More Things To Do in York and beyond the paranormal before 2:22 in the morning. Hutch’s List No. 18, from The Press

Vera Chok and Jay McGuiness in a scene from 2:22 – A Ghost Story, haunting the Grand Opera House, York, from Tuesday

JUST a normal week? No, paranormal, more like, as a ghost story pumps up the spooks. Fear not, a Led Zeppelin legend, country-town teen days, a hope-filled musical and dances of love, loss and legacy are Charles Hutchinson’s picks too.  

New ghost to haunt “Europe’s most haunted city”: 2:22 – A Ghost Story, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm fright-nightly; 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday; 3.30pm, Friday

JENNY believes her new London home is haunted, hearing a disturbance every night at the same time, but husband Sam isn’t having any of it. They argue with their first dinner guests, old friend Lauren and new partner Ben.

Belief and scepticism clash, but something feels strange and frightening, and that something is drawing closer, so they decide to stay up… until 2:22 in the morning… and then they’ll know in The Battersea Poltergeist podcaster Danny Robins’s paranormal thriller, wherein secrets emerge and ghosts may, or may not, appear. Fiona Wade, George Rainsford and Vera Chok join The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness in Matthew Dunster & Isabel Marr’s cast. Box office:

Robert Plant’s Saving Grace: Playing Harrogate Royal Hall on Tuesday

Gig of the week outside York: Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Harrogate Royal Hall, Tuesday, 8pm

ERSTWHILE Led Zeppelin singer and lyricist Robert Plant, now 75, leads the folk, Americana and blues co-operative Saving Grace, featuring Suzi Dian (vocals), Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar, and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic/baritone guitars, cuatro), on their 15-date Never Ending Spring itinerary. South Carolina singer-songwriter Taylor McCall supports. Box office: 01423 502116 or

Country matters: Henry Madd’s Henry and Marc Benga’s Jake in Land Of Lost Content at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Touring play of the week: Henry Madd’s Land Of Lost Content, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

NIC Connaughton, the Pleasance’s head of theatre, directs Land Of Lost Content, Henry Madd’s autobiographical insight into friendship, adolescence, forgiveness and life not going to plan in an empowering coming-of-age story about the trials of growing up in a small country town and its ongoing effects on two estranged mates.

Henry (Madd) and Jake (Marc Benga) were bored friends who grew up in Ludlow, where friendships were forged in failed adventures, bad habits and damp raves as they stumbled through teenage days looking for something to do. Then Henry moved away. Now he is back, needing to face up to the memories and the people he left behind. Box office:

Come From Away: Award-winning musical of hope, humanity and unity on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre

Musical of the week: Come From Away, Leeds Grand Theatre, Tuesday to May 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Thursday and Saturday matinees

IRENE Sankoff and David Hein’s four-time Olivier Award-winning musical tells the remarkable true story of 6,579 air passengers from around the world being grounded in Canada in the wake of 9/11. Whereupon the small Newfoundland community of Gander invites these ‘come from aways’ into their lives with open hearts.

As spirited locals and global passengers come together to forge friendships, we meet first female American Airlines captain, the quick-thinking town mayor, the mother of a New York firefighter and the eager local news reporter in a celebration of hope, humanity and unity. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or

Claire Morley: Directing York Shakespeare Project in Sunday’s rehearsed reading of John Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed. Picture: S R Taylor Photography

Battle of the sexes, round two: York Shakespeare Project in The Tamer Tamed, Creative Arts Centre Auditorium, York St John University, tomorrow (28/4/2024), 5pm

YORK Shakespeare Project complements this week’s run of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew at Theatre@41, Monkgate, with a rehearsed reading of John Fletcher’s Jacobean riposte to the Bard’s most controversial comedy, directed by Claire Morley.

In Fletcher’s sequel, the widowed Petruchio has a new wife and a new challenge as he discovers that he is not the only one who can do the taming. Fletcher borrows characters from Shakespeare and Ben Jonson and a key plot device from Ancient Greek dramatist Aristophanes’s Lysistrata for his exploration of marriage and relationships. Box office: or

The poster for Alexander O’Neal’s farewell tour, Time To Say Goodbye, bound for York Barbican on May 3

Farewell tour of the Week: Alexander O’Neal, Time To Say Goodbye, York Barbican, May 3, 7.30pm

AFTER nearly five decades, Mississippi soul singer Alexander O’Neal is hitting the road one final time at 70 on his Time to Say Goodbye: Farewell World Tour, accompanied by his nine-piece band.

O’Neal will be undertaking a journey through his career with the aid of never-before-seen-photos, testimonies and tributes, all set to the tune of such hits as Criticize, Fake and If You Were Here Tonight. Box office:

Phoenix Dance Theatre in Dane Hurst’s Requiem, part of the Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love programme at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Drew Forsyth

Dance show of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love, York Theatre Royal, May 3, 7.30pm; May 4, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

YORK Theatre Royal is the final venue on Leeds company Phoenix Dance Theatre’s first British tour since 2022 with a visceral triple bill of works by international dance makers Dane Hurst, Miguel Altunaga and Phoenix artistic director Marcus Jarrell Willis.

Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love opens with South African choreographer and former Phoenix artistic director Hurst’s reimagining of Mozart’s Requiem in response to pandemic-induced grief. Two world premieres follow: Afro-Cuban choreographer Altunaga’s first Phoenix commission, the daring Cloudburst, and Texas-born Jarrell Willis’s Terms Of Agreement. Box office: 01904 623568 or

The Cult: Marking 40th anniversary with the 8424 tour this autumn. Picture: Jackie Middleton

Gig announcement of the week: The Cult, The 8424 Tour, York Barbican, October 29

SINGER Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy mark the 40th anniversary of The Cult, the Bradford band noted for their pioneering mix of post-punk, hard rock and melodramatic experimentalism, by heading out on The 8424 Tour.

Once dubbed “shamanic Goths”, Astbury and Duffy will perform songs from The Cult’s 11-album discography, from 1984’s Dreamtime to 2022’s Under The Midnight Sun, in a set sure to feature She Sells Sanctuary, Rain, Love Removal Machine, Wild Flower and Lil’ Devil. Box office:

Robert Plant’s Saving Grace to play Harrogate Royal Hall and Sheffield City Hall on Never Ending Spring 2024 tour

The Never Ending Spring tour poster for Robert Plant’s Saving Grace

ROBERT Plant’s Saving Grace will play Harrogate Royal Hall on April 30 on their 15-date spring and summer tour.

The erstwhile Led Zeppelin singer and lyricist, now 75, will lead the folk, Americana and blues co-operative featuring Suzi Dian (vocals), Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar, and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic/baritone guitars, cuatro).

On the road from March 13 to July 24, Saving Grace’s Never Ending Spring itinerary will take in a second Yorkshire show at Sheffield City Hall on March 27. Tour tickets go on sale on Friday (19/1/2024) at 10am at and; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or; Sheffield,

Premiered by Plant in February 2019 in a gig near the English-Welsh border, Saving Grace’s repertoire is “inspired by the dreamscape of the Welsh Marches”

Robert Plant and Suzi Dian up front performing with Saving Grace

Plant and co had been booked to headline the Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2020 until the pandemic intervened. They did, however, perform at the Grand Opera House, York, on April 16 2022.

