Yorkshire Trios confirmed for Next Door But One’s theatrical showcase at York Theatre Royal Studio next March. Who’s taking part?

In the line-up for Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios in the York Theatre Royal Studio next March: top row, Sarah Rumfitt, left, Kate Bramley, Connie Peel and Nicola Holliday; second row, Jules Risingham, Tempest Wisdom and Bailey Dowler; third row, Yixia Jiang, Jacob Ward and Claire Morley; bottom row, Paul Birch, Harri Marshall and Livy Potter

AFTER receiving more than four times as many applications as commissions available, York theatre company Next Door But One has assembled the next band of Yorkshire Trios – and a quartet – for March 2024.

“That many applicants is a sign of a few things,” says chief executive officer and artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle. “Just the sheer amount of talent that is within the local area; that there’s still a need after Covid for local creatives to be supported to get their own work out there, and hopefully that we as a company are seen as approachable and that people want to connect with us.”

Through a series of micro-commissions, York actors, writers and directors are being supported by NDB1 to produce original, short pieces of theatre that celebrate their individual skill and creativity.

“The brief is to create a five to 15-minute solo performance that in some way responds to the overall theme of ‘Top of the Hill’, so this is already resulting in stories of motherhood, grief, love, war and even Kate Bush!” says Matt.

“The writers are working on their second draft after receiving dramaturgical support from our team, and then rehearsals will begin in the early new year.”

The artists taking part will be Sarah Rumfitt, Kate Bramley, Connie Peel, Nicola Holliday, Jules Risingham, Tempest Wisdom, Bailey Dowler, Yixia Jiang, Jacob Ward, Claire Morley, Paul Birch, Harri Marshall and Livy Potter.

“This version is really building on everything that we learned and achieved from the first time around,” says Next Door But One artistic director Matthew Harper-Hardcastle

They will be working towards a showcase of original performances at York Theatre Royal next March, with more details on performance dates and how to book tickets to be released in the new year.

NDB1’s inaugural 2021 showcase of Yorkshire Trios in the garden performance space of The Gillygate pub marked the first live show in York after the lifting of Covid restrictions.

“At the time, many local performing arts professionals were feeling disconnected from their artistry and were extremely anxious about the future of their careers,” recalls Matt.

“So we listened to their concerns and created a series of micro-commissions to form new collaborative trios of an actor, writer and director, from which original work could be produced.”

One 2021 creative described Yorkshire Trios as “a total lifeline; a lighthouse in a stormy sea”. “Since then, Next Door But One has supported a further 44 creatives with mentoring in such areas as job applications and funding bid writing,” says Matt.

Yixia Jiang: Writing Love Letters Before Dawn for Yorkshire Trios

“We’ve always wanted to be an approachable company where creatives can hang their hat. We really believe in investing in the York cultural ecology, so this new iteration of Yorkshire Trios sits alongside our professional development programme, Opening Doors, and our Company Coaching provision.

“That provision is giving quarterly business and peer mentoring to five arts-based companies, Thunk-It Theatre, Story Craft Theatre, Terpsichoring dance company, Moon Dust and CoCreate, each with a different focus and at different stages of their development.”

Looking forward to next March’s showcase, NDB1 associate director Kate Veysey says: “It was really encouraging and humbling to read people’s honest reflections on what Yorkshire Trios could do for them within the application process.

“Some who had never been able to showcase their work in their hometown, others who had faced challenges in creating a professional network or establishing their careers on their own terms, and others who really respected our work and wanted to align their practice with our values. We feel really confident in being able to offer solutions to these points through this project.”

Emerging writer Yixia Jiang’s play Love Letters Before Dawn will be performed by Claire Morley, directed by Jacob Ward. “Working with this group of amazing people in York gives me a chance to take a glance into the local theatre industry and help establish myself as a playwright here,” he says.

Bailey Dowler: Performing Jules Risingham’s Anorak

York actor Bailey Dowler will perform Jules Risingham’s Anorak under the direction of Tempest Wisdom. “I wanted to get involved with Yorkshire Trios because there’s a lot of local talent in York and this is a perfect opportunity to widen my creative circle,” says Bailey.

“I cannot wait to work so closely with a writer and director. It’s such a rarity to have a one-to-one experience in the rehearsal room and so I’m excited to collaborate together, creating beautiful theatre, fuelled with passion.

“Next Door But One has a fantastic support system and I’m looking forward to being mentored and learning more about the process of creating a play, from outside the eyes of an actor.”

Fellow actor Nicola Holliday will present Sarah Rumfitt’s Toast, directed by Kate Bramley, artistic director of Badapple Theatre Company, and Connie Peel. “Having heard from friends what an incredible and inclusive company NDB1 was to work with, I was eager for the opportunity and chuffed to bits to be cast in Yorkshire Trios,” says Nicola.

“As an autistic, full-time working parent, finding flexible inclusive work can be a challenge and being welcomed with open arms, kindness and understanding by the whole NDB1 team has been lovely.

Nicola Holliday: Performer for Sarah Rumfitt’s Toast

“Meeting my Yorkshire quartet, such a talented creative and passionate bunch of local folks, I cannot wait to see our piece grow and develop, to be really challenged as an actor and to make some more meaningful connections here in York.”

Writer Sarah Rumfitt says: “Yorkshire Trios has given me an opportunity to explore my own voice within writing, something I have had little time for since becoming a mum.

“Being a creative is incredibly rewarding but also at times lonely. After an initial meeting with NDB1 and the other trios, I already feel more connected and part of an exciting community of Yorkshire-based creatives.”

Co-director Kate Bramley adds: “I’m really delighted to be working with Next Door But One on a brand new short play and mentoring another young director to boot, which makes us a unique four-person ‘trio’! I’ll be very excited to get started in the New Year.”

The fourth Yorkshire Trio comprises writer Paul Birch, actor Livy Potter and director Harri Marshall, combining on Running Up That Hill, the Kate Bush one.

Now that all the Yorkshire Trios have been introduced to one another, they can start creating performances that “really reflect who they are”. “We’ve provided the stimuli of ‘Top of The Hill’,” says NDB1 creative engagement manager El Stannage. “Not only because it then provides an overall theme to the final performances, but also because it brings a bit of the NDB1 ethos into the process.

Writer Sarah Rumfitt: Toast pops up at Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios showcase

“As a team, we often talk about what it’s like for us at the ‘top of the hill’; what it looks like when we are at our best, and that’s really what we want to instil in our trios. We want to celebrate each of them and applaud the incredible talent in our area.”

Highlighting how the 2024 Yorkshire Trios will differ from 2021, Matt says: “This version is really building on everything that we learned and achieved from the first time around.

“We’ve scheduled our Opening Doors programme to run alongside Yorkshire Trios this year, so we can offer development workshops for all the actors, writers and directors. We’ve included additional mentoring or adapted roles to suit the desired outcomes of certain creatives.

“The showcase of work will be performed in the York Theatre Royal Studio so we’ll be able to include more aesthetic decisions. And finally, we’ve reduced the number of commissions this time around so that we can increase the commission sum so that it’s more reflective of the work and energy each creative puts into it.”

Matt is delighted that the chosen artists are so diverse in representing York’s arts community in 2024. “As a company we really lead with who we are, and as an LGBTQ+ and disability-led company, we call to others who want to do the same, or want to be in those same spaces,” he says.

“Then the more that happens, the more others see themselves represented in both the industry and on stage, which then calls to more people, and so the process continues. So, it was really important to us that we had a real diversity across our trios, both in terms of identity and also experiences/stages in their career.”

The 2024 Yorkshire Trios – and a quartet

Kate Bramley: Co-directing Sarah Rumfitt’s Toast

Toast by Sarah Rumfitt

Performed by Nicola Holliday and directed by Kate Bramley and Connie Peel

AFTER giving birth, the midwife brings you toast; simple, medium cut, white Hovis that’s done a quick dip in the toaster, barely browned, overly buttered but the best thing Becky’s ever tasted. If only she knew what was coming…she’d have asked for the full loaf. Following a year-long struggle with post-natal depression, Becky and her son set off on their first walk together; they are going to the top of the hill; a place Becky would often walk alone before becoming “Mum”.

