Michaela Yearwood-Dan brings flower power 2024 style to York Art Gallery for National Treasures: Monet in York

Artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan, on her 30th birthday, stands between her Una Sinfonia works Ready,Steady, GO! (Spring) and The Girls Take Their Places (Summer) at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham. The works are the copyright of Michaela Yearwood-Dan, courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen

WHERE better for internationally acclaimed artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan to spend her 30th birthday than at the launch of her commissioned contribution to National Treasures: Monet in York at York Art Gallery.

On show until September 8, Una Sinfonia is Londoner Michaela’s response to French Impressionist Claude Monet’s 1899 masterpiece The Water-Lily Pond, the centrepiece of one of 12 exhibitions nationwide to mark the National Gallery’s bicentenary – and the only one in Yorkshire.

“Being commissioned to make this new body of work in response to Monet’s legacy – and The Water-Lily Pond in particular – is a huge honour as an artist and former and forever student of painting,” said Michaela when her commission was announced.

“Having the opportunity as an artist from my varied list of demographics to be introduced into a conversation around this work of one of the world’s most historically significant European artists is an enormous milestone, and one I could not have imagined at this stage in my career.

“Taking inspiration from the way Monet formulated his bodies of work, I am very pleased with how this new series, ‘Una Sinfonia’, has turned out.”

Moving freely between oils, acrylics, pastels, beads, glitter, ceramic petals, floral and botanical motifs and text, Una Sinfonia comprises nine new lush, richly textured works. Four large pieces, one for each season, are complemented by five paper works, influenced by Japanese prints, now sharing gallery space with such artists as Roy Lichtenstein and Utagawa Hiroshige, as well as Monet’s radical, influential painting from the National Gallery collection.

“The way I work and how I work, the movement in the pieces, you can ‘see’ the musicality in that,” says Michaela Yearwood-Dan

Explaining the Italian title of Una Sinfonia, Michaela says: “I love Italy; I don’t necessarily love Italian politics, but it’s a gorgeous place, and when I think of plein-air painting, I think of Italy.

“Two years ago, I was in Brescia for six weeks at Palazzo Monti, living in this palazzo, able to walk around the streets and go to the churches, and it was a joy.”

As the title would indicate, music was an influence too on her abstract works. “The way I work and how I work, the movement in the pieces, you can ‘see’ the musicality in that,” says Michaela.

“There are pieces of music that make me want to paint,” she adds, before recalling her musical upbringing. “At school I was in the orchestra and choir and did Saturday morning sessions till I was 15 – and then became a teenager and developed ‘teenage shame’.

“So theatre and music have always been important to me – and Italian culture lends itself to that.”

The Girls Take Their Places, 2024, oil, beads and ceramic on canvas, by Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Copyright of Michaela Yearwood-Dan, courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen

She was inspired too by Monet’s love of painting a subject in each season and his fascination with the changing quality of light in those seasons. “I was thinking about seasons and how symphonies are split into sections, and then thought of the music that maybe Monet would be listening to,” she says.

Michaela favours R&B, neo-soul, lo-fi, indie rock, as well as classical music. “There’s rarely a moment or situation in my studio, from the moment I walk in, when I’m not playing something, if not music, podcasts,” she says. “I tend to listen to podcasts when I’m doing more the more intimate works, like the paper works.”

Michaela, who paints in the studio from her photographic studies in the open air, has always loved flowers. “My mum [who lives in Leeds] has a folder from when I was a child, when I used to draw flowers a lot. It’s the physical form I love,” she says.

“But when you go into the art education system, you’re told to abandon simple things, but there’s something nice about using something simple. Flowers are beautiful to look at; they represent life, a short life span; they represent mortality.

“They have political connotations too: we wear flowers to remember fallen soldiers and to recall conflicts. So flowers have always felt an interesting subject matter.”

Consequently, Michaela’s “visual language” draws on such influences as Blackness, queerness, femininity, healing rituals and carnival culture (from childhood days in both London and Chapeltown, Leeds).

Recalling the early works of David Hockney, verbal language is important to Michaela’s works too, not only in the titles but also the use of phrases in several paintings and even messages on notepaper.

