Diversity street dancers feel so Connected in live shows in the age of social media

Diversity: Connecting through dance in the digital era

DIVERSITY’S Connected tour may have begun as a tenth anniversary show, but the disconnection caused by Covid lockdowns means the 79 gigs are being stretched across the London street dancers’ 13th year.

Already, their longest-ever itinerary on their tenth tour has taken in one York Barbican performance and afternoon meet-and-greet session with fans on April 4, when creator and choreographer Ashley Banjo, brother Jordan and Perri Kiely held a press day ahead of a run of Yorkshire dates.

Diversity, 2009 winners of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, will be returning to York Barbican on April 27, as well as playing Harrogate Convention Centre on May 8, with further Yorkshire shows in Halifax and Sheffield as part of a rearranged four-month trek to 34 British and Irish towns and cities from March to June.

79 shows, Ashley. Wow! “We could do more,” he asserts. “When you start to get towards 100, you think ‘why don’t we go up to playing arenas?’. The answer is, ‘we could, but it’s much harder to do the same quality of shows because the connection is different. This way, we get audience participation that’s just such fun.

Ready, teddy go: Diversity in action at York Barbican on April 5. Picture: Sarah Hollis

“We like to keep it at this size of venue, and even if we grow, I don’t think we would take it anywhere bigger because I love this scale of show.”

Ashley remembers the early days of touring after winning Britain’s Got Talent: “On our first venture into touring, we had 11 shows altogether, and not many promoters believed that dancers could fill venues.”

How wrong that perception was. Instead, Diversity have stayed true to their street dance roots while acquiring ever more devotees. Now they are presenting Connected, Ashley’s show about the internet, social media, the digital era and how it connects us all.

“We ask the audience questions around that idea, asking ‘how many of you use the internet?’, and they all put their hands up, but when you ask, ‘what is the internet?’, they can’t define what it is, and yet we use it every day. Our shows want to connect with people on a deeper level.”

Diversity’s Black Lives Matter-inspired routine in performance at York Barbican Centre: Picture: Sarah Hollis

This tour is the first chance to see Diversity give a live performance of their Black Lives Matter-inspired dance that prompted 24,500 complaints to Ofcom after they premiered the routine in a special appearance on Britain’s Got Talent on September 5 2020.

Ashley’s choreography took the form of a father guiding his son through the events of 2020, from the pandemic to police brutality against black people and George Floyd’s death that led to the Black Lives Matter protest marches.

The Mail Online published 20 articles on the matter, as complaints to media regulator Ofcom piled up over the dance routine’s “unsuitability for a family audience” and how it was “endorsing a political movement”.

Britain’s Got Talent was cleared of any breach of broadcasting rules, Ofcom declaring that Ashley’s dance was “a call for social cohesion and unity”.

“Our shows want to connect with people on a deeper level,” says Diversity creator and choreographer Ashley Banjo as they tour their tenth show, Connected. Picture: Sarah Hollis

“Creativity is always a leap of faith,” posted Ashley on Instagram in the immediate aftermath. “All I did was what felt right and I’d do it 100 times over … Sending love to everyone that stood by us.”

Looking back now, he says: “A huge amount of good has come out of it, and we’re including the routine in Connected. Having done it first on TV, this tour is the first time we get to see  the audience reaction live. It’s quite magical when humans connect in that room.

“If you challenge – and you can say this about anything – things that feel they’ve been ingrained in our lives for so long, you’re always going to get an opposing opinion, but we were surprised at the intensity of the opposition.

“That only shows why the conversation is so important, and why being able to do almost 80 shows is an incredible opportunity for us.”

“With Diversity, people love the shows because there are so many talented dancers,” says Jordan Banjo. Picture: Sarah Hollis

Jordan and Perri have been part of the Diversity troupe from the start. “It’s an incredible feeling still doing the shows. The first thing you think after the TV success is, ‘they’ll give it a year’,” says Jordan.

“I was quite a cynical 16-year-old, thinking ‘make the most of it’. When Ashley first said ‘let’s do a tour’, I thought ‘that’s a bit crazy’.”

Thirteen years on, “People love Peri because they’ve grown up with him, and now they like listening to Peri and me in the morning on the Kiss Breakfast show. People loved seeing Ashley on Dancing On Ice,” says Jordan.

“With Diversity, people love the shows because there are so many talented dancers, with 15 of us on stage for most of the time, but it’s not just about being wicked dancers, or Ashley bring a brilliant choreographer, but with Ash, he really understands what people want to see and how to put it across.”

