Cato! Watch out for The Trials Of Cato at Primrose Wood Acoustics on August 5

The Trials Of Cato’s Tomos Williams and Robin Jones with new addition Polly Bolton

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Trials Of Cato will headline the third Primrose Wood Acoustics session in Pocklington on August 5.

Organised by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC), the outdoor concert series will complete its summer hattrick by popular demand after sold-out sylvan shows on July 1 and 8.

Scunthorpe-born virtuoso guitarist, singer and songwriter Martin Simpson and East Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer played the first night; Leeds indie-folk/Americana band The Dunwells and York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft, the second.

The third 7pm event will once again “fuse nature’s soundtrack, background birdsong and transcendent live music under a natural canopy of trees to create a truly enchanting open-air experience for audiences”.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “Primrose Wood Acoustics is a new concept for Pocklington Arts Centre, with this being the first time we have taken live music not only outdoors but also into a woodland setting.

The Dunwells performing at the second Primrose Wood Acoustics in Pocklington on July 8

“Our first two events have proved so popular, selling out on both occasions and attracting such positive, uplifting feedback, that we just had to do another one.

“This time we have The Trials Of Cato headlining, which is a perfect fit for such a charming woodland setting. When nature and live music collide something really wonderful happens and we know this is going to be no exception.”

Hailed by Mark Radcliffe, The Folk Show host on BBC Radio 2, as “one of the real discoveries on the folk circuit in recent times”, The Trials Of Cato won Best Album at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for their debut, Hide And Hair.

Formed in Beirut, when Tomos Williams, Will Addison and Robin Jones were working in Lebanon as English teachers, the trio had returned to Britain in 2016, Here, they set about performing tirelessly up and down the country with their stomping tunes and captivating stories that paid homage to the tradition while twisting old bones into something more febrile and modern.

Bolton wanderer: Polly Bolton, solo singer-songwriter, member of The Magpies and now part of the folk trio The Trials Of Cato

Hide And Hair’s release in November 2018 was greeted with airplay on BBC 6 Music and Radio 2 and thumbs-up coverage in national publications, while mastering engineer John Davis, who worked with Jimmy Page on the Led Zeppelin remasters, memorably dubbed them “The Sex Pistols of folk”.

After a year of wall-to-wall touring across the UK, Europe and North America, however, the band’s march was halted by the stultifying silence of the global pandemic, but now they are emerging anew from their transformative chrysalis.

“The Trials continue,” they say, but this time, after Addison’s departure, Williams and Jones are joined by Leamington Spa multi-instrumentalist and singer Polly Bolton, from The Magpies, for their hotly anticipated second album.

Set for release later this year (precise date yet to be confirmed), Gog Magog is named both after the mythical giant of Arthurian legend and the Cambridgeshire hilltop, where the new album was birthed over lockdown.

The support act for August 5 will be announced shortly. Tickets cost £14 on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Pocklington Arts Centre to add third Primrose Wood Acoustics gig in August

Roll out the bunting: The Dunwells in acoustic mode in Primrose Wood, Pocklington, on July 8

PRIMROSE Wood Acoustics will return to the Pocklington woodland for a third double bill – yet to be confirmed – on August 5.

This step three announcement follows the long-awaited return of live music for organisers Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) after staging sold-out outdoor concerts in Primrose Wood on July 1 and 8.

Scunthorpe-born virtuoso guitarist, singer and songwriter Martin Simpson and East Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer played the first night; Leeds indie-folk/Americana band The Dunwells and York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft, the second.

Martin Simpson: Headlined first Primrose Wood Acoustics double bill in Pocklington on July 1

Each was performed to a socially distanced audience of 85 at twilight. “Accompanied by bird song and set under a natural canopy of trees, there was a collective sense of being a part of something special, almost 18 months after PAC last staged a live music event,” said PAC director Janet Farmer.

Artists and audience alike concurred. Joe and Dave Dunwell said: “After 15 months of playing to a computer screen and doing live streams, to be actually playing live in a woodland was just incredible and the audience were just amazing. We loved it!”

Rachel Croft enthused: “For the first time, I felt totally in my element again. Having had all that time off, you get used to not having an amp or an audience or any interaction, so it’s been really special to be in this amazing spot and I’m just really grateful to have been a part of it.”

York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft performing the opening set at Thursday’s Primrose Wood Acoustics concert in the Pocklington sylvan setting

Commenting after Thursday’s concert, audience member Sue Bowden said: “Amazing evening! Fantastic live music in a beautiful setting on a fabulous summer’s evening; brilliantly organised too. Well done to all involved.”

Jane Smith agreed: “What a wonderful gig – our first since March 2020. Great performances in a beautiful setting. Very well organised. Thank you all at Pocklington Arts Centre.”

Julie Eeles said: “A fantastic night: amazing performances by Rachel Croft and The Dunwells. Thank you, Pocklington Arts Centre, for organising the event.”

Thursday’s audience watching The Dunwells in Primrose Wood, Pocklington

Vital to Thursday’s open-air concert was the contribution of sound engineer Daren Bishop. “It was a fantastic event,” he said afterwards. “What a pleasure to be a part of it. I loved mixing the sound in that setting.”

The Primrose Wood Acoustics series comes on the heels of assorted online events and outdoor exhibitions held by PAC since the start of the pandemic. 

