Shop ‘closes’ after only one day, but Gerard Hobson’s choice is to keep the animal magic coming. Here’s how…

Gerard Hobson’s choice of shop-window dressing at the old Bulmers building in Lord Mayor’s Walk, York

QUESTION. Which York shop opened on a Wednesday, only to close the very next day, but could yet run for a year?

The answer is Gerard Hobson Printmaker, in the old Bulmers building just beyond the corner where Monk Bar turns into Lord Mayor’s Walk.

Linocut artist Gerard was rudely interrupted by Lockdown 2’s killjoy claw tapping on his shoulder, but the lights illuminating his lampshades are still on: a beacon to the boxing hares in this former zoologist’s beautifully decorated window display and the walls beyond with their abundant bursts of wildlife and nature in myriad forms: prints; cut-outs; mugs; tea towels; cushions; cards and more.

“Having planned to open on November 4, before the new measures were then announced, I had to put all my efforts into opening for one day before lockdown,” says Gerard, a regular participant in York Open Studios at his Clifton home studio.

“Over the next month, I’m using the shop [frontage] as a means of getting myself known to a wider audience in York and continuing to sell my art and products online.

Cut-outs by printmaker Gerard Hobson on show at his new shop in York

“We’re operating a click-and-collect service where people can email me with enquiries or orders and they can either pick up from the shop on a certain day – probably Saturdays – or we’re doing free deliveries on orders over £15 in a ten-mile radius from York.”

Bringing the outdoors inside, Gerard’s work is full of joy: a joyfulness that permeates his decision to go ahead with his shop launch. “Although the timing in these matters was not perfect, I decided to open a shop in York against the tide of shop closures,” he says.

“I had a fantastic day on the Wednesday opening and am very positive about what this next month might bring.”

So much so that in the city with the highest net loss of chain-stores outlets in the UK in the first half of 2020 (55 in total), Gerard ponders: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if empty shops could be used by independent businesses for this period up to Christmas to run their businesses out of.

“York could become alive with shop-window displays offering click and collect or home deliveries.”

Gerard Hobson at work in his studio in Clifton, York

Here Gerard Hobson answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on opening shops in Covid times, window shopping, York’s city-centre future and his plans for 2021.

What prompted your decision to go against the tide by opening a shop at this difficult time, Gerard?

“York is a very small place and I happen to know the landlord of the old Bulmers building. He hadn’t any plans for the shops and asked me if I would like to use one of them to sell my art for a couple of months leading up to Christmas; with the idea that if it was a success, I could continue the lease into the new year.

“I had never thought of opening a shop before but thought it seemed like a great opportunity; especially with lots of shops closing in York, I thought I would buck the trend.” 

How did you go about designing the shop and how does it contrast with your Open Studios and Christmas shows at your home and on a grand scale in the gallery, grounds and gardens of Beningbrough Hall earlier this year?

A stack of cards designed by Gerard Hobson on display at his shop

“When I first looked at the shop, a lot of work still needed doing to it. It hadn’t even got a floor. I liked the fact the back wall was just breeze blocks, which gave it a more industrial feel, which would work well as my work space. I didn’t want it to feel too polished or formal.

“I measured it up and then sourced pre-loved pieces of furniture in and around York. The exception was the shop counter. I know a chap who sells large slabs of wood, so I bought a piece of elm from him and made the counter base out of a large pallet.

“As an artist, it’s fantastic when someone says you can do what you like with the space – the perfect blank canvas!”

What did your learn from mounting the Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition at Beningbrough Hall? Was it a perfect union of location, theme and artform? Discuss...

Gerard Hobson with one of his installations at Beninbrough Hall, near York

“Working at Beningbrough was a huge learning curve for me. The National Trust were amazing at allowing me free rein to use the grounds as I wished to install the exhibition.

“There are times when you really doubt what you are doing and think the whole thing just isn’t going to work. So, it’s a huge relief when it eventually comes together and all the risks are worth it!” 

You have been stoical about the Lockdown fates playing their hand. How will the shop operate through lockdown? 

“The announcement of the second lockdown was quite sudden but opening for just one day was great. Lots of my regular customers and friends dropped in on the day and it went much better than I had anticipated.

“This year has been so uncertain, especially for the arts, so I didn’t get down about it closing. I thought, ‘I have this shop window; what a great opportunity to advertise my art’, so I’ve put a notice in the window to allow people to window shop and buy through my website.”

On the case: Assorted items by Gerard Hobson for sale via click and collect at his York shop

How long into the new year do you envisage running the shop? Is it a pop-up shop or might it turn into a longer-term enterprise?

