When one becomes three as David Ford’s ‘solo’ show welcomes an American guitarist and a robot at The Crescent tomorrow

David Ford: Songs and stories at The Crescent, York

EASTBOURNE troubadour David Ford might play solo stomps with loop machines and effects pedals or backed by a swish jazz trio or with a string quartet attached. Not this time in his intimate Songs 2023 gig at The Crescent, York, tomorrow night.

After 2022’s albums May You Live In Interesting Times and Love And Death, for 2023 Ford has “taken the rare decision to keep it simple, leave most of the crazy machines at home, play some of his favourite songs and share stories about where they came from”. Oh, and he’ll be bringing his new DIY toy, a drum robot. Beat that. 

In the support slot will be Nashville singer, songwriter, guitarist, pedal steel player, virtuoso session musician and producer J P Ruggieri.

“It keeps things a little bit dangerous and exciting as a performer,” says David Ford

Here David Ford has a word with CharlesHutchPress about gigs, robots, books, happiness and irritations

What form will the show take, David?

“Well, it was originally intended to be me playing my songs alone on stage but since I have JP Ruggieri – who is quite the finest player of a guitar I have ever had the good fortune to witness – along as support act, I’ve insisted that he join me for a few.

“And with the addition of Perry the plywood automaton drummer I spent the first frozen months of 2023 building, the show has evolved into one of the less orthodox three-piece band performances.”

What do you like about this form of performance, by comparison with playing with a jazz trio, string quartet or loop machines?

“I always like to change the way I present my songs live. It’s a great part of the challenge and the enjoyment for me. It keeps things a little bit dangerous and exciting as a performer and hopefully some of that energy is transferred to the audience.”

What instruments will feature?

“I’m playing guitars and keyboards; JP is caressing sweet sounds from a lovely old hollow-bodied guitar…and a stack of plywood and wires will be turning a series of wooden discs with strategically inserted screws to trigger tiny motors to hit drums in a rhythmical manner. That’s Perry.”

David Ford in March 2023: “Feeling helpless as as the forces of democracy and capitalism go all Cain and Abel on each other”

At 44, might you fancy writing a second book to chart what’s happened since the first, the cautionary autobiographical tales of 2011’s I Choose This – How To Nearly Make It In The Music Industry? (The one where David said, “there was a time when people swore I’d be the next big thing. It took ten years of hard work and dedication, but I finally proved them all wrong.”)

“Yes. It’s on my list. I think I’ve been waiting for an ending. Some kind of grand finale. But since I still don’t appear to be getting close to retirement, I need to think of the next book as less of a sequel and more as book two of a trilogy… and maybe one of those trilogies in 12 parts.”

Any touring or recording plans for later in the year?

“I’m planning some shows with my friend Abe Partridge [American folk singer-songwriter from Mobile, Alabama] in the early summer around the UK and Europe. And I have some songs taking shape inside my head.”

What’s making you happy at the moment?

“Playing music that feels organic, different every night. Connecting with audiences. I’m also delighted at the number of little lambs I see in fields as I drive around Britain.” 

What’s annoying you right now?

“Oh, the usual! My feeling of helplessness as the forces of democracy and capitalism go all Cain and Abel on each other. The continual grasping among the well-meaning for simple explanations to complex problems as the mega-tanker of the age drifts slowly toward the iceberg of history.

“And I keep losing my hat.”

Footnote: David Ford has been known to acquire new hats in York.

David Ford & J P Ruggieri…oh and Perry too, Songs 2023, The Crescent, York, Thursday (16/3/2023), 7.30pm. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

JP Ruggieri: Nashville support act for David Ford

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Bloosmbury sets in for spring gallery run. List No. 72, courtesy of The Press, York

Fan-tasia : Becky Gee, curator of fine art at York Museums Trust, at the Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love & Legacy exhibition at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

FROM an ice trail to Spring Awakening, a very happy pig in mud to sibling rivalry in a salon, Charles Hutchinson points you in the right direction for days and nights out.

