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 on December 11.
In start-stop-restart-stop again 2020, these loquacious hosts of high-energy bursts of words and verse have hosted live-streams in lockdowns, most recently Lovely Lockdown Lyricism last Friday, and pop-up poetry on York Theatre Royal’s patio in August.
Stepping up to the mic on December 11 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. In a nutshell, here comes a slam-winning sextet of soulful poets with modern, relevant and upbeat verse.
“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Henry. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves!
“Last Friday’s online gig was good: it’s just nice to keep connecting with our audience. Now Say Owt and The Crescent want to give you a night of energy and warmth after a tough year.”
The Crescent, in The Crescent, off Blossom Street, York, will have a Covid-secure, socially distanced seated capacity of 60. “The performers and the venue are following all regulations and guidelines to keep the audience as safe as possible,” says Henry.
TELLING stories around a fire is an early form of theatre, one that is to be celebrated in the nationwide Signal Fires Festival this autumn.
Among those taking part are York company Pilot Theatre and new Scarborough community producing company Arcade, who are collaborating on Northern Girls, an hour-long, socially distanced, fire-lit outdoor performance on October 27 and 28 in the YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough YO11 1DY.
At 7pm each night, Pilot and Arcade will set freethe stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline and were encouraged to write and present tales that matter to them most in 2020.
Next week’s performances will feature short commissioned pieces from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles, complemented by work created with York spoken-word artist and tutor Hannah Davies and a group of young women from Scarborough, .
A signal fire is defined as “a fire or light set up in a prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration”, now re-purposed amid the Coronavirus crisis for the arts to “signal the vibrancy of touring theatre and the threat our industry continues to face”.
“This whole Covid situation has made it important to create theatre support networks across the country, with the issues faced by smaller companies, mid-scale companies and larger companies,” says Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson.
“If there has been any upside, it is that the theatre network across the country is far stronger now.”
The idea for the Signal Fires Festival came from English Touring Theatre and Headlong Theatre, building on the original desire to highlight the work of companies who do not have their own theatre base. “We were also thinking about ‘what can we do for freelancers in theatre’ and, most important of all, ‘how can we send out a fire signal that we want to bring back theatre stronger than ever?’,” says Esther.
Pilot’s link-up with Arcade is rooted in Rach Drew and Sophie Drury-Bradey running the Scarborough company. “We knew Rach from her work at York Mediale and I’ve known Sophie for a long time from when she was at the Albany, when she asked me to develop some work with new writers, 15 years ago,” says Esther.
“It was then a coincidence that Sophie had come to Scarborough, but when this project came about, to amplify northern women as leaders as well as writers, it was just a natural progression to say, ‘What do you think, guys, about doing this project together?’.”
The theme of Northern Girls resonated with Esther not only because “Pilot has always been about helping those who are disadvantaged in the community”, but also because of her childhood on the North East coast.
“I lived in Redcar from the age of three to 11, so I’d always had this tug to do something on the coast. I’m someone who left there and has had a career in theatre but I keep in touch with people who live there,” she says.
“I’m aware of the lack of investment in those places, and the direct effect that has on young people and women in particular. So, this project was about creating an opportunity to unlock what people can do when they set their hearts and minds to it.”
Esther was keen to achieve a geographical spread of four female writers, all still in the process of establishing themselves. “Maureen Lennon is from Hull and I was aware of her work for Middle Child Theatre that is full of insight into working-class lives,” she says.
“Asma Elbadawi is a spoken-word artist and professional basketball player Bradford, and she’s someone we’ve been excited about for a while but we hadn’t found a project for her.
“Northern Girls was perfect for her to bring her perspective of growing up as a hijab-wearing girl in West Yorkshire.”
Zoe Cooper is an award-winning playwright from Newcastle. “Again, I’d been aware of her for a while, but if you think about women playwrights from the North, there’s Middle Child’s work in Hull, Charley Miles at Leeds Playhouse, but in the North East, there seems to be a dearth of female writers, so we’re delighted to be featuring Zoe’s work,” says Esther.
Charley Miles, from the Hambleton village of High Kilburn, first came to attention with her lyrical moorland village drama Blackthorn at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016, and her all-female Yorkshire Ripper play, There Are No Beginnings, was the first to be staged when the Leeds Playhouse re-opened last October.
“We wanted writers from different places because we want to continue this process, to explore how we might take this writing project to other communities to develop new works,” says Esther.
She is pleased too by the impact of York writer Hannah Davies on the four women she has been working with in Scarborough: Amy-Kay Pell, Shannon Barker, Ariel Hebditch and Claire Edwards.
“Hannah is not just a wonderful writer but also she’s wonderful at working with young writers,” says Esther. “She has a really special gift for inspiring new writers, nurturing them and getting them to nurture themselves, in this case Amy, Shannon, Ariel and Claire.”
