Taking trouble at At The Mill to build a community for the arts and the people

Daniel Kitson: Testing out new material in six Outside performances at Stillington Mill

SUMMER At The Mill is returning for a second season of creative, culinary and community events in the gardens of Stillington Mill, Stillington, near York.

“After the spectacular, gorgeous, fun, exciting, beautiful and heart-warming time we had throughout our inaugural summer last year – what a ride! – we’re over the moon to present the mixed bag of goodies that is Summer At The Mill 2.0,” says programmer, theatre director, writer and performer Alexander Flanagan-Wright.

“Until September 4, we’ll be hosting a load of wonderful events all about community, art, food and flipping good times. We’ll have a pop-up café and bar, community gatherings, theatre, music, comedy, supper clubs and special events.”

The “Wright stuff” is the work of outdoor theatre co-builder Alex, sister Abbigail Ollive (Saturday café cuisine queen and supper club supremo) and their retired headteacher parents Maggi and Paul Wright, together with partners Megan Drury and Paul Smith. That “stuff” also takes in weddings, events and shepherd’s hut accommodation: truly a village cottage industry, you could say, albeit somewhat larger than a cottage.

A Supper Club gathering at At The Mill

“We just had a blast summer,” says Alex. “It was kind of by accident. It felt very serendipitous or of its moment, saying, ‘here is a way we can gather safely, our local community and the arts community, post-lockdown’.

“So this summer is a chance to see if people still care, and so far the evidence is that they do, with the return of the busy Saturday café, the Crafty Tales show [The Case Of The Missing Bunny] that sold out, our Pizza & Cocktail Night and the Dance Dance Dance Big Bank Holiday Silent Disco.

“Last year felt like a huge rush of adrenaline, and then you think, ‘OK, where do we go forward this year for beautiful experiences together?’. Already this year, we’re meeting new people coming to the events and the café.”

Summing up the essence of At The Mill, Alex says: “We believe a feeling of community is so important when people want to have an evening out. Whereas commercial theatre can feel merely transactional, with us, the means is the art, but the end result is a sense of community, and that feels the right way round.

Alexander Flanagan-Wright: At the heart of At The Mill

“On top of that, eating outside together, drinking outside together, is a lovely thing to do, and we have the space and setting to do that.”

Where once Stillington Mill’s 18th century mill would produce flour, now the At The Mill combines food with food for thought, new recipes at the Supper Club, new works on stage. “We’re very clear with the artists about that. Everyone we’ve asked, we’ve said, ‘we think you’re cool, we like your work, do you want to come and play with us?’,” says Alex.

“What we have in abundance is space and time, imagination and a community. What we don’t have in abundance is cash, but we find most performers end up walking away with cash in their pocket.

“We don’t say to them, bring a particular show. What you get instead is artists testing out new material, so it becomes a genuine relationship with the audience built around nurturing new work. We’re seeking an equal balance between the two communities, where they care about each other, and if we do our part well in bringing them together, then they will meet in a beautiful way, and hopefully that process is more valuable, than, say, a Q&A session in a theatre.”

The Saturday cafe at At The Mill, baked by Abbigail Ollive

Alex continues: “Hopefully too, we’re going to be able to sustain that culture of being able to welcome artists for whatever they want to try out, and of audiences being continually excited about seeing new work at such an early stage, performed by people they wouldn’t expect to be passing through their village.”

A case in point is Edinburgh Fringe favourite Daniel Kitson, the Denby Dale stand-up comedian, who asked to take part in the Theatre At The Mill programme after he was tipped off by storytelling performer Sam Freeman.

“Daniel got in touch to say hello, could he come and do a show? I don’t know what the show is about; I don’t know if Daniel does yet, but that feels a pretty exciting thing to be going on, and testament to our aim for brilliant performers to test out their work to our community,” says Alex.

“I’m also aware that there will be those who don’t know who Daniel Kitson is and would just see him as someone standing up in a garden! But it feels beautiful to know that his shows in May will be his first in two years and it’s great to be part of that work-in-progress experience.”

Chris Stokes: Storytelling comedy in Lockdown Detective at At The Mill on May 26

Clearly, plenty of people know exactly who Daniel Kitson is: his 8pm performances of Outside on May 23 to 25 have sold out already and his June 8 to 10 run looks close to following suit.

What’s in store from Kitson? Here’s the show blurb: “Daniel hasn’t been on stage for over two years. And, to be entirely honest, he’s not really missed it. It is, however, his actual job and everyone’s gone back to work now. So, he’s picked out a comfy pen, bought a new notebook and booked himself a summer’s worth of outdoor shows to find out whether he can still do his job and what, if anything, he has to say to large groups of people he doesn’t know.”

Given his performing hiatus and lack of practice, Kitson predicts the shows are “likely to be relatively rickety affairs”. “But Daniel’s already written the question ‘Do worms feel fear?’ in his new notebook, so we should be okay,” the blurb adds. “Also, if it gets boring – you can just use the time to look at the sky and feel small.”

At The Mill’s role in nurturing new work ties in with Alex’s own creativity as a writer and director, whether directing The Flanagan Collective, heading off to Australia with songwriter/musician/performer/magician Phil Grainger or spending last September to December in New York, making the immersive piece Tammany Hall for the Soho Playhouse.

Gary Stewart: Hosting regular Folk Club nights at At The Mill

“We meet loads of brilliant people when touring our work, and it’s great that they want to come here to test new pieces,” he says. “We’re delighted that people will hone shows here just before the Edinburgh Fringe kicks off, or will do shows here that aren’t going to Edinburgh but fit that vibe.”

