Bertt deBaldock launches Covid-era second volume of Good Rabbits Gone tributes in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice

The artist behind the mask: Terry Brett in his nom d’art guise as The Scribbler, memorial tribute cartoonist Bertt deBaldock

YORK cartoonist Bertt deBaldock’s new volume of rabbit valedictories to celebrities and remarkable individuals covers February 2020 to July 2021.

“That happens to be the period of the start and possible end of the pandemic,” says Terry Brett, the Pyramid Gallery owner and artist behind “The Scribbler” Bertt’s memorial works.

“Hence Good Rabbits Gone 2 has a subtitle, The Covid Years, and the book looks like a strange diary of the pandemic,” he reflects ahead of Saturday’s launch.

The 92 pages contain tributes to luminaries such as Terry Jones of Monty Python, rock’n’roll pioneer Little Richard, World Cup winners Nobby Stiles and Diego Maradona, television and radio personality Tim Brooke-Taylor, forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn and Bond Girls Honor Blackman and Dame Diana Rigg, alongside the most venerable Bond, Sir Sean Connery.

“But also there’s a visual list of several pandemic crises such as ‘lockdown’, ‘beer going down the drain’ and the ‘demise of the office’, all portrayed as rabbits,” says Terry.

Bertt deBaldock’s first Good Rabbits Gone tribute: David Bowie with his Aladdin Sane sash

First prompted by the exit stage left of David Bowie on January 10 2016 – the day the music died in a year when it died again and again and again [Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day] – Terry set about drawing cartoons “in a rush” at the time of the “unique individual’s” passing and publishing them on Twitter and Facebook at #GoodRabbitsGone.

He then assembled 64 celebrities, accompanied by his own tributes or memories, in Good Rabbits Gone, Volume One In A Million, published in November 2020 in a Covid Lockdown project where he gave away 200 limited-edition copies and raised £1,700 for St Leonard’s Hospice from donations.

This Saturday, Good Rabbits Gone 2, Volume Two To Infinity will be launched at Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, between 11am and 3pm, when Bertt deBaldock will be on hand to sign copies.

Funded by the gallery, the new book again will be given away, and once more voluntary donations to the charity are invited. “From my experience with the first volume, people enjoy being given the book,” says Terry. “Most of those people have then offered a donation, at the gallery or via justgiving.com/fundraising/Terry-Brett6.”

Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett with his second volume of Good Rabbit Gone valedictories

Here, Terry answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on rabbits, death notices, the balance between imagery and wording, the impact of Covid on Good Rabbits Gone and the choice of charity for donations.

For those new to Good Rabbits, why did you choose rabbits as the motif for your valedictory tributes, Terry?

“When my daughters were ten and seven, they had a pet rabbit, which I looked after. We were making a family wall-hanging using stencils. This rabbit appeared as I was cutting a shape in card using scissors. I’ve now been drawing it on Christmas cards for 26 years.

“When David Bowie died, I felt a great sadness. It just seemed natural to me to draw a rabbit for him. Then, three weeks later Terry Wogan. Gradually I started to add facial features to the drawings. After four years, I had 64 drawings and the pandemic lockdown gave me some time to put them in a book.

“It might seem weird to be creating memorials to people by representing them as a rabbit, but I don’t see the need to question it too much. I find the act of drawing helps relieve the sense of loss and my own anxiety about mortality. The process of reading about the individual’s life and trying to capture a tiny segment of their character in a simple drawing is a little bit cathartic. 

“The rabbit body and ears create a limitation in the final drawing, preventing each portrait from being too complicated or serious. All the individuals become united by the addition of rabbit ears!”

Rock’n’roll over and out: Bertt deBaldock’s farewell to Little Richard

Or, in a nutshell…?

“There’s a long-held belief in the Bertt/Brett household that if you have lived a good life, well, let’s say a mostly good life, i.e. if you have been nice or have achieved something for the benefit of others, then when you die you will become a rabbit.”

How do the newly RIP VIPs quality for a Bertt deBaldock tribute? Has that changed at all for Volume Two?

