Guilds of York to roll out York Mystery Plays wagons on city streets on June 19 and 26

2022 York Mystery Plays artistic director Tom Straszewski

HERE come the wagons, rolling through York’s streets on June 19 and 26 for the 2022 York Mystery Plays.

Once more, the driving force behind the community production will be the Guilds of York, maintaining the four-yearly wagon-play cycle they set in motion in 1998 and last implemented in 2018.

Under the artistic direction of Tom Straszewski, the Mystery Plays will be presented on decorated pageant wagons, in keeping with the medieval custom. Pushed by York residents, these will move through the streets to the accompaniment of musicians.

Straszewski’s production will involve nearly 600 people in all, who will create hours of drama, performed for free. Eight wagons will process through the city centre to stage their chosen plays at four locations, including St Sampson’s Square, St Helen’s Square and King’s Manor.

Roger Lee, chairman of York Festival Trust, says: “With arts and culture being amongst the last areas of our lives allowed to return post-Covid, we are delighted to bring York Mystery Plays back to the city this summer and support the rebirth of live performing arts.

James Swanton as Lucifer with cast members of The Last Judgement when plays from the 2018 York Mystery Plays were staged in the Shambles Market. Picture: Lewis Outing

“Our past productions have met with great popular, academic and critical acclaim, and we hope to build on this success with our 2022 production. In their medieval heyday, the Mystery Plays and the Guilds were inextricably linked, and it is this heritage we are reclaiming with these regular four-yearly productions.

Artistic director Tom Straszewski will work with various partners across York to make the Mystery Plays, their story, themes and message accessible to as many people as possible. “After two years of uncertainty for the arts, this is an opportunity for York’s communities to come together to celebrate our city’s heritage through drama, spectacle and pageantry,” he says.

“This will be a huge boost for people’s well-being and a festival to attract York residents and visitors alike to the city on these two Sundays.”

In the era of pandemic lockdowns and climate change, the theme for 2022’s selection of eight plays will be sustainability and transformation. “The plays will cover the creation of the world, floods, last meals together and resurrections. We are still seeking directors, performance groups and actors to take on these plays, including the iconic Crucifixion with the Butchers’ Gild,” says Tom, who was the artistic director and pageant master for the 2018 Mystery Plays too.

“There are still opportunities to be involved and anyone interested should email”

York Mystery Plays to be staged in Dean’s Park in A Resurrection For York in July

Raqhael Harte’s Mary with the infant Jesus in York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s production of A Nativity For York in December 2019 at the Spurriergate Centre, York. Picture: John Saunders

A RESURRECTION For York will undergo its own resurrection this summer after Covid-19 put the kibosh on the original theatre production.

Plans for the play had to be put on hold earlier this year under pandemic restrictions, but partners York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Festival Trust and York Minster have settled on new performance dates of July 3 and 4.

Directed by Philip Parr, artistic director of Parrabbola, the show’s format will be retained: one hour long, staged outdoors, on two static wagons.

The location will be the Residents Gardens, at Minster Library, Dean’s Park, alongside York Minster, where the limited audience size for each day’s 11am, 2pm and 4pm performances will be governed by the prevailing social-distancing guidelines.

Linda Terry, chair of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, says: “With our partners, we have been working hard to bring back live theatre to the city after such a difficult time. The York Mystery Plays have survived past plagues; we wanted to play our part in a new beginning, creating an optimistic and safe event, bringing people together in a vividly imagined drama from York’s literary and cultural inheritance.”

York Festival Trust director Roger Lee is equally enthusiastic: “With arts and culture among the last areas of our lives allowed to return, York Festival Trust is delighted to be part of this project to bring York Mystery Plays back to the city this summer and to support the rebirth of live performing arts,” he says.

The Dean of York, the Right Reverend Dr Jonathan Frost, is “delighted that after the lockdown we have all experienced, events crucial to the life and story of York are beginning to happen again”.

“The theme for the York Mystery Plays this year is resurrection,” he says. “It would be hard to think of a more appropriate focus for a society, community and city coming back to life after a torrid journey. I do hope everyone will find time to enjoy the Mystery Plays.”

Since his appointment as director in March, Parr has been working on the new script with Tom Straszewski, director of the 2018 wagon production of the York Mystery Plays, and auditioning a community cast.

Previously, Parr directed York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s production of A Nativity For York at the Spurriergate Centre, York, in December 2019.

Tickets for A Resurrection For York are on sale at

Bedern Hall to introduce new heritage interpretation project when reopening

Roger Lee: Overseeing new heritage interpretation programme at Bedern Hall, York

BEDERN Hall, in York, will reopen on May 19 with a new heritage interpretation programme.

Visitors will see how the historic hall, in Bartle Garth, St Andrewgate, was restored and how it operated as the refectory for the Vicars Choral of York Minster, learning about their lifestyle and how they built the hall and discovering some of the things they left behind.

The hall’s later periods, and its many different uses over the centuries as tenemented accommodation, a bakery and a pork-pie maker’s curing hall, will be featured too.

