More Things To Do in and around York for Grayson Perry’s ‘normal people’. List No. 47, courtesy of The Press, York

What’s up Duck? The Dead Ducks sketch comedy troupe head for Theatre@41 Monkgate, York

CLOWNS, ominous things, Grayson, James, tango, chamber music, horrible British history and watercolours in teamwork add up to shows aplenty for Charles Hutchinson and normal people alike to check out.

Sketch comedy show of the week: The Dead Ducks: Ducks Out Of Water, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, tomorrow (3/9/2021), 8pm

UNIVERSITY of York Comedy Society sketch troupe The Dead Ducks make their Theatre@41 debut with Ducks Out Of Water as a cast of five serves up fun scenes that range from the relatable to the ridiculous.

Be prepared for completely original content in a humorous mix of parody and farce with a delectable side order of top-notch acting.

Look out for pirates, cowboys, clowns and assorted animals, alongside Winnie the Pooh, Sherlock Holmes and Mickey Mouse “like you have never seen them before”. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk/events/.

Sunset Gazing, by Suzanne McQuade, on show at Village Gallery, Colliergate, York

Exhibition of the week: Suzanne McQuade, Touch Of Tranquillity, Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, until Octoger 23; open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm

LEEDS watercolourist Suzanne McQuade quit her long-standing customer service job five years ago to take the plunge and become a full-time artist.

“Using watercolours is like teamwork; I have to allow the watercolour to move and merge, and utilise the patterns it creates,” says Suzanne, who loves how this medium’s translucency enables light to flood into her landscapes and seascapes.

Drawing inspiration from the British countryside and coastline, she paints what she finds captivating, from a dramatic sky to underwater rocks. “I try to make the scene in front of me to be as beautiful as possible,” she says.

Alexander Wright: Performing Small, Small Ominous Things with Megan Drury at Theatre At The Mill, Stillington

Open-air theatre show of the week: Small Small Ominous Things, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington Mill, near York, Saturday, 8pm

LOOK out for a tiny red gun hidden in the grass; a picture of a puppy eating a toy dinosaur; a dull feeling in the pit of your stomach; a bug burrowing into your skin.

Welcome to a late-night mix of stories, tales and unsettling considerations from partners Megan Drury and Alexander Wright, Australian actor, writer and creative artist and North Yorkshire writer, theatre-maker and visionary facilitator respectively.

Gather around the fire as they collaborate for the first time live At The Mill, bringing small, small ominous things out into late-summer’s fading light. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/

Making a splash: The new Normal for artist Grayson Perry, performing on tour at York Barbican

Who-knows-what-to-expect gig of the week: Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, York Barbican, Monday, 7.30pm

IN his own words, despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, where Grayson takes you through an enlightening, eye-watering evening wherein this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. “You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” his show patter promises.

Grayson asks, and possibly answers, these big questions in a show “sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Home, James? Briefly, yes, when rehearsing at Broughton Hall, near Skipton. Scarborough Open Air Theatre awaits. Picture: Lewis Knaggs

Gig of the week outside York: James, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, September 9, gates open at 6pm

WHERE better for James to play a summer show in the wake of releasing their 2021 single Beautiful Beaches than at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

The Manchester legends will be combining myriad anthemic favourites with selections from their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June.

Fronted by Clifford-born Tim Booth, James are completing a hattrick of Scarborough OAT visits after shows in May 2015 and August 18. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com

Prima Vocal Ensemble artistic director Ewa Salecka with Misatango composer Martin Palmeri

Well worth the wait: Misatango: Prima’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration, Temple Hall, York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York, September 11, 7.30pm

AFTER a year’s delay, Prima Vocal Ensemble director Ewa Salecka is thrilled to be holding the York choir’s tenth anniversary concert at last at a socially distanced Temple Hall.

At the concert’s core will be “the fabulous Misa a Buenos Aires, Misatango, an exhilarating fusion of Tango and Latin Mass”, by Argentinian composer Martín Palmeri, performed with the Mowbray Orchestra string quartet, bandoneon virtuoso Julian Rowlands, pianist Greg Birch and mezzo-soprano soloist Lucy Jubb. Box office: primavocalensemble.com.

Tim Lowe: York Chamber Music Festival director and cellist

Festival of the month: York Chamber Music Festival, September 16 to 18

CANADIAN pianist Angela Hewitt plays YCMF’s opening recital on September 16 and joins fellow festival artists Anthony Marwood and Pablo Hernan, violins, Lilli Maijala, viola, and Tim Lowe, cellist, for the closing gala concert on September 18, both at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

Marwood, Hernan, Maijala and Lowe play string quartets by Haydn, Mendelssohn and Schumann at the NCEM on September 17.

Festival director Lowe joins pianist John Paul Ekins for the first 1pm concert at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, on September 17; on the next lunchtime, Ekins plays works that connect Beethoven and Liszt. Box office: tickets@ncem.co.uk.

The Horrible Histories poke fun at Barmy Britain at the Grand Opera House, York, in October

History in the re-making: The Horrible Histories in Barmy Britain, Grand Opera House, York, October 21 to 24

CAN you beat battling Boudicca? What if a Viking moved in next door? Would you lose your heart or head to horrible Henry VIII? Can evil Elizabeth entertain England?

Will Parliament survive gunpowder Guy? Dare you stand and deliver to dastardly Dick Turpin? Escape the clutches of Burke and Hare and move to the groove with party Queen Victoria?

So many questions for The Horrible Histories’ Live On Stage team to answer with the aid of the 3D illusions of Bogglevision as skulls hover, dams burst and missiles fly into the family audience. For tickets for Birmingham Stage Company’s eye-popping, gruesome, scary and unbelievable trip through British history, go to atgtickets.com/york.

Why Grayson Perry is Top of the Pots, Kinky Sex plate and all…

Kinky Sex: Grayson Perry’s first ceramic, from his Pre-Therapy Years exhibition at York Art Gallery

SHEER art attack podcasters Chalmers & Hutch discuss the cracking ceramics exhibition Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years at York Theatre Royal in episode 45 of Two Big Egos In A Small Car.

What’s on Graham’s Lonely Film Club Night list?

How does the passing of time judge Nick Drake, Bowie, Dylan and…Sinead O’Connor, singer, agent provocateur and now autobiographer? More Sinned against than Sinning?

What are all those flags on Harrogate Stray? Graham flags up Luke Jerram’s NHS tribute installation, In Memoriam.