Perri is delighted by the reaction to the Black Lives Matter routine. “People are crying, we’re getting standing ovations,” he says. “It felt so negative after the TV broadcast that I remember thinking, ‘I don’t think we’ll ever do another show’, but actually we’ve got a lot of backing.”

Diversity: Connected, at Halifax Victoria Theatre, April 24, 3.30pm and 7.45pm; York Barbican, April 27, 7.45pm; Sheffield City Hall, May 1, 2.30pm and 7.45pm; Harrogate Convention Centre, May 8, 7.45pm. Box office: Halifax, victoriatheatre.co.uk; York, yorkbarbican.co.uk; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; Harrogate, harrogateconventioncentre.co.uk.

Diversity’s poster artwork for their Connected 2022 tour

More Things To Do in and around York as chocolate spreads the love over Easter break. List No. 78, courtesy of The Press

WHAT’S in the chocolate box of Eastertide delights? Charles Hutchinson unwraps the goodies in store, from a sweet-flavoured festival to a musical premiere, a Led Zeppelin legend to two Big shows.

My cocoa shoe: Edible high heels at York Chocolate Festival

Festival of the week: York Chocolate Festival, oozing chocolate in Parliament Street, York, until Easter Monday, 10am to 5pm

RUN by York Food Festival and Make It York, York Chocolate Festival returns over the Easter weekend for the first time since 2019 in celebration of York’s heritage as the Chocolate City.

More than 40 stalls are complemented by workshops, demonstrations by chocolatiers, a chocolate sampling trail and chocolate pairing sessions with wine and whisky for adults. Look out for stands selling specialist origin chocolates, eggs, cakes, truffles, brownies, macarons, chocolate-flavoured drinks and liqueurs, even savoury outliers such as chilli jams, artisan pizzas and pies. Entry is free; some events are ticketed.

Robert Plant and Suzy Dian fronting Saving Grace, on tour at Grand Opera House, York

York gig of the week: Saving Grace with Robert Plant and Suzy Dian, supported by Scott Matthews, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7pm

SAVING Grace, the folk-blues co-operative led by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, play York tonight, followed by a further Yorkshire gig at Halifax Victoria Theatre on April 26.

Singer and lyricist Plant, now 73, will be joined on the April and May tour by Suzi Dian (vocals), Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar) and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic, baritone guitars, cuatro). Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Celebrating the music of The Dubliners: Seven Drunken Nights rolled into one Sunday in York

Irish jig of the week: Seven Drunken Nights – The Story of The Dubliners, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

FROM their roots in O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin, Seven Drunken Nights raises a toast to the 50-year career of The Dubliners, telling the story of the Irish folk band that took the world by storm.

Irish musicians, singers and storytellers will evoke the atmosphere, theatre and cultural history of Ireland while invoking the spirit of Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, John Sheahan, Ciaran Bourke and Jim McCann on a tour that will take in 20 countries in 2022 and 2023. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Bonding together: The BBC Big Band perform the 007 hits, shaken and stirred, at York Theatre Royal

Bond and band in harmony: The BBC Big Band, The Music Of James Bond…and Beyond, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

THE BBC Big Band are joined by guest vocalists Emer McPartlamd and Iain Mackenzie for a celebratory concert inspired by the music of James Bond film franchise.

Theme songs by York composer John Barry feature prominently in a set list sure to include Diamonds Are Forever, Thunderball and Goldfinger, alongside Monty Norman’s James Bond theme.

Expect a selection of more contemporary songs from the 007 musical library too, performed in the BBC Big Band’s inimitable style. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

BIG news: CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher is heading for York Theatre Royal on the BIG Tour

Children’s show of the week: Justin Fletcher in Justin Live, The BIG Tour, York Theatre Royal, Thursday and Friday, 11am and 2.30pm

CBEEBIES superstar and children’s favourite Justin Fletcher presents an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular extravaganza on The BIG Tour.

Justin is a TV institution, piling up BAFTA award-winning appearances on Something Special, Justin’s House, Jollywobbles, Gigglebiz and Gigglequiz, as well as providing character voices for Tweenies, Boo, Toddworld and Shaun The Sheep, latterly voicing Shaun in the Aardman movie Farmageddon. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Normal service resumed: Grayson Perry presents his rearranged Harrogate performance of A Show For Normal People on Friday

Who-knows-what-to-expect arty gig of the weekGrayson Perry in A Show For Normal People, Harrogate Convention Centre, Friday, 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 A Show For Normal People, Grayson’s enlightening, eye-watering evening where existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. “You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” he promises.

