Director Janet Farmer leaves Pocklington Arts Centre after 25 years and 900 live shows at ‘the little place the big acts play’

Farewell: Departing director Janet Farmer in the Pocklington Arts Centre auditorium

DIRECTOR Janet Farmer hosts her leaving party at Pocklington Arts Centre tonight as she ends her 25-year association with the East Yorkshire venue.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, she oversaw her last concert: a strikingly strong double bill of Devonian folk musician John Smith and Eastern Pennsylvanian husband-and-wife duo Native Harrow, who reviewer Paul Rhodes observed “would have been worthy headliners in their own right”.

Janet will retire in mid-April after 22 years in post, preceded by three years of fundraising to transform the market town’s former cinema into a theatre, concert venue, cinema and studio gallery. The recruitment process to appoint her successor is under way.

From a standing start in 2000, Janet has led Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) into becoming a leading small-scale arts venue, recognised nationally as a beacon of good practice with a significant cultural reputation.

Janet has drawn more than £1million in public funding to support the venue’s presentation of 3,500 film screenings and staging of 900 live events, numerous festivals, from Pocktoberfest to the Platform Festival at the Old Station, plus hundreds of community events, workshops, exhibitions and private hires.

“When I started here, we borrowed an artists’ contact file; there were no agents online!” recalls Janet. “You had to buy a book with agents’ contact details and then contact them by fax.

“All the deals were down over the phone or by fax, whereas now it’s mostly by email, which can be seen as sad progress as you don’t always have that verbal contact any more.”

Over the past 22 years, Janet has programmed a diverse range of acts, naming her personal favourites as Joan Armatrading and Shed Seven, who both rehearsed at PAC for upcoming tours, Lesley Garrett, John Bishop, The Shires, Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Millican, Lucinda Williams, Baroness Shirley Williams, KT Tunstall, The Unthanks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, David Ford and Josh Ritter.

When informing PAC staff and volunteers of her decision in January, Janet said: “I am sure this will be said on many occasions over the next few months, but I want to thank all of the staff and volunteers for their tireless support, hard work, dedication and friendship. This has been vital to making PAC the success it is today.

“It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to lead PAC over two decades and it fills me with immense pride knowing what has been achieved during this time. I look forward to returning as a customer and perhaps a volunteer in years to come.”

Twenty-five years, Janet, can you believe it? “People keep saying they’re surprised, but, yes, it really has been that long. I did think I would finish in 2020, and but for the pandemic, I would have done, but I felt I had to see out the time when we were closed,” she says.

“A big part of that was to apply for the Government’s Culture Recovery Funding, and only one application was necessary, what with the support we received from East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and the furlough scheme, which meant we could continue to pay even part-time staff.”

Amid the ebb and flow of three pandemic lockdowns from March 2020, PAC continued to function by mounting 50-plus online events and workshops, staging a series of outdoor exhibitions by Sue Clayton and Karen Winship and launching Primrose Wood Acoustics concerts in June 2021 before reopening with two socially distanced performances by comedian Sarah Millican last July.

“We took Sue and Karen’s exhibitions into Askham Bar Vaccination Centre’s Tent of Hope in York and we took part in the online Your Place Comedy double bills, streamed from comedians’ living rooms and organised by Chris Jones of Selby Town Hall, with a host of independent Yorkshire venues involved,” says Janet.

“We did online shows with our beloved Lip Service too, and online has proved a really good way for people to discover acts like [York singer-songwriter] Rachel Croft and (Leeds band] The Dunwells, who were doing nightly streams at one point in lockdown.”

Janet wanted PAC to regain momentum before leaving this spring. “We’re doing all we can to make people feel safe as they return to coming here, such as having medical-grade air purifiers,” she says.

“I wanted us to get back into the swing of what we do, so we could show we could still do concerts, films, theatre, comedy and exhibitions well with good attendances again, and we have.”

She will continue to live in Pocklington while undertaking plenty of travel too. “This summer I can start the gap year I never had, going round the festivals, such as Cambridge Folk Festival; Kilkenny Arts Festival in August; Telluride Bluegrass Festival, in the Colorado mountains, where it’s a ski resort in the winter. Sitting in the mountains, watching a bluegrass festival, I’ll be in my element.”

