Mary Coughlan confirmed for Pocklington Arts Centre gig in April

Mary Coughlan: returning to Pocklington Arts Centre in the spring

IRISH jazz and blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan will play Pocklington Arts Centre on April 21 on her spring tour.

More details will follow shortly, but tickets for the 8pm show will go on sale at 10am on Friday (January 17) at £18 on 01759 301547 or at

Often described as “Ireland’s Billie Holiday”, Coughlan, 63, has overcome childhood trauma, alcoholism and drug addiction to become a tornado of a musical force.

Her debut album, Tired And Emotional, rocketed her to overnight fame in 1985, and fifteen albums later, her ability to connect deeply with both the song and her audience remains undiminished, a testament to her inner strength and the power of transformation and redemption.

Jess Gardham has the winter blues for busking in the bar in Pocklington

Jess Gardham: on the road from York to Pocklington Arts Centre for a Busking-in-the-Bar night

YORK blues and soul singer, songwriter, musical actress and MasterChef semi-finalist Jess Gardham performs at Busking-in-the-Bar, Pocklington Arts Centre’s free music night, on Friday night (January 17).

Jess, of South Bank, York, has toured Britain, Europe, the United States and Canada, supported KT Tunstall, Paul CarrackandMartin Simpson and played at festivals across Britain, not least PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington last summer.

In York, she has starred in three York Stage Musicals’ productions, playing “Motormouth” Maybelle in Hairspray in April 2015 and spiritualist Oda Mae Brown in Ghost The Musical and appearing in Rock Of Ages in April 2017.

“We’re delighted that Jess Gardham will play our first Busking-in-the-Bar event of 2020,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

“Busking-in-the-Bar is an opportunity for everyone to experience some fantastic free live music, from emerging local artists, all within the comfort of our intimate and luxurious bar,” says PAC director Janet Farmer.

“We were fortunate enough to have Jess Gardham open Platform Festival 2019 and she was sensational, so we’re delighted that Jess will play our first Busking-in-the-Bar event of 2020. 

“There’s fantastic live music, a wide range of drinks to choose from and it’s free entry: what a perfect start to the weekend.”

On Friday, the bar opens at 7pm, the music starts at 8pm. For more details, call the box office on 01759 301547 or visit

Sue Clayton’s exhibition is Downright Marvellous at Pocklington Arts Centre

Artist Sue Clayton and her son James

YORK artist Sue Clayton will unveil a new collection of portraits at Pocklington Arts Centre ahead of World Down Syndrome Day in an exhibition inspired by her son. 

Running from January 14 to March 21, Downright Marvellous At Large celebrates adults with Down Syndrome and comes on the eve of her son James turning 18. 

Look out too for a giant pair of hand-knitted odd socks, made using hundreds of knitted squares donated by the public after an appeal last year. 

Otto – Drag Queen, by Sue Clayton

Sue, who lives in Wigginton, will introduce the 12 new portraits and the giant socks in a preview event open to the public on Thursday, January 16, from 6pm to 8pm.

The portraits feature what Sue sees as the “unrepresented and significant” social presence of adults with Down Syndrome, each one depicting a person with the genetic disorder at work or play.

“I put on the original Downright Marvellous exhibition in 2015, which mainly depicted young children who have Down Syndrome, but this time I wanted to make it more a celebration of adults as 2020 is a milestone year for us as James turns 18,” she says.

Lauren, by Sue Clayton

“A lot of the pieces also feature siblings, as I wanted to highlight the importance that siblings play in the lives of those with Down Syndrome too.”

Sue is planning to hold a celebratory event at Pocklington Arts Centre on World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), Saturday, March 21, the last day of her exhibition. Watch this space for more details as they emerge.

Many people wear odd socks on WDSD, a global day that aims to raise awareness and promote independence, self-advocacy and freedom of choice for people with the congenital condition. 

James and Lily -Sibling Love, by Sue Clayton

Should you be wondering “why socks?”, they are used because their shape replicates the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have. 

“I hope the socks installation will add an extra fun dimension to the exhibition, which the whole community can get behind, while importantly raising awareness of – and celebrating – the uniqueness and diversity of Down Syndrome,” says Sue. 

She made a radical change mid-career to become a self-taught, full-time artist. Soon she achieved recognition from Britain’s Got Artists in 2012 and as Outstanding Visual Artist in the 2018 York Culture Awards for her Heroes Of York project in 2017-2018.

