Director Janet Farmer leaves Pocklington Arts Centre after 25 years and 900 live shows at ‘the little place the big acts play’

Farewell: Departing director Janet Farmer in the Pocklington Arts Centre auditorium

DIRECTOR Janet Farmer hosts her leaving party at Pocklington Arts Centre tonight as she ends her 25-year association with the East Yorkshire venue.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, she oversaw her last concert: a strikingly strong double bill of Devonian folk musician John Smith and Eastern Pennsylvanian husband-and-wife duo Native Harrow, who reviewer Paul Rhodes observed “would have been worthy headliners in their own right”.

Janet will retire in mid-April after 22 years in post, preceded by three years of fundraising to transform the market town’s former cinema into a theatre, concert venue, cinema and studio gallery. The recruitment process to appoint her successor is under way.

From a standing start in 2000, Janet has led Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) into becoming a leading small-scale arts venue, recognised nationally as a beacon of good practice with a significant cultural reputation.

Janet has drawn more than £1million in public funding to support the venue’s presentation of 3,500 film screenings and staging of 900 live events, numerous festivals, from Pocktoberfest to the Platform Festival at the Old Station, plus hundreds of community events, workshops, exhibitions and private hires.

“When I started here, we borrowed an artists’ contact file; there were no agents online!” recalls Janet. “You had to buy a book with agents’ contact details and then contact them by fax.

“All the deals were down over the phone or by fax, whereas now it’s mostly by email, which can be seen as sad progress as you don’t always have that verbal contact any more.”

Over the past 22 years, Janet has programmed a diverse range of acts, naming her personal favourites as Joan Armatrading and Shed Seven, who both rehearsed at PAC for upcoming tours, Lesley Garrett, John Bishop, The Shires, Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Millican, Lucinda Williams, Baroness Shirley Williams, KT Tunstall, The Unthanks, Mary Chapin Carpenter, David Ford and Josh Ritter.

When informing PAC staff and volunteers of her decision in January, Janet said: “I am sure this will be said on many occasions over the next few months, but I want to thank all of the staff and volunteers for their tireless support, hard work, dedication and friendship. This has been vital to making PAC the success it is today.

“It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to lead PAC over two decades and it fills me with immense pride knowing what has been achieved during this time. I look forward to returning as a customer and perhaps a volunteer in years to come.”

Twenty-five years, Janet, can you believe it? “People keep saying they’re surprised, but, yes, it really has been that long. I did think I would finish in 2020, and but for the pandemic, I would have done, but I felt I had to see out the time when we were closed,” she says.

“A big part of that was to apply for the Government’s Culture Recovery Funding, and only one application was necessary, what with the support we received from East Riding of Yorkshire Council, and the furlough scheme, which meant we could continue to pay even part-time staff.”

Amid the ebb and flow of three pandemic lockdowns from March 2020, PAC continued to function by mounting 50-plus online events and workshops, staging a series of outdoor exhibitions by Sue Clayton and Karen Winship and launching Primrose Wood Acoustics concerts in June 2021 before reopening with two socially distanced performances by comedian Sarah Millican last July.

“We took Sue and Karen’s exhibitions into Askham Bar Vaccination Centre’s Tent of Hope in York and we took part in the online Your Place Comedy double bills, streamed from comedians’ living rooms and organised by Chris Jones of Selby Town Hall, with a host of independent Yorkshire venues involved,” says Janet.

“We did online shows with our beloved Lip Service too, and online has proved a really good way for people to discover acts like [York singer-songwriter] Rachel Croft and (Leeds band] The Dunwells, who were doing nightly streams at one point in lockdown.”

Janet wanted PAC to regain momentum before leaving this spring. “We’re doing all we can to make people feel safe as they return to coming here, such as having medical-grade air purifiers,” she says.

“I wanted us to get back into the swing of what we do, so we could show we could still do concerts, films, theatre, comedy and exhibitions well with good attendances again, and we have.”

She will continue to live in Pocklington while undertaking plenty of travel too. “This summer I can start the gap year I never had, going round the festivals, such as Cambridge Folk Festival; Kilkenny Arts Festival in August; Telluride Bluegrass Festival, in the Colorado mountains, where it’s a ski resort in the winter. Sitting in the mountains, watching a bluegrass festival, I’ll be in my element.”

Born and bred in York, trained in theatre, film and social sciences at York St John and later in theatre programming and policy through Leeds Playhouse, Janet first became the focal point of fundraising to establish Pocklington Arts Centre.