Here’s the link to hear more: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/8636988

More Things To Do in York, beyond and at home as Step 2 on the roadmap nears. List No. 30, courtesy of The Press, York

York actor-writer Anna Soden in rehearsal for Strawberry Lion’s streamed performance of E Nesbit’s Five Children And It

ROLL on Monday and Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap to recovery, when outdoor hospitality can resume and zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and libraries can re-open.

Charles Hutchinson casts an eye over what’s on and what’s next.

Strawberry Lion’s show poster for Five Children And It

Children’s stream of the week: Strawberry Lion in Five Children And It, via Explore York libraries

YORK company Strawberry Lion’s streamed production of E Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It can be viewed for free on @YorkExplore’s YouTube channel daily until April 14 at 5pm.

Suitable for children aged five and over, the show is written and performed by York actor, musician, writer, theatre-maker and company founder Anna Soden, who has set Nesbit’s 1902 story with the grumpy magical creature on Scarborough beach.

Sailing Hopefully, by Jack Hellewell, from Jack’s Travels at Kentmere House Gallery, York, from next Monday

Exhibition launch of the week ahead: Jack Hellewell: Jack’s Travels, Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from April 12

CURATOR Ann Kentmere is toasting Roadmap Step 2 Day by reopening Kentmere House Gallery on April 12 with Jack Travels, the first in a lockdown-delayed series of exhibitions to celebrate the centenary of the late Bradford artist Jack Hellewell.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ann and David Petherick’s gallery in their York home, and Hellewell’s show will be open every day from April 12 to 17, 11am to 5pm, with extended opening to 9pm next Thursday, before Ann resumes her regular opening hours on the first weekend of each month and Thursdays from 6pm to 9pm. Or you can just ring the bell on the off-chance.

York Dungeon: Heading out into York’s haunted streets for a walking tour

Walking tour launch of the month ahead: The York Dungeon, from April 16

THE York Dungeon will spring its “frighteningly fun but family-friendly” walking tour on this socially distanced haunted city from next Friday.

Taking The York Dungeon above ground on Fridays to Sundays, guests will be led on a tour of hair-raising historic locations by two of the Clifford Street visitor attraction’s most/least loved characters, who will tell horrible tales of York’s murkiest, darkest history,  wrapped up in suspense and surprises. Start times will be throughout each day; tickets must be pre-booked at thedungeons.com/york/.

Ela Bochenek, documentations assistant for Scarborough Museums Trust, with Bathers In Sunlight by Zdzislaw Ruszkowski , on show at Scarborough Art Gallery in Scarborough: Our Seaside Town, from next month

A day by the sea but inside a gallery: Scarborough: Our Seaside Town, Scarborough Art Gallery, May 18 to September 12

SCARBOROUGH Art Gallery’s summertime exhibition will look at life in a seaside town, as seen through the eyes of local people. 

Curator Esther Lockwood interviewed team members from Scarborough Museums Trust, asking for their personal views and recollections of life by the sea year-round before selecting items from the trust’s extensive collections.

These will include an early 20th century ice cream cart that once operated on Scarborough’s South Bay beach; the East Coast resort’s Pancake Bell, rung to signal the start of the unique tradition of skipping on the seafront on Shrove Tuesday, and other seaside ephemera, paintings, vintage photographs and postcards.

Kinky Sex, Grayson Perry’s first plate, now among the “lost pots” brought together for his Pre-Therapy Years exhibition at CoCA, York

Missing Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 already? Head to Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) will open at last next month.

This touring show is the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world, re-assembling the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist, author and television presenter made between 1982 and 1994.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Perry.

SpongeBob The Musical: Pick Me Up Theatre have acquired the rights for a winter production in York

Audition opportunity: Pick Me Up Theatre, SpongeBob The Musical, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York

YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre are to stage SpongeBob The Musical from December 7 to 18 at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

Director Robert Readman and musical director Sam Johnson will hold auditions there in July and August for performers aged 15 to 23 and actor-musicians for the Bikini Bottom Band.

Anyone interested is asked to email pickmeuptheatre@gmail.com for an audition form.

Del Amitri: First album in 19 years and first York Barbican gig after the same hiatus

Gig announcement of the week in York: Del Amitri, York Barbican, September 18

DEL Amitri will follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a September 18 gig at York Barbican.

Justin Currie’s Glaswegian band last played the Barbican in May 2002, the year they released their last album, Can You Do Me Good?.

Greatest hits and new material will combine in a set supported by The Bryson Family. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow (9/4/2021) at 9am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

John Spiers, left, and Jon Boden: Pocklington Arts Centre gig in October for the former Bellowhead cornerstones

Gig announcement of the week outside York: Spiers & Boden, Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC), October 20, 8pm

AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together and not only working on new material, but also bringing a live performance to Pock in the autumn. 

John Spiers, 46, and Jon Boden, 44, were the driving forces in big folk band Bellowhead, who played a glorious headline set at PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2015. Tickets cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Grayson Perry’s Covid-crocked “lost pots” exhibition confirmed for May 28 opening in York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art

Kinky Sex: Grayson Perry’s first ceramic plate in 1983

GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery, The Pre-Therapy Years, will run from May 28 to September 5.

This touring show will be held in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) in the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced for a June 12 to September 20 run in York in 2020 until the pandemic intervened. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry-

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, The Pre-Therapy Years re-introduces the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist made between 1982 and 1994.  

Gathering the 70 works has been facilitated by crowd-sourcing through a national public appeal, resulting in the “lost pots” being put on display together for the first time since they were made. 

Dr Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics at York Art Gallery, says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the ground-breaking early works of such a renowned and influential artist. 

“It is fascinating to see how his craft has progressed and evolved since he began working as an artist. His early ceramic works show that the distinctive style, themes and characters have always been central in his decoration.”

Armageddon Feels So Very Reassuring, 1988, by Grayson Perry

Helen continues: “To be able to bring these works together for public display, many of which are usually hidden away in private collections, is absolutely thrilling.  

“We are very much looking forward to seeing Grayson Perry’s ceramic works displayed in the beautiful Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery alongside our own collection of British studio ceramics.” 

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories.

The exhibition “represents a unique opportunity to enjoy the artist’s clever, playful and politically-engaged perspective on the world”. Often challenging and explicit, these works reveal the early development of Perry’s distinctive voice that has established him as one of the most compelling commentators on contemporary society. 

Essex, by Grayson Perry

Explaining how The Pre-Therapy Years came together, curator Catrin Jones says: “When we proposed the exhibition, Grayson responded really positively because, he said, ‘no-one knows where those works are’.