Picking out upcoming highlights, singer-songwriterTom Figgins follows up last summer’s gig – his first in four years – with a return tomorrow; Chris Stokes’s storytelling comedy show, Lockdown Detective, is booked in for May 26, and Scottish musician Gary Stewart, now resident in nearby Easingwold, will host his regular Folk Club night on May 27, June 24 and July 8.

“For his first night, it’ll be just Gary and his guitar, performing Paul Simon songs solo rather than with his Graceland band. It’s lovely for us that a local musician, who’s internationally renowned, came here and said, ‘I want to play here every month and bring acts here regularly’,” says Alex.

At The Mill’s ERII Platinum Jubilee celebrations will take in Jubilee Jubilee, A Very Jubilant Cabaret, on June 3 and A Right Royal Knees Up, with live music and pizza, on June 5.

Maddie Morris: 2019 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner, playing a Music At The Mill gig for the first time

Leeds folk duo Maddie Morris & Lilian Grace will make their At The Mill debut on June 12, performing together as Death And The Daughter and playing solo works too. Their 2022 project, The Sticky Monsters, is influenced by the artwork of Swedish artist John Kenn and their compositions deal with childhood, poverty and more general reflections on culture and the idea of fear.

“I saw Maddie, the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner, at The Courthouse, Rural Arts’ home in Thirsk, and she’s an absolute folk musician, studying folk music at Leeds University and looking at contemporary politics through the lens of the folk tradition,” says Alex.

Gemma Curry’s York company Hoglets Theatre will perform the children’s show The Sleep Pirates on June 19 (10am to 1pm); York spoken-word collective Say Owt will host a poetry-writing workshop on June 25 (5pm), followed by an evening showcase (7.30pm); Heady Conduct will combine physical storytelling with live music to tell the Greek myth of Tiresias on July 10, and Paperback Theatre will stage their charming account of roguish Toad’s misadventures, The Wind In The Willows, on July 30 at 2.30pm and 7pm.

Alex himself has a couple of contributions to the season: Monster, a work-in-progress new story, on June 16 and 17, and The Gods The Gods The Gods, the Wright and Grainger show whose Australian premiere tour was curtailed by the pandemic, now making its British debut on July 23, 24, 27 and 28 at 8.45pm.

Gemma Curry in Hoglets Theatre’s The Sleep Pirates

“In its full iteration, it’s a big, heavy show, but this will be a lighter version before we take it to the Edinburgh Fringe,” says Alex of the final work in Wright & Grainger’s trilogy of myths, after Orpheus and Eurydice, both sell-outs at last summer’s At The Mill season.

The Gods The Gods The Gods, with its four stories and 14 compositions, corals big beats, soaring melodies and heart-stopping spoken words as it “calls us to the crossroads where mythology meets real life”.

“The Gods are gathering and you’re invited,” says Alex. “We’re excited about testing it out here, to wrangle up the story, to see that all the text and music works, and then add lights for Edinburgh, where we’ll be doing it in the Assembly’s 200-seat spiegeltent.”

The Mill’s summer programme will continue to add new events, with full details, including tickets, at athemill.org. Shows start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise.

The Flanagan Collective’s Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Gobbledigook Theatre’s Phil Grainger staging Orpheus and Eurydice at At The Mill’s socially-distanced summer season in 2021. Picture: Charlotte Graham

The Howl & The Hum, Bull and Huge to play Make It York’s new YorkLife festival weekend in Parliament Street in April

The Howl & The Hum: York Life headliners on April 3

YORK’S new spring festival weekend will showcase the city’s musicians, performers, comedians and more besides on April 2 and 3.

Organised by Make It York, YorkLife will see more than 30 performers and organisations head to Parliament Street for a free open event from 11am to 9pm each day with no need to book tickets in advance.

The Saturday headliners will be Big Donaghy’s long-running York party band Huge; the Sunday bill will climax with The Howl & The Hum in their biggest home-city performance since gracing York Minster on May 25 2021.

Both bands will play the main YorkLife stage as part of a programme curated by York’s Music Venue Network, presenting such York acts as Bull, Kitty VR, Flatcap Carnival and Hyde Family Jam.

An array of interactive sessions will be held by York organisations, taking in theatre workshops, instrumental workshops, face painting, comedy and dance performances, plus fire performers and circus acts.

The main stage on Parliament Street will have an open viewing area with a 500 capacity, while a covered stretch tent will hold a York Gin bar and seating area for 90 people with a one-in, one-out policy.

YorkLife is supported by City of York Council’s ARG (Additional Restrictions Grant) funding, which aims to boost businesses impacted by Covid-19. The April 2 and 3 programme has been curated with York residents in mind and to support the city’s recovery from Covid.

Big Ian Donaghy: Fronting Huge on the YorkLIfe main stage on April 2

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “Our cultural sector is the lifeblood of our communities. There is so much talent in York, from musicians to comedians and poets to performers, which makes our city so vibrant and unique.

“YorkLife is an excellent way to celebrate our home-grown musicians and performers, particularly after what has been a challenging few years for us all. I would encourage residents to join the festival and enjoy the best of York’s own talent.”

Sarah Loftus, Make It York’s managing director, says: “YorkLife is a celebration of York talent and culture, from our street musicians to our community groups. We want to really celebrate the sense of community in York and we’re encouraging residents to join the party and see some of the hottest talent York has to offer.”