“Being able to bring live music back to our audiences has just been incredible,” said the director. “We’d like to thank our customers for their support, as well as Pocklington Cricket Club, Burnby Hall Gardens and Pocklington Town Council for helping to make these events possible.”

Looking forward to reopening: Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer in the auditorium

Watch this space for the announcement of the August 5 double bill. Meanwhile, to keep up to date with PAC’s future events, head to pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Pocklington Arts Centre will reopen formally on July 20, preceded by two sold-out socially distanced warm-ups: work-in-progress gigs by South Shields humorist Sarah Millican on July 14 and 15 at 7.30pm.

“I’ll be trying out loads of new stuff,” says the Geordie joker. “It’ll be rough and ready and very, very fun.”

Sarah MIllican: Warming up for her Bobby Dazzler tour with a brace of sold-out gigs at Pocklington Arts Centre

Next week’s shows are in preparation for her sixth international tour, Bobby Dazzler, whose 2021/2022 itinerary will bring Millican, 46, to York Barbican from November 12 to 14.

“You’ll learn about what happens when your mouth seals shut; how to throw poo over a wall; trying to lose weight but only losing the tip of your finger; a surprisingly funny smear test, and how truly awful a floatation tank can actually be,” says Sarah, who has “spent the past year writing jokes and growing her backside”.

“I can’t wait to get back on the road and make you laugh,” she adds. For ticket details on the 8pm shows, head to yorkbarbican.co.uk

REVIEW: Songs Under Skies, Joshua Burnell and Katie Spencer, NCEM, York 14/6/2021

Joshua Burnell and Katie Spencer at the National Centre for Early Music, York, at Monday’s Songs Under Skies double bill

REVIEW: Songs Under Skies, Joshua Burnell and Katie Spencer, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York

EAST Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer, like so many musicians divorced by lockdown restrictions from their livelihood of live shows, had taken to streaming gigs to the alienating sound of silence.

No wonder she smiled at the welcoming sound of applause, as reviving as hearing birdsong after being stuck indoors. “It’s lovely to be sharing live music for the first time in a long time,” she said at the 7pm outset of week two of Songs Under Skies, the acoustic outdoor festival run by the NCEM, Fulford Arms, The Crescent and Music Venues Alliance.

All those mid-pandemic night streams, and her guitar never misbehaved. First live show back, and a string snapped, whereupon Katie administered a string re-fit at a speed to impress Formula One wheel-changers. Joshua Burnell would later refer to her handiwork as “the fastest in the history of music”.

“It’s wild to be playing music in front of live people instead of my plants and bookcase,” said Katie Spencer

That said, Katie’s primary handiwork is her acoustic guitar-playing, a gentle caress to lyrics that have the scent, sentience and scene-painting of poetry, sung in a voice that lingered in Monday’s NCEM churchyard air.

Raised by the seaside near Hull, she sang of how the water shapes both the land and the people who live there in her best number, Edge Of The Land. Weatherbeaten and Shannon Road were similarly affecting in a re-introductory set best summed up by her sentiment: “It’s wild to be playing music in front of live people instead of my plants and bookcase.”

Katie will be doing so again in support of Martin Simpson at Primrose Woods, Pocklington, on July 1 and at The Magpies Festival at Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest on August 14. Hopefully, that guitar will be on best behaviour.

Half an hour would pass for an audience as socially distanced as the churchyard graves before prog-folk songwriter Joshua Burnell took to the blue awning stage with keyboard player Oliver Whitehouse.

Not even a sound alarm could put Joshua Burnell off his stride on his return to the concert stage.

Burnell is a multi-instrumentalist on his recordings, but here he focused on acoustic guitar, adapting to the night temperature that demanded constant re-tuning, a routine that afforded him the time to talk between songs, although not to the length that had prompted a BBC Radio York presenter to advise him he should hand out a pamphlet the next time he introduced new single Shelagh’s Song in concert.

No such pamphlet was forthcoming or necessary. Joshua is an engaging storyteller as much as an eloquent songwriter equally capable of evoking Tolkien, folk forefathers, Al Stewart, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis and even Marc Bolan’s puckish dictionary.

He name-checked Ian McKellen for the opening Labels, recalling how the thespian knight had pondered “Why do we need to put labels on love?”. “Do you know what, Sir Ian, you’re right,” he said. “So throw your labels away, ‘Cause love has no use for them,” Joshua duly affirmed, almost enough to make any reviewer desist from further labelling on this occasion.

Joshua is as good at excavation as at conjuring new material, typified by an obscure but wonderful cover version, Eli Geva, Norwegian songwriter’s anguished Siege of Beirut ballad from an album of 12 banned songs from around the world.

The artwork for Joshua Burnell’s single Shelagh’s Song

Next came the aforementioned Shelagh’s Song, his account of how early-Seventies Edinburgh folk singer Shelagh McDonald vanished for 30 years after a particularly bad LSD trip. The re-surfaced Shelagh so loved the song she has sent Joshua a parcel with a letter, artwork and some lyrics she never published. Actions can speak so much louder than labels!

Joshua had just adjusted his guitar tuning again in the night cold when a new interruption tapped him on the shoulder: a sound alarm going off in the neighbouring bustle of Walmgate. One look from Joshua, and it was gone, as if ashamed at having held up “a bit of an anthem for positivity and things to come”: Golden Days, written in lockdown as the good weather rolled in and the vaccine programme was rolled out.