Everything’s gone green: Journalist Charles Hutchinson and artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan with her spring work, Ready,Steady, GO!, from Una Sinfonia. Artwork copyright of Michaela Yearwood-Dan, courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen

“I grew up with a dad who always took notes in a notebook,” she says. “The mobile phone has been a great development in technology, so if I have an interesting conversation or hear lyrics I like, I can write things down.

“The text I use in my paintings is always revealing or concealing because my works have a diaristic element.”

Michaela’s preference is for the viewer to “take in the movement, the colours, first, and only then look at the title and the text and take it all in”. A case in point is one of the paper works. Its title? Be My Protector. That sets you thinking, but even more so when you read the wording down the left-hand side: “It’s Too Hard To Think About What Happened”. Twice over, the response changes beyond reaction to shape, texture and colour. “It annoys me when many artists leave large works untitled,” she says.

“I like art to ask questions, for a work to have a conversation with itself, to ask a question, answer a question, ask another question. It’s nice for people to say, ‘I like this painting, and this is the reason’, but it’s always good to be questioning.”

Michaela, who names spring and autumn as her favourite seasons, reflects on what first drew her to Monet’s joy in nature. “His paintings clearly have a positive feeling, which is my favourite feeling that people get from a painting,” she says. Bang on the Monet, Michaela.

National Treasures: Monet in York – The Water-Lily Pond, in full bloom at York Art Gallery until September 8. Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

More Things To Do in York and beyond when Monet…that’s what you want. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 20, from The Press, York

Florally attired York Art Gallery senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram stands by Claude Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond, on loan from the National Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

NATURE in full bloom, hothoused Shakespeare, blossoming student creativity and teenage blues put the colour in Charles Hutchinson’s cheeks for warmer days ahead.

Exhibition of the summer: National Treasures: Monet In York: The Water-Lily Pond, York Art Gallery, in bloom until September 8

FRENCH Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s 1899 work, The Water-Lily Pond, forms the York centrepiece and trigger point for the National Gallery’s bicentenary celebrations in tandem with York Art Gallery. 

On show are key loans from regional and national institutions alongside York Art Gallery collection works and a large-scale commission by contemporary artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Una Sinfonia. Monet’s canvas is explored in the context of 19th-century French open-air painting, pictures by his early mentors and the Japanese prints that transformed his practice and beloved gardens in Giverny. Tickets: yorkartgallery.org.uk.

Stewart Dylan-Campbell’s Rob, left, and Aiden Kane’s Marc in Qweerdog Theatre’s Jump, playing Rise@Bluebird Bakery tomorrow

Relationship drama of the week: Qweerdog Theatre in Jump, at Rise@Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, tomorrow (12/5/2024), 8.30pm; doors 7.30pm

DEVELOPED through Manchester company Qweerdog’s LGBTQ+ writing project, Nick Maynard’s dark comedy takes an unusual look at contemporary gay life, exploring the possibility of relationships and how they are not always the way we imagine.

Directed by West End director Scott Le Crass, Jump depicts the lives, love lives and past lives of two lost souls drawn to a canal one night. As the weary, embittered Rob (Stewart Dylan-Campbell) contemplates the lure of the water, a handsome young man, the “chopsy” Marc (Aiden Kane), engages him in conversation. So begins a strange and fractious relationship that might just prove beneficial to them both. Box office: bluebirdbakery.co.uk/rise.

Paloma Faith: “Celebrating taking responsibility for your own happiness” at York Barbican tomorrow

Recommended but sold out already: Paloma Faith, York Barbican, tomorrow, 8pm; Katherine Priddy, The Crescent, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

STOKE Newington soul tour de force Paloma Faith showcases her sixth studio album, February’s deeply personal The Glorification Of Sadness, her “celebration of finding your way back after leaving a long-term relationship, being empowered even in your failures and taking responsibility for your own happiness”.

Birmingham folk singer and guitarist Katherine Priddy will be promoting second album The Pendulum Swing, released on Cooking Vinyl in February.  For the first time, her 14-date May tour finds her performing in a trio, joined by Harry Fausing Smith (strings) and support act George Boomsma (electric guitar).

