Helen Boaden to leave Stephen Joseph Theatre to be chair of York Theatre Royal

Helen Boaden: new chair at York Theatre Royal

HELEN Boaden is joining York Theatre Royal as the new chair of the board of trustees.

She takes over from Ann Green CBE, pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing body of York St John University, who had held the post since July 2014.

Helen will step down as chair of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, where she has served as a board trustee since 2015, the last six in the chair’s post.

She has extensive leadership experience in creative organisations, including more than 30 years at the BBC, where, among a range of roles, she was controller of Radio 4 and the first woman to run BBC News. More recently she sat on the Council of the Royal Academy of Arts.

“I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to be the chair of the board of trustees at York Theatre Royal,” said Helen. “I have seen first-hand the impact that York Theatre Royal has both locally and nationally and I am looking forward to working with trustees and staff as we embark on the next chapter in the life of this important and historic theatre.”

“The wealth of experience that Helen brings is invaluable to us and will bring fresh perspective as we explore and redefine our work for the future,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Paul Crewes. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Theatre Royal chief executive Paul Crewes said: “We are excited to welcome Helen Boaden this month to York Theatre Royal as chair of the board of trustees. The wealth of experience that Helen brings is invaluable to us and will bring fresh perspective as we explore and redefine our work for the future – reimagining ourselves artistically and financially as a producing theatre at the heart of our community.”

Helen spent most of her career at the BBC, starting as a reporter and producer in BBC local and commercial radio in Leeds, before ending on the BBC executive board as the first female director of BBC News and then director of BBC Radio.

After leaving full-time employment, Helen sat as a non-executive on several boards, including Royal Academy of Arts (2017-2023); UK Statistics Authority (2019-2022); Richard Dimbleby Cancer Fund (2017-2023) and Stockroom Theatre Company (2018- 2021). Helen was chair of the funding panel for the Audio Content Fund from 2019 to 2022.

Alongside her new role as chair of the York Citizens’ Theatre Trust, Helen will continue as chair at the Windsor Leadership Trust and National Statistician’s Advisory Group on Data Ethics and as an advisory board member at Shorenstein Centre on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the University of Coventry, Scarborough campus. She is patron of Books by the Beach in Scarborough and president of HF Holidays.

Jake Attree’s new York works to go online in Messum’s virtual show from February 3

Red Roofs, York, From The Bar Walls, oil on panel, by Jake Attree

LOCKDOWN 3 may have a multitude of restrictive minuses, but it means you will not miss York-born artist Jake Attree’s new exhibition.

Forty-four new works should have been going on display at David Messum Fine Art, in Bury Street, St James’s, London. Instead, the show is moving to a virtual platform online at messums.com from February 3 to 26, bringing art “from our home to yours”.

This will be accompanied by a £15 fully illustrated catalogue with a foreword by author, art critic and curator David Boyd Haycock; a short film with commentary from David Messum as he explores and discusses the paintings, and a virtual gallery that allows “visitors” to experience the complete exhibition.

Landscape By Water (The Red Hill), oil pastel, by Jake Attree

“Picture fuses with place, and place with picture, in a cyclical relationship that serves to produce something entirely new and very personal,” says Boyd Haycock of Attree’s new works.

On show online will be a combination of Attree’s monumental depictions of the streets of York, verging on abstraction, and a group of oil pastels inspired by the Flemish Old Master Pieter Brueghel.

“Many of the works have advanced upon stylistic developments that were seen in Attree’s earlier exhibitions with Messum’s,” says Katie Newman, Messum’s managing director at The Studio, Lord’s Wood, Marlow Common, Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Jake Attree sketching in his home city of York

“The small blocks of colour that characterised many of the works from the Ancient City series exhibited in 2013 have moved in an ever-increasing abstract direction, hovering at times on the cusp of complete abstraction.” 

Attree, 71, was born and grew up in Grange Garth, in York, where his first art teacher was John Langton, another northern painter fascinated by how light falls on buildings and landscapes.

“York is a majestic city with a long, extraordinary history – from the Roman metropolitan centre to the Viking port of Jorvik, to the great medieval walls and Minster. Here is layer upon layer of history and those seams of history are like the layers in Attree’s drawings and, in particular, his paintings,” says Katie.

FaCade 2, York, oil on panel, by Jake Attree

“Thus, recent works such as the Red Roofs, York From The Bar Walls series are both a vision of York and a vision of history, a place that is at once both ancient and modern, here and everywhere.” 

Drawing is the way that the deeply thoughtful Attree explains the world to himself wordlessly. “So I do it all the time,” he says, outlining how the foundation of his work is predicated on careful and endless observation.

He sees this need to draw as lying deep within our being. “We have been drawing – or something very like it – since the time of the cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira,” says Jake, pointing to human art works that date back almost 40,000 years.

Triptych Of Trees, oil on board, by Jake Attree

“Drawing, like all truly creative activity, is not an entertainment or pastime, but rather something fundamental to our psychic health as a species.”

Hence Attree not only draws, but he does so daily, working out of a long, narrow studio at Dean Clough, Halifax. “I do believe that it is not until we have drawn something that we have truly looked at it. This is what artists realise, and it is amazing to think that drawing was once ‘out of fashion’ in art schools,” says Jake, who studied at York College of Art, Liverpool Art College from 18, and then the Royal Academy of Arts in London in his 20s.

He lives in Saltaire, in West Yorkshire, but returns regularly to his home city, where he makes initial sketches in the open air before transforming them into paintings thick with oil paints.

“York has always been emotionally very important to me,” he says, as his latest works will testify online from February 3.

The Hunters In The Snow after Brueghel, oil pastel, by Jake Attree