More Things To Do in York and beyond when saying Yes to a love of food and music. Hutch’s List No. 22, from The Press

Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival: Look out for the festival guide and map on site

FOOD for thought on the arts and culture front, from street cookery to dance, trailblazing women to Drawsome! artists and musicians, prog-rock and folk greats to coastal Dexys, as Charles Hutchinson reports.

Flavour of the week: Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival, today, from 9am; tomorrow and Bank Holiday Monday, from 10am

ON the streets of “Yorkshire’s Food Capital”, Malton Food Lovers Festival celebrates Yorkshire’s supreme produce and cooking over three days of 120 artisan stalls and street food vendors, talks, tastings, chef demonstrations, brass bands and buskers, festival bar, food shops, sculpture trail, entertainment, blacksmith workshops, vintage funfair and family fun with Be Amazing Arts’ Creativitent, Environmental Art’s Creative Chaos and Magical Quests North.

The live musicians will be: today, Malton White Star Band, 11am to 1pm, The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Oz Ward, 6pm to 8pm; tomorrow, White Star Training Band, 11.30am to 12.30pm, and The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Monday, The Acoustic Buddies, 11am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm. Festival entry is free.

Mary Ward (Augsberg portrait): Foundress of the Bar Convent, featuring in the Trailblazers audio trail

Exhibition launch of the week; Trailblazers of the Bar Convent, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, opening today

THE Trailblazers of the Bar Convent audio trail focuses on uncovering the stories of key characters from the history of the oldest surviving Catholic convent in Great Britain.

Among them are foundress Mary Ward, who believed that girls deserved an equal education to boys; Mother Superior Ann Aspinal, who determined to build a secret chapel totally hidden from the outside world, and Sister Gregory Kirkus, who set up the convent’s first ever museum. Tickets: barconvent.co.uk.

What a hoot: Gemma Curry and her owl puppet in Hoglets Theatre’s Wood Owl And The Box Of Wonders

Pre-festival show of the week: Hoglets Theatre in Wood Owl And The Box Of Wonders, Fountains Mill, Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, tomorrow, 11am and 2pm

IN an Early Bird event for the 2024 Ripon Theatre Festival, York company Hoglets Theatre presents director Gemma Curry’s solo show Wood Owl And The Box Of Wonders for age three upwards.

A lonely little owl wants nothing more than to fly into the night and join his friends, but how can he when he is made from wood in Gemma’s magical half-term journey of singing owls, fantasy worlds, friendship and an age-old message about love?  The 40-minute show featuring beautiful handmade puppets and original music will be complemented by an optional puppet-making activity. Box office: ripontheatrefestival.org.

Lesley Ann Eden and her York School of Dance and Drama pupils: Presenting Pinocchio And Ponchetta at Joseph Rowntree Theatre. Picture: Nigel Holland

Dance show of the week: York School of Dance and Drama in Pinocchio And Ponchetta, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow, 6.30pm

YORK choreographer and dance teacher Lesley Anne Eden presents her 50th anniversary York School of Dance and Drama show with a company ranging in age from six to 70.

Pinocchio And Ponchetta is Lesley’s take on the old story of Pinocchio and his sister, “full of fabulous dancing and great fun for all the family”, with the promise of her trademark quirky props. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

The cover artwork for York Barbican-bound Richard Thompson’s new album, Ship To Shore

Folk luminary of the week: Richard Thompson, York Barbican, May 27, doors 7pm

GUITARIST, singer and songwriter Richard Thompson showcases his 20th solo album – and first since 2018’s 13 Rivers – ahead of the May 31 release of Ship To Shore on New West Records.

Notting Hill-born Thompson, 75, who made his name with folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention before forming his Seventies’ duo with Linda Thompson, will be performing with a full band. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Yes: Playing York Barbican on Tuesday

Rock gig of the week: Yes, The Classic Tales Of Yes Tour 2024, York Barbican, May 28, 8pm

PROG-ROCK legends Yes perform iconic songs from more than 50 years of groundbreaking music-making, definitely including a 20-minute medley from their 1973 album Tales From Topographic Oceans and “possibly” from latest album Mirror To The Sky too.

In the line-up will be Steve Howe, guitars and vocals, Geoff Downes, keyboards, Billy Sherwood, bass guitar and vocals, Jon Davison, vocals and acoustic guitar, and Jay Schellen, drums. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk. 

Kathryn Williams and Withered Hand: Teaming up at Selby Town Hall

Duo of the week: Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand, Selby Town Hall, May 29, 8pm

KATHRYN Williams is the Liverpool-born, Newcastle-based, Mercury Music Prize-nominated singer-songwriter with 16 albums to her name. Withered Hand is singer-songwriter Dan Willson, from the Scottish underground scene.

They first met in 2019 in an Edinburgh Book Festival spiegeltent, prompting Williams to tweet Willson: “What kind of songs would we write together and what would they sound like?” The results can be heard on the album Willson Williams, released on One Little Independent Records on April 26, and in concert in Selby (and Otley Courthouse on May 30). Box office: selbytownhall.co.uk.