Joining the 2024 tour, as he did on Saving Grace’s sold-out November 2023 travels, will be special guest Taylor McCall. The completely self-taught South Carolina be singer, songwriter and musician has garnered nearly 30 million plays to with his songs Jericho Rose, Quartermaster and Waccamaw Drive.

Building on his 2021 debut album Black Powder Soul, McCall’s follow-up, Mellow War, will be released on February 2.

Robert Plant’s Saving Grace will appear at the Royal Albert Hall, London, as part of Ovation – A Celebration of 24 Years of Gigs for Teenage Cancer Trust on March 24, alongside Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Kelly Jones, Eddie Vedder and Paul Weller. Tickets are available at

More Things To Do in York and beyond as panto time arrives and Christmas shows abound. Hutch’s List No. 50, from The Press

Me babbies, me bairns, me Berwick: Berwick Kaler’s dame, Dotty Dullaly, in Robinson Crusoe & The Pirates Of The River Ouse, his third Grand Opera House pantomime. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

‘TIS the season for pantomime as three start at the same time amid a glut of Christmas shows, from kitchen disco to classic rock, as Charles Hutchinson reports.  

York pantomimes at the treble: Rowntree Players in Cinderella, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today until next Saturday, except Monday; Jack And The Beanstalk, York Theatre Royal, until January 7 2024; Robinson Crusoe & The Pirates Of The River Ouse, Grand Opera House, tonight until January 6

ROWNTREE Players “rollicking pantomime” director Howard Ella is joined in the writing team for the first time by comic Gemma McDonald, who will be playing Buttons alongside Sara Howlett’s Cinderella, Laura Castle’s Fairy Flo and the baddie trio of Marie-Louise Surgenor’s Wicked Queen, York ghost walk host Jamie McKeller’s Cassandra and Michael Cornell’s Miranda.

James Mackenzie’s Luke Backinanger and Nina Wadia’s Fairy Sugarsnap in Jack And The Beanstalk at York Theatre Royal

York Theatre Royal’s fourth collaboration with Evolution Productions goes green with Nina Wadia’s Fairy Sugarsnap and CBeebies’ James Mackenzie’s villainous Luke Backinanger joining returnee Robin Simpson’s Dame Trott, Anna Soden’s Dave the Cow, Mia Overfield’s Jack and Matthew Curnier’s very silly Billy in Jack And The Beanstalk.

Dowager dame Berwick Kaler tackles Robinson Crusoe for the first time in his 43rd York panto and third at the GOH. Jake Lindsay takes the title role alongside the Ouse crew’s regulars, Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell. Box office: or 01904 501935 (last few tickets); or 01904 623568;

Matheea Ellerby: Shining as Sparkle in Pocklington Arts Centre’s The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas

Debut of the week: The Elves And The Shoemaker Save Christmas, Pocklington Arts Centre, until December 16

WRITER Elizabeth Godber and director Jane Thornton are at the helm of Pocklington Arts Centre’s inaugural in-house production: the children’s story of Jingle, Sparkle and Daredevil Dave, who have gingerbread to cook, peas to find and shoes to make. But who gives the Elves their Christmas? Surely they too deserve a break? Dylan Allcock, Jade Farnill and professional debut-making Matheea Ellerby star. Show times and tickets:

Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Cooking up her hits with Christmas trimmings in her Kitchen Disco at York Barbican

Yuletide on the dancefloor: Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Christmas Kitchen Disco, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

WHAT began as a lockdown online sensation from Sophie Ellis Bextor’s kitchen turned into her 2022 Kitchen Disco tour. Now she follows up Cooking Vinyl’s June release of her seventh studio album, Hana, with her Christmas Kitchen Disco tour for 2023. Hits from throughout her career will be combined with festive classics, served in her seasonal disco style. Tickets update: Sold out. Could be murder on the dancefloor to acquire one now. Box office for returns only:

Mostly Autumn: Christmas classic rock at The Crescent

Homecoming for Christmas: Mostly Autumn Christmas Show!, The Crescent, York, Sunday, 8pm

BEFORE heading off to Belgium and the Netherlands next week, York classic rock band Mostly Autumn play a home-city Christmas show heavily influenced by 1970s’ progressive rock, trad folk and, increasingly, contemporary influences after 28 years together led by guitarist Bryan Josh.

Meanwhile, York folk-covers, busker rock’n’roll troupe Hyde Family Jam have sold out both Thursday and Friday’s Christmas Party gigs, but tickets are available for Tuesday’s 7.30pm double bill of folk trio The Magpies and York singer-songwriter Dan Webster. Box office: thecrescentyork.

Bootleg Beatles: Get back to York Barbican on Wednesday

Tribute show of the week: Bootleg Beatles, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.30pm

PERFECT timing for the Bootleg Beatles to return to York this Christmas with their nostalgic whirlwind trip through the Fab Four Sixties, after the reissue of the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ compilations and especially the chart-topping renaissance of Now And Then.

And yes, that reactivated ghost of a John Lennon song will feature in a set combining the then and the now as Steve White’s Paul, Tyson Kelly’s John, Steve Hill’s George and Gordon Elsmore’s Ringo re-create the sound and look of each Beatles’ phase in fastidious detail, accompanied by a brass and string orchestra. Box office:

A mouse on skis in A Townmouse Christmas at Fairfax House, York

Mouse in the house: A Townmouse Christmas, Fairfax House, Castlegate, York, until January 7, 10.30am to 4.30pm, last entry 4pm

FAIRFAX House’s 2022 festive exhibition, A Townmouse Christmas, returns this winter with double the magic and double the mice, causing even more mayhem and mischief amid the Georgian Christmas festivities.

Hundreds of merry mouse guests can be spotted swinging from the ceiling and bursting out of drawers as they play among the 18th century décor, festive foliage and displays of Georgian Christmas traditions. Tickets:

Hands up who’s coming to town: Santa Claus looks forward to York Stage’s Santa’s Sing-a-Long

Busiest company of the week: York Stage presents Santa’s Sing-a-Long, Wednesday to December 23; Festive Feast, December 15, 16, 19 to 22, 8pm, both at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

JOIN Mr and Mrs Claus in their busy home as they prepare for the big day, entertaining children with 45 minutes of sing-a-longs, Christmas stories, interactive wonderment and Christmas songs aplenty. Santa has a Christmas book for every child to take away to read on Christmas Eve. Show times and tickets:

At night, York Stage vocal talent, accompanied by Adam Tomlinson and his band, dishes up a Festive Feast of Christmas songs, ranging from the traditional to modern pop, plus lashings of musical theatre favourites.

On song will be Katie Melia, Jess Main, Tracey Rea, Matthew Clarke, Cyanne Unamba-Oparah, Carly Morton, Finn East, Jack Hooper, Hannah Shaw, Stuart Hutchinson and York Stage debutant Jess Parnell. Box office:

Mike Paul-Smith: Musical director of Down For The Count at the Royal Hall, Harrogate

Christmas in full swing: Down For The Count, Swing Into Christmas, Royal Hall, Harrogate, December 16, 7.30pm

MIKE Paul-Smith trained as a doctor but is now principal conductor of London vintage orchestra Down For The Count, specialists in bringing jazz’s Swing Era back to life, in this case with a festive focus.