Chris Sherrington, from the York Music Venue Network, says: “It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to showcase some of York’s amazingly talented artists who have developed their careers across the city of York’s many great grassroots music venues.

“As part of YorkLife weekend, we’re looking forward to celebrating the return of live music to the city and enjoying the wonderful variety of music for one and all. This event has been a true cooperative effort of York’s event industry and creatives and we look forward to working on future events.”

To find out more about YorkLife, head to visityork.org/yorklife. The full line-up will be announced later this month. 

Bull: Home-city gig for York’s first band to sign to a major label since Shed Seven

Confirmed acts and workshops

Musicians

The Howl & The Hum; Huge; Bull; Kitty VR; Flatcap Carnival; Hyde Family Jam;  Floral Pattern; Bargestra and Wounded Bear.

Workshops:

Mud Pie Arts: Cloud Tales interactive storytelling;

Thunk It Theatre: Build Our City theatre workshop; 

Gemma Wood: York Skyline art;

Fantastic Faces:  Face painting; 

York Mix Radio:  Quiz; 

York Dance Space:  Dance performance;

Burning Duck Comedy Club: Comedy night; 

Henry Raby, from Say Owt: Spoken poetry; 

Matt Barfoot: Drumming workshop; 

Christian Topman: Ukulele workshop; 

Polly Bennet: Little Vikings PQA York performing arts workshop; 

Innovation Entertainment: Circus workshops. 

Nicolette Hobson and Gemma Drury of Mud Pie Arts: Hosting Cloud Tales interactive storytelling workshops at YorkLife

Say Owt’s spoken-word squad return from lockdown lull with Bad Betty Press guests and York poets at Fulford Arms tonight

York punk poet Crow Rudd: On the Say Owt bill tonight

SAY Owt, York’s rowdy but loveable spoken-word and poetry gang, are bringing Bad Betty Press up north tonight for a 7.30pm bill of open-mic spots and featured wordsmiths at the Fulford Arms.

“Bad Betty Press are an independent publisher boasting some of the finest poets in the UK, and for this show we have open-mic spaces for poets local to York and surrounding towns and villages or people who have never performed with us before,” says Say Owt artistic director Henry Raby.

Those who filled in the form https://forms.gle/GGdBsB3CTEiS1bw56 were being informed by today if they had been selected at random.

The cover artwork for Crow Rudd’s debut collection

Tonight’s “super selection of super spoken worders” at the first Say Owt live event since December 2020 comprises York punk poet Crow Rudd and Bad Betty Poetry guests Kirsten Luckins and Tanatsei Gambura.

Crow Rudd (they/them) is a disabled nonbinary queer published poet and slam champion whose work focuses on mental health, grief, politics and the power of cuddles. Creator of Sad Poets Doorstep Club, founder of the UK Trans & Nonbinary Poets Network and reigning Stanza Slam champion, their debut collection ‘i am a thing of rough edges’ is out, published by Whisky & Beards.

Kirsten Luckins: Poet, performer and spoken-word theatre-maker

Kirsten Luckins, a poet, performer and spoken word theatre-maker from the north-east coast, puts the emphasis on compassion and playfulness in her multi-artform, collaborative creative practice.

She has toured two award-nominated spoken-word shows and is a director, dramaturg and creative producer. She is artistic director of the Tees Women Poets collective and co-founder of the Celebrating Change digital storytelling project, where she teaches creative memoir writing.

Tanatsei Gambura: Zimbabwean poet, intermedia artist and cultural practitioner

Zimbabwean poet, intermedia artist and cultural practitioner Tanatsei Gambura was the runner-up in the inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize for the manuscript Things I Have Forgotten Before, published this year by Bad Betty Press.

Drawing from personal experience, her work explores the themes of black womanhood in the context of post-colonial immigration, global geopolitics and cultural identity. She is an alumnus of the British Council residency, These Images Are Stories, and her work has been recognised by United Nations Women and the Goethe Institut.

Say Owt’s always high-energy shows are supported by funding from Arts Council England. “Tonight’s event will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this October. Best of all, admission is free,” says Henry, who will co-host the show at the Fulford Arms, Fulford Road, with Stu Freestone.

Say Owt co-hosts Henry Raby, left, and Stu Freestone

Say Owt to spark up their winter spoken words at The Crescent in December return

Owt and about again: Say Owt artistic director Henry Raby, left, and co-founder and cheese trader Stu Freestone spark up the spoken word anew on December 11

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, are back in live action for the first time since the summer for a night of socially distanced spoken word at The Crescent on December 11.

In start-stop-restart-stop again 2020, these loquacious hosts of high-energy bursts of words and verse have hosted live-streams in lockdowns, most recently Lovely Lockdown Lyricism last Friday, and pop-up poetry on York Theatre Royal’s patio in August.

Stepping up to the mic on December 11 will be Say Owt’s A-team of Henry Raby, Hannah Davies, Stu Freestone and Dave Jarman, joined by special guest poets Katie Greenbrown and Ruth Awolola. In a nutshell, here comes a slam-winning sextet of soulful poets with modern, relevant and upbeat verse.

Hannah Davies: Slam champ and word weaver

“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Henry. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves!

“Last Friday’s online gig was good: it’s just nice to keep connecting with our audience. Now Say Owt and The Crescent want to give you a night of energy and warmth after a tough year.”

The Crescent, in The Crescent, off Blossom Street, York, will have a Covid-secure, socially distanced seated capacity of 60. “The performers and the venue are following all regulations and guidelines to keep the audience as safe as possible,” says Henry.