Not even the Prime Minister’s 6pm postponement of Freedom Day could deflate Joshua. “I still feel optimistic that we’re in a better place than we were a year ago,” he asserted.

If one lyric encapsulates retro-futurist Burnell in 2021, it would be: “Did I go through the wardrobe door because it’s been winter here for much too long”. Indeed it has, and as Songs Under Skies nudged and hushed it out the back door, he ended with Lucy, his variation on a “Ziggy Stardust character song”. Closer to Bolan than Bowie, if a label must be applied, but Lucy under darkening skies was a diamond finale.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Pocklington Arts Centre confirms July 21 reopening and first film show in 491 days

Open welcome: Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer looks forward to reopening on July 20

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will reopen to the public on July 20 and film screenings will re-start on July 23, 491 days since the last performance.

Director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy have chosen this date to ensure the safety of customers and volunteers.

“Over the past few months, our main focus has been planning the safe reopening of the building, ensuring all staff are trained appropriately and making sure the venue has all its new systems, resources and processes in place and working well,” says Janet. 

“We have sought feedback from staff, volunteers and customers and this will be vital to the success of this process. Our main aim is to ensure the visitor experience at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) is safe, secure and enjoyable.”

In late-March 2020, the East Yorkshire venue launched a crowdfunding page, raising more than £18,000 in under a month, followed by successful funding applications to the Smile Foundation’s I Am Fund and the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. 

Spiers & Boden: October 20 booking at Pocklington Arts Centre

Janet says: “I would like to thank our customers, in addition to Pocklington Town Council, the Friends of PAC, the Smile Foundation, Arts Council England and the Music Venue Trust for their collective support over the past year. 

“It has been a very difficult time for everyone, but their kind words, financial support and continued interest in all things PAC has meant a great deal and helped carry the venue through these extraordinary times.”

Staff have rescheduled forthcoming events for the autumn and winter, transferring more than 4,000 tickets and refunding customers for 20-plus cancelled events. 

“Throughout the closure period, we have stated our determination to emerge from the situation more vibrant than ever and our autumn and winter programme is a testament to that,” says Janet. 

“2021/22 will see a fantastic range of live events being staged here, alongside our trademark diverse mix of film screenings, live broadcasts, exhibitions, community events and private hires.” 

Velma Celli: York’s queen of vocal drag will make Pocklington debut on December 3. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

In the diary are Grammy Award winner Loudon Wainwright III, September 24; Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) in Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people”, The Importance Of Being Earnest, September 30; North Eastern gypsy folk-rockers Holy Moly & The Crackers, October 16; Oxford singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore, October 7, and Irish jazz/blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan, October 19.

Bellowhead alumni and BBC Radio Folk Award winners Spiers & Boden are booked in for October 20; Red Ladder Theatre Company, from Leeds, in Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s My Voice Was Heard But Was Ignored, for November 25; television and radio broadcaster and author Jeremy Vine, November 26; Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, December 2, and York drag diva deluxe Velma Celli, December 3.

Confirmed for 2022 are An Evening With Julian Norton, from Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, January 18; singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson, January 22;Welsh guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and former Amen Corner cornerstone Andy Fairweather Low, February 11, and Eighties’ pop singer and actress Toyah Willcox, March 3.

PAC’s two open-air acoustic concerts in Primrose Wood, Pocklington, with Martin Simpson and Katie Spencer on July 1 and The Dunwells and Rachel Croft on July 8 will go ahead despite the Government’s Step 4 roadmap delay, but now under social-distancing restrictions. Both 7pm shows have sold out.

Janet says: “We always knew this was a possibility when the shows were first planned and there’s sufficient space for people to enjoy the event safely, while experiencing the atmospheric setting of Primrose Wood.”

Martin Simpson: Headlining at a sold-out Primrose Woods on July 1

PAC increased its online artistic output during the pandemic, staging 18 events to more than 9,000 audience members. 

In addition, a series of outdoor exhibitions has been held by PAC across the region. York artists Sue Clayton and Karen Winship have shown work at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and Sue will be following Karen into Hull Waterside and Marina. Those attending the York Vaccination Centre at Askham Bar can see her Down Syndrome portraits in the Tent of Hope. 

“We felt it was vitally important to have continued customer engagement throughout the prolonged closure period and the public response to these events and exhibitions has been very positive,” says Janet. 

“We’re also very much aware there’s no substitute to watching a live performance, in person, and sharing this experience with fellow audience members. 

“Everyone at PAC is now counting down the days until the doors can reopen and we can welcome customers back. It’s been a very long interval and we can’t wait for the second half to begin.”

For full event listings and ticket details, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

York artist Karen Winship at the launch of her NHS Heroes exhibition at Hull Waterside and Marina

Joshua Burnell and the mystery of the vanishing folk singer Shelagh McDonald

Joshua Burnell: Solving a mystery in song . Picture: Stewart Baxter

THE mystery of a Seventies folk singer who “vanished off the face of the earth”  for more than 30 years is the inspiration for the new single by York musician Joshua Burnell.

The genre-hopping singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – and teacher to boot – became intrigued by the story of Scottish singer-songwriter Shelagh McDonald, who numbered Sandy Denny and Nick Drake among her friends and peers.