Paul-Smith and arranger Simon Joyner re-create the music of Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and many more in a luscious 30-piece orchestral setting, evoking Capitol Studios recordings. Cue original arrangements of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) and It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, alongside Let’s Face The Music And Dance and S’Wonderful. Box office: 01423 50211 or

Reopening of the week: Victorian Christmas at York Castle Museum, Eye of York, until January 7 2024

Story Craft Theatre’s Cassie Vallance and Jane Bruce with their Museum Mice at York Castle Museum

YORK Castle Museum’s Victorian Kirkgate street has reopened for a magical Yuletide experience full of activities and performances for all ages.

Highlights include Chris Cade’s Scrooge shows; a Victorian green-clad Father Christmas; carol singing on Sundays, and Janet Bruce and Cassie Vallance’s Story Craft Theatre bringing cute Museum Mice to life with puppets, games and family fun, followed by a craft activity on several weekdays. To book tickets:

Ross Noble ready to improvise on Jibber Jabber Jamboree jovial jaunt in York

In his natural habitat: Ross Noble looks forward to a Jibber Jabber Jamboree night of improvised comedy at the Grand Opera House, York, on Wednesday

FREEWHEELING Geordie comic Ross Noble will spin his web of nonsensical improvised comedy on his return to the Grand Opera House, York, on Wednesday (15/11/2023).

“It will be a playful experience for young and old,” he says. “Imagine watching someone create a magic carpet on an enchanted loom. Oh, hang on… magic carpets fly, that would smash the loom as it took flight. I haven’t thought that through…That’s what people can expect. Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through.”

Ross, who cut his teenage comedy teeth in York compering Comedy Shack gigs at the Bonding Warehouse, is settling into his 21st stand-up tour, talking genial Geordie gibberish on his Jibber Jabber Jamboree itinerary from October 25 to March 17 2024.

“I’ve got significantly better hotel accommodation,” says the Newcastle surrealist, reflecting on the contrast with his first tour. “That’s the main thing. Also, there are people coming to see me now who came with their parents when they were kids. That messes with your head a little bit.

“I still think of myself as being like 22 or 23 years old, and now I’ve got grown men going, ‘I saw you when I was 15. And now I’m a professional comedian’. Not even people going, ‘I want to be a comedian’ – like actual, established performers.” 

Does that make Ross an elder statesman of comedy at 47? “I wouldn’t go that far! The people that get described as ‘elder statesman’…some of them are a little bit too confident in their opinions, you know? They start going: ‘Well, the thing about comedy…’. No! Shut up!”

Just as Bob Dylan sang “All I’ve got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” in All Along The Watchtower, so Ross Noble once said his plans for a show ran to “about four words on a scrap of paper”. “That was actually taken slightly out of context,” he clarifies. “What I would do is go on and improvise, and then afterwards, I would write down things I could do again.

“I didn’t sit down to plan, think of four things and write them down. It’s the same today, really. Except I just don’t write them down – I feel like I should be able to remember four things!” 

As ever, Ross will have no support (no, not even a chair) as he tucks into two hour-long sets on Wednesday. “The thing that gets me is comics who sit down,” he says. “Whenever I see a comic with a chair on stage, I just think ‘If you need that chair, do a shorter show! Get up and put some effort in’.”

How does Ross on stage contrast with Ross off stage? “The difference is that when I’m on stage I show my working out. As I’m talking, my brain is constantly interrupting itself, so I’ll be saying something and then that’ll spark another thing, and then something else will come in – and I explain all that as it happens,” he says.

What can people expect in Jibber Jabber Jamboree, Ross? “Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through,” he forewarns

“Those thoughts still happen when I’m off stage, but I don’t say them all out loud, so if you meet me in the street, I can seem kind of distracted. I’ll often get halfway through a sentence and just stop. It drives my wife up the wall.” 

Come the interval on Wednesday, as is customary at a Noble gig, audience members will leave items on stage for Ross to weave into his wild imaginings in the second half.

“Somebody once left a pin from a ten-pin bowling alley and then a few nights later, somebody left another one. So, I tweeted about it, and over the course of the tour, I got all ten and we set up a bowling alley in the dressing room,” he recalls.

“Somebody did an oil painting of me as a centaur: full horse body, long flowing hair, rippling muscles like Fabio. Then above my head, there’s a Mr Kipling French Fancy with a rainbow coming out of it, and wings like a snitch from Harry Potter. That blew my mind.” 

Before Wednesday, check out Ross’s YouTube channel, where he presents a spoof nature documentary series, The Unnatural History Show With Ross Noble, as a rather riskier retort to the Beeb’s Winterwatch.

“I love Winterwatch and Countryfile, but there’s a very British, very cosy way that people like Michaela Strachan and John Craven present,” he says. “It’s all people in jumpers and Berghaus jackets sitting around being very ‘Well, isn’t this marvellous seeing these mating chaffinches?’! I just thought: ‘This would be a lot better if some of these animals could kill you’.”

Back on stage, you may have seen Ross’s Igor in Mel Brooks’s musical Young Frankenstein on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre. What did he learn from his musical theatre experience that he could apply to stand-up? “Previously I thought the best thing about stand-up was that you didn’t have to deal with other people messing up what you want to do,” he says.

“But then you do something like Young Frankenstein, with the greatest comedy legend of all time, and the best Broadway director that’s working and you go: ‘Oh, no, it’s not that I don’t like working with other people. I just want to work with the absolute best people’.” 

Now, solo once more, Ross will turn his stream-of-consciousnonsense tap on in York at 8pm on Wednesday. Box office:

Further Yorkshire dates on Ross Noble’s Jibber Jabber Jamboree tour in 2024: Sheffield City Hall, February 28, CAST, Doncaster, March 3; Leeds Grand Theatre, March 17. Box office: Sheffield,; Doncaster, 01302 303959 or; Leeds, 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritage

Ross Noble on the road in Yorkshire on his 21st solo stand-up tour: Already played Harrogate Royal Hall on October 26, now heading for York next week and Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield next year

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the summer of love arrives early. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 21 for 2023, from The Press

A study of people studying People We Love’s digital portraits in the Chapel at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

LOVE lost and found is all around in Charles Hutchinson’s picks from the shelf marked culture.

Goin’ to the chapel of love: People We Love, Castle Howard, near York, until October 15, 10am to 4pm

AFTER gracing York Minster twice, Pittsburgh, USA, Viborg, Denmark, and Selby Abbey, North Yorkshire, KMA’s latest contemplative digital art installation takes over the Chapel at Castle Howard, a setting that provides a contrast between portraiture old and new. Produced by York-based Mediale and designed by Kit Monkman, People We Love explores “the invisible transaction between a person, a piece of art and the emotion which bonds us all: love”.

A quintet of high-definition screens display portraits of estate staff and volunteers, Castle Howard visitors and Ryedale residents, filmed in March, as they gaze at a picture of someone they love. A picture you never see, but you will feel each unspoken story as the faces tell the tale of a person they love.

Alexandra Mather’s Adina, left, in York Opera’s The Elixir Of Love

Opera of the weekend: York Opera in The Elixir Of Love, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today at 7.30pm

WILL Nemorino, a simple village farm lad, ever find love without the help of a magic potion? Discover the answer in Donizetti’s comic opera L’Elisere d’Amore, packed with light-hearted music sung in an English translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin with orchestral accompaniment.