She then took on the role of running PAC once it opened. “I had to learn very quickly on the job, but I always had a handle on what people liked, like booking Johnny Vegas before he was well known,” recalls Janet.

“There were financial constraints, so I couldn’t be too adventurous at the start, and then there was always a bit of a problem of people not knowing where Pocklington was. But once we started getting bigger names, we could quote that to agents, and we became the little place that big acts wanted to play.”

That will be Janet’s legacy. “I’ve done my bit and it’s time to retire from here, though no doubt I’ll do some volunteering,” she says.

Janet Farmer: On stage at a Platform Festival, run by Pocklington Arts Centre at the Old Station, Pocklington

Janet Farmer’s Pocklington Arts Centre timeline

2000: First live event, French-Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan, February 2.

2000: First film, The Last September, directed by Deborah Warner, February 24.

2000: First outdoor festival, staged in April.

2001: First arts festival to be staged across the market town by PAC, continuing for four more years.

2001: James Duffy employed as box office assistant in October. Now general manager.

2002: Janet directs Fiddler On The Roof for Pocklington Dramatic Society.

2003: First film festival, including An Audience With Barry Norman.

2004: Second film festival, including Q&A with BAFTA chair Duncan Kenworthy and film journalist Quentin Falk.

2010: Forgotten Voices Community Choir launched.

2011: First full-colour A5 live events brochure launched.

2011: PAC cinema projection converted from 35mm to digital.

2011: PAC joins forces with Pocklington’s Roundtable to launch large-scale festival of beer and music

2016: Platform Festival of music and comedy launched.

2016: £600,000 refurbishment.

2018: Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status awarded with annual funding.

2018: Sara Morton appointed as PAC’s first marketing and administrative officer.

2019: Dementia Choir launched.

2020: PAC closes under Covid pandemic restrictions in March.

2020/2021: PAC stages 50-plus online events and workshops during lockdown.

2021: PAC stages series of outdoor exhibitions by Sue Clayton and Karen Winship during lockdown.

2021: Primrose Wood Acoustics launched in June.

2021: PAC reopens in July with two socially distanced performances by comedian Sarah Millican after 17 months of closure.

2022: Director Janet Farmer to leave in April after 25 years’ involvement.

Pocklington Arts Centre’s statistics under Janet Farmer

£1 million raised in public funding for PAC.

3,500 film screenings programmed since 2000.

900 live events programmed.

100s of community events, workshops, exhibitions and private hires staged.

20-plus arts, music and film festivals mounted.

Joan Armatrading: Rehearsed at Pocklington Arts Centre in preparation for a national tour

Music acts brought to Pocklington by Janet Farmer since 2000:

Joan Armatrading; Richard Hawley; Lucinda Williams; Mary Chapin Carpenter; Rosanne Cash; The Unthanks; Edwyn Collins; The Staves; Josh Ritter; Hothouse Flowers; Kate Rusby; The Shires; Adam Cohen; Amy Macdonald; KT Tunstall; Lesley Garrett.

The Searchers; Barbara Dickson; Beth Orton; Eric Bibb; Nick Mulvey; Roger McGuinn; Elkie Brooks; Eddi Reader; The Magic Numbers; Gretchen Peters; Levellers; Ron Sexsmith; Ruby Turner; Kathryn Williams; Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Echo & The Bunnymen; Fairport Convention; Teddy Thompson; Mary Coughlan; David Ford; Clare Teal; Ward Thomas; The Blockheads; Raul Malo; Lissie; Dr Feelgood; Newton Faulkner; Georgie Fame; Lau; Fishermen’s Friends; Seth Lakeman; Alvin Stardust.

Ralph McTell; Bellowhead; Benjamin Francis Leftwich; The Coal Porters; Martyn Joseph; Irish Mythen; Courtney Marie Andrews; The Manfreds; Otis Gibbs; London Community Gospel Choir; Hugh Cornwell; Thea Gilmore.

Shed Seven; Benjamin Francis Leftwich; Curtis Stigers; Graham Coxon; Greg Lake; Glenn Tilbrook; Badly Drawn Boy; Courtney Pine; Joe Brown; Grace Petrie; Martin Simpson; Marty Wilde; Vonda Shepherd; Martha Wainwright and The Young’Uns.

Regional music:

The Howl & The Hum; Beth McCarthy; Dan Webster; Gina Dootson; Boss Caine; Amy May Ellis; Joshua Bunell; Edwina Hayes; The Dunwells; Rachel Croft; Charlie Daykin; Katie Spencer; Jessica Simpson; Gary Stewart; Josh Savage; The Grand Old Uke Of York; Mambo Jambo; Miles Salter; Nick Hall.

