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.” 

10 “Must Attend” events at York’s online Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2020

LOCKDOWN 2: The Sequel will not affect the tenth anniversary edition of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York.

ASFF already had decided to go virtual in Covid-19 2020 for its history-making online run from tomorrow (3/11/2020) to November 30, inviting you to “Discover New Cinema At Home”.

“The online programme brings a wealth of new opportunities for digital visitors, though returning patrons can enjoy the same diverse and forward-thinking identity that ASFF has defined over its ten-year lifespan,” says director Cherie Federico.

“With this ground-breaking blend of virtual developments and steadfast programme of short films, masterclasses, guest programmes and development opportunities, ASFF promises a festival this year like no other.” 

The film programme features 300 works in the Official Selection across 12 short film genres, released in six daily curated strands from November 3 to 8, entitled Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places And Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal Narratives and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life. 

Cherie Federico: Ten years at the helm of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival

This year’s extensive Guest Programmes presents specially curated screenings from 13 organisations. Key topics and themes include Defining Gay Cinema, Tales From Isolation, Documenting Modern Britain, Indigenous Cinema, I Still Can’t Breathe and The Future Of AI. 

Showcase Screenings offer films from London College of Communication, London College of Fashion, Arts University Bournemouth, Regent’s University London, University of York, York St John University, University of Lincoln, Falmouth School of Film and Television and Ravensbourne University.

Here are ten hotly anticipated events to be experienced from the comfort and safety of your own home, as picked by Cherie, from a festival with 450 films, 100 industry events, 50 masterclasses and one online platform.

ASFF Ten Year Anniversary Guest Programme, released online on November 3

IN this one-off honorary event, ASFF welcomes back alumni from the past nine editions of the festival to present specially curated short film strands that define the turbulent times that we face today.

Turning the spotlight on the climate crisis, global migration and the evolution of technology, this rousing and interrogative collection of films provides a visionary time capsule for audiences.

Virtual Industry Marketplace, available to visit from November 3 to 30

MORE than 40 exhibitors from film festivals, screen agencies and many more will congregate on ASFF’s new virtual platform for this networking event.

For emerging talent and industry practitioners, this is the perfect chance to meet the people you need to boost your film-making career. 

I Still Can’t Breathe Directors Notes and Can We Talk DXB, released online on November 3

THE death of George Floyd in May at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sent the world spinning on its axis.

This series of short films, curated by digital platform Directors Notes and Can We Talk DXB, an online source dedicated to lifting Black voices, continues the conversations that grew louder as a result of Floyd’s brutal death with this charged and demanding programme of short films.

VR For Change: Beyond Entertainment, November 3, 3.30pm, Industry Channel 1

WHERE does the potential for VR and 360-degree filmmaking end? This focused discussion explores the possibilities that these rapidly advancing approaches to capturing content in medicine and education among other fields. 

World Class Filmmaking: Making More With Less, November 4, 10am to 12 noon, Industry Channel 1

SECURING financing is a longstanding obstacle faced by emerging filmmakers as they take their tentative first steps into their careers.

It is vital, however, to learn the skills needed to create your vision on a modest budget. Step forward Lincoln School of Film and Media to host a resourceful panel discussion that will cover everything, from film production to marketing and distribution.

Re-Imagining The Film Industry: Beyond Covid-19, November 4, 1.30pm to 3.30pm, Industry Channel 2

AS this year’s online edition of ASFF highlights, the film industry has adapted since Covid-19 forced the world into lockdown. Courtesy of Ravensbourne University, this thoroughly constructed panel aims to address big questions that filmmakers hold with no clear end in sight to our current circumstances.

Iconic Cinema: Andrea Arnold in Conversation, November 6, 7pm, Industry Channel 1

MULTIPLE Cannes and BAFTA prize-winning English filmmaker Andrea Arnold joins ASFF 2020 for a deeply reflective, insightful career retrospect.

Chaired by Birds Eye View founder Mia Bays, Arnold will dissect the themes and inspirations behind her body of work, such as Cannes Jury Prize winner American Honey (2016), Fish Tank (2009) and her Oscar-winning short, Wasp (2005).

Presenting The Facts: Documentary Filmmaking, November 7, 12.30pm, Industry Channel 1

THE possibilities have never been greater for non-fiction filmmaking, but nevertheless it is not without its challenges. A  panel of knowledgeable, successful documentarians will lend key advice to virtual attendees, with a special focus on short-form content. 

A Life In Music: Barry Adamson In Conversation, November 8, 2.30pm, Industry Channel 1

FORMER Magazine and Birthday Party bassist and Nick Cave collaborator Barry Adamson will share his love of music and cinema in a special masterclass, hosted by Jason Wood, artistic director of HOME, Manchester. HOME arrtistic Director Jason Wood.