Under the direction of Chris Charlton-Mathews, principal roles go to Hamish Brown as the lovelorn, lovable Nemorino; stalwart Ian Thompson-Smith as opportunistic Doctor Dulcamara; David Valsamidies as the boastful Belcore; Alexandra Mather as the intelligent, beautiful Adina and Emma Burke in her York Opera debut as the flirtatious Giannetta. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Harvey Badger, Eddie Ahrens, Hannah Baker and Rachel Hammond in Mikron Theatre Company’s Twitchers

Bird song of the week: Mikron Theatre Company in Twitchers, Scarcroft Allotments, Scarcroft Road, York, Sunday (21/5/2023), 2pm, and on tour until October 21

IN Mikron Theatre Company’s premiere of Poppy Hollman’s Twitchers, Springwatch is coming to RSPB Shrikewing nature reserve, home to raucous rooks and booming bitterns.

Can Jess take inspiration from the RSPB’s tenacious female founders and draw on its history of campaigning to save them? Can she find her own voice to raise a rallying cry for nature in Mikron’s flight through RSPB and birdwatching history, feathered with bird song and humour. No reserved seating or tickets are required, and instead a ‘pay what you feel’ collection will be taken after the show.

Kate Rusby: On song at Harrogate Royal Hall on Monday

Folk gig of the week: Kate Rusby, Harrogate Royal Hall, Monday, 7.30pm

BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby rounds off a year of 30th anniversary celebrations with an 18-date spring tour, in the wake of releasing her 30: Happy Returns compendium last May to acknowledge three decades as a professional musician.

Coming later this year will be Kate’s Established 1973 Christmas Tour, visiting York Barbican on December 7, three days after she turns 50: a landmark she will mark with her sixth album of South Yorkshire pub carols and winter songs. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or; York,

Beware the Green Fingers: Fladam’s Flo Poskitt and Adam Sowter launch their debut children’s show at York Theatre Royal

Children’s show of the week: Fladam, Green Fingers, TakeOver Festival, York Theatre Royal, May 27, 3pm

GREEN Fingers is a work-in-progress performance to test out madcap York musical comedy double act Fladam’s first foray into family theatre ahead of its full debut at this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Flo Poskitt and Adam Sowter present a deliciously Roald Dahl-style musical storytelling show for children aged five to 12 about a boy born with bright green hands. Is he really rotten or just misunderstood? Box office: 01904 623568 or

Amy May Ellis: Back at The Band Room

Homeward bound: Amy May Ellis, The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale, May 27, 7.30pm

BEWITCHING ambient Yorkshire rose folkster Amy May Ellis makes an overdue return to her “local” moorland venue, where she has opened for Hiss Golden Messenger, Willy Mason, Michael Chapman, Ryley Walker and Howe Gelb since teen days…and always brought the house down.

This time she is touring her debut album, Over Ling And Bell, released on Isle of Eigg’s cult Lost Map Records, home of Pictish Trail and one-time Lost Map Sessions singer and songwriter James Yorkston, with whom Amy has toured. Wanderland and Nessy Williamson support. Box office:

Awaiting his coat of many colours: Jonathan Wells in rehearsal for his title role in York Musical Theatre Company’s Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

KATHRYN Addison directs York Musical Theatre Company in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1968 debut musical: the biblical journey of Joseph, son of Jacob and one of 12 brothers, and his coat of many colours.

From the book of Genesis to the musical’s genesis as a cantata written for a school choir, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has grown into an iconic musical theatre staple. Here husband and wife Jonathan Wells and Jennie Wogan-Wells lead the cast as Joseph and the Narrator. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Richard E Grant: Reflecting on love and loss at the Grand Opera House, York

Talk show of the week: An Evening With Richard E Grant, Grand Opera House, York, Friday, 7.30pm

ACTOR Richard E Grant tells stories from his life, entwining tales from his glittering career with uplifting reflections on love and loss, as told in last September’s memoir, A Pocketful Of Happiness.

Grant will be considering the inspiration behind the book – how, when his beloved wife Joan died in 2021 after almost 40 years together, she set him a challenge of finding a pocketful of happiness in every day. The book and now the tour show honour that challenge. Box office:

Leon Francois Dumont’s Ring Of Fire: Not one of the “life drawings” but featuring in the Donderdag Collective exhibition nonetheless at Pyramid Gallery, York

York exhibition launch of the week: The Donderdag Collective, Artists And The Human Form, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, York, today, from 11am, until June 25

FOUNDED in 2011 by a group of artists in York, The Donderdag Collective members – both professionals and keen amateurs – meet at St Olave’s Church Hall, in Marygate Lane, on Thursday evenings to sketch or paint from a life model (‘Donderdag’ being Dutch for ‘Thursday’).

Taking part in this resulting show are: Julie Mitchell; Rory Barke; Bertt deBaldock; Diane Cobbold; Carolyn Coles; Leon Francois Dumont; Jeanne Godfrey; Anna Harding; Adele Karmazyn; Michelle Galloway; Andrian Melka; Kate Pettitt; Swea Sayers; Barbara Shaw and Donna Maria Taylor.

Dame Joan Collins: Going Behind The Shoulder Pads at the Grand Opera House in October

Show announcement of the week: Dame Joan Collins, Behind The Shoulder Pads, Grand Opera House, York, October 2, 7.30pm

TO coincide with the release of her memoir Behind The Shoulder Pads, Hollywood legend, author, producer, humanitarian and entrepreneur Dame Joan Collins, who will turn 90 on May 23, will embark on a tour with husband Percy Gibson by her side.

Returning to the Grand Opera House, where they presented Unscripted in February 2019, they will field audience questions and tell seldom-told tales and enchanting anecdotes, accompanied by rare footage from Dame Joan’s seven decades in showbusiness. Box office:

More Things To Do in York in 2023. Hutch’s New Year List No. 1, courtesy of The Press

The horror, the horrror: Doctor Dorian Deathly swaps ghost walks for ghost talks at Theatre@41, Monkgate

AS the New Year fast approaches, Charles Hutchinson starts to fill the blank pages of a diary in need of cultural counters to so much front-page gloom.

From ghost walk to ghost talk: Doctor Dorian Deathly: A Night Of Face Melting Horror (or The Complete History Of Ghosts), Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, January 24 to 28, 8.30pm

COVID crocked York spookologist and ghost botherer Doctor Dorian Deathly’s Halloween season of macabre stories, paranormal sciences, theatrical trickery, horror, original music and perhaps the odd unexpected guest (with the emphasis on ‘odd’?) at Theatre@41.

The Visit York Tourism Awards winner has rearranged his five fright nights for late-January, when he will explore spine-chilling tales of hauntings, both local and further afield, dissemble horrors captured on film and trace the ghost story from its origins to Victorian classics and modern-day frights. Box office:

Ukrainian National Opera: First visit to York with Carmen

Ukrainians in York: Dnipro Opera in Carmen, York Barbican, February 12, 7pm

DNIPRO Opera, from Ukraine, perform Georges Bizet’s opera of fiery passion, jealousy and violence in 19th century Seville in French with English surtitles, to the accompaniment of a 30-strong orchestra.

