‘Punk is an attitude, Jazz is a state of mind,’ say Navigators Art in bars exhibition and Basement gig of contrasts & connections

Dexter Enjoying A Well Earned Toke, by Steve Walmsley, from the Punk/Jazz Contrasts & Connections exhibition

YORK creative hub Navigators Art & Performance is exploring iconic genres – the punk era and the jazz age – in its autumn exhibition at Micklegate & Fossgate Socials and Saturday’s live event at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York.

Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections asks: A Love Supreme or No Future? Are punk and jazz at odds or two sides of a coin?

The answer to a question with a nod to American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s 1964 album and the Sex Pistols’ nihilistic mantra from 1977 single God Save The Queen comes through a combination of painting, drawing, collage, print, words, sculpture, photography and music.

“Punk and jazz? Each can be controversial, uncompromising, confrontational,” says Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen. “The best of each is groundbreaking, pushing conventions to the limit. Both can hurt. Both can heal.”

The Palm Tree Jazz Club, by Ali Hunter

On show at the Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social bars is new work by a fresh line-up of artists from York and beyond. “We’re featuring a healthy mix of the known and the less familiar, including Ali Hunter, Carrianne Vivianette, George Willmore, Nick Walters, river smith, Sharon McDonagh, Steve Beadle and Steve Walmsley,” says Richard, who is among the exhibitors as ever.

“There’s a special treat too: the welcome return to the York art scene of entrepreneur and local legend Chalky the Yorkie.”

Saturday’s specially curated live performance at The Basement, Punk/Jazz: A Halloween Special, features York bands The Bricks, Teleost and Things Found And Made (Dunmada), the polemical words of activist poet Rose Drew and Saeth Wheeler delivering psychic-themed comedy.

Doors open at 7pm for this 7.30pm event, presented in association with The Random Cabaret and York Alternatives, and the Basement bar will be open throughout.

“Expect experiments, improvisation and noise! Some of the material will not be suitable for young children,” Richard forewarns.

Here, Richard Kitchen discusses punk, jazz and art, contrasts and connections with CharlesHutchPress

Punk Jazz, by Richard Kitchen

How can jazz and punk hurt, Richard?

“When we came up with the theme, many people said, ‘I don’t like jazz but I like punk’ or vice versa. We’re talking generalisations but not stereotypes here, and we’re interested in spiritual or free jazz, rather than more polite versions.

“They’re both polemical in terms of both sound and ideology. Many people feel threatened by them. Then, of course, they take aim at certain targets, political, social and cultural, and challenge them.”

How can jazz and punk heal?

“People can find themselves through music, whether as players or listeners. Both these forms of music offer a world, even a philosophy, that people develop a passionate relationship with.

“We’ve proposed that punk is an attitude, jazz is a state of mind. Freedom, independent creativity, social justice: they represent values systems that go beyond music in search of a better world. We as Navigators Art have followed those values in giving ourselves permission to achieve things that others have said we couldn’t – or even shouldn’t!”

How did dapper activist artist Chalky the Yorkie become involved in the exhibition?

“We met Chalky at a show last Christmas, chatted to him about art and music and his own history as an artist in York, and felt we’d like to get him involved in the scene again. He had some work that responds perfectly to the Punk/Jazz theme.”

Unnamed, by George Willmore

Names new to Navigators Art are among the Punk/Jazz artists: how were the exhibitors selected this time?

“We did a general call-out for the first time on social media and Curatorspace. We’ve had quite a constant presence over the past 18 months and it was time to freshen things up, to avoid the same people making the same kind of work each time. We’ve gone back to basics, with a core admin group and a network of wonderful new and emerging artists and performers.”

Are you a punk fan, a jazz fan, or both?

“Personaslly? A fan of both but they’re broad terms, aren’t they? Anything exploratory and exciting gets my vote. Sheer noise? No! Cocktail lounge tinkling? No! Extreme hardcore where there’s no space to let the music breathe? No! But others in the group have their own preferences of course.”

Punk gets things done in a rush with plenty to say; jazz just faffs around, taking forever to not make any point…Discuss!
“Two sides of a coin, as we say. But the coin itself is the same. They aren’t exclusive. Sometimes you want to shout and get things out of your system; sometimes you want to muse on things at length.

“Punk or jazz, the musicians are working out how best to express themselves, whether it’s protesting about something for two minutes or exploring their own state of mind for hours! The key factor in both is honesty, being true to yourself. I’d say that’s what attracts an audience too.”

John Coltrane, by Carrianne Vivianette

Punk had no future, nowhere to go. Jazz is always evolving…Discuss.

“Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten/John Lydon realised punk was imploding very early on, becoming formulaic. Once you get into the punk that led to what became a post-punk freedom to experiment, there’s an openness to many other forms of music, including jazz, dub, world music and so on that created a kaleidoscope of marvellous new forms.

“New jazz is emerging now, which similarly draws on other influences, especially electronics. Labelling music as one thing or another is a convenient shorthand but genuinely creative artists rarely think in those terms.”

What is the full line-up for Saturday’s live event?

“The musicians will be The Bricks, an energetic punk band fronted by Gemma from comics shop Travelling Man, in Goodramgate; Teleost, who are more intense and improvisatory; the Neo Borgia Trio who have formed especially for the occasion from a University of York big band; Mike Ambler, with some grunge-influenced solo songs,; and Things Found And Made (Dunmada), whose experimental set is a secret even from us. Then there’s firebrand poet Rose Drew and comedians Isobel Wilson and Saeth Wheeler.”

What is Navigators Art & Performance?

Punk/Jazz: Two sides of a coin or not?

THIS York creative collective brings a DIY ethos and punk belief in building from minimal resources to exhibitions, live events, projects and commissions.

“We’ve created events for StreetLife and York Festival of Ideas, and we’re now running live events at The Basement, City Screen,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.

“We present original material for an audience to discover something fresh and exciting.

We encourage young artists, emerging talent and those who feel disadvantaged or underrepresented.”

Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections runs at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, until January, with the closing date yet to be confirmed. Free entry during opening hours. Tickets for Punk/Jazz: A Halloween Special are on sale at https://bit.ly/nav-punkjazz

Y Fronts, by Sharon McDonagh, from the Punk/Jazz: Contrasts & Connections exhibition

Drama at Grand Opera House as aliens take over box office. Lincoln Lightfoot is at large

Creature From The Bottom Of The Ouse, by Lincoln Lightfoot

ALIENS, dinosaurs and King Kong invade the Grand Opera House box office as York artist Lincoln Lightfoot explores surrealist concepts reminiscent of the absurdist poster art for the Fifties and Sixties’ B-movie fixation with comical science-fiction disasters.

Depicting unusual happenings with large beasts, staged in familiar settings and on iconic architecture, from York Minster to the Angel of the North, Lightfoot’s artwork escapes from everyday problems to tap into the fears perpetuated by the news media and politicians alike in a post Covid-19 world.

Lightfoot’s paintings parody religious apocalyptic scenes circa 1800, such as the work of John Martin, while his storybook illustrations explore detailed pen work and bright block colour.

Lightfoot’s journey into the fantastical began while studying Fine Art at York St John University. After achieving a PGCE in art, craft and design and leading an art & design department in a north-eastern school, he is pursuing his love for art and the surreal full time, showcasing his work in such York exhibitions as Under Siege and Revelation. Now his paintings are just the ticket for theatregoers in Cumberland Street.

York artist LIncoln Lightfoot with his alien artwork at his 2022 exhibition, Revelation, at Micklegate Social, York. Now his creatures from beyond are moving into the theatre world

As past and future collide in Lincoln Lightfoot’s art for today, CharlesHutchPress heads out into the maelstrom to track down the visionary artist among the marauding T-Rex

What inspired such nightmare visions of York and the north in your paintings, Lincoln?

“During the late B-Movie era, the Cold War kept us in perpetual fear of extinction from nuclear Armageddon until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.

“Today we have growing similarities re-emerging due to the conflict in the Ukraine, which threatens to spill over into the wider world.  Through engagement with art, we can deal with these nightmares.

“Children confront and make sense of a dangerous world through stories and rhymes and are taught of danger through the safe spaces of literature and illustration, which deal with anecdote and myth.”

How does your art respond to that world?

“My artworks attempt to highlight these fears through a safe and comical lens. Juxtaposed with scenes of our storybook city, it’s not hard to imagine incredible things happening in this part of the world because they already have. 

“Walking through York’s streets and passageways, our past heritage resonates in the present. Popular with shoppers and scholars alike, high art co-exists with popular culture.”

How did this Grand Opera House exhibition come about?

“I was fortunate enough to be approached by Allie Long, who works for the Opera House. She invited me to exhibit. She has a collection of my work at home, and when the opportunity arose to fill the box office with artwork, she thought my work would be a good fit. On show is a collection of three large oil paintings from my Revelation exhibition that showed at Micklegate Social last May.”

Close Encounters, by Lincoln Lightfoot

Do you go to the theatre…or are you more of a movie man, given that your images have a cinematic quality?

“As a child I attended a lot of theatre productions. My dad was heavily involved in theatrical groups and my brother and I attended Stagecoach, where we would have drama, dance and singing lessons.

