Holy Moly! Here come The Crackers as Pocklington Arts Centre revs up to reopen

Holy Moly & The Crackers: “Always putting on such an energetic, vivacious show”

FIERY gypsy folk’n’rollers Holy Moly & The Crackers will return to Pocklington Arts Centre on October 16 as the East Yorkshire venue “excitedly resumes its live events”.

The North Yorkshire and Newcastle band are noted for sparking up a raucous, feelgood party atmosphere at their blazing live shows, built on soul, rock indie and Balkan folk.

Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer says: “Holy Moly & The Crackers always put on such an energetic, vivacious show, featuring their unique sound that has our audiences foot stomping and dancing in the aisles, so we can’t wait to welcome them back after their sold-out show back in February 2019.”

The band formed in 2011 almost by mistake, when singer, guitarist and trumpet player Conrad Bird, fellow singer and violinist Ruth Patterson and costume designer and accordion player Rosie Bristow met at a house party in Leamington Spa, of all places, in their late teens.

Enamoured by Rosie’s party-prop accordion, the three decided to start playing music together, mainly stomping Irish, American and Balkan folk and drinking songs at open mics and dive bars, as an alternative to Smack, Leamington’s main student club that provided the only other option for a night out.

After moving north, the founders were joined by jazz/funk bass player Jamie Shields and drummer Tommy Evans in 2015, when they released the single A Punk Called Peter, a “sort of New Orleans funeral march mixed with some fine and highly danceable reggae”.

Holy Moly & The Crackers’ artwork for Take A Bite, their 2019 album

Second album Salem marked the 2017 launch of their own label, Pink Lane Records, and a heightened profile for the band after lead single Cold Comfort Lane was picked up by Hollywood producers to turbo-boost the stick-it-to-the-man comedy crime caper Ocean’s 8 in 2018. 

Classically trained but psychedelic and DIY punk-inspired guitarist Nick Tyler came on board that year to add to The Crackers’ grunt and diesel power.

Reuniting with Salem producer Matt Terry, they recorded swaggering third album Take A Bite in 2019, once again at Vada Studios, built in a 1260 chapel near Alcester on the Warwickshire /Worcestershire border.

“Apparently it’s called Vada Studios because the owner is obsessed with Star Wars’ Darth Vader,” says Conrad, whose band stayed in one of the outhouses.

Teaming up with Terry for a second time proved fruitful. “He’s worked with bands like The Prodigy and The Enemy and he has really good ideas for pop sensibilities,” says Conrad. “I was always against ‘pop’, but there’s a real skill to it. There was a chance for us to go with another producer, but we felt we could do more with Matt to develop our sound.”

Whereupon The Crackers hit the road in full throttle, joining shanty punks Skinny Lister on tour around Europe, before appearing at more than 30 festivals and undertaking a victorious headline lap of the UK, culminating in selling out their biggest show to date at Sage Gateshead on the banks of the Tyne. Ruth and Conrad tied the knot that busy year too.

2020 saw the band blasting out of the blocks with the single Road To You, “a shot of espresso that comes loaded and ready to work in a short, sharp shock”. Twenty-seven dates across ten countries should have added up to their biggest European tour to date, to go with support slots for fan Frank Turner across France and Germany and a return to Glastonbury for its 50th anniversary, but we all know what happened next.

Tickets for Holy Moly & The Crackers’ 8pm gig cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Tom Rosenthal: The last show at Pocklington Arts Centre before the first lockdown last March

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre (PAC) has been closed to the public since March 17 2020, curtailing that year’s 20th anniversary celebrations after comedian Tom Rosenthal’s Manhood show on March 14, but the venue will hopefully be re-opening our doors this summer”.

Watch this space for further updates, but already director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy have confirmed that the PAC-programmed Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington, has been called off for a second successive summer.

Festival shows by the likes of comedian Omid Djalili, Richard Thompson and Shed Seven duo Rick Witter and Paul Banks in acoustic mode initially had been moved from 2020 to 2021, although former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant’s Saving Grace acoustic gig with fellow vocalist Suzi Dian never had a new Platform date set in place.

“Robert hasn’t rescheduled any of his 2020 shows, originally because he was recording with Alison Krauss in Nashville,” says James.

“We looked into moving Richard Thompson’s date too, but he’s cancelled his plans because amid the continuing uncertainty over Covid, he’s not sure where he would stand, what with being based in the United States.”

More details are yet to be confirmed, but Pocklington Arts Centre is contemplating reopening with a film programme from July 2, followed by the full reopening in September, with greater clarity once the Government roadmap is rubber-stamped.

Velma Celli: Drag diva to play Pocklington Arts Centre in December

“It will be a slow re-start at first to restore audience confidence in coming to PAC, and film is a good way of doing that,” says Janet. “With films, you naturally socially distance to get the best view.

“But that’s why we couldn’t go ahead with the Platform Festival, because there are still uncertainties and it made sense to call it off.”

Plans are afoot instead for Primrose Wood Acoustic, a short series of outdoor shows in a 60 to 70-capacity woodland setting at Primrose Wood, Pocklington, in early July. Two shows are pencilled in for PAC in July too, subject to the Government’s Covid statements. Again, watch this space for more info as and when.

Within PAC, the lavatories have been refurbished and upgraded; air-purifying units to increase air flow are being installed around the building; a Covid-secure screen is in place at the box office, and such Covid measures as an app for ordering drinks, anti-bacteria spray “foggers” and hand-sanitising stations will be the way forward.

The frustrating year of lockdown x 3 has kept Janet and James busy rearranging concerts by, for example, The Felice Brothers and Courtney Marie Andrews three times and New Yorker Jesse Malin twice.

The management duo have been working their way through 20 years of paper work in the attics and have set up a beehive on the flat roof as part of a PAC environmentally friendly package.

So, now there is a buzz about the place in more ways than one, and on the Pocklington horizon is a theatrical ghost-walk promenade, commissioned from Magic Carpet Theatre founder Jon Marshall for the dark nights of November before the December dazzle of glam cabaret supreme in the company of York drag diva deluxe Velma Celli (date TBC).

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 info@pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

“If you are in a position to support Pocklington Arts Centre and Platform Festival, we have set up a crowdfunding page via https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/pac.”

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.

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 pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk, platformfestival.com and seetickets.com or on 01759 301547.