David, by Sue Clayton

Those heroes were York Theatre Royal pantomime dame Berwick Kaler; singer, writer and motivational speaker Big Ian Donaghy; animal welfare practitioner Mary Chapman; the late Suzanne Asquith, of North Yorkshire Police; Andrew Fair, from Sainsbury’s, Monk Cross, and Professor Steve Leveson, of York Against Cancer.

Sue is drawn to painting portraits because: “It insists upon the idea that the more you look at a face, the more you see. 

“Every single aspect – the eyelids, the nostrils, and the complexion – reveals the personality and character of every individual person,” she says. “I feel it’s especially important to represent those who are sometimes socially ‘unseen’.”

Uncle Ronnie and Oliver – Trisomy 21 United, by Sue Clayton

Influenced by Rembrandt, York artist William Etty and more contemporary painters such as  Jenny Saville and Tim Benson, Sue enjoys working with dynamic colours to make marks “that should not be there but somehow work”. 

“My approach to portraits not only apprehends the likeness of my subjects, but their inner life too,” she says.

To find out more about World Down Syndrome Day, visit

Skittish warrior Shappi Khorsandi is ready to confess all at Pocklington Arts Centre

“The show is saying it’s OK to be exactly who you are,” says Shappi Khorsandi

SHAPPI Khorsandi is extending her 2019 tour into 2020, bringing her self-reflective show Skittish Warrior…Confessions Of A Club Comic to Pocklington Arts Centre on February 16.

Comedian, author and “idiot who agreed to be tortured” on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here in 2017, Khorsandi takes a warts-and-all journey back to the 1990s’ comedy scene, her breakthrough on TV and then letting it all slip away in her 20 years as a stand-up. 

“The show is a good opportunity to look back on how it all began,” she says. “It talks about the bits that stand-ups don’t usually talk about, those behind-the-scenes moments where doors get slammed in your face. It’s about rediscovering that early passion. It’s a celebration of the comedy circuit.”

Building the show around cultural observations and confessional gags, Khorsandi says: “I hope people will take away a great sense of warmth and a lot of heart. The show is saying it’s OK to be exactly who you are. The only person you should ever compete with is yourself.”

Skittish Warrior looks at the “funny side of failure”. “It’s an ode to being an underdog. We celebrate the underdog. I have to do that. I don’t have a choice,” says Khorsandi.

“But it’s not doom and gloom. I’m perfectly happy. I’m not cut out for a tabloid level of fame. After 20 years, I feel completely comfortable with the fact that I’m vulnerable. It’s OK to say, ‘I’ve messed up so many things’.

“It’s about realising that if you didn’t get something, it wasn’t what you wanted anyway. If it was very important for me to do well on panel shows, I wouldn’t have been daydreaming on panel shows!”

Born in Tehran, Iran, Shappi is the daughter of the Iranian political satirist and poet Hadi Khorsandi and moved to Britain as a child after the Islamic Revolution. In her twenties, she began performing in comedy clubs, going on to appear on a multitude of TV shows, be a panellist on ITV1’s Loose Women and BBC One’s Question Time and write two books, A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English in 2009 and her debut novel, Nina Is Not OK, in 2016.

A play based on the novel is on its way, and already she has a musical comedy to her name, Women In Power, inspired by Aristophanes’s ancient Greek comic play The Assembly Women, co-written with fellow comedians Jenny Éclair and Natalie Haynes for a run at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, in September 2018.

On the radio, Khorsandi has hosted the BBC Radio 4 series Shappi Talk, Homework and Shappi Khorsandi Gets Organised, as well as appearing on Loose Ends, Front Row, Midweek and Today.

Recalling how it all began, 46-year-old Khorsandi says: “I feel very thankful that when I started out in comedy, it was punk. The ultimate aim was to play the clubs, not telly. That’s why my new show is a love letter to the comedy clubs.

“I was a nervous wreck at the start. It was terrifying. I would phone the Comedy Store for an open spot, and if they picked up, I would put the phone down. I was treading water for the first ten years. It’s a sort of madness to carry on doing something that is so precarious. But I always knew that there was nothing else along my Yellow Brick Road.”

Celebrity has its pitfalls, she acknowledges. “It’s about really understanding what a full-time job it is to be famous and to stay there. It has to be at the cost of everything else. Instagram posts don’t post themselves!”

