On World Theatre Day, York Theatre Royal looks outwards to say We Pull Together

Marketing officer Olivia Potter’s We Pull Together poster at York Theatre Royal,, pictured by events producer Zach Pierce when he left the theatre for the last time before the Coronavirus-enforced closure.

TODAY is World Theatre Day, but a day when the world of live theatre and its eye on the world are shut down by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, theatres are still marking the occasion, be it York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird’s Tweets throughout the day on his favourite theatres around the world, or reflections elsewhere on why theatre, in its myriad forms, is so important to British life.

At the Theatre Royal, show posters have been replaced by one message to the city of York, a rallying call reminiscent of wartime posters, designed in the Theatre Royal livery by marketing officer Olivia (Livy) Potter from an initial idea by development officer Maisie Pearson. 

In bold print, it reads: We Are Creative. We Are Sturdy. We Are Ambitious. We Are York. We Pull Together.

Bird’s eye view on World Theatre Day: York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird is marking the day with Tweets highlighting his favourite theatres in the world

Here, Olivia answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on how the poster came to be printed.

Why and how did you choose the wording of your poster, Olivia?

“The wording was inspired by York Theatre Royal’s values:

“We are ambitious
We are sturdy
We are welcoming
We are ambassadors for York
We celebrate the city’s true diversity; it makes us bloom
We are creative in every context
We pull together
We excel in every area”.

“The idea to take some of these values and work them into a message came from our development officer, Maisie Pearson, and it was a brilliant one.” 

Dumb question, but what prompted you to do it?

“We had to take the show posters down outside the theatre as they were promoting productions that had been cancelled, such as Alone In Berlin mid-run.

“The empty poster sites looked very forlorn and that got us thinking about putting up a poster with a message of support and solidarity for the city to see instead – something that could stay up for however long it needed to.”

Run halted: Alone In Berlin fell silent when York Theatre Royal closed in response to the Coronavirus pandemic

What is the overall message you are seeking to put across? Is it about theatre and the arts at large being woven so vitally into the fabric of York, or is it more about that wider message of the importance of all pulling together?

“I think it’s both these messages. It’s a very uncertain time for all industries right now, but particularly the arts and entertainment industry.

“We wanted to find some way of reassuring the people of the city that the curtain will rise again and we want everyone to be there when it does.

“Also, the narrative of the nation ‘pulling together’ by staying at home to save lives has really come into force, particularly over the last few days. The wording we’ve chosen for the poster seems to be quite vital now and in keeping with this narrative.”

Where are the posters on show at York Theatre Royal?

“One can be found by our Stage Door on Duncombe Place, next to Red House Antiques. Another can be found next to our patio area to the left of the theatre building on St Leonard’s Place.”

York Theatre Royal’s logo: colour palette is replicated in the new poster

Why are posters such a powerful medium in tumultuous times?

“Poster art and design is a really interesting medium, and very difficult to get right. I suppose the key is to keep it simple, find your message and present it in a way that is striking.”

How did you choose the charcoal and old-gold colour scheme for the poster?  Echoes of wartime posters, perhaps?

“The colours are actually the brand colours of York Theatre Royal, which unintentionally seem to have connotations of those famous wartime-era posters.”

Will there be more posters to come?

“We hope that won’t be necessary and that we can replace them with show posters soon.”

How are you spending your days during the theatre shutdown?

“I’m finding ways to engage with our audiences online; yoga; a bit of dancing; chatting to family and friends online; making fancy meals and drinking a fair bit of gin.”

Livy Potter in the role of Nina in York Settlement Community Players’ production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at York Theatre Royal Studio, February 26 to March 7

On World Theatre Day, why does theatre and the arts matter so much to you, both in your work at the Theatre Royal and as an actor?

“There’s nothing quite like the arts as a means of bringing people together, not just physically but emotionally too.

“I love being part of an audience who are engaged, laughing as one and sometimes even crying together, too.

