More Things To Do in York and beyond as the Vikings take over. Hutch’s List No. 7 for February 10 onwards, from The Press

In with a shout: Jorvik Viking Festival returns to York

INVASION? Installation? Theatre innovation? Half-term challenges? Giants and dinosaurs? Yes, yes, yes. Charles Hutchinson signposts what to catch in the days and weeks ahead.

Festival of the week: Jorvik Viking Festival 2024, invading York from February 12 to 18

NOW in its 39th year, Europe’s largest annual Viking festival will be attracting up to 45,000 visitors of all ages over the week ahead. “We’d always advise booking in for some of the activities – including a visit to Jorvik Viking Centre and the Festival Finale – but many have booking slots available on the day too,” advises event manager Abigail Judge.

Family activities include Monday’s smelly, squelchy Poo Day! at DIG, St Saviourgate, from 11am to 3pm; daily Berserker Camp, family crafting and saga story-telling Arena! shows, and a new event, the Best Dressed Viking, Best Beast and Best Beard competitions, on February 18 at 12.30pm in St Sampson’s Square. For tickets and the full programme, visit: jorvikvikingfestival.co.uk

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia in rehearsal for the Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production of Frankenstein. Picture: Ed Waring

Yorkshire theatre premiere of the week: Frankenstein, Leeds Playhouse Courtyard Theatre, February 15 to 24

PIONEERING Leeds company Imitating The Dog teams up with Leeds Playhouse for a “visually captivating and psychologically thrilling” multi-media exploration of Mary Shelley’s Gothic tale of fear and anxiety, posing the question “what is it to be human?”.

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia play all the roles across parallel narratives, threading together the late-18th century’ story of Frankenstein with a contemporary conversation between a pregnant young couple, fearful of what it means to bring life into the world. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or  leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

Ironing 1924 style at Nunnington Hall over half-term. Picture: Arnhel de Serra

Half-term family activity of the week: Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley, February 10 to 18, 10.30am to 4pm, last entry at 3.15pm.

TRAVEL back to 1924 this half-term when families can enjoy being tasked with carrying out activities performed by household servants 100 years ago, from ironing to dusting bannisters, cross stitch to flower arranging.  

The National Trust property has created a fun, interactive trail around the manor house in the form of a CV that guides visitors through the various servant skills. Children can find out if they meet the requirements necessary to fulfil the responsibilities of the desired positions, and then decide which roles, if any, they would choose to accept. Tickets: nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall.

Going Wilde in the country: Tiny & Tall Productions and Soap Soup Theatre’s touring production of The Selfish Giant visits Helmsley

Children’s show of the week: Tiny & Tall Productions and Soap Soup Theatre in The Selfish Giant, Helmsley Arts Centre, February 11, 2.30pm

BRISTOL family theatre companies Tiny & Tall Productions and Soap Soup Theatre head north with their collaborative exploration of Oscar Wilde’s children’s story of an unusual friendship, The Selfish Giant.

In this version, the giant Grinter lives happily alone in her huge icy house, shutting out the world that long ago shut her out. Outside, very little greenery is left. One spring day, the children, tired of playing on hard roads and grey rooftops, climb through a chink in her garden walls, changing the course of their lives forever and Grinter’s too. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyartscentre.co.uk.

Jonathan Pie: Hero or villain? Time for a rant at York Barbican

York comedy gig(s) of the week: Jonathan Pie: Hero Or Villain?, York Barbican, February 14 and 15, 7.30pm

FOR the record, ranting political correspondent Jonathan Pie is a fictional character portrayed by British comedian Tom Walker, scripted by Walker and Irish comedian Andrew Doyle. In his latest slice of Pie, he hopes to answer the question: hero or villain?

Join him, on a St Valentine’s Day date or the night after, as he “celebrates the UK’s greatest heroes (nurses/Gary Lineker/24-hour off licence proprietors), takes a verbal blowtorch to its villains (the Tories/cyclists), kicks in the Establishment’s back doors and rifles through its kitchen cupboards”. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Jurassic Live: Dinosaur adventures on a musical journey at York Barbican

Swimming dinosaur alert: Jurassic Live, York Barbican, February 16, 5pm; February 17, 11am, 3pm; February 18, 1pm

NEW for 2024 in this interactive theatrical dinosaur show is the Tylosaurus, a genus of Mosasaur: the largest predatory marine reptile to ever grace our oceans and now the largest marine puppet ever made as it swims in its gigantic purpose-built Jurassic tank on stage. Be warned: if you sit near the front, you will get wet!

Family show Jurassic Live undertakes a musical journey as little Amber, Ranger Joe and Ranger Nora strive to save the day from an evil man determined to close the Jurassic facility. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Barrie and the Bard: Barrie Rutter discusses Shakespeare’s Royals at the SJT, Scarborough, Salts Mill, York Theatre Royal and Ripon Theatre Festival

Regal tour of the north: Barrie Rutter: Shakespeare’s Royals, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 1, 7.30pm; Arrival Of Spring Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, April 13, 7.30pm; York Theatre Royal Studio, April 26, 7.45pm; Ripon Theatre Festival, Ripon Cathedral, July 4, 7.30pm

BARRIE Rutter, founder and former director of Northern Broadsides, celebrates the Bard’s kings and queens – their achievements, conquests and foibles – with tales, anecdotes and memories from a career of playing and directing Shakespeare’s Royals.

After being told he could never play a king on account of his Yorkshire accent, Hull-born Rutter, now 77, took the revolutionary step of creating his own theatre company in 1992 in Halifax to use the northern voice for Shakespeare’s kings, queens and emperors, not only the usual drunken porters, jesters or fools. As he says on X: “Lover of language. Awobopaloobopalopbamboom – everything else is Shakespeare”. Box office: Scarborough, 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com; Salt’s Mill, https://bit.ly/RutterAtSalts;  York, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; Ripon, ripontheatrefestival.org.

In Focus: Art installation Colour & Light, York Art Gallery, going full frontal until February 25

Colour & Light: Art from the York Art Gallery collection spreads over the gallery facade in Double Take Projections’ installation. Picture: York BID/Double Take Projections

YORK BID links up with York Museums Trust for the return of Colour & Light: an innovative project designed to warm up York Art Gallery’s facade in the cold winter with an art-filled light installation by David McConnachie’s Edinburgh company Double Take Projections.

This “high impact and large-scale visual arts project” uses 3D projection mapping to bring York’s iconic buildings to life, first York Minster last year, now York Art Gallery, where the projection will play every ten minutes from 6pm to 9pm daily in a non-ticketed free event. 

Highlighting York’s UNESCO Media Arts status, this outdoor projection is the work of Double Take Projections, who architecturally scanned the gallery facade to generate a 3D model.

This model served as the template for content application. From there, they used multiple projections to create one seamless image by projecting from different angles and wrapping content on the irregularly shaped frontage.

Viewers can notice something new at each viewing, such as York’s skyline being hidden in different mediums or artistic elements of the gallery’s façade that they may not have spotted previously.

The William Etty statue in front of the gallery, in Exhibition Square, has been brought to life too. Born in Feasegate and buried just around the corner from the gallery in Marygate, Etty is York’s most iconic artist.