Exhibition opening of the week: Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love & Legacy, York Art Gallery, until June 5

YORK Art Gallery’s spring exhibition, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and Sheffield Museums, explores the lives and work of the extraordinary Bloomsbury writers, artists and thinkers.

Active in England in the first half of the 20th century, they included the writer and feminist pioneer Virginia Woolf and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, as key figures.

On show are more than 60 major loans of oil paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs by Bell, Dora Carrington, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, Gwen Raverat and Ray Strachey, plus four commissions from Sahara Longe, painted in response to the Bloomsbury legacy, and Bloomsbury-inspired murals and fireplaces designed by graphic artist Lydia Caprani. 

York Ice Trail: Thrills in chills this weekend

Spectacle of the week: York Ice Trail, today and tomorrow

MAKE IT York and Visit York invite you to “pack your suitcase, grab your passport and embark on a journey around the world” in the return of the York Ice Trail.

Sculptures of solid ice await discovery at 43 locations this weekend, inspired by international cultures and a love of travel. Live carving is promised too.

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the National Railway Museum has withdrawn its Faberge’s Trans-Siberian Railway Egg in Low Petergate, but a newly added ice sculpture in support of Ukraine will be on display in St Helen’s Square.

Giovanni Pernice: This is him in This Is Me!, on tour at York Barbican on Wednesday

Dance show of the week: Giovanni Pernice: This Is Me!, York Barbican,  7.30pm

AFTER partnering Rose Ayling-Ellis to Glitterball Trophy success in the 2021 series of Strictly Come Dancing, Giovanni Pernice pays homage to the music and dances that inspired his journey from competition dancer to television favourite.

“I just want to try and do something different, something that you haven’t seen before,” says Sicilian stallion Pernice, 31. “I want to challenge myself and show off my hidden talents.” Cue ballroom and Latin dances and more besides. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Peppa Pig in her dressing room, awaiting her call for the Best Day Ever

Children’s show of the week: Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 1pm and 4pm; Thursday, 10am and 1pm

PEPPA Pig is so excited to be heading off on a special day out with George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig in a road trip full of adventures, songs, games and laughter.

From castles to caves, dragons to dinosaurs, ice creams to the obligatory muddy puddles, there will be something for all the family to enjoy. Look out for Miss Rabbit, Mr Bull and Gerald Giraffe too on “the best day ever for Peppa Pig fans”. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Hair-larious: Buglight Theatre turn the Bronte sisters into salon stylists in Jane Hair

Salon appointment of the week : Buglight Theatre in Jane Hair: The Brontes Restyled, York Theatre Royal, Studio, Thursday, 7.45pm

SIBLING rivalry meets literary debate one explosive evening when stylists Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte cut, colour and style while sharing their hopes and dreams in Bradford’s most creative beauty salon.

Buglight Theatre writers Kirsty Smith and Kat Rose-Martin offer this chance to meet the modern-day versions of three determined young women from Yorkshire who set the literary world on fire. For returns only, ring 01904 623568.

Josh Liew and Amy Hawtin: Playing the leads, Melchior Gabor and Wendla Bergman, in Central Hall Musical Society’s Spring Awakening at Theatre@41

Musical of the week: Central Hall Musical Society in Spring Awakening, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

CENTRAL Hall Musical Society (also known as CHMS, York), from the University of York, present Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater’s 2006 rock musical revamp of a once-banned Frank Wedekind play, directed by Abena Abban.

A group of teenagers in a small German village in 1891 find the oppressive structures upheld by their parents and teachers to be at odds with their own awakening sexuality.

Spring Awakening explores themes of sex, puberty, coming of age and a yearning for a more progressive future, refracting old-fashioned values through a 21st-century lens. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Le Navet Bete’s motley crew of pirates in Treasure Island at York Theatre Royal

Family show of the week; Le Navet Bete in Treasure Island, York Theatre Royal, Thursday, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

LAST in York last September to reveal a vampire’ secrets in Dracula: The Bloody Truth, physical comedy company Le Navet Bete now go in search of buried treasure in a swashbuckling family adventure, Treasure Island.