“One of the biggest joys in my life is being part of a group who come together with the purpose of creating something as one – a shared aim of telling a story for others to listen to and enjoy.

“In this difficult time, I think people are going to find really ingenious ways of achieving this and when this all does finally end, I can’t wait for us all to come together once more to experience the joys of theatre afresh.” 

Nothing happening in these long lock-down days. Everything off. Here are 10 Things To Do on the home front, courtesy of The Press, York. Week two.

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

EXIT 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether still together or in isolation, in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these further suggestions.

Compiling lists of best songs by favourite artists

THE Beatles, The Rolling Stones, solo Beatles, Van Morrison, Velvet Underground, solo Velvets, Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, The Smiths, The Fall, whoever. Make a Top Ten or even Top 20, then send to friends to ask for their suggestions for the list and why they disagree with you.

You could also set up arguments: Kylie’s Top Ten versus Madonna; The Specials versus Madness; Holland Dozier Holland versus Bacharach and David; Rod Stewart versus Elton John; Abba versus Queen; U2 versus Coldplay. Any others?

Madness: More special than The Specials or is that utter madness?

Desert Island Slipped Discs

IF past editions of the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning staple have slipped your attention, it is never too late to discover the back catalogue at the Beeb online. You could pick a running theme, such as artists, musicians, poets, scientists, entrepreneurs, comedians, sportsmen, film stars, pioneers and church leaders.

Or, given the very necessary daily Covid-19 briefings from Number 10, how about politicians? Margaret Thatcher (1978); Edward Heath (1988); Enoch Powell (1989); Alan Clark (1995); Tony Blair (1996); Gordon Brown (1996); David Cameron (2006)…or, for a satirical variation, Spitting Image’s Peter Fluck and Roger Law (1987)?  

Follow the advice of Stephen Fry

FOLLOWING up last Thursday’s 10 Things advice to make a timetable for the day, Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning interview on the Beeb with national treasure and former Cundall Manor prep school teacher Stephen Fry elicited one gem of a suggestion. Take time, take longer, to do things, whether cooking a dish from a recipe book, or even when brushing your teeth.

Fry, the president of MIND, also advocated taking up a new hobby, or re-discovering a craft, in his case, calligraphy. Further suggestions: learn a language; learn sign language; test yourself on road signs (when did you last do that?).

Meanwhile, Fry’s partner in comedy since Cambridge Footlights days, House doctor Hugh Laurie, says of Coronavirus: “We solve it together by staying apart.”  Couldn’t have put it better.

Time to take time: Stephen Fry’s philosophy for these Coronavirus clampdown days

Administer a spring clean

STUCK at home, as you really should be by now, key workers excepted, this is the chance to gut rooms; to go through files, drawers, cupboards; to work out what clothes to keep and which to donate to charity shops. Likewise, games; books; kitchen utensils. Update Christmas card lists and address books.

Make time for nostalgia

DIG out old scrapbooks (Leeds United, League Champions, 1973-1974; the Cardiff Candlewits revue show, The Rantings Of A Raw Prawn, at the 1982 Edinburgh Fringe; cookery crush Nigella Lawson’s recipes – more pictures than recipes, to be truthful – to give three Hutch examples). Ah, those were the days.

Likewise, take a look through old photo albums, sure to trigger memories and promote family discussions… and maybe even lead you to research your family ancestry in the manner of BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?.

Scrapbook memories: Leeds United, champions, 1973-1974

Try to find good news

GREAT Yorkshire Show off. Ryedale Festival off. York Pride off. The Olympic Games off. The list of cancellations keeps growing. Against that backdrop, however, theatres, music venues and festivals are busy re-booking acts and shows for later in the year or next year.

Keep visiting websites for updates, whether York Barbican, York Theatre Royal, the Grand Opera House, wherever.

Look out too for the streaming of past shows. More and more theatres and arts companies are doing this.