Carmen charts the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who falls head over heels in love with Carmen, a seductive, free-spirited femme fatale, abandoning his childhood sweetheart and neglecting his military duties, only to lose the fickle firebrand to the glamorous toreador Escamillo. Box office:

Robert Forster: New album to showcase at The Crescent

York’s Australian gig of the year: Robert Forster, The Crescent, York, March 14, 7.30pm

BRISBANE singer, songwriter, guitarist, music critic and author Robert Forster, co-founder of The Go-Betweens with the late Grant McLennan, plays a rearranged date in York, now in support of the February 3 release of his eighth solo album, The Candle And The Flame.

Made an honorary Doctor of Letters at Queensland University in 2015, Forster, 65, is writing a novel, overseeing the upcoming Volume 3 of The Go-Betweens’ boxset series, G Stands For Go-Betweens, and touring the UK, Europe and Australia in the first half of 2023. Box office:

Tommy Cannon: Comedian in conversation at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Rock on, Tommy, for charity: An Evening With Tommy Cannon, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 15, 7.30pm

KELFIELD comedian Tommy Cannon, 84, takes to the JoRo stage for an evening of songs, stories, anecdotes and conversation, reflecting on his double act on television and the boards with the late Bobby Ball.

Cannon – real name Thomas Derbyshire – will take questions from the audience at this fundraising event in aid of The Snappy Trust, the York charity that seeks to maximise the personal development of children and young people with wide-ranging disabilities. The Boro Blues Brothers will be the support act. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Composer Gus Gowland: Premiering new musical Mayflies at York Theatre Royal

New musical of the year: Gus Gowland’s Mayflies, York Theatre Royal, April 28 to May 13

GUS Gowland, an award-winning London composer, lyricist and playwright now living in York, presents the world premiere of Mayflies, the story of a romantic relationship from its first flourish to its final goodbye.

First making his mark with debut full-length musical Pieces Of String in 2018, Gowland now charts May and Fly’s progress from dating apps to tentative conversations and blossoming romance…and then they meet! Box office: 01904 623568 or

The joy of SIX: Henry VIII’s wives weave their woes through Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s revenge musical on its return to the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Pamela Raith

Quickfire return of the year: SIX The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, June 27 to July 2, 8pm, Tuesday to Thursday; 6pm and 8.30pm, Friday; 4pm and 8pm, Saturday, and 2pm, Sunday

HERE come the Spouse Girls again. After the history and hysteria of October’s sold-out debut run in York, the SIX pop queens make a regal return next summer in Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s all-female show for the millennial age.

In a pop concert with diva attitude, Henry VIII’s trouble-and-strife sextet air their grievances in song in chronological order to decide who suffered most at Henry’s hands once he put a ring on the wedding finger. From this talent-and-talons contest will emerge the group’s lead singer. Book early at

Miriam Margolyes: Booked into York Barbican for her Oh Miriam! musings

Outspoken national treasure speaks out: Miriam Margolyes, Oh Miriam! Live, York Barbican, October 16, 7.30pm

BAFTA-WINNING actress, chat-show regular and travel show presenter Miriam Margolyes, 81, will be telling tales from her new book, Oh Miriam!, “something that has been said to me a lot over the years, often in tones of strong disapproval,” she says.

“Reliably outrageous” Margolyes promises a riotous evening full of life and surprises, her conversation spanning revelations, stories and discoveries that she cannot wait to share. Box office:

Ross Noble: Geordie Jibber Jabber Jamboree joviality in Harrogate and York

Stream-of-consciousnonsense on tap:  Ross Noble, Jibber Jabber Jamboree, Harrogate Royal Hall, October 26, 7.30pm; Grand Opera House, York, November 15, 8pm

GEORDIE surrealist Ross Noble ventures out on his 53-date Jibber Jabber Jamboree itinerary, his 21st solo tour, from October 2023 to March 2024. Expect inspired nonsense in his freewheeling stand-up.

“Imagine watching someone create a magic carpet on an enchanted loom,” says Noble, 46. “Oh, hang on… magic carpets fly; that would smash the loom as it took flight. I haven’t thought that through… That’s what people can expect. Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through.” Box office:

More Things To Do in York at Christmastide and beyond the New Year. Hutch’s List No. 111, courtesy of The Press, York

Hold on, is that Noddy Holder? No, it’s a nod to Noddy Holder as tribute band Slade UK invite you to Cum On Feel The Noize at the Victoria Vaults

SLEIGHS and that Slade song, pantomime mayhem and New Year parties signify the changing of the diary for Charles Hutchinson, with one eye on 2023.

Merry Xmas Everybody: Slade UK, Victoria Vaults, Nunnery Lane, York, Christmas Eve, 7pm

SO here it is, Merry Xmas, everybody’s having fun as Slade UK, tribute act to the Wolverhampton wonders, roll out that 1973 festive chart topper and a whole heap of misspelt Slade smashes, from Gudbuy T’ Jane to Cum On Feel The Noise, Coz I Luv You to Mama Weer All Crazee Now.

“We’re really looking forward to having Slade UK at the Vaults,” says owner/manager Chris White. “It’s going to be a great evening and a lot of fun.” DJ Garry Hornby will be on the decks. Box office:

Mayhem, mischief and nautical naughtiness: Jonny Weldon’s Starkey, left, and Paul Hawkyard’s Captain Hook in York Theatre Royal’s The All New Adventures Of Peter Pan

Still time for pantomime, part one: The All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, York Theatre Theatre Royal, until January 2 2023

CBEEBIES’ science ace Maddie Moate and three stars of last year’s Cinderella – Faye Campbell, Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson – head to Neverland in York Theatre Royal’s third collaboration with Evolution Productions.

Moate plays naughty fairy Tinkerbell, Campbell, plucky Elizabeth Sweet, Hawkyard, histrionic Captain Hook and Simpson, dame Mrs Smee, joined by Jason Battersby’s Peter Pan and Jonny Weldon’s madcap pirate Starkey in creative director Juliet Forster’s production, scripted by Evolution’s pun-loving Paul Hendy. Look out for acrobats Mohammed Iddi, Karina Ngade and Mbaraka Omari too. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Goose in the Grand Opera Hoose: Dame Berwick Kaler’s Mrs Plum-Duff in The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose. Picture: David Harrison

Still time for pantomime, part two: The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose, Grand Opera House, York, until January 8 2023

PETER Pan is not alone in flying across a York pantomime stage this winter. Dowager Dame Berwick Kaler does likewise at 76 in his second season at his adopted home, presented with the Grand Opera House’s new partners in panto, UK Productions.

Joining his ad-libbing granny, Mrs Plum-Duff, are sidekick Martin Barrass’s Jessie, villain David Leonard’s Lucifer Nauseus, principal gal Suzy Cooper’s Cissie, AJ Powell’s Brum Stoker and ever-game dancer Jake Lindsay’s Jakey Lad. Look out for Boris Johnson’s cameo as a dummy, me babbies, me bairns. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

New Year Gala Concert, Harrogate-meets-Vienna style

Viennese waltzing into 2023:  International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival’s New Year Gala Concert, Harrogate Royal Hall, January 7 2023, 7.30pm 

CELEBRATE the dawning of the New Year in the company of the National Festival Orchestra on a whirlwind tour of bygone opulence, taking in the cafés of Vienna, the bars of Paris and the drawing rooms of London.