Considered the first significant British painter of nudes and still lifes, Etty’s 19th century paintings were somewhat controversial at the time, but he also played a role in the conservation of the city walls.  His work Preparing For AFancy Dress Ball features in the Colour & Light display.

Not only York Art Gallery’s paintings are highlighted. Spot the reference to the extensive Centre of Ceramic Arts (CoCA) and the two tiled panels on the side of the building, Leonardo Expiring In The Arms Of Francis I and Michelangelo Showing His Moses

Viewers can pick up exclusive Colour & Light merchandise from the Sketch Box for £2 or less while watching the show, as well as churros, soft serve and hot drinks.

Carl Alsop, York BID’s operations manager, says: “This event is all about making world-class culture more accessible, and it’s been brilliant watching the show from Exhibition Square, traditionally a quiet and reserved space, with children playing, dancing and laughing, and people from all backgrounds enjoying the show together.

“It’s also been great to see people discovering some of the less obvious aspects of the projection on a second viewing. Audiences have enjoyed various buildings from York’s skyline reimagined in different mediums, as well as seeing elements of York Art Gallery, like the mosaics on each side of the building, brought to life.”

Richard Saward, York Museums Trust’s head of visitor experience and commercial, says: “We are thrilled to be involved with York BID’s Colour & Light show. This event kicks off a fantastic season at York Art Gallery, including The Aesthetica Art Prize 2024 exhibition and Claude Monet’s painting The Waterlily-Pond, which will be on display in York from May 10 to celebrate the 200th birthday of the National Gallery.” 

More Things To Do in York and beyond, deep amid the Christmas show-storm. Hutch’s List No. 51, from The Press

The York Waits: In Dulci Jubilo at the double in Beverley and York this weekend

CHRISTMAS, Christmas and more Christmas events stop Charles Hutchinson from staying by a winter fire as writing cards must wait.

Christmas collaboration of the week: The York Waits & Ebor Singers, In Dulci Jubilo, St Mary’s Church, Beverley, today, 12 noon; St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

SEASONAL music from Renaissance Europe for choir and period instruments, celebrating the Christmas story in the grand works of Michael Praetoius, Schutz, Eccard, Lassus and William Byrd.

Twenty voices of the Ebor Singers combine with the sackbuts, curtals, recorders, flutes and violin of The York Waits. Additional religious and secular instrumental items will afeature the Waits’ Noyse of Shawms, crumhorns, bagpipes and hurdy gurdy. Box office: ncem.ticketsolve.com.

100 snowmen – count them! – created by Slingsby Primary School pupils for the Oak Bedroom at Nunnington Hall

Last chance to see: Christmas Through The Ages, Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley, today and tomorrow, 10.30am to 4pm; last entry at 3.15pm

NUNNINGTON Hall plays host to Christmases past on a Yuletide journey through the ages, immersed in the rich tapestry of festive traditions. Step into the opulence of the Georgian era, savour the splendour of the Victorian golden age, see a Tudor feast fit for a king, or relive the exuberant 1980s’ parties. Tomorrow, carol-singing sessions start at 12 noon and 2pm.

Younger visitors can discover a riddle trail in the garden and a new 1940s’ display in the West Bedroom details the story of a rationed Christmas. Slingsby Primary School has created a winter wonderland of 100 snowmen in the Oak Bedroom. Normal admission applies. Tickets: nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall.

Richard Kay: Perfoming at Showtime With Don Pears At Christmas

Pears, but no partridge, for Christmas: Showtime With Don Pears At Christmas, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow , 7pm

NOW a JoRo Christmas tradition, legendary York musician Don Pears performs an evening full of cheer in his Christmas Showtime Concert. Celebrating 30 years of making music and fundraising for the Haxby Road theatre, Pears will be joined by regular cohorts Arnold Durham, Graham and Richard Kay, John Hall, Steve Cassidy, Carol Richardson and Beth Winteringham.

York choir Singphonia make a guest appearance, along with The Tuesday Singers and York Ladies. Sweet Caroline, Memory and You Raise Me Up join multiple festive favourites on the set list. Meanwhile, Shepherd Group Brass Band’s 7.30pm concerts on December 22 and 23 have sold out. Box office: 01904 501395 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Two shows in one day for Steve Cassidy: Performing at both York’s Annual Christmas Carol Concert at York Barbican and Showtime With Don Pears At Christmas at Joseph Rowntree Theatre tomorrow

Long-running festive fixture: York’s Annual Community Carol Concert, York Barbican, tomorrow (17/12/2023), 2pm

FOR 65 years, this concert has heralded York’s festive season with favourite Christmas carols and songs. Join Shepherd Group Youth Band, Badger Hill School Choir, Track 29 Ladies Harmony Chorus, York Stage School and Steve Cassidy for a Christmas singalong under the baton of musical director Mike Pratt.

Community Carol Concert favourites Adam Tomlinson and Rev Andrew Foster return as hosts. Proceeds go to the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York’s Christmas Cheer Fund and The Press’s nominated charity. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk

The Howl & The Hum: Last hurrah for the York band’s original line-up in three-night Christmas run at The Crescent

Ho-ho homecoming for Christmas of the week: The Howl & The Hum, supported by Fiona Lee, tomorrow, Before Breakfast, Monday, and Bar Pandora, Tuesday, The Crescent, York. Doors: 7.30pm. Stage times: support acts, 8.15pm; headliners, 9.15pm

YORK’S supreme swoony rockers return to The Crescent for three festive shows with the original line-up of Sam Griffiths, vocals and guitar, Bradley Blackwell, bass, Conor Hirons, guitar, and Jack Williams, drums, who play together for the last time.

“The Howl & The Hum are a band who we grew up with; their shows here at The Crescent have always been special since our – and their – early days through to the way-pro Christmas gigs they’ve played here more recently,” says the website. “Cheers guys, look forward to what is next!”. Sold out, alas. For returns only: thecrescent.co.uk.

Green Matthews: Returning to the NCEM for A Christmas Carol In Concert on Tuesday night

Dickens of a good idea for a Christmas folk concert: Green Matthews: A Christmas Carol In Concert, National Centre for Early Music, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

CHRIS Green and Sophie Matthews are joined by Jude Rees for a retelling of Charles Dickens’s redemptive Christmas tale exclusively through song with voices and traditional and modern instruments in authentic musical arrangements.

Modern-day balladeers Green Matthews take this nocturnal festive adventure back to its Victorian fireside roots with a magical blend of new lyrics, midwinter English folk tunes and carol melodies to illustrate the transformation of flint-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge into the epitome of the Christmas spirit:  warm hearted, generous and loving. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

The Carpenters Story At Christmas at York Barbican

Tribute show of the week: The Carpenters Story At Christmas, York Barbican, Tuesday, 7.30pm

IN this special festive show, Carpenters’ classics such as Top Of The World, Close To You and We’ve Only Just Begun are paired with festive selections from Richard and Karen Carpenter’s  1978 album Christmas Portrait, from Merry Christmas Darling to The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire). Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Jools Holland: Back at York Barbican for his traditional winter appearance on Wednesday

Recommended but sold out already: Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.30pm

BOOGIE-WOOGIE piano maestro Jools Holland and his big band will be joined by special guests Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrick, from The Selecter. “This magnificent addition will amplify our Ska music credentials and bring an extra razzy dazzy spasm to our dance capabilities,” reckons Jools.