“It opened many doors for me and I had the opportunity to perform as one of the Snow Children in Carousel at the Darlington Hippodrome Theatre and did some smaller production too.

“Unfortunately, it failed to make any sort of long-term impact, but I do still enjoy going to the theatre. I would say that I’m probably more of a movie man, but this may be down to the accessibility and what can be achieved in film. I still really enjoy the theatre and intend to attend more.”

What exhibitions are coming up for you in 2023?  York Open Studios, perhaps?

“Yes, I’ll be taking part in York Open Studios 2023! This should be an opportunity for visitors to my studio, in Brunswick Street, to engage with some new large paintings!

“I’m hoping to have a large solo exhibition in the summer, which will debut a new series, alongside some old favourites and potentially some 3D pieces. I’m toying with a couple of venues but need a large space. Any one of the empty buildings in town would be amazing, so if anyone has any venue ideas, please get in touch via lincoln.lightfoot@hotmail.co.uk.

“I also have work exhibiting alongside two more York artists in The Arthouse [fellow artist Sharon McDonagh’s holiday let in a Victorian terraced house in Railway Terrace, Holgate, York].”

You are developing a new series of works created in oil on circular boards. What do you like about this design shape?  

“I’ve chosen to pursue creating circular pieces as initially this was something new and exciting that I haven’t attempted before. I feel that the circle has certain biblical connotations and hope that it will lend itself to a heightened sense of mystery.

Land Of The Lost, by Lincoln Lightfoot

“I’m even toying with the idea of incorporating gold leaf into those sickly yellow skies but am yet to experiment with this. A lot of these pieces will involve writhing tentacles and the circular shape should complement the rhythm created within.

“I initially came up with the idea when studying Caravaggio’s Medusa’. I’m hoping to replicate some of the style without the violence. Any violence would merely be suggested. I’m still hoping to suggest science-fiction comedy.

“I’ve fallen in love with the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea poster and now have the French version hanging in my bathroom. I’m sure this will inspire some of the imagery.”

How does the circular differ in impact from the rectangular? 

“The use of circular boards breaks away from the expected. You’re immediately dealing with different rules of composition. What is aesthetically pleasing in a rectangle may not be in a circle and vice versa, for example.”

Will the design influence the subject matter too?

“I’m intending to return to and improve a successful line of illustrations, which I’ve informally entitled the ‘It Came From…’ series. So, there’ll be some familiar ideas and imagery but hopefully executed in a more compelling way. There’ll also be some new ideas too.”

Under what title will you exhibit these new works?

“I’m hoping to show them under the title ‘Encircled’ (inspired, I know!) this summer. I do have a number of venues in mind. I love the space in the Den at Micklegate Social and feel it fits the vibe of my work extremely well.

“It may be that these circular pieces make their debuts as Encircled and that my entire collection is exhibited in a large gallery setting alongside illustration, large murals and 3D pieces.”

Lincoln Lightfoot is exhibiting in the Grand Opera House box office, in Cumberland Street, York, until May 31. The box office is open 90 minutes before each show.

NEWSFLASH: 20/4/2023

LINCOLN Lightfoot will present a 90-minute Grand Opera House Creative Learning artist talk and workshop on May 4 at 6pm. Tickets can be booked at: atgtickets.com/shows/artist-talk-and-workshop-with-lincoln-lightfoot/grand-opera-house-york/.

More Things To Do in York and beyond. Hutch’s List No. 2 for the road ahead in 2023, apocalyptic art et al, from The Press

John Ledger: Back To Normalism artist at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social

IT’S time for back-to-normal service to resume as Charles Hutchinson wipes the sleep from the eyes of his diary for 2023. 

Exhibition launch of the week: Back To Normalism, by John Ledger, Micklegate Social, Micklegate, and Fossgate Social, Fossgate, York, January 13 to March 13

ON the portentous Friday the 13th, the preview of Barnsley artist John Ledger’s solo show Back To Normalism begins at 7pm at Micklegate Social. 

Ledger looks at the uncanny reality that has unfolded since the pandemic started, along with the underlying weirdness of trying to patch up the black holes in our collective experience of time, in a show about cultures uprooted and disjointed by a series of disasters and distorted by the consequences of trying to repeatedly return to a “before” moment.

Baaaaaarrrrgggghhhhhhbican frustration! Ricky Gervais’s brace of Armageddon dates at York Barbican sold out in 27 minutes

Apocalypse very soon: Ricky Gervais, Armageddon, York Barbican, Tuesday and Wednesday 7.30pm precisely

ARMAGEDDON is not the end of the world as we know it but the name of grouchy comedian, actor, screenwriter, director, singer, podcaster and awards ceremony host Ricky Gervais’s new tour show.

Gervais, 61, will be torching “woke over-earnestness and the contradictions of modern political correctness while imagining how it all might end for our ‘one species of narcissistic ape’,” according to the Guardian review of his Manchester Apollo gig. Box office? Oh dear, you’re too late for Armageddon; both nights have sold out.

Chris Helme: Revisiting his days in The Seahorses

Love Is The Law unto himself: Chris Helme, solo Do It Yourself 25th Anniversary Tour, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 14, 8pm

YORK singer-songwriter Chris Helme is marking the 25th anniversary of The Seahorses’ only album, Do It Yourself, released on May 26 1997 in guitarist John Squire’s short-lived post-Stone Roses project with Helme and fellow York musician Stuart Fletcher on bass.

Recorded in North Hollywood, California, the album was pipped to the number one spot by Gary Barlow while debut single Love Is The Law reached number three. A further highlight of Helme’s solo acoustic set will be Love Me And Leave Me, Liam Gallagher’s first songwriting credit, no less. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

The Lonesome Ace Stringband: Turning bluegrass bluer and grassier at Selby Town Hall

Better late than never: The Lonesome Ace Stringband, Selby Town Hall, January 18, 8pm

RE-SCHEDULED from January 20 2022, The Lonesome Ace Stringband’s gig features righteous folk and country music, played by an old-time band with bluegrass chops and a feel for deep grooves.

Band members Chris Coole, banjo, John Showman, fiddle, and Max Heineman, bass, are three Canadians lost in the weird and wonderful traditional country music of the American South, having served their time in New Country Rehab, The David Francey Band, The Foggy Hogtown Boys and Fiver. Box office: 01757 708449 or selbytownhall.co.uk.

Robert Gammon: Relaxed concert of piano music at St Chad’s

Afternoon entertainment: Robert Gammon, Dementia Friendly Tea Concert, St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, York, January 19, 2.30pm

AT the first Dementia Friendly Tea Concert of 2023, pianist Robert Gammon plays J S Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B flat major from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2, Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B flat major K. 570 and Schubert’s serene Impromptu in A flat major, D. 935 No. 2. 

As usual, 45 minutes of music will be followed by tea and homemade cakes in the church hall. Next up will be University of York Students (violin and piano) on February 16. No charge, but donations welcome for church funds and Alzheimer’s charities.

Tales From Acorn Wood: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s stories take to the York Theatre Royal stage

Children’s show of the month: Tales From Acorn Wood, York Theatre Royal, January 26, 4pm; January 27, 11am and 2pm

NLP’s world premiere staging of Tales From Acorn Wood is based on favourite stories from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s lift-the flap books for pre-school children, featuring the sock-losing old Fox, the tired Rabbit, Postman Bear’s special surprise and Pig and Hen’s game of hide-and-seek.

Suitable for one-year-olds and upwards or anyone who loves books, this 50-minute touring show is full of songs, puppetry, projection and flap-lifting technology. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rob Auton: Getting mighty Crowded in his new stand-up show

Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton, The Crowd Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 24, 8pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, February 25, 7.30pm

CHARMINGLY eccentric, uplifting and poetic writer, comedian, actor and podcaster Rob Auton returns home to York on the 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour.

After his philosophical observations on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”. Box office: York, tickets.41monkgate.co.uk; Leeds, hydeparkbookclub.co.uk.

Stewart Lee: Three nights, fully booked already, at York Theatre Royal in March

Too late for tickets already: Stewart Lee, Basic Lee, York Theatre Royal, March 20 to 22, 7.30pm

AFTER filming last May’s three-night run of his Snowflake/Tornado double bill for broadcast on the BBC, spiky comedian Stewart Lee returns to York with his back-to-basics new show.

Following a decade of ground-breaking high-concept gigs involving overarched interlinked narratives, Lee enters the post-pandemic era in streamlined solo stand-up mode: one man, one microphone, and one microphone in the wings in case the one on stage breaks. Tickets update: Sold out, basically.

Hands up who’s starring in Heathers: The black comedy musical to die for is heading to the Grand Opera House

Too cool for school: Heathers The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, May 9 to 13

WELCOME to Westerberg High, where Veronica Sawyer is just another nobody dreaming of a better day. When she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers, however, her craving for popularity may finally come true, whereupon mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.

Winner of the What’sOnStage Award for Best New Musical, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s black comedy rock musical, based on the 1988 cult film, makes its York debut,  produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills, directed by Andy Fickman and choreographed by Gary Lloyd. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

John Ledger addresses the ‘most pressing issues of our time’ in Back To Normalism show at Fossgate and Mickelgate Social UPDATED with full interview 11/01/2023

Horrorsterity, 2022, by John Ledger

ON the portentous Friday the 13th, apocalyptic artist John Ledger will launch the preview of his Back To Normalism exhibition of drawings at Micklegate Social, Micklegate, York.

