More Things To Do in York and beyond as Dickens tales, dames and Damon drop in. List No. 59, courtesy of The Press, York

What the Dickens? Yes, James Swanton is reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas at York Medical Society

FROM boyish Boris to Dame Edna, Christmas concerts to panto dames, Dickensian ghost stories to solo Damon, Charles Hutchinson has highlights aplenty to recommend.   

Dickensian Christmas in York: James Swanton’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, York Medical Society, on various dates between December 2 and 13, 7pm

AFTER the silent nights of last December, York gothic actor supreme James Swanton is gleefully reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas performances of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes.

“I’ve scheduled extra performances of A Christmas Carol: the perfect cheering antidote, I feel, to the misery we’ve all been through,” says Swanton. “But the two lesser-known stories are also very relevant to our times.”

A reduced capacity is operating for Covid safety, meaning that tickets are at a premium on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Boris: World King, under debate at Theatre@41

Political debate of the week: Boris: World King, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE year is 1985 and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has plenty going for him, being young, posh and really rather blond. However, his efforts to become President of the Oxford Union debating society have been thwarted.

Never fear. Boris always has a cunning plan up his sleeve. Cue time travel, classical allusions and good clean banter in Boris: World King, Tom Crawshaw’s comedic exploration of a young man’s ambition and humanity explored as a half-hour one-man show. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Richard Kay: Co-directing York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir’s Christmas concerts

Harmony at Christmas: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Citadel Singers, Christmas Traditions 2021, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, Tuesday to Friday, doors 7pm

AFTER delivering an online Christmas concert via Zoom to an international audience in 2020, York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir return to live concerts for Christmas Traditions 2021.

The Citadel allows room for cabaret seating downstairs and balcony seating that can ensure safe distancing is maintained, while the show retains its format of carols old and new, Christmas songs, festive readings and sketches. Box office: arkevent.co.uk/christmastraditions2021.

The poster for Damon Albarn’s night at the double at York Minster

York gig(s) of the week: Damon Albarn, York Minster, Thursday, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

DAMON Albarn quickly added a second special intimate album-launch show at York Minster after the first was fully booked in a flash.

The Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen leader now plays two sold-out concerts in one night in his first ever York performances, marking the November 12 release of his solo studio recording The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows.

Albarn, 53, has been on a “dark journey” making this album in lockdown, exploring themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth.

Martyn Joseph: Lockdown reflections on landmark birthday on new album, showcased in concert at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

Gig of the week outside York: Martyn Joseph, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

“THE Welsh Springsteen”, singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, will be showcasing his 23rd studio album, 1960, a “coming of age” record with a difference, in Pocklington.

Last year, amid the isolation of the pandemic, Penarth-born Joseph turned 60 on July 15, a landmark birthday, a time of self-reflection, that shaped his songs of despair and sadness, gratitude and wonder, and gave the album its title. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Alistair Griffin: Series of Big Christmas Concerts in York

Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 3 (sold out) and December 10, 8pm; Alistair Griffin’s Candlelit Christmas, Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, December 11, 8pm

ON December 3 and 10, a brass band greets revellers, then York singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert takes a musical journey from acoustic traditional carols to Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues. “Sing along and sip mulled wine while enjoying the fairytale of old York,” says Griffin’s invitation.

On December 11, he switches from St Michael-le-Belfrey to a candle-lit Holy Trinity Church. “Take a seat, or in this case, a medieval pew and soak in the festive atmosphere,” he says. Cue mulled wine, Christmas tunes, acoustic festive numbers and a Christmas carol singalong. Box office: alistairgriffin.com.

York playwright Mike Kenny: New production of The Railway Children with his award-winning script at Hull Truck

On the right track show of the week outside York: The Railway Children, Hull Truck Theatre, running until January 2

YORK playwright Mike Kenny has revisited his award-winning adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children – first staged so memorably by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum – for Hull Truck’s Christmas musical.

Directed by artistic director Mark Babych in the manner of his Oliver Twist and Peter Pan shows of Christmases past, original music and dance routines complement Kenny’s storytelling in this warm-hearted, uplifting tale of hope, friendship and family, set in Yorkshire. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk.

Faye Campbell: Brushing up on playing Cinderella in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, opening on Friday

Evolution, not revolution, in pantoland: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, December 3 to January 2

YORK Theatre Royal’s post-Berwick era began last year with the Travelling Pantomime, establishing the partnership of Evolution Pantomimes’ man with the Midas touch, Paul Hendy, as writer and Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster as director.

After the 2020 road show, here comes the full-scale return to the main house for Cinderella, starring CBeebies’ Andy Day (Dandini), last winter’s stars Faye Campbell (Cinderella) and Robin Simpson (Sister), Paul Hawkyard (the other Sister), ventriloquist comedian Max Fulham (Buttons), Benjamin Lafayette (Prince Charming) and Sarah Leatherbarrow (Fairy Godmother). Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Unmasked: Barry Humphries tells all at the Grand Opera House, York next April

Hottest ticket launch of the week: Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, April 13 2022

AUSTRALIAN actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure Barry Humphries will play only one Yorkshire show on his 2022 tour, here in York.