“Well, most names who hit the headlines qualify on the basis that they have done something amazing in their life. I can’t really tell whether or not they have actually been a good human being, though with many people there’s so much written about them, that there’s no closet in which to hide the skeletons. 

“I was disappointed not to be able include Motown producer Phil Spector, ruled out on the basis that he was found guilty of second-degree murder. There are many others that I could have included, lots of actors and actresses, but I like to find some other attribute in their make-up that goes beyond acting.

Honor Blackman: Wartime despatch rider, judo black belt and Bond Girl

“Honor Blackman, for instance, was a Second World War despatch rider and a judo blackbelt before she became an actress. Reading about iconic individuals fascinates me.”

Do you consider the wording to be as important as the imagery, with much greater scope than on a gravestone?

“I want to make the page entertaining or give the impression that the individual was a person of substance. Some people’s faces, or eccentric dress, say most of what needs to be said, but the addition of a quotation can put across something of great importance to that individual.

“For Albert Roux, I merely added his quote ‘Don’t let love interfere with your appetite’, which says all you need to know about a man who holds food up above all other human needs.

“But I enjoyed adding a bit of humour to that with the dates of his birth and death: Hors D’oeuvres 8 Octobre 1935, Digestif 4 Janvier 2021. As well as being amusing, it tells the reader that he was both a chef and French. 

Bertt deBaldock’s food for thought on Albert Roux OBE

“Sometimes, I like to add an anecdote about myself or my family. Some people have said that these are their favourite pages! For the astronaut Michael Collins, I say only a little about him as Apollo Command Module pilot and the moonwalk by Neil Armstrong, but a lot about me delivering newspapers in the rain, while they were at the crux of their mission. It brings things down to earth a little.”

This set of tributes covers the Covid period: how much does that cast a shadow over the memorials,  even prompting the subtitle and your reflection that it “looks like a strange diary of the pandemic”?

“The whole world was in a state of panicked confusion. Some of these great people died of Covid.  I was really shocked that Tim Brooke-Taylor was an early victim. I felt that if he can’t be saved, then we are all very vulnerable.

“The book would have been incomplete without some acknowledgement of the pandemic, and I wanted to record some poignant moments, such as the Thursday night applause we gave to the NHS and essential workers.

“I drew the hands clapping in rainbow colours, with the hands gradually becoming rabbits. This is a subtle dig at the Government. If they think that saying thank-you to NHS is enough, then they don’t understand what the public is feeling about the years of under-funding the NHS.

“Sometimes, I like to add an anecdote about myself or my family. Some people have said that these are their favourite pages!” says Terry Brett, with reference to his Michael Collins memorial

“If all we can do is applaud the NHS for the sacrifices made, then the NHS itself will become a [Bertt] rabbit. Other European nations were better prepared for the crisis than the UK, more ventilators, more nurses and better provision of PPE. It was right to clap for the NHS but they need more funds and better planning. 

“I didn’t set out to make points about the politics, but it just couldn’t be ignored. There was also a lot of humour put out on social media about Covid. I think it helps us all get through.”

How have you responded to Covid in the broader subject matter for (with reference to ‘Lockdown’, ‘Beer Going Down The Drain’, ‘Freedom – Italy’ and ‘The Demise Of The Office’)?

“The Demise Of The Office was added in right at the end. It was difficult to find a tag that would be amusing. It’s just a boring subject that I needed to find some humour in.

“I was looking for something to say about the Minke whale that died after swimming up the Thames, which was too upsetting to turn into humour. Once I decided to put these two stories together, it became very poignant. The empty streets tempted the Minke Whale to move in! It’s one of my favourite pages.

Freedom – Italy, March 2020, by Bertt deBaldock

“To keep it light-hearted, I also gave an office block some rabbit ears, as if the building itself has died. The page about ‘Beer’ was fun, though the knowledge that 50 million pints went down the drains was a catastrophe that could have been avoided.”

Usually, your tributes raise a nostalgic smile, but do Covid-related tributes have to be more serious?

“There are only four people featured here that I know for sure died from Covid – Dr  Li Wenliang, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Alexander Thynn and Captain Tom Moore – but I suspect that many others have had Covid but it’s just not been mentioned to the press as a cause of death. 