“I wonder where she goes; she never says, you see/Rarer than a fallen star, stronger than gravity/She says, ‘thank you all but I’ll be on my way’,” sings Joshua on Shelagh’s Song, surely sure to be aired this evening in his acoustic set, supported by East Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer in the Songs Under Skies double bill in the National Centre for Early Music churchyard gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York.

Recorded on guitar, keys and percussion by Burnell at home during lockdown, the song was mixed by Burnell and Edward Simpson at Moon Glue Studios for initial release on Spotify and other streaming platforms from May 21.

It will now form part of an EP, joined by Chase The Storm and The Den on Storm Cogs, available from July 9, the day when the Joshua Burnell Band is booked to play Ely Folk Festival’s main stage in Cambridgeshire.

The artwork for Joshua Burnell’s single, Shelagh’s Song

Edinburgh-born Shelagh had found folk-rock stardom in 1970 but disappeared abruptly and mysteriously in 1971 after a bad LSD trip…for three decades, presumed dead.

In reality, she was living a low-profile, nomadic existence, only breaking her silence in November 2005 when she contacted the Scottish Daily Mail to tell the story of her “missing years” under the headline “Back from the wilderness”.

Burnell, winner of the Rising Star accolade in the 2020 Folking Awards, stumbled across Shelagh’s music on a trip to the Bronte heartland of Haworth, West Yorkshire. In an old record shop, he made some folk album purchases and noted down the titles of a few others out of financial reach.

Among those was McDonald’s second album, 1971’s Stargazer, priced at £80. Once back home, Burnell scoured the internet for a copy and found only one, available at…300 dollars! 

“I listened to some of the tracks on YouTube and it was beautiful,” says Joshua. “I’d made a terrible mistake and knew I had to drop all plans and get the bus to the shop the next day to buy the record.

Folk singer Shelagh McDonald, before she “vanished” for three decades in 1971

“For a brief and surreal moment, I found myself standing outside the home of the Brontes, holding a rare relic of the legendary singer. It felt like I was on the trail of some kind of secret folky cult!”

Burnell listened to the recording while unwell. “Even without feverish dreams, it’s a very trippy album, so I felt like I’d been transported back to the hazy days of the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s a deeply enchanting album; one of my favourites of all time.”

McDonald’s rendition of the Scottish border ballad Dowie Dens Of Yarrow particularly caught Burnell’s attention, so much so that he ended up doing a cover on his Songs From The Seasonsalbum in 2018 as a tribute.

In a 2013 interview in the Guardian, McDonald explained her disappearance: “It wasn’t my intention to walk out of my own life and vanish, especially when things were going so well. 

“I was an ambitious 24-year-old folk singer and had just started work on my third album. The second had been a critical success and had really started to get me noticed. But a bad trip was the catalyst for unexpected change. From my perspective, I was never really lost: I was just living a very different kind of life.”

“After all the music and inspiration Shelagh has given us, I thought she deserved a song of her own,” says Joshua

Leaving London and recuperating back in Scotland, McDonald had encountered a bookshop owner and, as recession hit, they decided to “jack it all in and live in a tent”.

They ended up carrying everything they owned on their backs, setting up camp in woods, making money by selling drawings or academic essays. “Some days it got so cold I genuinely thought we were going to die,” McDonald recalled.

They moved between flats and homeless shelters and then, one day, they saw a newspaper story. “What I saw stunned me:  a photo of myself in my 20s. The article talked about how I had disappeared, and no-one knew if I was dead or alive. My records were being re-released; it felt like reading my own obit.” 

The box set No Man Steal Your Thyme emerged on Sanctuary Records in 2005, and then, more than 40 years after her second album, McDonald made her third,  Parnassus Revisited, in 2013.

She started to rekindle her career with tentative performing too. Out of the blue, in 2017, Burnell discovered McDonald would be playing in a little room at the Dumfries Theatre Royal. “I watched in awe as this small, humble lady proceeded to blow us away with remarkable finger-picking and a voice just as strong and hauntingly beautiful as the one which had cut the grooves of my dusty vinyl record from 1971,” he says.

Joshua Burnell meeting Shelagh McDonald and musician Nigel H Seymour in 2018, when he gave her a copy of his Songs From The Seasons album

At a second concert in 2018, he was able to meet her and hand her a copy of Songs From The Seasons, Dowie Dens Of Yarrow cover et al. “She may be a legend but she’s also a very down-to-earth person,” says Joshua.

Consequently, after his chance discovery of her music and of McDonald herself, he was inspired to write a song in her name. “After all the music and inspiration Shelagh has given us, I thought she deserved a song of her own.

“I’ve written Shelagh’s Song in the same style as some of her own songs on Stargazer, which were about the lives of musicians she knew who had taken off on their own travels, such as Rod’s Song and Liz’s Song.”

The evocative, retro-sounding Shelagh’s Song encapsulates her life in savvy lyrics and an upbeat, optimistic tune, topped off by cows mooing at the finale to underline its quirkiness.

“The cows are there on purpose,” says Joshua. “When Shelagh picked up a guitar after 30 years, she played to fields of cows as a tester audience. If they stayed, she figured it was a good song; if they wandered off, she did some more practice. She might have been on to something we are all missing!”

