Heroes

“They were a few people I know from York, but the photographs came from all over. Newcastle, Northern Ireland, Scotland. At first, I thought it might be difficult to work just from a photo, because I’m used to doing portraits from people sitting for me, but because these photographs were taken as they were working, looking into their eyes, you can see the trauma, the sadness, the exhaustion.

“Normally, you can see a sitter’s mouth, but invariably in these photographs the mouth had to be covered with a mask, so the eyes become even more important.”

Karen’s portraits were first “exhibited” informally. “My neighbours in my cul-de-sac [St Thomas Close in Osbaldwick] put them in their windows,” she recalls. “People even came from Beverley and Newcastle to walk down the street, and one told me their back story…and you then carry those stories with you.”

Karen Winship at Monday’s launch of her NHS Heroes exhibition at Hull Waterside & Marina

She found creating the NHS Heroes portraits “so intense”, she eventually had to stop. “I tend to work quickly because I like spontaneity,” says Karen. “Normally with portraits, I work from one sitting and then photos, but what was different with these portraits was that I was totally absorbed just in painting. Normally, we would be chatting at a sitting.

“I was exhausted, doing one after another from photographs. I just kept going until they were done. Afterwards, I immediately went on to do something that was colourful: a couple of autumn paintings, still lifes. I had to do something that was completely contrasting.

“And I’ve also been lucky that since the NHS project, I’ve had various commissions as I had to cut back on my teaching during the lockdowns.”

For more information on PAC’s forthcoming exhibitions, visit: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Joan, portrait by Karen Winship from the NHS series

Matt Bowden’s Yorkshire landscapes are on show at City Screen….but not for long alas

Tawny Owl, Wheldrake Ings, North Yorkshire ,June 13 2017, by Matt Bowden

HURRY, hurry, to the City Screen café bar to see York photographer Matt Bowden’s exhibition The Natural Landscape of Yorkshire.

The Coney Street cinema, in York, will be closed after Thursday’s screenings following Cineworld’s decision to shut all its cinemas temporarily until further notice as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on the entertainment world.

This sudden shutdown follows the wounding blow to the cinema industry of the release of the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die, being postponed for a second time, put back from November 12 to next April.

York photographer Matt Bowden with his Natural Landscape of Yorkshire photographs in the City Screen cafe bar in York

City Screen, in Coney Street, is part of the Picturehouse Cinemas Group now owned by Cineworld.

Consequently, Bowden’s debut York show will be curtailed only eight days after opening last Wednesday, although he hopes the exhibition will be given the green light to resume once City Screen reopens.

Such a reopening is not expected until after Christmas at the earliest, according to City Screen general manager Tony Clarke.

Bolty Reservoir, January 29 2018, by Matt Bowden

Hence the urgency to view the photography of Matt Bowden, 43, a location manager for film and television productions by profession.

“Photography has played a huge part in my 18-year career as a location manager, working on such titles as Phantom Thread, The Secret Garden and The Duke,” he says.

Born and bred in York, Bowden developed his love of nature when bird-watching with his grandfather, Eric Markham, as a child.

Deer, April 3 2017, by Matt Bowden

“My primary passion has long been the natural world, photographing the wealth of landscapes and wildlife that my home county of Yorkshire has to offer,” says Matt.

“The tranquillity, isolation and mental clarity this provides offers a perfect remedy for the chaotic and often intense lifestyle most of us find ourselves engulfed in.”  

Matt’s photographic challenge is a dual one: “Not only does it require all the hours spent hidden in bushes and hides studying a natural subject, but more so you must successfully create an image that proves to be both unique and artistically expressive,” he says.

Yorkshire landscape, February 6 2018, by Matt Bowden

“I consider the environment in which the subject resides to play as important a role as the subject itself when forming a composition.”

God’s Own Country duly plays a prominent role in Bowden’s photographic work. “Yorkshire has such a diverse and rich tapestry of nature and landscapes that I feel fortunate to be able to call it home,” he says.

Contemplating the stultifying impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, he says: “It’s just such a shame City Screen is closing for the foreseeable future. The film industry is in a bad shape, and the film I was meant to be working on from this autumn has been pushed into Spring/Summer 2021.”