In 2017, that celebrity status led to Khorsandi taking part in ITV’s reality TV show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!. “It changed my life. Because you’re hungry and have nothing to do in the jungle, it forces you to look at your life,” she says. “While I was in there, my life was going on without me. I realised there was no other life I wanted, and I desperately wanted to be back in it. 

“Some people may see I’m A Celebrity as crass, but it bought me time to re-evaluate my life. I realised what I didn’t want: to be on the front page of The Sun. That’s not worth anything. Doing stand-up, writing plays and books; those things have value and they were the things I wanted to come back to.”

Hence her tour of Skittish Warrior…Confessions Of A Club Comic, now bolstered with more shows in 2020. “I get an absolute adrenaline rush on stage. For me, it’s always been about the live stuff,” she says.

Time for reflection at the year’s end. “I look back on my career and see all the times I’ve sabotaged it. But if I had really wanted it, I would have got it,” says Khorsandi.” I’ve got two kids, and I really wanted them. It may sound cheesy, but they’re my greatest successes.”

Shappi Khorsandi: Skittish Warrior…Confessions Of A Club Comic, Pocklington Arts Centre, Sunday, February 16 2020, 7.30pm. Tickets: £15 on 01759 301547 or at

Charles Hutchinson

Grumpy Arthur to brighten New Year with stories, songs and a poem in Pocklington

Glum- faced Arthur Smith looks forward to 2020 in Pocklington

ARTHUR Smith, comedian, writer, broadcaster and notoriously Grumpy Old Man, has a new show to brighten up 2020.

Smith’s off-the-wall Laughs, Stories, A Song And A Poem will visit Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday, January 31.

Arts centre director Janet Farmer says: “We can’t wait to welcome Arthur back after several sell-out shoes here in recent years. 

“He’s a cult hero at the Edinburgh Fringe for his legendary performances and this new show promises to be a thoroughly entertaining night of sublime playfulness, crammed with jokes, anecdotes, short stories, poems, songs and excerpts from Arthur’s latest book, the memoir My Name Is Daphne Fairfax. It’s the complete package!”

Janet adds: “Arthur is the latest in a series of outstanding comedians we’ve lined up for our stage in the coming months, including Shappi Khorsandi on February 16, Tom Rosenthal: Manhood on March 14 and Andy Parsons on April 28.

“Our live comedy programme always sells out, so I would recommend getting your tickets quickly or risk missing out.”

Smith, 65, from Balham, London, has appeared on the BBC’s Grumpy Old Men Q.I,  Have I Got News For You and The One Show, as well as Radio 4’s Loose Ends and Balham Bash and hosting Radio 4 Extra’s Comedy Club, and Radio 2’s Smith Lectures. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for his play An Evening With Gary Lineker, which played York Theatre Royal in July 2006.

Tickets for his 8pm Pocklington gig are on sale at £16 on 01759 301547 or at

Loudon Wainwright and some Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers you’ll know to play Pock

Wainwright times three: Loudon Wainwright III with Suzzy Roche and their daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche, playing Pockington next autumn

LOUDON Wainwright III, the North Carolina songwriter, folk musician, humorist and actor, will play Pocklington Arts Centre on October 3 next year.

Tickets will go on sale at 10am on Wednesday (December 11), as indeed they will for Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of authors turned musicians, making their Pock debut on May 30.

Grammy Award-winning Wainwright, 73, will be joined by Suzzy Roche and their daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche at next autumn’s gig, the smallest venue of his 2020 British tour.

They will perform their own songs, complemented by a selection by songwriters they admire, such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and Baker Knight. 

Over the course of 23 albums of acerbic, wry writing, Wainwright’s songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, Mose Allison, Big Star, Freakwater, Norma Waterson, [late former wife] Kate and Anna McGarrigle and son Rufus Wainwright.

Arts centre director Janet Farmer says: “Our auditorium is no stranger to welcoming music legends to the stage and Loudon Wainwright III is certainly no exception. We’ve previously welcomed his daughter Martha to Pocklington in August 2013, so we’re delighted to be featuring in Loudon’s forthcoming tour.

“This will be a very rare opportunity to see such a big name from the music world perform within the intimate surroundings of our auditorium.

“But with only a handful of UK dates lined up and Pocklington Arts Centre being the smallest venue, this is likely to sell out fast, so I would recommend you get your tickets as early as possible.”