Born and bred in York, trained in theatre, film and social sciences at York St John and later in theatre programming and policy through Leeds Playhouse, Janet first became the focal point of fundraising to establish Pocklington Arts Centre.

She then took on the role of running PAC once it opened. “I had to learn very quickly on the job, but I always had a handle on what people liked, like booking Johnny Vegas before he was well known,” recalls Janet.

“There were financial constraints, so I couldn’t be too adventurous at the start, and then there was always a bit of a problem of people not knowing where Pocklington was. But once we started getting bigger names, we could quote that to agents, and we became the little place that big acts wanted to play.”

That will be Janet’s legacy. “I’ve done my bit and it’s time to retire from here, though no doubt I’ll do some volunteering,” she says.

Janet Farmer: On stage at a Platform Festival, run by Pocklington Arts Centre at the Old Station, Pocklington

Janet Farmer’s Pocklington Arts Centre timeline

2000: First live event, French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan, February 2.

2000: First film, The Last September, directed by Deborah Warner, February 24.

2000: First outdoor festival, staged in April.

2001: First arts festival to be staged across the market town by PAC, continuing for four more years.

2001: James Duffy employed as box office assistant in October. Now general manager.

2002: Janet directs Fiddler On The Roof for Pocklington Dramatic Society.

2003: First film festival, including An Audience With Barry Norman.

2004: Second film festival, including Q&A with BAFTA chair Duncan Kenworthy and film journalist Quentin Falk.

2010: Forgotten Voices Community Choir launched.

2011: First full-colour A5 live events brochure launched.

2011: PAC cinema projection converted from 35mm to digital.

2011: PAC joins forces with Pocklington’s Roundtable to launch large-scale festival of beer and music

2016: Platform Festival of music and comedy launched.

2016: £600,000 refurbishment.

2018: Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status awarded with annual funding.

2018: Sara Morton appointed as PAC’s first marketing and administrative officer.

2019: Dementia Choir launched.

2020: PAC closes under Covid pandemic restrictions in March.

2020/2021: PAC stages 50-plus online events and workshops during lockdown.

2021: PAC stages series of outdoor exhibitions by Sue Clayton and Karen Winship during lockdown.

2021: Primrose Wood Acoustics launched in June.

2021: PAC reopens in July with two socially distanced performances by comedian Sarah Millican after 17 months of closure.

2022: Director Janet Farmer to leave in April after 25 years’ involvement.

Pocklington Arts Centre’s statistics under Janet Farmer

£1 million raised in public funding for PAC.

3,500 film screenings programmed since 2000.

900 live events programmed.

100s of community events, workshops, exhibitions and private hires staged.

20-plus arts, music and film festivals mounted.

Joan Armatrading: Rehearsed at Pocklington Arts Centre in preparation for a national tour

Music acts brought to Pocklington by Janet Farmer since 2000:

Joan Armatrading; Richard Hawley; Lucinda Williams; Mary Chapin Carpenter; Rosanne Cash; The Unthanks; Edwyn Collins; The Staves; Josh Ritter; Hothouse Flowers; Kate Rusby; The Shires; Adam Cohen; Amy Macdonald; KT Tunstall; Lesley Garrett.

The Searchers; Barbara Dickson; Beth Orton; Eric Bibb; Nick Mulvey; Roger McGuinn; Elkie Brooks; Eddi Reader; The Magic Numbers; Gretchen Peters; Levellers; Ron Sexsmith; Ruby Turner; Kathryn Williams; Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Echo & The Bunnymen; Fairport Convention; Teddy Thompson; Mary Coughlan; David Ford; Clare Teal; Ward Thomas; The Blockheads; Raul Malo; Lissie; Dr Feelgood; Newton Faulkner; Georgie Fame; Lau; Fishermen’s Friends; Seth Lakeman; Alvin Stardust.

Ralph McTell; Bellowhead; Benjamin Francis Leftwich; The Coal Porters; Martyn Joseph; Irish Mythen; Courtney Marie Andrews; The Manfreds; Otis Gibbs; London Community Gospel Choir; Hugh Cornwell; Thea Gilmore.

Shed Seven; Benjamin Francis Leftwich; Curtis Stigers; Graham Coxon; Greg Lake; Glenn Tilbrook; Badly Drawn Boy; Courtney Pine; Joe Brown; Grace Petrie; Martin Simpson; Marty Wilde; Vonda Shepherd; Martha Wainwright and The Young’Uns.