Spoken word:

Kae Tempest; Simon Armitage; Bob Harris; Pam Ayres; John Cooper Clarke; Sandi Toksvig; Keith Floyd; Jay Rayner; Baroness Shirley Williams; Michael Portillo; John Hegley; Tony Benn; Simon Callow; Jeremy Vine.

Robert Powell; Michael Dobbs; Andrew Motion; Paddy Ashdown; Ian McMillan; Barry Norman; Chris Packham; Amanda Owen; Clive James; Matt Abbott; George Melly; John Sergeant; Martin Bell; Gyles Brandreth and Julian Norton.


Trestle Theatre; Opera North; Northern Broadsides; Red Ladder Theatre Company; Reduced Shakespeare Company; Idle Motion; Reform Theatre; Talegate Theatre; Magic Carpet Theatre; North Country Theatre; Hull Truck Theatre; BlackEyed Theatre; Lempen Puppet Theatre; MultiStory Theatre; NTC; Vamos Theatre; ShowStoppers! and Badapple Theatre Company.


John Bishop; Sarah Millican; Dylan Moran; Jenny Éclair; Al Murray; Ross Noble; Fascinating Aida; Andrew Maxwell; Chris Ramsey; Jason Manford; Omid Djalili; Sue Perkins; Rob Beckett; Lucy Beaumont; Jon Richardson; Stewart Lee; John Shuttleworth; Rhod Gilbert.

Arthur Smith; Luisa Omielan; Phill Jupitus; David Baddiel; Greg Davies; Paul Merton’s Impro Chums; Henning Wehn; Stephen K Amos; Patrick Monahan; Dave Gorman; Russell Kane; Jeremy Hardy; Mark Steel; Rich Hall; Gary Delaney and Barry Cryer.

The Shires to return to regular haunt Pocklington Arts Centre on acoustic tour

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes of The Shires

THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, will bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to Pocklington Arts Centre on January 26.

Award-winning duo Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have made habit of playing Pocklington since their Studio debut in 2014, appearing regularly at PAC and playing the Platform Festival at The Old Station in 2016 and 2019.

“Wembley Stadium, MEN Arena, Grand Ole Opry are all amazing, but Pocklington will always be a special place for us,” say Ben and Crissie, the first British artists to win Best International Act at the prestigious Country Music Awards in 2017.

The Shires released debut album Brave in 2015, followed by two further gold-certified albums, 2016’s My Universe and 2018’s Accidentally On Purpose. In 2020 came Greatest Hits and Good Years, and in April 2021 a new version of the ballad On The Day I Die arrived, recorded with American country star Jimmie Allen. Now the duo are working on album number five.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to welcome back Ben and Crissie for this very special intimate, acoustic show. From first playing our studio in 2014 to headlining and selling out our summer festival in 2019, it’s been a fantastic journey following their phenomenal success to date and we can’t wait to see them again.”

Tickets cost £32.50 at or on 01759 301547. 

Reunited Boden & Spiers to showcase new material at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together, working on new material and bringing a live show to Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) this autumn. 

John Spiers, 46, and Jon Boden, 44, former leading lights of big folk band Bellowhead, will perform in Pock on Wednesday, October 20.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “Spiers & Boden are a fantastic addition to our live events programme, and the fact that Pocklington Arts Centre will be one of their first live dates after they re-formed as a duo, following a hiatus of several years, is just incredible. Tickets have only just gone on sale and are already selling fast. 

“We cannot wait to welcome this talented duo, and of course our wonderful audience, through our doors for what will be an utterly brilliant night of world–class live music.”

Forming a folk duo in 2001, Spiers & Boden won a clutch of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: the Horizon Award for Best Newcomerin 2003 and the Best Duo Award in 2004 and 2006.  

A sojourn in Eliza Carthy & The Ratcatchers included a performance at the Mercury Music Prize Awards. After years of touring, in 2011 they headlined their own star-studded show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire to celebrate their tenth anniversary.

Bellowhead: Boden and Spiers’ 11-piece folk big band

Meanwhile, they had built on their early success as a duo to found the ground-breaking folk big band Bellowhead, going on to achieve Royal Albert Hall sell-outs, Proms In The Park successes, multiple awards, signing to Universal Records en route to 250,000 album sales, and headlining PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2015.

Inevitably, Bellowhead increasingly dominated their time and in 2014 Spiers & Boden made the tough decision to rest the duo, with Bellowhead bowing out two years later. 