Dexys: Heading to the Yorkshire coast on May 30

Coastal trip of the week: Dexys, Scarborough Spa Grand Hall, May 30, doors 7pm

AFTER playing York for the first time in their 45-year career last September, Dexys return to North Yorkshire on the latest leg of The Feminine Divine Live!

Led as ever by Kevin Rowland, Dexys open with a theatrical presentation of last year’s album, The Feminine Divine, to be followed by a second soulful set of beloved hits, from Come On Eileen and Jackie Wilson Said to The Celtic Soul Brothers and Geno. Box office: 01723 376774 or scarboroughspa.co.uk.

Bonneville (York singer-songwriter Bonnie Milnes) promotes her debut album New Lady at Drawsome! 2024 gig at The Crescent

York festival of the week: Drawsome! 2024, Young Thugs Studio, May 31; The Crescent, June 1; Arts Barge, Foss Basin, York, June 2

DRAWSOME! combines exhibitions and workshops with live music each evening. York multi-disciplinary artist Rowan Jackson will be exhibiting at Angel on the Green, Bishopthorpe Road, from 7pm on May 27; Things Found and Made at The Golden Ball, Cromwell Road, from May 31 and Greek-Australian graphic novel artist Con Chrisoulis for one night only at Young Thugs Studio, Ovington Terrace, on May 31 from 7pm, when Ichigo Evil, Plantfood, Mickey Nomimono and Drooligan will be performing.

On June 1, Bonneville, Lou Terry, Captain Starlet and Leafcutter John play at The Crescent community venue, where workshops run from 1 to 4pm, featuring Bits and Bots Recycled Robot, with Tom Brader, and Creative Visible Mending, with Anna Pownall, complemented by Zine Stalls hosted by Things Found and Made, Adam Keay and Teresa Stenson. 

On June 2, the Arts Barge presents Dana Gavanski, Kindelan, Moongate and We Are Hannah, after three 11am to 2pm workshops: Poem Fishing with Becca Drake and Jessie Summerhayes, Adana Letterpress and lino printing, and Screenprinting with Kai West. Drawsome! is run in aid of Bowel Cancer UK.

The poster for Drawsome! 2024

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond food, glorious food. Here’s Hutch’s List No 17 for 2024, from Gazette & Herald

Jeanette Hunter’s Wicked Witch, right, in rehearsal for York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz with Daan Janssen’s Lion, left, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man, Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy and Toto puppeteer Adam Gill

FOOD for thought for the cultural week ahead, from the Yellow Brick Road to Heaven revisited, a foodie festival to Laurie Lee, seascapes to coastal Dexys, as Charles Hutchinson reports.

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

YORK stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter will play a villain for the first time next week, starring as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz.

Following the Yellow Brick Road will be Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man and Daan Janssen’s Lion, while further principal roles will go to Liz Gardner as Glinda, Marlena Kellie as Auntie Em and Martin Hunter as the Wizard. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. 

Velma Celli’s Show Queen: Celebrating the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits at York Theatre Royal

Cabaret celebration of the week: Velma Celli’s Show Queen, York Theatre Royal, tomorrow (23/5/2024), 7.30pm

DRAG diva Velma Celli, the alter ego of York actor Ian Stroughair, goes back to Ian’s roots in Cats, Chicago, Fame and Rent for a new celebration of the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits.

The show “takes us to every corner of the fabulous genre, from Kander & Ebb and Lloyd Webber to Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked and Schönberg’s Les Miserables and many more,” says Velma. “Like, more than Six!”. Special guests will be burlesque star Miss Betsy Rose and belting York singer Jessica Steel. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rebecca Ferguson: Liverpool soul singer’s last album and tour at 37

Soul gig of the week: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven Part II Tour, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

LIVERPOOL soul singer and The X Factor alumna Rebecca Ferguson is touring her fifth and final album, Heaven Part II, released last December 12 years to the day since her debut, Heaven.

Working with new contributors and original Heaven writers and producers, Ferguson sings of love, family, joy, liberation and her journey to happiness over the past seven years. She is, however, calling time on recording and touring to “find a way to have a relationship with music which is positive”. Friday’s support acts will be York country singer Twinnie and Eloise Viola. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival: Look out for the festival guide and map on site

Festival of the week: Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival, Saturday, from 9am; Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, from 10am

ON the streets of “Yorkshire’s Food Capital”, Malton Food Lovers Festival celebrates Yorkshire’s supreme produce and cooking over three days of 120 artisan stalls and street food vendors, talks, tastings, chef demonstrations, brass bands and buskers, festival bar, food shops, sculpture trail, entertainment, blacksmith workshops, vintage funfair and family fun with Be Amazing Arts’ Creativitent, Environmental Art’s Creative Chaos and Magical Quests North.

The live musicians will be: Saturday, Malton White Star Band, 11am to 1pm, The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Oz Ward, 6pm to 8pm; Sunday, White Star Training Band, 11.30am to 12.30pm, and The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Monday, The Acoustic Buddies, 11am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm. Festival entry is free.