Boogie queen and enchantress Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall will be singing too, as will Sumudu Jayatilaka, who joined Jools for the first time in 2022.

Photographer Valerie Mather captures the heart of farming on isolated Yorkshire moorland in a year in the life of Bransdale

Lunchbreak at harvest time, by Valerie Mather, from Fields, Folds and Farming Life at Nunnington Hall

FIELDS, Folds and Farming Life, Nunnington Hall’s exhibition by Yorkshire documentary, travel and portrait photographer Valerie Mather, captures candid moments from a year in the lives of upland farmers in Bransdale on the North York Moors.

“Photography has the power to capture a moment in history, and my hope is that these images paint a picture of the spirit, stoicism and joy of these local farming families and communities today,” says Valerie, a former lawyer. “I wish to share some of the joy and inspiration about farming and nature that I discovered from my year in Bransdale.”

Bransdale, one of the North York Moors’ most isolated valleys with high moors on all sides, is cared for by the tenant-custodian farmers, the National Trust and its volunteers alongside the National Park authority.

The combination of Valerie’s work and specially produced films and artwork reveals the hard work and determination of the farming community in navigating the ever-changing agricultural world to achieve a better farming future for people, the environment and wildlife. 

Smiles in the show ring, by Valerie Mather

Here Valerie answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on photography, farmers and the future of farming

Speaking with the Dowsland family, from Moor Houses, Bransdale, their first concern was whether you would be ‘getting in the way of their daily routines’, but they grew quickly to enjoy your visits. “Oh, Val’s at the breakfast table again”! How do you build up that bond of trust with your subjects, especially when farmers can be taciturn?!

“I think being genuinely interested in the people I photograph goes a long way towards getting people comfortable. Also, helping out where needed. I helped out on a gathering in of some 300 sheep from the moor when one of the families was shorthanded, instructed by Nathan, their young son!”

If the two public views of farmers are that they are either “problematic” or “like on Channel 5” in the Amanda Owen and All Creatures Great And Small series, how have you set about changing those perspectives/misconceptions?

“Documentary photography is, for me, all about genuinely candid unposed moments, as opposed to posed portraits. There is no make-up or dress rehearsal! I am inspired by certain quotes and one of my favourites is by Paul Caponigro: ‘It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like; it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are’. That is what interests me as a photographer, no matter how much longer it takes in order to capture a genuine moment.”

Curlew on the moors, by Valerie Mather

Where does a traditional Yorkshire moorland farming community fit into increasingly fractured, no-sense-of- community-anymore Britain?

“I was initially drawn to document the farming community in my area when I attended a local agricultural show in the summer of 2019 and witnessed what a strong sense of community there is amongst farmers.

“I think documentary photography plays an important role, telling stories and allowing us an insight into communities other than our own. Through that we can hopefully appreciate how we all have a place in the world and have a greater understanding of other points of view.”

What did you learn from your previous lowland farming photography project that you could put to good effect in this upland series?

“Patience and pacing my energy levels. Farmers work long hours and staying in the moment requires concentration, otherwise something magical happens and you miss it, like the birth of a lamb for example.”

The yearning and the yawning: the joys of showing sheep start young, by Valerie Mather

What are the characteristics of upland farming that struck you the most?

“That the animals live outside most of the year and roam free on the moors but are ‘bound’ to stay in certain areas via ‘invisible boundaries’, which the farmers call ‘hefting’.”

The bond between farmer and stock and farmer and land are both central to your exhibition. Discuss… 

“One young farmer told me that he had spent a year working abroad and then lived for a spell in Kirkbymoorside, but eventually he had to return to the Bransdale valley he was born in. He used the phrase that he was ‘hefted to the land’.

“Whether you are born into it or not, in my experience, farming is a vocation and not simply a job.”

Sheep shearing on a Bransdale farm, by Valerie Mather

What did you discover in your upland farming encounters that most surprised you?

“I was surprised to learn that having a mix of cattle and sheep grazing on fields adjacent to moorland produces an ideal environment for ground-nesting birds by producing both long and short grass. Under-grazing (not enough livestock) or abandonment of pasture (no livestock at all) can lead to dense thatch, which is unsuitable for the endangered Curlew to nest amongst. Which means: no cattle, no Curlew.”

What is the future of upland farming?

“With only three per cent of farmers under the age of 35, our farming future is precarious across the country. Indeed, it was those alarming statistics that made me want to see for myself what life was like for smaller farmers in and around Yorkshire.

The next generation together: Boy and lamb on a Bransdale farm, by Valerie Mather

“Upland farmers have an important role to play in nature-friendly farming and the farmers I spent time with were actively engaged, for example, with breeding conservation initiatives for the endangered ground-nesting birds, such as the Lapwing and the Curlew.”

Do you have a favourite photograph in the exhibition?

“My personal reactions to the images are, of course, coloured by the emotions I felt when pressing the shutter each time and the engagement with my subjects on that particular day. An image that stands out for that reason was made during a lunchbreak from making silage on a scorching hot July day. The farm workers sat in the shade of their giant machines, eating sandwiches and laughing about how it beat sitting in an office.

Ewes’ round-up: Farmer, sheepdog and flock on the move, by Valerie Mather

“As talk turned to the rapidly rising costs of farming, their laughter and smiles gave way to silent contemplation. A reminder for me of the importance of valuing our British farming community and how shopping locally can make a difference.”

What will be your next documentary photography project?

“Too soon to say! I’ve been focused on this project for the past two years, so I need to take some time out, enjoy teaching my workshops, and wait for inspiration to strike. To make anything meaningful, one has to feel passionately about a subject.”

Fields, Folds and Farming Life, Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near York, on show until December 17; 10.30am to 5pm, last entry at 4.15pm, with reduced winter hours from November 24. No booking is required; exhibition included in admission price at this National Trust property.

Valerie Mather’s notes on an exhibition

Documentary photographer Valerie Mather spent a year with her camera at Bransdale. Picture: Laura Kennedy

HOW DID THIS PROJECT OCCUR? 

“My journey into the world of farming was originally inspired by an article in Country Life back in 2019, which said that only three per cent of UK farmers are under 35 and the average age is 59. 

“These alarming statistics made me want to see for myself what life was like for small farms in Yorkshire, so I set out to build relationships and visit the farmers in my local area.  

“That resulted in a book of black & white photographs in 2021, which led to the National Trust inviting me to spend a year exploring the working lives and environment of their tenant upland farmers in Bransdale, on the North York Moors.” 

INSPIRATIONS 

“I am inspired by the work of James Ravilious (son of the artist Eric) and his important photographic record of rural England in the 1970s.” 

Ewe and lambs in a sunlit pen on a Bransdale farm, by Valerie Mather

PROJECT THEME 

“The importance of balance between nature and farming and land management. Success relies on finding a balance in an ever-changing industry.” 

WHY DID I WANT TO SHARE THIS PROJECT? 

“Photography has the power to capture a moment in history and my hope is that people will enjoy the exhibition at Nunnington Hall and the accompanying book, available from www.valeriematherphotography.co.uk, and will recognise the importance of valuing our British farming community and how shopping locally can make a difference.” 