Joshua Burnell at work on his new EP, Storm Cogs. Picture: Stewart Baxter

For Burnell’s full, intriguing tale of how Shelagh’s Song came to be, go to his Instagram channel at: Instagram.com/joshuaburnellmusic/

After tracking down McDonald, now 73, to send her the single, he was delighted when she wrote to say it was “sheer perfection”. Her letter concluded: “No artist could ask for a better tribute from a fellow artist such as this gem of a song”.

Look out for a video of Shelagh’s Song, filmed by Hinterland Creative at Young Thugs Studios, York, at youtube.com/watch?v=hUOcKc-RYIM. Meanwhile, Burnell’s lyrics can be read at joshuaburnell.co.uk/music and the Storm Cogs EP can be pre-ordered at joshuaburnell.bandcamp.com/albums/storm-cogs-ep.

Tonight, gates open at 6.30pm at the socially distanced, Covid-secure NCEM gardens for Katie Spencer at 7pm, followed by Burnell’s 8pm set on guitar, accompanied by Oliver Whitehouse on keyboards. And, yes, he has just tweeted to confirm he will be performing Shelagh’s Song. The last few tickets in pods are available at ncem.co.uk.

To hear Rod’s Song from Shelagh McDonald’s Stargazer, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=cFrD2tVikTo.

More Things To Do in York and beyond that Euro football tournament. It’s all kicking off in List No. 36, courtesy of The Press, York

What’s the pecking order here? Twirlywoos Live! at York Theatre Royal

EUROS 2020? What Euro 2020? The sun is out and so is Charles Hutchinson’s diary as he points you in the direction of curious CBeebies favourites, acoustic concerts, a dockyard Romeo & Juliet, a large painting, Clough v Leeds United and more ideas aplenty. 

Children’s show of the week: Twirlywoos Live!, York Theatre Royal, tomorrow at 1.30pm and 4pm; Saturday, Sunday, 10am and 2pm

TOODLOO, Great BigHoo, Chick and Peekaboo set sail for York on board their Big Red Boat for their Theatre Royal theatrical adventure Twirlywoos Live!.

Curious, inquisitive and eager to learn about the world, these small, bird-like characters from the CBeebies television factory will be brought to life with inventive puppetry, mischief, music and plenty of surprises.

Written by Zoe Bourn, the 55-minute show is recommended for ages 1+; babes in arms are welcome too. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Joshua Burnell: York prog-folk musician will perform in a Songs Under Skies double bill on June 14. Picture: Elly Lucas

Outdoor gigs of the week ahead: Songs Under Skies 2, National Centre for Early Music churchyard, York June 14 to 16

SONGS Under Skies returns to the NCEM’s glorious gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, for acoustic double bills by Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell on June 14, Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.

As with last September’s debut series, season two of the open-air, Covid-safe concerts is presented by the NCEM in tandem with The Crescent community venue, the Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance.

Gates open at 6.30pm for each 7pm to 8.30pm concert with a 30-minute interval between sets. Tickets must be bought in advance, either in “pods” for family groups or as individuals at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Art at large: Subterranea Nostalgia, by Corrina Rothwell

Biggest painting of the week award: Corrina Rothwell’s Subterranea Nostalgia, in The Cacophany Of Ages at Pyramid Gallery, York, until July 1

CORRINA Rothwell’s exhibition of abstract works features the largest canvas painting in the near-30 years that Terry Brett has run Pyramid Gallery in York.

“Subterranea Nostalgia measures 1600mm by 1600mm. That was fun, getting it upstairs!” says Terry, whose gallery is housed in a National Trust-owned 15th century building in Stonegate. “The painting has a real impact. If you know anyone with really big walls, it would be perfect for them!”

Nottingham artist Corrina favours mixed media and acrylic on canvas for the paintings, on show at Pyramid and online at pyramidgallery.com.

Not having a ball: Luke Dickson’s Brian Clough goes to hell and back in his 44 days in charge of Leeds United in Red Ladder Theatre Company’s The Damned United

Football, football, football, not on the box but in a theatre: Red Ladder Theatre Company in The Damned United, York Theatre Royal, June 16

THE choice is yours: Italy versus Switzerland at the Euro 2020 on ITV at 8pm or the inner workings of Brian Clough’s troubled mind at Elland Road in 1974 at York Theatre Royal, kick-off 7.30pm.

Adapted from Yorkshireman David Peace’s biographical novel by Anders Lustgarten, The Damned United is a psychodrama that deconstructs Old Big ‘Ead’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United, whose Don Revie-tutored players he despised as much as they loathed him.

The double act of Luke Dickson’s flawed Clough and David Chafer’s avuncular Peter Taylor are joined by Jamie Smelt as everyone else in a story of sweat and booze, fury and power struggles, demons and defeats.

That’s a good idea…

Festival of the month: York Festival of Ideas 2021, running until June 20

THIS year marks the tenth anniversary of York’s bright idea of a festival dedicated to educating, entertaining and inspiring.

Under the banner of Infinite Horizons to reflect the need to adapt to pandemic, the Festival of Ideas is presenting a diverse programme of more than 150 free online and in-person events.

The best idea, when needing more info on the world-class speakers, performances, family activities and walking trails, is to head to yorkfestivalofideas.com/2021/.

You kiss by the dock: Husband and wife Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy as Romeo and Juliet in Hull Truck Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet at Hull’s former dry dock

Outdoor play outside York announcement of the month: Hull Truck Theatre in Romeo & Juliet, Stage@The Dock, Hull, July 15 to August 7

AFTER John Godber Company’s Moby Dick completes its run at the converted Hull dry dockyard this Saturday, next comes Hull Truck Theatre’s al-fresco staging of Shakespeare’s tragic love story.