Livy Potter: Performing Paul Birch’s Running Up That Hill

Running Up That Hill by Paul Birch

Performed by Livy Potter and directed by Harri Marshall

ALEX is lost. Alex hates running but loves Kate Bush. They know all the facts about Kate Bush. Kate Bush drinks milk before recording and knows Lenny Henry. Alex is

running and Kate’s voice seems to help. Hill running is the worst and one (bastard) hill has them (almost) beat. This is the story of what Alex is running from and what they are running towards.

Prison is behind them as is their escape from a controlling relationship. Running up that hill is presently painful but it’s a different kind of pain from the past; besides, running up that hill might finally give Alex a clear view…

Harri Marshall: Directing Running Up That Hill

Love Letters Before Dawn by Yixia Jiang

Performed by Claire Morley and directed by Jacob Ward

A SOLDIER has been defending a battlefield from a hill for the past 100 days. Today he has given up on all chances to defend this place. All hopes seem lost.

However, the soldier keeps hold of his bravery and pride by remembering his fallen commander’s words: “We don’t persist because there is hope. It’s because of persisting, there shall be hope.”

Jacob Ward: Directing Yixia Jiang’s Love Letters Before Dawn

Anorak by Jules Risingham

Performed by Bailey Dowler and directed by Tempest Wisdom

THOMAS (no relation to The Tank Engine) loves trains. His whole life has been spent chasing trains, and always chasing after him was his partner, Charlie. Charlie did not like trains but loved Thomas. Thomas sits alone in his camping chair, on the top of his and Charlie’s favourite hill, looking down on the valley below, waiting for a train to pass that never seems to arrive.

With little to write about in his journal, he spends this time reflecting on his life with Charlie – and working out how to overcome his newfound grief. Thomas achieves a new understanding of grief, and how to keep living in the absence of our loved ones.

Jules Risingham: Writer of Anorak

Scrooge turns into grumpy Yorkshire farmer for Badapple Theatre Company’s take on A Christmas Carol on tour from tomorrow

Grumpy farmer? In Yorkshire? Meet James Lewis-Knight’s Farmer Scrooge in Badapple Theatre Company’s Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol. Picture: Karl Andre

GREEN Hammerton company Badapple Theatre set off on their winter travels tomorrow with Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol, starring York actors James Lewis-Knight and Emily Chattle.

Billed as “classic Badapple: Dickens with a Yorkshire twist, puppets, songs and music by Jez Lowe and all the jokes we can handle at this time of year,” writer-director Kate Bramley’s new family show will play across Yorkshire as well as Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, Northumberland, Cumbria, County Durham and Oxfordshire.

Starting out at Tockwith Village Hall, near York, tomorrow at 7pm, Badapple’s tour van will take in 22 performances between December 1 and 30 as Bramley’s itinerant band of actors heads to venues on their Yorkshire doorstep and beyond with her comedy slant on Charles Dickens’s 180-year-old story, now set in and around Scrooge’s farm and bedroom in 1959.

“Have a good chuckle while the blustering, skin-flint farmer Ebeneezer Scrooge gets his comeuppance and is forced to see the error of his penny-pinching ways,” says Kate of a production that marks Badapple’s 25th anniversary of touring.

James will play Fred, Scrooge, Shep and Elvis, yes, Elvis; Emily’s multi-role playing will stretch to Ginger, Bert the feed man, Mrs Cratchitt, Niece (Josie), Marley, Belle, Mrs Feziweg, Mr Feziweg, assorted Cratchitts, Undertaker, Mrs Dilbert and Girl. (Please note, name spelling may diversify from other versions, whether Cratchit or Fezziwig).

Emily Chattle with the puppet of Mr Fezziwig in Badapple Theatre Company’s Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol. Picture: Karl Andre

“Full of local stories and carols, puppets and mayhem, and original songs by Sony Award-winner Jez Lowe, plus a whacking great dose of seasonal bonhomie, this is a winter warmer to put a smile on everyone’s face this Christmas.”

Don’t take only Kate’s word for it. Clare Granger, High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, is a Badapple devotee. “It’s wonderful to spend a joyous evening with Badapple Theatre Company in a small rural village hall,” she says. “Kate Bramley is absolutely fulfilling her ambition to bring the arts into the community and the uplifting effect on the audience of what the theatre company does is palpable.”

Badapple’s mission is to venture out to the smallest and hardest-to-reach village halls and community venues to bring professional theatre to all. “We all know that isolation and loneliness are major issues in our rural communities and that maintaining good mental health is proving more and more of a challenge for the general population,” says the High Sheriff.

“It is hard to overestimate the positive benefits of getting out of the house and attending a joyful, inexpensive, communal event in your own locality. Badapple Theatre Company is providing just this experience.”

This year, James has appeared in York company Next Door But One’s tour of Operation Hummingbird, Matthew Harper-Hardcastle’s “humorous and uplifting exploration of grief, loss and noticing just how far you’ve come”, while Emily did the milk rounds in Badapple’s tour of Eddie And The Gold Tops, Bramley’s comedy of a milkman turning into the cream of Sixties pop stars.

James Lewis-Knight and Emily Chattle in a scene from BadappleTheatre Company’s Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol. Picture: Karl Andre

Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol: Yorkshire dates

December 1: Tockwith Village Hall, 7pm. Box office: 01423 331304

December 2: Harpham & Lowthorpe Village Hall YO25 4QZ, 7.30pm. Box office:  07867 692616.

December 3: The Old Girls’ School, Sherburn in Elmet, LS25 6BL, 7pm. Box office:  01977 685178.

December 13: Bishop Monkton Village Hall, near Harrogate, HG3 3QG, 7.30pm. Box office: 01423 331304.

December 19: Green Hammerton Village Hall, near York, YO26 8AB, 7pm. Box office: 01423 331304.

December 20: Burton Fleming Village Hall, East Yorkshire, YO25 3LL, 6.30pm. Box

December 27: Sutton under Whitestonecliffe Village Hall, Hambleton, YO7 2PS, 4.30pm. Box office: 01423 331304.

December 29: East Cottingwith Village Hall, near York, YO42 2TL, 4pm. Box office:  07866 024009 or 07973 699145.

Emily Chattle with one of the puppets designed by Sam Edwards for Badapple’s Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol. Picture: Karl Andre

REVIEW: Next Door But One in She Was Walking Home, York Theatre Royal Studio ****

Fiona Baistow’s Millie in Next Door But One’s She Was Walking Home

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One’s autumn tour has visited schools, colleges and the Theatre Royal already.

Next comes the university leg: a sold-out 7.45pm performance tomorrow at the University of York, followed by a 7.30pm finale at York St John University on October 25. Fewer than 20 tickets remain on sale at nextdoorbutone.co.uk. Hurry, hurry, book now.

Rachel Price’s testimonial theatre work was first presented as a walking audio tour around York city centre in 2021, then on tour last year, when suggestions that it should visit schools and colleges prompted this autumn’s itinerary.

This season’s performances follow the publication of the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s report, revealing that more than half a million offences against women and girls were recorded in England and Wales between October 1 2021 and March 31 2022 and that violence against women and girls accounts for at least 15.8 per cent of all recorded crime.

Anna Johnston’s Cate

Next Door But One’s website carries the strapline Where Every Story Matters. In this instance, 33 stories from women of different ages living, working and studying in York.  “Stories of fear, harassment, suspicion, disappointment, anger, but above all hope…to make sure the right voices are still being heard,” as NDB1’s tour flyer puts it.

From those countless journeys and real-life testimonies, Price has created a series of four monologues, told with the minimum of theatrical tools. Stark lighting; a couple chairs and a white box that can be folded in different way to serve as a seat, a table, a lectern. Sound effects too. That’s all that’s needed. Less is more.

The focus is on the words, always theatre’s greatest asset, and in turn on how they are delivered by Kate Veysey’s cast of Fiona Baistow, Anna Johnston, Mandy Newby and Ceridwen Smith, deputising for one night at York Theatre Royal Studio for Emma Liversidge-Smith, who will return for the university performances.

Mandy Newby’s Jackie

In the wake of statistics highlighting that one in two women feels unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home or in a busy public place, She Was Walking Home asks How Do We Keep Women Safe? Note the emphasis on “We”. All of us.

The post-show question-and-answer session revealed that one school had been averse to hosting the play for fear of boys feeling picked on. That school changed its mind and the show’s impact was such that the next lesson was immediately scrapped and replaced with discussions on the issues raised.