Hollie McNish: Performing at the TakeOver festival at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Kat Gollock

Festival of the week: TakeOver – In The Limelight, York Theatre Royal, May 13 to 18

IN this annual collaboration between York Theatre Royal and York St John University, third-year drama students are put in charge of the theatre and programming its events for a week, with support and mentoring from professionals. 

Among those events will be writer Hollie McNish, reading from her latest book, Lobster And Other Things I’m Learning To Love (Thursday, 7.30pm), dance troupe Verve: Triple Bill (next Saturday, 7.30pm) and multiple shows by York St John students. For the full programme, head to: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/be-part-of-it/children-and-young-people/takeover/. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Gray O’Brien’s Juror 10, left, and Michael Greco’s Juror 7 in the 70th anniversary production of Twelve Angry Men. Picture: Jack Merriman

Jury service: Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House, York, May 13 to 18, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

IN its 70th anniversary touring production, Reginald Rose’s knife-edge courtroom thriller Twelve Angry Men resonates with today’s audiences with its intricately crafted study of human nature. Within the confines of the jury deliberating room, 12 men hold the fate of a young delinquent, accused of killing his father, in their hands. 

What looks an open-and-shut case soon becomes a dilemma, wherein Rose examines the art of persuasion as the jurors are forced to examine their own self-image, personalities, experiences and prejudices. Tristan Gemmill, Michael Greco, Jason Merrells, Gray O’Brien and Gary Webster feature in Christopher Haydon’s cast. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Steven Arran: Directing Shakespeare’s Speakeasy’s debut play in a day in York at Theatre@41, Monkgate

York debut of the week: Shakespeare’s Speakeasy, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

SHAKESPEARE’S Speakeasy is heading from Newcastle to York for the first time, making its Theatre@41 debut under the directorship of Steven Arran. “It’s Shakespeare, but it’s secret,” he says. “Can a group of strangers successfully stage a Shakespearean play in a day? Shakespeare’s Speakeasy is the place for you to find out.”

After learning lines over the past four weeks, the cast featuring the likes of Claire Morley, Esther Irving and Ian Giles meets for the first time on Thursday morning to rehearse an irreverent, entertaining take on one of Bill’s best-known plays, culminating in a public performance. Which one? “Like all good Speakeasys, that’s a secret,” says Arran. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Toby Lee: Blues prodigy heads to the Fulford Arms next Saturday

Blues gig of the week: Toby Lee, Fulford Arms, York, May 18, 7.30pm

BLUES rock prodigy Toby Lee, the 19-year-old Oxfordshire guitarist and singer, will be playing 100 showshome and abroad this year, 40 of them his own headline gigs, 60 as a special guest of boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holand and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

The 2023 Young Blues Musician of the Year learned his trade playing Zack Mooneyham in the first West End production of School Of Rock and has since shared stages with his hero Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Peter Frampton and Slash. First up, Fulford Arms next Saturday, then come Jools engagements at York Barbican on December 1 and Leeds First Direct Arena on December 20. Box office: ticketweb.uk/event/toby-lee-the-fulford-arms-tickets/13366163.

Her name is Del Rio: And she lives for stand-up comedy as drag queen Bianca feels Dead Inside on York-bound world tour

Gig announcement of the week: Bianca Del Rio, Dead Inside, York Barbican, September 18

COMEDY drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race champion Bianca Del Rio heads to York on her 11-date stand-up tour. Up for irreverent discussion will be politics, pop culture, political correctness, current events, cancel culture and everyday life, as observed through the eyes of a “clown in the gown”, who will be “coming out of my crypt and hitting the road again to remind everyone that I’m still dead inside”. Tickets go on sale on Tuesday at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

York Art Gallery to show Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond as part of National Gallery’s National Treasures bicentenary project

The Water-Lily Pond, oil on canvas, by Claude Monet, 1899. Copyright: National Gallery

CLAUDE Monet’s masterpiece The Water-Lily Pond will go on show at York Art Gallery from May 10, marking the National Gallery’s 200th anniversary that day.