Since then, Boden has carved out a career as both a solo performer and with his own band, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, while continuing to work on his creative trilogy of albums exploring a post-apocalyptic world and his work writing music for theatre. On November 6 2017, he launched his album Afterglow with a solo gig at Pocklington Arts Centre.

Melodeon player Spiers formed performance collaborations with fiddler Peter Knight, of Steeleye Span and Feast Of Fiddles, and separately folk singer and fiddler Jackie Oates.

He is a member too of the Gigspanner Big Band, with Knight, percussionist Sacha Trochet, guitarist Roger Flack and the multi-instrumental Edgelarks duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin.  

What an autumn week this is shaping up to be at PAC: Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan on October 19, Spiers & Boden, October 20, and Texas-born singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman on October 23. Tickets for Spiers & Boden’s 8pm Pocklington concert cost £20 at

New Yorker Jesse Malin to play Pocklington Arts Centre 18 months later than planned

Jesse Malin: Rescheduled show at Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has secured a new date for New York City singer-songwriter Jesse Malin.

He will now play on December 7 2021, fully 18 months after he was originally booked to perform there in June 2020 as part of PAC’s 20th anniversary programme.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced Malin to postpone his European tour, whereupon he reverted to performing a series of weekly online shows live from the Big Apple.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We were so disappointed to have to put our 2020 programme of live events on hold, especially in the midst of our 20th anniversary celebrations, but it was a necessary step.  

Lucinda Williams: Produced Jesse Malin’s latest album, 2019’s Sunset Kids

“We’re just so excited to have rescheduled Jesse Malin’s live show and cannot wait to resume our live events. I first saw Jesse perform live in 2004, when he was promoting his album The Heat, so I’m  especially looking forward to finally being able to have him perform here.” 

Malin, 53, has made his name as a thoughtful, introspective singer-songwriter but has played raucous, over-the-top rock’n’roll with the band D Generation too.

He has recorded with Bruce Springsteen and Green Day, performed on The Tonight Show and Letterman and shared stages with everyone from The Hold Steady to The Gaslight Anthem.

A prolific writer and relentless road warrior, Malin released his seventh studio album, Sunset Kids, in 2019, produced by Lucinda Williams, American roots icon, country music queen and 2016 Platform Festival headliner in Pocklington.

Tickets for Malin’s 8pm show cost £17.50 at

Richard Thompson to play 2021 Platform Festival after Covid de-railed July’s Old Station gig. Son Teddy heads for Pock too

Richard Thompson: Changing Platform date in Pocklington

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has confirmed Thompson dates at the double for 2021.

Father Richard, the 71-year-old English folk-rock luminary, songwriter and guitarist, will play next summer’s Platform Festival, run by PAC at The Old Station, on July 21. Son Teddy, the English singer and songwriter long resident in New York City, is booked in for January 22.

This summer’s Covid-curtailed Platform Festival would have opened with comedian Omid Djalili on Thursday, followed by Robert Plant’s Saving Grace on Friday; Shed Seven’s Rick  Witter and Paul Banks headlining Super Saturday in acoustic mode and the BBC Big Band next Tuesday.

Fairport Convention alumnus Richard Thompson, who now lives in Montclair, New Jersey, after three decades in Los Angeles, was in the diary to close the festival next Wednesday. Instead, you will have to wait a year now.

Next January, son Teddy will showcase his sixth solo studio album, Heartbreaker Please, released on May 29 on Thirty Tigers.

“Here’s the thing, you don’t love me anymore,” sings Teddy on his frank contribution to the time-honoured break-up record club. “I can tell you’ve got one foot out the door.”

Teddy Thompson: Joining the break-up album club. Picture: Gary Waldman

From the off, Heartbreaker Please wrestles with the breakdown of love with wistful levity and devastating honesty. The songs are drawn from the demise of a real-life relationship, set against the backdrop of New York City, the place Thompson has called home for the better part of two decades, having left London for the USA at 18 and settled in the Big Apple five years later.

“I took a summer vacation that never ended,” he says. “In retrospect, I was trying to reinvent myself. It was easier to leave it all behind, go somewhere new and declare myself an artist. And you can actually re-invent yourself in America; step off the plane, say ‘my name is Teddy Thompson, I’m a musician’.”

In a departure for Teddy, at the [broken] heart of Heartbreaker Please are references to someone else doing the heart-breaking. “I’m usually the one who does that!” he says. “A defence mechanism, of course, but all of a sudden I was the one on the back foot. I was the ‘plus 1’, and I admit, I didn’t deal with it very well. But also, don’t date actors.”