Kirkby Soul: Playing outdoors at Hemsley Walled Garden on Saturday

Fundraiser of the week: Kirkby Soul, Helmsley Walled Garden, Helmsley, Saturday, 7.30pm

RYEDALE eight-piece band Kirkby Soul present an evening of soul music in aid of Helmsley Arts Centre and Helmsley Walled Garden. Bring chairs, cushions, blankets, dancing shoes and picnics. A paying bar will be operation in the orchid house. Come prepared for the British weather! A marquee will be erected just in case. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Anton Lesser: Performing in Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music at Grand Opera House, York

Literary event of the week: Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music, Grand Opera House, York, May 26, 7.30pm

AUTHOR Laurie Lee’s extraordinary story is told in a captivating weave of music and his own words in Red Sky At Sunrise, performed by actors Anton Lesser and Charlie Hamblett, accompanied by David Le Page’s musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan.

Together they celebrate Lee’s engaging humour, as well as portraying his darker side, in a performance that has startling resonance with modern events, tracing Lee’s path through Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment Of War as he ended up fighting with the International Brigades against General Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Jo’s Place, seascape, by Carolyn Coles, from her Home Is Where The Heart Is exhibition at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb

Exhibition launch: Carolyn Coles, Home Is Where The Heart Is, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, May 30 to August 1

CREATING atmospheric, impressionistic and abstract seascapes, South Bank Studios artist Carolyn Coles paints mostly with acrylics on stretched canvasses, using an array of techniques and implements.

Known for evoking emotional responses, Carolyn reflects her love for the Yorkshire landscape, offering a direct response to the feelings and connections to places that feel like home. Everyone is welcome at the 6pm to 9pm launch on May 30, when Carolyn will be happy to answer questions.

Dirty Ruby: Ryedale Blues’ headliners at Milton Rooms, Malton

Blues gig of the week: Ryedale Blues presents Dirty Ruby, Milton Rooms, Malton, May 30, 8pm

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE five-piece Dirty Ruby have drawn comparisons with Seventies’ bands Stone The Crows and Vinegar Joe in their energetic, sharp-edged blues rock, combining Hammond organ and bluesy guitar with soulful lead vocals. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

Dexys: Showcasing The Feminine Divine at Scarborough Spa

Coastal trip of the week: Dexys, Scarborough Spa Grand Hall, May 30, doors 7pm

AFTER playing York for the first time in their 45-year career last September, Dexys return to North Yorkshire on the latest leg of The Feminine Divine Live!

Led as ever by Kevin Rowland, Dexys open with a theatrical presentation of last year’s album, The Feminine Divine, to be followed by a second soulful set of beloved hits, from Come On Eileen and Jackie Wilson Said to The Celtic Soul Brothers and Geno. Box office: 01723 376774 or scarboroughspa.co.uk.

In Focus: The 1879 FA Cup clash of Darwen FC and the Old Etonians in The Giant Killers at Milton Rooms, Malton

The tour poster for Long Lane Theatre Club’s The Giant Killers

MANCHESTER United meet “noisy neighbours” Manchester City in the 143rd FA Cup final on Saturday, coinciding with the tour launch of a fitting theatrical tribute to the competition’s early days.

Staged by Long Lane Theatre Club, The Giant Killers tells the story of how Darwen FC came to the public’s attention in 1870s’ Lancashire to proclaim Association Football as a people’s game and not only the preserve of the upper classes.

Good news for Malton, the story of Darwen’s FA Cup clashes with the toffs of the Old Etonians is booked to appear at the Milton Rooms on July 4 (now confirmed as the date for another battle, the 2024 General Election).

The Giant Killers recounts how a ragtag bunch of mill workers in Darwen took on the amateur gentleman’s club of the Old Etonians in the FA Cup quarter-final in 1879. The Old Etonians were winning 5-1 but Darwen rallied to force a replay after a 5-5 draw. 

One replay turned into three, with one abandoned through bad light. Forced to travel to London a very expensive three times and with team members losing a day’s work, Darwen eventually succumbed 6-2, but their story of working-class men inspiring a nation enabled the top hats in football crowds to turn into ‘’a sea of flat caps’’.

Kick-off – or kick-toff! – will be at 7.30pm for Andrew Pearson-Wright & Eve Pearson-Wright’s story of how Darwen FC rose up against prevailing social prejudice and the might of the Football Association to earn a place in history as the first real ‘‘giant killers’’ in English football. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

Charles Hutchinson’s review of the year of culture & art in York & beyond in 2023

Sleuth and sidekick: Fergus Rattigan’s Matthew Shardlake, left, with Sam Thorpe-Spinks’s Jack Barak in Sovereign at King’s Manor. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Community show of the year: Sovereign, King’s Manor, York, July

YORK Theatre Royal’s best show of the year was not at the Theatre Royal, but across Exhibition Square in the courtard of King’s Manor, the setting for C J Sansom’s Tudor sleuth yarn, adapted typically adroitly by the golden pen of York playwright Mike Kenny.

Henry VIII was given the Yorkshire cold shoulder by a cast of 100 led by Fergus Rattigan and Sam Thorpe-Spinks, complemented by Madeleine Hudson’s choir.