At a show rearranged from last autumn, Grayson asks, and possibly answers, the big questions on a night “sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.” Box office: harrogateconventioncentre.co.uk.

York Stage Musicals’ poster for the York premiere of Calendar Girls The Musical

Musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Calendar Girls, Grand Opera House, York, Friday to April 30

THE true story of the Calendar Girls from Rylstone Women’s Institute has been turned into a beautifully poignant musical by writer Tim Firth and composer Gary Barlow.

Join York Stage Musicals as they bring the show to York for the first time. “Be prepared to laugh and cry throughout a truly memorable evening filled with unforgettable songs that prove there is no such thing as an ordinary woman,” says producer Nik Briggs. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

The Chemical Brothers: Big beats and dance moves at Castle Howard this summer

Rave of the North Yorkshire summer: The Chemical Brothers at Castle Howard, near Malton, June 26

HEY boy, hey girl, electronic pioneers The Chemical Brothers will take to the grass at Castle Howard this summer.

Manchester big beat duo Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, both 51, will galvanize rave diggers in the North Yorkshire stately home’s grounds where gates will open at 5pm for the night ahead of Setting Sun, Block Rockin’ Beats, Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Let Forever Be, Galvanize, Go et al. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond in 2022 as the icing man cometh. List of ingredients No. 63, courtesy of The Press

Car Park Panto’s cast dishes up a Horrible Christmas to Sunday’s drive-in audience at Elvington Airfield

AS U2 once sang, all is quiet on New Year’s Day, but Charles Hutchinson has his diary out to note down events for the months ahead.

Drive-in pantomime: Car Park Panto’s Horrible Christmas, Elvington Airfield, near York, tomorrow (Sunday,) 11am, 2pm and 5pm

BIRMINGHAM Stage Company’s Horrible Histories franchise teams up with Coalition Presents for Car Park Panto’s Horrible Christmas.

In writer-director Neal Foster’s adaptation of Terry Deary’s story, when Christmas comes under threat from a jolly man dressed in red, one young boy must save the day as a cast of eight sets off on a hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas.

At this Covid-secure experience, children and adults can jump up and down in their car seats and make as much noise as they like, tuning in to the live show on stage and screen. Box office: carparkparty.com.

Shaparak Khorsandi: Revisiting her 1900s’ experiences in It Was The 90s! at Selby Town Hall

Looking back, but not nostalgically: Shaparak Khorsandi, It Was The 90s!, Selby Town Hall, January 22, 8pm

SHAPARAK Khorsandi, the Iranian-born British stand-up comedian and author formerly known as Shappi, tackles the celebrated but maligned 1990s in her new show, It Was The 90s!.

Back then, she flew around London with hope in her heart, a tenner in her pocket and spare knickers in her handbag. “But how does the decade of binge drinking and walks of shame look now without snakebite and black-tinted specs?” asks Shaparak, 48.

“This is a show about how we ’90s kids are looking to young people to learn how to take care of ourselves, because if you survived the car crash of being a ’90s kid, then surely Things Can Only Get Better.” Box office: 01757 708449 or selbytownhall.co.uk.

Round The Horne as re-created by Apollo Stage Company at the Grand Opera House, York

Looking back, nostalgically: Round The Horne, Grand Opera House, York, January 27, 7.30pm

FROM the producers of The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half Hour tours comes another radio comedy classic, re-created live on stage by Apollo Stage Company.

Compiled and directed by Tim Astley from Barry Took and Marty Feldman’s scripts, this meticulous show takes a step back in time to the BBC’s Paris studios to re-play the recordings of the Sunday afternoon broadcasts of Kenneth Horne and his merry crew in mischievous mood.

Expect wordplay, camp caricatures and risqué innuendos, film spoofs and such favourite characters as Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock and Julia and Sandy. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Kipps, The New Half A Sixpence Musical: Making its York debut at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in February

Heart or head choice: Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company in Kipps, The New Half A Sixpence Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, York, February 9 to 12, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

IN the coastal town of Folkestone, Arthur Kipps knows there is more to life than his demanding but unrewarding job as an apprentice draper.

When he suddenly inherits a fortune, Kipps is thrown into a world of upper-class soirées and strict rules of etiquette that he barely understands. Torn between the affections of the kind but proper Helen and childhood sweetheart Ann, Kipps must determine whether such a simple soul can find a place in high society.