“So, we asked the public and were absolutely overwhelmed by the response. What followed was an extraordinary process of rediscovery as we were contacted by collectors, enthusiasts and friends, who collectively held over 150 of his early works.”

The first task was to process photos of the pots, plates and drawings that arrived in the inbox, followed by asking all manner of questions about the works and from where they came.

“We logged all the pottery marks and provenance information, as well as the wonderful stories of how their owner came to have a genuine Grayson Perry,” says Catrin.

Meaningless Symbols, 1993, by Grayson Perry

She and her team next sat down with Perry to look through the extraordinary and varied selection of artworks. During this process, he remarked that seeing the works again was a powerful reminder of his “pre-therapy years”, and an exhibition title was born.

The show begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium. From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-1980s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in works of explosive energy. Although the majority of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs, perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.  

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years begins in 1982, when Perry was first working as an artist and then charts his progress to the mid-1990s, when he became established in the mainstream London art scene.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Grayson Perry of his exhibition, The Pre-Therapy Years

The exhibition provides a snapshot of a very British time and place, revealing the transition of Grayson’s style, starting out with playful riffs on historic art, such as old Staffordshire pottery, along with crowns (the mixed-media Crown Of Penii, 1982) and thrones (Saint Diana, Let Them Eat S**t, 1984), inspired by his fascination with Princess Diana.

Gradually, he progressed into a style that is patently his own: plates and vases rich with detail that tell tales of our times and experiences, such as 1989’s Cocktail Party.    

Much of the iconography of Perry’s output has an angry, post-punk, deeply ironic leaning, combining cosy imagery with shocking sexual or political content.  

Many of the works displayed in The Pre-Therapy Years tell a very personal story, particularly in the evolution of Claire, who first appeared in the early 1980s, inspired by such powerful women as television newsreaders and Princess Diana, rather than the exuberant child-like figure Perry created after her “coming out” party in 2000.  

The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Grayson Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories

Accompanying the rediscovery of Perry’s artworks, the Holburne Museum is illustrating the exhibition with photos and snapshots of the era, again sharing hitherto unseen glimpses of Perry as he journeyed from angry, ironic young artist to one of British art’s best-loved figures. 

After completing his art degree in Portsmouth in 1982, Perry moved to London and lived in a Camden squat with the singer Marilyn and Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, collectively enjoying creative freedom while sharing limited resources.

During these early years, Perry encountered the Neo Naturists, a group of freewheeling performance artists, whose visual and creative approach would have a profound impact on him.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, first exhibited at York Gallery in July 2015

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said curator of ceramics Helen Walsh on its arrival.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

Melanie featured subsequently in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, from August 20 last year.

In All Its Familiarity Golden, one of Grayson Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries shown at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Last year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley. Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born Perry.

2003 Turner Prize winner Perry kept himself busy in Lockdown 1 by launching Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the lockdown through art, in a six-part series on Channel 4 from April 27 2020 that attracted a million viewers a week.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry, as he looks forward to his 2021 tour, Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

From his London workshop, the Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer took viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in themed shows designed to “encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation”.

Grayson’s Art Club has returned for an on-going second series, presented by Perry in tandem with his wife, the author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry.

Looking ahead, outré artist and social commentator Perry has a York-bound live show in the late-summer.

In his own words: Despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, booked into York Barbican for September 6 on night number five of this year’s 23-date tour. Sheffield City Hall awaits on September 10; Harrogate Convention Centre on November 27.

The tour poster for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

What will be on Perry’s mind?  “Let Grayson take you through an enlightening and eye-watering evening in which this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” his show patter promises.

“Join Grayson as he asks, and possibly answers, these big questions in an evening sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.”

Perry, who turned 61 on March 24, has had an artistic career spanning 40 years, revealing a diverse expertise in “making lemonade out of the mundanity of life”. Such as? In 2015, he designed A House For Essex, a permanent building constructed in the North Essex countryside.

Last autumn, he presented Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip, a three-part documentary travelogue on Channel 4, exploring the meaning of the American Dream in today’s disunited United States of America.

Tickets for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Sue Clayton marks World Down Syndrome Day with 21 portrait salute in Pocklington

Sue Clayton’s portrait of Holly from her exhibition 21, opening tomorrow at All Saints Church, Pocklington

YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton is joining forces with Pocklington Arts Centre to present an outdoor exhibition, 21, in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.

On display on the railings of All Saints Church, Pocklington, from tomorrow (19/3/2021) to April 19, the 21 portraits are all inspired by children and adults who have Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James.

Sue, whose portraiture is marked by a vibrant palette and social purpose, has chosen the theme of 21 not only in a nod to World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) falling on March 21, but also to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have. 

21 will be the second such exhibition to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown after Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes outside “the Cathedral of the Wolds” from late-November to January 4.

Sue says: “I’m delighted to once again be teaming up with Pocklington Arts Centre to unveil 21 to mark World Down Syndrome Day. 

Todd, by Sue Clayton

“I take a huge amount of inspiration from my son James, who celebrated his 18th birthday in lockdown, so I’m very much looking forward to bringing this collection of portraits featuring children and adults with Down Syndrome at work and play to Pocklington. 

“I really hope it helps to not only celebrate some incredible people but also perhaps to challenge some people’s perceptions of Down Syndrome to coincide with this international awareness-raising campaign.”

The 21 exhibition comes a year after Sue held a record-breaking attempt to create the world’s largest pair of knitted socks at PAC, where the huge socks formed the backdrop to her studio exhibition Downright Marvellous At Large. 

The project involved keen knitters from the Pocklington community and beyond knitting and donating brightly coloured squares that were joined together to make the enormous odd socks. 

“Why odd socks,” you ask?  Odd socks are worn to mark WDSD as part of the global fundraising campaign Lots Of Socks to represent the odd number of chromosomes, whose shape matches a sock.  

“We’re delighted to be working with Sue Clayton once again on what promises to be a fantastic exhibition to help raise awareness of a worthwhile cause,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

Sue’s original Downright Marvellous! exhibition at PAC in 2015 mainly depicted young children who have Down Syndrome, but her new portraits in part focus on the “unrepresented and significant” social presence of adults with Down Syndrome at work and at leisure. This is in keeping with her artistic vision to “represent those who are sometimes socially unseen”.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to be working with Sue Clayton once again on what promises to be a fantastic exhibition to help raise awareness of a worthwhile cause. 