Tickets for this 7pm gig cost £10, available in batches of one to four at: http://thecrescentyork.com/events/s-d-show-say-owt/

Special guest: Katie Greenbrown

Lockdown 2? It can only end in tiers. Meanwhile, More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No. 19, courtesy of The Press

Here comes the flood: Rowntree Park viewed from the Reading Cafe balcony in sodden November. Now we wait for the vaccine dove but meanwhile the arts will not be beaten into retreat

LOCKDOWN 2 wears the mask of uncertainty for another fortnight until the next Government proclamation on when and how it will all end in tiers.

Leaving predictions to the betting shops, this column will state the facts as they stand now on what – definitely or hopefully – will be happening in the weeks and months ahead as we wait for a prick to make a difference.

Charles Hutchinson consults his diary, written in pencil just in case, to help to fill yours.

Look who’s taking part in the first #yramathome on November 22

Virtual shopping goes arty for Christmas: York River Art Market online

AFTER summer stalls by the Ouse were Covid-cancelled, York River Art Market will host a series of online markets in the lead-up to Christmas.

The #yramathome Virtual Winter Art Markets will run from 10am to 5pm each Sunday from November 22 to December 20, plus the last Saturday before Christmas Day, December 19.

Online shoppers can browse and buy artworks from a selection of 20-plus different “indie makers” at each market day via Instagram. Information on each weekend’s makers, along with instructions on how to shop, will be shared via the York River Art Market (YRAM) Facebook page.

Snowfall In The Woods, mixed media on board, by Sharon Winter at Blue Tree Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week: The Christmas Show, Blue Tree Gallery, York, online initially

ORIGINAL paintings by Colin Cook, Giuliana Lazzerini, Nikki Monaghan and Sharon Winter feature in The Christmas Show, the latest Blue Tree Gallery exhibition in York until January 16 2021.

Lockdown 2 means the show is starting online only at bluetreegallery.co.uk/christmas-show-2020, but the Bootham gallery will re-open in December, subject to the new Government rules and regulations.

Driftwood sculptures by Natalie Parr, Christmas-themed ceramics by Kath Cooper and oxidised steel hanging decorations by David Mayne will be tempting Christmas buyers too.

Say Owt alumni Stu Freestone, left, Henry Raby, Hannah Davies and Dave Jarman in pre-Covid days. Now they head online for a live-stream tomorrow

Live-stream of the Week: Say Owt’s Lovely Lockdown Lyricism, Friday (20/11/20200), 7pm to 7.45pm

SAY Owt, York’s battleground for warring wordsmiths in slam clashes and regular host to spoken-word artists du jour, switches to online transmission for a night of alliteratively entitled Lovely Lockdown Lyricism.

Whirling wisps of wordy wonder in Livestream 2: In Owt/Shake It All About, will be Say Owt’s A-team of anarchic administrator Henry Raby, co-founder Stu Freestone, associate artist Dave Jarman and playwright, tutor, theatre director and slam champ Hannah Davies.

Tune in for “good Friday vibes” at facebook.com/events/283791622875447. Looking ahead, Say Owt hopes to re-convene in socially distanced mode at The Crescent, York, on December 11.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Let it snow in York: Badapple Theatre Company, The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre are to revive their 2019 Christmas show, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.

Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.

The animals are desperate for sleep, but with the onset of climate change, the weather is just too warm. Step in Mellor and Benham’s intrepid heroes, who decide they must seek out the mysterious Snow Dancer if there is to be any chance of ever making it snow for Christmas.

Kate Rusby wishes you a Happy Holly Day in her streamed Carol concert after having to cancel her Christmas tour

Christmas concert at home: Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day, December 12, 7.30pm

THE 2020 Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.

However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12.

At this special concert, streamed worldwide, expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: familiar Carols but set to unfamiliar tunes; wintry Rusby songs; sparkly dress, twinkling lights; her regular folk band and brass quintet; Ruby Reindeer and a fancy-dress finale. For tickets, go to: katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/

Elf and safety measures: Christmas films lined up for Covid-secure Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema: Winter Wonderland at Elvington Airfield

Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20

AFTER Knavesmire in July and Rufforth Airfield for Halloween, the apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema finds a new Covid-secure home for Christmas: Elvington Airfield. Father Christmas, elves and screen characters will be driving by too.

December 18 will offer Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

The Friday and Saturday programmes will start at 12 noon; the Sunday shows at 11am. Audio will be transmitted via a specially assigned FM frequency direct to vehicles’ radios and food can be delivered to customers’ cars.

Come Home, Tim: Yorkshireman Tim Booth will lead James to Leeds First Direct Arena next autumn

Looking ahead to 2021: Red Rose stalwarts James and Happy Mondays to invade the White Rose

JAMES have had to forego their traditional winter tour in 2020. Moving on, however, they will play Leeds First Direct Arena on November 25 2021, supported by fellow Manchester mavericks Happy Mondays.

“Feels like a new dawn to trumpet a celebratory tour, a week after the first news of hope,” said Clifford-raised frontman Tim Booth on Twitter. ”So looking forward to seeing you.” 

Tickets will go on general sale from 9.30am tomorrow with more details on the Live page at wearejames.com. Look out for a new James live double album and DVD, Live In An Extraordinary World, on December 11.

York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime cast members Anna Soden, left, Faye Campbell, Josh Benson, Robin Simpson and Reuben Johnson in rehearsal on Tuesday

And what about?