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett, on Stonegate, York, with a Piers Browne painting, before the Coronavirus shutdown

Online exhibitions

GALLERIES in York are going online to keep the art (and hopefully sales) going. Step forward Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, where owner Terry Brett has launched Strange Days.

This service is not only a website portal for works from this season’s Full Sunlight show, featuring Askrigg artist Piers Browne and Holtby sculptor Hannah Arnup, but Terry also is inviting the 144 artists from next month’s cancelled York Open Studios to show their work on there too.

One of Tom Wood’s paintings from The Abstract Crow, Lotte Inch Gallery’s first online-only exhibition

Anywhere else?

LOTTE Inch Gallery, at Fourteen Bootham, will host its first online-only exhibition, Yorkshire artist Tom Wood’s The Abstract Crow, from April 17 to May 16.

“Known for his imaginative and allusive abstract approach to painting, Tom will pay homage to his love for the natural world in his new paintings,” says Lotte.

Venturing outdoors 

AMID the stricter Government strictures, aside from walking the dog and one burst of exercise a day, gardening looks the most fruitful way to spend time outdoors. The first mow of the season; buds coming through; plants to plant; garden furniture to varnish: ready, steady, grow. 

One to follow on Twitter: Reasons To Stay Alive author Matt Haig. Picture: MIke Tipping

And what about…

Podcasts. Books. More podcasts. More books. Season two of Liar on Monday nights on ITV. Noughts + Crosses on BBC One on Thursdays. Writing a 10 Things like this one. Reading the regular Tweets from Matt Haig, the Reasons To Stay Alive author with the York past. Drinking hot drinks, gargling regularly, and building up your zinc levels, as well as all that hand-washing.

See you later, self-isolator.

Copyright of The Press, York

Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play Truth Will Out mothballed as SJT takes Coronavirus measures for summer season

Sir Alan Ayckbourn: Summer 2020 premiere and revival cancelled at the SJT, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

THE world premiere of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th full-length play, Truth Will Out, will not go ahead this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Nor will his revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy of four birthdays, Just Between Ourselves, both productions scuppered by the Coronavirus crisis that has led to the SJT being closed.

Booked into the summer repertory season to run between August 20 and October 3, Truth Will Out was written by 80-year-old Ayckbourn in late-2019 as a satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation.

“Everyone has secrets,” says the tantalising synopsis in the SJT summer-season brochure. “Certainly, former shop steward George, his right-wing MP daughter Janet, investigative journalist Peggy, and senior civil servant Sefton, do.

Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director and joint chief executive Paul Robinson

“All it’s going to take is one tech-savvy teenager with a mind of his own and time on his hands to bring their worlds tumbling down – and maybe everyone else’s along with them. A storm is brewing.”

When that storm will now break cannot be forecast. Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website states: “It is not known what the future holds for Truth Will Out…”, but the truth will out on its path forward in due course.

Ayckbourn’s website also reveals he had written another play, Just Mercy, earlier in 2019 for his 2020 premiere before turning his attention to Truth Will Out instead. He still hopes Just Mercy “will be produced at some point in the future”.

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the world, joint chief executives Caroline Routh and Paul Robinson said today: “Like everyone else, we are in uncharted territory, but our current plans are based on probably being closed for most of the planned summer season, which means we’ll no longer be presenting Just Between Ourselves, The Ladykillers or Truth Will Out this year.”

Matthew Wilson and Nicola Stephenson in Hull Truck Theatre and the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s co-production of Two, directed by Hull Truck artistic director Mark Babych

Artistic director Robinson’s production of Father Ted and Black Books writer Graham Linehan’s  stage adaptation of the 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers would have run from July 9 to August 15, with its story of the sweetest of sweet little old ladies, alone at home but for a parrot with a mystery illness, at the mercy of a ruthless gang of criminal misfits.

The SJT is making plans to be “up and running again as quickly as possible once it’s able to”.