This solo show by the Barnsley provocateur addresses the theme of a time and culture that has been uprooted and disjointed by a series of crises and disasters, together with the distorting consequences of trying repeatedly to return to a “before” moment.

His latest works have come in response to Covid times, prompted by the saying “back to normal” becoming a rallying cry since the start of the pandemic as people craved a return to a life they recognised.

Exhibition curator Mike Stubbs says: “Back To Normalism looks at the uncanny reality that has unfolded ever since, and the underlying weirdness of trying to patch up the black holes in our collective experience of time.” 

On show at both Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social from next Friday to March 13, the exhibition assembles a collection of the South Yorkshireman’s works that spans the past 14 years, stretching back to the 2008 financial crisis, in order to explore Ledger’s depiction of a  culture that “feels increasingly stuck and detached from itself”.

“Back To Normalism explores the darkest concerns of our age, while inviting all viewers to contemplate how they felt as the world momentarily stopped in 2020, and to ask beyond the hustle and white noise of the present tense, what sort of world do you truthfully desire?” says Mike.

£$[We]€$[Can’t]$£[Take]£€[Any]$€[More!!]$£, 2016, by John Ledger

“The exhibition looks at a bigger picture: that since that Covid moment we have been lacking a unifying narrative that reflects the needs of the times and are trapped by the whims of defunct ideas.

“This stasis, on top of the pandemic, holds us powerless against an ongoing spate of crises, to which the default cultural cry of getting ´back to normal´ has begun to sound more warped.”

Ahead of his time as it now turns out, in 2012 Ledger participated in Pandemic York, a situationist art event that took place in the basement of Micklegate Social when it was operating as Bar Lane Studios, a community hub that provided studio space for York artists, as well as a gallery, pop-up shop, café and basement performance space.

Now named “the Den”, the basement has been presenting creative work since the end of the pandemic lockdowns. “This exhibition is the most ambitious yet, spanning both Micklegate and Fossgate Social venues and continuing to support emerging talent under the banner of Fotografic,” says Mike.

“John Ledger is an extraordinary artist who combines writing, montage, painting and drawing to create complex patterned works that comment on the most pressing issues of our time, most recently at Bloc Projects in Sheffield.

“For more than a decade, John has explored the interplay between politics, technology, addiction and mental health in contemporary society through his large-scale, chaotic-yet-meticulous drawings. We can’t wait for Back To Normalism to open.”

Back To Normalism artist John Ledger. Picture: Warren Draper

John Ledger back story

BORN in Barnsley, South Yorkshire in 1984, visual artist John’s work emerges from “lengthy autoethnographic and socio-political assessments”. Taking the form of large-scale drawings, maps or films, his practice is deeply informed by the post-industrial landscape and the post-historical culture that defined his formative years.

His work also looks at our relations to the “self” in late capitalism and an age of social media overload.

Since 2019, he has come to be acquainted with curator, director and filmmaker Mike Stubbs, creative producer at Doncaster Creates, and partner Sarah Lakin, from the Fossgate and Micklegate Social café bars in York, partaking in events for Artbomb in Doncaster.

John works with adults with learning disabilities in Sheffield and Rotherham, his job combining creative workshops with social day care. “The organising seeks to develop the confidence in social skills of those who attend through art and creative projects,” he says.

All Those Promises, 2022, by John Ledger

John Ledger discusses York’s first topical exhibition of the new year with CharlesHutchPress

How did this exhibition come about, John? Through Mike Stubbs?

“Yes, I was invited to exhibit at the The New Fringe space in Doncaster exactly three years ago. I met Mike around that point, as he was and still is very central to the Doncaster art scene, and after the Doncaster show he invited me to exhibit at the Micklegate Social.

“This was just before the pandemic, so the exhibition has had more or less had three years to develop into what is has become.”

You exhibited previously at this location in its Bar Lane Studios days in 2012. What do you recall of that show?

“It was for an inclusive, participatory event called Pandemic York: a sequel to another event held in Sheffield in 2011, right at the time of the Occupy movement that spread to cities like Sheffield.

“So, it was about art, politics and philosophy, but also about people having a good time, as it was trying to be a kind of ‘safe space’, although I’d never heard the term ‘safe space’ at that point.

“It’s a very, very hard event to locate on the internet now, though, because unfortunately the word ‘pandemic’ has a very different tone to it than it did ten years ago.”

How does the “post-industrial landscape” of Barnsley influence your work?

“That’s an interesting one. The pits had more or less gone by the time I was old enough to remember. I recall watching the Woolley Colliery be demolished with dynamite exactly 30 years ago; the area was like the surface of Mars until they built a housing estate on it.

“But this itself wasn’t a direct influence. It’s the complex social legacy that has influenced my work. The area I grew up in was next to the motorway and greenbelt, so it’s slowly become a commuter area, and dare I say, ‘middle class’.

“This has created a lot of complex feelings, as for me (and I have to be careful how I word this, because we Barnsley people are very protective over our town, which is understandable), there’s still a lot of pain here, but most noticeably in the town centre.

“I feel that I’ve been affected by it, and it’s certainly influenced my work, but the specific part of the town I am from has lost its past a little more easily – and that sometimes troubles me.

“This specific area backs onto the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I worked there in a front-of-house position for some years. Many visitors from further afield were perplexed when you told them the town in the horizon was Barnsley; they had an almost Dante-esque mental picture of the town, and were in disbelief by the reality, of how green it looks. But behind the greenery, there’s still the scars of the post-industrial legacy.”

Manifesto For The Just-About-Managing, 2017, by John Ledger

How did the “post-industrial culture” define your formative years?

“It did define them, but perhaps not in the expected way. As I was born in 1984, I came of age in the ’90s. As I child, the ’80s felt like this darkly lit, foreboding place, which you didn’t want to go back to.

“Partly down to improved family circumstances, the “newness” of the ’90s, the shopping centres, retail parks, made it feel like the future was going to a blissful place. At this age, I was glad the pits had gone, because it meant I didn’t have to go down them, and the culture of that time was telling me I could now be anything I want to be. The shackles of the past had been taken away.

“My thoughts and feelings on all of these things are vastly different now, but these feelings shaped a very important part of my life.

“But I was also a very sensitive child, and looking back on some of more unpleasant aspects of my childhood, such as bullying, or just the look and feel of some of the areas, it was a confused time. A lot of families were clearly damaged and dysfunctional from the breakdown of the previous work/life systems (the kind of families that largely can’t afford to live in this specific area anymore).

“It’s hard to separate these aspects as specific to towns like Barnsley, and aspects of growing up anywhere, but I’m certain there was residual trauma in these villages.”

What are “lengthy autoethnographic and socio-political assessments” and how do you turn them into artworks? 

“’Autoethnographic’ is a posh word, ha-ha, that I was encouraged to use at university because I found it next to impossible to write my dissertation and make work that wasn’t deeply involved with my own experiences and present struggles. It basically means writing as a social group/community, but one that you are also part of.

“My work is this as much as my own attempts to try to visually diagnose where we are, politically and socially. I’m trying to say, ‘this is how I see our world at the moment, but this is also me, my life, my struggles, at the moment’.”

What draws you to creating large-scale works? The bigger the artwork, the bigger the impact?

“Feelings of being overwhelmed. That I often feel small, and powerless. The rings that ripple around you as an individual right up to the global. I can rarely find ways of expressing this in smaller works.”

A Frog In Warming Water (Just A Myth…), 2008, by John Ledger

How do you use maps in your work and why?

“I’ve always loved maps. Particularly maps of human geography. Cities, etc. But in the past ten years, maps and methods of mapping have become part of my practice.

“This exhibition will feature some elements of this ten-year process of mapping, but after ten years I only just about feel like my mapping is working artistically. It’s taken a long time to make it visually work alongside my drawing/paintings. Although some people may say that the drawings/painting are a form of mapping in themselves.”

How do you use film in your work and why?

I’ve only come to use film in the past five years. I’ve found film a much more accessible medium when it comes to making work more explicitly about psychological/emotional battles.

“I fell out of love with drawing for a few years because it felt that the drawings were being too overtly read as political statements and nothing else. And I felt it was creating a picture of me as this ‘cocky leftie’ that I wasn’t.

“I’m quite an anxious person – that’s an understatement – and I’m not emotionally equipped for self-assured political posturing. I could never get ‘into’ politics in that boxing ring kind of way.

“Equally, I don’t judge others for their life choices (unless I feel under threat from them); most people (with obvious exceptions) are where they are because that’s what’s worked best for them in their own journey through life – and I don’t want people to feel that I’m saying ‘you’re wrong/bad’ etc.

“I make the artwork I do because it’s necessary on an emotional and existential level. For a few years, these dilemmas became very intense, and film was the best medium with which to express this.”

What is your “relation to the ‘self’ in our age of late-capitalism and social media overload”?

“As I child in the ’90s, the culture was beaming a message at us from all directions. Whether through ‘education, education, education!’ or Oasis lyrics, we were being told to ‘be yourself’.