Regional music:

The Howl & The Hum; Beth McCarthy; Dan Webster; Gina Dootson; Boss Caine; Amy May Ellis; Joshua Bunell; Edwina Hayes; The Dunwells; Rachel Croft; Charlie Daykin; Katie Spencer; Jessica Simpson; Gary Stewart; Josh Savage; The Grand Old Uke Of York; Mambo Jambo; Miles Salter; Nick Hall.

Spoken word:

Kae Tempest; Simon Armitage; Bob Harris; Pam Ayres; John Cooper Clarke; Sandi Toksvig; Keith Floyd; Jay Rayner; Baroness Shirley Williams; Michael Portillo; John Hegley; Tony Benn; Simon Callow; Jeremy Vine.

Robert Powell; Michael Dobbs; Andrew Motion; Paddy Ashdown; Ian McMillan; Barry Norman; Chris Packham; Amanda Owen; Clive James; Matt Abbott; George Melly; John Sergeant; Martin Bell; Gyles Brandreth and Julian Norton.

Theatre:

Trestle Theatre; Opera North; Northern Broadsides; Red Ladder Theatre Company; Reduced Shakespeare Company; Idle Motion; Reform Theatre; Talegate Theatre; Magic Carpet Theatre; North Country Theatre; Hull Truck Theatre; BlackEyed Theatre; Lempen Puppet Theatre; MultiStory Theatre; NTC; Vamos Theatre; ShowStoppers! and Badapple Theatre Company.

Comedy:

John Bishop; Sarah Millican; Dylan Moran; Jenny Éclair; Al Murray; Ross Noble; Fascinating Aida; Andrew Maxwell; Chris Ramsey; Jason Manford; Omid Djalili; Sue Perkins; Rob Beckett; Lucy Beaumont; Jon Richardson; Stewart Lee; John Shuttleworth; Rhod Gilbert.

Arthur Smith; Luisa Omielan; Phill Jupitus; David Baddiel; Greg Davies; Paul Merton’s Impro Chums; Henning Wehn; Stephen K Amos; Patrick Monahan; Dave Gorman; Russell Kane; Jeremy Hardy; Mark Steel; Rich Hall; Gary Delaney and Barry Cryer.

Maggie Fox, York actress and LipService Theatre satirist, RIP. A tribute

Maggie Fox, left, and comedy partner Sue Ryding in Lip Service’s award-winning show Withering Looks

YORK actress Maggie Fox, one half of the long-running satirical comedy duo LipService Theatre, has died after a “catastrophic accident”.

In a statement on the company’s website, co-founder Sue Ryding says: “It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of Maggie Fox, my comedy partner of 40 years and co-artistic director of LipService.

“Maggie passed away yesterday with her family around her. Consequently the Spring Tour of Chateau Ghoul has been cancelled. As you can imagine I am completely heartbroken.”

Maggie and Sue met when studying drama at Bristol University in the 1970s. “We were in a very serious production of Ibsen’s The Lady For The Sea but for some reason the audience was on the floor laughing,” recalls Sue.

“A tragedy for Ibsen – he was good at those – but the launch of an epic comedy partnership. Our theatre company LipService was officially launched in 1985 and we have written 22 original comedies, touring all over the world, managing to have children in between!

Maggie Fox, back, and Sue Ryding in LipService Theatre’s Scandi-noir spoof Inspector Norse

“It’s notoriously difficult to present new work in theatre and we are really proud that we managed to do so and to build an audience for it.”

LipService had been touring their latest two-hander, the haunted house thriller Chateau Ghoul, written, produced and performed by Maggie and Sue with a multi-media combination of on-stage live humour and digital projections.

Sue did give one performance with an understudy, but following Maggie’s death, the tour has been discontinued. “Maggie is irreplaceable and so, reluctantly, Sue Ryding and the rest of the company have decided we must cancel the remaining dates of the upcoming tour,” read LipService’s first announcement released to such venues Pocklington Arts Centre, where regular visitors Maggie and Sue had been booked to perform on March 26.

“We appreciate that this will come as a great shock to our wonderful and loyal followers. We would like to thank them for their understanding at this difficult time and for their valued and much cherished support over the years.