Adamson, whose music has appeared on the soundtracks of David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, has been instrumental to British pop culture for more than 40 years. “This is a must-see event for film and music lovers alike,” says Cherie. 

Dame Judi Dench: An Icon Of Cinema, November 8, 4pm, Industry Channel 1

DAME Judi Dench, Oscar and BAFTA award-winning actress from York, will join ASFF 2020 for a special retrospective wherein she will draw on a lifetime of unforgettable portrayals and productions.

Festival tickets can be bought by signing up to ASFF’s online platform. These include:

The Unlimited Pass: Unlimited access to the platform, including screenings and masterclasses, sessions and panels, November 3 to 30.

The Festival Week Pass: Unlimited access to the festival platform, from November 3 to 8.

The Day Tripper Pass: Unlimited access to the festival platform for 24 hours from first log-in.

The Film Fan Pass: Unlimited access to all films from November 3 to 30. Not inclusive of masterclasses and sessions. 

For tickets, go to: You can log in to ASFF 2020 on your TV, smart phone, tablet or computer.

Aesthetica Short Film Festival goes online for biggest and longest fest for 10th year

“Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2020 will be the most exciting yet,” says director Cherie Federico

TWO of York’s four cinemas, Cineworld and the City Screen Picturehouse, are temporarily closed but the Aesthetica Short Film Festival is responding to Covid-19’s 2020 challenges to the film and events industry with its biggest programme yet.

What’s more, the tenth anniversary edition of this annual autumn highlight of the York culture diary will run all month, from November 3 to 30, rather than the six days first planned before lockdown. No wonder, director Cherie Federico calls it “this beast of a festival” that promises to be “the most exciting yet”.

ASFF 2020 will be held on your phone, TV set, tablet and computer, at home rather than around the city of York, in the necessary concession to taking the festival online for digital and live-streamed events.

“I gave myself an August 1 deadline to decide what festival we should hold, so what I was doing all the time was planning two alternative festivals: a hybrid one, both live and online, or a fully virtual one,” says Cherie.

“So, I’ve been doing double the work. August 1st came and I’m really glad to have made the decision then, as this is now going to be a massive, massive event with more than 100 events taking place online.

“My idea was that it would have to be a bespoke and special experience, something that people would invest time in, which is why we’re extending it to a month, with a month’s pass letting you have a festival in your front room, where you can connect with this amazing independent film content.

“Our festival supports creative industries, brings new to the attention of audiences and continues our ethos of the past nine years, but this year you have to log on online.”

Cherie had no qualms about making the festival digital for 2020. “Most people have a smart TV now, so the concept of watching films at home was already happening,” she says. “Running a festival that can be seen on your TV is almost keeping up with the times, so our festival is transferable, though it’s not replaceable as a live event.”

Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands from November 3 to 8, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.

That adds up to 60 films a day, 360 screenings in all, with festival viewers invited to acquire a Festival Pack comprising a festival bag, printed programme, lanyard, the latest edition of Aesthetica magazine and VR [Virtual Reality] cardboards.

“If you’re wondering how you can experience VR films at home, you can order a VR Aesthetica headset for £5.95 online from our website,” says Cherie.

“We’re also probably the only festival that has printed a programme this year, but we felt it was important to mark the tenth anniversary that way.”

Cherie hails another plus point of going digital. “You can pursue your particular interest like being able to watch all the documentaries in the festival if that’s your specialism, so you can create your own festival, but we also want to encourage people to do something they would not normally do, by watching all six strands, each chosen to raise important questions about the world we live in today,” she says.

These cumulative strands of short and feature-length films will be released to virtual passholders from 8am daily and will be available via the festival’s online viewing library until November 30.

ASFF 2020 also will feature 21 guest film programmes, taking in such themes as the climate crisis, new technology, Black Lives Matter and human rights. “Basically, we’re covering every topic that we’re facing as a society, so it’s a really poignant look at the world we live in now,” says Cherie.

Further highlights will be ten showcases for new talent, an online industry market and an industry programme of more than 50 masterclasses, spotlights and panel discussions, giving insights into film productions and exploring filmmakers’ motivations and expertise.

Actress and writer Maxine Peake will give a masterclass, and among the guest speakers will be Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold; BAFTA-winning filmmaker Sarah Gavron; BIFA-winning and Emmy-nominated documentarian Jeanie Finlay; Oscar- winning sound designer Glenn Freemantle and double Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Paul Franklin (Inception, Interstellar). So too will be animators, cinematographers, editors, production designers and representatives from Film4, BBC Films and Framestore.