Acquired in 1927, this famous 1899 work by the Impressionist movement leading light will be the fulcrum of a major new exhibition in York as one of 12 partners participating in National Treasures, a nationwide celebration of the National Gallery’s collection.

What’s more, York Art Gallery has been selected as the only Yorkshire gallery to host a masterpiece, the nearest fellow participants being the Laing Art Gallery, in Newcastle, and Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.

The National Gallery’s National Treasures: Monet In York exhibition will bring together key loans from regional and national institutions alongside works from the York Art Gallery collection and a large-scale commission by South London-born contemporary artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan, comprised of four works.

Monet’s canvas will be explored in the context of 19th-century French plein-air painting, pictures by his early mentors and the Japanese prints that transformed his practice and beloved gardens in Giverny, on the bank of the River Seine in Normandy, northern France, where Monet lived and worked from 1883 until his death in 1926.

By displaying canvases by the contemporaries he inspired, as well as more modern artworks and a new commission, the exhibition will reveal how Monet’s radical approach to painting had, and continues to have, an enduring influence on artists.

In 1893, Monet bought a plot of land next to his house in Giverny. He had already planted a colourful flower garden, but now he wanted to create a water garden “both for the pleasure of the eye and for the purpose of having subjects to paint”.

Whereupon he enlarged the existing pond, filling it with exotic new hybrid water lilies, and built a bridge at one end, inspired by examples seen in Japanese prints.

The water garden became the main obsession of Monet’s later career, 1899’s The Water Lily-Pond being among his earlier canvases on this theme.

“Our exhibition will celebrate the enjoyment of nature, landscapes and gardens, and connect indoor and outdoor spaces,” says York Art Gallery senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram

Dr Beatrice Bertram, senior curator at York Art Gallery, says: “We are delighted to be hosting this beautiful and much-loved painting by Monet as part of the National Gallery’s bicentenary events.

“Taking our cue from the artist’s lush canvas, our exhibition will explore open-air painting, celebrate the enjoyment of nature, landscapes and gardens, and connect indoor and outdoor spaces.”

To complement the works indoors, Monet’s painting has inspired York Art Gallery to plant a wildflower meadow in the gardens nearby.

“We’ll be encouraging audiences to get creative and engage in open-air sketching,” says Beatrice. “We can’t wait to welcome visitors to York to see the painting and exhibition for themselves.”

National Treasures is a key strand of the National Gallery’s bicentenary programme. Each partner venue will receive a masterpiece from the gallery collection and curate around that work in a process of interpretation, community engagement and events or exhibitions.

For the duration of the displays, 35 million people – more than half the British population – will be within an hour’s journey of a National Gallery masterpiece.

The opening of National Treasures around the United Kingdom will kickstart a year of bicentenary celebrations, where three strands of activities will showcase the National Gallery: across the nation; to the community in Trafalgar Square; and to virtual visitors around the world.

The ambitious programme will showcase the breadth of skill and creativity in the UK cultural sector, being as much about looking ahead to the National Gallery’s next 200 years as it is about celebrating its past. Those celebrations will conclude in May 2025 with the opening of the new Sainsbury Wing developments in Trafalgar Square.

Alexandra Kavanagh, the National Gallery’s head of national touring exhibitions, says: “As the National Gallery marks its third century of bringing people and paintings together, we are thrilled to be sharing 12 of our greatest masterpieces with museums across the UK.

“We’re delighted to be working with such a dynamic partner with a brilliant collection of their own in York Art Gallery. The new contexts in which visitors will get to see The Water-Lily Pond, thanks to contemporary response and the context of a museum garden, is exactly what we hoped National Treasures would help to spark as a programme.”

The Girls Take Their Places, oil on canvas, ceramic petals, by Michaela Yearwood-Dan, 2024. Copyright: Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Courtesy of: The artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. Picture: Deniz Guzel

The 12 galleries taking part in the National Gallery’s National Treasures programme are:

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, exhibiting The Wilton Diptych (about 1395-9).

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Self Portrait at the Age of 34 (1640), Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, The Hay Wain (1821), John Constable (1776-1837).

The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Venus and Mars (about 1485), Sandro Botticelli (about 1445-1510).