Set to turn 88 on February 17, he will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of alter egos Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. Hurry, hurry, for tickets on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

‘The road ahead is shorter than the one behind,’ reflects Martyn Joseph on hitting 60. Cue songs to mull over at Pock gig

Martyn Joseph: Reflections on turning 60

ONLY a handful of tickets are left for December 2’s gig by “the Welsh Springsteen”, Martyn Joseph, at Pocklington Arts Centre.

The Welsh folk singer-songwriter, now 61, will be showcasing his 23rd studio album, 1960, a “coming of age” record with a difference, released on Pipe Records last Friday.

Last year, amid the isolation of the pandemic, Penarth-born Joseph turned 60 on July 15, a landmark birthday, a time of self-reflection, that shaped his songs of despair and sadness, gratitude and wonder, and gave the album its title.

“The road ahead is shorter than the one behind,” he ponders. “I found myself asking what I’ve made of this life – and what I might have done differently.

“The answer doesn’t matter,” he decides. “It’s about love and the quality of your days on this earth.”

What emerged is a track listing of: Born Too Late; Felt So Much; House; Down To The Well; We Are Made Of Stars; Trying To Grow; Under Every Smile; In Your Arms; Shadow Boxing; There Is A Field and the seven-minute finale This Light Is Ours.

Looking forward to hosting a gig postponed by the third Covid lockdown from its original date of January 16, but now benefiting from the timely release of 1960, Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer says: “Martyn Joseph is an incredible artist, a truly unique talent who is going to blow us away when he steps onto our stage. 

“He has had such an impressive career to date and his latest album is without doubt one of his best. We’ve had it playing on repeat at the venue, so what a fantastic opportunity this will be to hear it live within the intimate setting of our auditorium.”

Tickets for Joseph’s 8pm performance cost £18 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or on 01759 301547. 

Did you know?
MARTYN Joseph was honoured with a Spirit of Folk Award by Folk Alliance International in Kansas, USA, in 2018 and awarded a Wales Folk Award in 2019 for Here Come The Young, the title track of his last studio album.

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

More Things To Do in and around York and while stuck with “staying home”. Lockdown List No. 25, courtesy of The Press, York

Flood, mixed-media monotype, by Lesley Birch, from Muted Worlds, her joint exhibition with ceramicist Emily Stubbs, running initially online and then at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York

LOCKDOWN 3 plods on with no end in sight deep amid the winter chill, drawing Charles Hutchinson’s gaze to online events, a writing opportunity and the promise of live entertainment somewhere down the line.

Online lockdown exhibition at the double: Emily Stubbs and Lesley Birch, Muted Worlds, for Pyramid Gallery, York

CERAMICIST Emily Stubbs and artist Lesley Birch have teamed up for Muted Worlds, a lockdown exhibition of pots and paintings that has begun as a digital show from their studios before moving to Terry Bretts’s gallery in Stonegate, once Lockdown 3 strictures are eased. 

Ceramicist Emily Stubbs: Muted Worlds exhibitor and York Open Studios participant

“This is a show with a more muted edge,” say Emily and Lesley. “Winter is here and with it, Covid, and another lockdown, so we feel the need for simplicity. We have collaborated to produce monochrome pieces inspired by the winter season.”

Looking ahead, Emily will be taking part in  York Open Studios this summer, showing her ceramics at 51 Balmoral Terrace.

Rowntree Park: Hosting the Friends of Rowntree Park’s Words From A Bench project

Creative project of the winter season: Friends of Rowntree Park’s Words From A Bench project

THE Friends of Rowntree Park invite you to join the Words From A Bench project by submitting a short story or poem based around themes of the York park, the outdoors, nature and escape.

No more than 1,000 words in length, the works will be displayed in the park. Adults and children alike should send entries by February 15 to hello@rowntreepark.org.uk.

Mary Coughlan: Irish singer has had to rearrange her Pocklington Arts Centre concert for a second time

Gigs on the move: Pocklington Arts Centre re-writing 2021 diary

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is re-scheduling concerts aplenty in response to the relentless grip of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan’s April 23 show is being moved to October 19; the Women In Rock tribute show, from May 21 to October 29; New York singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, from February 2 to December 7, and Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, from February 12 to December 2. Tickets remain valid for the rearranged dates.

A new date is yet to be arranged for the postponed February 23 gig by The Delines, Willy Vlautin’s country soul band from Portland, Oregon. Watch this space.