Livy Potter in Iphigenia In Splott at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Solo performance of the year: Livy Potter in Black Treacle Theatre’s Iphigenia In Splott, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, March

GREEK myth is smacked in the chops by modern reality in Gary Owen’s scabrous, “horribly relevant” one-woman drama Iphigenia In Splott, a stark, dark 75-minute play, played out on a single blue chair, with no props, under Jim Paterson’s direction.

Livy Potter kept meeting you in the eye, telling you the bruised, devastating tale of Cardiff wastrel Effie, and her downward spiral through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, with shards of jagged humour and shattering blows to the heart.

Crowded in: Comedian Rob Auton’s artwork for The Crowd Show

Comedy show of the year: Rob Auton in The Crowd Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 24

COMEDIANS tend to play to a room full of strangers, hence the subject matter of Rob Auton’s The Crowd Show, with its discussions of crowds, people and connection.

Except that the crowd for this (London-based) York comedian, born in Barmby Moor and educated in Pocklington, was made up of friends, family, extended family, and loyal local enthusiasts. The home crowd, rather than the in-crowd, as it were. Auton revelled in a unique performing experience, even more surreal than usual.

Honourable mention: Stewart Lee, Basic Lee, York Theatre Royal, March 20. Serious yet seriously amusing dissection of the rotten state of the nation and comedy itself.

Christmas In Neverland at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Exhibition of the year: Christmas In Neverland, Castle Howard, near York, running until January 7

IS it a Christmas event, an installation or an exhibition? All three, in that Charlotte Lloyd Webber Event Design makes an exhibit of the 300-year-old stately home at Castle Howard each winter.

This time, the theme is a Peter Pan-inspired festive experience, transforming rooms and corridors alike with floristry, installations, props, soundscapes, and projections, conjuring a Mermaid’s Lagoon, Captain Hook’s Cabin and the Jolly Roger with new innovations from Leeds company imitating the dog.

Honourable mention: Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s absurdist sculptures in Trap Of The Truth, his first UK museum show, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, bringing a whimsical smile until April 28 2024.

Kevin Rowland leading Dexys through The Feminine Divine and old hits sublime at York Barbican

Favourite gigs of the year?

SPOILT for choice. At York Barbican: Suzanne Vega, vowing I Never Wear White in droll delight on February 22; James, bolstered by orchestra and gospel choir, hitting heavenly heights, April 28; Dexys’ two sets, one new and theatrical, the other laden with soul-powered hits, September 5; Lloyd Cole’s two sets, one ostensibly acoustic, the other electric, both eclectic, on October 22.

At The Crescent: The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, performing with his son; March 14; Lawrence, once of Felt and Denim, now channelling Mark E Smith and the Velvet Underground in Mozart Estate, October 7; The Howl And The Hum’s extraordinary, deeply emotional three-night farewell to the York band’s original line-up in December.

The long-dormant Pulp’s poster for their This Is What We Do For An Encore return to performing live

Outdoor experience of the year: Pulp, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9

THE rain swept in on the Eighties’ electronic nostalgia of Being Boiled at the Human League’s Music Showcase Weekend at York Racecourse on July 28 too, but that was a mere watering can by comparison with the deluge that befell the Open Air Theatre half an hour before fellow Sheffield legends Pulp took to the Scarborough stage. “Has it been raining?”, teased Jarvis Cocker, but huddled beneath hastily purchased sheeting, the night was still plastic fantastic.  

Cherie Federico: At the helm of all things Aesthetica in York

Driving force of the year in York: Cherie Federico, Aesthetica

2023 marked the 20th anniversary of Aesthetica, the international art magazine set up in York by New Yorker and York St John University alumna Cherie Federico. The Aesthetica Art Prize was as innovative and stimulating as ever at York Art Gallery; the 13th Aesthetica Short Film Festival, spanning five days in November, was the biggest yet. On top of that came the Future Now Symposium in March and the launch of Reignite to bolster York’s focus on being a fulcrum for the arts, media arts and gaming industry innovations of the future.

A star performance: Andy Cryer in The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less) at Stephen Jospeh Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Patch Dolan

Best Shakespeare of the year: The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less), Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, April

THE SJT teamed up with Shakespeare North Playhouse, Nick Lane paired up with co-writer Elizabeth Godber, and Eighties’ pop guilty pleasures rubbed shoulders with Shakespeare’s rebooted comedy as Yorkshire clashed with Lancashire and everyone won. This Comedy Of Errors got everything right. Not more or less. Just right. Full stop. 

Nuno Queimado and Rumi Sutton in Gus Gowland’s Mayflies at York Theatre Royal

New musical of the year in York: Mayflies, York Theatre Royal, May

YORK Theatre Royal resident artist Gus Gowland deserved far bigger audiences for the premiere of the intriguing Mayflies, as confirmed by no fewer than nine nominations in the BroadwayWorldUK Awards.

O, the app-hazard nature of modern love under Covid’s black cloud, as two people meet up after two years of tentative communication online. In Tania Azevedo’s flexible casting, you could pick any configuration of Rumi Sutton, Nuno Queimado or Emma Thornett for the couple of your choice. Better still, you should have seen all three; the songs, the nuances, the humour, grew with familiarity.