Sue’s LipService website statement continues: “We are still all in a state of shock as this was very sudden following an accident. We had planned a new digital version of Chateau Ghoul, which we had already filmed, which will be shared with you later in the year in memory of Maggie, plus some live events using the huge amount of digital footage we thankfully have archived. Details to be published when have a plan.

Maggie Fox, right, and Sue Ryding in their latest show, the haunted house thriller Chateau Ghoul

“Thank you for supporting us over all these years; we are so lucky to have such a loyal audience. We do hope you will join us to celebrate Maggie’s comedy genius later in the year.”

Janet Farmer, director of Pocklington Arts Centre, paid tribute to Maggie. “We have welcomed Maggie and Sue as LipService Theatre for 15-plus years; they have always been hugely popular with many sell-out performances of their wonderful spoof shows based on literary classics.

“I, along with my colleagues, am shocked and devastated to hear the tragic news of Maggie’s death. It is obviously a huge loss to Sue and to Maggie’s family but also to the touring theatre circuit. 

“Maggie and Sue were a unique duo presenting their laugh-out-loud shows. They even continued with on-line versions of their shows during the pandemic. We are very sad not to be presenting their Chateau Ghoul this Saturday.”

Maggie, the very tall one from Yorkshire, and Sue, the rather shorter one from the other side of the Pennines, toured nationally and internationally to the United States, Germany, Eastern Europe and Pakistan.

Maggie Fox, right, and Sue Ryding in LipService Theatre’s Strangers On A Train Set

An inseparable, instinctive, inventive, mischievous, less-is-more, only-us-against-the-odds double act, they presented such savvy, gently anarchic shows as their Bronte Sisters send-up Withering Looks; Strangers On A Train Set; Inspector Norse; Knit One Murder One; The Picture Of Doreen Gray; Mr Darcy Loses The Plot and Desperate To Be Doris (the musical comedy one they did with a 50-piece community choir in York).

Not forgetting Jane Bond, their James Bond satire in Live And Let’s Dye; Very Little Women; Horror For Wimps; Move Over Moriarty, Women On The Verger; King Arthur & The Knights Of The Occasional Table; B-Road Movie!, Tony & Twizzle, The Glory Years, and Margaret III Parts Two and Three, all subjected to their microscope of mirth.

York Theatre Royal was one of multiple collaborators, along with Oldham Coliseum; The Lowry, Salford; The Brindley, Runcorn; The New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme; Greenwich Theatre, London; Watford Palace and Barclays Stage Partner

Described as the “Laurel & Hardy of literary deconstruction” by the Guardian, “Britain’s favourite literary lunatics” by the Independent and “an unstoppable force for comic inventiveness” by Time Out magazine, Maggie and Sue won the Critics’ Award for Comedy for both Withering Looks and Knot One Murder One at the Edinburgh Fringe; the Manchester Theatre Awards Stage Door Award for Excellence in 2013 and the Manchester Evening News Award for Withering Looks.

LipService duo Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding with Darren Southworth in their Doris Day celebration, Desperate To Be Doris

To complement their mainstream theatre , Maggie and Sue worked with heritage organisations on site-specific events, such as  the Bronte Parsonage Museum, in Haworth; Elizabeth Gaskell’s House; the National Trust at Quarry Bank, Wilmslow, Cheshire; Manchester Histories Festival; European City of Science and Stockport Council.

LipService hosted series on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4, made television appearances and were commissioned by the Bronte Parsonage to film Withering Looks, The Movie!, shot on location at the Brontes’ parsonage and on the wild and windswept moors with Arts Council England funding.

Maggie also appeared in four roles in Coronation Street (Ruth Audsley, Nurse, Judge Travers, Charmian Gray), between 1990 and 2010; six episodes of The Forsyte Saga, as Bilson, in 2002-2003; seven episodes of Soul Music as Ms Butts; Bob The Builder, as the voice of The Librarian and two episodes of How Do You Want Me?, as another Librarian.

In addition, she played Mrs Parke in the 2012 TV movie The Making Of A Lady and popped up in one episode each of Reckless (Woman With Dog), Shameless (Registrar), Accused (Defence Barrister) and South Riding (Matron).