At one performance, some boys had laughed initially, even stamped their feet to mimic the footsteps of an approaching man, but that response was born out of a feeling of awkwardness, one that changed as the performance progressed and they realised the need to wise up to women’s experiences and how boys, as much as men, need to be “part of the change” that NDB1 is urging.

Baistow’s Millie is a girl, finishing a work shift, who misses her bus home and decides to risk walking down “Rape Lane”, the quickest route. Why does she do it, you ask? Put yourself in her shoes and ask again. By her harrowing journey’s end, it takes an act of kindness to help her out. What stops such acts being commonplace?

Ceridwen Smith: Stepping in to play lawyer Joanne for one performance only at York Theatre Royal Studio

Jonhnston’s Cate is a student on a night out, quick to leave after an unwanted chat-up, only to be followed by a creep who’s been doing that for a while. The police stop her, to tell her she is being followed. You might well be asking why didn’t they stop him instead? Everyone was asking that afterwards. As ever, the implication is that she is the one to blame. How she dresses. Her manner. Not the men, the pest and the predator. When will that change?  

Mandy Newby’s Jackie is older, a mother, who finds herself being picked on and molested by a group of young lads on bicycles. She can’t face telling her daughter, such is her feeling of humiliation.

Urged by a friend, who subsequently sits beside her in the interview room, she goes to the police station; they give her the standard leaflets. Here’s where the work of the Kyra Women’s Project, the York charity that helps women to make positive change in their lives, is so important.

Smith’s Joanne is a lawyer, giving a talk on her experience of being sexually assaulted by two men working in tandem. Her recovery has been gradual, but now she has “joined the conversation”, encouraging women to seek the services of the likes of IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services).

Emma Liversidge-Smith: Resuming her role as lawyer Joanne at the University of York tomorrow and York St John University on October 25

Four shocking cautionary tales, told verbatim from York’s streets as theatre verité; not so much acting as matter of facting. What followed was the best reason for a Q&A: the instant need to be “part of the conversation”, men and women alike.

To quote the flyer once more: “The conversation continues. And the loudest voices call for self-defence classes, rape alarms, trackers and a dress code. The conversation needs to change. The voices of women need to be at the centre, but the responsibility and accountability lies elsewhere.”

That makes She Was Walking Home as important for men to experience as women sharing stories and seeking advice and support. Crossing the road at night, to avoid following a woman, would be a step in the right direction for a start.

Next Door But One’s poster for She Was Walking Home: Countless journeys, 33 real testimonies, 4 women, 1 call to action

How safe are women on the streets of York, ask Next Door But One in Rachel Price’s touring play She Was Walking Home

Anna Johnston as Cate in Next Door But One’s She Was Walking Home. Picture: James Drury

WHEN York community arts collective Next Door But One first took She Was Walking Home on tour in 2022, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had just released data on safety in different public settings.

One in two women felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home or in a busy public place, and two out of three women aged 16 to 34 had experienced one form of harassment in the previous 12 months.

Now, as NDB1 take their revived testimonial-based performance to schools, colleges and universities throughout York and North Yorkshire, as well as to York Theatre Royal Studio tonight (5/10/2023), the need for more conversations around women’s safety and the role we all play in it has been strengthened by a report from the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

It reveals that more than half a million offences against women and girls were recorded in England and Wales between October 1 2021 and March 31 2022 and that violence against women and girls accounts for at least 15.8 per cent of all recorded crime.

Director Kate Veysey in rehearsal for Next Door But One’s She Was Walking Home. Picture: James Drury

First produced as an audio walk around York city centre in 2021, She Was Walking Home is a series of monologues created by writer Rachel Price from the testimonies of women living, working and studying in York. 

“This project was initially called into action by the female creatives and participants we work with, who were all having more and more conversations around their own safety after a number of attacks and murders reported in the media,” says director Kate Veysey.

“With each stage of development, it has been the community that has guided us: the audio walk was created from 33 testimonies of local women; the 2022 tour was produced through feedback from listeners who wished to bring their friends, colleagues and social groups to engage in the conversation.

“The resounding message from that audience was the want from parents for their children to see this, for teachers wanting their schools to witness, and young women wanting their male peers to come with them. So that’s what we are doing.”

Emma Liversidge-Smith’s Joanne in She Was Walking Home. Picture: James Drury

People think of York as a safe place to be, says NDB1 creative engagement manager El Stannage, “but as a woman I can tell you it isn’t”. “We collected documentary information both written and conversational, keeping that door open for information for about a month, and it came streaming in,” she says.

“We had plenty to work with, then collected our own thoughts and commissioned Rachel to put those stories together as one tapestry, telling stories of women at different stages of life, their different experiences, whether harassment or abuse, focusing on the impact it’s had on their their lives, the ripples it’s had.

“For the latest tour, we’ve stayed with the original piece of theatre but kept abreast with what’s been happening, and we’ve kept in touch too with IDAS [Independent Domestic Abuse Services] and the Kyra Women’s Project, the York charity that helps women to make positive change in their lives.”

This autumn’s performances in schools, colleges and universities will not only inform students of the lived experience of women in their own communities, but also empower them to make the change now and see the benefits in their own futures; understanding the impact of their actions, ways in which they could intervene, question their own thinking or those of their peers.

Mandy Newby’s Jackie. Picture: James Drury

El says: “We’re really excited to be working with schools [age 14 upwards], colleges and universities this time, after the feedback we got from last year’s public performances that we needed to do that.

“The young people we get to work with in our participation programmes are bright, forward thinking and actively seeking ways to play a part in the growing world around them, so for us it just makes sense to bring this conversation to them, as they are the next generation to make change.

“But also, real change can only happen when the full community listen up and play their part too. That’s why we’re hosting public performances in the evenings at the same schools, colleges and universities, so that parents, carers, siblings, friends, teachers and other local residents can join in the same vital conversation.”

Through the autumn tour of this all-female production, performed by a cast of Fiona Baistow, Anna Johnson, Emma Liversidge-Smith and Mandy Newby, the mission will be to amplify the voices of York women, while also prompting conversations around where responsibility and accountability lies for their safety.

Fiona Baistow’s Millie in a scene from She Was Walking Home. Picture: James Drury

“Since the original walk, listened to by almost 800 people, there have been further attacks and murders of women, and still the rhetoric seems to be skewed towards rape alarms, trackers, self-defence classes and dress codes being the solution,” says NDB1 artistic director Matthew Harper-Hardcastle. “We needed to continue and challenge this conversation. The invitation is to come and watch but also to think.”

One audience feedback quote on NDB1’s website is particularly illuminating. “I like to think I’m aware of these issues and as a man have been ultra-conscious that just being on the same street can heighten anxiety,” it reads.

“This performance made me cry, but it’s such an important way to foster change, I left feeling that if more men could see and engage with it, we might just be able to smash that ‘block of granite’.”

Next Door But One’s She Was Walking Home is on tour until October 27 with student performances complemented by public performances at York High School, Malton School, York College, Scarborough TEC, York Theatre Royal Studio tonight at 7.45pm, University of York, October 20 at 7.45pm and York St John University, October 25 at 7.30pm. Box office details: www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk

More Things To Do in York & beyond, from musical mischief to hen night shenanigans. Here’s Hutch’s List No.32, from The Press

Bull: Headlining The Boatyard Festival at Bishopthorpe Marina today

SHAKESPEARE in gardens, music and magic by the riverside, an LGBTQ musical premiere and a riotous hen party on stage are among Charles Hutchinson’s eye-catchers for upcoming entertainment.

Festival of the week: The Boatyard Festival, The Boatyard, Bishopthorpe Marina, Ferry Lane, Bishopthorpe, York, today, 10am until late

THIS family-friendly music festival will be headlined by ebullient York band Bull. Look out too for Bonneville, Tymisha, London DJ Zee Hammer, Yorky Pud Street Band, The Plumber Drummer, City Snakes, Rum Doodle and Hutch.

Further attractions will be stilt walkers, a hula-hoop workshop, a giant bubble show, magic, face painting, fayre games, stalls, food and drink, with free admission for accompanied children. Box office: head to the-boatyard.co.uk/events/ for the QR code to book.