“Four Covid cases out of a total 72 people is probably about a third of the proportion of Covid deaths to non-Covid deaths for the whole population, so we should have expected the number in this book to be about 12. 

“I had considered including the first nurse and the first bus driver etc who died, but I don’t feel it would be appropriate to make entertainment out of such tragedy. Which makes me question why it seems appropriate to pay tribute in a humorous manner to celebrities. I do wonder if it is appropriate and whether or not they would choose to be included or not, but I can only guess at what their response might be.

The fundraising Yorkshireman, Captain Sir Tom Moore, who walked and walked and walked towards his 100th birthday in aid of the NHS

“So, in answer to this question, I think the cause of death makes no difference as to the way I would represent the individual, except perhaps in the case of Dr Li Wenliang, whose demise was especially sad, unjust for political reasons, premature and included here to make a point about the gross ineptitude of the authorities and leaders in China, who could have mitigated the effects of the virus by making different decisions.

“In a broader sense, I hope that most of the individuals here, if they could make a comment, would like what I have done or at least find it mildly amusing, though some of the scribbled portraits might not really do the person justice!

“I would love to know what the Queen would think of my tribute to Prince Philip, but I’m not expecting a knighthood for it. We are very fortunate to live in a culture that allows freedom of expression without fear for our lives!”

Why will donations be going to St Leonard’s Hospice from the charity launch night?

“My father died of prostate cancer at the too early age of 76. Partly because he wasn’t diagnosed. I asked him if was angry about the disease and he told me to go and get a test. I felt sorry for him because he was in denial about his predicament.

Bertt deBaldock’s cartoon drawing to mark the passing of Prince Philip. “I would love to know what the Queen would think of my tribute, but I’m not expecting a knighthood for it,” says Bertt

“He simply carried on life as if there was nothing to concern himself about, but when the time came, he booked himself into a hospice and died the next day. I think the existence of the hospice allowed him to take control and make that decision. You cannot just book yourself into a hospital and who would want to?

“The hospice doctor simply chatted to him and asked him what he wanted, to which he answered, ‘ice cream’. He was dead two hours later. I’m proud of him for that. And I want to tell everyone that dying can be dignified and that the hospice movement do this very well.

“I have supported St Leonard’s Hospice ever since that day. The hospice is largely funded by donations from individuals, as well as government grants. I feel the hospice needs to have independence.”

Bertt deBaldock/Terry Brett launches Good Rabbits Gone 2 at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, on Saturday (16/10/2021) with a book-signing session and charity fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice from 11am to 3pm.

Vaccine Day, by Bertt deBaldock

Christmas Collection and “Free Stuff” at Pyramid Gallery keep Terry Brett busy

Paintings by Anita Klein and ceramic vessels by Barry Stedman in the Christmas Collection at Pyramid Gallery

THE Christmas Collection exhibition is under way at Pyramid Gallery, York, initially online but with plans for the gallery to reopen on December 3, subject to this week’s upcoming tier-ful Government guidance.

The main feature of the festive show is a collection of linocut prints and acrylic paintings by Australian-born Anita Klein, complemented by ceramic sculpture by Blandine Anderson, glass by David Reekie, Cara Wassenberg and Layne Rowe, bronze elephants by German sculptor Eckhard Wahning and a Lockdown Dragon fest by Morag Reekie.

Look out too for collagraphs by York artist Sally Clarke, screenprints by Mychael Barratt, abstract collages by Danny Barbour, a ceramic elephant parade by Ann-Marie Fieber and ceramic vessels by Barry Stedman, plus new jewellery by 50 British designer makers.

The Christmas Collection show will continue until January 20 and everything will be available online at http://www.pyramidgallery.com

A second show, The Glass Collection, will be opening on December 7, presenting work by Dreya Bennett; Fiaz Elson; Hannah Gibson; Jon Lewis; Yoshiko Okada; David Reekie; Morag Reekie; Layne Rowe; Will Shakspeare; Helen Slater; Cara Wassenberg and Darren Weed.