Tickets for this fundraising show for the JoRo are on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Giovanni Pernice: This is him in This Is Me after his Strictly Come Dancing triumph

Strictly winner comes dancing: Giovanni Pernice: This Is Me, York Barbican, March 9, 7.30pm

GLITTER ball still gleaming, Giovanni Pernice will take to the road on his rescheduled tour after winning Strictly Come Dancing as the professional partner to ground-breaking deaf EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis.

The Italian dance stallion will be joined by his cast of professional dancers for This Is Me, his homage to the music and dances that have inspired Pernice’s career, from a competition dancer to being a mainstay of the gushing BBC show.

“Expect all of your favourite Ballroom and Latin dances and more,” says Giovanni. Tickets remain valid from the original date of June 11 2020. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Script: Returning to Scarborough Open Air Theatre in July

Off to the East Coast part one: The Script, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 14

IRISH rock band The Script topped the album charts for a sixth time in October with their greatest hits collection Tales From The Script, matching the feats of Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd and Radiohead.

Those songs can be heard live next summer when lead vocalist and keyboardist Danny O’Donoghue, guitarist Mark Sheehan and drummer Glen Power return to Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the first time since June 2018.

Formed in Dublin in 2007, The Script have sold more than 30 million records, chalking up hits with We Cry, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, For The First Time, Hall Of Fame and Superheroes. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Jane McDonald: Leading the line-up at Yorkshire’s Platinum Jubilee Concert at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Off to the East Coast part two: Jane McDonald and special guests, Yorkshire’s Platinum Jubilee Concert, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 4

WAKEFIELD singing star Jane McDonald will top the bill at next summer’s Scarborough celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. A host of special guests will be added.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be headlining this very special concert, and where better to be holding such a brilliant event than in Yorkshire,” she says. “Everyone knows I’m a proud Yorkshire lass, so it will be so thrilling to walk on to stage in Scarborough for these celebrations.” Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Paul Hollywood will pour some sugar on Harrogate Convention Centre in October

The Great British Baker gets cooking: Paul Hollywood Live, Harrogate Convention Centre, October 23

GREAT British Bake Off judge, celebrity chef and cookbook author Paul Hollywood promises live demonstrations, baking tasks, sugar-coated secrets and special surprises in next autumn’s tour.

Visiting 18 cities and towns, including Harrogate (October 23) and Sheffield City Hall (November 1), Wallasey-born baker’s son Hollywood, 55, will work from a fully equipped on-stage kitchen, sharing his tricks of the trade. Tickets for a slice of Hollywood action are on sale at cuffeandtaylor.com.

‘We couldn’t say no,’ explain Bellowhead as folk big band say yes to tenth anniversary Broadside reunion tour next November

Bellowhead: Reunion tour in 2022

FOLK big band Bellowhead are to reunite next year for a tenth anniversary tour of their Broadside album.

Among the 18 dates will be Yorkshire concerts at Harrogate Convention Centre on November 25 2022 and Sheffield City Hall two nights later.

During lockdown in 2020, the 11 members first re-connected online to record New York Girls – At Home remotely, prompting Bellowhead to reconvene in person for a one-off performance, streamed to mark the tenth anniversary of 2010’s Hedonism.

Thousands of fans watched one of the biggest online streams of 2020, confirming contemporary prog-folk act Bellowhead still to be in big demand despite not performing their traditional dance tunes, folk songs and shanties live since 2016.

The stream led to pleas for more and now the stars have aligned for Jon Biden, John Spiers, Sam Sweeney and co to assemble once more next autumn to toast fourth album Broadside’s tenth birthday.

Sam Sweeney: Playing with Bellowhead and providing the tour support with his own band. Picture: Elly Lucas

Produced by John Leckie for release on October 15 2012, Broadside gave Bellowhead their first Top 20 entry in the UK Official Album Charts and features the BBC Radio 2-playlisted singles Roll The Woodpile Down and 10,000 Miles Away.

Bellowhead say: “The reaction to the online concert was overwhelming and we really did enjoy playing together again. The tenth anniversary of Broadside presented an opportunity for us to take things one step further and get back out on the road. We couldn’t say no! It’s going to be lots of fun. Hope you’ll join us for the party.”

Support on all dates will come from Sam Sweeney and his band. Stroud fiddler Sweeney is not only a Bellowhead “veteran” (serving from 2008 to 2016 and now back on the front line) but also former artistic director of the National Folk Youth Ensemble.