Enjoy waltzes, ballads and Gilbert and Sullivan favourites in a gala concert conducted by Christopher Milton and featuring international opera stars. Box office:

New Year Party, Ukrainian style: The Ukrainians mark Malanka at The Crescent, York

New Year on a different calendar: The Ukrainians: Malanka, The Crescent, York, January 14 2023, 7.30pm

ON the eastern calendar, New Year falls on January 13 and is marked in Ukraine with a variety of festivities known as Malanka.

The Ukrainians have been playing their brand of Ukrainian music for three decades on folk and roots stages, clocking up eight albums and 1,000 gigs. High-energy party songs and a few surprises are promised. Box office:

Heavy Spring Showers, by John David Petty, on show at Kentmere House Gallery from February 3

Exhibition on the horizon: Lost and Found, East Riding paintings by John David Petty, Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, February 3 to April 2 2023

WHERE does Kentmere House Gallery owner Ann Petherick find her artists, she is often asked. “The best ones always have to be searched out, and I think I first found John David Petty in Beverley Minster, showing a collection of wonderful paintings of doors and windows of Holderness churches,” she says.

Petty is more often to be spotted outdoors, among the flatlands of the East Riding, where this former graphic artist relishes the solitude and wide landscapes.

Favouring oils, acrylics and charcoal, his church work uses the same techniques of deeply etched lines, with the addition of paper collage to capture the texture of ancient stonework. For opening hours, go to:

Matt Goss: Bros hits, new songs and a celebration of Cole Porter at York Barbican

What’s Matt doing next after Strictly? The Matt Goss Experience, with the MG Big Band and Royal Philharmonic, York Barbican, March 4 2023, 8pm

STRICTLY Come Dancing 2022 contestant and former Bros frontman Matt Goss, 54, performs his biggest hits, new original material and a tribute to songwriter Cole Porter in an evening of swing, glitz and swagger.

Having headlined Las Vegas for 11 years, Goss is back doing what he loves, singing with a big band and a philharmonic orchestra. Box office:

Jimmy Carr: Still Terribly Funny in 2023

Repeat offender…or not?! Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny 2.0, York Barbican, September 12 2023

AFTER completing a hattrick of York performances on his Terribly Funny tour – November 4 and 9 2021 and April 15 this year – provocative comedian and television panel show host Jimmy Carr is to return to the city on his Terribly Funny 2.0 itinerary.

Carr, 50, says his show “contains jokes about all kinds of terrible things. Terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love. But they’re just jokes – they are not the terrible things”. New material is promised. Box office: or

Que sera, Sara, whatever will be will be for comedian, writer, TV presenter and mum Pascoe in pursuit of defining Success

“The rule should be, if the audience stops laughing, you have to try something different,” says Sara Pascoe. That’s the beauty of comedy: it’s not pressure, it’s liberating”

HOW does comedian, actor, playwright, author, TV presenter and new mum Sara Pascoe quantify success?

She seeks to provide the answer in her biggest tour yet, Success Story, whose 50 dates in two blocks from November 10 to December 3 2022 and January 26 to April 22 next year take in four Yorkshire gigs: York Barbican on November 24 (7.30pm); Sheffield Octagon, the next night; Hull City Hall, March 17, and Harrogate Royal Hall, April 21.

She is delighted to be returning to the road for the first time since her LadsLadsLads tour of 2018-2019, the one where she contemplated the positive aspects of self-imposed celibacy, exploring love, sex and doing both alone.  ­

This time, expect “name-dropping, personal stories and anecdotes,” says Sara, who will deliver jokes about status, celebrities, plus her new fancy lifestyle versus infertility, her multiple therapists and career failures.

“What I want to explore is how do we define success and when do we define it. Does it change with age? Do we only want things we can’t have? When we attain our goals, do we move the goal posts and become unsatisfied with what we’ve got and want something else instead?

“I’m 41 now and it’s a reflective time; it feels like a very adult age. Looking back on my life to when I was 14, I really wanted to be on television. That’s where I work now but is it what I imagined it to be?”

The trigger for Success Story were her experiences when undergoing IVF after a miscarriage. “When I was going through that with my partner [Australian comedian  Steen Raskopoulos], they kept talking about it in terms of success,” says Sara, who became a mum on Valentine’s Day this year at the age of 40.

“I started thinking about success, what I wanted as a child, and then thinking about what makes you happy, or if you’ve set out on a certain path that makes you unhappy, should you do something else?”

“If you’ve set out on a certain path that makes you unhappy, should you do something else?” ponders Sara Pascoe in Success Story

Deciding she wanted to be famous at 14, Dagenham-born Sara would go on to audition for Barrymore, scare Dead Or Alive’s Pete Burns and ruin Hugh Grant’s birthday, but she would also notch a decade in stand-up comedy and pen the feminist Animal: The Autobiography Of A Female Body in 2016 and her exploration of sex through the medium of evolutionary psychology, sex work, and the role of money in modern heterosexual relationships in Sex Power Money in 2019, spawning an accompanying podcast.

Her “big, bold and funny” stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice played York Theatre Royal in October 2017 and she wrote and starred in the October 2020 sitcom Out Of Her Mind on BBC Two. She has presented television shows too, hosting Comedians Giving Lectures on Dave, Guessable on Comedy Central, BBC Two’s Last Woman On Earth and this year’s BBC One series of The Great British Sewing Bee.

“What quite often happens with stand-up comedy, it doesn’t take up a lot of your time, when it’s your main job. You have a lot of time on your hands, when that main job only takes up an evening five times a week.

“You can do other things, like writing a book, where they aren’t looking for gags, whereas you can’t go half an hour without a joke in a stand-up show,” says Sara.

Hence her diversification. “It’s more about thinking, ‘oh, that would be good to have a go at that’, rather than worrying about being found out at one thing,” she reasons.

How do you judge success in comedy? “I’ve noted that some people, once they get to the top, they then plateau, and that can be hard, as not everyone can be a stadium comic,” says Sara.

She enjoys the expectation of having to come up with fresh material for every new tour, whereas the success of a band’s gig is often judged on which hits they played, which they chose to leave out.

“It’s horrible when a gig becomes dead behind the eyes,” says Sara, outlining what to avoid when seeking comedy success

“That’s the added benefit of doing comedy. I was thinking how boring it must be to always have to play songs from 20 years ago when the bands probably hate them by now, whereas comedians have to move on, just as people do when they can’t keep talking about a divorce or an old girlfriend,” says Sara, who switched from the repetition of performing theatre to the freshly squeezed juice of comedy.

“You’re quite often in a different place by the end of a tour and your set reflects that. It’s horrible when a gig becomes dead behind the eyes.

“I remember being told very early in my career how Bill Bailey always had five minutes of new material each night, working it into shape for the next tour, and it’s true that if you try out new bits after the interval, you’re never dead behind the eyes.”

Sara continues: “The rule should be, if the audience stops laughing, you have to try something different. That’s the beauty of comedy: it’s not pressure, it’s liberating. If you have three nights in a row where people aren’t connecting, throw that material in the bin. Actors can’t do that!

“At the end of a show, you don’t want a crowd going ‘yeah, that was fine’. You want them to say, ‘oh god, do you remember that bit?’. You want an audience to be engaged in what you’re saying.”