Again running until January 20, it also will feature art glass for sale in the permanent Pyramid Collection by Colin Reid, Bruno Romanelli, Peter Layton, Anthony Scala, Bruce Marks and Joseph Harrington.

During Lockdown 2, Terry has placed a table outside the shop with copies of his cartoon memorials book, Good Rabbits Gone, on display to raise money for St Leonard’s Hospice with a target of £3,000 from donations to justgiving.com/fundraising/terry-brett5 or in the cans on the table.

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett with a selection of “Free Stuff” on the table outside his shop in Stonegate, York, during Lockdown 2

In addition, he is giving away “Free Stuff”. “Some people are intrigued as to why I’m doing this,” says Terry. “I decided I needed a ‘Feel Good’ project and a way to interact with people during Lockdown.

“Sitting in a shop all day that is closed is not very stimulating, but this has been a very positive and uplifting experience for me. It has cost me nothing as everything I’m giving away has been paid for a long time ago – some items over 20 years ago – and it’s felt very cleansing. The stock-room shelves are looking tidier!

“There are over 60 magnetic bracelets that have been sitting in boxes on shelves ever since we decided not to sell them anymore about six years ago. These are leather bracelets made by Antonio Chimol in Barcelona. Nicely made. I sold hundreds of them in 2008 to 2014 and they served the business well at a time when it had been affected by the financial crash.

“I still wear these bracelets…but they were a nuisance. Some customers would spend up to an hour with bracelets all over the counter, trying to choose one. Sometimes they would be purchased as a gift and then returned for a different size. So, we simply put them away in the stock room.”

Terry has a further £2,000 to raise yet. “Please come and say hello if you are in York, pick up a book and put a few coins in the cans. The table will be outside the gallery from about 11am every day, except Sunday, until December2.”

Should Pyramid Gallery reopen on December 3, the shop will accommodate two groups at a time, with a maximum of six people.

The book cover for Good Rabbits Gone, Terry Brett’s compendium of cartoon farewells, “scribbled” under the name of Bertt deBaldock and now published to raise funds for St Leonard’s Hospice, York

“We will have an extended-hours booking system on the front page of our website at pyramidgallery.com. Private viewings for one or two groups of two may be booked early on each day.” says Terry.

“Or, after normal hours between 10am and 5pm, customers will be able to enter the shop with a maximum of two groups or a total of six people in at any one time. You will be able to book a half-hour slot, so that you can browse at leisure in the gallery.”

In the meantime, Terry is offering a Click and Collect service, “Or you can just collect if you don’t like to click,” he says. “For this, please phone on 01904 641187 or 07805 029254, to let me know what you are interested in, and I will gather items together to show you at the door. We can manage a selection and purchase without you needing to actually come in!”

Reflecting on a running a gallery in a year in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, Terry says: “Pyramid reopened to the public at the end of June. During June, the website worked well for us and July and August were reasonably good with sales over the counter, but about 20 per cent below normal.

“I took half the staff out of furlough in September and October and this meant that we really needed to be back to normal sales level. We achieved that in October and sales have continued to meet normal targets since.

“Even with the new lockdown, the gallery closed and all staff back in furlough, I seem to be getting enough online sales to keep afloat.”

However, Terry paints a grim portrait of the impact of Covid lockdowns. “I think that York will see a lot of businesses close due to this current lockdown. Nevertheless, because I’m able to work the business completely on my own, I can reduce overheads to a minimum and still survive. The only real problem is that I’m working 12 hours a day!

“I look forward to having my staff back on December 3, but if lockdown measures were to be extended beyond December 2, then I’m not sure if any city-centre shops could survive. We normally have sales in the three weeks up to Christmas that are equivalent to June, July and August sales combined.”

Thankfully, the Government is on the brink of announcing when “”non-essential” shops can re-open.

NEWSFLASH

Pyramid Gallery WILL reopen on December 3 at 10am.

How saying farewell to David Bowie in rabbit form set scribbler Terry Brett on his way to penning cartoon book for hospice UPDATED 24/11/2020

Bertt deBaldock’s first #GoodRabbitGone: David Bowie

PYRAMID Gallery owner Terry Brett has set a target of £3,000 to raise for St Leonard’s Hospice, in York, with his book of self-penned cartoons of celebrity memorials, portrayed as rabbits.