“We are already thinking about what might be possible should restrictions start to lift earlier than expected,” say Routh and Robinson. “We are extremely lucky in that we have a couple of shows which are ready, or almost ready, to go.

“Jim Cartwright’s Two, our co-production with Hull Truck Theatre, had already opened there, so can be on our stage at relatively short notice, while Little Red Riding Hood, which was due to fill our Easter slot for families next month, is cast and the set is nearly complete – we just need a couple of weeks’ rehearsal.”

Charlotte Brooke: one of the cast members for the SJT OutReach production of Little Red Riding Hood

Adapted by Saviour Pirotta, Cheryl Govan’s SJT OutReach production of this fabled story of not judging a book by its cover, or a wolf by its teeth, features a cast of Charlotte Brooke, Marcquelle Ward, Nicola Holliday and Charlotte Oliver, who were to have taken to The McCarthy stage from April 7 to 11.

Routh and Robinson continue: “While we couldn’t, of course, see an instant return to normal, we could start up our film programme again, schedule some pieces of visiting theatre, or stage a rehearsed reading or two, all of which will bring our building back to life quite quickly.”

The SJT’s box-office team is being kept busy, working remotely to contact those who have booked tickets for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.

Routh and Robinson say: “We’ve already contacted all those who’d booked tickets for shows and films during our initial week-long closure, and we were amazed by how many of them refused a refund, preferring instead to donate the cost of their tickets or credit their account.

The new message on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s former Odeon cinema frontage after the Coronavirus shutdown

“It’s so touching to see how many people are showing faith in our future and are keen to support us – our heartfelt thanks to all of them.

“We aim to remain an essential part of the wider community in the borough of Scarborough throughout this period, and really look forward to welcoming you all back when our doors re-open.”

The SJT is closed to the public, but until further notice the box office will be accepting phone and email enquiries from noon to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, on 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

The SJT will be posting regular updates on its website and social media channels: @thesjt.

WHAT’S STILL ON: Katherine-of-Yorkshire’s phone photos to bring peace to Village Gallery in York

York In Flood, 2019, taken by the York Museum Gardens, by Katherine-of-Yorkshire

VILLAGE Gallery, in Colliergate, York, will be “doing something a little different to our normal show” for its next exhibition, opening on March 31.

On display and for sale will be photographers by Instagrammer Katherine-of-Yorkshire, who uses only her phone camera to take her photos.

“Apart from occasional cropping, and selecting which filter to use, there’s no other manipulation or photoshopping of the images,” says gallery owner Simon Main.

Bootham Bar from King’s Manor by Katherine-of-Yorkshire

“Katherine’s preference is to photograph in black and white because she finds the result more timeless than using colour.

“From our perspective though, in addition to this, we see that she has a seemingly natural talent and eye for composition, and she manages to convey a deep feeling of peace, even when documenting the floods in York that happen all too regularly.”

In response to the ongoing Coronavirus situation, Village Gallery will not be holding its customary preview on the evening before the opening. “Enhanced regular cleaning and disinfecting practices have been put in place to keep our customers and us as safe as we can,” says Simon.

York Minster At Night, 2020, by Katherine-of-Yorkshire

“Until we are forced to do otherwise, the gallery will remain open for its usual opening hours, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and we look forward to seeing everyone throughout the period of the exhibition run until May 9.”

Aside from its regularly changing 2D and 3D art exhibitions, each running for six weeks, Village Gallery is York’s official stockist of Lalique glass and crystal, also selling art, jewellery, ceramics, glass and sculpture, predominantly by Yorkshire artists.

CORONAVIRUS: South African company Isango Ensemble cancels York Theatre Royal season in May

Isango Ensemble: May tour to York Theatre Royal cancelled; may tour next year instead,

ISANGO Ensemble’s three-week season at York Theatre Royal in May – the “highlight of their year” – has been cancelled in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The South African company, whose performers are drawn mainly from the Cape Town townships, was programmed to perform three shows from its repertoire, The Mysteries, The Magic Flute and SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, from May 5 to 23 in Isango’s first visit to York in their two-decade span. Now they hope to visit Yorkshire next year instead.

