More Things To Do in York and beyond when questions needs answering. Such as? Find out in List No. 96, from The Press

Barrel of laughs: Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, has the answer, whatever the question

FOOD and food for thought, pub concert and Pub Landlord, outsider comedy and  family drama whet Charles Hutchinson’s appetite.

Comedy gig of the week in York: Al Murray: The Pub Landlord, Gig For Victory, Grand Opera House, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

“AS the dust settles and we emerge blinking into the dawn of a new year, the men and women of this great country will need answers,” reckons the Guvnor, Al Murray. “Answers that they know they need, answers to questions they never knew existed.”

When that moment comes, who better to show the way, to provide those answers, than the people’s man of the people, Murray, The Pub Landlord? Cue his pugnacious bar-room wisdom in the refurbished Grand Opera House. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Miles and The Chain Gang: New territory tonight

Pub gig of the week: Miles and The Chain Gang, The New Smithy Arms, Malton Road, Swinton, near Malton, tonight (27/8/2022), 9pm

YORK band Miles and The Chain Gang are heading to the New Smithy Arms gastro pub this weekend.

“It’s our first time performing in the Malton area,” says songwriter and singer Miles Salter. “We’ll be playing a selection of our own songs, plus some old classics from Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and The Rolling Stones.”

Latest single Love Is Blind has been aired 400 times on radio stations around the world, YouTube views of the band have topped 50,000 and their 2022 gig diary has taken in Doncaster, Harrogate and Helmsley.

Three-day event: Malton Summer Food Lovers Festival

Festival of the week: Malton Summer Food Lovers Festival, today (27/8/2022) and tomorrow from 9am, Bank Holiday Monday, from 10am.

THIS is the second Malton Food Lovers Festival of 2022, taking over the streets of “Yorkshire’s food capital” for three days in a celebration of fine produce and cooking.

Expect artisan stalls, street food, talks, tastings, celebrity chefs, cookery and blacksmith demonstrations, a festival bar, buskers, brass bands and Be Amazing Arts in the Creativitent.

Look out for Tommy Banks, from The Black Swan, Oldstead, and Roots, York, on the festival demo stage today at 1pm. Festival entry is free.

Daniel Kitson: Wanting a word with you Outside

Comedy gigs of the week outside York: Daniel Kitson: Outside, At The Mill, Stillington Mill, near York, Monday (29/8/2022) to Wednesday, 7.30pm

DENBY Dale stand-up comedian Daniel Kitson had not been on stage for two years when he contacted At The Mill promoter Alexander Flanagan Wright to say “hello, could I come and do a show?”.

Not one show, but six work-in-progress gigs, performed in two sold-out blocks from May 23 to 25 and June 8 to 10. He enjoyed the Mill outdoor experience so much, he has added a third run for August’s dying embers.

Tickets have flown again for the latest chance to watch Kitson “find out whether he can still do his job and what, if anything, he has to say to large groups of people he doesn’t know”. For returns only, contact

That’ll be Mel Day: Guest star for The Story Of Soul. Picture: Entertainers

History show of the week: The Story Of Soul, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

FROM the producers of Lost In Music and The Magic Of Motown comes The Story Of Soul with special guest Mel Day, “The Soul Man” from Britain’s Got Talent.

This journey through the history of sweet soul music takes in the songs of Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind And Fire, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, The Pointer Sisters, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Ben E King, Barry White and plenty more. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Foy Vance: Showing Signs Of Life at York Barbican

Blues gig of the week: Foy Vance, Signs Of Life Tour, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.50pm

NORTHERN Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance plays York Barbican in support of his fourth studio album, Signs Of Life, in a gig rearranged from March 25.

The redemptive record finds Bangor-born Vance – husband, father, hipster, sinner, drinker – belatedly coming to terms with his demons in his late-40s.

The storytelling bluesman, survivor, rocker and folk hero calls Signs Of Life “an album of dawn after darkness, hope after despair, engagement after isolation, uplift after lockdown”. Box office:

One for the Family Album: Writer-director Alan Ayckbourn, left, Jude Deeno and David Lomond in rehearsal for his 87th play, premiering at the SJT. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Play launch of the week: Alan Ayckbourn’s Family Album, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Friday to October 1

FAMILY Album, his 87th full-length play, is written, directed and sound designed by Alan Ayckbourn for its world premiere in The Round at the SJT.

Ayckbourn tenderly chronicles the trials, tribulations and temptations of three generations of one family across 70 years in the same home. 

Join RAF veteran John and housewife Peggy as they proudly move into the first home they can really call their own in 1952; daughter Sandra, frantically negotiating the challenges of a ten-year-old’s birthday party without her AWOL husband in 1992, and granddaughter Alison, finally escaping the house she has somewhat unwillingly inherited in 2022. Box office: 01723 370541 or

The poster for In The Name Of Love, The Diana Ross Story tribute show

Tribute show of the week: In The Name Of Love, The Diana Ross Story, York Barbican, September 3, 7.30pm

IN the wake of Diana Ross headlining the Platinum Party At The Palace at 78 and playing Leeds First Direct Arena in June with a 14-piece band, here comes the tribute show.