Four Wheel Drive director Alfie Howle and cast member Alison Gammon park up at the National Centre of Early Music for a garden of delights in A Midsummer Day’s Dream

Crazy chaos of the week: Four Wheel Drive presents A Midsummer Day’s Dream, National Centre for Early Music, York, today at 11am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm

FOUR Wheel Drive, producers of “off-road theatrical experiences” in York, invite children aged seven to 11 and their families to a musical, magical and mystical diurnal reimagining of William Shakespeare’s romcom in the NCEM gardens (or indoors if wet).

Four Athenians run away to the forest, only for the sylvan sprite Puck to make both the boys fall in love with the same girl while also helping his master play a trick on the fairy queen. Will all this crazy chaos have a happy ending? Anna Gallon and Alfie Howle’s interactive 45-minute adaptation will allow children to engage in the mischief-making Midsummer action, performed by Gallon, Katja Schiebeck and Esther Irving. Grab a boom-wacker and book tickets on 01904 658338 or necem.co.uk.

Three in one: Esk Valley Theatre writer, director and actor Mark Stratton

Debut of the week: Esk Valley Theatre in Deals And Deceptions, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, Whitby, until August 26

IN artistic director Mark Stratton’s first play for Esk Valley Theatre, Danny and Jen leave London and head to an isolated cottage in the North York Moors. City clashes with country, dark forces are at work and humorous situations arise.

“We may think we know the person we are married to, but do we?” asks Stratton, who is joined in the cast by Clare Darcy and Dominic Rye. “What someone chooses to show the world is not always who they are. If they trade in deals and deceptions, then a day of reckoning will surely come.” Box office: 01947 897587 or eskvalleytheatre.co.uk.

Is this the hen party from hell? Will best friends fall out in Bridesmaids Of Britain? Find out tomorrow night

Hen party comedy heads to hen party haven: Bridesmaids Of Britain, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7pm

BILLED as “the girls’ night out to remember”, welcome to Diana Doherty’s Bridesmaids Of Britain. Becky is the overly loyal maid-of-honour whose life unravels as she leads best friend Sarah on a wild ride down the road to matrimony.

Things go awry, however, as competition between Becky and Tiffany – Sarah new BFF (best friend forever, obvs) – over who is the bride’s bestie threatens to upend the wedding planning that has been in the making since primary school. Be prepared for dance-offs, sing-offs and eventually shout-offs at the “hen do of the year”, held in a caravan. Will this wedding story have a happy ending, or will these best friends rip each other apart? Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Dan Crawfurd-Porter’s Whizzer and Chris Mooney’s Marvin in rehearsal for Black Sheep Theatre Productions’ Falsettos, opening at the JoRo on Wednesday

York premiere of the week: Black Sheep Theatre Productions in Falsettos, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

YORK company Black Sheep Theatre Productions has been granted an exclusive British licence by Concord Theatricals and composer/lyricist William Finn to stage Finn and James Lapine’s “very gay, very Jewish” musical Falsettos, thanks to the persistence of director Matthew Clare.

In its late-Seventies, early-Eighties American story, set against the backdrop of the rise of Aids, Marvin has left his wife Trina and son Jason to be with his male lover Whizzer, whereupon he struggles to keep his Jewish family together in the way he has idealised. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Pennine Suite: Topping Friday’s bill of York bands at The Crescent

York music bill of the week: Northern Radar presents Pennine Suite, Sun King, Everything After Midnight and The Rosemaries, The Crescent, York, Friday, 7.30pm to 11pm

PENNINE Suite play their biggest headline gig to date in an all-York line-up on a rare 2023 appearance in their home city. The five-piece draws inspiration from the alternative rock movements of the 1980s and 1990s, interlaced with shoegaze and pop melodies, typified by the singles Far and Scottish Snow. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Garden secrets: Which character will York Shakespeare Project veteran Frank Brogan play in Sonnets At The Bar? It’s all hush-hush until August 11

Bard convention: York Shakespeare Project in Sonnets At The Bar, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Friday to August 19 (except August 14), 6pm and 7.30pm plus 4.30pm Saturday performances

YORK Shakespeare Project returns to the secret garden at Bar Convent for another season of Shakespeare sonnets, this time directed by Tony Froud. Reprising the familiar format, the show features a series of larger-than-life modern characters, each with a secret to reveal through a sonnet.

Inside writer Helen Wilson’s framework of the comings and goings of hotel staff and guests, the characters will be played by Diana Wyatt, Judith Ireland, Sarah Dixon, Frank Brogan, Maurice Crichton, Nigel Evans, Harold Mozley, Froud and Wilson. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Ceridwen Smith in Next Door But One’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter . Picture: James Drury

Talking elephants of the week: Next Door But One in The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, York Theatre Royal patio, August 12, 11am and 2pm

YORK theatre-makers Next Door But One’s adventurous storyteller travels to Lila’s Firework Festival in this intimate, inclusive, accessible and fun stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel, replete with talking elephants, silly kings and magical creatures.

As Lila voyages across lakes and over mountains, she faces her biggest fears and learns everything she needs to know to become the person she has always wanted to be. Makaton signs and symbols, puppetry and audience participation play their part in Ceridwen Smith’s performance. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Grace Petrie: Switching from folk musician to stand-up comedy act on tour in York, Leeds and Sheffield

Change of tack: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Grace Petrie: Butch Ado About Nothing, The Crescent, York, September 17, 7.30pm

FOLK singer, lesbian and checked-shirt-collector Grace Petrie has been incorrectly called “Sir” every day of her adult life. Now, after finally running out of subject matter for her “whiny songs”, she is putting down the guitar to work out why in her debut stand-up show, Butch Ado About Nothing, on her return to The Crescent.

Finding herself mired in an age of incessantly and increasingly fraught gender politics, the Norwich-based Leicester native explores what butch identity means in a world moving beyond labels, pondering where both that identity and she belong in the new frontline of queer liberation. Petrie also plays Old Woollen, Leeds, on August 31 (8pm) and The Leadmill, Sheffield, on September 10 (7.30pm). Box office: gracepetrie.com; York, thecrescentyork.com; Leeds, oldwoollen.co.uk; Sheffield, leadmill.co.uk.

York St John students showcase theatre’s future in TakeOver Festival at York Theatre Royal. Who’s taking part this week?

The York St John University students who are running TakeOver Festival 2023 at York Theatre Royal this week

THE TakeOver Festival 2023 rules the roost at York Theatre Royal in a week-long theatre festival run by final-year York St John University students as they take their first leap into the entertainment industry.

The Theatre Royal is partnering with York St John to give students the opportunity to perform their own work on the main stage, as well as learn about key roles in the theatre.  

Taking over the Theatre Royal all this week until Saturday, the students have booked York theatre companies Next Door But One, Out Of Character, Fladam and Hallmark Theatre to perform too, plus Pink Milk from London.

As part of their third-year assessment, 32 students have formed eight of their own theatre companies to showcase their talents: Compos Mentis, MOOT, Reconnect, Cordless, Chaos, Bridge Theatre, For Us By Us and Twisted Tales.

TakeOver enables third-year performance students to work as producers, production managers and front of house, in addition to marketing the festival on their social media platforms. The festival also works with the wider community, making theatre with children from York High School and sharing the joy of theatre with families.  

This year’s event takes the theme of In Living Colour: Listen, Inspire, Act. “We aim to get people talking about what’s important, shedding colourful light on to meaningful issues,” says TakeOver 2023 producer Megan Price. “The festival will bring to light new possibilities and provide a platform that celebrates each other. TakeOver allows people to have a voice and share their creativity on a bigger platform.”

Cordless in rehearsal for 4th Round on May 26

David Richmond, senior performance lecturer at York St John University, says: “TakeOver is a fantastic opportunity for students to make that important first step to being professional theatre makers.

“It gives the Theatre Royal an opportunity to see what the next key developments in theatre will be – as this generation really is going to be doing things differently. For the audiences, it will give them an insight into the future of theatre, and on their own doorstep.”

Zoe Colven-Davies, from York Theatre Royal, adds: “It’s been wonderful to work with third-year performance students, to see them bring to York Theatre Royal stage their own work as well as the work of creators in York.”

Megan, 21, from Blackhall, County Durham, is studying on the acting course at York St John, where courses also run in Drama & Theatre, Drama & Dance and Drama, Education and Community.