“This equipped us to think in an individualistic manner but didn’t prepare us for how difficult it is to be authentic to yourself – how long it takes to work on yourself. A lot of the time it was just a phrase used to sell us things.

“Fast forward 25 years, and a mental health crisis is now seen as a normal thing. People are clearly so desperate to find themselves, and this is amplified as a message through social media. And it’s an intensifying feedback loop.

“I’ve found one of the most painful experiences of adult life is trying to find a self that can find its place in a world that is defined by having to ‘be something’, because being something, and being things, is crucial to finding work, finding where we’d like to live, and even things like dating.

“I felt a lot of shame in my 30s, as my friends ‘became’ things – careers and husbands, fathers etc – and I just couldn’t locate a self within our cultural constellation that I could become.

“A lot of expressed ‘negativity’ in my art is from an existential position of having not known how to be a self in the world; a lot of it has been a two fingers up to a world where I felt the pressure to ‘become’ but couldn’t find a way to do so. So, yes, my work is very deeply about selfhood in our current kind of society.”

Dead Ethics Hysteria, by John Ledger

Can you use social media in a good way?

“I use it a lot. Maybe slightly addicted. But, in all honesty, I don’t have a conclusive answer to that. It’s now so ingrained that it’s hard to imagine a reality without it. Would I like a reality without it? Maybe, I do sort of miss the days of blogging and buying newspapers. But yeah, I don’t have a confident answer on the matter.”

Are we in an even worse place than we were in 2008. when mired in a financial meltdown, and how does your work over the past 14 year reflect that?

“I’ve often been accused (or at least felt accused) of presenting an image of ‘reality’ that is actually just in my head. But any outlook of reality is going to be coloured by how the person presenting it is feeling, and those feelings are informed by concrete factors of reality.

“This question, at root, goes back to the time-immemorial debate about whether we ourselves control our destiny or whether external forces control it. I hope it’s evident that this has been an ongoing focus of concern in the work I make. 

“I feel like I needed to go there, before answering if I think January 2023 is worse than January 2008. There’s a work in this show from 2008, quite an important one. It very much belongs to the same family of landscape drawings I have been making ever since, yet from around 2013 onwards, my work began to get even darker.

“I’ve experienced the past ten years as a decade of increasingly heavy energy, although there have been moments of surprise that have momentarily brought different energies in.

“I would say that we, as a society in 2023, are in a dark place, although I’m not without hope in the knowledge that things can change unexpectedly. But are these my own feelings? Do they reflect only me, and how I feel, or is it a sense of reality shared by many? I think the only way to properly answer this is by asking the people who look at and engage with the work I make.” 

Whilst We Were All In The Eternal Now, 2014, by John Ledger

How does “a culture become stuck and detached from itself”?

“That’s a hard one to answer in a rush. I’ll try to identify a few symptoms and see if they correlate with the statement I made!

“Number one: I find increasing amounts of people, young and old, feel like time no longer moves with the same rhythm and continuity that it possibly did in, say, 2008, when we weren’t as dependent on social media and smart phones (although they were there, they were still partly novelty).

“In public space, I often feel haunted by music that still seems to be being played as if it is contemporary, but it’s not, it’s actually like 15 years old or something. This is partly because new music these days doesn’t command the dominance it got through TV and radio, pre-streaming days.

“But sometimes I feel like we’re still partly stuck in the 2000s, even the 1990s, and that this could be not just down to how this newer technology has altered the experience of everyday life, but because we feel happier there, because something about those times made more sense to us.

“I think there’s a real sense that nobody can make sense of all the things that are occurring in the world these days, and that this is reflected in a culture. I have to add a disclaimer that a lot of these ideas have been informed by the late writer Mark Fisher, who wrote a non-fiction book called Ghosts Of My Life, in which he said ‘the past keeps returning because the present cannot be remembered’.

“Number two: If we could identify our age as one stuck in a state of trying to get back to a ‘normal’, some aspects of life such as increased homelessness, food banks, really happening climate change, things that would have terrified us if they just emerged in their current state 15 years ago, have become ‘normalised’.

“We have grown used to things such as new upmarket bits of town centres coexisting with folk laying on the street, on the drug spice, looking like they’re dead, or climate change like we had last summer.

“This creates a dislocation within us. Humans always compartmentalise, and can disregard inconvenience, but what I’ve seen over the past decade has really worried me.

“And, look, I’m giving this answer in a trendy cafe right now, so I’m not judging anyone for wanting to go to nice places! And there’s nothing wrong with nice places to go, dressing nice, or any of that! It’s just this dislocation that seems to have occurred; it concerns me. 

“But equally, I admit I’m saying some pretty heavy stuff here, in responding to these questions. I don’t want to make people feel like they have to think all this kind of stuff to get my work! If people like the drawing for its own sake, and they enjoy the show, then that’s good…probably better than getting bogged down in all of this!” 

The Long Night Of A Needless Storm, 2015, by John Ledger

Graduating in 2019 as a ‘mature student’, how did your MA in Fine Art at the University of Leeds influence your work?  Did your work change? 

“I really enjoyed being back in a university environment and having that freedom again. It wasn’t all plain sailing; for a start, I encountered a lot of imposter syndrome, being around young, confident well-spoken students, because, as much as I know, in such esteemed environments, I felt intellectually clumsy with my flat-toned Yorkshire accent.

“And I started around the months of the #metoo moment (which, I’d argue, alongside Black Lives Matter have been some of the most important events of the past ten years). This, and the fact that culture is now very much invested in breaking down a more historically, white, male, heteronormative slant on the world, gave me a lot of deep self-reflection – some of it, admittedly, pretty unpleasant.

“But I think this is what made me, and my work, change during my Masters. I intellectually agreed with all the social justice stuff, but I needed to unpack why it was producing very pleasant feelings, while trying to understand why the university environment was giving me imposter syndrome, and it gave life to the film work I mentioned earlier.

“Film work allowed me to look at issues such as toxic masculinity, from a ‘lived in’ perspective, but certainly one that wasn’t endorsing these things, but looking at it as a social problem that leads to dangerous things like ‘incel’ culture.

“I created a fictionalised film based on personal experiences of mental health, isolation and societal expectations, but I twisted the story to talk about the black hole of radicalisation happening to lots of, specifically, men on the internet.

“This sounds all very bleak and heavy, but my time making this film at Leeds was one of the most enjoyable times of my life.”

How do you respond to the statement on a gallery poster: “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous”?

“That’s quite difficult to answer, but I think art allows people of all social groups to sit with ideas and concepts that would probably rub more problematically against the identities and beliefs if those same thoughts were delivered in, say, a twitter post, for example. 

“But, for me, art is a meeting place of many ideas; it’s rarely just saying one specific thing. And for me, that’s where its potency is. But that admittedly is more a definition of the type of work I make.”

Back To Normalism, 2021, the title work from John Ledger’s exhibition at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social

For Ai Weiwei’s exhibition The Liberty of Doubt, at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, last year, the Chinese artist and activist made badges and mugs that said: “Everything Is Art. Everything Is Politics”. Is it?

“I think it is…and isn’t. I think just as humans are able to hold contradictory beliefs simultaneously, we’re all capable of picking and choosing what is art and what is politics at any given moment. But yeah, it doesn’t disprove the statement.”

How would you sum up the work in the Back To Normalism exhibition? Is there really such a thing as “normal”?

“I don’t think there is a ‘normal’, but there is an almost shared mental picture of ‘normal’ that holds a collective/a society together. These aren’t my words (it’s kind of half taken from writer George Monbiot), but all societies function by a story, which, even if we are personally critical of it, it creates a cohesiveness that makes a society function.

“The premise of Back To Normalism is built on this idea that the functioning story we, at least in the UK, had until 2008 was one built by the narratives of both Thatcherism and New Labour, and whether you liked it or loathed it, it created a story that enabled a social cohesion for enough of that society.

“I believe that this stopped in 2008, but we went into an age of trying to return to pre-2008, through sticking plasters, and this has been most notable since after the pandemic.

“But I believe trying to get back to a normal, when the actual present situation has so vastly changed, creates a warped reality.”

In your latest blog on January 3 at johnledger1984.wordpress.com, you say, “I realise that at near-enough 40, I’m in a place I always prayed I’d never be in”. When you turn 40 next year, what will you seek to achieve in your art and life in the decade ahead. having been “on the run” in your 30s?

“I wish to find a more sustainable and healthy confluence with both art and life.”

But does an artist need to be restless, dissatisfied, troubled?

“I hope not, for my own future’s sake!”

How do you move on when consumed by a sense of failure?  Keep drawing?

“It does help sometimes. But you need friends too, and community, and sunny spring days that lift the gloom. I can easily go heavy into what my work is about, and sound like I don’t have any hope. But I do. I think if I lost all hope, I’d stop making art.”

John Ledger: Back To Normalism, on show at Micklegate and Fossgate Social, York, from January 13 to March 13. Friday’s 7pm preview will include a sonic performance by artist Adam Denton, in collaboration with John Ledger. Drinks will be served.