While his shop in Stonegate, York, has been closed for the second lockdown, Terry has placed his books and a collecting tin on a table outside. “To help things along, I’ve been putting framed pictures and small craft gifts on there that can be taken away for free or a small donation,” he says.

“So far, after three weeks of collecting, including donations via Just Giving, I’ve raised more than £700 for the hospice.”

It all began with the exit stage left of David Bowie on January 10 2016, the day the music died in a year when it died again and again and again. Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day.

Bertt appropriates a prop comedic effect from Acorn Antiques for his goodbye to Victoria Wood

“I had to do something when I heard about Bowie’s death. So I drew him as a rabbit. Bertt x,” explains the introduction to Good Rabbits Gone, a cartoon compendium of death notices for “inspiring individuals, all of them ‘one in a million’, who passed into their own preferred alternative dimension during the years between 2016 and January 2020.”

Bertt deBaldock is the nom de scribble of Terry Brett, colour-blind artist, ukulele player, long-ago chartered surveyor and now long-running proprietor of Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, York, whose book is available in a limited-edition print run of 300 copies.

Why rabbits, you may be asking. “I grew up surrounded by fields that were full of hares and rabbits,” says Terry. “The hares are very proud and confident creatures, but rabbits are extremely vulnerable. They are more successful than hares, because they are constantly on the look-out for trouble. Nice that the meekest creature on the planet is also one of the most prolific and content.

Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett, aka cartoon scribbler Bertt deBaldock, with a stand of his Good Rabbits Gone books outside his shop in Stonegate, York

“The cartoon image was inspired by my two daughters’ pet rabbit that I looked after. I’ve been drawing a cartoon of that rabbit in a comic-style Christmas card for 25 years. When Bowie died in 2016, I drew the rabbit with a lightning flash [from the Aladdin Sane album cover], just as a way of acknowledging the man. Then I put it on Twitter and it started an obsession!”

That very first #GoodRabbitGone read: “Ground control to Major Tom, There’s something wrong! 10 January 2016, age 69. The man who sold the world”. “Bowie was such a vulnerable young man trying to find his way as a performance artist who fortuitously discovered he could write brilliant songs and re-invent pop music to express himself,” says Terry.

“I think he struggled with the stardom and hid behind invented personas. But in the end, he became himself again – and really quite nice. We all do this. Even Donald Trump might! (Though he probably hasn’t got enough decades left to do so).

In each cartoon valedictory, “drawn in a rush at the time of passing” for publishing on Twitter and Facebook, the wording and imagery feed off each other: affirmation of how we recollect both visually and verbally.

Firestarter extinguished: Bertt’s farewell to The Prodigy’s Keith Flint

““His invented personas were an important part of his act; that’s why it felt good to draw an image of Bowie on the day he died. On later Good Rabbits, I started to try and capture the subject’s face and character,” says Terry.

“I find great satisfaction in the process of reading up about the individual and then trying to capture the character. The words chosen to go with the cartoon become important later, to add humour or some sort of gravitas.

“I’m trying to express some sort of reason as to why that individual gained notoriety. It’s not always easy, but in the process of finding importance I become quite attached to the character. If I cannot find something that feels important, I wait until an image comes that amuses me.”

2016 turned into the annus horribilis of impactful deaths: Sir George Martin; Sir Terry Wogan; Ronnie Corbett; Victoria Wood; Muhammad Ali, the knock-outs kept coming. Was it a pure coincidence that Terry started the series that year?

And finally: Bertt responds to the news of the passing of newsreader Richard Baker

“It was because Bowie’s death moved me,” he says. “I also learnt to play and sing The Man Who Sold The World on my ukulele on the same day, which I played at our band rehearsal that evening.

“This was the year that I turned 60. I was quite shocked that someone who had been such an important part of my culture had died in his sixties. When you are 50-something, old age seems decades away. At 60, you suddenly wonder ‘where did the previous decade go?’”