“None of my family is creative,” she says. “But I got into amateur dramatics with Blackhall Drama Group, doing a pantomime every January and a summer showcase from the shows every June/July.

“I mainly perform, but after going away to university and having two years out from the shows, they’ve asked me for a wider input, now that I’m back,” she says.

Megan Price: Producer of TakeOver Festival 2023

Megan was selected by a combination of York Theatre Royal staff and York St John lecturers after pitching for the post of producer. Roles in production management, communications, outreach and front of house have been designated too.

“It’s a major part of the degree, with the course advertising that in your third year you will work with and perform at York Theatre Royal and will be assessed on running a festival and being involved in it too,” she says.

“For TakeOver 2023, we created the first draft of the festival programme, working with communications and production management to agree on certain things. Front of house need to know what will be going into the theatre; communications need to know what shows they will be promoting. The closer to the opening, the more collaborative it becomes.”

Why did Megan put herself forward for the top post? “I wanted to be the producer because it’s not something I’ve had much experience of doing, whereas with other roles, I have done that,” she says.

“I wanted to do something that would challenge me and provide me with new skills, in terms of financial budgeting and scheduling.

“The artistic vision comes into it too, but the theme of In Living Colour had already been chosen before I took up my post. Each group of performers from York St John had to pitch a theme for the festival, and the Theatre Royal then chose the theme on the basis of what fitted in best with previous years.”

Megan Price and her fellow Chaos cast members meeting again to rehearse the Macbeth response piece Female Rage

Megan and her fellow programmers wanted to create a festival that would be accessible to theatre companies in the north, giving them the chance to perform at the Theatre Royal, while “bringing to light themes that are hidden in the world”.

Plays range from Pink Milk, the one London company heading north, presenting Naughty’s frank account of growing up queer outside of a big city to Hallmark Theatre’s An Open Mind, a comedy drama about two autistic children trying to navigate the ups and downs of school and the education system.

Megan will not only be producing the festival but performing in it too in Chaos’s production of Female Rage on May 27 at 1pm in the York Theare Royal main house. “We can’t have an ordinary Shakespeare at TakeOver!” she says. “We’re basing our play around Macbeth, taking themes from Shakespeare’s play and expressing how they affect us as women in society,” she says.

“Presenting our play in a post-dramatic style, we’re looking at women that are so often overlooked. We feature not only Lady Macbeth, but also Lady Macduff and The Witches and Hecate, who we’ve made the central focus of our piece.”

In a nutshell, Female Rage shines a light on witches and womanly wisdom while intertwining Shakespearian themes with stories only women can tell. “We don’t play the characters but use them to channel our rage, with Hecate guiding the performance,” says Megan.

Summing up her involvement in TakeOver 2023, she says: “Not just performing but now doing the other side as well allows me to apply for jobs in the creative industry, like an assistant producer’s job at a film festival here in York,” she says.

“It’s been really helpful to have all that professional experience on hand, but at the same time York St John and York Theatre Royal have let us take the event into our own hands.”

For the full programme and tickets, head to yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

TakeOver Festival 2023: the programme 

York musical comedy duo Fladam, alias Flo Poskitt and Adam Sowter: Presenting Green Fingers at TakeOver Festival 2023 on May 27 in the York Theatre Royal Studio

The Storyteller by Charlotte Tunks  

May 22, 11am, York Theatre Royal upper foyer.  

The Storyteller speaks the story of the eve of St Agnes. An adaptation of one of John Keats’s best poems.  

The Wall by Josh Davies  

May 22, 2pm; May 23, 11am, York Theatre Royal foyer.  

Thirty to 45-minute musical performance, including renditions of songs from Pink Floyd’s album The Wall.  

Operation Hummingbird by Next Door But One  

May 23 and 24, 12 noon and 7pm, York Theatre Royal main house.  

Teenager Jimmy deals with his mum’s terminal illness diagnosis by diving into computer games. Through this virtual reality, he meets his future self and asks: will everything turn out OK? 

Poignant, funny and uplifting, this two-hander by award-winning York company Next Door But One returns after a sell-out debut tour in 2021. Based on director Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s memoir, Operation Hummingbir dexplores grief, loss and the power of noticing just how far you have come.  

Crafting Hope – Box Making Workshop  

May 23, 1pm, York Theatre Royal foyer. 

Do you ever feel like the world has spun into a wormhole of chaos, conflict and civil unrest? This workshop provides the opportunity to relax, retreat and join the quest of breathing hope back into humanity through the art of box-making. A brighter future starts with you, your words and your actions. 

City Dance Trail  

May 23, 2pm, starting at York St John University’s Creative Centre and journeying through the city.  

Join the Dance Trail and experience the city in an entirely new way. Theatre and dance students from York St John University and guest performers from Mind The Gap share a series of site-specific dance performances across the city centre.

Follow the trail through York and watch original dance pieces that explore the promise of the unknown and the potential revelation of new-found realties in familiar and unfamiliar places. Watch out for an unexpected flash mob moment – or better still, join in! 

Stepping Stones To Success – Workshop by Next Door But One  

May23, 3pm,  York Theatre Royal main house. 

Are you an emerging theatre practitioner? Thinking of ways to further your career, develop a business idea or kickstart a new project? Work alongside Next Door But One’s artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle as he goes through the lessons he has learned from founding and running a York theatre company for ten years. Participants will walk away with a plan to put their ideas into action.  

Stories BetweenThe Lines by Reconnect  

May 23, 4.30pm, York Theatre Royal Studio. 

Stories Between The Lines is a TIE (theatre in education) performance that highlights the lives of four characters as they navigate the complexities of family life and teenage years. Through the lens of drama, the show explores the issues of concern for the characters and the possibilities for self-care, support, and intervention.  

Reconnect discusses the characters’ concerns, then looks at the possibility of self-care, support and intervention.  Suitable for 11+.  

Dancing In Living Colour by York St John Dance Society  

May 24, 1pm, York Theatre Royal upper foyer.

The university dance society offers both competitive and casual memberships to students. Its competition team has been placed first, second and third across various competitions this season. Team members have put together a showcase to celebrate the festival theme. “Come and enjoy Dancing In Living Colour,” they say. 

Finding Your Voice As A Playwright – Workshop by Next Door But One  

May 24, 3pm, York Theatre Royal main house. 

DO you have a play in your head but are not sure how to put it on paper? This workshop will go through several techniques to help you breathe new colour into your creative idea. Tools to help overcome writer’s block, structure your story and understand what you want to say and how you want to say it. 

Compos Mentis: Exploring men’s mental health in Business Unfinished

Business Unfinished by Compos Mentis  

May 25, 2pm, York Theatre Royal main house. 

Compos Mentis explore men’s mental health through post-traumatic theatre in a cabaret that discusses their understanding of the issue along with the stereotypes of a working men’s club. Contains strong language and sexual references; suitable for age 12+.  

The Modern Maidens by Twisted Tales  

May 25, 3.30pm , York Theatre Royal main house. 

Twisted Tales interweave women’s issues with classic fairy tales to look at themes of jealousy, revenge, innocence and betrayal, with a passion for going against social norms and showing that women can be however they want to be. Suitable for age 16+.  

Shattered by Out Of Character  

May 25, 7pm, York Theatre Royal Studio. 

Written by Paul Birch, performed by York company Out Of Character, directed by Kate Veysey and Jane Allanach.

The world has broken. Its colours have drained away. A community is splintered and all seems lost. But in the cracks, and amid the broken pieces, something strange is happening. Something that disturbs, unsettles and surprises.

Welcome to Shattered, a mysterious show where, in the midst of a sinister and impossible fog, things are about to become clear. Suitable for all ages.  

Express Your Colours Within – Movement Workshop for Adults  

May 26, 11am, York Theatre Royal Studio. 

This movement-based workshop invites participants to engage in ways of moving that normally they would not do. Scarves, ribbons and coloured materials will help to create visually appealing work in a workshop run by performing arts and dance students. 

4th Round by Cordless Theatre  

May 26, 2pm, York Theatre Royal main house. 

Cordless Theatre present a collection of playful vignettes inspired by the work of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. Suitable for all ages.  

Inside Outside by Bridge Theatre  

May 26, 2.45pm, York Theatre Royal Studio. 

How do we understand loss? Bridge Theatre show their experience of loss through movement and verbatim text. Suitable for age 12+.  