Leigh Symonds’ engineer Winston and Naomi Petersen’s automaton house maid ED in Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Still delivering the goods in Yorkshire

ALAN Ayckbourn’s visions of AI in Constant Companions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough; John Godber’s Northern Soul-powered Do I Love You?, on tour into 2024; Barnsley bard Ian McMillan’s Yorkshire take on The Barber Of Seville, St George’s Hall, Bradford; Robin Simpson’s dame in Jack And The Beanstalk, York Theatre Royal.

Copyright of The Press, York

Kevin Rowland discovers ‘the feminine divine’ on new album as Dexys go theatrical for York Barbican debut tomorrow

Kevin Rowland, in his pink suit, leads the return of Dexys with The Feminine Divine. Picture: Sandra Vijandi

AT last! Dexys will play York for the first time in their 45-year career tomorrow on the opening night of this month’s The Feminine Divine Live! tour.

Kevin Rowland’s revived soul band had been booked to play York Barbican on last autumn’s 40th anniversary Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded Tour. However, his need to recuperate from a leg injury in a motorbike accident and “some health issues that will take some time to recover from” forced the September 30 2022 gig’s cancellation as early as March last year.

July 28 saw the arrival of The Feminine Divine, Dexys’ fifth album of original material in five decades, 11 years since their last studio set, 2012’s One Day I’m Going To Soar. 

Rowland, who turned 70 on August 17, will front Dexys as they “dramatically perform the new album from beginning to finale, followed by a selection of classics and hits” at York Barbican in the only Yorkshire show on their 13-date British and Irish tour.

“The first half is not a concert,” Kevin stresses. “It will be The Feminine Divine, completely acted out. It’s a theatrical performance, a drama, like we did for One Day I’m Going To Soar, but this is a completely different narrative. Last time we had Madeleine Hyland [from London folk group The Amazing Devil); this time Claudia Chopek will be the protagonist, playing the female in the songs.”

The second half will have a concert format. “We’ll probably change the set list each night, but we have a pretty good idea of what it will be, with a lot of the Too-Rye-Ay album, which we were due to tour last year, but had to cancel,” says Kevin, who will be touring with a six-piece band. “I think this show will be even better.”

Produced by Pete Schwier, along with session musician and producer Toby Chapman, The Feminine Divine is billed as “a personal, if not strictly autobiographical, record portraying a man whose views have evolved over time”.

The cover artwork for Dexys’ The Feminine Divine album

“I don’t think I could ever do the same thing twice. I can’t see the point of that. It’s not something I ever think about. It’s intrinsically important to me,” says Kevin on his Zoom call, explaining the album’s gestation.

“We weren’t looking for a theme. There was none of that. After the last album [2016’s Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul], I was drained and didn’t want to do music and didn’t feel I had the vitality.

“I needed to get away to work on myself, and actually I was almost violently against doing music, thinking ‘I want to do other things’. But in 2020-21 I had a surge of energy. I wanted to do music again.”

“What songs have we got?” pondered Dexys’ front man, suffused with a new-found positivity. Original Midnight Runners trombonist Big Jim Paterson, now a non-touring band member, sent him tunes he had written; Rowland reactivated a 1991 song, The One That Loves You, for the opening track, and a first side full of music-hall swagger duly took shape.

“Then I thought, ‘OK, let’s ask Mike [Timothy] and Sean [Read] to collaborate’,” Kevin recalls, leading to a second side “like nothing Dexys have done before” in the form of a saucy, synth-heavy cabaret.

Synths, Kevin? “I’ve always liked electronic music; I was into house music in the Eighties, so we were going to record some house tunes at the time, but we never got round to it, but I was well into it,” he says. “I thought about making the last album electronic too but went a different way with that one.”

The lyrics to title track The Feminine Divine became the driving force for Dexys’ new focus. “They came pouring out of me, and it told me what the theme should be. I started writing about my experience in recent years,” says Kevin. “Once I had a list of the titles, and put the songs in order, I thought, ‘there’s a narrative here’, so it was all serendipitous.”

“I think women are just incredibly powerful, but I didn’t realise that before,” says Dexys’ Kevin Rowland, second from left

The resulting track listing reads: The One That Loves You; It’s Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023); I’m Going To Get Free; Coming Home; The Feminine Divine; My Goddess Is; Goddess Rules; My Submission and Dance With Me.

Those songs reflect on “not just on women, but the whole concept of masculinity Kevin had been raised with: an education and an un-learning traced across the arc of The Feminine Divine”. 

“I think women are just incredibly powerful, but I didn’t realise that before,” says Kevin. Why not? “I have no idea. Perhaps my upbringing to some extent. I wasn’t given any sex education at school or at home, so any sexual feelings I had at 13/14 were secret and not talked about. I carried that with me.

“I had desires that sometimes were satisfied, sometimes weren’t, but I never understood women. I’m not saying I do now, but I started doing some courses, some tantra, some Dao, and all of this recognised the sexual energy and the power of women as goddesses,” says Kevin.

“The more I got it into my head, I realised that if anything women are superior to men. They’re more flexible than men, who are set in their ways.”