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (about 1615-17), Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1654 or later).

Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, The Fighting Temeraire (1839), Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851).

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, The Umbrellas (about 1881-6), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).

National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, The Stonemason’s Yard (about 1725), Canaletto (1697-1768).

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, A Young Woman standing at a Virginal (about 1670-2), Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675).

Ulster Museum, Belfast, The Supper at Emmaus (1601), Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610).

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, The Rokeby Venus (1647-51), Diego Velázquez (1599-1660).

York Art Gallery, The Water-Lily Pond (1899), Claude Monet (1840-1926).

The Girls Take Their Places, oil on canvas, ceramic petals, detail, by Michaela Yearwood-Dan, 2024. Copyright: Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Courtesy of: The artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. Picture: Deniz Guzel

Michaela Yearwood-Dan: the back story

Born: 1994, South London.

Lives in: Leyton, London.

Education:  University of Creative Arts, Epsom; B.A. in fine art painting from University of Brighton, graduating in 2016.

Modus operandi: Her paintings, works on paper, ceramics and site-specific mural and sound installations endeavour to build spaces of queer community, abundance and joy.

Raison d’etre: “To explore possibilities of creating spaces—physical, pastoral, metaphorical — that allow for unlimited and unbounded ways of being”.

Influences: Blackness, queerness, femininity, healing ritual and carnival culture.

Style: Lush, bright, personal yet political.

First American solo show: Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, 2021.

Work shown at:  Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona; Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, Texas; Palazzo Monti, Brescia, Italy; Museum of Contemporary African Art, Marrakesh, Morocco.

Works in permanent collections at: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, Florida; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; Jorge M. Perez Collection, Miami, Florida; Columbus Museum of Art and Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, Ohio.

2022 landmark: Produced her first public mural installation for Queercircle, London.

Did you know? Collaborated with author Margaret Atwood for a cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

Follow her on Instagram at: @artistandgal.

National Gallery’s National Treasures: Monet In York, The Water-Lily Pond (1899) will be on show at York Art Gallery, Exhibition Square, York,  from May 10 to September 8 2024. Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. For more information, go to: www.yorkartgallery.org.uk.

Mark Thomas isn’t mucking about as he puts the need for change in black and white

No hidden meanings: Everything is in black and white in Mark Thomas’s new show. Picture: Tony Pletts

MARK Thomas, the grouchy godfather of British political comedy, is taking down politicians, mucking about, offering new ideas and finding hope in his new tour show, Black And White.

At Leeds City Varieties Music Hall tomorrow night (3/11/2022) and The Crescent, York, on Tuesday, he asks: How did we get here? What are we going to do about it? Who’s up for a sing-song?

“After lockdowns and isolation, this is a show about the simple act of being in a room together and toppling international capitalism,” says Londoner Mark, veteran alternative comedian, television and radio presenter, satirist, journalist and purveyor of political stunts on Channel 4’s The Mark Thomas Comedy Product.

He is heading out on the road after this summer’s sold-out Edinburgh Fringe run at The Stand Comedy Club elicited such reviews as: “seething, righteous and largely evidenced anger”… “incandescent critique of UK and world politics”… “his ire is something to behold”.

Here comes doubting Thomas, putting everything in Black And White in a turbulent world, but why give the tour that tagline? “Because it matches the tour poster!” he reasons. “A mate of mine took the photo, and then an artist called Tracey Mobley put it through a computer that turned it into a drawing. It looked amazing!

“So, when they said you need a name for the show – where I’m just going to muck about – I thought, let’s call it ‘Black And White’. But if you want to go for an ideological understanding of it, I guess it’s got to the point where it’s all of us against the one per cent, where this economic Ponzi scheme isn’t working for us and it’s got to change.”

Mark is up and running now. “Liz Truss espoused the free market, as a willing supporter of the Tufton Street think tanks, which means big responsibilities for human beings, but no responsibilities for businesses. Now she’s gone, Sunak is in, but it’s not even a U-turn.

“It’s like, ‘how much s**t do you want to take? 100 per cent or 99 per cent?’, then 99 per cent is what it will be. What communities need to do is build up resistance.”