Located a two-minute walk from York Minster, Bedern Hall has been seeking ways to open to new users and has received a Culture Recovery Fund grant to support its development plans.

The grant has begun to assist a new volunteer programme too that will bring additional opportunities for people to take part in the new opening arrangements.

Roger Lee, of the Bedern Hall Company, says: “Bedern Hall is one of York’s small but important historic venues and as we seek new ways for visitors to experience and learn about the hall, this is a timely change of direction for the business as we emerge from Covid-19 restrictions.

“It’s also a new opportunity for people to volunteer to help us with this vision to retell the Vicars Choral Story and the hall’s restoration.”

Bedern Hall will be open to visitors four days a week, from Wednesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4.30pm. New signs, interpretation information boards, a children’s trail and tours of the Bedern area are planned with guides.

A new Bedern Hall Tour App that visitors can access via QR codes on their smartphone or tablet device will provide information in text, audio, and video in up to ten languages and will doubles as a self-guide tour. 

The hall will continue to offer facilities for wedding ceremonies and receptions, craft events, social events, community groups and business meetings. Its clientele include corporate organisations, private companies, social services and community groups. 

“The aim is to bring the history of hall to the attention of visitors and local people and its continuing benefit to the city as one of York’s most important medieval meeting halls that’s often overlooked due to its location,” says Roger, who operates Bedern Hall, runs Time and Place Caterers from there and is a Freeman of the City.

Anyone interested in volunteering opportunities should contact Roger on 01904 646030 or by emailing

The Bedern Hall heritage interpretation project is funded by the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage. The Culture Recovery Fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England, using funds provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.

New partnership to mount Easter open-air production of The York Passion in April

New partnership: York Festival Trust, York Minster and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust to present The York Passion at Easter

YORK’S new theatre partnership is seeking a director for The York Passion, an outdoor staging planned for Easter Saturday and Monday.

For the first time, York Festival Trust, York Minster and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust are working together to present an Easter production, performed on two or possibly three static pageant waggons on the hard standing in front of the Minster School, opposite York Minster.

Three performances per day will be staged on April 2 and 4; tickets will be sold for a nominal charge to ensure appropriate Covid-secure distancing arrangements are applied.

The director will be required to create a single play – no more than 70 minutes straight through – from the pageants in the original York Mystery Plays.

The director’s vision must embrace elements from the Crucifixion, the Death of Christ and the Resurrection, possibly starting with the Road to Calvary and ending with the Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene.

Tom Straszewski, artistic director of the 2018 York Mystery Plays’ waggon production and 2022 Lincoln Mystery Plays, has produced a working script that can be adapted to meet the director’s requirements, including cutting and modernising the original text.

Cast and crew will be drawn from open auditions from the York community: a tradition of the York Mystery Plays since mediaeval times. Auditions and rehearsals will be conducted virtually, in accordance with Government Coronavirus measures.

Tom Straszewski: Working script that can be adapted to meet the director’s requirements

Linda Terry, chair of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, says: “Despite the current dark times, we felt that it was right to look forward and create an opportunity for people to participate in, and enjoy, a theatrical production that fulfilled our aim of keeping York’s Medieval Mystery Play heritage alive in a format that could be enjoyed safely.

“With the country now in its third lockdown, it is unclear what public health measures will be in place during the rehearsal phase and indeed it is quite possible that we may have to cancel or postpone the production, but any such decision will be taken jointly by the partnership and the director.”

For the Easter production, The Passion Trust – a charity focused on performances of Passion plays, including community events, around Britain – has provided funding specifically for live screening a performance to be uploaded subsequently to YouTube.

Roger Lee, York Festival Trust’s chair, highlights the new partnership’s extensive experience: “All three partners have mounted productions of the York Mystery Plays over the past five to 30 years,” he says.

“With the exception of York Minster, the organisations are not exclusively Christian, but the Festival Trust has directed community groups in producing sections of the cycle on waggons every four years since 2002, but this will be the first time the Crucifixion and Resurrection pageants are staged together as a single play.”

Applicants for the director’s role should provide a CV and a proposal for their vision for the open-air production on one side of A4 by midnight on January 30 2021.

A special director information pack is available. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for discussion by Zoom. Applications and enquiries should be emailed to:

Bedern Hall will deck the hall for Christmas Craft Fair from Sunday to Thursday

The Christmas Craft Fair Christmas tree

BEDERN Hall, in Bedern, York, will play host to a Deck The Hall Christmas Craft Fair from Sunday (13/12/2020) to Thursday, 11am to 4pm.

Open to visitors for the first time since March, this is an opportunity to experience the 14th century hall decorated in traditional style, be inspired by a mini-Christmas market for gifts, cards and crafts and enjoy mulled juices and seasonal treats in the pop-up cafe. Admission is free but a donation would be welcome; £2 for adults, £1 for children aged eight upwards.

Roger Lee, Bedern Hall director and Freeman of the City of York, says: “Special places like Bedern Hall have not just popped up recently to take a cut of York’s tourist successes. They are the often-unnoticed background to all that happens in York; they shape the city streets; they quietly share their amazing stories and they look to the future with the perspective that only history can give. These places are York.”