Rowland ruminates on femininity and masculinity from second track It’s Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023) onwards. “It’s about recognising my own femininity,” he says, as he first did on the cover of his 1999 solo album of cover versions, My Beauty, the one with Rowland in lipstick and black dress, the hem exposed to reveal knickers and stockings.

He doubled down on that look in a white dress and pearls at Leeds Festival that year. “A lot of people were triggered by it,” he says. “But I believed in what I was doing. I don’t think I can do anything unless I believe in it. One hundred per cent that was the case at Leeds Festival.

The poster for Dexys’ 2023 tour, The Feminine Divine Live!, led off by tomorrow’s York Barbican debut

“There are women with feminine energy and women with masculine energy, and it’s the same with men. It’s big part of me, and men should acknowledge it: if you don’t acknowledge things, it’s not healthy.”

Working instinctively – “if something sounds good, and I think it will work, then I’ll do it; if I get a good melody, I know it” – Kevin “doesn’t ever think about the past” or a new record’s connection with Dexys’ history. “That’s something for you to consider, and whatever you come up with, that’s cool,” he says.

“I don’t think about continuity. There’s been no continuity with Dexys. Don’t Stand Me Down [1985] was totally different, like Too-Rye-Ay [1982] was from Searching for The Young Soul Rebels [1980] because they were like new bands, so to me it’s like I’m a new artist every time I make a record. This new album took 11 years to evolve.”

His past was framed in a childhood in Wolverhampton, then Ireland for two years and north west London from the age of 11, surely influencing his restless music-making since then? “Probably,” says Kevin, pointing to the Irish roots in the Celtic soul and fiddles of Too-Ry-Ay. “We expressed it at the time, in 1980, ’81, ’82, when people didn’t want to hear it. Like on BRMB [the Birmingham radio station]. When they played Come On Eileen, they apologised for it because there’d just been a bomb in London…but what had that got to do with us?” he asks.

Kevin has had his up and downs, not least when consumed by cocaine addiction and living in a squat after Dexys Midnight Runners’ split post-Don’t Stand Me Down at the end of the 1980s.

Now, however, he is “definitely in the best place I’ve ever been, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, which is OK, and that’s something I wasn’t aware of when I was younger,” he says, revelling is his latest rush of creativity.

“There are a lot of people who are close-minded who just want to talk about the past. Their lives are over. I don’t know why people do that. They get into that thing that things were better in their day. No, they weren’t.”

Dexys play The Feminine Divine Live! at York Barbican on September 5, 7.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk and dexysofficial.com. The Feminine Divine is available on the 100 Percent label.

The Dexys’ line-up for The Feminine Divine Live!: left to right, Tim Weller, Claudia Chopek, Mike Timothy, Kevin Rowland, Sean Read, and Alistair Whyte. Picture: Bruno Murari @DexysOfficial

One year on from Too-Rye-Ay tour cancellation, Dexys confirm York Barbican as first night for The Feminine Divine Live!

In the pink: Kevin Rowland, second left, with the 2023 incarnation of Dexys

AT last! Dexys will play York for the first time in their 45-year career on the opening night of September’s The Feminine Divine Live! tour.

Kevin Rowland’s revived soul band had been booked to play York Barbican on last autumn’s 40th anniversary Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded Tour, but his need to recuperate from a motorbike accident and “some health issues that will take some time to recover from” forced the September 30 2022 gig’s cancellation as early as March last year.

The healing process took longer than expected, but Rowland was able to lead Dexys in their Commonwealth Games closing ceremony rendition of 1982 chart topper Come On Eileen in the their home city of Birmingham last August.

Now Rowland, who will turn 70 on August 17, will front Dexys as they “dramatically perform the new album from beginning to finale, followed by a selection of classics and hits (including plenty from Too-Rye-Ay) at York Barbican on Tuesday, September 5: the only Yorkshire show on their 13-date British and Irish tour. Tickets go on fan pre-sale from April 12 at dexysofficial.com and general sale from April 14 at dexysofficial.com and yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Feminine Divine, Dexys’ fifth album of original material, will be released on July 28, 11 years since their last studio set, 2012’s One Day I’m Going To Soar. Lead single I’m Going To Get Free is up and midnight-running already.

The album artwork for Dexys’ The Feminine Divine, set for release on July 28

Produced once again by Pete Schwier, along with session musician and producer Toby Chapman, The Femine Divine is billed as “a personal, if not strictly autobiographical, record portraying a man whose views have evolved over time”.

After taking time out to refocus his energy, Rowland has come back to music with a fresh perspective and new-found positivity, leading to an album that reflects his thoughts “not just on women, but the whole concept of masculinity he had been raised with: an education and an un-learning that is traced across the arc of The Feminine Divine. 

The first side is full of music-hall swagger, much of it written with original Dexys’ trombonist Big Jim Paterson, now a non-touring band member. The second side is “like nothing Dexys have done before”: a saucy, synth-heavy cabaret, written in collaboration with Sean Read and Mike Timothy. In a nutshell, steamy, fizzing and sultry; at times doom-laden and heavy, at other times raunchy and funky.

Behind them, Dexys (or Dexys Midnight Runners until the name shearing in 2011) have chalked up one billion worldwide streams, three British top ten albums, two number one singles (Geno, Come On Eileen), a Brit Award and multi-platinum sales of sophomore release Too-Rye-Ay. 