The title roles in Romeo & Juliet will be played by Hull-born husband and wife Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy, who appeared in The Hypocrite and The Last Testament Of Lillian Bilocca in 2017 as part of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture celebrations.

Metcalfe and Elsworthy, who married in the summer of 2018 after bonding when working on The Hypocrite, will play a stage couple for the first time, performing on a traverse stage to emphasise Verona’s divided society. Box office: hulltruck.co.uk.

Hitting the Heights: Lucy McCormick’s wild-haired Cathy in the Wise Children poster for Emma Rice’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights, bound for York Theatre Royal

Looking ahead to the autumn: Wise Children in Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, November 8 to 20

EMMA Rice’s Wise Children company is teaming up with the National Theatre, York Theatre Royal and the Bristol Old Vic for her elemental stage adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Yorkshire moorland story of love, vengeance and redemption.

In an intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time shot through with music, dance, passion and hope, Rice’s company of performers and musicians will be led by Lucy McCormick’s Cathy.

“Emboldened and humbled by the enforced break, I feel truly lucky,” says Rice. “I cannot wait to get back to doing what I love most and to share this thrilling and important piece with the world. It’s time.”

An Evening With Julian Norton, vet, author and now show host, is booked in for Pocklington Arts Centre

Veterinary appointment in 2022: An Evening With Julian Norton, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 18

JULIAN Norton, author, veterinary surgeon and star of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, will share amusing anecdotes from his work with animals in North Yorkshire, bringing to life all the drama and humour in the daily routine of a rural vet.

Following in the footsteps of James Herriot author Alf Wight, Norton has spent most of his working life in Thirsk. His latest book, All Creatures: Heart-warming Tales From A Yorkshire Vet, was published in March. Box office: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond and online as Step 3 tiptoes into the light. List No. 33, courtesy of The Press, York

Minster Men: The Howl & The Hum to play livestreamed concert at York Minster on Tuesday

THE Indian Variant may be dampening down hopes for June 21, but Charles Hutchinson’s diary is still filled with hope, concerts, festivals, exhibitions and a Minster livestreaming.

Livestreaming of the week ahead: The Howl & The Hum, Live At York Minster, Tuesday, 8pm   to 9.30pm

YORK rock band The Howl & The Hum are performing a one-off streamed concert in the Nave of York Minster on Tuesday, with tickets available via Brudenell.ticketco.events/.

The 8.15pm setlist will be built around last year’s debut album, Human Contact, whose prescient title chimed with pandemic times as such contact became more restricted, even barred. New material may well feature too. “I reckon it will,” says frontman Sam Griffiths.

Rachel Croft: York singer-songwriter to perform on Songs Under Skies acoustic double bill with Wounded Bear at the NCEM. Picture: Amy D’Agorne

A fistful of outdoor gigs: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, York, in June  

SONGS Under Skies will return to the NCEM’s churchyard gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, next month.

Five outdoor acoustic double bills from 6.30pm to 8.30pm will comprise Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft on June 1; Kell Chambers and Nadedja, June 2; Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell, June 14; Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.

As with last September’s debut series, the socially distanced, Covid-safe season two will be presented in association with The Crescent community venue, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance. Box office: at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Hope Is The New Hero, by Jake T, from Rawcliffe and Clifton Without, for the Hope display at the According To McGee gallery in York

Children’s art show of the week in York: Hope projections, According To McGee, York, tonight, tomorrow, then Wednesday to Friday for the next two weeks, 6pm to 9pm nightly

HOPE springs nocturnal in a collaboration between primary school artists from York and around the world at York gallery According To McGee.

Under the title of Hope, the artwork will be on display in light projections in the window of the Tower Street gallery in a creative response to the pandemic.

Digital artists Nick Walters is overseeing evenings featuring projections of 350 artworks selected from 3,000 images from cities in 33 countries.

York artist Sue Clayton, second from right, with NHS York Vaccination Centre site manager Will McEvoy, Nimbuscare director of quality and patient experience Michelle Phillips and Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer at the unveiling – but not unmasking! – of the 21 exhibition at Askham Bar

Jab in the arm for art: Sue Clayton’s 21 exhibition, NHS York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar, York, until June 13

WHAT a captive audience for Sue Clayton’s portrait exhibition of children and young adults with Down Syndrome, presented in association with Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC).

As many as 3,000 people a day are attending the Askham Bar vaccination centre to receive a jab in the “Tent Of Hope”, where biodegradable prints of Sue’s paintings are in place.

The theme of 21 symbolises the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have, Sue’s energetic son James among them. 

Manic Street Preachers: New tour, new album…oh, and a new single called…Orwellian

Gig announcement of the week in York: Manic Street Preachers, York Barbican, October 4

WELSH rock band Manic Street Preachers’ 14-date autumn itinerary will showcase the September 3 release of their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament, on Columbia/Sony.

In a departure from 2018’s Resistance Is Futile, the new record is the first Manics’ studio set to be conceived initially on piano rather than guitar.