Last year, Sweeney released his second solo album, Unearth Repeat; last Friday, he played a sold-out gig at the National Centre for Early Music, York, with Jack Rutter, acoustic guitar, Louis Campbell, electric guitar, and Ben Nicholls, double bass.

Bellowhead formed in 2004; played to thousands of people at festivals and on tour; recorded five studio albums, selling more than 250,000 copies; received two silver discs and won eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards before parting ways in 2016. Next autumn’s reunion itinerary is being billed as a “special one-off tour”.

Tickets go on general sale on Friday (26/22/2021) at 10am at gigst.rs/bellowhead.

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.

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.

Paloma loses Faith on new album cover but has faith in songs of love, loss and sickness. Harrogate, Hull and Sheffield gigs await

Paloma Faith: Spent the enforced downtime of lockdown “just thinking about the world”

PALOMA Faith will release her fifth studio album, Infinite Things, on Friday the 13th of November, to be supported by a tour…but not until Autumn 2021.

Among the 26 dates will be October 3 at Harrogate Convention Centre, or “Conversion Centre” as you could call it temporarily, now that it forms part of the Harrogate Nightingale Hospital for the Covid-19 pandemic.

London singer, songwriter and actor Paloma, who announced her second pregnancy yesterday, wrote most of the songs for Infinite Things before Coronavirus stalked the world. Once sent into lockdown, however, she ripped them all up and started afresh.

The artwork for Paloma Faith’s November 13 album, Infinite Things. Notice her lack of Faith in it…

She spent her enforced downtime creating, learning to engineer her own music and “just thinking about the world”. Those fruitful months taught her she had been on “a sort of conveyor belt of music and promo”, like “a rat on a wheel”, but lockdown instead gave her “the space to take stock of her frenetic career and to decide what was meaningful to her”.

Paloma, 39, has re-emerged with a new sense of her priorities, leading her to re-connect with her roots, steeped in creativity, says the one-time art student.

For Infinite Things, she worked with a small group of long-time and new collaborators: producers Patrick Wimberly and Detonate; songwriters Ed Harcourt, Starsmith and Tre Jean Marie; producer and songwriter MNEK and friendJosef Salvat, an Australian singer-songwriter. 

The poster for Paloma’s The Infinite Things Tour 2021

The resulting album on the RCA Records label offers a rumination on sickness and loss and addresses how to find your way back to romance within a long-term relationship. “It’s love songs for people who are there to stay,” Paloma says. “That enduring love. Warts and all. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a love song like that, actually.” 


Last week, she released the video for first single Better Than This, wherein director David Wilson’s imagery places her against “a backdrop of vignettes of human error that historically continuously repeat”.

First single Better Than This: Accompanied by a video filmed in Hackney, Paloma’s home turf

Shot in Paloma’s home manor of Hackney in a single uncut take, Wilson’s video sees her shine a light on such prevalent concerns as the climate emergency, police brutality, race and class divide and the injustices of war.  

Paloma’s September 16 to October 25 tour next year will take in Yorkshire gigs at Sheffield City Hall, September 28, Harrogate Convention Centre, October 3, and Hull Bonus Arena, October 7.

Tickets go on general sale on Friday, October 2 at 10am at gigsandtours.com, ticketmaster.co.uk and palomafaith.com. Josef Salvat will be her special guest.

Harrogate Theatre to stay shut till 2021, so no panto, redundancy talks and what next?

Not so Happy Harry: Tim Stedman, pictured in the 2019-2020 pantomime Snow White, will not be taking to the Harrogate Theatre stage this winter in his 21st silly-billy role

HARROGATE Theatre will remain closed until 2021. No pantomime this Christmas and no safety net for up to 60 per cent of permanent staff, facing redundancy after an upcoming consultation period.

This hammer blow/”sensible action” comes despite Harrogate Theatre receiving £395,000 last month from the Arts Council England Emergency Fund, on top of Harrogate Borough Council funding, to cover losses incurred from March through to September.

And there’s the rub. Only until September, point out chief executive David Bown and chair of the board Deborah Larwood in this afternoon’s joint statement, despite being “extremely grateful” for the financial aid so far.

“Whilst we welcome the Government’s new Cultural Recovery Fund [£1.57 billion across Britain in grants and loans promised by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Chancellor Rishi Sunak on July 5], we still require clarity as to what specifically we can access from the fund, having already been in receipt of Emergency Funding, and there is no certainty of success.”