Bertt’s 2016 list took in R.I.P. America, 8 November 2016, The Day They Elected To Trump. “I have a general rule, not to do politicians or make political comment. I am apolitical, as is this rabbit,” he wrote. “However, I felt so sad to witness this day. It felt like morality and fairness had been washed away.”

Terry says: “I’m naturally inclined to think of myself as left of centre and last year I joined the Green Party for the first time, just to encourage them. I’ve been an environmental campaigner since the 1980s, when I was on the Greenpeace payroll as a fundraising coordinator.

“I felt very sad to see Trump elected as president, so I drew the flag as a rabbit, with all the stars sliding off,” says Terry, recalling his reaction on November 8 2016

“Having said that, I was born into a very right-wing society and have respect for the views of many people I know who have right-wing views. To me, party politics are a distraction from the main issues such as respect, kindness, fairness and love for one another.”

Trump’s election resulted from left and right arguing between themselves about ideology, suggests Terry. “They should be more focused on core values and they would find that they want the same thing, which is the respect of others,” he argues.

“Trump’s objectionable behaviour and the pedalling of false opinions stirred up a crazed following that has been very detrimental to society in the USA and here in the UK. I felt very sad to see Trump elected as president, so I drew the flag as a rabbit, with all the stars sliding off.”

Terry used to keep a list of deaths through the year, writing them down in a notebook by the side of his bed while listening to Today on BBC Radio 4. “But the internet has made me a bit lazy; it’s so easy to look them up now!” he says.

Terry Brett holds a copy of Bertt deBaldock’s cartoon book, compiled in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice

Good Rabbits Gone Volume One In A Million takes in, for example, Sir Roger Moore (Shaken: 14 October 1927; Not Stirred: 23 May 2017), Sir Ken Dodd (Tickled to death 11 March 2018) The Prodigy’s Keith “Firestarter” Flint (Sparked: 17 September 1969; Snuffed: 4 March 2019). Note the witty yet poignant wording each time.

“When I draw the cartoon, I scribble a few words that come to mind. Later, I started to put them in the book and erased the original words,” says Terry. “I started to think of synonyms for ‘birth’ and ‘death’ that were appropriate to the individual – maybe a line from a song lyric or song title.

“In the case of barcode inventor Norman Joseph Woodland – my favourite of all in a late addition to the book – I wrote ‘Barcoded Sep 6 1921’ and ‘Beeped December 9 2012’. I like to imagine him reading it and laughing.”

What qualities make someone qualify at Bertt’s pearly gates for a memorial testimonial? Cultural icons? Influences on Terry’s life? His book shelves? “I need to feel a response and I need to feel stirred to make the effort to draw something,” he says. “I miss quite a lot of people and later feel I should have included them.

Terry Brett’s favourite: Bertt’s check-out to barcode inventor Norman Joseph Woodland

“So, the first quality is probably their notoriety, then I start to look at what they actually did. Some of these people I knew nothing about until they died. And there are two, Bryan ‘Yogi B’ Smith, my yoga teacher, and Don Walls, a wonderful poet, who were important to me in York but not at all famous.” 

Volume 2 is taking shape through 2020. “A few of my favourites are Vera Lynn, with a Spitfire and Hurricane flying over the white cliffs of Dover; Tim Brooke-Taylor; Terry Jones, as a naked rabbit playing the piano with the phrase ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’; Nobby Stiles, holding the World Cup in one hand and his false teeth in the other,” says Terry.

“There’s Toots Hibbert, the first musician to use the word ‘Reggay’ (sic); guitarist Julian Bream (Picked 15 July 1933; Plucked 14 August 2020); Peter Green, of Fleetwood Mac; actress Olivia de Havilland (Gone with the Wind)…

“…Supreme Court Judge and women’s rights campaigner Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Honor Blackman; Julie Felix; composer Ennio Morricone, entangled in spaghetti; the astronomer Heather Couper, and Beatles photographer Astrid Kirchherr.”