Isango Ensemble in SS Mend; Dancing The Death Drill. Picture: The Other Richard

Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird says: “We are devastated that our friends Isango Ensemble are unable to make the trip to the UK. They have been in rehearsal for a specially curated season of work that was sure to delight and inspire our audiences with their joyous productions. We hope there will be another opportunity for us to welcome the company to York in the future.”

Director Mark Dornford-May, the Yorkshireman who co-founded Isango 20 years ago, says: “The whole ensemble were so excited to be visiting York for the first time in our 20-year history. It really was the highlight of the year. To have been rehearsing the shows and then not be able to play them in that beautiful theatre is a deeply felt blow.

Isango Ensemble in The Mysteries: Noluthando Boqwana as Lucifer, left, with Devils

“Tom and all his colleagues have been so supportive throughout the last few difficult days and together we hope to create a plan to get to play in Yorkshire next year.”

Ticket holders will be contacted by the Theatre Royal box office in the coming weeks.​​

Did you know?

ISANGO Ensemble is a Cape Town theatre company led by director and co-founder Mark Dornford-May and music directors Pauline Malefane and Mandisi Dyantyis.

CORONAVIRUS: Art Of Protest kimino no-show for now but gallery vows to return

The notice in the window of the Art Of Protest Gallery, in Little Stonegate, York

EVEN a gallery with the bravura name of Art Of Protest must concede to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Craig Humble’s cutting-edge, fashion-savvy gallery in Little Stonegate, York, was to have launched its York Fashion Week exhibition of Pam Glew’s Kiminos with a preview this evening.

Not now. Today Craig posted a statement in the window, under the heading Gallery Closed – Temporarily, to announce that “sadly, with a heavy heart we are closing the gallery in response to the global pandemic”.

Pam Glew’s Kiminos: exhibition postponed, but Art Of Protest Gallery vows it will return

“Due to a combination of recent announcements, the importance for all our future of beating this outbreak and the reality of the ever-thinning streets of York, I am closing the gallery for at least a couple of weeks from Thursday March 19th, while the way forward becomes clear. Hopefully this is an au revoir; rather than a goodbye,” says Craig.

“I will be developing the website and investigating the online opportunities that can be maintained while away from the gallery, so keep an eye out on social media for any changes and news.” 

Those hoping to visit the Pam Glew exhibition “to purchase one of the amazing pieces”, says Craig, can click on the Pam Glew Catalogue button on the website, artofprotestgallery.com, for a catalogue of available work.

“Thank you for being part of the movement over the past three years and I look forward to seeing you on the other side of this pause. When we return, it will be with the exhibition newly which has been hung for York Fashion Week featuring Pam Glew’s Kiminos,” he adds.

The frontage of the Art Of Protest Gallery

Craig ends the statement by advising:

Although the gallery is closed from Thursday March 19, email and social media will be monitored if you want to get in touch. 

Any outstanding orders will be completed by appointment. Please email info@artofportestgallery.com to arrange. 

Please heed the warnings to defeat this virus, wash your hands and stay safe while this cold wind blows through our lives. 

CORONAVIRUS: York’s past at Jorvik Viking Centre closed for foreseeable future

JORVIK Viking Centre, in York, is temporarily closed for the foreseeable future in response to Government advice relating to minimising the risk of Covid-19.

Today’s statement from the Coppergate visitor attraction said: “The health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors is our number one priority and so we have decided this action is the best step to take at this moment in time.

“We will do all that we can to keep you updated on the situation through our website and social media channels.

“If you are a visitor, group leader or school booked with us over the next few weeks, our reservations team will be contacting you shortly to discuss what your options are with regards rescheduling, refunds and alternative experiences. We apologise for any inconvenience this closure may have caused.”