I Wanna Hold Your Hand by MOOT  

May 26, 3.30pm, York Theatre Royal main house.  

A fun and physical devised piece that explores the challenges of connecting to others. Suitable for all ages.  

Open Mic Nights  

May 26 and 27, 6pm, York Theatre Royal foyer. 

Naughty by Pink Milk  

May 26, 7.45pm, York Theatre Royal Studio. 

Days after Andrew ends his seven-year relationship with college sweetheart Jake, he is messaged out of the blue by a former “friend”. This unwelcome advance triggers an emotional spiral as Andrew recounts his unstable first steps into the world of gay sex and queer identity, under the increasingly imposing guidance of Kevin, a teacher at his drama academy.

Naughty provides a frank account of growing up queer outside of a big city. The piece was written to examine the common lack of safe mentorship for LGBTQ+ youth and the over-sexualisation of queer relationships. First performed at Camden Fringe in 2021, Naughty toured in 2022. Suitable for age 11+.  

Female Rage by Chaos  

May 27, 1pm, York Theatre Royal main house. 

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Chaos wants to take a closer look at the women that are so often overlooked. Female Rage shines a light on witches and womanly wisdom as they intertwine Shakespearian themes with stories only women can tell. Suitable for age 12+.

Green Fingers by Fladam  

May 27, 3pm, York Theatre Royal Studio 

York musical comedy duo Fladam – Flo Poskitt and Adam Sowter – are back with a deliciously Roald Dahl-style family treat. Did you ever hear the tale of Green Fingers? A boy born with hands that turn all he touches a shocking shade of green! But is he really as wicked as people say? All will be revealed in this work-in-progress performance, where audience feedback will be welcomed and encouraged afterwards. Suitable for all ages.  

36DDD by For Us By Us  

May 27, 3.30pm, York Theatre Royal main house.  

Inspired by playwright Tim Firth’s Neville’s Island, For Us By Us head out on a girls’ trip gone wrong. After surrendering their phones in a time-locked box, they must surrender themselves to the bitter wilderness as they navigate their fears and secrets. 

Containing strong language and sexual references, this comedy-thriller will see the characters bond under extreme circumstances. Suitable for ages 16+.  

An Open Mind by Hallmark Theatre 

May 27, 7.30pm, York Theatre Royal Studio.  

A new comedy drama from Hallmark Theatre about two autistic children trying to navigate the ups and downs of school and the education system. Suitable for 15+  

Listen, Inspire, Act – Zentangle Workshop  

Available all week, York Theatre Royal foyer. 

The Zentangle art form allows creativity and mindfulness through a series of repetitive patterns that are drawn into a starting point of a scribble to produce a unique artwork. This workshop encourages conversation in the community. This activity focuses the mind and is useful in relieving stress and allowing unpressured conversations to happen while in the act of doing. 

David Lomond, back, and James Lewis-Knight in Next Door But One’s Operation Hummingbird: four performances at York Theatre Royal

Next Door But One reflect on death and lessons for life in Operation Hummingbird

Next Door But One chief executive officer and artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle directing a rehearsal for Operation Hummingbird

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are taking part in the 2023 TakeOver Festival at York Theatre Royal next week, performing a revival of Operation Hummingbird.

NDB1 premiered artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s one-act two-hander to sold-out audiences in the socially distanced summer of 2021. Now, buoyed by being among 984 arts organisations to be granted National Portfolio (NPO) status by Arts Council England and winning the award for Resilience and Innovation at the 2023 Visit York Tourism Awards, they have launched their new programme.

“It’s quite apt that our first touring production as an NPO is Operation Hummingbird,” says Matt. “‘We’ve spent ten years working hard, dreaming big and forging fruitful partnerships. That’s how we got here. Now we’re looking into the future and are so excited for what the next three years hold. A reflective, hopeful story about looking back and looking ahead feels perfect for now.”

Already this month NDB1 have staged Operation Hummingbird in library performances York Explore, Haxby Explore, Clifton Explore, Tang Hall Explore and Acomb Explore, from May 9 to 12, and now they are heading to the theatre and arts centre circuit. 

Midday and 7pm performances on May 23 and 24 on York Theatre Royal’s main stage will be followed by Pocklington Arts Centre on May 25 and Helmsley Arts Centre on June 2, both at 7.30pm.

David Lomond, back, and James Lewis-Knight in Next Door But One’s 2023 tour of Operation Hummingbird

“I realised it could work as a main-house piece when I watched Pilot Theatre’s Run Rebel, when they had sold only the stalls, but there was something nice about playing a performance to the stalls,” says Matt. “We’ll make it intimate by using only the front half of the stage, working with a new lighting designer, Abi Turner, from London,  who has designed  previously for the Donmar Warehouse.”

Based on his own memoir of living with loss, Matt’s two-hander tells the story of teenager Jimmy, who is dealing with his mum’s terminal diagnosis by diving into computer games. Through this virtual reality, he meets his future self and asks: will everything turn out OK?

“Operation Hummingbird is a humorous and uplifting exploration of grief, loss and noticing just how far you’ve come,” says Matt, whose cast features NDB1 associate artist James Lewis-Knight, returning in the role of Jimmy, and Scarborough actor David Lomond, joining the company for the first time to play James, the future version of Jimmy, 35 more years on the clock.

“For me, the concept is: this play is a really specific look at terminal illness, death and bereavement, but the narrative is universal. If we could fast-forward time and then be able to go back, older and wise, to stop our younger self by passing on advice. We’ve all had those questions that our older selves would like to have been able to give the answer to our younger selves.”

The two-hander format is ideal, suggests Matt. “After Covid, people are wanting shorter shows – this one is only 50 minutes – where you don’t have to travel far to see it and you could even see it at lunchtime if you went to a library performance.

James Lewis-Knight’s Jimmy in a scene from the 2021 premiere of Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s Operation Hummingbird. He returns for the new production

“We’ve brought Operation Hummingbird back after we had brilliant feedback from the first run, when we had only just come out of Covid restrictions and so only small, socially distanced audiences were allowed.

“For the 2023 revival, we decided we’d go to the satellite Explore York libraries we didn’t play before. Now we’ve been able to pick up the project and say, ‘we know it works but what’s the full iteration?’.

“That means also performing it on the Theatre Royal main stage and taking it to Pocklington and Helmsley. It’s actually our first ever show at the Theatre Royal because we’ve never looked into doing one there before, as the heart of our work is taking it to the community, places on people’s doorsteps, such as libraries, community centres and the Camphill Village Trust (with our show The Firework-Maker’s Daughter).”

Matt continues: “It feels like a significant moment of growth for us. We’re known to the communities we engage with, like the Snappy Trust and York Carers Centre, who appreciate our values, and this revival is an introductory chance for us to say, ‘if you don’t know our work, this is what we do’.

“I hope I have turned a story that started from a very personal place into something that we can all relate to,” says writer-director Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“One of the first pieces of feedback we had was someone saying, ‘I can’t believe how much you can tell in a story with so little. We’re the opposite of doing big-scale theatre productions. It’s still a big story, about death and bereavement, and for me, as a director, the main thing has to be the story.

“You could detract from it with a big set and a light show, so we tell a story with three boxes, a few props and two actors and no blackouts of the auditorium. The focus is on the story.”

Matt concludes: “There’s something in this show for everyone. I hope I have turned a story that started from a very personal place – with the sudden death of my mum in 2016 – into something that we can all relate to. I know that audiences in 2021 left entertained and reflective about their own life. I hope we can achieve the same this time, but reach an even bigger audience across the region.”

Tickets for all venues can be booked at www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk. Also: York Theatre Royal, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; Pocklington, 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; Helmsley, 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Next Door But One plan ahead for 2023 and beyond after gaining National Portfolio Organisation funding status for first time

Next Door But One founder and artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle. Picture: Esme Mai

NEXT Door But One may be new to Art Council England’s National Portfolio, but this York community interest company (CIC) has been a familiar, welcoming face to many in the community for ten years.

When Arts Council England announced its £446 million investment in 990 organisations each year from 2023 to 2026, to “bring art, culture and creativity to more people in more place across the country”, six York organisations were given funding, alongside such big hitters as the Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company.

Maintaining their previous NPO status are York Theatre Royal, York Museums Trust, the National Centre for Early Music and Pilot Theatre, while Next Door But One (NDB1) and Explore York/York Explore Library and Archive both join for the first time.