“My brother-in-law, Robert Feather, had a jewellery shop on Gillygate for many years, so he’s been very helpful in giving advice. My plans are to run the shop for a year so that I can look at the bigger picture and work out the ebbs and flows of retail (of which I’m sure there are many!).” 

How would you improve the city-centre streets of York?

“I find on the whole that York’s city centre has become a very sad shopping experience. When you go to other European countries, their towns and cities are full of interesting and diverse independent shops. Yet York has such great potential.

“Wouldn’t it be great to see lots of small independent shops, rather than lots of empty ones? It seems such a shame that high rental prices and business rates stop small businesses from setting up.”

Hare today, but thankfully not gone tomorrow, even though Lockdown 2 forced Gerard Hobson to close his shop after only one day

What’s coming up for you in 2021?

“2021 looks like it could be a very exciting year for me. As well as running the shop, I’ll be taking part in York Open Studios in April, which is always an exciting event to be part of.

“I’m running a couple of linocut courses at the RHS Harlow Carr gardens in Harrogate, as well as several classes throughout the year from my house.

“I’ll be working on more indoor installations and artworks for Little Green Rascals Organic Day Nurseries in York. I’ve known the owner, Vanessa [Warn], for many years and we share the same passion that a child’s space, where they learn and grow, should be nurturing and have a homely feel about it.”

Dressing the dresser: Gerard Hobson displays more of his wildlife wonders

Busy, busy! Anything else?!

“I’m also planning an exhibition at York Hospital.”

And finally, putting on your salesman’s hat, sum up what can be bought from the shop…

“Everything for sale in the shop has my designs on it. Limited-edition hand-coloured prints; bird, animal, tree and mushroom cut-outs; cards; mugs; cushions; coasters; chopping boards;  lampshades; tea towels; notepads and wrapping paper.

“There are even some handmade candles made locally. I didn’t make them but I did the logo on the box. Something for everyone, I hope.”

The SJT to close for Lockdown 2 but The Snow Queen rehearsals WILL go ahead

Rehearsals can go ahead in Lockdown 2 for The Snow Queen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

SCARBOROUGH’S Stephen Joseph Theatre will close its doors to the public again from Thursday to December 2, re-opening on December 3, pending further Government Covid-19 pronouncements.

In the light of last night’s confirmation from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that rehearsals can continue behind closed doors, the SJT will be going ahead with its vibrant Christmas production of Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen throughout December.

The SJT had re-opened its McCarthy cinema in late-August and has been presenting live theatre from the start of October: one of the first theatres in the country to do so.

November’s live shows – My Favourite Summer and Orpheus & Eurydice, plus play readings of Canton, Worldly and With Bells On! – will move to next spring. New dates will be announced as soon as possible.

As much of the November cinema programme as possible will be switched to December. Again, new dates will be posted ASAP.

Haunting Julia, an audio version of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 play directed and performed by Sir Alan himself, is unaffected. Theatre-goers who prefer to stay at home can book to listen between December 1 and January 5 via the theatre’s website, Raven’s sold-out Christmas concert on December 15 will go ahead as planned too.

The SJT’s box-office team is working hard to contact everyone with bookings affected by the changes. Ticket-bookers can choose whether they would like a refund, a credit to their account, or to donate the cost of their ticket to help secure the theatre’s future.

Those with bookings are asked not to contact the box office if possible. The team is making its way through November’s bookings in date order as fast as it can.

The SJT’s executive director, Caroline Routh, says: “Of course, it’s a huge disappointment to us all to have to close again. Our audiences have been so appreciative that we reopened our cinema in August and recommenced live theatre in October, and really generous in their support in so many ways.

“Most of our screenings and shows, includingJohn Godber’s Sunny Side Up! just last week, have sold out, although our capacities have been reduced because of social distancing.

“But the safety of our audience, our in-house team and our visiting companies is, of course, paramount. When we do re-open, we‘ll still be following the same stringent safety procedures that have made our audiences feel so safe recently.

“And we’re so thrilled that we’re still able to bring The Snow Queen to Scarborough for Christmas. It promises to be a really lively and memorable show, starring the fabulous Polly Lister and, on certain performances, her talented ‘alternate’ Jacoba Williams. We’re confident it’ll be a Christmas must-see for 2020!”

Please note, if you do need to contact the box office for any reason, you can do so on 01723 370541, between 10am and noon, Mondays to Fridays, until 2 December (phone queries only; the building will not be open for in-person visits.

Tickets for all December events can still be booked online through the lockdown period at