The relationship ended just as Thompson was finishing penning the songs that would form Heartbreaker Please. “I tend to write sad songs, slow songs. It’s what comes naturally,” he says. “So I tried to make an effort here to set some of the misery to a nice beat! Let the listener bop their heads while they weep.”

Teddy, 44-year-old son of Richard and Linda Thompson, will be supported by another artiste with a folk-roots heritage: Roseanne Reid, eldest daughter of The Proclaimers’ Craig Reid.

Tickets for Thompson times two are on sale at

Courtney Marie adds to Pocklington Arts Centre’s raft of rearranged shows

Courtney Marie Andrews: June date at Pocklington Arts Centre put back by a year

AMERICAN country singer Courtney Marie Andrews is moving her June 17 2020 concert at Pocklington Arts Centre to…June 17 2021.

“All customers are being contacted this week to offer them a transfer or refund,” says venue manager James Duffy, whose 30th birthday falls today, by the way.

Courtney’s now postponed date next month with a full band was to have been a showcase for her new album, Old Flowers, originally set for release on June 5 on Loose/Fat Possum Records.

Phoenix-born Courtney, 29, is now rescheduling the album launch too, again in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Hello dear ones,” she says on the Loose website. “Unfortunately, I must push back the release to July 24th. In order to protect the safety of its workers, the vinyl manufacturing plant producing my record is temporarily closed for the time being, meaning it won’t be possible to meet the original release date.

“During these strange times, I think it’s important we work together, rather than trudge ahead alone and abandon those who have helped artists along the way. I can’t explain to you how much this record means to me personally, and I am so incredibly excited for it to reach your ears soon. It’s just showing up fashionably late, 2020 style.”

John Smith: November 3 date at Pocklington Arts Centre

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) continues to update its list of rescheduled shows for 2020/21, with the prospect of more being added in the coming weeks and months.

Inquisitive folk truth seeker John Smith has switched from May 21 to November 3; American singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, from June 27 to February 2 2021; retro country soul band The Delines, from July 28 to February 23 2021, and BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine will now ask “What the hell is going on?” on February 26 2021, rather than May 1 2020.

Billy Bremner & Me, comedian Phil Differ’s comedy-drama recounting his dream of eclipsing the fiery Leeds United and Scotland captain’s footballing deeds, has moved from June 5 to March 11 2021; Herman’s Hermits will re-emerge on April 22 next spring, and Mock The Week comedian Andy Parsons’ sold-out April 28 gig is re-booked for April 24 2021.

Led as ever by vocalist Maddy Prior, folk favourites Steeleye Span’s 50th anniversary celebrations of debut album Hark The Village Wait will have to wait until its 51st anniversary, their show now moved from May 3 2020 to May 7 2021.

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Catrin Finch, from Wales, and Seckou Keita, from Senegal, will be joined by Canadian multi-instrumental trio Vishten on June 10 next summer, rather than June 13 2020 as first planned.

The Felice Brothers, from the Catskill Mountains, New York State, will be playing almost a year to the day later than their original booking. Ian and James Felice, joined by drummer Will Lawrence and bass Jesske Hume, are in the PAC diary for June 22 2021, replacing June 23 this summer.

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

The spotlight would have been on their 2019 album Undress, as well as their back catalogue from 2006 onwards, but now there should be new material too. .

All existing tickets holders for the rescheduled shows are being contacted by the PAC box office for ticket transfers or refunds.

PAC director Janet Farmer says the public response to the East Yorkshire venue’s prolonged closure, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has been “wonderful both in terms of financial support and well wishing”.

“To date, we have raised £8,660 from crowdfunding and customer ticket refund donations, a total well beyond our original target,” she reveals.

“We have been working with artists and agents to reschedule the whole of the venue’s spring and summer 20th anniversary season and most, if not all, shows are being transferred to late 2020 and into 2021.”

Shed Seven guitarist Paul Banks and singer Rick Witter: Acoustic headline set at Platform Festival 2020 at The Old Station cancelled. Hopefully they will be Chasing Rainbows next summer instead

July’s Platform Festival, organised by Pocklington Arts Centre, with a line-up including Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Shed Seven’s Rick Witter & Paul Banks, Richard Thompson and Omid Djalili at The Old Station, has been called off too, Again negotiations are on-going to feature as many of the 2020 artists as possible in the 2021 festival’s run from July 21 to 27. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

“It was heart-breaking to have to postpone the majority of the venue’s 20th anniversary celebrations but the safety of our audience members, performers, staff, volunteers and wider community has to come first. We intend to turn these events into 21st anniversary celebrations next year,” says Janet.