James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore last played York Barbican in May 2019. Their support will be The Anchoress, the Welsh-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and author Catherine Anne Davies. Tickets sales go live tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Mad about the Boy: Boy George and Culture Club perennial members Roy Hay and Mikey Craig are off to the Yorkshire seaside

Gig announcement of the week outside York: Culture Club, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, August 14

EIGHTIES’ icon Boy George and Culture Club are off to the Yorkshire seaside in a new addition to the packed Scarborough Open Air Theatre programme.

Bexleyheath-born frontman and fashion innovator George O’Dowd, who turns 60 on June 14, will perform alongside original band members Roy Hay and Mikey Craig in a “stunning live band”. Tickets go on sale for the 8,000-capacity show via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 9am.

Rachel Podger: The Violinist Speaks concert at York Early Music Festival 2021. Picture: Theresa Pewal

Festival launch of the week: York Early Music Festival 2021, July 12 to 16

PRESENTED by the National Centre of Early Music, the classical York Early Music Festival 2021 will have the theme of Encounters, most vitally between audience and artists after lockdown loosening.

Among the guest artists will be violinist Rachel Podger; lutenist Jacob Heringman; bass Matthew Brook; the Monteverdi String Band; harpsichordist Steven Devine; The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments; La Vaghezza and Ensemble Clement Janequin.

Taking part too will be vocal ensemble Stile Antico and Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk. Upcoming too will be YEMF 21 Online, from July 15 to 18, featuring festival concerts and commissioned highlights.

Bull in a field: York alt.rock band booked for Deer Shed: Base Camp Plus festival

No Deer Shed 11 festival, but here comes Deer Shed: Base Camp Plus, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, Thirsk, July 30 to August 1

AFTER last summer’s Base Camp, Deer Shed Festival co-directors Oliver Jones and Kate Webster have created Base Camp Plus with a female-headlined main stage, live music, DJ sets, comedy and shows. As with last year’s event, each camping pitch will contain its own Portaloo and washing facilities.

Jane Weaver, Dream Wife and Porridge Radio are the headliners; York bands Bull and New York Brass Band will be playing too; John Shuttleworth, Mark Watson and Angelos Epithemiou lead the comedy.

The organisers will adhere to the Step 3 restrictions in place since Monday, limiting the capacity, with social distancing and face coverings in covered areas. For tickets, go to: deershedfestival.com/basecampplus.

And what about?

Brief encounter: York drag diva Velma Celli in Love Is Love: A Brief History Of Drag at York Theatre Royal

Velma Celli in Love Is Love: A Brief History Of Drag, York Theatre Royal, May 29, 8pm

YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli’s fabulous contribution to York Theatre Royal’s reopening Love Season will be one of Velma’s regular cabaret shows, re-titled Love Is Love: A Brief Of History Of Drag specially to meet the love brief.

Joining Velma – the creation of York musical actor Ian Stroughair – will be two guest acts, Jordan Fox, Ian’s co-star in Jack And The Beanstalk, and Jessica Steel, together with backing singers Kimberley Ensor and Grace Lancaster, musical director Ben Papworth, drummer Clark Howard and guitarist Al Morrison.

Ian last appeared on the Theatre Royal in Kes at the age of 14, all of 24 years ago.

Martin Simpson and The Dunwells to enter twilight zone for Primrose Wood Acoustics. Katie Spencer and Rachel Croft to support

Martin Simpson: Headlining Primrose Wood Acoustics in Pocklington on July 1. Picture: Geoff Trinder

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will go down in the woods on July 1 and 8 to present Primrose Wood Acoustics, two outdoor concerts at twilight in a beautiful Pocklington sylvian setting.

Virtuoso Scunthorpe-born guitarist and singer-songwriter Martin Simpson will headline the first 7pm event at Primrose Wood, supported by Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer.

A week later, the second twilight session will feature Leeds indie-folk/Americana band The Dunwells and opening act Rachel Croft, the York singer-songwriter.

The acoustic concerts are being staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) after a series of online events and outdoor exhibitions by York artists Karen Winship and Sue Clayton held during the pandemic. 

Primrose Wood Acoustics not only will mark the first time PAC has taken concerts into the outdoors – giving audiences a chance to experience live music within a unique and Covid-secure setting – but also will be the first concerts to be hosted by the East Yorkshire venue since the first lockdown last March. 

Katie Spencer: Deeply personal songs of nostalgia, loss and love. Picture: Tom Arran

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “During the pandemic, we’ve been doing a lot of walking in the Pocklington area including Primrose Wood. With its natural clearings and proximity to the town centre, we immediately thought it would provide the perfect outdoor stage with a difference, so the idea of Primrose Wood Acoustics was born. 

“As we prepare to re-open the venue, we’re very much looking forward to being able to bring some truly unique events to our audiences. This is going to be something quite special.”

Martin Simpson travels the length and breadth of Britain and beyond to give intimate solo performances full of passion, sorrow, love, beauty, tragedy and majestic fingerstyle guitar playing.

Simpson, 68, who recorded his first album, Golden Vanity, in 1976, is equally at home playing English traditional folk, American folk and blues and his own compositions on acoustic and slide guitar and banjo to boot.

Support act Katie Spencer writes songs imbued with the northern landscapes of her Yorkshire home and the warmth and idealism of the early 1970s’ folk and songwriter movements. Originally from Hull, she draws on the grainy imagery of the industrial docks and sea-fronts in her deeply personal songs of nostalgia, loss and love. 