Interviewed by The Press, York, on LipService’s 30th anniversary in February 2015, when presenting their walk on the Wilde side, The Picture Of Doreen Gray at Harrogate Theatre,  Maggie said: “Thirty years! I know, it’s ridiculous really. You just think, ‘could you not think of anything else to do?’.” Thankfully, the answer was always No, and so LipService have delighted so many with their “general silliness”, as Maggie called it.

Maggie Fox, right, and Sue Ryding sending up TV presenters in Tony & Twizzle, The Glory Years

“We were trying to work out the other day how many hours we must have spent on the road, on a train, in a rehearsal room or on stage,” said Maggie, as she reflected on a partnership that had begun in the Bristol University drama department.

“We hadn’t really come across each other until our third year when we both cast in Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea. At my height, I’m a dead ringer for Vanessa Redgrave, who’d just done the play at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, where she came on dripping in seaweed. So the image I had was of this queen of drama draped in a hell of a lot of green stuff.

“Anyway, Sue was playing my daughter in the university production, and we were just finding it very funny in rehearsal. The more it went on, the funnier we were finding it, but the others weren’t finding it funny and they weren’t finding it funny that we were finding it funny.

“We were doing that ‘looking into the distance’ acting for Ibsen, draped in seaweed, and it was so liberating to have found someone else who found it funny too, especially when no-one else did.”

Maggie and Sue then did the sound effects for another show, a radio play, to distractingly humorous effect as it turned out.

Maggie Fox, right, and Sue Ryding in their online performance of The Ghost Writer during the pandemic lockdowns

“We found the audience was watching us rather than the show. The director wasn’t happy,” said Maggie. “All I can remember is doing the noises for the clattering of teacups in the tea room and drowning out everyone else.”

Maggie had been born into a theatrical family: her father was on the board of York Theatre Royal; her uncle was a mainstay of the York Settlement Community Players.

“I knew I wanted to act; that was what I was going to do, so Sue and I got together and tried to do cabaret, going up to the Edinburgh Fringe, but no women were doing comedy, until Victoria Wood and Julie Walters became the trailblazers, but still the perception was that men were funnier than women,” said Maggie.

Not for long would she and Sue settle for doing “our flopsy bunny act between two aggressive comedians”. Lip Service would change all that, and how.

LipService double act Maggie Fox, the tall one, and Sue Ryding, the rather shorter one, in their Wilde satire, The Picture Of Doreen Gray

From cabaret roots, with a natural bent for impromptu interaction with the audience, the free flow of improvisation and the desire  to “do the impossible”, Maggie and Sue also established the improv company Comedy Express in the 1990s, taking it to the pubs and clubs of Manchester, where Steve Coogan and Caroline Aherne would come along.

“You can play a lot of the same games in improvised comedy but they work and the shows are different every time, and that’s what I want with Lip Service shows,” Maggie said.

“I want them to be different every night or to have elements of surprise because it’s a different audience each night. We like living on the edge.”

Thank you, Maggie. You brought us so much merry mayhem in slickly organised yet deliriously chaotic comedy; now you have been taken away by tragedy, theatre’s other face. God bless you and a fond farewell.

By Charles Hutchinson

Pocklington Arts Centre seeks artists for show to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

One’s Vision: Illustrator Simon Cooper celebrates The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by imagining Her Majesty striking a Freddie Mercury pose with Queen loyal subjects John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Brian May. Copyright: @cooperillo

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has issued a call-out to artists for an open exhibition to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee from May 3 to June 19. 

Artists are asked to submit two-dimensional artworks in person on Friday, April 22 or by prior arrangement by emailing info@pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “This is a really special moment in our history, so we wanted to present an exhibition that reflects this. Artworks can be inspired by any aspect of Her Majesty’s 70-year reign and the subject matter is open to creative interpretation.

“Our open exhibitions are always really popular with artists and visitors alike, and with so many local talented artists, we’re very much looking forward to unveiling this very special commemorative exhibition.”

Artworks should be framed or on canvas with D rings attached. Selected works will then be featured in this spring’s show in PAC’s studio, where a preview will be held on May 3 from 5pm to 7pm.

Everingham illustrator Simon Cooper has submitted his jubilee artwork already. This comes in the wake of his Art, Illustration & Prints exhibition, held at PAC last November to January, featuring his work for NME, Time Out, the Radio Times and Punch magazines alongside new works.