Gone Western: RIP composer Ennio Morricone, as recorded by Bertt

Terry finished the book in Lockdown 1 but the pandemic has prevented him from holding a proper launch at Pyramid Gallery. Instead, copies are available by emailing pyramidgallery.com or ringing 01904 641187, as well as from the table outside Pyramid Gallery. A suggested donation of £10 should be made to St Leonard’s Hospice at justgiving.com/fundraising/terry-brett5.

“It’s going well and it’s wonderful to be able to chat to people about it,” says Terry. “So, thank you for donating to a wonderful hospice that could not exist without public support.”

Terry’s father, Maurice Brett, founder of Stevenage Flying Club, died of prostate cancer in 2002. “He checked himself into a hospice only 24 hours before he died. I don’t think he could come to terms with it until he went to the hospice,” he says.

Olivia de Havilland has gone, as depicted by Bertt

“He was working on a magazine article about a vintage aeroplane three days prior to that. Going to the hospice gave him control and was a way of making the decision to let himself die. Hospices give the terminally ill dignity. They are run independently from the NHS and rely on fundraising. I hope they are still around when my time comes!”

Contemplating what gravestone humour may lie n store for Terry himself, he says: “Mine could say…something like ‘Borrowed a pencil: 19 April 1956; Burrowed with a pencil: ….,’ but I’ve always been a really bad time-keeper, so I think it should be ‘Late Again’.”

Covid-19 2020 has been a year of vulnerability, fretful uncertainty of both present and future and an increased awareness of death, making Good Rabbits Gone all the more pertinent.

“We’re all having to come to terms with our mortality,” says Terry. “Mine was the first generation in human history to be able to expect to live to over 60. Maybe that was a short-lived expectation. I hope not though!” 

The front cover of Good Rabbits Gone, Volume One In A Million, as “scribbled” by Terry Brett’s artist alter ego Bertt deBaldock

Should you be wondering No 1.

Why use the name Bertt deBaldock?

“A particular friend in my youth always called me ‘Bertt’ and I was born in Baldock, well, a mile away in a tiny hamlet called Bygrave, in north Hertfordshire,” explains Terry.

“I use the French preposition ‘de’ in the same way that it is used in the name ‘DeBrett’s’, which is basically a list of the most influential people, many of whom are deceased or about to be.”

Valedictory to Vera: Bertt’s last note for Vera Lynn

Should you be wondering No. 2

How does colour-blindness affect you in your artistic work, Terry?

“I’m red/green colour-blind…a bit of a handicap for anyone involved in the arts.  I prefer to call it ‘colour confusion’,” he says.

“I can actually see all colours, but sometimes one confuses another. I can tell green from brown, but sometimes get them mixed up.”

York drag diva Velma Celli’s on your telly for online fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice

Velma Celli: Adding more than a little sparkle to lockdown

VELMA Celli, York’ very own globe-strutting drag diva, will host a special fundraising concert for St Leonard’s Hospice live from her kitchen on Saturday night to “add a little sparkle to lockdown while helping this great cause”. 

Ian Stroughair, the alter-ego of fabulous cabaret creation Velma, returned to self-isolate in his native York directly from a tour of Australia, since when he has joined a host of fellow West End performers to create a season of online streamed concerts from their own homes. 

In the wake of Velma’s successful Leave A Light On concert, when viewers tuned in from York, London and even as far afield as New York, Ian decided to organise an intimate gig in support of St Leonard’s Hospice, in Tadcaster Road, York.

“Unfortunately, too many of us have seen the amazing work of the team at St Leonard’s Hospice first hand, as loved ones, including my mum, spent time there as cancer was making life increasingly difficult for them,” says Ian, who presents The Velma Celli Show at The Basement, City Screen, York, each month.

“I’ve always wanted to find a way to support the hospice, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. With so many conventional fundraising events postponed due to the lockdown, this is a great way for people to support the hospice while enjoying a fantastic, fun and fruity evening of live music in their own living room.” 

Ian’s glittering cabaret queen has starred in such self-originated shows as A Brief History Of Drag, Equinox – Something Fabulous This Way Comes and Me And My Divas, as well as The Velma Celli Show.