The poster for John Ledger’s Back To Normalism exhibition at Micklegate and Fossgate Social, York

Micklegate and Fossgate Social dig digital media in Foto/Grafic’s Human After All show

Flourish, by Bobbi Rae

TWO sister York bars that “show a bit of art every now and then championing local and innovative creativity” are present Foto/Grafic’s group show until November 27.

On show at Micklegate Social, Micklegate, and Fossgate Social, Fossgate, Human After All features digital-media artwork by fledgling artists in celebration of their “leap from physical earthbound creations to the stratosphere of the unlimited digital toolbox”.

The bars’ exhibition organiser, Guadalupe Gómez Montoya, says: “For this exhibition, we’ve brought together young graphic designers, film animators and digital artists in their early careers with distinct aesthetics but a similar way of creating their art.

Brain Storm, screen print, by Adam Pointer

“Even though the techniques might have developed and adapted to the type of culture we live in, we are still human: the themes, ideas and art we consume come from the same feelings, thoughts and people.”

Yorkshire “one-woman show” Bobbi Rae is a designer and maker who aims to bring joy to all ages. “You’ll usually find her drawing away in her studio, out painting a mural, or at one of the many independent art markets in and around Leeds,” says Guada. 
Bobbi studied textile design at Leeds University and worked in graphic design for a few years before graduating with a first-class MA in 2017. She has since worked with heaps of Yorkshire and national clients and presented her work at exhibitions around the UK. To find out more, head to portfolio.bobbirae.co.uk or visit her shop at bobbirae.co.uk.

Artwork by Ale Anguita in the Human After All exhibition

Artist and designer Adam Pointer lives and works in Newcastle, where his work takes a playful look inside the mind, “capturing the manic anxiety, shifting emotion and colourful chaos that lies within”. Dig deeper at adampointer.com or via Instagram, @adampointerart.

Ale Anguita, a Madrid animator now based in London, graduated in 2015 in Fine Arts at Madrid Complutense University and did an MA in Character Animation at Central St Martins, London, leading to work on several big projects, such as with the London Royal Opera House. Visit her on Instagram @alexanguita_art to discover what she is working on.

Aaron Whitaker, a designer, illustrator and photographer from the Endless Collective and a DJ to boot, likes to explore “the creatures that live under the rock of consciousness and out of time’s set momentum”. Check out his design artwork on Instagram at @northern_palm_trees and @endlessvisual.

Aaron Whitaker: Exhibiting in Foto/Grafic’s Human After All show

More Things To Do in York and beyond: The Mirror Crack’d and other cracking ideas. Hutch’s List No. 100, from The Press

On the case: Susie Blake’s bandaged Miss Marple and Oliver Boot’s Detective Inspector Craddock in the Original Theatre Company’s production of The Mirror Crack’d. Picture: Ali Wright

COINCIDING with Miss Marple’s arrival, Charles Hutchinson  applies his investigative skills to to pick out the best prospects to see, whether usual or unusual.  

Mystery of the week: Original Theatre Company in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday

SUSIE Blake’s Miss Marple, Sophie Ward and Joe McFadden lead the cast in Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1962 psychological thriller, a story of revenge and the dark secrets that we all hide.

In the sleepy village of St Mary Mead, a new housing estate is making villagers curious and fearful. Even stranger, a rich American film star has bought the Manor House. Cue a vicious murder; cue Jane Marple defying a sprained ankle to unravel a web of lies, tragedy and danger. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

On the move: Dance time for the Barbara Taylor School of Dancing at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Every body dance: It’s Dance Time 2022, Barbara Taylor School of Dancing, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

IT’S Dance Time is “a festival arrangement of dance, infused together to arrange a variety of dance styles”, featuring the whole Barbara Taylor School of Dancing intake.

From tiny toes to fully grown, this song-and- dance parade through the years takes in Commercial Ballet, Tap, and Freestyle Jazz, finishing off with excerpts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Bingham String Quartet: Playing the first Saturday evening concert of the new York Late Music season

Season launch of the week: York Late Music presents Jakob Fichert, today, 1pm, and Bingham String Quartet, today, 7.30pm, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York

ON the first weekend of its 2022-2023 season, York Late Music returns with its regular format of a lunchtime and evening concert. First up, pianist Jakob Fichert marks the 75th birthday of American composer John Adams by performing his works China Gates and American Berserk.

Later, the Bingham String Quartet play string quartets by Beethoven, Schnittke, LeFanu and Tippett, preceded by a talk at 6.45pm by Steve Bingham with a complimentary glass of wine or juice. Tickets: latemusic.org or on the door.

Graham Norton: Discussing his darkly comic new novel, Forever Home, at York Theatre Royal

Novel event of the week:  An Evening With Graham Norton, York Theatre Royal, Monday, 7.30pm

BBC broadcaster, Virgin Radio presenter and novelist Graham Norton is on a promotional tour for his new book, Forever Home, published this week by Coronet. Set in a small Irish town, it revolves around divorced teacher Carol, whose second chance of love brings her unexpected connection, a shared home and a sense of belonging in a darkly comic story of coping with life’s extraordinary challenges.

In conversation with author and presenter Konnie Huq, Norton will discuss the novel’s themes and how he creates his characters and atmospheric locations, share tales from his career and reveal what inspired him to pick up a pen and start writing, with room for audience questions too. Tickets update: sold out; for returns only, check yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Sax to the max: Jean Toussaint leads his quintet at the NCEM

Jazz gig of the week: Jean Toussaint Quintet, National Centre for Early Music, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

SAXOPHONIST Jean Toussaint, who came to prominence in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1982, after his Berklee College of Music studies in Boston, has released 12 albums since moving to London in 1987.

His latest, Songs For Sisters Brothers And Others, reflects on the turbulent Covid-19 years. “The pandemic caused me to focus on the fragility of life and the fact we’re here one moment and gone the next,” he says of penning songs as a “tribute to my wonderful siblings while they were still around to enjoy it”.

Joining him in York will be Freddie Gavita, trumpet, Jonathan Gee, piano, Conor Murray, bass, and Shane Forbes, drums. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Feel like dancing? Leo Sayer steps out at York Barbican on Friday

The rearranged show must go on: Leo Sayer, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

DELAYED by the pandemic, Leo Sayer’s York show now forms part of a 2022 tour to mark his 50th anniversary in pop.

Sayer, 74, who lives in Australia, is back on home soil with his not-so-one-man band to perform a setlist sure to feature  One Man Band, Thunder In My Heart, Moonlighting, I Can’t Stop Loving You, More Than I Can Say, Have You Ever Been In Love, When I Need You, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and, yes, The Show Must Go On. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Buzzing: Maisie Adam heads home for Harrogate Theatre gig. Picture: Matt Crockett

Homecoming of the week: Maisie Adam: Buzzed, Harrogate Theatre, October 8, 8pm

BORN in Pannal and former head girl at St Aidan’s in Harrogate, anecdotal stand-up Maisie Adam heads home next Saturday on her first full-scale British tour to discuss relationships, house plants, her footballing aplomb, hopefully her beloved Leeds United and that haircut, the one to rival David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane for multiple choices across one barnet.

Adam played her first gig at the Ilkley Literature Festival in 2016 and won the nationwide So You Think You’re Funny? Competition in 2017. Now she pops up on Mock The Week and Have I Got News and co-hosts the podcast That’s A First. She also plays Leeds City Varieties on Friday. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk; Leeds, 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Digging the digital: The poster for Foto/Grafic’s Human After All digital-media exhibition at Fossgate Social and Micklegate Social

One exhibition, two locations: Foto/Grafic, Human After All, at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, today until November 27.

TWO sister bars that “show a bit of art every now and then championing local and innovative creativity” present Foto/Grafic’s group show from this weekend.

Human After All features digital-media artwork by young and early-career artists in celebration of their “leap from physical earthbound creations to the stratosphere of the unlimited digital toolbox”.

December Morning, by Judy Burnett

Exhibition launch of the week outside York: Judy Burnett, Time And Tide, Morten Gallery, High Street, Old Town, Bridlington, today until November 13; open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm

YORK artist Judy Burnett’s latest show of paintings and collages at Morten Gallery winds its way across the Wolds from the River Ouse in York to the sea.

Over time, water in all its forms has created the East Yorkshire landscape, firstly as a melting glacier at the end of the Ice Age, gouging out deep valleys and folds on its way down to the Vale of York.

The River Ouse then connects with other Yorkshire waterways to spill out into the North Sea at the mouth of the Humber and return on the tide to crash onto the cliffs of the Wolds coastline.

Judy lives by the Ouse in York, with a view from her studio window directly onto the riverbank, leading to the changing effects of light on moving water being an inspiration for her work. The colours and rhythms of the water alter with the weather, the time of day, the seasons and the frequent floods.

This interest in the luminosity and movement of water is also reflected in Judy’s many paintings of the Yorkshire coast, most particularly at Flamborough Head and Bridlington.

During the past year, she has made many trips across the Wolds, observing the rich tapestry of the countryside that links the river to the sea.

Her sketches are completed on-site in varying weather conditions. Back in the studio, they are developed in a range of media, utilising hand-printed collage paper and paint. The aim is to keep all the mark-making fresh and spontaneous, to echo the power of the elements at the time of observation.