“It might sound bizarre, but it’s OK if people haven’t heard of us yet,” says NDB1 founder and artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle. “We’ve been busy in residential settings, youth centres, pub courtyards and even the odd portable cabin or two – making sure that we get theatre to people who want it, in a way that is accessible, relevant and meaningful to them.

“People have always come first, and profile second. But now becoming an NPO allows us to shout louder about our work and reach out to even more people.”

Set up by Matt in 2013, the applied theatre company cum community arts collective began by using improvisation to tell the stories of women’s groups, Muslim families and people new to York.

“Soon our storytelling was being used to make research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and enabling City of York’s training programmes to be more engaging and accessible,” he says.

Ceridwen Smith in Next Door But One’s production of The Firework Maker’s Daughter. Picture: James Drury

“Our original productions were then showcased at York Disability Pride, the Great Yorkshire Fringe and York’s Dead Good Festival. From 2016, we’d honed our model of co-production and created partnerships with Camphill Village Trust, The Snappy Trust, York Carers Centre and Converge, to name a few.

“In the last year, we engaged more than 600 participants and 2,000 audience members. Something that, as a part-time team of five, we’re incredibly proud of.”

At the height of the Covid pandemic, NDB1’s activity went up by 61 per cent. “This was due to our community partners turning to us and saying ‘Can you help keep our communities connected and creative?’,” says creative producer El Stannage.

“So, we made digital performances for neurodivergent young people, online Forum Theatre to support the wellbeing of adults with learning disabilities and ran three online theatre courses for adults accessing mental health services, LGBTQ+ teenagers and unpaid carers.

“The need for our work has not decreased, even once lockdown restrictions were lifted, and that’s why we applied to be an NPO; to sustain our increased programme and to reassure our community groups that we’re still going to be there for them.”

This work’s impact on the York community has been acknowledged with formal recognition and awards from the Lord Mayor of York, the Archbishop of York and as a finalist in the Visit York Tourism Awards for “Innovation and Resilience”.

Anne Stamp, service manager at The Snappy Trust, is delighted that NDB1 are to become an NPO, helping to continue their long-standing collaboration. “Next Door But One is a much-needed service in York: a great resource for many and a service that helps to provide children and young people with a wider range of experiences, enabling them to learn, grow and have fun,” she says.

NDB1 are finalising their plans for 2023 but are working already on revivals of performances that toured to their fellow NPO, York Explore, including The Firework-Maker’s Daughter and Operation Hummingbird, as well as expanding their professional development offer for local performing arts professionals that originally produced Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub in April 2021; the first live, in-person performances that year in York once lockdown restrictions were lifted.

“All NPOs must go into a negotiation phase with Arts Council England until early 2023, but for now what Next Door But One are saying is, ‘We are here and we can’t wait to continue working with communities across York or meet new people for the first time, and create together,” says Matt.

Artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on what lies ahead for Next Door But One, York’s community arts collective

Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle making a point in rehearsal as actress Emma Liversidge-Smith looks on

From Harrogate Theatre to Pocklington Arts Centre and English National Opera, venues and companies have suffered blows in Arts Council England’s National Portfolio awards for 2023-2026. What were the factors that meant Next Door But One NDB1) was selected as one of the new recipients in a climate where ACE talked of “levelling up” in its allocations?

“While we’re delighted to receive the NPO support, we are equally devastated for our peers across the industry who did not receive the support they had hoped for.

“We see us receiving the funding as validation for our community-driven approach, which makes our work inclusive and relevant to those we serve, while also taking on the responsibility to support our peers and create partnerships with those who aren’t part of the portfolio, so we can all continue to deliver our equally valuable work.”

York has come out of the NPO awards with tails up: York Theatre Royal, York Museums Trust, the National Centre for Early Music and Pilot Theatre retaining NPO status; Next Door But One and York Explore Library and Archive joining for the first time. What does that say about the health and diversity of arts provision in York?

“I think we’ve known for a long time just how much the city is steeped in arts a culture, and as you suggest, this goes towards celebrating that – and what a diversity of offerings York will have over the coming three years.

“From central building-based theatres, to touring companies, music, museums, libraries and a nimble participatory company like us, there really is going to be something for everyone, and we’re proud to be contributing to that collective.”

What are the benefits to NDB1 of acquiring NPO status?

“The main benefit for us is sustainability. Over the years, we’ve been able to do what we do by working hard on securing project grant funding, but this can become time consuming and resource heavy.

James Lewis Knight, left, as Jimmy and Matt Stradling as James in Next Door But One’s Operation Hummingbird. Picture: James Drury

“Knowing that we have our core funds secured for three years means we can really invest in current delivery while also having more headspace to think strategically about how we continue even further into the future.

“On the day we got the funding announcement [November 4], I phoned or emailed every partner we work with to tell them ‘We will still be here for you’ and that’s what it really means to us to become an NPO.”

Being a participatory arts and community-focused performance organisation gives you a different profile to other arts organisations in the city. All that with a part-time team of five. Discuss…

“It does, and I think that’s the real joy of the portfolio, particularly in York. We’re part of this great network of arts and culture creators, all approaching it from different angles, which should mean that everyone in York can access the things they want in a way that works for them.

“There can be a mistake when there are lots of organisations doing similar things into viewing it as ‘competition’, when it’s not. It’s complementary and collaborative. In fact, we’ve already had many discussions and meetings with fellow NPOs to see how we can support one another; how our work can go to their venue or how our participatory approach can strengthen a certain one of their projects.

“As for the part-time team, it’s great to have stability in our roles, which means we can grow both in terms of impact and by working with more York freelancers on upcoming projects.

“Even though it’s a full-time passion, we see our ‘part-timeness’ as a real strength; among our team we have those that in other areas of their working week are arts and mental health programme managers, music specialists, campaigners and directors of other theatre companies. All that additional skill and insight is really welcomed into NDB1.”

Is this the key: “Making sure that we get theatre to people who want it, in a way that is accessible, relevant and meaningful to them. People have always come first, and profile second”? 

“Yes, we pride ourselves on meeting people where they are, in terms of geography but also in terms of experience and aspiration. So, whether that is taking performances to community libraries or residential gardens, or workshops to children’s centres and support groups, we go to where we’re needed, connect and create together.

First orders: Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios reopened outdoor theatre in The Gillygate pub garden after lockdown restrictions were lifted. Picture: James Drury

“This can often mean we don’t inhabit large, prolific buildings or that our work has huge visibility, but as long as we remain meaningful to those we do engage, then that’s what counts to us. And being an NPO will enable us to sustain this work while also reaching out to new communities and asking them what they want from us.”

Within the York community, you involve people who would not otherwise participate in the arts. Discuss…

“Well, rather than saying ‘We have this thing and you need to get involved’, we approach it the other way around by saying ‘We know about theatre, you tell us how you want that to work for you’.

“For example, our programme of Forum Theatre came about through communities of people with learning disabilities, their support staff and family wanting safe yet productive ways of exploring independent living.

“So, we worked with members of The Snappy Trust and Camphill Village Trust to gather the tricky situations that they wanted to explore, trialled the format with them, evaluated together and now this has become an embedded process and programme of engagement.

“This has been the same with us using storytelling and performance skills to increase the self-confidence of unpaid carers wanting to apply for volunteering and employed work, or offering online creative writing sessions to keep LGBTQ+ young people connected and openly exploring topics important to them.

“Our approach is for the community to identify what they want, and then our responsibility is to shape the theatre with them to meet that goal.”

Lastly, Matt, put some flesh on the bones of what you have planned for next year…

“So, as every NPO now must do, we’re in a negotiation phase until the end of January 2023 to confirm the first year of plans with ACE, but in short, both programmes of Forum Theatre for people with disabilities will continue and increase, as will our training course in Playback Theatre for adults with mental ill health.

“We’ll also be remounting our 2021 production of Operation Hummingbird with York Explore, creating new audiences with our adaptation of The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, building on our relationships with schools and universities with a new tour of She Was Walking Home and supporting a cohort of local performing arts professionals with a series of mentoring and skills-based workshops.”