The boys Dunwell: Brothers Joseph and David of Leeds band The Dunwells

The Dunwells, formed by brothers Joseph and David Dunwell in Leeds in 2009, combine heartfelt lyrics with American-influenced indie-folk song structures, as heard on their 2012 debut album, Blind Sighted Faith, and six subsequent albums and EPs.

The Dunwells have performed at both PAC and Platform Festival, at Pocklington’s Old Station, and have toured the United States extensively, not least appearing at SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. They last released a studio album, Something In The Water, in September 2019, followed by the live recording Live At Aire Street last December.

Support act Rachel Croft’s song-writing is cinematic, moody and classic, wherein atmospheric backdrops frame her vocals as she blends folk, rock and soul styles.

Rachel’s new EP, Reap What You Sow, will drop this summer, exploring a more potent, bluesy style.

Concertgoers can access the location from both main entrances to Primrose Wood via Burnby Lane and The Balk, with the concerts being staged close to the Burnby Lane (YO42 2QB) entrance.

Tickets cost £15 for July 1 and £12.50 for July 8 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Rachel Croft: Exploring a “more potent, bluesy style” on her summer EP. Picture: Amy D’Agorne

CharlesHutchPress puts questions to York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft as she prepares for the twilight hour in Primrose Wood.

Where and when did you last play a gig?

“The last real gig was at Highfield House in Driffield, back in October 2020 – a lone event I was lucky enough to share with Blair Dunlop and Gary Stewart. Before that, I think it was last March, sharing the night with Joe Shepard at the NCEM in York.” 

Have you played in woodland previously? 

“I haven’t played a gig as such in a woodland but I’ve recorded and performed in a few woodlands for music videos. Really atmospheric! 

“Only Dreams had woodland in it, and the new video for Reap What You Sow, directed by James Buck, will have a part shot in woodland too.”

What do you feel about playing at the twilight hour: a magical time of day or a harbinger of the dark night to come?!

“Playing outdoors in the twilight hour sounds just right for some of my songs. I like to write atmospheric music, and I think this will be the perfect setting to finally share them with people!

“I think sunset can be a nostalgic time in a way, thinking about the day that’s done and the start of night. Certainly, it could add to the moodiness of some of my songs too.” 

Playing outdoors in the twilight hour sounds just right for some of my songs,” says Rachel. Picture: Amy D’Agorne

You have a new EP on the way, Reap What You Sow. When and how will you release it?

“The EP is due this summer. I’ll stagger a single and then the rest of the songs later on in the season, along with videos and live performances hopefully. We’re still finishing them, so once we have them completed, I can set a date and get cracking. I’m really excited to share these songs; they’re my best work so far. Stay tuned!” 

Where and when was the EP recorded?

“It was recorded here in York, at Young Thugs Studios [in South Bank Social Club, Ovington Terrace], and has been ongoing for probably six months now, what with so much uncertainty and all my usual funding methods gone, which made things interesting!

“All the musicians on the tracks are from around here and I’m really lucky to know so many talented people.” 

What are the song titles and themes and were any influenced by pandemic times?

“I’m keeping the song titles on the down-low for now, except Reap What You Sow, the title track and first single. There are five songs, though, and as a collection they represent a storm, sort of. The build-up, the energy, the wreckage left behind, and then the rebuild, leaving it behind. 

“All the songs are from the lockdown, and I think they helped me to release a lot of pent-up frustration and emotion. I’ve never felt that, until this point, I’ve really released anything that shows the most of me, not just one side.

“It feels really liberating; I’ve always loved music like this but never before felt like I could be that artist. And then, well, it was the pandemic, so I thought I might as well have a go.”

“I’ve also started using my lower voice more in the songs, which I think really suits this change of sound,” says Rachel

The EP will “explore a more potent, bluesy style”: how will that manifest itself and what has drawn you to the blues?

“The bluesy style is mainly in two of the songs, where I was playing with some different chord variations and was influenced a lot by cinema, film music, and the jazz music I play with the Croft Mullen Band here in York [in a residency at The Phoenix Inn, George Street], alongside writing my own music.

“It’s been really nice to bridge that gap between styles. It’s got a lot of electric sounds in it too, but I love the vintage Nancy Sinatra feel of parts of the songs, how that weirdly works with quite fierce guitars at points.

“I’ve also started using my lower voice more in the songs, which I think really suits this change of sound. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”

What have you discovered about yourself in lockdown?

“I have learned that by having all the joyful distraction taken away, I can be more productive with song-writing. I can choose to sit down, and write, if I try. I never thought I could do that before lockdown. It’s been a great time for my music; I’ve never written so much, but maybe that’s because music seems to come easiest when you’re not totally happy.” 

What else is in the diary for you for 2021? Hopefully more shows?

“I’ll be playing at Wickham Festival [Hampshire], Lindisfarne Festival [Northumberland], Northern Kin Festival [Stanhope, Bishop Auckland] and Beverley Fringe, all going well, and I’ve got a few concerts booked here in York and further afield that I’m looking forward to announcing to my socials soon! I’m just happy to get to play to real actual humans again!” 

NEWS JUST IN: 14/5/2021

RACHEL Croft will open series two of the acoustic Songs Under Skies concerts in a double bill with Wounded Bear in the National Centre for Early Music gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, on June 1. Gates, 6.30pm; socially distanced concert, 7pm to 8.30pm. Box office: tickets.ncem.co.uk.