“Sue’s previous exhibitions at PAC have always proved to be so popular, so we’re looking forward to being able to make 21 happen as an outdoor event while the venue remains closed to the public. 

“We hope as many people as possible enjoy this truly unique and inspiring collection of works.”

Sue, from Wigginton, is drawn to portraiture because “it insists upon the idea that the more you look at a face, the more you see. Every single aspect – the eyelids, the nostrils, and the complexion – reveals the personality and character of every individual person”.

Sue Clayton with her York Heroes portrait of Andrew Fair, stalwart Sainsbury’s worker at Monks Cross

After making a radical mid-career change to become a full-time artist, self-taught Sue soon gained recognition from Britain’s Got Artists in 2012 and later as Outstanding Visual Artist in the York Culture Awards for her York Heroes project in 2017-2018, shown at York Hospital. 

Selected by the York public for Sue’s portrait challenge, the six “heroes” were Dame Berwick Kaler, York Theatre Royal pantomime legend; Mary Chapman, founder of Nuzzlets Animal Charity in Great Ouseburn; Professor Steve Leveson, York Against Cancer co-founder and chairman; Ian Donaghy, motivational public speaker, charity fundraiser, author and Huge singer; the late PC Suzanne Asquith, who was awarded a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work with young people, and Andrew Fair, the perennial friendly face on the trolleys at Sainsbury’s at Monks Cross.

Sue’s portrait of Andrew in uniform, with his yellow hi-viz jacket and orange Sainsbury’s name tag, subsequently featured on the opening episode of Grayson Perry’s Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 during Lockdown 1 last spring.

Influenced by Rembrandt, York artist William Etty and more contemporary painters such as Jenny Saville and Tim Benson, Sue enjoys working with dynamic colours to make marks “that should not be there but somehow work”, and her modus operandi is to capture both the likeness of her subjects and their inner life. 

During lockdown, she has been teaching weekly online art classes. To find out more about Sue’s classes and her work, visit sueclayton.com. For further information on World Down Syndrome Day, and how to show support by wearing odd socks on March 21, visit downs-syndrome.org.uk.

Self Portrait, by Sue Clayton

Here, CharlesHutchPress turns the spotlight on Sue Clayton with a broad canvas of questions.

How will you and James mark World Down Syndrome Day on Sunday, March 21, Sue?

“We’ll be definitely wearing our odd socks on WDSD. We’ll be donning the official design odd socks from the Down Syndrome Association, but everyone is warmly encouraged to show support by wearing any odd socks they like, with the odd socks representing the extra sock-shaped chromosome.

“We’ll also be taking part in an online disco party that starts at 3.21pm on Sunday, so beware some serious Mum dancing! The day before, James and I will be doing an online portrait workshop with James debuting as my model. All monies raised from this will go to the local Down Syndrome support group.”

Sue Clayton’s poster for Saturday’s workshop, marking son James’s debut as a model

What works make up the 21 portraits in 21 in 2021?

“The exhibition features seven new portraits of young people from our region, with a new sketch of James from his 18th birthday included. The other portraits have been selected from past Downright Marvellous exhibitions. There’s a range of mediums used this time from pen sketches, acrylic, oils and watercolour.”

Your past Pocklington Arts Centre exhibitions have been held indoors. This time, the works will be on show outside, becoming street art, on view to all. What extra oomph does that bring to this show?

Sue Clayton’s sketch of James on his 18th birthday

“Pocklington Arts Centre strikes again; they are such a great asset to the community. What a fantastic initiative this is. When most artists are struggling during this time PAC are helping by funding these exhibitions. 

“I’m particularly excited as I’m passionate about making art accessible for all. This way, art is shown in an open environment to people who may not go to art galleries. If people can’t go to galleries and art centres, they will come to you!

“The paintings are vibrant and positive; it’s great to think they might make people smile as they pass by All Saints Church. I’m hoping the portraits will dispense the label and instead focus on the individual.”

Artist Sue Clayton, centre, with Janet Farmer, director of Pocklington Arts Centre, and Dr Reverend Jake Belder at Friday’s launch of the World Down Syndrome Day exhibition, 21, outside All Saints Church, Pocklington

You say you want to “perhaps challenge some people’s perceptions of Down Syndrome to coincide with this international awareness raising campaign”. What do you think those perceptions are and how can they be changed?

“I hope to share the individual and unique character of any person I paint; these models are no exception. A misconception may be that people with Down Syndrome will live sheltered lives, never leaving the family home or having a job.

“Many adults with DS make a great contribution to society, working in paid jobs or volunteering within the community. My greatest wish for James in the future will be that he holds down a fulfilling job to him; has a strong, loving relationship and can live as independently as possible, all of which I hope for my daughter too, who doesn’t have DS.”

“Vibrant, young, positive”: The qualities radiating from Rotherham Covid-19 ward nurse Rachel Beal in a photograph that inspired Sue Clayton to paint her for the #portraitsfornhsheroes” national project in 2020. A new NHS commission is on its way

What are you working on and when might your next exhibition be?

“I’ll soon be working on a new commission linked with the NHS, which I am very excited about. More details to follow nearer the time.

“I’m also working on a project that incorporates both large-scale paintings of the portrait and the nude side by side. Yet again, I hope to challenge the perceptions we make of people as we view the same person in a different way: do these change and why?”

How are the Zoom art classes going?

“I’m loving delivering art classes via Zoom. I can’t believe I was so reticent at the start of lockdown; I love it now! The thing I have found lovely is the sense of community and friendship that can form in a virtual class. 

“I now have people from across the UK and even have someone Zooming in weekly from the Netherlands.”

Joe, by Sue Clayton

What has Zoom taught you about the possibilities of opening up to new opportunities?

“The beauty of the classes is no travelling to venues, no forgetting art materials, plus it allows freedom to experiment more with materials as everything is on hand at home.

“I do two watercolour paint-along sessions each week, which allow participants to see in detail how to create the painting. Everyone can view it easily on thier own screen.

“Also, reference photos are much easier to share and I’ve created an online gallery so we can look and share our work together, again building the sense of community. Many of my learners have had to shield, so this has been a great way to still participate and not feel so isolated during this time.

Bethany, by Sue Clayton

“From a personal point of view, I’ve linked to a lot of art talks myself, expanding my art history knowledge. I particularly enjoyed taking part in one from Washington DC examining Van Gogh’s letters and the paintings described within them. Great stuff!”

How have you dealt with lockdown x 3 as a creative person?