Young artists sought for Pocklington Arts Centre’s competition to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Deadline day is April 26

CALLING young artists. Pocklington Arts Centre is launching an art competition to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Children aged five to 18 are invited to create a piece of artwork inspired by The Queen’s 70 years on the throne.

Entrants could win a top prize of £200 for their school or organisation, and further prizes of £50, £25, and £10 will go to the three pupils whose works are judged to be in the top three. 

The competition is being run in association with All Saints’ Church, in The Pavement, Pocklington, where selected images from the competition will be displayed on the railings in an outdoor exhibition from May 23 to June 18. 

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer says: “The Platinum Jubilee is a special moment in our history, so we wanted to present an exhibition that reflects this. 

“After we previously held two hugely successful outdoor exhibitions at All Saints’ Church during lockdown, we can’t wait to see these new artworks marking such a momentous occasion, created by young talent, on display.”

The prize money has been made possible thanks to the Friends of Pocklington Arts Centre, whose chair, Janet Brader, says: “We love being able to encourage children and young people to engage in the arts, something that we do through subsidising the venue’s family theatre programme, so we are delighted to be able to support this wonderful competition.”

Young artists should submit their 2D art as an A4 or A3 image or a Jpeg, excluding photography, to Pocklington Arts Centre, in Market Place, or by emailing info@pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk by Tuesday, April 26.

Please include your name, age, telephone number, email address and name of your school or organisation.

Director Janet Farmer to leave Pocklington Arts Centre after 25-year association

Director Janet Farmer in the Pocklington Arts Centre auditorium

DIRECTOR Janet Farmer is to leave Pocklington Arts Centre this spring, ending a 25-year association with the East Yorkshire venue.

She will retire in mid-April after 22 years in post, preceded by three years of fundraising to transform the market town’s former cinema into a theatre, concert venue, cinema and studio gallery. The recruitment process to appoint her successor will start later this month.

From a standing start in 2000, Janet has led Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) into becoming a leading small-scale arts venue, recognised nationally as a beacon of good practice with a significant cultural reputation.

Janet has drawn more than £1million in public funding to support the venue’s presentation of 3,500 film screenings and staging of 900 live events, numerous festivals, from Pocktoberfest to the Platform Festival at the Old Station, plus hundreds of community events, workshops, exhibitions and private hires.

She has programmed a diverse range of acts over the past 22 years, naming her personal favourites as Joan Armatrading, Lesley Garrett, Shed Seven, John Bishop, The Shires, Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Millican, Lucinda Williams, Baroness Shirley Williams, KT Tunstall, The Unthanks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, David Ford and Josh Ritter.

When informing PAC staff and volunteers of her decision, Janet said: “I am sure this will be said on many occasions over the next few months, but I want to thank all of the staff and volunteers for their tireless support, hard work, dedication and friendship. This has been vital to making PAC the success it is today.

“It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to lead PAC over two decades and it fills me with immense pride knowing what has been achieved during this time. I look forward to returning as a customer and perhaps a volunteer in years to come.”

In reply, “all at Team PAC” responded on social media: “Janet, you moulded our identity, you are part of the building’s DNA and the legacy and success of your tenure will be seen for decades to come. Pour yourself a large drink and enjoy your well-deserved retirement.”

CharlesHutchPress will be interviewing Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy to reflect on her tenure at Pocklington Arts Centre. Watch this space.

Pocklington Arts Centre lines up Busking In The Bar return from December. Who plays?

Alice Simmons: Busking in the Pocklington Arts Centre bar on February 25 2022

BUSKING In The Bar returns to Pocklington Arts Centre from next month for a new series of of free Friday night performances by emerging artists. 

Lexi Rae Walker is booked in for December 10; Lily Honey, January 28; Alice Simmons, February 25, and Tim O’Connor, March 25, all starting at 8pm with the bar opening at 7pm.

Past sessions have featured Jess Gardham, Katie Spencer, Dan Webster, Beth McCarthy, Rachel Croft, Boss Caine, Dave Keegan, Charlie Daykin and Ava Rose. 

Director Janet Farmer says: “We’re incredibly excited to be bringing back Busking In The Bar. What can be better than spending a Friday night enjoying a drink with friends and experiencing some free live music? 

Lexi Rae Walker, performing with Busking In The Bar curator Charlie Daykin

“We have some truly talented artists lined up for you, so why not come along to soak up the atmosphere and discover some fantastic talent.”