ADVICE FOR OTHERS 

“Today everyone has a camera in their phone. Digital photography means it doesn’t cost anything when you press the shutter. However, to make an image that another person might feel an emotional response to involves passion and understanding on the part of the photographer about their subject. 

“One of my favourite quotations is: ‘It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like; it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are’.”

At work in the sheep pens, by Valerie Mather

BENEFITS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND WORKSHOPS

“Photography can be very beneficial for our mental health and well-being. There is a lot of joy to be found in the world and a camera is a great way to share that joy with others. 

“I love helping people to understand their camera through my workshops. There is a saying that the best camera is the one you have in your hand. I think it’s truer to say that the best camera is the one that you understand how to operate.

“We all know how to work our phones but few of us take the time to learn how to use our camera and get off the Auto settings.” 

AI TECHNOLOGY/ROLE OF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY TODAY 

“The new AI technology may offer a multitude of artistic opportunities, but it does mean more than ever before that documentary photography has an important role to play in capturing our lives today and in asking the complex questions.

“There are no easy answers but if a photograph gets us to consider the questions in the first place it has done its job.”

Animal husbandry: Checking a sheep’s teeth, by Valerie Mather

More Things To Do in York and beyond when steam rises and a robot falls in love. Hutch’s List No. 36, from The Press, York

Playwright and director Alan Ayckbourn and actress Naomi Petersen in the rehearsal room for the Stephen Joseph Theatre premiere of Constant Companions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

AYCKBOURN and android love, traction engines and farming photography, comic fantasy and anecdotal Love stories keep Charles Hutchinson busy as summer exits stage left.

Premiere of the week: Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Thursday to October 7

IN Alan Ayckbourn’s 89th play, Lorraine is a fabulously successful lawyer of a certain age. Jan Sixty is the janitor of her building, an android of indeterminate age. In a not-too-distant future, where humans have turned to artificial friends for companionship without compromise, can Lorraine and Jan find true love?

“Reading so much about the inevitable arrival of AI into our society – some would say it’s already here! – I felt a cautious look forward might be in order,” says Alan. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

The skill of tractor pulling at the Yorkshire Traction Engine Rally at Scampston Hall. Picture: Outdoor Shows

Full steam ahead: Yorkshire Traction Engine Rally, Scampston Hall, Scampston, near Malton, today and tomorrow, 9am to 5pm

THE Yorkshire Traction Engine Rally, organised by Outdoor Shows, takes over Scampston Hall’s parkland this weekend. Among the steam fair attractions will be tractor pulling, steam engines, classic cars, vintage tractors, classic motorcycles, fairground organs, miniature steam engines, stationary engines and vintage commercials.

In the main arena, Flyin Ryan and his motorcycle stunt team deliver daredevil antics, comedy routines, fire stunts and arena entertainment, while the Scarborough Fair Collection stages two days of music and magic extravaganzas. Box office: scampston.co.uk or outdoorshows.co.uk.

The George Harrison Project: Here come the songs at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre tonight

Recalling the “quiet Beatle”: The George Harrison Project, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tonight, 7.30pm

MARKING the Beatles legend’s 80th anniversary, this tribute show to George Harrison embraces his Fab Four, solo and Traveling Wilburys supergroup years.

Here come Here Comes The Sun, Something, Taxman, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass, Got My Mind Set On You, Handle With Care, Give Me Love, What Is Life, If I Needed Someone, Cheer Down and many more. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

The 2023 poster for York Unleashed Comic-Con

Geek of the week: York Unleashed Comic-Con, York Racecourse, Knavesmire, York, tomorrow, 11am to 5pm

YORK actor David Bradley, from the Harry Potter films, Game Of Thrones and Doctor Who, leads the guest appearances at this weekend’s “geekiest, nerdiest” gathering. Lee Boardman, Clive Russell, Richard Gibson and Kit Hardman will be there too, along with comic creators and authors Sasha Ray Art, Carolyn Craggs, Lindsey Greyling, KS Marsden, Kelvin VA Allison Paolo Debernardi, Victoria Bates and Ben Sawyer.

Look out too for Geeky Attractions on three sites, including a Back To The Future time machine, a retro gaming area, Star Wars display, children’s activities, art area, stage talks, cosplay masquerade and geeky market selling merchandise and collectables. Tickets update: available on the door from 11am.

The artwork for Don Pears and Singphonia’s concert The Great American Songbook – From A To Z

Fundraiser of the week: Don Pears and Singphonia presents The Great American Songbook – From A To Z Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow, 4pm

DON Pears and Singphonia explore the vast scope of the Great American Songbook from the 1900s to the present, from Al Jolson to Beyoncé, covering spirituals and jazz through rock’n’roll and Rat Pack standards to modern hits, not forgetting musical theatre too.

Musical director Pears and his group of York singers perform solos, duets, and group numbers, taking in Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John Denver and The Carpenters in a fundraiser for the JoRo. Box office: 01904 501395 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Don’t Stop Believin’ in Eighties’ hits galore at the Grand Opera House, York

Tribute show of the show: Don’t Stop Believin’, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

JUMP aboard the midnight train, heaven is a place on Earth called York, for this end-of-the-night anthems spectacular, a new feelgood tribute show that promises a crazy, crazy night of non-stop, singalong favourites.

Hits by Blondie, Bryan Adams, Cher, Rainbow, Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, Starship, Europe and Belinda Carlisle feature among the 30 songs in this high-energy theatre production with “a sizzling cast, fantastic costumes and amazing light show”. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

In the name of Love: Comedian and TV panellist Judi has plenty to say at York Theatre Royal

Anecdotes of the week: The One Like Judi Love, York Theatre Royal,  Thursday, 8pm

EXPECT unrelenting, humorous anecdotes from “the one like Judi Love” on her first official talk tour, full of stories from the Hackney stand-up comedian and presenter’s life.

Regular Loose Women panellist Love, 43, has appeared on Taskmaster, The Jonathan Ross Show, The Graham Norton Show, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and the Royal Variety Performance too. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Alligator Gumbo: foot-stomping rhythms, tap-away tunes and raucous singalongs at Stillington Mill

Getting the swing of things: Alligator Gumbo, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Friday, 7.30pm

SUMMER At The Mill welcomes Alligator Gumbo for a night of swing/jazz from the New Orleans heyday. In particular, the Leeds seven-piece focuses on the raw music of the roaring 1920s, largely improvised with melodies and solos happening simultaneously.

Performing extensively for more than ten years, Alligator Gumbo have played international jazz festivals and clubs throughout the country with their good-natured mix of foot-stomping rhythms, tap-away tunes and raucous singalongs. Bar At The Mill will be running from 6.30pm, alongside the wood-fired pizzas. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/942447.

Ryan Gosling’s Ken and Margot Robbie’s Barbie in the summer’s biggest hit as Barbie heads outdoors into the Museum Gardens for a Movies In The Moonlight screening

Outdoor cinema: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, Museum Gardens, York, Mamma Mia!, September 8,  7.30pm, and Barbie (12A), September 9, 7.30pm

PICTUREHOUSE Outdoor Cinema returns to the York Museum Gardens for open-air screenings of Phyllida Lloyd’s 2008 Abba hit-laden musical rom-com Mamma Mia! (PG) and this summer’s splash-of-pink box-office smash, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (12A). Free samples of Mochi Balls from ice cream makers Little Moons can be enjoyed on both nights.