In a chronological set list, Cheri Jade takes on The Supremes’ catalogue before Tameka Jackson handles the solo Diana years.

Here come Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love, Stop In The Name Of Love, Reflections, You Keep Me Hanging On, You Can’t Hurry Love, Stoned Love, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Touch Me In The Morning, Upside Down, My Old Piano, I’m Coming Out and Chain Reaction. Box office:

Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, is back to pour pints and scorn alike as he gigs for victory

The taste of victory: Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, is here for more than the beer

THE Guvnor of Little England comedy, Al Murray, will hotfoot it from his Edinburgh Fringe run at the distinctly French-sounding Palais du Variete to the Grand Opera House, York, on September 1.

“As the dust settles and we emerge blinking into the dawn of a new year, the men and women of this great country will need answers,” proclaims Murray’s publicity machine. “Answers that they know they need, answers to questions they never knew existed. And when that moment comes, who better to show the way, to provide those answers, than the people’s man of the people, the Pub Landlord?”

In that case, let’s crack on with the questions that do need answering pronto for The Press. We dig the pun, but why call the show “Gig For Victory”, Al? “Well, it’s because, at the height of the pandemic, there were those inane comparisons with the Second World War, our biggest one” says Murray, the graduate in Modern History from St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

“People clearly think there was a victory at the end of the lockdowns, and if there is one, it’s being back on the road again. By May last year, I wondered if that was it for performers. ‘It’s fine,’ I thought. ‘I’ve been doing this for a long time; I don’t have to go up and down the country, eat bad food, or have things get right up my nose’!

“I thought, ‘maybe it will be fun’…and lockdown was a laugh. I could be at home with my family, instead of nights away on tour. But come last summer, someone was putting gigs on in a pub and asked if I wanted to do one. I did one hour 40 minutes and I felt sky high with the laughs.”

What does Murray mean by the Pub Landlord providing the “answers that they know they need, answers to questions they never knew existed”. “That does sound quite Donald Rumsfeld,” he says, referring to the United States Secretary of Defence’s infamous response to a question at a US Department of Defence briefing in February 2002.

The one where Rumsfeld obfuscated: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

You were saying, Al? “What I’m trying to capture with the Pub Landlord is that thing of someone chewing your ear off. Showing you how you are all linked without realising it.”

Murray’s Pub Landlord dispenser of bar-room wisdom plays on people’s prejudices, such as in his “People come over here, taking our jobs” routine on his last tour. “Human history is about migration – and I’m fascinated by history, as you know – so you’ve got to accommodate that in the way you look at the world,” says Murray.

The poster for Al Murray’s latest tour, Gig For Victory, bound for York next Thursday

“One of the great ironies of this country is people saying what a great country it  is, and then not expecting anyone to want to come and live here – though the complexion has changed with the war in Ukraine.

“Why the Pub Landlord is useful is he can say things without saying them on the nose, whereas if you say things on the nose, it gets tricky for humour, but if you go around the houses, you can say things with ironic distance.”

Looking at the state of Britain today, amid the cost-of-living crisis, the Government’s policy on immigration and Boris Johnson’s endless headlines, Murray says: “Things are very tricky at the moment. That’s how I’d put it. I have friends who write editorials for newspapers, but as a comic I’d rather have that bloody-minded attitude. 

“Coming up with subjects when you’ve been writing for a character for a long time, you think, ‘what will they [the Government/political leaders] come up with this time?’. Since Trump, you think, ‘how does satire keep up with the reality?’, and you just have to rise to that challenge.

“Looking from an historian’s point of view, people are worried about Putin, but what if he’s just an appetiser, like John the Baptist. With Putin, he was there all along, but we just misread him. When someone says they want to restore the Russian Empire, maybe we should take him at his word.”

Maybe we should not take Al Murray, Pub Landlord and bar-room braggard at his word, although his xenophobic Little Englander schtick turned out to be a forerunner for UKIP leader Nigel Farage – who he memorably stood against in Pub Landlord mode, representing the Free United Kingdom Party, or FUKP, in South Thanet at the 2015 General Election. Brexit would be just around the corner.

The Pub Landlord is an alter-ego, a comic device, but how did that act develop into the audience-bothering motormouth of today, pouring pints and scorn alike? “It came about from doing the crowd work, because when I started being this character in the London cabaret clubs, the problem was, why would a pub landlord be on stage, and wouldn’t he tell you why? So, he’d start up a conversation, saying ‘who are you?’,” says Murray.

“I found that working with the audience was the most effective way to show his character, talking to them, asking them what jobs they do, when all he does is pour pints, which is not like being a university professor, is it?! His attitude to what people do for a living tells you who he is, what he thinks, and the other really brilliant thing about the audience interaction is it means the show is different every night out of necessity.”

Al Murray: The Pub Landlord, Gig For Victory, Grand Opera House, York, September 1, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Copyright of The Press, York