Asma Elbadawi will present her own work, while Laura Boughen, Laura Elsworthy, Siu-See Hung and Holly Surtees-Smith will perform the others, working with directors Esther Richardson, Gitika Buttoo, Oliver O’Shea and Maria Crocker.
All the short pieces address the barriers that women face, with each story being “in some sense an act of liberation”. “With everyone writing to the same theme, straight from the heart, some plays are more political, but they all make you think about things you might not have thought about otherwise,” says Esther.
The “fire” setting will be fire pits in the car park. “At first we wanted to do it by the sea, but there are loads of problems doing a show with a fire on the beach, not least the tides!” says Esther.
Pilot Theatre and Arcade present Northern Girls for the Signal Fires Festival, at YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough YO11 1DY, on October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm.
The recommended age is 14 plus. Please bring headphones. Each £10 ticket is sold for a clearly marked bubble that can seat one or two people. Audience members must wear a mask on arrival and throughout the performance.
WE may be beset by tiers before bedtime, but the arts world will not lie down meekly in the face of the pandemic’s second wave. Instead, Charles Hutchinson highlights events on-going, on the horizon and online.
The rule of six, over and out: Robin Ince and Laura Lexx, Your Place Comedy, live-streaming on Sunday, 8pm
YOUR Place Comedy, the virtual comedy club launched in lockdown by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones and ten independent Yorkshire and Humber arts venues, concludes with its sixth line-up this weekend.
The last laugh will go to The Infinite Monkey Cage co-host Robin Ince and Jurgen Klopp’s number one fan, Laura Lexx, introduced by remotely by regular host Tim FitzHigham, alias Pittancer of Selby, as they perform from their living rooms into yours. The show is free to watch on YouTube and Twitch via yourplacecomedy.co.uk, with donations welcome afterwards.
Online literary event of the week: Matt Haig, The Midnight Library, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, streaming from 8am tomorrow (October 23)
MATT Haig, the award-winning author with the York past, discusses his latest novel, The Midnight Library, a tale of regret, hope and forgiveness set in the strangest of libraries, one that houses second chances.
Exhibition of the week and beyond: Human Nature, York Mediale/York Museums Trust, at Madsen Galleries, York Art Gallery, until January 24 2021
THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature combines the British premiere of Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson’s sensory woodland short film Embers And The Giants with two York Mediale commissions.
London immersive art collection Marshmallow Laser Feast look at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem in nature inThe Tides Within Us.
Manchester artist and animator Rachel Goodyear’s Limina combines a surrealist, Freudian and Jungian series of animations and intricate drawings, responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection as she offers glimpses into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.
Fired-up event of the week: Northern Girls, Pilot Theatre and Arcade, at Scarborough YMCA Car Park, for Signal Fires Festival, October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm
YORK company Pilot Theatre team up with new Scarborough arts makers Arcade to present Northern Girls by firelight for the nationwide Signal Fires Festival.
The one-hour performance sets free the stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline, encouraging them to write and present tales that matter most to them in 2020.
Short pieces commissioned from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles will be complemented by York spoken-word artist Hannah Davies’s work with a group of young women from Scarborough.
Both eyes on the future festival of the week ahead: York Design Week, October 26 to November 1
SUPPORTED by York’s Guild of Media Arts, the York Design Week festival will seek to design a positive future for the city under five themes: Re-Wild, Play, Share, Make Space and Trust.
In Covid-19 2020, the festival will combine in-person events with social-distancing measures in place, and a wide range of online workshops, exhibition seminars and talks.
Look out for workshops bringing together homeless people and architects to work on solutions for housing; sessions on innovation and rule-breaking; an exhibition inspired by a York printing firm; discussions on community art and planning and city trails designed by individual York citizens. Go to yorkdesignweek.com for full details.
Barrie’s back: An Evening With Barrie Rutter, The Holbeck, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, Leeds, November 7, 7.15pm
BARRIE Rutter OBE is to return to the stage for the first time since his successful treatment for throat cancer.
The Hull-born titan of northern theatre, now 73, will perform his one-man show at The Holbeck, home to the Slung Low theatre company in Leeds. The Saturday night of tall tales and anecdotes, poetry and prose will be a fundraiser for the installation of a new lift at the south Leeds community base, the oldest social club in the country.
“I’m absolutely thrilled at the invitation from Alan Lane and his team at Slung Low to perform at The Holbeck,” says Rutter. “What goes on in there is truly inspirational and I’m delighted support this wonderful venue.”
Family business of the autumn: John Godber Company in Sunny Side Up!, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 28 to 31; Hull Truck Theatre, November 17 to 22
THE waiting for Godber’s new play is over. The world premiere of the ground-breaking former Hull Truck artistic director’s Sunny Side Up! will be a family affair, starring John Godber, his wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha, while daughter Elizabeth will be doing the stage management.