Three Wainwright albums have been nominated for Grammy awards: 1985’s I’m Alright, 1986’s  More Love Songs and 2009’s High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project, winner of the  Best Traditional Folk Album prize in January 2010. Wainwright also has appeared in such films as The Aviator, Big Fish, Elizabethtown, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, for which he composed the score with Joe Henry.

Read the riot act: Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers could murder a good tune at Pocklington Arts Centre next May

Meanwhile, prepare for a different form of murder on the dancefloor next spring, committed by fiction supergroup Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers.

Harrogate Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival stalwarts Mark Billingham and Val McDermid, together with Chris Brookmyre, Luca Veste, Doug Johnstone and Stuart Neville, will put down their pens and pick up guitars to “happily murder” much-loved songs by The Clash, Elvis Costello, Hank Williams, The Beatles, Talking Heads, The Jam, Johnny Cash and many others “considering legal action”, apparently.

Between them, the writers have sold more than 20 million books worldwide and won every major crime-writing award. Now they swap page for stage to discover if the sword/axe is mightier than the pen after all.

So far, their set list of killer tunes has survived in tact at Glastonbury Festival, Cornbury Festival and the Edinburgh Festival. Now they must rock in Pock.

“The very concept of crime writers putting their own killer spin on well-known songs is simply brilliant, so we can’t wait to bring them to Pocklington for what promises to be a thrilling night of live music literally like no other,” says Janet Farmer.

Last month, the arts centre played host to a sold-out evening of poetry readings, questions and answers and book signings by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, when Pocklington School students were among the audience.

Tickets cost £44 for Wainwright, £23 for The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, on 01759 301547 or at

Charles Hutchinson

Santa’s in love and Aladdin’s wishing for magic at Pocklington Arts Centre

Talegate Theatre’s Widow Twankey in Aladdin at Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is staging two Christmas shows with the emphasis on “fantastic festive family fun”.

First up, The People’s Theatre Company present Steven Lee’s Santa In Love on Saturday afternoon, promising to unveil magical secrets for audiences aged four and over at 2.30pm.

If you have ever wanted to know from where the fairy on top of the Christmas tree comes, why you never see a Christmas elf, or maybe the answer to the greatest secret of them all – the one about Santa Claus and the thing he secretly loves best – then this is the show for you. 

Santa will be available to meet little ones after the show and each child will receive a gift. 

Next, Talegate Theatre’s Aladdin on December 14 brings you “the pantomime you have always wished for”.

Follow the heroic Aladdin and his troublesome mum, Widow Twankey, to see if they can beat the evil Abanazar to the magic lamp in time for Aladdin to win the hand of Princess Jasmine. 

Talegate Theatre’s 2.30pm show will be packed with songs, slapstick, silliness and fairy-tale magic.

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer says: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when our auditorium is filled with audiences of all ages enjoying some fantastic festive family fun. 

“Our Christmas stage shows enhance our year-round family theatre offering and really mark the start of the build-up to Christmas and the New Year, but they always prove hugely popular, so I would recommend buying tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.”

Tickets for Santa In Love cost £9 each or £34 for a family ticket; Aladdin, £10, under 21s £8, family £33, on 01759 301547 or at

Why Pocklington’s blues and roots weekend was its biggest and best yet

Guitarist Robbie McIntosh, right, leads a workshop during the Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend at Pocklington Arts Centre earlier this month

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is celebrating its “biggest and best” Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend yet.

Hosted by guitarist Robbie McIntosh and blues slide guitarist Michael Messer from November 15 to 17, this annual event drew a full house of students from across Britain and raised £20,000 for the Pocklington economy.

The students spent the weekend being tutored by McIntosh, who has toured with Paul McCartney, Norah Jones, and The Pretenders, and fellow regular host Messer.

The three-day event featured guitar and slide guitar tuition, jam sessions, student performances and the Acoustic Blues House Party, when Pocklington Arts Centre opened its doors to the public for a one-off concert starring Messer and McIntosh.

The opening day was featured in an afternoon live broadcast on BBC Radio Humberside with presenter Phil White and his crew.

“This year’s Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend was a resounding success; in fact it was the most successful one eve,” says Messer. “I’ve been involved with running this event at Pocklington Arts Centre for 16 years and I couldn’t hope for a better venue.

“The PAC staff are so helpful, supportive and welcoming that everyone, participants and tutors, want for nothing.