Whether on a girls’ night out or a family & friends evening, audience members are encouraged to dress up – and sing along too on the Mamma Mia! Night. Box office: picturehouses.com/outdoor-cinema/venue/york-museum-gardens.

The yearning and the yawning when showing sheep: One of Valerie Mather’s photographs from her Fields, Folds and Farming Life exhibition at Nunnington Hall, opening next Saturday. Picture: Valerie Mather

Exhibition launch of the week: Fields, Folds and Farming Life, Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near York, September 9 to December 17; 10.30am to 5pm, last entry at 4.15pm, with reduced winter hours from November 24

FIELDS, Folds and Farming Life, an exhibition by Yorkshire documentary, travel and portrait photographer Valerie Mather, captures candid moments from a year in the lives of upland farmers in Bransdale, a valley and surrounding moorland in North Yorkshire.

The combination of Mather’s work and specially produced films and artwork reveals the hard work and determination of the farming community in navigating the ever-changing agricultural world to achieve a better farming future for people, the environment and wildlife. No booking is required; exhibition included in admission price at this National Trust property. More details at nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/yorkshire/nunnington-hall.

Can you help put the finishing touches to the slithering dragon at Nunnington Hall?

The Nunnington dragon: “Slithering down the exhibition corridor” at Nunnington Hall

VISITORS to Nunnington Hall, near York, have until September 4 to help to determine the look of the Nunnington dragon as part of a story creation project in Ryedale.

Literacy specialist Rosie Barrett and artist Karen Thompson have been working with school groups and families to retell this folktale.

The story features in the Creatures Of Curiosity project, funded by grants from Arts Council England and Ryedale District Council, to encourage young people to engage with stories rooted in local places.

“There are some fascinating stories from the region, but the dragon has really captured imagination,” says Rosie. “Lots of regions have their own version of a dragon story, but most of us have only really heard of the most famous dragons – those featured in stories such as The Hobbit, for example, or Beowulf.

The Nunnington dragon’s head at the Creatures Of Curiosity exhibition at Nunnington Hall

“The project was a great opportunity to engage Ryedale people with our own dragon and find out a bit more about it.”

Rosie and Karen took their retelling of the story into schools in Ryedale to gauge their responses, inviting children to create their own illustrations and writing. “They had very strong ideas,” says Rosie.

“The original folktale has a devastatingly sad ending. We asked the children about it and how we should tell this element. We thought they’d want a happy ending and were surprised by their stoicism!”

Artist Karen illustrated the dragon based on the children’s ideas and consequently it slithers down the exhibition corridor. “The children helped us to get an idea of what the dragon should look like at the exhibition,” she says. “Based on details in the story, they were quite clear that the dragon should be long and worm-like.”

Scale drawing: Nunnington Hall visitors can add to the design of the dragon’s body and tail

Now Rosie and Karen are inviting more visitors to participate by creating a scale to go on the dragon’s body and tail.

“It’s been fantastic to see the dragon develop over the summer, but we’ve only got until September 4 to get enough scales to finish it,” says Karen. “We’re really hoping it will be complete by the end of the exhibition.”

Other stories featured in the Creatures Of Curiosity exhibition at the National Trust property include moorland myths about “hobs”, the secretive and mischievous creatures believed to have helped around farms and houses on the North York Moors, and an original tale based on the prehistoric creatures whose fossil remains were found at Kirkdale Caves.

Look out too for artwork by children’s author and illustrator Tim Hopgood, who has illustrated the Kirkdale creatures, such as hyenas, lions and long-tusk elephants, once native to the region, and for sensory textile creations by Wanda Szajna-Hopgood, based on Tim’s illustrations, that showcase the story of the Kirkdale Caves. Artwork by schoolchildren is on display too.

A close-up of the Nunnington dragon at Nunnington Hall

Based on a range of real and mythological creatures from the Ryedale area, the exhibition pulls together history, archaeology, science and folklore. The real creatures are themselves in some ways fantastical: creatures that lived there during the Ice Age, including mammoths, hyenas and giant deer.

The exhibition offers the opportunity to explore how local myths were created and how even real stories can take on mythical status.

On August 25 comes the chance to join Dr Liam Herringshaw, from the Fossil Roadshow and Scarborough Museums, to learn about fascinating fossils. Hands-on art and storytelling activities will take place on August 30 from 11am to 3pm.

Find out more at: nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall/features/exhibitions-at-nunnington-hall.

Grayson Perry’s Covid-crocked “lost pots” exhibition confirmed for May 28 opening in York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art

Kinky Sex: Grayson Perry’s first ceramic plate in 1983

GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery, The Pre-Therapy Years, will run from May 28 to September 5.

This touring show will be held in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) in the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced for a June 12 to September 20 run in York in 2020 until the pandemic intervened. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry-

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, The Pre-Therapy Years re-introduces the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist made between 1982 and 1994.  

Gathering the 70 works has been facilitated by crowd-sourcing through a national public appeal, resulting in the “lost pots” being put on display together for the first time since they were made. 

Dr Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics at York Art Gallery, says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the ground-breaking early works of such a renowned and influential artist. 

“It is fascinating to see how his craft has progressed and evolved since he began working as an artist. His early ceramic works show that the distinctive style, themes and characters have always been central in his decoration.”

Armageddon Feels So Very Reassuring, 1988, by Grayson Perry

Helen continues: “To be able to bring these works together for public display, many of which are usually hidden away in private collections, is absolutely thrilling.  

“We are very much looking forward to seeing Grayson Perry’s ceramic works displayed in the beautiful Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery alongside our own collection of British studio ceramics.” 

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories.

The exhibition “represents a unique opportunity to enjoy the artist’s clever, playful and politically-engaged perspective on the world”. Often challenging and explicit, these works reveal the early development of Perry’s distinctive voice that has established him as one of the most compelling commentators on contemporary society. 

Essex, by Grayson Perry

Explaining how The Pre-Therapy Years came together, curator Catrin Jones says: “When we proposed the exhibition, Grayson responded really positively because, he said, ‘no-one knows where those works are’.

“So, we asked the public and were absolutely overwhelmed by the response. What followed was an extraordinary process of rediscovery as we were contacted by collectors, enthusiasts and friends, who collectively held over 150 of his early works.”

The first task was to process photos of the pots, plates and drawings that arrived in the inbox, followed by asking all manner of questions about the works and from where they came.

“We logged all the pottery marks and provenance information, as well as the wonderful stories of how their owner came to have a genuine Grayson Perry,” says Catrin.

Meaningless Symbols, 1993, by Grayson Perry

She and her team next sat down with Perry to look through the extraordinary and varied selection of artworks. During this process, he remarked that seeing the works again was a powerful reminder of his “pre-therapy years”, and an exhibition title was born.

The show begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium. From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-1980s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in works of explosive energy. Although the majority of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs, perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.  