Charlie Daykin, who has helped to curate the winter line-up, says: “It’s so exciting to see the next generation of singer-songwriters performing in the intimate setting of the Pocklington Arts Centre bar. Prepare to be amazed by the quality of this diverse line-up of talented musicians”.

York singer-songwriter Lexi Rae Walker, 18, is studying at the Access Creative College, York, and names Adele and Amy Winehouse among her influences.

“Singing is my biggest passion and I’m pretty sure I was singing before I could even talk properly,” says Lexi Rae, who performed on the main stage at this season’s York Food and Drink Festival.

Lily Honey: Booked to busk on January 28 2022

Yorkshire singer-songwriter, pianist and guitar player Lily Honey has performed at The Fulford Arms, in York, and such festivals as Latitude, Pocklington’s Platform Festival and York Food and Drink Festival. Since the August 2020 release of her debut single Leaving All My Love, Lily has enjoyed airplay on BBC Introducing.

Alice Simmons wraps her songs in electric piano, heavy bass lines, delicate guitar and smoky vocals, drawing comparisons with London Grammar’s Hannah Reid, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and Florence + The Machine.  She has played Latitude, Humber Street Sesh and Beyond The Woods festivals.

Tim O’Connor is a troubadour for the 21st century, crafting insightful, heartfelt, contemporary yet timeless songs, influenced by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash and traditional Irish music. He has worked with many great musicians, among them the late Maartin Allcock, from Fairport Convention.

For more information, go to pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or contact 01759 301547.  

Tim O’Connor: Busking on March 25 2022

Exit The Animals in 2022 with a show at Pocklington Arts Centre on farewell tour

The Animals & Friends: Last goodbye on the road next spring, visiting Pocklington Arts Centre on April 29

THE Animals & Friends will say farewell on tour at Pocklington Arts Centre next spring when We Gotta Get Out Of This Place will have added resonance.

The veteran rhythm and blues band will be joined at their April 29 2022 show by a special guest, Scottish singer Maggie Bell, now 76, once of Stone The Crows.

Formed in Newcastle-upon-Tyyne in 1963, The Animals moved to London in 1964, chalking up hits with the chart-topping House Of The Rising Sun, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Don’t Bring Me Down, Baby, Let Me Take You Home and the aforementioned We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.

In the original line-up were Eric Burdon, vocals, Alan Price, keyboards, Chas Chandler, bass, Hilton Valentine, guitar, and John Steel, drums. Now The Animals & Friends tour with Steel, Mickey (or Micky or Mick, take your pick/picky/pickey) Gallagher, who replaced Price as long ago as 1965, Danny Handley on guitar and vocals and Roberto Ruiz on bass and vocals.

The Animals & Friends’ poster for next year’s farewell tour

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) director Janet Farmer says: “An act of this calibre really needs no introduction. PAC has hosted many of the great heritage bands over the years, such as The Searchers, The Manfreds, The Blues Band, PJ Proby and Marty Wilde, so we’re delighted to welcome The Animals, whose hits endure to this day.

“It’s their farewell tour, and this could very well be your last chance to see them live on stage, making it a very special opportunity not to be missed.”

Tickets for The Animals’ 8pm concert cost £32.50 at 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

The Shires to return to regular haunt Pocklington Arts Centre on acoustic tour

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes of The Shires

THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, will bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to Pocklington Arts Centre on January 26.

Award-winning duo Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have made habit of playing Pocklington since their Studio debut in 2014, appearing regularly at PAC and playing the Platform Festival at The Old Station in 2016 and 2019.

“Wembley Stadium, MEN Arena, Grand Ole Opry are all amazing, but Pocklington will always be a special place for us,” say Ben and Crissie, the first British artists to win Best International Act at the prestigious Country Music Awards in 2017.

The Shires released debut album Brave in 2015, followed by two further gold-certified albums, 2016’s My Universe and 2018’s Accidentally On Purpose. In 2020 came Greatest Hits and Good Years, and in April 2021 a new version of the ballad On The Day I Die arrived, recorded with American country star Jimmie Allen. Now the duo are working on album number five.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to welcome back Ben and Crissie for this very special intimate, acoustic show. From first playing our studio in 2014 to headlining and selling out our summer festival in 2019, it’s been a fantastic journey following their phenomenal success to date and we can’t wait to see them again.”