At the time of this phone interview, Sara was busy writing a book and filming the latest series of The Great British Sewing Bee. She could reveal that those shows would be broadcast on BBC One next spring; she could say rather less, however, about her next venture into print.

“We’ve not done a proper release yet,” she says. “Put something vague… ‘I’m moving into fiction’. It’s a chance to make some things up for a change.” Watch this space.

Tickets for Sara Pascoe’s Success Story tour are on sale at; for York Barbican at; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or

Who was ‘the man who captured sunlight’? New play tells Victorian industrialist Samson Fox’s story at Harrogate Royal Hall

 Samson Fox: Victorian inventor, civil engineer, entrepreneur, industrialist, philanthropist and Harrogate mayor

AMID the cost of living crisis, the environmental crisis, the endless political upheavals, Britain needs a modern-day equivalent of Samson Fox.

Who, you ask. Spot the fox weather vane at Grove House when struggling along the traffic light-choked Skipton Road in Harrogate, and you will have found the former family abode of this Victorian inventor, civil engineer, entrepreneur, industrialist, philanthropist and Mayor of Harrogate with grander political ambitions – until the scandal of a damaging legal battle with author Jerome K. Jerome stopped him in his tracks.

His acting-dynasty descendants – great grandson Edward, Freddie and Emilia Fox – have been the ones to acquire fame, but now playwright and Dr Who writer Gavin Collinson will resurrect the life and deeds of a pioneer lost from the history books with today’s world premiere of The Man Who Captured Sunlight at the Royal Hall, Harrogate.

Such a play is long overdue, reckons Freddie. “Maybe I’m being a little over the top here, but there’s a sort of Elon Musk quality to him. Somebody who is a totally self-made man. Who has used his money not just for the wider community, but the world.

“No-one would really know who Samson was, and yet if you trace the history of his inventions and the legacy of what they created now, he is probably one of the most important names in industry for this country. So yes, a bit of celebration of Samson’s genius is long overdue.”

Freddie Fox: Actor and great-great grandson of Samson Fox

The Fox-Jerome court case will take centre stage in Collinson’s play, but above all it champions a forgotten English inventor who generated huge wealth and spearheaded the Industrial Revolution, while also supporting the poor and investing in the arts. Not least he explored green energy with his Water Gas plant, Europe’s first, in Harrogate’s Parliament Street.

Born into poverty in Bowling, Bradford, on July 11 1838, Samson worked in the mills from the age of nine, became an apprentice toolmaker, then set up his own toolmaking business.

He revolutionised train travel, engine construction and street lighting and, after moving to Harrogate, he was elected the town’s mayor three times. He co-founded the Royal College of Music in London and was instrumental in building Harrogate’s Royal Hall.

His greatest invention was probably the corrugated boiler flue used in steam ships. Fox found that by corrugating flues, the same amount of metal became far stronger, reducing accidents and failures, and increasing efficiency. It saved countless lives at sea.

The name of Collinson’s new play, The Man Who Captured Sunlight, refers to how Fox had “bottled the sun” with his hydrogen Water Gas that provided some of the world’s first street lighting. At the time, visitors travelled far and wide to witness this wonder.

“Samson was the early forerunner of hydrogen power, which is what everyone is turning cars into now,” says Freddie. “It’s quite remarkable how ahead of the curve he was.

Gavin Collinson: Playwright, crime novelist and Dr Who writer

“If you look at the legacy of an idea like Water Gas or the boiler flue, these are things that have benefited millions of people over the course of history.”

Writer Gavin Collinson has “only sentimental” connections with Harrogate. “I’m originally from Blackpool, in Lancashire, and I used to come over to Harrogate for the second-hand bookshops and to go to Bettys, before it became a carnival!” he says.

“But Harrogate genuinely has a special place in my heart. Each year I go up to the crime festival [the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival], as my other job is writing thrillers, so I go there to see what the opposition are up to!”

Did he know of Samson Fox? “To be honest, I’d kind of heard of him vaguely but didn’t know of his achievements, but I was only aware of the figure, and not his footprints on Harrogate, until I watched the programme where Emilia Fox retraced her family history,” says Gavin.

“Once I was on board for the play, I started reading old newspaper articles and that was the beginning of the route I took.”

“100 per cent, Samson Fox’s story should have been told before now,” reckons playwright Gavin Collinson

Gavin agrees “100 per cent” that Samson Fox’s story should have been told before now. “But I think the reason that’s not happened is because lots of what we know about Samson are just anecdotes,” he says.

“There’s nothing wrong with that but when you look more deeply into his story, the loyalty of his brother, and how people were either ‘Team Jerome’ or ‘Team Samson’, you find there are so many stories to tell.

“He was 65 when he died and he’d succeeded in everything he’d done. He was seeking to go into politics [planning to stand for election as an Walsall] and if he’d succeeded in that, he could have brought green energy to the nation. Imagine what would have happened to his Water Gas, which was so much cleaner than coal or coke or crude oil.

“The boiler flue was not important in itself but in how many lives it saved. That story has not been told in that way until now.”

What does Gavin make of the court case that Fox brought against Jerome? “Jerome K Jerome, most famous for Three Men In A Boat, was also a newspaper editor, described as a ‘grating spokesperson for no-one but himself’,” he says.

Joe Standerline’s Samson Fox, right, having his day in court, or rather more than one day, in his very long case, in a scene from The Man Who Captured Sunlight

“Jerome took umbrage at Samson Fox’s business dealings and called him out as a fraud, even though he’d funded the Royal College of Music. It’s fascinating to look at the letters of the college director, praising his generosity, but Jerome said he’d made his money out of false means and should be denigrated, not celebrated.

“Jerome contested that Samson Fox was looking for investment in companies that he knew would fail, but I would contend that despite Samson’s reputation as a businessman, as soon as he had to get down to business, he would run away from it.

“But did Samson know they would fail, or was he raising money honourably by investment? , That was the big question of the trial that he brought against Jerome that became pivotal to his life?”

Gavin’s research unearthed a “fascinating” coincidence. “I’ve not seen it mentioned before, but Jerome K Jerome’s lawyer was Lockwood [England’s top prosecutor, Solicitor-General Sir Frank Lockwood], the lawyer who brought down Oscar Wilde,” he reveals.

“Lockwood was known for his wit, and Samson was heard to say, ‘I should have employed him’. Samson won the trial but he was haunted by it; the damages he received were perfunctory. Jerome K Jerome was ruined by it. For him, it was disastrous, whereas Fox was wealthy and could afford his lawyer.”

The poster for The Man Who Captured Sunlight at Royal Hall, Harrogate, designed by Christian Alexander Bailey

What would Gavin want today’s audiences to take from The Man Who Captured Sunlight? “On one level, and this is going to sound trite and shallow, I just hope people will enjoy it. I’ve seen historical plays that feel like wading through treacle, but with this play, there’s romance, there’s humour, suspense, jeopardy,” he says.

“We’re telling the story of ‘a guy who died years ago that no-one remembers’, but in this case everyone who’s taking part is really enjoying telling that story and if it helps to shed light on Samson Fox, the man, not the historical figure, then great.

“We’re trying to explore the man behind the achievements, seeing his resonance now, what he did for engineering and rail rolling stock that we still use today, whether it’s a train in the Scottish Highlands or a bullet train in Japan.