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years begins in 1982, when Perry was first working as an artist and then charts his progress to the mid-1990s, when he became established in the mainstream London art scene.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Grayson Perry of his exhibition, The Pre-Therapy Years

The exhibition provides a snapshot of a very British time and place, revealing the transition of Grayson’s style, starting out with playful riffs on historic art, such as old Staffordshire pottery, along with crowns (the mixed-media Crown Of Penii, 1982) and thrones (Saint Diana, Let Them Eat S**t, 1984), inspired by his fascination with Princess Diana.

Gradually, he progressed into a style that is patently his own: plates and vases rich with detail that tell tales of our times and experiences, such as 1989’s Cocktail Party.    

Much of the iconography of Perry’s output has an angry, post-punk, deeply ironic leaning, combining cosy imagery with shocking sexual or political content.  

Many of the works displayed in The Pre-Therapy Years tell a very personal story, particularly in the evolution of Claire, who first appeared in the early 1980s, inspired by such powerful women as television newsreaders and Princess Diana, rather than the exuberant child-like figure Perry created after her “coming out” party in 2000.  

The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Grayson Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories

Accompanying the rediscovery of Perry’s artworks, the Holburne Museum is illustrating the exhibition with photos and snapshots of the era, again sharing hitherto unseen glimpses of Perry as he journeyed from angry, ironic young artist to one of British art’s best-loved figures. 

After completing his art degree in Portsmouth in 1982, Perry moved to London and lived in a Camden squat with the singer Marilyn and Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, collectively enjoying creative freedom while sharing limited resources.

During these early years, Perry encountered the Neo Naturists, a group of freewheeling performance artists, whose visual and creative approach would have a profound impact on him.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, first exhibited at York Gallery in July 2015

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said curator of ceramics Helen Walsh on its arrival.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

Melanie featured subsequently in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, from August 20 last year.

In All Its Familiarity Golden, one of Grayson Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries shown at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Last year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley. Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born Perry.

2003 Turner Prize winner Perry kept himself busy in Lockdown 1 by launching Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the lockdown through art, in a six-part series on Channel 4 from April 27 2020 that attracted a million viewers a week.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry, as he looks forward to his 2021 tour, Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

From his London workshop, the Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer took viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in themed shows designed to “encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation”.

Grayson’s Art Club has returned for an on-going second series, presented by Perry in tandem with his wife, the author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry.

Looking ahead, outré artist and social commentator Perry has a York-bound live show in the late-summer.

In his own words: Despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, booked into York Barbican for September 6 on night number five of this year’s 23-date tour. Sheffield City Hall awaits on September 10; Harrogate Convention Centre on November 27.

The tour poster for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

What will be on Perry’s mind?  “Let Grayson take you through an enlightening and eye-watering evening in which this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” his show patter promises.

“Join Grayson as he asks, and possibly answers, these big questions in an evening sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.”

Perry, who turned 61 on March 24, has had an artistic career spanning 40 years, revealing a diverse expertise in “making lemonade out of the mundanity of life”. Such as? In 2015, he designed A House For Essex, a permanent building constructed in the North Essex countryside.

Last autumn, he presented Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip, a three-part documentary travelogue on Channel 4, exploring the meaning of the American Dream in today’s disunited United States of America.

Tickets for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

New dates set for Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years pots show at York Art Gallery

Let’s celebrate! You can put a date in your 2021 diary for Grayson Perry’s Cocktail Party (1989) at CoCA, York Art Gallery, every day from May 28 to September 5. Picture: copyright Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro

GRAYSON Perry’s Covid-crocked exhibition of “lost pots” at York Art Gallery will now run from May 28 to September 5 2021.

This major new display of Perry’s earliest works, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, will be showcased in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, the touring exhibition is the first to celebrate Perry’s earliest forays into the art world, reintroducing the “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994.

The 70 works have been crowd-sourced through a national public appeal, resulting in these “lost pots” being assembled for display together for the first time since they were made.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

The Pre-Therapy Years show should have been the centre of attention at CoCA from June 12 to September 20 this year, but the Coronavirus pandemic intervened.

2003 Turner Prize winner Perry, meanwhile, kept himself busy by launching Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the lockdown through art, in a six-part series on Channel 4 from April 27 that attracted a million viewers a week.

From his London workshop, the 60-year-old Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer took viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in themed shows designed to “encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation”.

Now, Perry devotees can look to the horizon, awaiting the arrival of his pots in York next May.

“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me,” says Grayson Perry of reacquainting himself with his “lost pots” in The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition

Dr Helen Walsh, York Museums Trust’s curator of ceramics, says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the ground-breaking early works of such a renowned and influential artist.

“It is fascinating to see how his craft has progressed and evolved since he began working as an artist. His early ceramic works show that the distinctive style, themes and characters have always been central in his decoration.

“To be able to bring these works together for public display, many of which are usually hidden away in private collections, is absolutely thrilling.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing Grayson Perry’s ceramic works displayed in the beautiful Centre of Ceramic Art alongside our own collection of British studio ceramics.”

The exhibition will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories. The 70 works will provide an opportunity to enjoy his clever, playful and politically engaged perspective on the world as these often challenging and explicit pieces reveal his early steps towards becoming a compelling commentator on contemporary society.

Explaining how the exhibition came together, curator Catrin Jones says: “When we proposed the exhibition, Grayson responded really positively because, he said, ‘no-one knows where those works are’. So, we asked the public and were absolutely overwhelmed by the response.

“What followed was an extraordinary process of rediscovery as we were contacted by collectors, enthusiasts and friends, who collectively held over 150 of his early works.”

The first task was to process photos of the pots, plates and drawings that arrived in the inbox. “We asked all sorts of questions about the works and where they came from,” says Catrin. “We logged all the pottery marks and provenance information, as well as the wonderful stories of how their owner came to have a genuine Grayson Perry.”

Catrin and her team then sat down with Perry to look through the “extraordinary and varied” selection of artworks. “It was during this process that Grayson remarked that seeing the works again was a powerful reminder of his ‘pre-therapy years’,” she recalls.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, one of his Three Graces, first exhibited in York at CoCA and now in York Art Gallery’s Your Own Gallery show

What can visitors look forward to seeing from next May? The Pre-Therapy Years begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium.

From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-80s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in these early works, marked by their urgent energy.

Although much of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs, perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.

The Pre-Therapy Years begins in 1982, when Perry was first working as an artist and then charts his progress to the mid-1990s, when he became established in the mainstream London art scene.

After completing his art degree at Portsmouth in 1982, Perry had moved to London, where he lived in a Camden squat with singer Marilyn and the Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, collectively enjoying creative freedom while sharing limited resources.

During these early years, Grayson encountered the Neo Naturists, a group of freewheeling performance artists, whose visual and creative approach would have a profound impact on his work.

Consequently, the exhibition provides a snapshot of a very British time and place, revealing the transition of Grayson’s style.

He progresses from playful riffs on historic art, such as old Staffordshire pottery, along with crowns (the mixed-media Crown Of Penii, 1982) and thrones (Saint Diana, Let Them Eat S**t, 1984 – inspired by his fascination with Princess Diana) into a style that is patently his own. His plates and vases become rich with detail that tell tales of our times and experiences, such as 1989’s Cocktail Party.

Much of the iconography of Perry’s output has an angry, post-punk, deeply ironic leaning, combining cosy imagery with shocking sexual or political content.