As trailered previously, York has two upcoming pantomimes. York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around all 21 wards from early December with a choice of three shows, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White.

York Stage will be full of beans from December 11 to January 3 at Theatre @41 Monkgate with writer-director Nik Briggs’s production of Jack And The Beanstalk, choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd.

At home, TV is in the crowning season: The Crown season four and The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and the crowning of The Great British Bake Off champion on Channel 4 on Tuesday night.

Albums to discover: Elvis Costello’s Hey Clockface; Fleet Foxes’ Shore, This Is The Kit’s Off Off On and, what joy, Songhoy Blues’ Optimisme.

May Tether as Jill in York Stage’s pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk

More Things To Do in York and beyond or at home, in or hopefully out of the rain, courtesy of The Press, York. List No. 13

Benched: Lisa Howard as grief-stricken Cathy, coming out of isolation on Easter Sunday 2020 in Matt Aston’s lockdown play, Every Time A Bell Rings, presented by Park Bench Theatre. Picture: Northedge Photography

A BANK Holiday on Monday, the return to schools drawing ever closer, masked or unmasked, the summer calendar is speeding by.

Make the most of the outdoors before the crepuscular Covid uncertainty of autumn and beyond arrives for theatres, concert halls and gig venues alike.

Charles Hutchinson pops outside, then quickly head back indoors in the rain with these recommendations.

Comedy for your living room…from theirs: Your Place Comedy presents Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes, Sunday, 8pm

Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes: The stream team for Your Place Comedy, performing in their living rooms on Sunday night

YORKSHIRE virtual comedy project Your Place Comedy returns after a summer break to deliver a second series of live streamed shows over the next three months, re-starting with The Chase star Paul Sinha and  BBC Radio 4 News Quiz guest host Angela Barnes this weekend.

Corralled by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones, ten small, independent theatres and arts centres from God’s Own Country and the Humber are coming together again, amid continued unease for the industry, to provide entertainment from national touring acts.

Sunday’s show will be broadcast live to viewers’ homes for free, with full details on how to watch on YouTube and Twitch at yourplacecomedy.co.uk. “As before, viewers will have an option to make a donation to the venues if they have enjoyed the broadcast,” says Chris.

Mucking around: Cassie Vallance enjoying herself in Teddy Bears’ Picnic in the Friends’ Garden, Rowntree Park,
York. Picture: Northedge Photography

Garden theatre part three: Park Bench Theatre in Every Time A Bell Rings, Friends Garden, Rowntree Park, York, until September 5

SAMUEL Beckett’s First Love has left the bench for good. Children’s show Teddy Bears’ Picnic, starring Cassie Vallance, resumes daytime residence from today.  From this week, the premiere of Engine House Theatre artistic director Matt Aston’s lockdown monologue Every Time A Bell Rings occupies the same bench on evenings until September 5.

Performed by Slung Low and Northern Broadsides regular Lisa Howard and directed by Tom Bellerby on his return to York from London, Aston’s 50-minute play is set in Lockdown on Easter Sunday 2020, when isolated, grief-stricken Cathy searches for solace on her favourite park bench in her favourite park in this funny and poignant look at how the world is changing through these extraordinary times.

Tickets for performances in the Covid-secure Friends Garden must be bought in advance at parkbenchtheatre.com or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Bring picnics, blankets and headphones to tune in to shows delivered on receivers. 

Decked out: Hannah Sibai’s design for the Pop-Up On The Patio festival at York Theatre Royal

Deckchairs will be provided: Pop-Up On The Patio, week three at York Theatre Royal, August 28 and  29

YORK Theatre Royal’s Covid-secure summer festival of outdoor performances on Hannah Sibai’s terrace stage climaxes with five more shows, three tomorrow, two on Saturday.

First up, tomorrow at 4pm, is York company Cosmic Collective Theatre’s cult show Heaven’s Gate, an intergalactic pitch-black comedy starring  satirical writer Joe Feeney, Anna Soden, Lewes Roberts and Kate Cresswell as they imagine the final hour of four fictionalised members of a real-life UFO-theistic group.

York performance poet Henry Raby puts the word into sword to slice up the past decade in Apps & Austerity at 6.30pm; Say Owt, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”, follows at 8pm. On Saturday, York magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson is unstoppable in Just Josh at 1pm before York pop, soul and blues singer Jess Gardham closes up the patio at 4pm.

Jo Walton: Rust on show at Pyramid Gallery

York exhibition of the week and beyond: Jo Walton, Paintings and Rust Prints, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, until September 30

YORK artist Jo Walton uses rust and rusted metal sheet in innovative ways to create her artworks. Iron filings are applied as ‘paint’ and as they rust, reactions occur, resulting in every painting being unique and unrepeatable.

“Jo’s work is abstract, inspired by horizons,” says Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett. “Her work features enhanced rust-prints on plaster surfaces, combinations of rusted sheet metal with oil painting and painting seascapes on gold-metal leaf.”

The poster for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

First blockbuster of the summer…at last: Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, at York cinemas

THE wait is over. This summer has been more blankbuster than blockbuster, thanks to the stultifying impact of the Covid lockdown and the big film companies’ reluctance to take a chance on a major release in the slow-burn, socially distanced reopening of cinemas.

Step forward Christopher Nolan, director of Memento, Inception, three Dark Knight/Batman movies and Dunkirk to grasp the nettle by releasing the 151-minute psychological thriller/action movie Tenet.