“His sense of family is important too, where he is ‘the star’, but he has a good lieutenant by his side in his brother William.

“Ultimately, with the fuel crisis at the moment, it makes telling his story now really interesting.”

The final word and recommendation to see Collinson’s play goes to Freddie Fox: “Having just put the script down, I can honestly say I thought it was brilliantly written. Insightful, moving, funny, poignant,” he says.

“I think it’s a really terrific portrayal of its subject and characters. Gavin has woven the poetry and theatre of the Fox family of today into the fabric of the lives of our industrialist predecessors – a beautiful touch. In short, I loved it!”

The Man Who Captured Sunlight, performed by North Of Watford, at Royal Hall, Harrogate, today (23/9/2022), 2.30pm and 7pm. Box office:

What Did Samson Fox Ever Do For Us?

Samson Fox, portrait by Bukovac

Putting transport on the right track

Fox realised that the lighter you could make a train, whilst keeping it safe, then the more economically it would travel. He invented lightweight structures and components for rail transportation and influenced the way the train design industry (and arguably other similar industries) progressed.

From the sleepy sleeper to Edinburgh and the overcrowded train you take into London, to the fastest trains in the world that blur along the rails in China, their design is all predicated on Samson’s realisation and early inventions.

His pioneering work on railways helped to ensure that train transport remained affordable to the average woman and man wanting to travel.

Taking the pressure

No-one cares about the corrugated boiler flue as such, even though it is arguably Fox’s greatest invention. What did it do? It made engines more powerful and much safer.

Boring? Maybe, but before his invention, thousands of people had perished at sea when engines blew up and their vessels sank. His invention allowed greater pressure within an engine, making maritime transport for the public faster and safer and industrial plants more productive.

Thousands of lives were saved and engine construction was revolutionised. Check out the engine of any car fuelled by petrol and you will find pressure distribution systems – Samson invented their antecedent.

Thank him for the music

Fox did not invent the Royal College of Music, in London, but his money made it possible. Every year a diverse intake further their art and their trade there, later to entertain audiences around the world. College alumni include Alfie Boe, Rick Wakeman, and Andrew Lloyd Webber, who in abandoned his History degree at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1965 to study at the RCM and pursue his interest in musical theatre.

Samson Fox ands his family

What amounts to success for comedian Sara Pascoe? It’s time to reflect on tour

In pursuit of success: Sara Pascoe in her new tour show

HOW does comedian, actor, playwright, author, podcaster and TV presenter Sara Pascoe quantify success?

She will seek to provide the answer in her biggest tour yet, Success Story, whose 50 dates in two blocks from November 10 to December 3 2022 and January 26 to April 22 next year will take in four Yorkshire gigs: York Barbican on November 24; Sheffield Octagon, November 25; Hull City Hall, March 17, and Harrogate Royal Hall, April 21.

Expect jokes about status, celebrities, plus Sara’s new fancy lifestyle versus infertility, her multiple therapists and career failures, she forewarns.

“What I want to explore is how do we define success and when do we define it,” she says. “Does it change with age; do we only want things we can’t have? When we attain our goals, do we move the goal posts and become unsatisfied with what we’ve got and want something else instead?

“I’m 41 now and it’s a reflective time; it feels like a very adult age. Looking back on my life to when I was 14, I really wanted to be on television. That’s where I work now but is it what I imagined it to be?”

Deciding she wanted to be famous at 14, Dagenham-born Sara would go on to audition for Barrymore, scare Dead Or Alive’s Pete Burns and ruin Hugh Grant’s birthday, but she would also notch a decade in stand-up comedy and pen the feminist Animal: The Autobiography Of A Female Body in 2016 and her exploration of sex through the medium of evolutionary psychology, sex work, and the role of money in modern heterosexual relationships in Sex Power Money in 2019, spawning an accompanying podcast.

Her “big, bold and funny” stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice played York Theatre Royal in October 2017 and she wrote and starred in the October 2020 sitcom Out Of Her Mind on BBC Two. She has presented television shows too, hosting Comedians Giving Lectures on Dave, Guessable on Comedy Central,  BBC Two’s Last Woman On Earth and this year’s BBC One series of The Great British Sewing Bee.

“What I want to explore is how do we define success and when do we define it,” says Sara Pascoe

For all those diverse achievements, she underwent a fraught personal chapter that would be deemed contrary to that vision of success. “I was having years of infertility and when we were going through IVF, the word ‘success’ was used a lot about the process,” says Sara, (who does now have a beautiful baby son).

“So, I wanted to contrast that with these other things that are seen as representing successful lives, such as finding someone we love and having a family. There are a lot of areas being covered.”

If this sounds a tad heavy, as a counterbalance, Sara will reach for her raft of daft stories to flesh out her central thesis. Such as the time she terrified Pete Burns, the late figurehead of 1980s’chart-toppers Dead Or Alive and later reality TV star.

“He did a reality show where he was looking for a PA and I was told I would get £50 in cash in an envelope if I kept accosting him in the street. So, outside a coffee shop in Soho, I had to pretend to be a superfan and hug and kiss him and say how much I loved him and see how all these potential Pas would deal with this crazy, neurotic fangirl,” she recalls.

“At the end of that day, he said that I scared him, which just showed how good my acting was. That show is sometimes repeated on an MTV channel, and I’ll get a text or a tweet saying, ‘oh my god, I had no idea you were such a Pete Burns fan’.”

TV exposure on Comedians Giving Lectures and The Great British Sewing Bee has lifted Sara’s profile and given her a fresh perspective on her life in comedy. “Comedians Giving Lectures can be like hosting a stand-up show, and I love it because these very high-status experienced comics are often doing brand new material because they’ve written a lecture for the TV show. For me, it feels like a gig rather than a TV programme,” she says.

“No-one likes to do a mediocre gig, or worse, a flat gig,” says Success-driven Sara

“In Sewing Bee, I occasionally write jokes for the links, but you’re doing a joke for eight people who are really thinking about sewing; they’re not thinking about your pun on the wrap dress.”

Her Success Story travels are still more than five months away, but especially after the mothballing impact of the pandemic lockdowns, Sara is desperate to return to the road for the first time since her LadsLadsLads tour of 2018-2019 – the one where she contemplated the positive aspects of self-imposed celibacy, exploring love, sex and doing both alone.  ­

“Touring can be tiring but when you’re in the dressing room before a show and you hear the hubbub of a busy room, you feel very lucky that people will come and see you at all, never mind in their hundreds or thousands,” she says.

“There’s a description in Alan Davies’s book about how walking out on stage as a comedian is the closest you can get to being a toddler taking your first steps towards your excited parents. That’s the feeling comedians are trying to recreate by getting this huge round of applause from people who like you and are pleased you are there. That’s the side of it that’s addictive and compulsive.”

Sara will not let her own success story go to her head, instead always striving to raise the bar for her comedy hit-rate.  “No-one likes to do a mediocre gig, or worse, a flat gig,” she says. “Especially when you’ve earned an audience from TV work, the idea that they might come to see you for the first time and leave disappointed really keeps you going.

“At the end of a show, you don’t want a crowd going ‘yeah, that was fine’. You want them to say ‘oh god, do you remember that bit?’ You want an audience to be engaged in what you’re saying.”

Tickets for Sara Pascoe’s Success Story tour are on sale at; for York Barbican at