The statement continued: “We are owned by York Archaeological Trust, an educational charity with a mission of ‘Building Better Lives Through Heritage’; and so ensuring all of our audiences remain engaged with their past is one of our key aims.

“With this in mind, we are working hard behind the scenes to create some new digital content that we look forward to sharing with you in the coming days and weeks. Please keep checking our social media and website for details.”

Meanwhile, donations are being sought for Jorvik’s own future wellbeing. “If you would like to show your support and offer a donation to York Archaeological Trust to help assist us during this difficult time, it would be appreciated enormously,”

Donors are asked to click on a link at jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk. Alternatively, please email enquiries@yorkat.co.uk or call 01904 663000.

CORONAVIRUS: York Theatre Royal closed to the public from today

Building closed: York Theatre Royal

THE York Theatre Royal building is closed to the public until further notice.

This morning’s full statement reads: “Following the latest Government advice about Coronavirus, the York Theatre Royal building is now closed to the public until further notice. You can still contact our box office by phone on 01904 623568.  

“All Youth Theatre, LAMDA, Crafty Tales and Adult Theatre Workshop sessions will stop running for the time being. Costume hire is also closed until further notice.”

The statement continues: “It’s with enormous sadness that we temporarily close our doors, but the safety of our audiences, staff and community is of utmost importance. We apologise for the disruption and thank you for your support during this period of great uncertainty.

“We are making contact with ticket holders for the cancelled performances. If the closure period is extended, we will be in touch with bookers for future performances in good time, and we’ll also post updates to our website and social media channels. See you soon.”

No shows, no gigs, no ideas? Feeling listless? Here are 10 Things To Do At Home, courtesy of The Press, York

Nothing happening full stop. Now, with time on your frequently washed hands, home is where the art is and plenty else besides

Exit 10 Things To See Next Week in York and beyond for the unforeseeable future. Enter home entertainment, wherever you may be, whether still together or in isolation, in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic. From behind his closed door, CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Compiling your Desert Island Discs

CREATE your own Desert Island Discs and accompanying reasons, should you ever be called to answer Lauren Laverne’s questions on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning staple. Cue Eric Coates’s opening theme, By The Sleepy Lagoon, then your eight music choices, one book choice, one luxury.

Then play your list, but cutting it down to eight will be much harder than you first expect.

Make a cut-out of Lauren Laverne and do your own edition of Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs, suggestion number two

AND while you are about it, also take every opportunity to raid the Beeb’s Desert Island Discs back catalogue at BBC Sounds. Recommendations? Ian Wright, former footballer, turned broadcaster; Dr John Cooper Clarke, sage Salford stick insect and man of multitudinous words; Kathy Burke, Camden Town actress, comedian, writer, producer and director.

Make a timetable for the day

LIKE you would at work…though this timetable may not be possible, if indeed you are working from home.

Nevertheless, should the time need passing, allow, say, an hour for each activity, be it writing; reading; playing board games at the stipulated distances apart or card games, which can be done on your own, such as Patience; watching a movie, maybe a long-neglected DVD rescued from a dusty shelf; or whatever else is on your list.

“Puzzles are wonderfully relaxing yet keep the brain very active ,” says jigsaw enthusiast and York actor Ian Giles

Re-discover a childhood joy

PLUCKING one out of the air, how about jigsaw puzzles, a favourite of Mother Hutch and Granny Pyman before her.

“They are wonderfully relaxing yet keep the brain very active and there’s a feeling of creative satisfaction on completion,” recommends York actor Ian Giles, a devotee of such puzzle solving.


YORK singer Jessa Liversidge runs the Singing For All choir, as heard savouring I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing at Big Ian’s A Night To Remember at a packed York Barbican (remember those days?) on Leap Year Saturday.