“During this period, we believe it is critically important that PAC continues to support its staff, artists and creative partners. We are working closely with our peers, across the region and indeed the country, on collaborative projects during the closure and we hope to announce a series of online events very soon.

“While we will be increasing the venue’s online artistic output, we are very aware there is no substitute to watching a live performance and sharing this experience with fellow audience members. We, like all of our customers, look forward to the time when this can resume.”

Pocklington Arts Centre remains in regular contact with Arts Council England, the Music Venues Trust and the Cinema Exhibitors Association. “All have been very supportive with advice and support,” says Janet. “PAC is determined to weather this storm and emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

“We are all braving this crazy storm, in different ships, but together,” says Courtney Marie Andrews

The last word, for now, goes to Courtney Marie Andrews: “We are all braving this crazy storm, in different ships, but together,” she says. “I am continuously inspired by everyone coming together, in so many ways, during this unprecedented time.”

Pocklington’s Platform Festival in July is cancelled in ‘heart-breaking decision’

No Saving Grace: Robert Plant: was to have headlined Platform Festival this summer

POCKLINGTON’S 2020 Platform Festival, headlined by Robert Plant’s new band in July, is off.

Run by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) at The Old Station, the annual festival has “very sadly has been cancelled for Covid-19 health and safety reasons”.

The organisers, PAC director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy, are working on transferring all the 2020 programme to July 21 to 27 2021 and will keep festival-goers updated over the coming weeks.

“We will weather this storm and return in 2021 stronger and more vibrant than ever,” they vow.

Omid Djalili: Booked to open Platform Festival on July 8

The 2020 line-up would have opened with comedian Omid Djalili on July 8, followed by Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant’s Saving Grace with Suzi Dian on July 10, and a Saturday bill on three stages, featuring Shed Seven Acoustic: Rick Witter & Paul Banks, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Ward Thomas, Lucy Spraggan and York country singer Twinnie on July 11.

The BBC Big Band on July 14 and folk-rock stalwart Richard Thompson on July 15 would have completed the festival line-up.

In a joint statement, heartbroken Janet and James say: “Following the continuing developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Platform Festival.

“The safety of our audience members, artists, staff, volunteers and wider community has to come first and we did not want to put additional pressure on the health and emergency services at this time.”

Shed Seven’s Paul Banks and Rick Witter: Topping Platform Festival’s Saturday bill with an acoustic set

Janet and James continue: “Platform is a labour of love, for PAC staff, and being unable to share it with you all in the venue’s 20th anniversary year is heart-breaking. It is, of course, the choice we had hoped we wouldn’t have to make.

“We looked at the possibility of staging the event at a later date in 2020 but the most important thing for us, other than your obvious safety, is to give our customers certainty and so we have made the decision to move this year’s festival to July 2021.”

Praising Platform’s regular festival-goers, they say: “Platform is nothing without our audience, you make it the great festival that it is. We want to thank you for your patience, support and understanding with us, while we have been working to reschedule the festival for you. We will weather this storm and return in 2021 stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

Dealing with housekeeping matters, they confirm: “If you have already booked your tickets, rest assured these are secured. You will be offered the choice of a refund or the chance to hold on to your tickets for the 2021 edition.

Richard Thompson: July 15 gig would have climaxed the 2020 Platform Festival

“We plan to carry as much of the programme as possible forward and, so far, almost all artists have agreed to work with us on this, which is amazing. We will, of course, keep you updated and we hope to have this all finalised in the coming weeks.

“Please be patient and wait to hear from us. Our box office – and external ticket agencies – is extremely busy and we will contact you in due course.”

Janet and James conclude: “Platform 2021 will take place on July 22 to 27 and we would love to see you all there for our biggest party yet. Stay home, stay safe and look after each other. For urgent enquiries, please email

“If you are in a position to support Pocklington Arts Centre and Platform Festival, we have set up a crowdfunding page via”

Mary Coughlan: Pocklington concert moved to September 23

Meanwhile, Pocklington Arts Centre has released an updated list of rescheduled shows for 2020/21, with the prospect of more being added in the coming weeks and months.

The Wandering Hearts, winners of the 2018 Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award at the UK Americana Awards, move their sold-out In Harmony, An Intimate Tour show from April 14 to August 27 2020.

Mary Coughlan, “Ireland’s Billie Holiday”, switches her April 21 gig to September 23; inquisitive folk truth seeker John Smith, from May 21 to November 3, and American singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, June 27 to February 2 2021.