How, Mark? “I wouldn’t want to tell people how to do it because they’re the ones doing it,” he says. “There are loads of people doling stuff. Some are doing food banks. There’s a brilliant centre in Sheffield that helps asylum seekers and refugees, The Sanctuary.

“They do English classes, IT classes, help with legal matters, as well as hot meals and advice. It’s a fantastic place just doing its best to help the community.

The poster image of Mark Thomas that prompted his tour title, Black And White

“Then there are community pubs. They’re the things that’ll keep going. That’s the kind of stuff I love, that really excites me. Like my football club, AFC Wimbledon, winning the community club of the year award, making sure it’s embedded in the club. Trade unions, communities, that’s what we have to support.”

In past shows, Mark has discussed visiting the West Bank and Jenin; lobbying Parliament; walking in the footsteps of the highest NHS officials; playing at the Royal Opera House; “making stuff” for TV, radio and newspapers and going undercover.

Black And White promises “creative fun”, or mucking about, if you prefer. “My favourite playwright is Bertolt Brecht, dear old Bertolt Brecht [the 20th century German theatre practitioner, playwright and poet]. I went to his house…he wasn’t in,” says Mark.

“What was fascinating about him, I remember seeing his play The Caucasian Chalk Circle at 15, and it changed my mind, which is one of the cornerstones of theatre, that you can go to a show and have your mind changed.

“Brecht always talked about creative fun, creative dissent, like those climate protestors throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting at the National Gallery. The point being that people were really, really shocked by it, and it was only afterwards that they realised nothing was destroyed.

“It led to more thinking about how we need to have discussions about climate change, how we discuss it and how we may bring about change. In 100 years, no-one will remember a petition, but they will remember dangerous and creative acts because that’s the stuff that’s genuinely upsetting.

”Look at the Suffragettes. They burnt buildings, smashed windows, went on hunger strike. It was a mass movement with masses of acts of defiance. Women were being force-fed when they were on hunger strike. They brought about change.”

What new ideas for change is Mark proposing. “Nationalising the banks,” he says off the cuff. Unlikely, surely? “It doesn’t matter if it’s likely now. It’s about starting the conversation and then it might become reality,” Mark asserts.

“We need to have much more devolved power, given to communities. Proportional representation. Voting at 16. Why shouldn’t someone of 16 have the right to vote? Politics and history are the things that give people agency.”

Mark Thomas: Putting forward new ideas and finding hope in his new comedy tour de force. Picture: Tony Pletts

Where might we find hope, Mark? “Hope is a precious commodity, but there’s a difference between optimism and hope. Just don’t give me false optimism,” he says. “Defiance is the bedrock of hope.

“If you destroy a statue, you can get ten years in jail. That means a statue has more rights of protection than women. That’s nuts.”

Mark is on a roll again. “I voted Remain for one reason, and that’s because I thought a vote for Leave would increase racism and I won’t vote for that,” he says. “But once the vote has happened, that’s the vote, that’s it. Now we need to have a conversation about Brexit, how it’s working out , and what we might do about it in the future.

“Now everyone is feeling the pinch of stagnation and austerity, but all Brexiteers will stand up to say is they’re for sovereignty.

“I hope what we’re going through is the high water mark and this is our time for change. It might not be the high water mark, but one thing is for sure: I love that Bob Crow quote: ‘If you fight, you won’t always win, but if you don’t fight, you will always lose’.”

That fighting spirit permeates through Black And White: “The show is about being rude,” says Mark. “Shouting, mucking about, looking at what communities can do, celebrating us and defiance.”

As ever, Mark Thomas promises “I’ll be around, I’ll help” with his political ire, his zeal for change. How will he mark turning 60 on April 11 next year. “I’ll get my London bus pass and go on the longest route I can,” he says.  

Mark Thomas: Black And White, Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, tomorrow, 8pm; The Crescent, York, November 8, 8pm; King’s Hall and Winter Gardens, Ilkley, November 9, 8pm. Box office: Leeds, leedsheritagetheatres.com; York, thecrescentyork.seetickets.com; Ilkley, bradford-theatres.co.uk. Age guidance: 16 plus.