Now, abiding by the Government’s Avoid Unnecessary Social Contact advice, to keep people singing, she is planning a range of online singing opportunities to suit not only her Singing For All and Easingwold Community Singers folks, but “any frustrated singers”. “Get in touch to find out how to join,” says Jessa, whose Twitter account is @jessaliversidge. She posts regularly.

Still on song: York singer Jessa Liversidge would like to reach the world to sing online

Lighting a candle

THE Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu, is asking us all to place a lighted candle in our window at 7pm this coming Sunday “as a sign of solidarity and hope in the light of Christ that can never be extinguished”.


ALL those cookbooks that you bought for the nice pictures, but have never opened since, are bursting with opportunities to try out a new dish…if the supermarket shelves have not been emptied by 10 o’clock in the morning.

Why not raid the store cupboard too, check the dates (and the dried dates from last Christmas) and see if anything may come in handy. The likelihood is more and more hours will have to be spent at home; this is a chance to stretch your culinary skills.

Candlelight: The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu’s Sunday request


HOPEFULLY, going for walks, maintaining a safe, previously anti-social distance, will still be a possibility, as advocated by Prime Minister Johnson, until otherwise stated.

If not, or if isolation is your way ahead, spring is in the air, gardens are turning green, the grass is growing. Gardening will surely be one of the unbroken joys of the ever-so-uncertain path that lies ahead.

Should you not have a garden, windowsills are havens for green-fingered pursuits: the seeds of much content.

And what about…

Podcasts. Books. More podcasts. More books. Box sets (yawn). Discovering a new band online, or maybe an old one you had long neglected. Writing a 10 Things like this one. Reading Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan’s morning Tweets, or any time of day, in fact. Reading York musician and motivational speaker Big Ian Donaghy’s perennially positive thoughts for the day @trainingcarers, BIGIAN #DEMENTIAisAteamGAME. Watch Channel 4 News, especially Jon Snow, one bright-tied 72 year old who should defy the imminent Government “curfew” on the over-70s. (UPDATE: 19/3/2020. Or maybe not. Tonight he broadcast from his central London home.)

Poetry in motion: Ian McMillan’s joyous Tweets from his early-morning walks

And finally…

PLEASE stop flicking through social media at every turn…except for displays of the ever-so-British black humour in response to the new C-word.

Any suggestions for further editions of 10 Things To Do At Home And Beyond are most welcome. Please send to charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com

Lights out, but what are York’s theatres doing to keep the fat lady singer at bay?

“Critical situation”: Dark nights, dark days too, at York Theatre Royal until further notice

CLOSED. Closed. Closed. Closed. Closed. York’s theatres have shut down en masse in response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Monday briefing on Black Monday to avoid unnecessary social contact at pubs, clubs and theatres.

One by one came the measured official statements in response to the rising Coronavirus pandemic, announced with regret, sadness and heavy hearts.

By way of contrast, a tide of anger rose ever higher on social media from the entertainment industry, feeling shafted by the PM not legislating closure, merely advising it.

In doing so, he placed the decision in the (no doubt frequently washed) hands  of theatre managements, boards and trusts, whose sense of moral responsibility left no option but to announce closure until further notice as a precaution amid the Coronavirus crisis. When insurance effectively amounts to no insurance, hell by hand cart is the only journey in town.

Lights out: Ellen Kent Company’s La Boheme, at the Grand Opera House tomorrow is snuffed out by the Prime Minister’s Coronavirus dictum

The Grand National, the first post-Brexit Eurovision, the Chelsea Flower Show, Glastonbury Festival, the Euro 2020 football championships, are all scrapped for 2020. A tsunami of further announcements will follow, not least from theatre companies cancelling or postponing tours.

Keep Calm and Carry On may be the mantra, but the fear is that Keep Calm and Carry On may well turn to carrion on account of, well, the accounts.