John David Washington (yes, Denzel’s son), Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh ride a rollercoaster plot that follows a secret agent who must manipulate time in order to prevent the Third World War. Apparently, Tenet is a “film to feel, not necessarily understand”, like a Scarborough fairground ride, then.

Bella Gaffney expresses her enthusiasm for taking part in Songs Under Skies in the National Centre for Early Music churchyard garden

Double bills galore outside a church: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, between September 2 and 17

SONGS Under Skies will bring together the National Centre for Early Music, The Crescent, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance for an open-air series of acoustic concerts next month in York.

Dates for the diary are: September 2, Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton; September 3, Dan Webster and Bella Gaffney; September 9,  Kitty VR and Boss Caine; September 10, Wolf Solent and Rosalind; September 16, Polly Bolton and Henry Parker; September 17, Elkyn and Fawn.

Gates will open at the NCEM’s Walmgate home, St Margaret’s Church, at 6.30pm for each 7pm start; acts will perform either side of a 30-minute interval with a finishing time of 8.30pm. 

The artwork for the new album by perennial York Barbican favourites The Waterboys

And what about…

Discovering The Waterboys’ new album, Good Luck, Seeker, Mike Scott’s latest soulful blast, met with universal thumbs-up reviews. Or bunking down with 1981 Ashes-winning captain turned psychoanalyst Mike Brearley’s new book for the end of summer, Spirit Of Cricket.

Pop-Up On The Patio heralds return of live shows at York Theatre Royal…outdoors

Top of the Pop-ups: Musician Phil Grainger and writer Alexander Flanagan-Wright in Alex’s back garden at Stillington Mill when performing Orpheus in a week of At The Mill shows. Now they head to Pop-Up On The Patio. Picture: Charlotte Graham

WHO will be popping up at York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival from August 14 to 29?

Taking part in a Covid-secure summer season of outdoor performances, on a terrace stage designed by Yorkshire theatre designer Hannah Sibai, will be “Yorkshire’s finest theatre and dance makers”.

Step forward York Dance Space; Mud Pie Arts; Crafty Tales; Fool(ish) Improv; The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre; puppeteer Freddie Hayes; Cosmic Collective Theatre; performance poet Henry Raby; Say Owt, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”; magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson and singer Jess Gardham.

They will perform at one end of the patio, decorated with “Glastonbury-style bunting”, performing to audiences of a maximum of 35 in demarcated bubbles.

“We’re so excited to have been able to bring live theatre back to our city this summer,” says Theatre Royal producer Thom Freeth, who has co-ordinated the festival programme of theatre, dance, music, magic, puppetry, improvised comedy, storytelling and slam poetry.

“Our building may still be closed, but we didn’t want that to stand in the way of entertaining the people of York during this difficult time. Pop-Up On The Patio gives us the opportunity to showcase the work of brilliant home-grown performers, many of whom are part of our freelance family, who have been disproportionally affected by this pandemic.”

“We wanted to go hyper-local with the festival to give a platform to York artists,” says York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird

Looking forward to staging the first shows on the Theatre Royal premises since March 17, executive director Tom Bird says: “It’s been a short but intense preparation period: we wanted to go hyper-local with the festival, to give a platform to York artists, and we’re absolutely delighted at getting a very local, highly skilled bunch across so many genres.”

Explaining the decision to focus the festival on Friday evenings and Saturdays, Bird says: “We are easing our way back from a total stop, turning everything off in March, so we’re feeling our way in, and we want to make sure that everything is safe, for the audience, performers and staff.

“The world is changing all the time, so we wanted to give ourselves breathing space in what we’re doing by restricting ourselves to three weekends for the festival, but  who’s to say we won’t do more patio shows.”

The Theatre Royal management has implemented extra safety measures to keep visitors and staff safe during the three festival weekends, reconfiguring the patio to allow for a socially distanced audience and stage. These measures will be under constant review and apply to all the performances.

Tickets are on sale at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and must be bought in advance.

THE FESTIVAL PROGRAMME:

Dance steps: Dance // Shorts launches the Pop-Up On The Patio festival

Dance // Shorts, August 14, 7pm

CURATED by York Dance Space, this evening of live contemporary dance theatre in an outdoor, intimate setting will be a compilation of bite-size solos and duets from “some of the most interesting and exciting young artists from across Yorkshire and the Humber”.

Performances include solo work from Alethia Antonia, from the James Wilton Dance Company; Coalesce Dance Theatre; Daisy Howell, from Brink Dance Company, and Namiuki Dance.

Look out too for a selection of Doorstep Dances from Hull artists Tamar and Jo, spanning contemporary, Northern Soul, jazz dance and physical theatre styles. Suitable for age 12 upwards.

Mud, glorious Mud: Mud Pie Arts duo Nicolette Hobson, left, and Jenna Drury

Mud Pie Arts, August 15, 22 and 29, 11am, for age 4 to 11

“WHAT is easy to get into but hard to get out of?” askMud Pie Arts drama practitioners Jenna Drury and Nicolette Hobson. “The answer? Trouble, of course!

“So, join us for Saturday elevenses in our Silly Summer Stories show. There’ll be interactive storytelling, riddles, games and all kinds of family tomfoolery.”

Have you heard the one about the old woman who lived in a vinegar bottle, or the farmer who fished for sausages? Now is the chance to enjoy those stories. “Come and find us on the patio every Saturday this month to celebrate all things daft,” say Jenna and Nicolette.