In its Familiarity Golden, one of two “everywoman” tapestries from Grayson Perry’s The Essex Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope, went on display from February 2020 at Nunnington Hall

Many of the works displayed in The Pre-Therapy Years tell a very personal story for Perry, particularly in the evolution of Claire, who first appeared in the early 1980s, inspired by such powerful women as television newsreaders and Princess Diana, rather than the exuberant child-like figure Perry created after her “coming out” party in 2000.

To accompany the rediscovery of Perry’s artworks, the Holburne Museum is illustrating the exhibition with photos and snapshots of the era, again sharing hitherto unseen glimpses of Perry as he journeyed from angry, ironic young artist to one of British art’s best-loved figures.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said curator of ceramics Helen Walsh on its arrival.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

Melanie is now featuring in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, on show since August 20, with timed tickets available at yorkartgallery.org.uk. Admission is free although you are asked to Pay As You Feel, with suggested payments of £3, £5 or £7.

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Earlier this year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley. Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born Perry.

NEWSFLASH

GRAYSON Perry and his wife, author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry, are to make a second Channel 4 series of Grayson’s Art Club in 2021.

“I’m so pleased and proud Art Club is coming back,” he says.”It’s a joyful team effort with the stars being the artists who send in their wonderful works and tell us their stories. Of course, it’s not principally about art, it’s a celebration of life.”

Grayson Perry launches Art Club on Channel 4 as York Art Gallery awaits lockdown fate of Pre-Therapy Years show

Grayson Perry: Battling the boredom of lockdown, armed with art

TURNER Prize winner Grayson Perry launches Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the Coronavirus lockdown through art, on Channel 4 tonight.

The Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer will be taking viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in a six-part series of themed shows designed to encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation.

This was the year when Perry’s “lost pots” should have been the centre of attention in York from June 12 to September 20 in the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition at York Art Gallery.

Watch this space for any update on what may yet happen. In the meantime, York Museums Trust is in discussion with its partners for The Pre-Therapy Years, an exhibition that is scheduled to move on to other venues.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, whose opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, was in the diary for June 12 2020

Back to Grayson’s Art Club. Through the magic of video call, in tonight’s first episode broadcast from his London workshop at 8pm, 60-year-old Perry will address the theme of Portrait with large-scale figurative painter Chantal Joffe and comedian and campaigning presenter Joe Lycett, who has taken to trying his hand at portraiture during lockdown.

For episode two, focusing on animal art, Grayson’s online guests will be British painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling and comedian and TV show host Harry Hill.

Ampleforth College alumnus and Angel Of The North sculptor Antony Gormley and comedian and comedy actor Jessica Hynes will pop up in episode three.

Episode four will feature artist Tacita Dean and comedian cum surrealist artist Vic Reeves, aka Jim Moir, creator and curator of the £500,000 Vic Reeves’ Wonderland for the 2012 Illuminating York festival of light and sound.

Vic Reeves, aka Jim Moir, at the opening of Vic Reeves’ Wonderland, his surrealist 2012 Illuminating York creation

Further guests will be announced later for an interactive series that will climax with an exhibition of works made by both the public and Perry’s celebrity guests as a “chronicle of Britain’s mood and creativity in isolation”.

Whenever it does run in York, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years comprises his earliest works and “lost pots”, including 70 ceramics crowd-sourced after a national public appeal.

Presented in York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA), this exhibition will be the first time these lost Perry creations have been assembled for display together, a cause for celebration for the Royal Academician Grayson.

“This show has been such a joy to put together, I am really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties,” he says.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, one of his Three Graces, exhibited at CoCA

“It is as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man; an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said York Museums Trust’s curator of ceramics, Dr Helen Walsh, at the time.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

In its Familiarity Golden, one of two “everywoman” tapestries from Grayson Perry’s The Essex Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope, on display in 2020 at Nunnington Hall

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Earlier this year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley.

Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born 2003 Turner Prize winner.

Let’s leap ahead and hope that Emma Stothard’s 366 Leaping Hares may yet have their day again at Nunnington Hall

Hare, there and everywhere: Whitby sculptor Emma Stothard surrounded by her 366 Leaping Hares at Nunnington Hall. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

WHITBY sculptor Emma Stothard’s wildlife work has come on leaps and bounds over the past year for her latest show at Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley.

To mark 2020 being a leap year, she has created a one-off installation of 366 Leaping Hares, one for each day of the year, combining sculptures, illustrations and paintings, all for sale, on display amid the historic collection in the Smoking Room of the National Trust country house.

Alas, Nunnington Hall is now closed with effect from this Wednesday (May 18), in response to Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic. “The safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors is our priority,” says senior visitor experience officer Laura Kennedy.

Out of the top drawer: four of Emma Stothard’s 366 Leaping Hares emerging from the Smoking Room furniture at Nunnington Hall. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

Let’s take a leap of faith, however, beyond the month of the Mad March Hare and leap ahead to later in the year when hopefully you can still see 366 Leaping Hares. “The idea came first, doing something for 2020, for Leap Year, rather than responding to a particular space, and I thought ‘let’s do 366 hares’,” says Emma. “Given that number, I knew some would need to be small, with some bigger ones for contrast.”

Emma spent the past year creating each work, whether clay, wire or willow sculptures, textiles hangs and cushions, drawings and ceramic tiles.

All have been individually hand-finished and dated by the sculptor, not least a special Leap Day Hare to mark Saturday, February 29. “Each of those 366 days is going to be special for someone – a birthday, an anniversary, maybe even a proposal of marriage on the Leap Day itself!” says Emma.

Emma Stothard working in her studio on her 366 Leaping Hares. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

She has responded too to Nunnington Hall’s “rich sense of history”. “Generations have lived here, and you can feel their presence in the furniture, the wallpaper and the textiles,” she says.

Consequently, Emma’s installation explores the array of materials that embodies the ever-changing architecture and fabric of the historic building, while experimenting with contemporary methods too in her hotchpotch of hares that range from four-foot willow sculptures to four-inch miniature wire and clay collectables.

Placed by Emma amid the historic collection, some are in full view; others are in the Smoking Room’s hidden spaces, nooks and crannies, even emerging from drawers or to be spotted under furniture.

Hare, there, everywhere, yes, Emma loves hares. “They’re just so wonderful to see, aren’t they,” she enthuses. “I see them quite a lot when I’m walking across the fields with my dog.

Going to the wire: A close-up of Emma Stothard’s handiwork as she makes a hare. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“I love spotting them because they’re so elusive, so quick moving. They’re magical to sculpt, and it’s the same with roe deer. I find them fascinating, beautiful, because you can never get that close to them.

“We’re steeped in their history and it feels a real privilege to be in their presence when they run out of front of me.”

The large number of hares required was the green light for Emma to broaden her working practices. “Like casting in bronze for the first time. I’d been recommended by (the late) Sally Arnup to use Aron McCartney, who has a metal-casting foundry at  Barnard Castle, but there never came a time to be able to cast anything until now,” she says. “Now that I have, hopefully we can continue with the relationship.”