York Theatre Royal, in St Leonard’s Place, Theatre @41 Monkgate, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, and Riding Lights Theatre Company’s Friargate Theatre, in Lower Friargate, have individual boards and managements addressing urgent, previously unimaginable requirements and strictures.

Likewise, the Ambassadors Theatre Group, owners of the Grand Opera House, is co-ordinating the Coronavirus-impacted strategy throughout ATG, making statements for the Cumberland Street theatre, whose staff are now working remotely from home.

Clock stopped: PIck Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden was curtailed after Monday’s performance at Theatre @ 41 Monkgate, York

These are unprecedented circumstances. Circumstances not even seen in wartime when theatres – some, not all – across the land stayed open through 1939 to 1945.

Circumstances where the new C-word has led to theatre after theatre – together with cinemas, music clubs, museums, galleries, visitor attractions, SparkYork, et al – to issue variations on: “It is with enormous sadness that we take these measures, but the safety of our audiences, staff and community is of utmost importance.”

So, where does each of these York theatres stand now, in a city where, like the rest, the theatre focus is turning to those of the medical variety? The best advice is to visit the theatre websites for information on the present closures, ticket refunds, and, in light of the harsh financial reality, Donate Today requests. “Your support is vital to our survival,” pleads York Theatre Royal bluntly.

A spokesman for the Theatre Royal – take it as read that it was executive director Tom Bird – said: “The closure of theatres in the UK puts York Theatre Royal, along with hundreds of other theatres, into a critical situation.”

Road closed: Riding Lights Theatre Company have had give up The Narrow Road tour for Lent

Does that make it theatre’s version of the intensive care unit? Time will tell, but the arts have a way of defying the last rites, always have, always will, keeping the fat lady singer waiting, the final curtain up in the flies. What they will make of Richmond Rishi’s £330 billion loan scheme is another discussion point for the in-tray, however.

In a nutshell, York Theatre Royal’s shows and public events initially are cancelled until April 11, but there surely will be no miraculous resurrection on Easter Sunday. The York Theatre Royal building, box office and café remained open initially, but the building closed to the public today (March 19). The box office is still taking phone calls on 01904 623568; ticket refunds are underway.

Shows at the Grand Opera House, in common with all Ambassadors Theatre Group theatres, are “temporarily suspended with immediate effect”, with a policy of postponement and future re-arranged dates to be confirmed, rather than cancellations, at this stage.

“We are following government guidance which is currently ambiguous,” say ATG. “It is unclear how long theatres are to remain closed. We will reopen them once the government and medical authorities confirm that there is no risk to our audiences, performers and staff. 

The Missing Peace: one of the now missing pieces at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, but with plans for re-arranged dates later

“We are working hard with our producers and performers to understand how this will play out, so we can’t confirm that at this time. We will try, wherever possible, to re-programme shows that have been suspended.”

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre will remain closed “until we receive further instruction that it is safe to reopen”. “We will be issuing further advice in the coming days on how we are going to manage ticket refunds and exchanges,” says trust chairman Dan Shrimpton. “We would ask that you please bear with us and wait for us to contact you.”

The Theatre @41 Monkgate website is yet to be updated following Monday’s Coronavirus ultimatum – the About Us section has Covid-19 Guidance from before – but Pick Me Up Theatre artistic director Robert Readman announced performances would cease after Tom’s Midnight Garden that evening.

He also cancelled Pick Me Up’s Sondheim 90 birthday concert this Sunday and the April 17 to 25 run of The Pirates Of Penzance. Be assured that Coronavirus has been the death of York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth from March 31 to April 4 too.

Riding Lights, York’s Christian theatre company based at Friargate Theatre, have cancelled their March 16 to April 11 tour of The Narrow Road. “We are very sorry not to be performing this Lent but wish you a happy and safe Easter,” their website says.

Meanwhile, prayers and thoughts go to all those working in the theatres at York Hospital and elsewhere, preparing for whatever is to come.

Copyright of The Press, York