Andy Parsons: Comedian re-booked for April 24 2021

BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine now asks “What the hell is going on?” on February 26 2021, rather than May 1 2020.

Billy Bremner & Me, comedian Phil Differ’s comedy-drama recounting his dream of eclipsing the fiery Leeds United and Scotland captain’s footballing deeds, moves from June 5 to March 11 2021; Herman’s Hermits re-emerge on April 22 next spring, and Mock The Week comedian Andy Parsons’ sold-out April 28 gig is re-booked for April 24 2021.

Led as ever by vocalist Maddy Prior, folk favourites Steeleye Span’s 50th anniversary celebrations of debut album Hark The Village Wait will have to wait until its 51st anniversary, their show now moved from May 3 2020 to May 7 2021.

James Felice, left, Will Lawrence, Jesske Hume and Ian Felice of The Felice Brothers, now to play Pocklington on June 22 next summer

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners Catrin Finch, from Wales, and Seckou Keita, from Senegal, will be joined by Canadian multi-instrumental trio Vishten on June 10 next summer, rather than June 13 2020 as first planned.

The Felice Brothers, from the Catskill Mountains, New York State, will be playing almost a year to the day later than their original booking. Ian and James Felice, joined by drummer Will Lawrence and bass Jesske Hume, are in the PAC diary for June 22 2021, replacing June 23 this summer.

The spotlight would have been on their 2019 album Undress, as well as their back catalogue from 2006 onwards, but now there should be new material too.

Courtney Marie Andrews: Watch this space for an upcoming new date announcement

A new date for American country singer Courtney Marie Andrews’ now postponed June 17 concert with her full band should be confirmed in the next week. Her new album Old Flowers will be released on Loose/Fat Possum Records on June 5.

All existing tickets holders for the rescheduled shows are being contacted by the PAC box office for ticket transfers or refunds.

CORONAVIRUS: Pocklington Arts Centre closes doors but will return “stronger and more vibrant” in 20th anniversary year

Janet Farmer: director of Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is closing its doors to the public with effect from today in response to the Government’s Coronavirus measures, but vows to re-emerge “stronger and more vibrant than ever” in its 20th anniversary year.

A statement released by director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy  this morning said: “In the light of the Government’s latest advice for people to avoid non-essential contact, we have taken the decision to close PAC to the public as of today (Tuesday, March 17).

“The health and safety of our staff, visitors, artists and volunteers is of utmost importance to us and therefore we do not feel it is prudent to remain open to the public at this time.”

Their statement continues: “We don’t know yet how long this closure will last, but this will be at least until Easter 2020 [mid-April]. Further updates will be announced in due course.

“During this period, it is critical that we continue to support our staff, artists and creative partners. We will be working closely with our peers across the region and indeed the country, and we are determined that PAC will emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever. We will be publishing more on this in the coming days.”

Anyone who has booked a ticket or is due to attend a public event at PAC will be contacted by the box-office team over the next few days to organise a refund and/or discuss the cancellation.

Robert Plant: booked to headline this summer’s Platform Festival with his new band Saving Grace

“Tickets can be refunded but we would ask you to consider supporting the venue and artists by not accepting a refund, if you are able to afford to,” suggested the statement. “We will of course try to reschedule events, but this may take some time, so please bear with us in these very challenging times.”

Pocklington Arts Centre will be setting up a crowdfunding page later this week. “We’ll publish details of this on our social media accounts,” said Janet and James. “If you feel able to donate to this, your support would be most welcome to help secure the long-term future of the venue.”

The statement concluded: “Please visit our social media channels and website [] for daily/weekly updates and as to when PAC will reopen.
“Many thanks for your understanding. We very much appreciate your patience in this unprecedented situation. Take care and keep safe.”

Pocklington Arts Centre’s spring and summer programme to mark the East Yorkshire venue’s 20th anniversary was launched on March 6 with a party night of New Orleans Mardi Gras jazz by the New York Brass Band.

Planned as the epicentre of the celebrations is the fifth Platform Festival of music and comedy, hosted by PAC at The Old Station, with the headline attraction of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant’s new project, Saving Grace, on July 10.

Full details can be found at and

Led Zep’s Robert Plant to headline Pock’s best Platform Festival with Saving Grace

Robert Plant and Suzi Dian, fronting Saving Grace, the Platform Festival’s prize capture

ROBERT Plant will headline this summer’s Platform Festival as the crescendo of Pocklington Arts Centre’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

The former Led Zeppelin frontman and lyricist, now 71, will lead Saving Grace, his folk-blues collaboration with fellow vocalist Suzi Dian, at Pocklington’s Old Station on July 10.