“When lockdown began this time last year, my yearning to paint portraits waned; I’m very pleased to say this didn’t last long. Discovering I could continue to teach was a real bonus as, like so many creatives, I was very anxious how I could still earn money.

“The classes have been essential on many levels. They feed my creativity as I need to think about new and exciting challenges for my learners, but it’s also a wonderful time with fellow painters as we share thoughts and ideas. 

“I’ve had the challenge of two children home-schooling and having a young person with special needs 24/7 can have its ups and downs but overall it’s been good. 

Andrew, by Sue Clayton

“I often compensate by working into the early hours but I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to do this and keep my loved ones safe. 

“It’s definitely been a time to learn for me; I’ve invested in learning more about art history. Excitingly too, I’ve now found avenues to link up with models far further afield than I ever thought possible, thanks to technology.”

What do you know about yourself that you didn’t know a year ago pre-Covid?

“Hmm…tricky question! Like so many people, I’ve had to embrace tech more and never thought I would enjoy it so much. I’ve learnt to have more patience as I’ve had to time apart from my partner but equally learned our love is very strong and how thankful I am that he’s in my life.

“I know I enjoyed slowing down a little and how much I appreciate those around me. I now know that I have the scope to teach to a much wider audience and I’ve loved how much I’ve enjoyed it.”

“I really like the way he shows respect for all the artists, whoever they are, allowing them time to talk about their art and listening,” says Sue of artist Grayson Perry on Grayson’s Art Club

Why has Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 been such a breath of fresh air for the art world in general, championing people’s art?

“Grayson Perry is just fantastic; I can’t wait to see him in York later this year [Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, York Barbican, September 6].

“The TV show is wholesome and heartening and really brings home the fact that art is for everyone and everyone can make it. He’s such a good communicator and shows an understanding of humankind with his empathy. 

“I really like the way he shows respect for all the artists, whoever they are, allowing them time to talk about their art and listening. The connection between [his wife] Philippa and Grayson is great to see too. In a time of crisis, it truly shows the power of art, to create, to distract, to absorb, to think, to just be!”

Sue Clayton’s exhibition, 21, is on display outside All Saints Church, Pocklington, from March 19 to April 19, presented in tandem with Pocklington Arts Centre. For Sue’s short video on 21, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=lpoeCJW3_5I.

Rebecca, by Sue Clayton

More Things To Do in and around York once lockdown loosens grip and at home now. List No. 27, courtesy of The Press, York

Sandwich time: Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Cassie Vallance’s hit show from last summer in Rowntree Park, York, can be streamed from tomorrow

THE return of live entertainment is on the horizon at last, hopefully from May 17, prompting a surge in show confirmations, but in the meantime Stay Home activities remain prominent in Charles Hutchinson’s diary too.

Children’s streamed show of the weeks ahead: Park Bench Theatre’s Teddy Bears’ Picnic, February 26 to March 7

ONE of the hits of last summer’s Park Bench Theatre open-air season at Rowntree Park, York, is to be streamed by producers Engine House Theatre from tomorrow.

Children’s show Teddy Bears’ Picnic was performed by Cassie Vallance under Covid-safe conditions with more than 1,000 adults and youngsters seeing the show at 30-plus performances.

Suitable for everyone aged three and over, the streamed show will be bolstered by a Make Your Own Teddy Bear craft video. Tickets cost £5 at tpetv.com.

Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones: Your Place Comedy double bill at the weekend

Streamed comedy gig of the weekend: Rosie Jones and Hal Cruttenden, Your Place Comedy, Sunday

ROSIE Jones, Bridlington-born comedian, scriptwriter and actor, will join television comedy mainstay Hal Cruttenden in a virtual double bill on Sunday night, streamed from their living rooms into homes via YouTube and Twitch at 8pm.

Co-ordinator Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall, says: ““I know that times are tough for many people, and so we’re committed to keeping these shows completely free, so please do come and join Hal, Rosie and Tim via yourplacecomedy.co.uk for some top entertainment at an unbeatable price, as for now streaming is the only show in town.”

Thunk-It Theatre’s Becky Lennon and Jules Risingham: Setting up youth theatre classes with Pocklington Arts Centre

Youth theatre project launch: Thunk-It Theatre in tandem with Pocklington Arts Centre, from this weekend

YORK company Thunk-It Theatre are partnering with Pocklington Arts Centre to provide youth theatre for the East Riding and beyond.

Weekly drama classes will be available to children aged six to 11 from February 28, initially on Zoom until it is safe to re-open the Market Place venue, when sessions can be held in person.

The all-levels drama sessions for Years 2 to 6 will take place from 10am to 11am every Sunday during term time, run by Becky Lennon and Jules Risingham. To book a place, visit pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Asterisk tweet: Liam Gallagher found a typically eff-usive way on Wednesday to express his delight at the thumbs-up for Leeds Festival in August

Game-changing festival announcement of the year so far:  Leeds Festival, Bramham Park, near Wetherby, to go ahead

LEEDS Festival, Yorkshire’s biggest outdoor musical gathering of the year, is ON. Organiser Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Reepublic, confirmed the decision yesterday (24/2/2021) in the wake of the Government’s Monday statement on the four-step route out of Covid lockdown strictures.

Already confirmed as headliners are Stormzy, Catfish And The Bottlemen, Post Malone, Disclosure, Liam Gallagher and Queens Of The Stone Age in a new initiative for the August 27 to 29 event that sees the long-running festival introducing a second main stage to enable two bill-toppers per day.

Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara: New date for Remembering The Oscars dance show at York Barbican. Picture: Colin Thomas

Dance delay: Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manrara: Remembering The Oscars, York Barbican, put back to April 2022

STRICTLY Come Dancing regulars Aljaž Škorjanec and Janette Manraraare moving their Remembering The Oscars show at York Barbican for a second time. The persistent pandemic has enforced a switch to April 7 2022 for the only Yorkshire performance of next year’s tour, after an earlier change from Spring 2020 to March 2021. Tickets are still valid.

In the meantime, Aljaž and Janette will star in a streamed one-hour performance of Remembering The Oscars for a limited three-week season from March 27 to April 17. To book, go to: rememberingtheoscars.com.

Just Steve, A Guitar And You: the tour poster for Seasick Steve’s York Barbican return in the autumn

York gig announcement of the week: Seasick Steve, York Barbican, November 11

CALIFORNIAN country blues singer-songwriter Seasick Steve will return to York Barbican on November 11 on his Just Steve, A Guitar And You Tour.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (26/2/2021) from 9am at yorkbarbican.co.uk for the only Yorkshire gig of the American’s nine-date autumn solo tour in support of his second album of 2020, last November’s Blues In Mono.