Peepolykus artistic director and writer John Nicholson directs a cast of four, playing 26 characters in a fresh take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale laced with contemporary comedic twists, tropical islands, an unusual motley crew of pirates, a parrot called Alexa (straight from the Amazon), a white-bearded fish finger tycoon and unforgettable mermaid.  Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

David Ford: Living in interesting times at Pocklington Arts Centre on Thursday

Gig of the week outside York: David Ford, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

WHAT happens when you shut a creative force in a room for two years? The answer is a tornado blast of a new album from Eastbourne singer-songwriter David Ford documenting the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, as he charts the rise of Covid and fall of Trump, although both are still stubbornly refusing to go away.

Ford will air songs from the imminent May You Live In Interesting Times, along with compositions written in two days and recorded in one with American support act Annie Dressner. Look out for their six-track EP on sale at the Pock gig. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

David Ford charts living through interesting times of Covid’s rise and Trump’s fall as he sallies north to Pocklington Arts Centre

David Ford: Writing songs in interesting times

DAVID Ford’s sixth studio album, May You Live In Interesting Times, is on its way but when?

“I should probably know the date, shouldn’t I?” says the self-styled international songsmith from the Sussex resort of Eastbourne.

“But for me, making the record is the best thing; promoting it is the worst thing. I just want to move on and do something else.”

Nevertheless, promote it he will at Pocklington Arts Centre on Thursday on the Interesting Times Tour. “It’s likely the album could be available on the night,” he says without total conviction (and still no release date on his website).

His lack of certainty is forgivable in such uncertain times, brought on by the pandemic lockdowns that have elicited his “demonstration of just what happens when you shut a creative force in a room for two years”.

David already has an album sitting restlessly on his studio shelves. “I’d recorded what was supposed to be my new album in 2019, a record that I still find incredibly exciting,” he says.

“I made it with a quartet of jazz musicians, whereas usually I just go into my studio and play all the instruments myself, taking months to finish it, but this one I did in a day and a half, and I was like a child in a sweetshop.”

The poster for David Ford’s Interesting Times Tour

The jazz players threw themselves in at the deep end. “They didn’t rehearse. They’d never heard the songs,” says David. “It was all very strange but exhilarating. I just gave them the chord sheet, with an idea for the tempo, and they’d start playing. Then, depending on the tone, they would adapt their playing.

“I didn’t play a note on it. I just sang. Before that, I’d always considered myself an adept musician, but this was like going back to school.”

David will be taking that album on tour with a jazz band in October, so keep an eye out for further announcements.

Putting that still hibernating album to one side, the one-time Easyworld frontman found the experience of being in lockdown “more productive than I’d been in years”.

Out went his tour with Texan-born singer and storyteller Jarrod Dickenson that would have brought the co-headliners to The Crescent in York. Twice kicked down the road, it is now consigned to the “one day, hopefully” drawer.

In came a burst of songwriting at home. “I recorded songs as I went along, and then I decided there was a record there with connected themes about the last two years, and what we’ve been through in various states of lockdown, starting with that order to stay home,” says David.

“There were two large themes of global significance: the rise of Covid and what I hoped would be the end of Trump and the handing over of the presidential baton.

“One of the things I liked about this record: it’s a time capsule,” says David Ford

“So, there are songs about the specifics of lockdown and the specifics of the American Presidential election and then the more general mood of the world.”

Alas, for David, both Covid and Trump are still stubbornly hanging around, but that thought comes only in hindsight. The songs on May You Live In Interesting Times were written on the spur of the moment.

“They’re my thoughts on that time, and that’s one of the things I liked about this record: it’s a time capsule. Like the song Six Feet Apart; which I wrote in March/April 2020 with the line that ‘maybe September, we’ll all get back together’, and yet here we are, two years down the road.