Guitarists Robbie McIntosh, left, and Michael Messer at this month’s Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend at Pocklington Arts Centre

“In addition, the various hotels and restaurants around town all welcomed us and provided us with fantastic service.

 “All I can say is, ‘thank you Pocklington and we very much look forward to next year’s Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend’.”

Data collated from surveys conducted by the arts centre have shown that students attending the weekend spent around £20,000, including accommodation and visits to pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops.

Arts centre director Janet Farmer says: “We said last year that our Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend just keeps going from strength to strength, but this year has just blown us away.

“Hosting the event not only fills our auditorium, studio and bar with the incredible sounds of acoustic blues and roots music, but also the average expenditure from every single student also makes for a resoundingly positive experience for everyone involved, including local businesses. We very much look forward to welcoming everyone back again next year.”

The 2020 Acoustic Blues and Roots Weekend will take place from November 13 to 15. Watch this space for confirmation of when tickets will go on sale.

Charles Hutchinson

Hurry, hurry for last tickets for Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s Pock show

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage is heading for Pocklington Arts Centre

ONLY the last few tickets are left for An Evening With Simon Armitage, the new Poet Laureate, at Pocklington Arts Centre on November 28.

The Huddersfield-born poet, playwright and novelist, 56, was appointed to his post for ten years earlier this year, succeeding Carol Ann Duffy.

In October 2017, he became the first Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds; in 2018, he received The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and an Ivor Novello Award for song-writing in the BAFTA-winning film Feltham Sings.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to welcome the UK’s new Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, to our stage,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer.

“He’s such a celebrated poet of his times, so a chance to spend an evening in his company, within the intimate settings of our auditorium, to hear some of his live poetry and for a Q&A, is a unique opportunity for lovers of literature and poetry.  

“But tickets have almost sold out, so I would urge you to book yours quickly or risk missing out .”

After studying geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic and writing an MA thesis at the University of Manchester on the the effects of television violence on young offenders, Armitage gained a social work qualification and became a probation officer, like his father before him. He worked in the Greater Manchester probation service until 1994, apparently once being introduced with the words: “By day he reads them their rights, by night he writes them their reads.”

He has published 28 collections of poetry, his first entitled Human Geography in 1988 and his latest, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic. He writes extensively for television and radio, as well as penning three memoirs, All Points North, Walking Home and Walking Away, and he is the lead singer of The Scaremongers too.

Tickets for Armitage’s 7.30pm show in Pock cost £12.50 or £7 for under 21s on 01759 301547 or at He will be on hand to sign books in the foyer afterwards.

Finch and Keita to play summer gig with Canadian trio Vishtèn at Pock Arts Centre

One-off collaborative tour: Catrin Finch, Seckou Keita and Vishtèn to play Pocklington next June

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Winners Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita and special guests Vishtèn will bring their one-off collaborative tour to Pocklington Arts Centre next summer. 

Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Sengalese Kora maestro Seckou Keita, will perform with Canadian multi-instrumentalist powerhouse trio Vishtèn on Saturday, June 13.

Finch and Seckou, who played the National Centre for Early Music in York on October 20, were named Best Duo/Group in the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, while Seckou also received the award for Musician of the Year. 

Since forming their partnership in 2013, they have released two albums, Clychau Dibon that year and Soar in 2018.

Arts centre manager James Duffy says: “I saw Catrin, Seckou and Vishtèn’s first ever public performance together in Canada, as part of a Music PEI Showcase in October. The response that night was truly wonderful and deservedly received a standing ovation. 

“It’s a fantastic collaboration that blends folk/roots and world music between these two highly regarded artists.  Thanks must go to Focus Wales, Music PEI and Theatr Mwldan for bringing this show to Pocklington in 2020.”

In September, Finch and Keita travelled to Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada to meet and collaborate with Vishtèn, who are flag-bearers for the Acadian musical tradition globally. 

Now, this collaboration will be heading to British shores in a one-off tour that will combine sets by both artists with a special set featuring new material by Finch, Keita and Vishtèn together.

In the Vishtèn line-up are twin sisters Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc, from Prince Edward Island, and Pascal Miousse, a direct descendant of the first colonial families to inhabit Quebec’s remote Magdalene Islands. 

Pocklington’s audience can expect tight harmonies, layered foot percussion and a trademark blend of fiddle, guitar, accordion, whistles, piano, bodhrán and jaw harp. 

Tickets for this 7.30pm concert cost £22 on 01759 301547 or at

Charles Hutchinson