“I’m lookin’ forward to coming and playing for y’all,” says Seasick Steve, 69. “Just gonna be me, you and my guitar. A few songs and a few stories, kinda like we just hangin’ out together! Gonna be fun. See ya there.”

Jesse Malin: Pocklington Arts Centre gig in December

East Yorkshire gig announcement of the week: Jesse Malin, Pocklington Arts Centre, December 7

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has secured a new date for New York City singer-songwriter Jesse Malin. He will play on December 7 2021, fully 18 months after he was originally booked to perform there in June 2020 as part of PAC’s 20th anniversary programme.

Malin, 53, released his seventh studio album, Sunset Kids, in 2019, produced by Lucinda Williams, American roots icon, country music queen and 2016 Platform Festival headliner at the Old Station, Pocklington.

Grayson Perry: Channel 4 return, York Barbican show and York Art Gallery exhibition at CoCA

And what about?

THE return of Grayson’s Art Club for a second series on Channel 4 on Fridays after Grayson Perry’s championing of people’s art was such a spirit-lifting boost to home creativity in the early days of Lockdown 1 last spring.

Perry, by the way, is booked into York Barbican for September 6 on his A Show For Normal People tour and his delayed early pottery exhibition, The Pre-Therapy Years, should open at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA), York Art Gallery, on May 28, if Step 3 re-opening comes into effect from May 17, as planned.

More Things To Do in and around York and at home in 2021, whatever barriers may yet lie ahead. List No 23, courtesy of The Press

Grayson Perry: Two shows in York in 2021; one an exhibition of “Lost Pots” at York Art Gallery, the other, his existentialist gig, A Show For Normal People, at York Barbican

AFTER a year where killjoy Covid-19 re-wrote the arts and events diary over and over again, here comes 2021, when the pandemic will still have a Red Pen influence.

Armed with a pantomime fairy’s magic wand rather than Madame Arcati’s crystal ball from Blithe Spirit, when what we need is a jab in the arm pronto, Charles Hutchinson picks out potential highlights from the New Year ahead that York will start in Tier 3.

Velma Celli: Had planned to present A Brief History Of Drag at Theatre @41 Monkgate in January; now heading online at home instead

Back on screen: Velma Celli, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, streaming on January 8

AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair was planning to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show in January, and maybe more shows to follow, at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Instead, he writes: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, I am back on the streaming! My first show is next Friday at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!” Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N; expect an online show every Friday from Ian’s new riverside abode.

Shed Seven: Headlining all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, in the summer

Open-air one-off event of the summer: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26

FRESH from releasing live album Another Night, Another Town as a reminder of what everyone has had to miss in 2020, Shed Seven have confirmed their Piece Hall headliner in Halifax has been rearranged for next summer.

The Sheds have picked an all-Yorkshire support bill of Leeds bands The Wedding Present and The Pigeon Detectives and fast-rising fellow York act Skylights. For tickets, go to lunatickets.co.uk or seetickets.com.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright of Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, in May

Most anticipated York exhibition of 2021: Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

CHANNEL 4’s  champion of people’s art in lockdown, Grayson Perry, will present his Covid-crocked 2020 exhibition of “lost pots” at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) next spring and summer instead.

The Pre-Therapy Years reassembles Perry’s earliest forays into ceramics; 70 “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994. Look out too for the potter, painter, TV presenter and social commentator’s existentialist September 6 gig at York Barbican: Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, wherein he will “distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can”.

Chris Moreno: No festive cheer at Christmas, but now he looks forward to presenting The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime, Aladdin, on Knavesmire, York, in spring 2021

A pantomime in the spring? Yes, The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime in a tent on Knavesmire, York, March 19 to April 11

CHRIS Moreno, director of Three Bears’ Productions four pantomimes at the Grand Opera House from 2016 to 2019, will direct York’s first ever “tentomime”, Aladdin, this spring with a cast of “21 colourful characters”.

The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime will be presented in the luxurious, heated Tented Palace, Knavesmire, in a socially distanced configuration compliant with Covid-19 guidance.

The big top will have a capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating, while the stage will span 50 metres, comprising a palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects. Look out for the flying carpets.

Going solo: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World at York Theatre Royal from February 16

Falling in love again with theatre: The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, February 14 to April 21

ON December 15, York Theatre Royal announced plans to reopen on St Valentine’s Day for The Love Season, with the audience capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

Full details will be confirmed in the New Year with tickets going on sale on January 8, and that remains the case, says chief executive Tom Bird, after hearing yesterday afternoon’s statement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We’re carrying on with our plans, including presenting Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh in husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman play, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, from February 16 to 20,” he confirmed.

Van Morrison: A brace of bracing nights at York Barbican in May

Six of the best at York Barbican in 2021

YORK Barbican has remained closed since the March lockdown, foregoing even the UK Snooker Championships in November and December.

A reopening date is yet to be announced but mark these shows in your diary, if only in pencil: Rob Brydon, A Night Of Songs & Laughter, April 14; Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, May 2; country duo The Shires, May 23; Van Morrison, May 25 and 26; Paul Weller, June 29, and Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules Tour, October 13.

Ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel: Looking forward to the 20th anniversary of York Open Studios

Anniversary celebration of the year: York Open Studios, April 17 and 18; 24 and 25, 10am to 5pm

2020 turned into a virtual Open Studios with displays online and in windows, but already 140 artists and makers are confirmed for the 20th anniversary event in the spring when they will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces.

Many of 2020’s selected artists have deferred their space to 2021, but new additions will be announced soon, the website teases. “We’re channelling the optimism and enthusiasm from all our artists to ensure this year’s 20th show is one of the best,” says event co-founder and ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Administrative director of the 2021 York Early Music Festival, running from July 9 to 17

And what about?

Festivals galore, as always, in the self-anointed “City of Festivals”. Coming up are the Jorvik Viking Festival; York Fashion Week; York Literature Festival; York Early Music Festival; York Festival of Ideas, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and more besides. 

Post-Lockdown 2, lights on for More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No 20, courtesy of The Press, York

Travelling players: York Theatre Royal pantomime stars Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Williams’ hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic. Picture: Ant Robling

EXIT LOCKDOWN 2, enter Tier 2 for York and North Yorkshire, Tier 3 for next-door neighbours The Humber and West Yorkshire.