At sixes and sevens: The Gesualdo Six with director Owain Park (third from left, back row)

Early notice of online Early Music Day at National Centre for Early Music, York, March 21

THE Gesualdo Six will lead the NCEM’s celebrations for Early Music Day 2021 on March 21 by embarking on an online whistle-stop musical tour of York.

The Cambridge vocal consort’s concert will be a streamed at 3pm as part of a day when musical organisations throughout Europe will come together for a joyful programme of events to mark JS Bach’s birthday. 

During their residency, The Gesualdo Six will spend almost a week in York performing in a variety of locations on a musical tour of the city that will be filmed and shared in March.

Monster and Minster beyond: A B-movie bridge drama on the Ouse by the alliteratively named Lincoln Lightfoot, one of the debutants in York Open Studios 2021, now moved to July

Better late than never: York Open Studios, switching from spring to summer

CELEBRATING the 20th anniversary of Britain’s longest-running open studios, York’s artists are determined to go ahead with York Open Studios 2021, especially after a barren year in 2020, when doors had to stay shut in Lockdown 1.

Consequently, the organisers are switching the two weekends from April 17/18 and 24/25 to July 10/11 and July 17/18, when more than 140 artists and makers will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces in an opportunity for art lovers and the curious to “enjoy fresh air, meet artists and view and buy unique arts and crafts from York’s very best artisans”.

Midge Ure: Opening his Voice & Visions Tour at the Grand Opera House, York

Planning ahead for next year, part one: Midge Ure & Band Electronica, Grand Opera House, York

MIDGE Ure & Band Electronica will open next year’s Voice & Visions Tour at the Grand Opera House, York, on February 22, when the 67-year-old Scotsman will be marking 40 years since the release of Ultravox’s Rage In Eden and Quartet albums in September 1981 and October 1982 respectively.

Ure & Band Electronica last played the Opera House in October 2019 on The 1980 Tour, when Ultravox’s 1980 album, Vienna, was performed in its entirety for the first time in four decades, complemented by highlights from Visage’s debut album, as Ure recalled the year when he co-wrote, recorded and produced the two future-sounding records.

Tommy Emmanuel: York gig awaits for fingerstyle Australian guitarist

Planning ahead for next year, part two: Tommy Emmanuel at Grand Opera House, York

AUSTRALIAN guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, 65, will play the Grand Opera House, York, on March 6 2022 in the only Yorkshire show of next year’s12-date tour with special guest Jerry Douglas, the Ohio dobro master.

At 44, Emmanuel became one of only five musicians to be named a Certified Guitar Player by his idol, Chet Atkins. Playing fingerstyle, he frequently threads three different guitar parts simultaneously into his material, handling melody, supporting chords and bass all at once.

Steven Devine: Harpsichordist pictured when recording at the NCEM, York

Online concert series of the season: Steven Devine, Bach Bites, National Centre for Early Music, York, Fridays

EVERY Friday at 1pm, until March 19, harpsichordist Steven Devine is working his way through J S Bach’s Fugues and Preludes in his online concert series. Find it on the NCEM’s Facebook stream.

And what about?

STAYING in, staying home, means TV viewing aplenty. Tuck into the French film talent agency frolics and frictions of Call My Agent! on Netflix and Scottish procedural drama Traces on the Beeb; be disappointed by Finding Alice on ITV.

Pocklington Arts Centre updates concert diary as pandemic enforces more changes

Jesse Malin: February 2 gig put back to December 7 at Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is re-scheduling concerts aplenty in response to the relentless grip of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan’s April 23 show is being moved to October 19; the Women In Rock tribute show, from May 21 to October 29; New York singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, from February 2 to December 7, and Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, from February 12 to December 2. Tickets remain valid for the rearranged dates.

A new date is yet to be arranged for the postponed February 23 gig by The Delines, Willy Vlautin’s country soul band from Portland, Oregon.

Here comes the Welsh singer Martyn Joseph, playing Pocklington Arts Centre

“A good song makes you feel like you’re not alone in the world, ” says Martyn Joseph

PENARTH folk singer, songwriter and guitarist Martyn Joseph will play Pocklington Arts Centre on January 16 2021.

Often called “the Welsh Springsteen”, he has released 32 albums in a career spanning 30 years, half a million record sales and thousands of live performances.

In April 2019, Joseph won a Wales Folk Award for Here Come The Young, the title track of that year’s album. “He’s never sounded more potent than he does here,” said Uncut on its release.

In 2018, he was honoured with a Spirit of Folk Award by Folk Alliance International in Kansas, USA, and he received Fatea magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Britain.

In his song-writing of passion and humour, Joseph, 59, engages with challenging narratives that tackle the complexity of the human condition, underpinned with a promise of hope.

“Really what I do is to try and write songs that might step up and make some sense of a moment in time,” says the Welsh raconteur of his tales of topical concerns and stories of the fragility of love. “A good song makes you feel like you’re not alone in the world.”

Tickets are on sale at £18 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.