One name leaps out from the masterclass programme: York-born Dame Judi Dench discussing her career on screen and stage on November 8 at 4pm. “I’ve been trying to get Dame Judi involved ever since we started the festival, and she said ‘Yes’ this time because of her connection with the city,” says Cherie.

“She’s very happy to lend us her support and expertise to our programme and we’re delighted she is taking part. It was confirmed six weeks ago when normally our programme would have been signed off.”

Looking ahead to next week, Cherie says: “The best thing with ASFF is that you always get a memorable experience, and 2020 will certainly be that with 300 films in competition and 200 other films showing.

“No stone has been left unturned in thinking about what the visitor experience should be like this year and how we can make it special. The digital festival is well designed, navigation online is easy, and we even have an instructional video on how to use this platform.

“Tickets are sold per house, so it becomes very good value for a family of four, and we’re still doing programmes for young children and young adults and still working with schools, where films will be screened this time.”

Tickets are available for 24-hour, seven-day and one-month film and industry passes, as well as a film-only pass for November.  Go to for tickets and to download the full programme.

Joseph Rowntree Theatre is Up On The Roof to launch fundraising campaign

Singers and musicians recording Up On The Roof remotely for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s Raise The Roof campaign

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is launching a song on You Tube to help raise £5,000 towards vital roof repairs.

At a time when the future is looking bleak for many theatres in the Coronavirus crisis, York’s community theatre in Haxby Road is determined to buck the trend of depressing news by using lockdown as a chance to further its expansion plans.

Launching the online video this week kick-starts Raise The Roof, the JoRo’s fundraising campaign with a £90,000 target.

Aptly, the choice of song is a cover of The Drifters’ hit Up On The Roof, written in 1962 by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

Jess Douglas: Arranger, pianist, co-organiser

The video has been produced, arranged and performed by York performers who call the Art Deco building their theatrical home, many of them also counting themselves among the JoRo’s army of volunteers.  Put together during lockdown via socially distanced media, it can be viewed at

Stage manager Ollie Nash and Jessica Douglas, a regular musical director of shows at the JoRo, have brought together a team of singers and musicians to create the video. “It’s been a real challenge under lockdown conditions,” says Ollie. “In the week leading up to its release, I spent 30 hours pulling all the bits together for the final edit.”

Arranged by Jessica and mixed and edited by Ollie, Up On The Roof is performed by Abigail Atkinson, Chris Gibson, Helen Singhateh, Jennie Wogan, Nick Sephton, Paul Blenkiron, Ruth McCartney, Sandy Nicholson and Susan Blenkiron. Backing them in the recording are Jessica Douglas, piano, Clark Howard, drums, Georgia Johnson, bass, Damien Sweeting, guitar, and Emily Jones and Tom Marlow, violin.

Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s fundraising and events director, says: “We’ve had great fun putting this video together.  The fact that so many of our performing and volunteering community came together ‘virtually’ to produce it shows just how much the future success of the theatre means to them.”

Ollie Nash: Spent 30 hours “pulling all the bits together for the final video edit”

Against a backdrop of growing fears over the future for many arts venues across the country, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre believes it is in a “particularly strong position”.

How come? Because the charity that runs it owns the building and the theatre is operated entirely by more than 170 unpaid volunteers.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees, says: “We’re using this period of enforced closure to look after and improve the fabric of the building.  The roof repairs need to be completed before we can move on with our major plans to expand the building. 

“The new insulation and solar panels will significantly reduce our operating costs and also the impact we have on the environment. The expansion plans will make our venue even greener and more accessible.”

A peck on the cheek of a teenage Judi Dench from a cheeky young chap at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a favourite anecdote among theatre volunteers

The roof has stood the test of time, not needing any major work since the theatre was built 85 years ago.  The Raise The Roof appeal is not the first time it has appeared in a news article, however. In 2012, the Daily Telegraph published the story of a teenage Judi Dench coming down from the roof after watching the sunset with a group of friends. 

One brave young man took the opportunity to sneak a quick kiss on the way down the ladder!  Dame Judi does not remember the name of the cheeky chap, but it is a favourite anecdote among the theatre’s volunteers.

To launch the Raise the Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to donate “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”.  Go to:

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, York

Did you know?

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre was built by the Joseph Rowntree Village Trustees as a place for recreation and education for the benefit of Rowntree employees and the York community. 

Seebohm Rowntree opened the Haxby Road theatre in 1935. It remains a vital community asset, run entirely by volunteers for the people of York. A board of 13 trustees and 170 volunteers give 17,000 hours of volunteering time every year. 

Last year, the JoRo put on more than 135 performances, staged by 35 York groups and several professional touring companies.