That means plenty of openings and re-openings for Charles Hutchinson to highlight, but no roads leading to Leeds, Hull or…Pocklington.

The pantomime season in York

NO Dame Berwick Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the still-closed Grand Opera House, alas, but after two nights at the Theatre Royal this week, York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around York’s wards until December 23.

Dame for a laugh: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Trott in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Audience members will vote for whether they want to see Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington or Snow White. All performances have sold out but more may yet be added.

Tickets are still available for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, directed by Nik Briggs and choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd at Theatre @41 Monkgate from December 11 to January 3. Fans of York drag diva Velma Celli should look out for creator Ian Stroughair’s transformation into baddie Flesh Creep.

The Marian Consort: Live at the NCEM for the York Early Music Christmas Festival and online for York Christmas At Home

Festival at the double for 2020: York Early Christmas Music Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 12 and York Christmas At Home, December 11 to 13

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the NCEM, the other online. Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures and cabaret-style seating at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, complemented by a new digital weekend festival.

York Christmas At Home will be streamed from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

Performing live will be Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour. Add The Chiaroscuro Quartet, Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Spiritato!, Steven Devine and Stile Antico to that list for the At Home programme.

On your mask, get set, go: Susan Bower’s Christmas Party 2020, newly on show at Kentmere House Gallery, York

Post-Lockdown 2 gallery re-opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from this evening (3/12/2020)

NEW work by Susan Bower, John Thornton and Rosie Dean has arrived at Kentmere House Gallery in good time for Christmas. Ann Petherick will re-open her home art-space tomorrow evening from 6pm to 9pm, followed by weekend opening each Saturday and Sunday until December 20 from 11am to 5pm.

Oils, watercolours, pastels and original prints by 70 British artists are on display, along with books, greetings cards and Christmas cards exclusive to the gallery.

Visits arranged by appointment will be resuming too, on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or by emailing ann@kentmerehouse.co.uk.

Climate change: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Christmas snow: Badapple Theatre Company, in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre revive their 2019 Christmas hit, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.

Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.

Welcome back: Stu Freestone wants a word with you at Say Owt’s December 11 return to live performance

Owt and about again: Say Owt word weavers at The Crescent, York, December 11, 7pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, are back in live action for the first time since the summer for a night of socially distanced spoken word at The Crescent, re-opening that night with Covid-secure measures and a seated capacity of 60.

Stepping up to the mic will be Say Owt’s A-team of Henry Raby, Hannah Davies, Stu Freestone and Dave Jarman, joined by special guest poets Katie Greenbrown and Ruth Awolola.

“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Raby. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves.”

A guided quest with Potions Professor, magical spells and afternoon tea add up to A Very Magical Christmas on the streets of York

New children’s attraction of the week in York: A Very Magical Christmas, York city centre, until January 5

FROM the creators of A Very Magical Adventure comes A Very Magical Christmas: a live interactive theatrical quest with magical spell-casting and a fun, festive afternoon tea with special effects to knock your socks off. Even a visit from old St Nicholas is promised.

The quest will begin at St Michael le Belfrey, where you will meet your guide, the Potions Professor from Old Jacob’s School of Magic, who will teach you how to cast spells and find clues that will lead you to the secret location of the wizard school. For more details, go to averymagicaladventure.co.uk.

A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail: Solve clues at Beningbrough Hall on various dates in December

Children’s attraction of the week outside York: A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail, Beninbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, December 5 and eight other open days, 10am to 3pm

GRAB a £2 goody bag per child while stocks last, complete with an activity sheet, pencil, certificate, badge and play pack, to embark on a family-friendly Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Trail in the Beningbrough Hall gardens and grounds.

The task is to solve the clues to help Peter and his friends prepare for the winter ahead, while spotting nature in all its seasonal glory. Expect to find Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail before having your photograph taken beside the Peter Rabbit board.

Do check availability of the goody bags before setting off at nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Ghost story for Christmas: Alan Ayckbourn has voiced all the roles for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s audio version of his 1994 play Haunting Julia. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

And what about?

TUNE into Alan Ayckbourn’s ghost story for a winter chill, his 1994 play Haunting Julia, in an audio version for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, with all three roles voiced by Ayckbourn, at  sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5.

Don’t miss the SJT’s Christmas show, Nick Lane’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, starring Polly Lister at some shows, Jacoba Williams at others, from December 7 to 31.

York Barbican has been busy booking shows for 2021: artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry’s existentialist distraction from the very meaningless of life, A Show For Normal People, September 6;  London indie-pop trio Scouting For Girls, October 10; astronaut Tim Peake’s Journey Into The Unknown, November 2, and comedian Sarah Millican’s Bobby Dazzler, November 12 and 13.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry

Forget 2020’s ‘new normal’. Here’s man-in-a-dress normal person Grayson Perry’s 2021 show for Normal People in York

Grayson Perry, dressed as his transvestite alter ego, Claire, announces A Show For Normal People, his 2021 tour

AFTER an anything but normal year, otherwise known as the year of the new normal – alas destined to stretch into 2021 – here comes outré artist, potter and social commentator Grayson Perry’s York-bound live show.

In his own words: Despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, booked into York Barbican for September 6 on night number five of next year’s 23-date tour. Sheffield City Hall awaits on September 10; Harrogate Convention Centre on November 27.

What will be on the 2003 Turner Prize winner’s mind? “Let Grayson take you through an enlightening and eye-watering evening in which this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” his show patter promises.

“Join Grayson as he asks, and possibly answers, these big questions in an evening sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.”

Grayson Perry’s tour poster for next autumn’s travels

Born in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1960, Perry has had an artistic career spanning 40 years, revealing a diverse expertise in “making lemonade out of the mundanity of life”.

Such as? In 2015, he designed A House For Essex, a permanent building constructed in the North Essex countryside. In the early weeks of Lockdown 1 2020, his Channel 4 show, Grayson’s Art Club, brought the nation together through art as he exhorted and celebrated the making of new works, vowing to “battle the boredom of isolation” with a weekly theme from his London studio.

This autumn, Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip, his three-part documentary travelogue on Channel 4, explored the meaning of the American Dream in today’s disunited USA.

Tickets for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People go on sale tomorrow morning (27/11/2020) at 10am online only at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

This will not be the only Grayson Perry show in York in 2021. His Covid-crocked 2020 exhibition of “lost pots” at York Art Gallery will now run from May 28 to September 5 next year.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Grayson Perry of his Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, re-scheduled for 2021 in York

This major new display of Perry’s earliest works, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, will be showcased in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, the touring exhibition is the first to celebrate Perry’s earliest forays into the art world, reintroducing the “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994.