When Too-Rye-Ay’s 40th anniversary shows were called off, Dexys’ official announcement read: “We had tried to keep the tour on track, but now it is clear that that there won’t be sufficient time to do the work needed to deliver the show as we had envisaged. Dexys feel awful about cancelling and are immensely sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

Too-Rye-Ailing: The original poster for the 2022 Dexys tour that could have been, until Kevin Rowland’s motorbike accident forced its cancellation

Reorganising the dates was ruled out. “We did consider postponing the tour until next year, but we already have plans for 2023, and we promise that when we next tour, and, it won’t be long, we will do plenty of material from ‘Too Rye Ay, As It Should Have Sounded’,” said Dexys at the time. True to their word, here come The Feminine Divine album and tour.

Their reworking of Too-Rye-Ay, As It Should Have Sounded went ahead with a 40th anniversary album release last October on single CD, triple CD and vinyl formats on Universal.

Released in July 1982, Too-Rye-Ay was the one with strings, brass and dungarees attached that reached number two, Dexys’ highest ever album chart position, buoyed by the top-spot success of ubiquitous wedding-party staple Come On Eileen.

The Van Morrison cover, Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile), went top five too and Let’s Get This Straight (From The Start) peaked at number 17, but the notoriously perfectionist, restless Rowland later said: “For many years, I’ve struggled with Too-Rye-Ay.

“I was never happy with many of the mixes on the record. Tracks like ‘Eileen’ and one or two others were really good, but with most others, while I felt the performances were really good, that didn’t come over properly in the mixes.”

The cover artwork for Dexys revisited: Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded

He went on: “I even felt fraudulent promoting the album, because I knew it didn’t sound as good as it should have.

“And of course, the irony was, it was by far our most successful Dexys album, because of the worldwide success of Come On Eileen. I knew there were other songs on there just as good as ‘Eileen’, but they hadn’t been realised properly.

“So, I was absolutely delighted to get this opportunity to remix the album with the masterful Pete Schwier, who has worked with Dexys since 1985, and Helen O’Hara [violinist on the original album] is also helping.”

Rowland concluded: “This is like a new album for me. It is an absolute labour of love. I want people to hear the album as it was meant to sound.”

Words of reflective satisfaction that now make way for a focus on the new Dexys of The Feminine Divine, whose track listing will be: The One That Loves You; It’s Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023); I’m Going To Get Free; Coming Home; The Feminine Divine; My Goddess Is; Goddess Rules; My Submission and Dance With Me.

First single I’m Going To Get Free sets the tone by dint of its central character responding to mental-health struggles by striving tooptimistically break free from internalised trauma, depression and guilt”. New-found positivity indeed.

The 2022 Dexys’ line-up for Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded

Is York fated never to play host to Kevin Rowland’s Dexys after motorbike accident rules out Too-Rye-Ay show at Barbican?

What could have been: The Dexys photo-shoot to promote the now-cancelled tour

TOO-Rye-Ailing, alas. Dexys’ autumn tour is off, scuppering their first ever York gig on September 30, after frontman Kevin Rowland was involved in a motorbike accident.

Rowland, who will turn 69 on August 17, was expected to have healed by then but the recovery has taken longer than expected.

York Barbican’s official statement reads: “It is with huge regret that Dexys have had to cancel their 2022 UK tour and the show on 30 September 2022 will no longer be taking place. All ticket holders will receive a refund; please contact your point of purchase if you have any questions.”

A statement from Dexys went further. “As many people familiar with Dexys will understand, a lot of work and detail was planned for these shows. Unfortunately, Kevin is recovering from a motorbike accident and some health issues that will take some time to recover from.

“We had tried to keep the tour on track, but now it is clear that that there won’t be sufficient time to do the work needed to deliver the show as we had envisaged. Dexys feel awful about cancelling and are immensely sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

Reorganising the Too-Rye-Aye As It Should Have Sounded Tour has been ruled out. “We did consider postponing the tour until next year, but we already have plans for 2023, and we promise that when we next tour, and, it won’t be long, we will do plenty of material from ‘Too Rye Ay, As It Should Have Sounded’,” said Dexys.

Last September, Dexys, now shorn of the Midnight Runners appendage, announced they would be reworking their 1982 album, Too-Rye-Ay, for a 40th anniversary release and accompanying tour.

The artwork as it Could have been, when first announced last September

At that time, it was billed as the Too-Rye-Ay, As It Could Have Sounded Tour, featuring what would have been the veteran Birmingham band’s first ever York appearance, unless you know otherwise. Subsequently, ‘Could’ became ‘Should’ on the tour and album title alike.

Released in July 1982, Too-Rye-Ay was the one with strings, brass and dungarees attached that reached number two, Dexys’ highest ever album chart position, buoyed by the top-spot success of ubiquitous wedding-party staple Come On Eileen.

The Van Morrison cover, Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile), went top five too and Let’s Get This Straight (From The Start) peaked at number 17, but the notoriously perfectionist, restless Rowland said last September: “For many years, I’ve struggled with Too-Rye-Ay.