Taking shape: hares lined up for the next stage of sculptor Emma Stothard’s creative process. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

This is not the first time that Nunnington Hall has had an impact on Emma’s work. “I first exhibited here in 2012 on the Rievaulx Terrace, when I was also commissioned to make my first wire sculpture of a horse, which you can still see here,” she says. “They like to move it around the gardens to keep people on their toes.

“The wire horse was the first time I moved away from working in willow and has led me to doing more public commissions in wire and now bronze wire. There are 12 little galvanized ones in the new exhibition, coated in zinc in the galvanizing process.”

Her outdoor willow sculptures, meanwhile, must be treated at regular intervals. “Think of it as a seasonal chore in the garden,” she says. “Four times a year; 50 per cent linseed oil; 50 per cent Turps substitute, which is a traditional way to protect the strength of the willow.

“There’s no reason you can’t get ten years out of them if you look after them properly, as linseed oil builds a layer of varnish, like shellac. So, remember, four times a year, once a season.”

Start counting: 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6….366 Leaping Hares in Nunnington Hall’s Smoking Room. Hope to see them again some time in 2020. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

In Staithes, you can spot Emma’s coral and coronation blue lobsters, her 9ft marine crustaceans first exhibited in the Sculpture By The Sea exhibition at the 2015 Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage, and now she has made Withernsea Crab, a three metre-high sculpture of a brown crab for the Withernsea Fish Trail.

Emma also had been working on sculptures for Jardin Blanc at May’s now cancelled 2020 Chelsea Flower Show, her fourth such commission for the hospitality area, where Raymond Blanc is the executive chef. More Emma work, by the way, can be found at Blanc’s Oxfordshire restaurant, the Belmond Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons.

At the time of this interview, Emma was on the cusp of signing a contract to create seven life-size sculptures celebrating Whitby’s fishing heritage on the east side of the East Coat harbour. ”I’m hoping to have the first piece installed in time for the Whitby Fish & Ships Festival in May,” she said. The 2020 festival has since been cancelled, but look out for Emma’s sculptures at the 2021 event on May 15 and 16 next spring.

Looking ahead, where would Emma most love to exhibit? “My dream is to do an exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park [at West Bretton, near Wakefield], particularly as I did my teacher-training there at Bretton Hall,” she says.

One final question for Emma: is it true that boxing hares are not male rivals scrapping over a female in hare-to-hare combat but in fact, contrary to myth, jack versus jill (as hares were known). “That’s right: it’s male against female, and in my boxing-hare couples, it’s always a female fending off a male,” she says.

As and when Nunnington Hall re-opens, Emma Stothard’s installation 366 Leaping Hares would then be on view and on sale until November 1.

From Essex house to Nunnington Hall country pile for Grayson Perry’s tapestries

The Essex Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015) , by Grayson Perry, on the drawing room wall of Nunnington Hall from February 8

GRAYSON Perry will be Stitching The Past Together with his tapestries at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley, from February 8.

Out go the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in come the Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer’s typically colourful and thought-provoking pair of Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time in the drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born 2003 Turner Prize winner.

The tapestries illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on a Colchester street.

Rich in cultural and architectural details, the tapestries contain a social history of Essex and modern Britain that “everyone can relate to”. 

These artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life’.

In Its Familiarity Golden: a close-up of one of Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015)

Historically, large-scale tapestry provided insulation for grand domestic interiors. Perry, by contrast, however, has juxtaposed its associations of status, wealth and heritage with contemporary concerns of class, social aspiration and taste.

To write Julie’s biography, he looked to the English ballad and folktale tradition, narrating a life that conveys the beauty, vibrancy and contradictions of the ordinary individual. 

Laura Kennedy, Nunnington Hall’s visitor experience manager, says: “It’s extremely exciting to have The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope Tapestries on the walls that would usually display the hall’s Verdure tapestries.

“The tapestries will hang in the drawing room amongst the historic collection, and nearby to the hall’s remaining 17th century Flemish tapestries telling the story of Achilles.”

Laura continues: “The genuine and relatable stories told through Grayson Perry’s artworks are a rich contrast to the demonstration of wealth and status reflected through many historic tapestries, including our own at Nunnington Hall.

“We’ve worked closely with the Crafts Council to bring the hangings to Nunnington and observe how these contrasting sets of tapestries are a beautiful contradiction in design, colour palette, storytelling and manufacture, illustrating the evolution of tapestries over the past four hundred years. It will also be the first time that The Essex House Tapestries have been hung in a historic setting.” 

One of the Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015), by Grayson Perry

Nunnington’s three Verdure tapestries were brought to Nunnington Hall more than 350 years ago by the 1st  Viscount Preston, Richard Graham, following his time as Charles II’s ambassador at the Court of Versailles.

Graham was appointed by King James II as the Master of the Royal Wardrobe because of his style and knowledge of Parisian fashions. He would have used these tapestries to demonstrate his good taste, wealth and status in society.

Welcoming Perry’s works to Nunnington Hall, Jonathan Wallis, curator for the National Trust, says: “It’s great to be able to show these wonderful tapestries at Nunnington. It continues our aim of bringing thought-provoking art to rural Yorkshire.

“The Life of Julie Cope is a story that we can all relate to and one which will delight, surprise and engage people. Digital devises accompany the tapestries exploring Julie’s life experiences and the reveal much of Perry’s inspirations.”

This is the first of two opportunities to see work by Grayson Perry in North Yorkshire in 2020. His earliest works and “lost pots” will be showcased in Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years from June 12 to September 20 at York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

The touring exhibition, developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, is the first to celebrate Perry’s early forays into the art world and will re-introduce the explosive and creative works he made between 1982 and 1994.

The 70 works have been crowd-sourced through a national public appeal, leading to the “lost pots” being on display together for the first time since they were made.

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry, on show in Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years at CoCA, York Art Gallery, from June 12

The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium.

From his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983), to his early vases made in the mid-1980s, Perry riffed on British vernacular traditions to create a language of his own.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex, and the vagaries of the art world – appear in works of kinetic energy.

Although the majority of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs, perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.

Perry says: “This show has been such a joy to put together. I am really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties. It is as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”

Grayson Perry’s The Essex House Tapestries: Life of Julie Cope (2015) will be on display at Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, Helmsley, from February 8 to December 20. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4pm.

Nunnington Hall’s Verdure Tapestries: away for conservation work; back on display from January 2021

What’s happening to the Nunnington Hall Verdure tapestries? 

ALL three tapestries at Nunnington Hall have been taken off the walls. At various times they were sent to Belgium to be cleaned and each is being worked on by a selected conservator.

At each studio, the tapestries have been placed on to a frame with a linen scrim. The conservators are working across each tapestry, undertaking conservation stitching.

This includes closing the gaps that have appeared and replacing worn historic threads and previous conservation repairs. These stiches are placed through both the tapestry and the linen to provide extra support.

One of the conservators has estimated this work will take 740 hours. The work should be completed in the middle of 2020 to be placed back on the drawing room wall in January 2021.

Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015) at Nunnington Hall

The story behind Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries

THE Essex House Tapestries were made for A House for Essex, designed by Grayson Perry and FAT Architecture, as featured on the Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry’s Dream House.

The house was conceived as a mausoleum to Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman”, who was inspired by the people Perry grew up among.

The tapestries are the only pair in a public collection, acquired by the Craft Council.