Tea time…then Omid Djalili plays the Platform Festival

“Hopefully we’ve pulled something rather special out of the bag for our 20th anniversary!” says delighted director Janet Farmer. “Bringing Robert Plant to Pocklington is a major coup for us.”

Shed Seven’s Rick Witter and Paul Banks, folk-rock icon Richard Thompson, comedian Omid Djalili, The BBC Big Band and country-pop twin sisters Ward Thomas are among the other acts signed up for the fifth Platform Festival, running from July 9 to 15.

Richard Thompson: closing show at Platform Festival on July 15

“The Platform Festival programme reflects this very special year for us,” says Janet. “Robert Plant is a legendary name in the music scene and it’s so exciting that he and the other highly accomplished musicians in Saving Grace will be joining us for such a significant event.

“There’s no doubt Robert and Saving Grace are the biggest band we’ve ever booked for Platform. Curating a line-up of artists that we personally love every year is always a source of much pride for our team and we strongly believe this year’s line-up is both the best and most star-studded music bill we’ve ever put together.”

“There’s no doubt Robert Plant and Saving Grace are the biggest band we’ve ever booked for Platform,” says festival director Janet Farmer

Plant and Dian are joined in his blues and folk-inspired acoustic co-operative by Oli Jefferson on percussion, Tony Kelsey on mandolin, baritone and acoustic guitars, and Matt Worley on banjo, acoustic and baritone guitars and cuatro. Their support act will be delta blues singer, songwriter and bottleneck slide guitarist Catfish Keith.

The 2020 Platform Festival comprises four stand-alone shows plus a day-long event on three stages. First up, British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili will perform on July 9, followed by Saving Grace’s July 10 concert. The 18-piece BBC Big Band will play on July 14, conducted by Barry Forgie, with Jeff Hooper on vocals; guitarist, singer, songwriter and Fairport Convention founding member Richard Thompson will close the festival on July 15.

Saturday headliners: Shed Seven’s Paul Banks and Rick Witter

The festival’s Saturday bill, on July 11, will be headlined by Rick Witter and Paul Banks’s Shed Seven Acoustic show, wherein the York Britpop alumni’s frontman and lead guitarist will perform such Sheds anthems as Going For Gold, Chasing Rainbows, She Left Me On Friday and Getting Better, complemented by cherry-pickings from 2017’s Instant Pleasures, their first studio album in 16 years.

Shed Seven launched Instant Pleasures with a special show at Pocklington Arts Centre in November that year, by the way.

Country-pop twin sisters Ward Thomas: Platform Festival return

Joining the Sheds in the July 11 line-up will be bagpipe band TheRed Hot Chilli Pipers, with their ground-breaking fusion of traditional Scottish music and rock and pop anthems. “Think men in kilts, bagpipes with attitude, drums with a Scottish accent and a show that carries its own health warning,” says Janet.

Ward Thomas will follow up their April 30 gig at Leeds City Varieties and arena tour supporting James Blunt with a return to the Platform Festival, where Hampshire twins Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas previously appeared in 2017.

Big show: The BBC Big Band

Acoustic folk singer Lucy Spraggan, once of The X Factor, will make her Platform debut a year later than first planned; festival favourites The Grand Old Uke Of York will be back with their upbeat rock, pop, ska and anything in-between ukulele covers, and New York Brass Band will play the Platform Saturday for the first time, fresh from pumping up the party atmosphere with their smokin’ New Orleans Mardi Gras jazz at Pocklington Arts Centre’s 20th anniversary party night on March 6.

Festival newcomer Twinnie, alias York-born Twinnie-Lee Moore, 32-year-old star of West End musicals, The Voice contestant, model, film actress and Hollyoaks soap queen, is now a Nashville-hearted singer-songwriter. After wowing the C2C country gathering at London’s O2, Platform will be her Yorkshire homecoming.

Twinnie: country roads lead York-born singer-songwriter to Pocklington on July 11

Heading Pockwards too that Saturday will be husband-and-wife duo Truckstop Honeymoon, hollering their blasts of bluegrass, punk rock and soul to a five-string banjo and doghouse bass, and Buffalo Skinners, returning to the festival for the first time in four years with their Sixties’ folk and modern-day Americana.

York blues singer-songwriter Jess Gardham and Plumhall are on the bill too, and as ever the third Saturday stage will be spotlighting the region’s emerging talent, curated by the tireless, peerless Charlie Daykin and Access Creative College.

Tickets are on sale at, and or on 01759 301547.