Written and directed by Godber, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! depicts a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it. “Join proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in this seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about,” invites John.
Looking ahead to 2021/2022: Dance shows at the treble at York Barbican
STRICTLY Come Dancing’s glittering weekend return to BBC One was a reminder that regular professionals Anton du Beke, Giovanni Pernice, Graziano di Prima, Aljaz Škorjanec and Janette Manrara are all booked to play York Barbican sometime over the rainbow, Killjoy Covid permitting.
Ballroom couple Anton & Erin’s: Showtime celebration of Astaire, Rogers, Sinatra, Garland, Chaplin, Minnelli, Bassey, Tom Jones and Elton John has moved from February 19 2021 to February 18 2022.
Aljaz and Graziano’s Here Comes The Boys show with former Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev has switched to June 30 2021; Aljaz and Janette’s Remembering The Oscars is now booked in for April 21 2021, and Giovanni’s This Is Me! is in the diary for March 17 next year.
News just in: Rob Brydon in An Evening Of Song & Laughter, York Barbican, April 14 2021
WOULD I lie to you? Actor, comedian, impressionist, presenter and holiday-advert enthusiast Rob Brydon is to play with a band in York. It’s…true!
Yes, Brydon and his eight-piece band will take to the road next year for 20 dates with his new show, Rob Brydon: A Night of Songs & Laughter, visiting York Barbican on April 14 on his second tour to combine songs and music with his trademark wit and comedy. Expect Brydon interpretations varying from fellow Welshman Tom Jones to Tom Waits, Guys And Dolls to Elvis Presley.
The 5ft 7inch Brydon last appeared at York Barbican for two nights of his improvised stand-up show, I Am Standing Up, in October 2017. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
And what about….?
HEADING out on the Indie York Medieval & Magical Treasure Trail, running from October 24 to November 1 for half-term entertainment, with full details at indieyork.co.uk.
Likewise, taking up the York Ghost Merchants’ cordial invitation to be spooked by the first annual Ghost Week on the same dates. Among the highlights in “the city of a thousand ghosts” are The Little York Ghost Hunt and The Ghost Parade (also part of the Indie York trail). Discover more at yorkghostmerchants.com.
DO you want an assortment of noisy, slam-winning York performance poets, word-weavers and gobheads to perform at a social distance near you?
If so, the Say Owt Showcase luminaries Henry Raby, Stu Freestone, Hannah Davies and Dave Jarman are the quartet to entertain you, being “ideal for socially distanced spaces and audiences”.
“We’re York’s lovable and raucous poetry gang and we’re available to programme and present high-energy, 60-minute showcases of the sharp, relevant, hilarious and engaging spoken word,” says Henry, director of the Say Owt’s “war of the words” slam nights.
“Say Owt’s word-warriors have delighted in ripping up stages at the Great Yorkshire Fringe and the Arts Barge in York, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Ilkley Literature Festival, and last month we performed as part of York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival, a bubbled and socially distanced event.
“Our Say Owt Showcase on August 28 sold out and played to a drizzly, but happy, audience.”
Performance poet in residence at the Deer Shed Festival, author, playwright and event organiser Raby is noted for his punk poetry being anarchic and raw, with a sharp political edge, much like his regular Tweets.
He has performed at Latitude Festival, Boomtown Fair and the Intentional Youth Arts Festival and toured with Creative Arts East and Apples and Snakes’ Public Address Tour.
His latest solo show, Apps And Austerity, looks back over the past decade of technology and stultifying, stringent political policies, as aired at the Pop-Up festival last Friday.
Freestone, Raby’s fellow co-founder of Say Owt, is the cheekiest of rogues with his devilish facial hair and a penchant for Hip-Hop. His work is blissful, engrossing and, above all, unflinchingly honest.
An actor too, he has worked with various York companies and in 2015 was nominated for Best Spoken Word Artist at the Saboteur Awards. The only thing remotely cheesy about him is when he may have served you from behind the counter at The Cheese Trader in Grape Lane.
When playwright, actor, poet, writing course tutor and stage director Hannah Davies “isn’t trying to smash the patriarchy”, she is busy with her York theatre company Common Ground.
Hannah has won slams across the UK and was a finalist in the BBC Fringe Slam 2017, and her work encapsulates themes of young love, female identity and the small moments that make us smile.
Say Owt associate artist Dave Jarman describes himself as a “word-gobbing, ukulele-strumming, bodhran-abusing poet from t’North”.
Resident poet for the Great Yorkshire Fringe in 2017, playwright, actor and occasional Elf, he reflects on community, people, places and our national identity in his poetry and performances.
For more information on how to send for the four wordsmen of the apocalypse to do a show for you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.