The 70 works have been crowd-sourced through a national public appeal, resulting in these “lost pots” being assembled for display together for the first time since they were made.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

Cocktail Party, 1989, one of Grayson Perry’ s “lost pots” from The Pre-Therapy Years show

The Pre-Therapy Years show should have been the centre of attention at CoCA from June 12 to September 20 this year, but the Coronavirus pandemic intervened.

Now, Perry devotees can look to the horizon, awaiting the arrival of his pots in York next May.The exhibition will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories.

The 70 works will provide an opportunity to enjoy his clever, playful and politically engaged perspective on the world as these often challenging and explicit pieces reveal his early steps towards becoming a compelling commentator on contemporary society.

From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-80s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own. The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in these early works, marked by their urgent energy.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation. Melanie later featured in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, this summer into autumn.

New dates set for Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years pots show at York Art Gallery

Let’s celebrate! You can put a date in your 2021 diary for Grayson Perry’s Cocktail Party (1989) at CoCA, York Art Gallery, every day from May 28 to September 5. Picture: copyright Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro

GRAYSON Perry’s Covid-crocked exhibition of “lost pots” at York Art Gallery will now run from May 28 to September 5 2021.

This major new display of Perry’s earliest works, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, will be showcased in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, the touring exhibition is the first to celebrate Perry’s earliest forays into the art world, reintroducing the “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994.

The 70 works have been crowd-sourced through a national public appeal, resulting in these “lost pots” being assembled for display together for the first time since they were made.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

The Pre-Therapy Years show should have been the centre of attention at CoCA from June 12 to September 20 this year, but the Coronavirus pandemic intervened.

2003 Turner Prize winner Perry, meanwhile, kept himself busy by launching Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the lockdown through art, in a six-part series on Channel 4 from April 27 that attracted a million viewers a week.

From his London workshop, the 60-year-old Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer took viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in themed shows designed to “encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation”.

Now, Perry devotees can look to the horizon, awaiting the arrival of his pots in York next May.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me,” says Grayson Perry of reacquainting himself with his “lost pots” in The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition

Dr Helen Walsh, York Museums Trust’s curator of ceramics, says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the ground-breaking early works of such a renowned and influential artist.

“It is fascinating to see how his craft has progressed and evolved since he began working as an artist. His early ceramic works show that the distinctive style, themes and characters have always been central in his decoration.

“To be able to bring these works together for public display, many of which are usually hidden away in private collections, is absolutely thrilling.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing Grayson Perry’s ceramic works displayed in the beautiful Centre of Ceramic Art alongside our own collection of British studio ceramics.”

The exhibition will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories. The 70 works will provide an opportunity to enjoy his clever, playful and politically engaged perspective on the world as these often challenging and explicit pieces reveal his early steps towards becoming a compelling commentator on contemporary society.

Explaining how the exhibition came together, curator Catrin Jones says: “When we proposed the exhibition, Grayson responded really positively because, he said, ‘no-one knows where those works are’. So, we asked the public and were absolutely overwhelmed by the response.

“What followed was an extraordinary process of rediscovery as we were contacted by collectors, enthusiasts and friends, who collectively held over 150 of his early works.”

The first task was to process photos of the pots, plates and drawings that arrived in the inbox. “We asked all sorts of questions about the works and where they came from,” says Catrin. “We logged all the pottery marks and provenance information, as well as the wonderful stories of how their owner came to have a genuine Grayson Perry.”

Catrin and her team then sat down with Perry to look through the “extraordinary and varied” selection of artworks. “It was during this process that Grayson remarked that seeing the works again was a powerful reminder of his ‘pre-therapy years’,” she recalls.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, one of his Three Graces, first exhibited in York at CoCA and now in York Art Gallery’s Your Own Gallery show

What can visitors look forward to seeing from next May? The Pre-Therapy Years begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium.

From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-80s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in these early works, marked by their urgent energy.

Although much of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs, perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.

The Pre-Therapy Years begins in 1982, when Perry was first working as an artist and then charts his progress to the mid-1990s, when he became established in the mainstream London art scene.

After completing his art degree at Portsmouth in 1982, Perry had moved to London, where he lived in a Camden squat with singer Marilyn and the Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, collectively enjoying creative freedom while sharing limited resources.

During these early years, Grayson encountered the Neo Naturists, a group of freewheeling performance artists, whose visual and creative approach would have a profound impact on his work.

Consequently, the exhibition provides a snapshot of a very British time and place, revealing the transition of Grayson’s style.

He progresses from playful riffs on historic art, such as old Staffordshire pottery, along with crowns (the mixed-media Crown Of Penii, 1982) and thrones (Saint Diana, Let Them Eat S**t, 1984 – inspired by his fascination with Princess Diana) into a style that is patently his own. His plates and vases become rich with detail that tell tales of our times and experiences, such as 1989’s Cocktail Party.

Much of the iconography of Perry’s output has an angry, post-punk, deeply ironic leaning, combining cosy imagery with shocking sexual or political content.

In its Familiarity Golden, one of two “everywoman” tapestries from Grayson Perry’s The Essex Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope, went on display from February 2020 at Nunnington Hall

Many of the works displayed in The Pre-Therapy Years tell a very personal story for Perry, particularly in the evolution of Claire, who first appeared in the early 1980s, inspired by such powerful women as television newsreaders and Princess Diana, rather than the exuberant child-like figure Perry created after her “coming out” party in 2000.

To accompany the rediscovery of Perry’s artworks, the Holburne Museum is illustrating the exhibition with photos and snapshots of the era, again sharing hitherto unseen glimpses of Perry as he journeyed from angry, ironic young artist to one of British art’s best-loved figures.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said curator of ceramics Helen Walsh on its arrival.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

Melanie is now featuring in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, on show since August 20, with timed tickets available at yorkartgallery.org.uk. Admission is free although you are asked to Pay As You Feel, with suggested payments of £3, £5 or £7.

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Earlier this year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley. Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born Perry.

NEWSFLASH

GRAYSON Perry and his wife, author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry, are to make a second Channel 4 series of Grayson’s Art Club in 2021.

“I’m so pleased and proud Art Club is coming back,” he says.”It’s a joyful team effort with the stars being the artists who send in their wonderful works and tell us their stories. Of course, it’s not principally about art, it’s a celebration of life.”