Crafty: Story Craft Theatre’s Janet Bruce, left, and Cassie Vallance

Crafty Tales, August 15 and 22, 1pm, for two to six year olds

YORK Theatre Royal’s Story Craft Theatre return with an outdoor version of Crafty Tales, presented by Cassie Vallance and Janet Bruce.

“As always, there’ll be a story to tell plus songs, games and dancing, all designed around a brilliant picture book with interactive and imaginative play,” they say. “Although Crafty Tales is aimed at two to six year olds, all children are welcome.”

Made up: Fool(ish) Improv’s poster since 1793

Fool(ish) Improv, August 15, 4pm 

FOOL(ISH) Improv is a bite-sized comedy show with absolutely no plan or permission, created by York writer and director Paul Birch.

Strap in for 60 minutes of improvised mayhem where you, the audience, provide the suggestions for the actors to make stuff happen. Instantly.

“Taking nothing seriously – and everything for granted – our merry band of charlatans and misfits will bring music, comedy and appalling levels of acting to give you a delightful hour of spontaneous comedy,” says Paul.

“You bring the ideas, we’ll bring the performance, and together we’ll make a joyous family show that has no business being indoors. Now, you have to come. We couldn’t do it without you.”

The poster for The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre’s Orpheus

Orpheus, The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre in Orpheus, August 21, 6pm

ALEXANDER Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger should have been heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe to present the British premiere of The Gods, The Gods, The Gods this month after its Antipodean premiere before Covid-19 intervened.

Instead, they have been presenting Orpheus in socially distanced performances in back gardens and a week of At The Mill shows in Alex’s own back garden at Stillington Mill, near York, last week.

Written by Alex, with incidental music and songs by Phil, the international award-winning Orpheus is a thoroughly modern, beautifully poetic re-telling of an ancient Greek myth.

Dave is single, stood at the bar; Eurydice is a tree nymph, and Bruce Springsteen is on the juke box in this tale of impossible, death-defying love told through hair-raising spoken word and soaring soul music, where Alex and Phil weave a world of dive bars, side streets and ancient gods.

Eurydice: “A story about a woman” with a Superman costume, a bee tattoo and a sting in the tale

Eurydice, The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre, August 21, 8pm

LENI is five years old, holding a Superman costume for her first day at school. Eurydice is five years into the rest of her life, sporting a bee tattoo on her wrist, in Alexander Flanagan-Wright’s story of someone defined by someone else’s myth.

This tale of making changes, taking leaps and being a daily superhero is billed as “a story about a woman told by women”.

That was the case when performed by Alex and Phil Grainger’s co-creators, Serena Manteghi and Casey Jane Andrews, to 2019 Adelaide Fringe Best Theatre award-winning success. Now, Alex and Phil take over to weave a world of day-to-day power and beauty and goddesses, told through heart-stopping spoken word and live electronica.

Flat caps at the double: Freddie Does Puppets puppeteer Freddie Hayes with grumpy pub landlord Fred in Fred’s Microbrewery

Freddie Does Puppets in Fred’s Microbrewery, August 22, 4pm

FRED’S Microbrewery is the world’s first Puppet-in-a-Pub theatrical experience, a modern-day Punch and Judy story courtesy of York puppeteer Freddie Hayes.

Grouchy Fred and his bitter and twisted wife Sharon are two very grumpy Yorkshire puppets cum pub landlord and landlady of the Fred’s Microbrewery, where the frank, fractious duo serve beer-infused banter to adult audiences in an afternoon of debauchery and puppet profanities. 

Fred and Sharon have sparred at York’s Great Yorkshire Fringe and had plenty to say at the Edinburgh Fringe, Shambala Festival, Moving Parts Festival and Folkestone Puppet Festival too.  

In lockdown and beyond, Fred and Sharon have been living inside a laundry bag in Freddie’s attic. Now, bag unzipped, she is ready to unleash them once more in a show with an age guide of 15-plus on account of the strong language and adult themes.

Heaven’s above: Anna Soden, Joe Feeney, Lewes Roberts and Kate Cresswell in Cosmic Collective Theatre’s Heaven’s Gate

Heaven’s Gate, Cosmic Collective Theatre, August 28, 4pm

FOUR cups of apple sauce. Four canvas camp beds. One comet. Heaven’s Gate is closing and the Away Team are ready for graduation, but whatever you do, don’t say the C-word.  ‘C’ for ‘cult’, that is.

Presented by the new York company Cosmic Collective Theatre – satirical writer Joe Feeney, Anna Soden, Lewes Roberts and Kate Cresswell – Heaven’s Gate imagines the final hour of four fictionalised members of the real-life UFO-theistic group.

As they prepare for their “graduation” to the “Kingdom of Heaven”, the excitement is palpable, but all too soon the cracks appear. Is the Heavenly Father really waiting for them on a Spaceship? Is Planet Earth soon to be recycled? Is castration compulsory? Isn’t Turkey Potpie an underwhelming last supper?

Cosmic Collective Theatre’s intergalactic pitch-black comedy comes with adult themes and strong language – but no C-word, of course – to give it a 15-plus age guide

Taking the mic: York punk performance poet Henry Raby

Henry Raby: Apps & Austerity, August 28, 6.30pm

“2010-2019. What was going on?” asks York-grown punk performance poet, activist and Say Owt artistic director Henry Raby as puts the word into sword to slice up the past decade.

From the memes and scenes, from riots to Royal Weddings to Referendums, Henry sums up a decade of technology and austerity with attitude, humour and insight.