“I was never happy with many of the mixes on the record. Tracks like ‘Eileen’ and one or two others were really good, but with most others, while I felt the performances were really good, that didn’t come over properly in the mixes.”

The strongly devoted, long hooked on such exquisite highs as The Celtic Soul Brothers, Let’s Make This Precious, All In All (This One Last Wild Waltz), Old and Until I Believe In My Soul, may raise an eyebrow at Rowland’s assertion, but nevertheless he said: “I even felt fraudulent promoting the album, because I knew it didn’t sound as good as it should have.

“And of course, the irony was, it was by far our most successful Dexys album, because of the worldwide success of Come On Eileen. I knew there were other songs on there just as good as ‘Eileen’, but they hadn’t been realised properly.

When ‘Could’ became ‘Should’: The revised title artwork for Dexys Midnight Runners’ October release

“So, I was absolutely delighted to get this opportunity to remix the album with the masterful Pete Schwier, who has worked with Dexys since 1985, and Helen O’Hara [violinist on the original album] is also helping.”

Too-Rye-Ay, As It Should Have Sounded will be released in this “brand new way and sound” via Universal on various formats on October 14, including a triple CD and vinyl, whereupon Rowland’s band had planned to head out on the road to perform the album in full, complemented by soulful Dexys’ gems such as their first number one, Geno.

“There is no way on Earth I would be doing this tour, or even promoting a normal 40th anniversary re-issue, if it wasn’t for the opportunity to remix it and present it how it could have sounded,” Rowland enthused last September.

“This is like a new album for me. It is an absolute labour of love. I want people to hear the album as it was meant to sound.”

York would have been the only Yorkshire location on the 11-date tour. Now it is not to be, in a case of Too-Rye-Ay as it won’t sound on September 30.

The original poster for the Dexys’ tour that will not be going ahead

Forty years on, Kevin Rowland revamps “fraudulent” Too-Rye-Ay for 2022 Dexys album and tour. York Barbican awaits

Dexys’ Kevin Rowland, second left, announces the second coming of Too-Rye-Ay, “as it could have sounded”

COME again, Eileen. Dexys, now shorn of the Midnight Runners appendage, are reworking their 1982 album, Too-Rye-Ay, for a 40th anniversary release and accompanying tour.

Led as ever by Kevin Rowland, Dexys will play York Barbican on September 30 2022 on their Too-Rye-Ay, As It Could Have Sounded Tour, in what may well be the veteran Birmingham band’s first ever York appearance, unless you know otherwise.

Released in July 1982, the one with strings, brass and dungarees attached reached number two, Dexys’ highest ever album chart position, buoyed by the top-spot success of ubiquitous wedding-party staple Come On Eileen.

The Van Morrison cover, Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile), went top five too and Let’s Get This Straight (From The Start) peaked at number 17, but the notoriously perfectionist, restless Rowland says: “For many years, I’ve struggled with Too-Rye-Ay.

“I was never happy with many of the mixes on the record. Tracks like ‘Eileen’ and one or two others were really good, but with most others, while I felt the performances were really good, that didn’t come over properly in the mixes.”

The iconic 1982 album artwork for Kevin Rowland & Dexys Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay

The strongly devoted, long hooked on such exquisite highs as The Celtic Soul Brothers, Let’s Make This Precious, All In All (This One Last Wild Waltz), Old and Until I Believe In My Soul, may raise an eyebrow at Rowland’s assertion, but nevertheless he says: “I even felt fraudulent promoting the album, because I knew it didn’t sound as good as it should have.

“And of course, the irony was, it was by far our most successful Dexys album, because of the worldwide success of Come On Eileen. I knew there were other songs on there just as good as ‘Eileen’, but they hadn’t been realised properly.

“So, I was absolutely delighted to get this opportunity to remix the album with the masterful Pete Schwier, who has worked with Dexys since 1985, and Helen O’ Hara [violinist on the original album] is also helping.”

Too-Rye-Ay, As It Could Have Sounded will be released in this “brand new way and sound” next year via Universal on various formats, whereupon Rowland’s band will head out on the road to perform the album in full, complemented by soulful Dexys’ gems such as their first number one, Geno.

“I’m so into doing this album, that we are doing shows to promote it next year, where we will play the whole of the album from start to finish, as well as other Dexys’ favourites,” says Rowland, who turned 68 on August 17.

“There is no way on Earth I would be doing this tour, or even promoting a normal 40th anniversary re-issue, if it wasn’t for the opportunity to remix it and present it how it could have sounded.

“This is like a new album for me. It is an absolute labour of love. I want people to hear the album as it was meant to sound.”

York will be the only Yorkshire location on next year’s 11-date tour taking in The Forum, Bath, on September 17; New Theatre, Oxford, September 18; Brighton Dome, September 19; Albert Hall, Manchester, September 21; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, September 22; Symphony Hall, Birmingham, September 26; Cambridge Corn Exchange, September 27; St David’s Hall, Cardiff, September 29; York Barbican, September 30, and London Palladium, October 2.

York tickets go on sale on Friday (10/9/2021) at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk. Let’s make this precious all over again.