 A Meet The Artist event will be held on October 22, from 1pm to 3pm, when “you are welcome to join us for a glass of wine and to enjoy the 30 pieces of work, together with Judy’s sketchbooks on display,” says gallery owner Jenny Morten.

More Things To Do in York and beyond in search of algorithms, rhythm and a Snake. List No. 88, courtesy of The Press

Algorithm & blues: Coder and post-classical pianist Larkhall at Micklegate Social. Picture: Samuel White

GLASTONBURY? Out of sight, out of mind, out of pocket, Charles Hutchinson prefers to stay up north for arts and crafts aplenty.

Curioso gigs of the week: Larkhall, Micklegate Social, Micklegate, York, tonight, 8pm; Brudenell Piano Sessions, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Grand Theatre, tomorrow, 4pm

RECOMMENDED to Nils Frahm and Max Richter neo-classical devotees, Larkhall combines creative coding with beautiful post-classical piano pieces and makes algorithmically created visuals as he plays.

Larkhall is the performance alias of Minnesota mining town-born, Cambridge University-educated, Bath-based composer, coder and new-media artist Charlie Williams, whose intimate York show coincides with this week’s release of his third album, Say You’re With Me, with its theme of men’s mental health.

Can algorithms be art? Charlie reckons so. “My shows are an experience of algorithms creating beauty instead of, like, getting us to buy more stuff,” he says. Box office: larkhall.org.

Frankie Valli: Fronting The Four Seasons in one day at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Nostalgia of the week: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, tonight, gates, 6pm

THE Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys, chronicling the life and times of Frankie Valli and his New Jersey group, has brought so many songs to a new generation.

Cue Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Frankie playing Scarborough at 88 with The Four Seasons, performing Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, Let’s Hang On, My Eyes Adored You, Who Loves You, December, 1963 (Oh What A Night), Grease et al. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Leg up for comic effect: Thom Tuck and Dennis Herdman’s double act in The Play What I Wrote at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Play of the week: Birmingham Rep in The Play What I Wrote, York Theatre Royal, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Thursday, 2pm; Saturday, 2.30pm

WRITTEN by The Right Size comic coupling of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl in tandem with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern’s plays, The Play What I Wrote is both a dissection of double acts and a celebration of Morecambe and Wise.

Thom Wall insists on performing yet another of his hapless plays, an epic set in the French Revolution. Partner Dennis Hayward prefers to continue with their failing comedy duo instead, believing a tribute to Morecambe & Wise will restore Wall’s confidence. First, he needs to persuade a mystery guest to appear in the play what Thom wrote, with a different star for each show. Box office: 01904 623658 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Snake Davis: Saxophonist plays Cop’ Carnival’s debut jazz night on Tuesday

Community event of the week: Cop’ Carnival Day, Copmanthorpe Recreation Centre, Barons Crescent, York, July 2, 11.30am to 6pm

NOW in its 51st year, Cop’ Carnival Day retains its familiar format of dance troops, bands, traditional games and attractions next weekend. Tickets cost £5 in advance or £8 on the day.

In addition, Cop’ Carnival’s first jazz night, hosted with York Gin, presents An Evening With Snake Davis, saxophonist to the stars, on Tuesday at 7pm. Two nights later, the carnival’s comedy bill features Steve Royle, Tom Wrigglesworth, David Eagle and compere Alex Boardman from 8pm.

Throughout the festival, 30 artists are exhibiting at Copmanthorpe Methodist Church nightly from 7pm, admission free. Box office: copmanthorpecarnival.org.uk.

Strictly between them: Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice team up for Him & Me

Dance moves of the week: Anton & Giovanni, Him & Me, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

 STRICTLY Come Dancing judge Anton du Beke and 2021 champion professional Giovanni Pernice are joined by dancers and singers for Him & Me, a night when the Ballroom King meets the Jive Master. Expect dance, song, light-hearted fun and banter.

Both Strictly stars will be making their second York appearance of 2022; Anton & Erin’s Showtime played York Barbican in February; Giovanni’s This Is Me followed suit in March. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Fran, frankly: Fran Lebowitz’s evening of acerbic New York wit and astute observation at Grand Opera House

Social commentator of the week: An Evening With Fran Lebowitz, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

FRAN Lebowitz, New York purveyor of urban cool, cultural satirist and author, will be typically forthright and unapologetically opinionated in her dry-humoured social commentary on anything and everything, with a Q&A to boot.

After Pretend It’s A City, Lebowitz’s Netflix documentary series directed by filmmaker and friend Martin Scorsese, here comes her acerbic insights on gender, race, gay rights and the media, plus her pet peeves of celebrity culture, tourists, and baby strollers. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Who’d be a teacher? Sam Jackson’s Nick struggles with more than the paperwork in Foxglove Theatre’s The Brink

Shock of the new: Foxglove Theatre in The Brink, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm

IN Brad Birch’s darkly comic, explosive psychological thriller, history teacher Nick is a normal person, working a normal job, who lives a normal life, but he suffers a downward spiral fuelled by dreams and whispers of a bomb buried under the school.

“Thrilling, turbulent, unconventional, The Brink is an unwavering dive into dark and prominent subject matter, alien to the established York stage,” says Nathan Butler, director of new York company Foxglove Theatre. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Velma Celli’s poster artwork for A Brief History Of Drag

Spectacle of the week: Velma Celli in A Brief History Of Drag, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

YORK drag diva Velma Celli makes her Pocklington debut with A Brief History Of Drag, brandishing a triple threat of heavenly vocals, theatrical swagger and razor-sharp wit.

The creation of West End musical actor Ian Stroughair, Velma “celebrates the most iconic drag moments in film, stage and popular culture in the company of her voluptuous backing singers and breath-taking band”.

This electrifying cabaret embraces the songs and style of Queen, David Bowie, Boy George, Lady Gaga, Tina Turner and many more with panache and flamboyance. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Suzanne Vega: Booked into York Barbican for February 2023 concert

Big signings of the week for 2023: Suzanne Vega, York Barbican, February 22; Mike + The Mechanics, York Barbican, April 12

GLASTONBURY acoustic stage headliner Suzanne Vega will play York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of the New York folk singer-songwriter’s 14-date tour next year, with Luka, Marlene On The Wall and Tom’s Diner to the fore.

Mike + The Mechanics will return to York Barbican next spring on their Refueled! 2023 Tour, promising “all the hits and a drop of Genesis” – Mike Rutherford’s other band – plus songs from latest album Out Of The Blue. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

More Things To Do in and around York, from B-movie art attacks to silent Indian cinema. List No. 81, courtesy of The Press, York

Swapping New York for York: King Kong clambers onto York Minster in Lincoln Lightfoot’s exhibition, Revelation, at Fossgate Social and Micklegate Social

AS not only tourists and stag and hen parties invade York, but so do UFOs, dinosaurs, even King Kong, Charles Hutchinson plots an escape route to other delights.

Exhibition launch of the week: Lincoln Lightfoot’s Revelation, Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, today until July 7

SOUTH Bank surrealist Lincoln Lightfoot is letting his gloriously ridiculous B-movie nightmares loose on unsuspecting York at the Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social cafe bars from this weekend.

For two months, past meets present and a forewarned future both in retro art style and subject matter in Revelation, his humorously absurdist depictions of surreal encounters with beasts and creatures as they take over landmark locations.

On show in Micklegate Social from this evening’s 6pm to 10pm launch will be the first release of Lincoln’s larger, compelling paintings, 150 by 100cm in size, complemented by giclee prints of those new works at Fossgate Social. All works are for sale.

Spiffing chaps Morgan & West in Unbelievable Science at York Theatre Royal

Here comes the science bit: Morgan & West in Unbelievable Science, York Theatre Royal, today, 2pm

GREAT Yorkshire Fringe festival favourites Morgan & West return to York to present their new show Unbelievable Science, full of captivating chemistry, phenomenal physics and bonkers biology.

Spiffing chaps Rhys Morgan and Robert West combine their trademark showmanship and silliness from their decade of magic shows with genuine scientific knowledge and a lifelong love of learning to create a fun science extravaganza for all ages.

Fires, explosions, lightning on stage, optical illusions, mass audience experiments and 3D shadow puppets await all those “wily enough to come along to be intrigued by science”. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Howzat for cricket stories: Test Match Special chat with Tuffers & Agnew at York Barbican

Not just cricket: Test Match Special Live with Agnew & Tuffers, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

PHIL Tufnell and BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew take you inside the Beeb’s famous TMS commentary box to share memories from their playing careers and beyond the boundary.

What was it like facing Shane Warne in his prime? Which member of the TMS team never buys dinner? What really happened the night after the 2005 Ashes triumph? Enjoy never-before-seen footage of iconic commentary moments and discover what life is really like watching England from the finest seat in the house. Special guest will be TMS statistics guru and BBC Radio 4 comedy presenter Andy Zaltzman. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Badapple Theatre’s Jess Woodward, Robert Wade and Stephanie Hutchinson in Elephant Rock, part of the TakeOver festival at York Theatre Royal

Festival of the week: TakeOver, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday

THIS week-long arts festival is organised and run entirely by final-year York St John University students. Unveiling hidden worlds of the unspoken to curious minds of any age, the event combines local and personal stories with an exploration of the wider world through a combination of theatre, memory and art.