“That thought now seems charmingly naïve when we’re still trying to find a path out of Covid, while ‘learning to live with it’.”

Ford’s scalding lyrics are noted for their dark irony and whiplash wit, but a different tone emerged in the first lockdown, at least initially. “In the early days, I had a strange amount of optimism about what Covid might teach humanity about its connectedness, when we might otherwise seem poles apart,” says David.

“Here was a chance to think about how we treat others politically, internationally, financially; a chance to re-set ourselves for the future.

“But that optimism lasted only two months, with only the already wealthy doing well out of it. My optimism dissipated very quickly, but there are still reasons for optimism in that the pandemic has affirmed faith in humanity’s ability to deal with a crisis. Especially the speed we came up with the vaccine.

Annie Dressner: Special guest on David Ford’s tour

“The triumph of science, though some people don’t seem to be able to get behind that as a good thing, but I think it’s a modern miracle, where people who are really smart essentially have saved millions of lives.”

He wrote a song in response to that medical breakthrough. “It’s called Two Shots, which already shows its age, because we’ve now got the booster!” says David.

He will be playing solo in Pocklington. “I thought I’d strip it down and play in the traditional way, since it’s been a while since I played live, but then I couldn’t resist myself, building machines again [to build a cathedral of sound with looping and effects pedals]!” says David.

“But it’s still essentially a ‘Get Back Out On The Road’  show with the chance to enjoy being in a  room with people again, playing highlights from over the years, rather than just trying to flog the new album.”

He will not be wholly solo. “I’ll be playing a few songs with my support act, my new good friend Annie Dressner [a New York singer-songwriter, now based over here].

“We got on very well at our shows in Otley and Sheffield in January, and we thought, ‘why not record and mix some songs together?’,” says David.

They duly completed six songs in two days in Eastbourne, resulting in the 48 Hours EP being available exclusively on the Interesting Times Tour.

David Ford plays Pocklington Arts Centre, supported by Annie Dressner, on March 10, 8pm. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

What’s on the menu? More Things To Do in York and beyond, hopefully, but check for updates. List No. 62, from The Press, York

Waiter! David Leonard’s Vermin the Destroyer, left, and A J Powell’s Luvlie Limpit survey what’s left of the Ye Olde Whippet Inn menu as Martin Barrass’s Dunkin Donut offers advice in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

GIVEN the ever-changing Omicron briefings, Charles Hutchinson has a rubber as well as a pencil in his hand as he highlights what to see now and further ahead.

Still time for pantomime unless Omicron measures intervene part one: Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, until January 9

BACK on stage for the first time since February 2 2019, grand dame Berwick Kaler reunites with long-standing partners in panto Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and A J Powell.

After his crosstown switch to the Grand Opera House, Kaler steps out of retirement to write, direct and lead his first show for Crossroads Pantomimes, playing Dotty Donut, with Daniel Conway as the company’s new face in the Essex lad title role amid the familiar Kaler traditions. Look out for the flying horse. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Come join the rev-olution: Stepsisters Manky (Robin Simpson), left, and Mardy (Paul Hawkyard) make a raucous entrance in Cinderella. Alas, the Theatre Royal panto is now on hold until December 30 after a Covid outbreak

Still time for pantomime but only after a week in self-isolation: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, ending on January 2 2022

COVID has struck three cast members and understudies too, leading to the decision to cancel performances of Cinderella from today until December 30.

Fingers crossed, you can still enjoy Evolution Productions writer Paul Hendy and York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster’s panto custom-built for 21st century audiences.

Targeted at drawing in children with magical storytelling, silliness aplenty and pop songs, Cinderella has a thoroughly modern cast, ranging from CBeebies’ Andy Day as Dandini to Faye Campbell as Cinders and ventriloquist Max Fulham as Buttons, with his Monkey on hand for cheekiness.

Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard’s riotous step-sisters Manky and Mardy and puns galore add to the fun. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

A wintry landscape by Julia Borodina, on show at Blossom Street Gallery, York

Buy now before her prices go up! Julia Borodina, Into The Light, Blossom Street Gallery, York, until January 31

JULIA Borodina will be competing in Sky’ Arts’ 2022 Landscape Artist of the Year, set for screening in January and February. Perfect timing for her York exhibition, Into The Light, on show until the end of next month.

Bretta Gerecke, part of the design team behind Castle Howard’s Christmas In Narnia displays, stands by the 28ft decorated tree in the Great Hall. Picture: Charlotte Graham

THE Christmas tree of the season: Christmas In Narnia at Castle Howard, near York, until January 2

CASTLE Howard has topped past peaks by installing a 28ft spruce tree from Scotland in the Great Hall as part of the Christmas In Narnia displays and decorations.

 “We believe that this is the largest real indoor Christmas tree in the country, standing around eight feet higher than the impressive tree normally installed in Buckingham Palace,” says the Hon Nicholas Howard, guardian of Castle Howard. 

“It’s certainly the largest we have had, both in terms of height and width at the base, which has a huge footprint in the Great Hall – but thankfully leaves a gap on either side for visitors to walk right around it.” Tickets for Christmas In Narnia must be booked before arrival at castlehoward.co.uk.

York Community Choir Festival: Eight diverse concerts at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

Choirs galore: York Community Choir Festival, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 27 to March 5 2022

EIGHT shows, different every night, will be the format for this choral celebration of how and why people come together to make music and have fun.

At least four choirs will be on stage in every concert in a festival featuring show tunes, pop and folk songs, world music, classical music, gospel songs, close harmonies, blues and jazz.

From primary-school choirs through to teenage, young adult and adult choirs, the choral configurations span male groups, female groups and mixed-voice choirs. Proceeds will go to the JoRo theatre from ticket sales on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

David Ford’s poster for his Interesting Times tour, visiting Pocklington Arts Centre in March

If you see one sage and rage singer-songwriter next year, make it: David Ford, Interesting Times Tour 22, Pocklington Arts Centre, March 10 2022, 8pm

EASTBOURNE troubadour David Ford will return to the road with an album of songs documenting the tumultuous year that was 2020.

May You Live In Interesting Times, his sixth studio set, charts the rise of Covid alongside the decline of President Trump. Recorded at home during various stages of lockdown, the album captures the moment with Ford’s trademark emotional eloquence and dark irony.

After the imposed hiatus times three (and maybe four, wait and see), the new incarnation of Ford’s innovative, incendiary live show promises to demonstrate just what happens when you shut such a creative force in a room for two years. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Sir Tom Jones: Playing Scarborough Open Air Theatre for a third time next summer

Amid the winter uncertainty, look to next summer’s knight to remember: Sir Tom Jones at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 26 2022

SIR Tom Jones will complete a hattrick of Scarborough Open Air Theatre concerts after his 2015 and 2017 gigs with his July return.

In April, the Welsh wonder released his 41st studio album, the chart-topping Surrounded By Time, featuring the singles Talking Reality Television Blues, No Hole in My Head, One More Cup of Coffee and Pop Star.

Sir Tom, 81, will play a second outdoor Yorkshire concert in 2022, at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on July 10. Box office for both shows: ticketmaster.co.uk.

Flying dreamers: Elbow showcase their ninth studio album in Scarborough next July

Deep in the bleak midwinter, think of days out on the Yorkshire coast part two: Elbow, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9 2022

MAKE Elbow room in your diary to join Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter and Pete Turner on the East Coast in July.

Formed in 1997 in Bury, Greater Manchester, BBC 6 Music Sunday afternoon presenter Garvey and co chalked up their seventh top ten album in 2021 with Flying Dream 1.

Released on November 19, Elbow’s ninth studio album was written remotely in home studios before the lifelong friends met up at the empty Brighton Theatre Royal to perfect, perform, and record the songs. Box office: ticketmaster.co.uk.