Slam champ and Deer Shed resident poet Henry has performed across the UK, from festivals front rooms. “This is my fifth solo show, so I must have got something right by now,” he says.

Say Owt Showcase, August 28, 8pm

YORK’S lovable and raucous poetry gang proudly present an assortment of noisy slam-winning performance poets, word-weavers, and gobheads. “Spice up your Friday night with a glass-raising toast to the spoken word,” says host Henry Raby.

Say Owt word-warriors have delighted in ripping up stages at the Great Yorkshire Fringe and the Arts Barge in York, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Ilkley Literature Festival.

Manic magic: All-action York magician Just Josh

Josh Benson in Just Josh’s Ultimate Family Show, August 29, 1pm

CALLING all families! Just Josh is “hugely excited” to be back performing live with his family magic, juggling and balloon show!

If you have encountered Josh Benson previously, you will know that he is one of Yorkshire and indeed the UK’s “biggest kids”, noted for his boundless energy and shameless attempts to do absolutely anything in pursuit of a laugh from a crowd.

Josh, Corntroller of Entertainments at York Maze and regular pantomime silly billy, has taken his magic all over the UK and beyond, returning home from his P&O Cruises stint in February.

“My show is suitable for kids from four to 104, with laughs and, all being well, amazement for the whole family” says Josh.

All roads lead Jess Gardham to…the Pop-Up On The Patio stage at York Theatre Royal

Jess Gardham, August 29, 4pm

YORK pop, soul, blues and acoustic singer-songwriter, musical actress and 2018 MasterChef quarter finalist Jess Gardham closes Pop-Up On The Patio with an afternoon set.

Jess has performed all over Britain, the United States, Europe and Canada and supported the likes of Paul Carrack, KT Tunstall, The Shires, Wilko Johnson and Martin Simpson.

Her songs have been played regularly on BBC Introducing and her debut album, Beyond Belief, was picked up by BBC Radio 2.

Jess has taken lead roles in theatre productions such as Hairspray, Ghost The Musical and Rock Of Ages. “I hope to perform in theatre again when they’re open again,” she says.

SAFETY MEASURES

Arriving
YORK Theatre Royal will open the entrance to the Pop-Up patio a quarter of an hour before every performance starts.

“There will likely be some queueing, but we will do everything we can to keep this to a minimum,” says the festival website. “Please arrive in good time for any performance.”

All tickets will be digital and checked without contact at a social distance at the entrance to the patio area, where refreshments will be available.

Departing
STAFF will be managing the departure from the performance area “so that we don’t have large crowds all leaving at the same time”.

Loos
THE loos in De Grey House next to the patio will be open throughout. All loos will be stocked with anti-bacterial hand soap and stringent hand-washing guidelines are in place.

Social distancing
EACH household or social bubble will be seated at a safe distance from other households or social bubbles, in line with Government guidance at the time of the performance.

“You will be directed to a designated ‘social bubble spot’ by our staff,” says the website. “Please be patient with them and sit where they direct – they know best!”

Food and refreshments
A LIMITED range of soft and alcoholic drinks will be on sale, alongside ice creams and chocolate.

Ticketing policy
IF you have any symptoms of COVID-19, have been diagnosed with the virus or have been in direct contact with a diagnosed individual in the past 14 days, you must not attend the event.

If you are unable to attend as a result of illness, please email boxoffice@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and a ticket transfer can be arranged. Tickets can only be refunded if the booked performance has sold out.

Additional cleaning
THE patio area will be thoroughly cleaned between each performance. “Our already high cleaning standards have been enhanced by a cleaning programme designed to clean and sanitise the high touch points,” assures the website.

More information can be found at: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/be-part-of-it/collective-acts/pop-up-on-the-patio/. 

Garden of delights: Hannah Sibai’s design for Pop-Up On The Patio at York Theatre Royal

Harry Baker makes 10,000 days count in words and numbers at York’s Say Owt

Harry Baker: thank you for the 10,000 days

HARRY Baker, mathematician-turned-world-slam champion, marks turning 10,000 days old by celebrating numbers, words and life itself at The Crescent, York, on March 15.

Making a plus out of everything, Baker will be at the latest gathering of Say Owt, the spoken-word fulcrum hosted by York performance poet Henry Raby.

Amy King: finding words to sum up sexuality and feminism

“From winning his school’s Battle of the Bands competition with a Jay-Z maths homage, to his prime number poetry TED talk being watched by millions online, Harry’s love of language and logic has got him through literal marathons, seen him rap battle in front of Ice Cube, and now has him analysing the technical accuracy of So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds,” says Henry. “He’s got 99 problems but maths ain’t one.”

Support comes from Amy King and Robert Steventon. “Amy won Say Owt Slam #23 last September. She’s a queer, northern, spoken-word artist, co-founder of the Sheffield spoken-word night All Mic Long, and her poetry tackles topics such as sexuality, feminism and her unwavering love for Wetherspoons,” says Henry.

Robert Steventon: gut-grabbing honesty

“Robert. who won Say Owt Slam #24 in February, is the maestro of Manchester’s Punk In Drublic poetry/comedy night. His poetry is 50 per cent heartfelt gut-grabbing honesty, 50 per cent honorary gobby northern nuance.” 

Doors open at 7pm for the 7.30pm performance of Harry Baker: I Am 10,000. Tickets cost £10, concessions £8, from Earworm Records, in Powells Yard, off Goodramgate, or The Crescent, off Blossom Street, or at seetickets.com or £12 on the door.