Among those taking part will be Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre performing artistic director Kate Bramley’s Elephant Rock on Tuesday at 7.30pm in their first Theatre Royal visit in a decade. For the full programme, go to yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Seeta Devi, one of the early stars of Indian silent cinema, in the role of Sunita in A Throw Dice

Film event of the week: Yorkshire Silent Film Festival presents A Throw Of Dice (PG), National Centre for Early Music, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

A THROW Of Dice, an Indian box-office hit from 1929, rivals Cecil B De Mille for screen spectacle in its lavishly romantic story of rival Indian kings – one good, one bad – who fall in love with the same woman.

Based on an episode from The Mahabarata and filmed in India with 10,000 extras, 1,000 horses, 50 elephants and an all-Indian cast, this silent classic will be accompanied by a live score, improvised by Indian pianist Utsav Lal. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Karen Ilsley, as Dorothy Nettle, and Stuart Leeming, as Jefferson Steel, in rehearsal for the Stockton Foresters’ production of A Bunch Of Amateurs

Play of the week: The Stockton Foresters in A Bunch Of Amateurs, Stockton on the Forest Village Hall, near York, May 12 to 14, 7.30pm

THE Stockton Foresters’ first full-scale production post-lockdown is Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s A Bunch Of Amateurs, the story of an amateur dramatic group’s determination to overcome all odds to stave off closure.

Written by two of the original Spitting Image writers, this fast-paced, sharp-edged comedy is performed frequently on the amateur circuit, on this occasion by Louisa Littler’s cast of Stuart Leeming, Karen Ilsley, Holly Smith, Russell Dowson, Jane Palmer, Peter Keen and Lynne Edwards. Box office: 01904 400583.

Shed Seven: Chasing winners and Chasing Rainbows at Doncaster Racecourse

Outdoor gig of the week: Shed Seven, Doncaster Racecourse Live After Racing, May 14

SHED Seven’s live-after-racing gig at Doncaster Racecourse will come under starter’s orders for a third time next Saturday after two false starts.

The York band’s outdoor Donny debut had to be scrapped twice, first booked for August 15 2020, then May 15 last spring, but each show was declared a non-runner under the Government’s pandemic lockdown restrictions.

To book, go to: doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on/music-live-featuring-shed-seven.

Sara Pascoe: Success Story tour will visit York and Harrogate

Tour announcement of the week: Sara Pascoe, Success Story, York Barbican, November 24; Harrogate Royal Hall, April 21 2023

AFTER contemplating the positive aspects of self-imposed celibacy in LadsLadsLads, Success Story finds comedian Sara Pascoe, a few years later, happily married with a beautiful baby son.

In her new show, she will examine what it is to be successful, how we define it and how it feels when what we want eludes us. Expect jokes about status, celebrities, plus Sara’s new fancy lifestyle versus infertility, her multiple therapists and career failures. Box office: York, yorkbarbican.co.uk; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk.

When an artist called Lincoln puts the fear of alien invasion and dinosaur destruction into York’s historic/hysterical streets

Swapping New York for York: King Kong climbs York Minster, by Lincoln Lightfoot

SOUTH Bank surrealist Lincoln Lightfoot is letting his gloriously ridiculous B-movie nightmares loose on unsuspecting York at the Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social cafe bars from this weekend.

For two months, past meets present and a forewarned future both in retro art style and subject matter in Revelation, his humorously absurdist depictions of surreal encounters with beasts and creatures as they take over landmark locations.

On show in Micklegate Social from Saturday’s 6pm to 10pm launch will be the first release of Lincoln’s larger, compelling paintings, 150 by 100cm in size, complemented by giclee prints of those new works at Fossgate Social. All works are for sale.

Born in Hartlepool in 1992, Lincoln developed his love of York, its heritage, buildings and culture, when studying Fine Art and Contemporary Practice at York St John University and first exhibited prints at Fossgate Social in 2018.

Now comes Revelation’s exploration of surreal happenings in compositions that echo the B-movie poster art of the 1950s and ’60s. “During that time, the Cold War kept us in perpetual fear of extinction from nuclear Armageddon until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc,” says Lincoln.

Isolation, by Lincoln Lightfoot

“Today we have growing similarities re-emerging due to the conflict in the Ukraine, which threatens to spill over into the wider world.”

Through engagement with art, we can deal with these nightmares, argues Lincoln, who says children confront and make sense of a dangerous world through stories and rhymes and are taught of danger through the safe spaces of literature and illustration that deal with anecdote and myth.

Revelation taps into our present condition of fear that news media and politicians perpetuate in our post Covid-19 world, suggests Lincoln. “This show, with its threatening visitations of beasts and creatures, attempts to highlight these fears through a safe and comical lens,” he says.

“Juxtaposed with local scenes of our story-book city, it’s not hard to imagine incredible things happening in this part of the world because they already have. Walking through York’s streets and passageways, our heritage resonates in the present. Popular with shoppers and scholars alike, high art co-exists with popular culture.”

Further work by Lincoln this year will see this 2021 and 2022 York Open Studios artist branching out to recognisable global locations as he pursues his passion for art full time after leaving his post as a secondary school head of art in County Durham.

Artist Lincoln Lightfoot at work on the day the aliens came to York

Here CharlesHutchPress discusses art, heritage, York, history’s yoke, night terrors and teaching with artist Lincoln Lightfoot.

Explain the Revelation exhibition title, Lincoln.

“Revelation is an appropriate title hinting at things supernatural. It’s no coincidence that it suggests happenings of biblical significance as it refers to the last book of the Bible and a second coming. It’s also apt as the word literally means ‘a revealing’.”

“Living with history” weighs heavy on York’s shoulders. In your case, you imagine the worst nightmare of living with that history, or living with forces other than tourists taking over the city, be they dinosaurs or aliens. Discuss….

“So many significant events have already taken place; one is in a perpetual state of anticipation as to what the next will be! After the massacre of Jews in Clifford’s Tower, war with Scots, sieges in the English Civil War, lightning striking the Minster on the eve of the ordination of a controversial bishop, York is expectant with ghost hunters and sci-fi buffs.

“In the present-day, it is becoming easier to distrust politicians, large company executives and the media. It seems to me that the world has become laughably money driven with hidden initiatives. When you can’t believe reality, it makes my artwork more relatable.”   

A bridge too far? Creature From The Bottom Of The Ouse, by Lincoln Lightfoot

Do you have night terrors or is there more of the B-movie humorist about your imagery and how you see life in York?

“I definitely find life amusing, I think in the hardest times it’s the best way to deal with it. I’m a big Monty Python fan. My work at degree level was described as ‘very Monty Python’. One of my favourite sketches has to be the crucifixion scene in The Life Of Brian. I would hope that my work can offer something similar in the way of humour.”

How has your own life influenced such a disposition?
“When I was 22, my aortic artery dissected in the gym due to a large aneurysm in the aortic arch. Fortunately, I don’t remember much of the initial incident and unbelievably awoke from an induced coma three days later.

“I now live with a pacemaker, metal heart valve and numerous aortic stints and grafts. Before this I was a healthy, athletic, basketball-playing young man and there is no clear diagnosis for my weak connective tissue.

“Following this incident, I find it incredibly difficult to get angry. I considered myself ‘the unluckiest luckiest man’. I conclude that life can be so laughably unbearable. Imagine living in one of my paintings or a terrible B-movie. I recall returning home from my stint in hospital and drowning under the weight of my duvet. I lay there laughing at myself. Can’t remember how it ended; I probably had to call for help once I stopped laughing.”    

“At such times of crisis when the population lives in fear, art mirrors these fears,” says Lincoln Lightfoot, creator of Minster UFO

Fear is ramping up. Covid. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Oppressive, 24-hour rolling media coverage and cynical, manipulative politicians play their part in spreading that fear. Cue your worst nightmare artworks. Discuss…

At such times of crisis when the population lives in fear, art mirrors these fears. A Cold War fear of nuclear Armageddon has now returned with Putin threatening to nuke us daily because of continuing support for the Ukrainians.

“When I was younger, I took no interest in the news. I was told by my father that ‘you need to take an interest in what is going on in the world! You are part of it after all’! I probably thought it was ‘boring’; these days I wonder if my generation is trying to make it more interesting and has turned to unbelievable plots lines, twists and unrealistic personalities.

“I question the stupidity of it all and then realise it is naive to believe that the world has never been this annoyingly worrying before. The work aims to echo the zeitgeist of our times.  

“From the Brothers Grimm to Disney movies, we are taught to deal with difficult real-life scenarios. My disbelief for current world events cushions my conscience. As touched on before, I hope that my artwork is a humorous release from the real world.

“I find it increasingly reminiscent of the creation of Godzilla in 1954. Godzilla being a Hollywood-whitewashed Hiroshima metaphor. The ‘King of Monsters!’ is a reminder of past atrocities in the hope that they are never to be repeated.” 

“I hope that my artwork is a humorous release from the real world,” says Lincoln Lightfoot. Fear not, York, here comes his vision of a city under Mars Attack.

What are the essential differences between your larger works and smaller pieces?