She Was Walking Home: the back story

“We cannot let statistics dehumanise what’s actually happening or forget the real voices behind each lived experience,” says Kate Veysey, associate director of Next Door But One

PROMPTED by the kidnap and murder of York-born Sarah Everard in March 2021, Next Door But One mounted a city-centre audio walk last year, in response to “the reaction from women in our community and the unfortunate subsequent attacks and murders”.

Subsequently, it was expanded by Rachel Price into a live adaptation this spring, performed by a cast of four women at York Explore on May 5, Theatre@41, Monkgate, on May 20, The Gillygate pub, May 26, and University of York, June 14.

“She Was Walking Home aims to put the focus on the voices of local women, but not the responsibility or accountability for their safety,” says NDB1 associate director Kate Veysey.

Last year, for the first time, The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data on how safe people feel in different public settings. One in two women felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a quiet street near their home, or in a busy public place, and two out of three women aged 16 to 34 experienced one form of harassment in the previous 12 months.

Cast member Anna Johnston in the rehearsal room for She Was Walking Home

“Behind every one of these statistics is a true story of harassment, abuse, rape or even murder – a life changed forever,” says Kate. “We cannot let statistics dehumanise what’s actually happening or forget the real voices behind each lived experience.”

She Was Walking Home takes the form of a series of monologues created from the testimonies of women living, working and studying in York. “We created this production in response to the heart-breaking murder of Sarah Everard and the understandable shock and uncertainty it caused in our local community,” says Kate.

“We wanted to amplify the voices of local women, while also prompting conversations around where responsibility and accountability lies for their safety. Since the original audio walk, listened to by almost 800 people, there have been further attacks and murders of women, including Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy, and still the rhetoric seems to be skewed towards rape alarms, trackers, self-defence classes and dress codes being the solution. We needed to continue and challenge this conversation.” 

The 2022 tour to libraries, pubs, theatres and universities in May and June aimed to “bring this very real issue home with the experiences encountered on the very streets that make up York. “The invitation was to come and watch, listen, but also to think ‘What is it that I can do in making the women in our community safer?’,” says Kate.

Cast member Emma Liversisdge-Smith with Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle alongside her

Alongside the touring performance, Next Door But One have created a digital pack for schools and community groups, including a recording of the performance and a workbook containing prompts for debate and conversations that will lead to change.

“As a company, we want the theatre we make to be as useful as it can be; a tool that supports people in the ways they need,” says creative producer El Stannage.

“The tour reached different communities through the venues we visited, but equally the digital pack can be used to evoke conversations now, for change that will be seen into the future; empowering girls to report experiences of abuse and harassment and raising awareness of how boys and young men can be better allies in keeping women safe, for example.” 

Watch this space for details of the upcoming performances in 2023.

Next Door But One’s tour poster for She Was Walking Home

Next Door But One take storyteller version of Philip Pullman’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter to York libraries at half-term

Ceridwen Smith: Performing The Firework-Maker’s Daughter at York libraries next week

NEXT Door But One are teaming up with Explore York Libraries to bring a magical storyteller performance of Philip Pullman’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter to four York libraries over half-term.

The award-winning York theatre company originally created their theatrical adaptation as a Zoom performance during lockdown, reaching hundreds of young families desperate for creative projects to engage young ones stuck at home.

The online version was such a hit that Pullman gave permission for a solo storyteller version to be developed for community touring, performed last year by Emma Liversidge .

Backed by City of York Council and Make It York, Next Door But One’s show is to visit Acomb, Tang Hall, New Earswick and York libraries during October half-term, the story now told by Ceridwen Smith .

The poster for Next Door But One’s half-term performances of The Firework-Maker’s Daughter

The show tells the story of Lila’s journey across lakes and over mountains as she faces her biggest fears, learning everything she needs to know to become the person she has always wanted to be.

Next Door But One’s production has been designed to be accessible to all young people and their families, including those with additional sensory needs and learning difficulties. It features Makaton [a language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate], magic and loads of audience participation.

Lyndsay Glover, of Explore York said, “We’re so delighted to be bringing this beautiful and magical version of The Firework-Maker’s Daughter to four of our libraries this half-term. We hope to reach a wide range of young families across York with daytime performances at local Explore sites and tickets at just £2.50.”

Sir Philip Pullman, best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy, has been vocal in his support of Next Door But One’s production. Recognising the cost-of-living crisis, he has waived all royalties for these performances, in lieu of a donation to the Trussell Trust, in support of a network of more than 1,200 foodbanks across Great Britain.

Emma LIversidge performing The Firework-Maker’s Daughter on Next Door But One’s 2021 tour. Picture: James Drury

Emma Revie, the Trussell Trust’s chief officer, says: “We’re really grateful to Philip Pullman and Next Door But One for their support. Soaring food and fuel costs are affecting us all, but for families on the very lowest incomes, this crisis means so much more and more people are likely to need a food bank’s help.

“The support of Philip Pullman and Next Door But One will help food banks within our network continue to provide the lifeline of emergency support for local people, while we work in the long term to end the need for food banks, for good. Thank you so much.”

NDB1 artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle says: “This project encapsulates everything that Next Door But One stands for. Brilliant, original theatre made in York, for York audiences, with York artists… but also targeted at an audience that might not otherwise get to access theatre and, thanks to Sir Philip’s generous donation to the Trussell Trust, making a wider social impact. I couldn’t be prouder to be bringing this show to York families this half-term.”

Next Door But One present The Firework-Maker’s Daughter at Acomb Library on October 24 at 10am and 11.30am; Tang Hall Library, October 24, 2pm and 3.30pm; New Earswick Library, October 25, 10am and 11.30am, and York Explore, October 25, 2pm and 3.30pm. Tickets: £2.50, family tickets £8.50, at nextdoorbutone.co.uk.

Next Door But One seek performing artists for Opening Doors workshop, mentoring and networking programme in February

Next Door But One: Opening doors to support York’s performing arts freelancers

IT is no secret that the arts haves been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As many theatres roll out their plans to “Build Back Better”, York community arts collective Next Door But One are focusing their support on the city’s freelancers, delivering another series of free professional development workshops. 

Various UK surveys throughout the Covid pandemic have highlighted how seven out of ten parents and carers, nearly two thirds of disabled practitioners and 70 per cent of those who identify as being from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background are thinking they will need to leave their careers in the creative industries.

Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“These figures are extremely concerning for a number of reasons” says Next Door But One’s artistic director, Matt Harper-Hardcastle. “Not only is our own team created from these different artists, but without the correct continued investment, the arts risks taking huge steps backwards in respect of access, representation and diversity.

“As a small theatre company, dependent on the skilled freelancers within York, it is important we look after our people.” 

Last year, Next Door But One ran their first programme of professional development, funded by Arts Council England, for 27 performing arts professionals, offering workshops on fundraising, facilitation, directing and scriptwriting, as well as group mentoring sessions and networking opportunities.

Next Door But One’s Opening Doors: Offering professional mentoring support

“Ninety per cent of participants on this programme had lost most of their freelance work, were struggling to secure new opportunities or had considered a change in career,” says associate director Kate Veysey.

“From our previous cohort, we supported many to secure future employment and to raise funds for their own projects (notably £50,000 in Develop Your Creative Practice funding through Arts Council England).

“But the overriding feedback was on the importance of Next Door But One creating a new network for participants to support one another through the difficult time of the pandemic. A network which is still helping people flourish.” 

Next Door But One associate director Kate Veysey

Next Door But One are now mounting a similar programme, Opening Doors, that hopes to do just that, says Matt. “If people need some direction, or support on what they should do next, or what might be possible for them; that’s what we hope to offer,” he reasons.

Opening Doors will begin this month (February 2022), funded by the City of York Council, York Centre for Voluntary Services and Make It York, and Next Door But One are looking for individuals to register their interest if engagement in this programme would be of use to them.

“The process is quick and open to any performing arts professional, from new graduates, emerging or re-emerging artists, or those who just need support to get back on their desired track, based in or around York,” says Matt.

Workshops. Mentoring. Networking. Next Door But One are opening doors for York’s arts community

“Some workshops will be in person, at the company’s new home of The Gillygate pub, in Gillygate, while others will be virtual and will be run by industry leading directors, producers, fundraisers, casting directors and playwrights.”

To register your interest, go to www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk or if you have any questions about the professional development programme, send an email to kate.ndb1@gmail.com. 

If you are reading this, are thinking of registering your interest, but are still unsure, here is what one of last year’s participants said: “