The emergency press release carried an upbeat headline – “Our Safety Curtain is down for now, but we are still lighting the way for culture in Harrogate” – but behind that curtain, the unbroken reign of Coronavirus continues to stop play.

“Today we are announcing that the Safety Curtain will remain down at Harrogate Theatre until 2021,” the statement forewarns. “This has been an extremely difficult and very sad decision to make, but we feel it is the most sensible action under the current circumstances; not only to protect the safety of our audiences, volunteers and staff but to safeguard the future of Harrogate Theatre.”

In the wake of the Government postponing the re-opening of indoor performance spaces by a fortnight until August 15 at the earliest, and the even Grimmer Reaper blow of the Culture Secretary now saying that any possibility of a Government thumbs-up to theatres being allowed to return to full capacity will not be forthcoming until November…at the earliest, Bown and Larwood have declared their hand.

The still necessary curse of social distancing leaves them as glum as Cassandra. “Our business model relies on at least half of our auditorium being occupied to break even,” they say. “To produce our much-loved pantomime, we need to sell close to 90 per cent of our seats over two months of shows. With social distancing in place across this beautiful Victorian building, we can only fill 20 per cent of the auditorium. This is not financially viable.”

The heavy cloud of a possible second, wintry wave of Covid-19 hangs heavy over Harrogate Theatre, as indeed it does over all indoor theatre, serving as a killjoy to any planning. “Neither can we take the financial risk of paying for and then cancelling shows if the theatre is bouncing in and out of closure, due to possible quarantines or lockdowns,” warn Bown and Larwood. “Therefore, we are suspending or moving all planned activity for this year at Harrogate Theatre into 2021.

“As a direct result of the pandemic, and the dramatic loss of income associated with it, we have no other choice than to scale back the organisation and reduce our overheads in order to survive.”

What does that mean for the staff? “This means that we have been forced to make the incredibly hard decision to enter a period of redundancy consultation with our staff. At the end of this period, we may have to make up to 60 per cent of permanent roles redundant,” say Bown and Larwood.

“To make it through to next year, we will still need to continue our emergency fundraising campaign. Our audiences and the wider community have been incredibly supportive during these extraordinary times [raising more than £100,00 so far]. From the kindness of donations to the publicly led fundraisers, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and generosity shown towards the theatre.

“We accept our responsibility in this special town and must continue doing all we can to secure the future of the theatre. Thank you all for your help and commitment so far.”

Bown and Larwood are not down and out, however, and are looking to bounce back in 2021. “The majority of shows in our autumn season are moving to next year and Cinderella will be dancing at the ball in 2021. If you have tickets for a show during this time, we will contact you to let you know the rescheduled dates of performances.

“As you can imagine, this is a huge task for our small team, so please bear with us and where we haven’t been able to find a new date for you, please consider donating your tickets to the theatre.”

Harrogate Theatre is usually run in tandem with Harrogate Royal Hall and the Harrogate Convention Centre [formerly known as the Harrogate International Centre until a 2017 revamp], but the other two have been commandeered for the Corona war effort as a Nightingale hospital.

“We are working closely with the Harrogate Convention Centre and Royal Hall regarding the use of those venues as a Nightingale Hospital,” say Bown and Larwood. “The action at the theatre does not, as yet, affect these venues. However, we will contact bookers if and when shows are rescheduled or cancelled.

“Harrogate Theatre will also closely monitor what is an ever-changing global situation and will remain flexible to any changes in national policy or guidelines.”

Is there any sign of a silver lining or even autumn fruits? “While the Safety Curtain is down, we remain committed to making and sharing innovative theatre with audiences and participants and in autumn will launch an exciting socially distanced season of special performances and events, both in person and online.”

No details are being released to the media as yet, however. “Our White Rose Members will be the first to find out about these and will also get exclusive access to one-off events,” reveal Bown and Larwood. “Harrogate Youth Theatre and our Associate Artists will continue to be supported throughout the year. Although the doors might be closed, we will endeavour to light the way for the arts in Harrogate alongside our fellow cultural partners.”

To finish on a positive note: “We look forward to the day we raise our Safety Curtain and once again share the magic that live performance in our building brings,” say Bown and Larwood.

“While we understand the impact of this decision, as custodians of our organisation we will do everything in our power to safeguard the company to be able to entertain, educate and inspire for the next 120 years.”