“My larger pieces allude to history painting as opposed to easel painting. Traditionally, history paintings have a greater importance not just due to their size, but the implied narratives they espouse too.

“I’m compelled by the work of John Martin and his romantic, large, biblical, end-of-the-world paintings. It is said that Victorian audiences would await viewing his works in anticipation like a modern audience about to view Roland Emmerich’s films 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow.

“Additional effects would be employed, lights of the gallery would flicker and ghastly thundering noises would be heard; this would trigger an emotive response from the audience, many releasing great gasps and screams.

“There’s also a link to his work in the exhibition title, Revelation, as many of his works depict frightening biblical and end-of-the-world scenes. 

“Generations now are disaffected by such static imagery. Applying comic relief ironically flips the emotive response and appeals to the emerging NFT [non-fungible token] culture.” 

“York isn’t just a pretty face. It has compelling history to accompany its looks,” says Lincoln, here depicting The Day Of The Dinosaurs as they tower over Northern Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral

What makes York such a wonderful city to depict in art?

“York is a picture-book city. Its beauty and architecture is reason enough to visit but don’t be fooled; York isn’t just a pretty face. It has compelling history to accompany its looks, whatever your favourite period in time.

“There is architecture from every age, stepping into an architectural time machine, from the lonely Roman column next to the Minster to the mediaeval Clifford’s Tower. Painting its complex architecture keeps you looking and the eye never tires at nuances of light and shadow raking across buttresses, ramparts, arches and chimneys.

“With banal street names such as Mad Alice Lane and Whipmawhopmagate, you can easily be left questioning whether or not this is a real place. One can see why the city has been captured by so many artists over the centuries.”

How would you describe York to someone who has never been here?

“If you are visiting the city for the first time, you can simply find your way into the centre by heading for York’s iconic Minster. A planning law means that no other structure can be built higher than this magnificent Gothic construction.

Lincoln Lightfoot’s poster artwork for his Revelation exhibition at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social

“The city is beautiful, yes, but it is unique and intricate. I’m bedazzled by the stone masonry, not only on York Minster but across the city too.

“Life can be stressful at times, but a walk amongst the elaborate architectural beauty forces you out of yourself.  Every venture into the city, one notices something new like a quaint passageway to hidden dwellings, or ornamentation such as gargoyles and unique roof features.

“Looking upwards, you discover perspectives that are surely wrong, such as bending verticals and sloping horizontals.

“As a student living in the city, I was over the moon to discover York’s many snickelways and to gain knowledge and mastery over the medieval street plan.  I would recommend a journey out in early morning or twilight as the light rakes across surfaces and there are not many people around. This is when the city is at its most expectant.”

Not York, but the other York, New York as Lincoln Lightfoot goes global in his B-movie visions for Damsel In Distress

What’s coming next for you beyond Revelation?

“At the moment I have a number of pieces in the pipeline that focus on more world-renowned landmarks. Once the current exhibition is under way, I intend to start another body of work in readiness for exhibition. I’m hoping to further develop my skills as a painter and also have some new exploits in the form of large-scale mural commissions.” 

You have followed your father – a school head of art & design – into teaching that very same subject, with considerable prowess, but you decided to leave your full-time teaching post at Easter. Why?

“I developed an inherent love for teaching having worked five consecutive summers at Brant Lake Camp in the Adirondacks. It has been a hard decision to make after teaching for eight years and leading the art, craft & design department for six of those.

“I concocted thrilling projects such as ‘Beware of the Plants’ and ‘Impossible Worlds’, and ran trips and workshops not only to educate but to fuel creative thought too. After developing key cognitive skills, I would encourage students to develop ideas and create on a large scale in a variety of exciting materials.

“I remember being told that I should stick to small-scale ‘secondary school art’ to make things easier. The pandemic took the wind out of my sails and I was forced to think creatively and had to leave a lot of the materiality behind.

Fallen Angel, as the anger of the north takes over, by Lincoln Lightfoot

“After reading a lot of Ken Robinson [director of the Arts in Schools Project], and with an ever-increasing love for my own subject, I became frustrated with the one-size-fits-all approach. The irony is that the leadership of and in schools isn’t in the hands of educators but merely business execs whose sole aim is to produce the best high-performing products.

“After much discussion with my fiancé, close friends and relatives, I’ve decided to focus on fully practising what I was preaching full time. Although I’m incredibly excited about changing my career path, I’m still worried and angered by the ever-increasing cuts to funding in art and design education.

“That’s paired with an overwhelming increase in mental and consequently physical health problems in the teaching profession and a mass feeling of under-appreciation, which was documented in recent Times Educational Supplements.”

Might you do some freelance teaching?

“I don’t think I will ever rule out a return to teaching if an exciting opportunity arises. In January, I was invited to Hempland Primary School, in Heworth, to deliver an artist talk and workshop to Year 4 students. It was great to see the students so excited by my unusual works of art.

“I incredibly enjoyed the event and the work produced by students was fantastic! In the past I’ve run adult classes, which I have also greatly enjoyed, and I always consider returning to Brant Lake Camp each summer, where my love for teaching began.” 

Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York, present Lincoln Lightfoot’s exhibition Revelation from May 7 to July 7. 

Paris meets its match: Le Blob consumes the Eiffel Tower, as forewarned by Lincoln Lightfoot

Come and see beauty in Chin We’s Nigerian portraits at Fossgate and Micklegate Social

Photographer Chin We at the launch of her Ife Nkili exhibition of Nigerian portraiture, running at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social, York. Pictures: Mike Stubbs

PHOTOGRAPHY and dance artist Chin We is the first beneficiary of Foto/Grafic At The Social, a new bi-monthly, dual-venue initiative for emerging talent in York.

 “At Fossgate Social, we’ve been supporting local artists for five years with monthly exhibitions, but we’d like to up our game and include our sister venue, the Micklegate Social,” says bar owner, general manager and urban designer Sarah Lakin.

 “To this end, we’re developing a programme of exhibitions of original artwork for display and sale.”

 Explaining her reasoning, Sarah says: “We live in a society drenched in imagery, but where can we find social spaces to connect and discuss what images are relevant and why?

Two of Chin We’s Nigerian portraits at Micklegate Social, York

 “There is no dedicated photographic gallery in York since Impressions moved to Bradford in 2007, but we hope to plug that gap with artwork that is strong and meaningful covering graphics, photography, print and electronic art.”

Noting how Micklegate is at present playing host to Chin We’s photos at Micklegate Social, Lesley Birch’s Marks & Moments at Partisan and Jonny Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers at FortyFive Vinyl Café, Sarah continues: “As York develops its contemporary visual art scene, the Social hopes to feed that cultural ecology, helping to raise the bar – pun  intended – and encourage cutting-edge contemporary work that explores new narratives, forms and politics.”

First into the spotlight is Chin We, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, who was born in Manchester and spent her formative years in Nsukka, eastern Nigeria, and her adolescence in London, where she started her photography through a lifestyle blog.

I found a creative outlet to share candid conversations on pop culture, art, fashion, travel, food, sex and lifestyle,” she says. “As the photography requests and referrals grew, I knew straightaway that my passion was photography. That was when I learnt that documentary photography was my calling and leapt fully into documentary photography in January 2018.”

The launch night of Chin We’s exhibition at Micklegate Social

Chin We is “fascinated by portraiture, capturing people’s essence and visual storytelling”, leading to her work exploring themes of identity, culture, representation and heritage.

At Fossgate Social and Micklegate Social, this is represented by her Ife Nkili photographs, Ife Nkili being a phrase from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria that means “Come and see; come and see beauty”. 

 Her series of portraits was captured during Chin We’s journey through Nigeria in West Africa; they speak to ideas of representation and identity through their unequivocal depiction of her sitters, spanning northern, south-western and south-eastern Nigeria.

Chin We’s photographic style is described as “direct, raw and unique in its all-embracing sweep, from different walks of life and social circles” as she documents her fellow men and women.

One of Chin We’s Nigerian portraits

“Some live as Christians, others are Muslims or pagans; some are urban socialites, others provincial farmers, traders, warriors and local chiefs,” says her exhibition briefing. “And, of course, there are queens and kings. These compelling portraits betray intimate expressions and tender exchanges. They invariably bring us closer to this diverse culture through their visual storytelling.” 

Chin We’s photography has been published widely and she was featured on CNN as a leading African woman photographer to follow. She was nominated for RPS 100 Heroines by the Royal Photographic Society and won an honourable mention award in the People-Portrait Category in the 2018 International Photography Awards. 

Later this year, the British Museum, in London, will present her new exhibition celebrating the presence of Nigerians in the UK, marking 60 years of Nigerian independence from Great Britain.

 Welcoming Chin We to York, Sarah says: “Still in her twenties, she is a young woman to watch and we’re privileged she has agreed to exhibit with us.

“Her black-and-white photographic portraiture is strong and meaningful; the portraits are direct and challenging, covering topics such as religion, class, work and child brides.

“Through presenting the work of Chin We, we want to increase the diversity of artists’ work, locally and further afield, and provide what we can for arts to gain greater exposure and engagement in a social setting.”

Chin We’s Ife Nkili exhibition runs at Micklegate Social, Micklegate, and Fossgate Social, Fossgate, York, until March 31.