Diva Velma’s repertoire takes inspiration from many of the best female vocalists of the past 75 years, from Judy Garland to Lady Gaga and beyond. “So there’s something for everyone – including hilarious impersonations of the voices and peculiar mannerisms – of some of pop music’s most famous stars,” Ian says.  “Unlike many drag queens, Velma always performs live, adding her own special spin to familiar songs.”

Tickets for Saturday’s event are available from https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/velma-celli-is-live-in-secret-york-venue-tickets/10574895, priced at £7.  “With all proceeds going to St Leonard’s Hospice, we’re hoping that each person watching will buy a ticket, rather than one ticket for the whole room!” requests Ian.

Online audience members will receive a link to watch the performance 30 minutes before the 8pm show, which can be streamed on a PC or internet-enabled smart TV.

Velma Celli: From her kitchen to your living room on Saturday night

Charles Hutchinson asks Ian Stroughair/Velma Celli for quick answers to quick questions in the build-up to Saturday’s gig.

Where are you playing this online show? In York or are you back in London now?

“Darling, I’m in Bishy Bishopthorpe. I came up a week before lockdown.”

Why did you choose a kitchen as the performance space for Saturday’s stream?

“It’s the biggest room and better acoustically.” 

Describe your kitchen. Colour scheme? Favourite kitchen gadget?

“We are white and grey in our kitchen. Gadget? Bottle opener (obvs!).”

What do you most like about kitchens?

“I love kitchens ’cos I’m a mean cook. Not a bitchy one, just very good! I actually wanted to be a chef, that was the plan. I love to bake.”

What’s your favourite dish you make? 

“At the moment, my favourite thing is a custard cake. It’s my great friends Eliza and Suzie’s grandma Dot’s recipe and it’s heavenly.”

Any tips for cooking in lockdown?

“Get creative with what’s in and try not to over-shop.”

How have you been coping with lockdown in York? What are you doing to fill your days?

“I’m coping well. I have my moments because I travel so much with work. I’m cycling a lot and writing.”

Are you good in total isolation? 

“NO.”

What are you missing most in lockdown?

“Being with my friends and family.”

What had you been doing this year before lockdown struck?  

“I toured Australia with my latest show, which was amazing. I also went on the Atlantis Gay cruise around New Zealand and just lots of fabulous gigs in the U.K.”

What was in your 2020 diary that you now can’t do?

So many gigs – and I was supposed to open and star in Funny Girls in Blackpool for a few months.” 

Why are you doing this concert for St Leonard’s Hospice?

“St Leonard’s Hospice cared for my Mum in her last days. It’s a fantastic facility in York that – since Mum’s passing – I try to support as much as I can because they are utterly fabulous.

“The staff are like living angels. I am in awe of them.”

How did the Leave A Light On show go?  When was it broadcast?

“I did it as a solo show on April 2 and it was so much fun. Special shout-out to Eliza and Jamie at Lambert Jackson Productions for their involvement. They’re awesome.”

What songs will you be performing this weekend and why?

“Ooooo, don’t want to spoil the surprise! There’ll be some Queen, Gaga, Judy [Garland] and many more.”

Will there be any special new additions on an isolation theme?

“Yes! A Nirvana classic but re-written lyrically.”

Which one? Maybe that new President Trump Covid-19 favourite Smells Like White Spirit?

“That’s it. Bang on the sentiment.”  

What length will the show be? Any guests?

“One hour. I’ll have the insanely talented Twinnie joining me, though safely apart. She’s up in York at her Mum’s for lockdown. Her album Hollywood Gypsy just came out and it’s amazing!

York country singer Twinnie: Velma Celli’s special guest on Saturday

“She hasn’t decided on what else she’ll performing yet, but most likely we’ll do an album track together too.”

I know just the song! May I suggest her candid yet candied single Better When I’m Drunk?

“Perfect. That’s the one. Whoop!”

Finally, how will you celebrate when you can perform on a stage again, in front of an audience?

“By being ready and raising my game.”

To listen to York country singer Twinnie’s debut album, Hollywood Gypsy, last week’s BBC Radio 2 album of the week, go to: https://twinnie.lnk.to/hollywoodgypsyWE

Copyright of The Press, York