Tickets cost £32.50 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or on 01759 301547. 

Pocklington Arts Centre studio reopens with East Riding Artists’ Mixed Messages

Road To Nunnington, by Heather Burton, from East Riding Artists’ Mixed Messages exhibition at Pocklington Arts Centre from today

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s exhibition spaces burst back into life from today with the Mixed Messages show by members of East Riding Artists (ERA).

On show in the studio and foyer for six weeks until Thursday, October 28 will be paintings, ceramics, sculpture and jewellery.

Director Janet Farmer says: “It’s a pleasure to welcome East Riding Artists back to Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC), and it’s fantastic to finally be reopening our exhibition spaces.

“With the return of our cinema screenings, live events and now our exhibitions, the arts centre is once again welcoming plenty of visitors back through the doors, which is wonderful.”

The annual ERA show has become a key date in the artists’ calendar, traditionally attracting hundreds of visitors to PAC at Oak House, Market Place. 

Red Sky, by Shirley Davis-Dew, from the Mixed Messages exhibition

ERA chair Larry Malkin says: “This is a wonderful venue for artists from across the whole of the East Riding to showcase their work. 

“ERA goes from strength to strength, and this is one of the first in an evolving programme of exhibitions and events extending well into 2022.”

Entry to Mixed Messages is free during opening hours only. Please note, PAC is operating temporary changes to those hours, now being open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 11am to 3pm, and on Saturdays, 10am to 1pm, but closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. 

For further information on Mixed Messages, visit pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; more details on East Riding Artists can be found at eastridingartists.co.uk.

East Riding Artists members Sue Giles, left, Lyn Grant, Peter Winterton and Mary Burton with Pocklington Town Mayor Councillor Richard Bryon, front, at his mayoral visit

The exhibitors in East Riding Artists’ Mixed Messages show at Pocklington Arts Centre:

Chris Attersley; Ingrid Barton; Colin Bickerdyke; Mo Borrows; Jill Bradley; Anna Brown; Heather Burton; Mary Burton; Carol Davidson; Shirley Davis-Dew; Pat Davison; Judy Flanagan; Stephen Fletcher; Margaret Geraghty; Sue Giles; Alastair Gittens; Gerry Grant; Lyn Grant; Lesley Anne Green; Marti Hall; June Hammond; Phil Hargreaves; Belinda Hazlerigg.

Peter Hemmerman; Geoff Hewitt; Jane Higgins; Neil Hindhaugh; Joan Hudson; Graham Johnson; Angela Lambert-Dowell; Blanche Lee; Donna Makey; Larry Malkin; Carolyn Meddins-Ertl; Richard Pearson; Colin Pollock; Judith Pollock; Helga Princz; Phil Ramsdale; Janet Saxby; Shirley Stinchcombe; Carolyn Taylor; Noreen Thorp; Mary Wells; Denise Winter; Peter Winterton;

Comedian Omid Djalili rearranges July’s Pocklington Arts Centre gigs for next May

Taking the mic…in 2022: Omid Djalili rearranges Pocklington visit for a second time

OMID Djalili’s brace of postponed shows on July 22 at Pocklington Arts Centre has been moved to May 18 and 19 2022.

British-Iranian comedian, actor, television producer, presenter, voice actor and writer Djalili, 55, originally had been booked for this month’s cancelled Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington.

When Pocklington Arts Centre’s festival organisers, director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy, decided not to stage the large-scale indoor festival under the continuing pandemic cloud, award-winning Djalili agreed to do two shows in one night at PAC to ensure all those who had purchased tickets for his festival gig would not miss out.

Significantly too, those 7pm and 9pm performances would have been without social-distancing measures, but after the Government’s delay in Step 4 from June 21 to July 19 left uncertainty in the air, the shows were re-scheduled for next spring.

Tickets for the original event at Platform Festival remain valid and any ticket holder needing further information should contact the box office on 01759 301547. Those who selected the 7pm show on July 19 are now allocated to May 18; 9pm tickets to May 19. Remaining tickets for the new dates cost £25 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

When Djalili’s shows go ahead, third time lucky, expect intelligent, provocative, fast-talking, boundlessly energetic comedic outbursts rooted in cultural observations, wherein he explores the diversity of modern Britain.