‘Artists are very difficult to be around,’ says Benjamin Francis Leftwich as he plays homecoming gig at The Citadel tomorrow

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: Looking to a higher power as a conduit for his songwriting. Picture: Harvey Pearson

NOW living in North London, singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich heads back home tomorrow (25/2/2022)  to play The Citadel, his second church gig in York after his sold-out Minster concert in 2019.

The 7.30pm show is part of a 26-date tour from February 1 to March 4, showcasing To Carry A Whale, his fourth album for Dirty Hit Records, released last June.

Recorded over four months in his Tottenham home, at Urchin Studios in Hackney, in a hotel room in Niagara and in a Southend studio owned by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly’s Sam Duckworth, who shared production duties with Adele collaborator Eg White, it was the first record to be made by Ben entirely sober.

He has maintained that state since spending 28 days in rehab in January 2018, and it is reflected in the album title. “To Carry A Whale is an observation on what it’s like to be a sober alcoholic addict several years in,” he says. “A whale is heavy to carry. It’s gonna hurt you to carry it, but it’s also beautiful, and it’s a miracle to be able to carry all that at all.”

Carry it he does, but Ben is thriving on his creativity at 32. “I’m very lucky to do this, to write songs. I’ve been given a gift and I’m the custodian of it for now,” he says.

At the time of this interview – pre-tour in January – he was in a West Hampstead studio. “I’m working with Jimmy Hogarth and Bonnie Kemplay, a new artist with Dirty Hit,” he said. “We’re just jamming, writing a bit with Jimmy, who’s a legendary producer who’s also worked with Sam Griffiths [Ben’s fellow York songwriter and frontman of The Howl & The Hum].”

The artwork for Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s fourth album, To carry A Whale, released last June

Ben is now on the road, playing solo around the country. “That’s been a been a big conversation with my managers and label: should I play with musicians or go it alone – and we decided I’d do it totally solo, with just my tour manager James Kellegher and a sound engineer,” he says.

“I kind of like it this way. It gives me freedom with the set list and logistically it’s easier to tour this way. That’s how my bread is buttered. That’s how I started.”

Add the support acts Elanor Moss and Wounded Bear (alias Josh Finn), and “it will be three musicians singing from the heart and hopefully breaking hearts too,” says Ben.

Expect a few piano-based numbers in an acoustic set where all four albums – 2011’s Top 40 debut Last Smoke Before The Storm, when he was Dirty Hit’s first signing, 2016’s After The Rain, 2019’s Gratitude and last year’s To Carry A Whale – will be represented.

“Of course, I want to do songs from the latest record, but I have four to pick from and I’m under no illusion that people aren’t coming to see me for the songs they first loved,” says Ben.  “If I play songs they don’t know, then the line between disrespect and a musician’s right to autonomy is a fine one, but it should always be an opportunity to play new songs.”

Whereas actors and dancers must be disciplined team players, always on time for rehearsals and performances, rock musicians tend to be born out of rejecting rules, codes of conduct and 9 to 5 rituals.

“I’m very lucky to do this, to write songs,” says Ben. “I’ve been given a gift and I’m the custodian of it for now”

“It’s funny; I’ve got really into musical theatre – randomly but now I love it – and that’s a world where you train hard, you’re on a contract, whereas the life of a musician…you turn up when  you want, you might turn up high, you might be drunk; you might cancel the gig if you don’t feel like playing, but that’s why so many great songs have come out of that madness!” says Ben.

“Artists are very difficult to be around. We’re very prideful; we’re a nightmare to be in a relationship with; we want to be the centre of attention.”

 Yet, for all the baggage that goes with the outsider’s role, at the same time he feels a calling, a responsibility even, to create songs. “I believe that the songs are above us, to reach for, and if we limit a higher power, a god, when we can pluck magic out of nothing, then we limit the potential for beauty,” says Ben.

“For me, I have so many situations where songs come together in different ways. I think it’s like, ‘I’m not God, I can’t do this on my own’, but sometimes songs land on my lap, like when I was writing my first album on my own out of necessity.

“But so many wonderful songs come out of collaborations, though it takes a long time to be open hearted enough to entertain the thought that my ideas might not be my best just on their own.

“Allowing someone like Sam Duckworth to be the co-captain of the ship gave To Carry A Whale a cohesive energy that really benefited it.”

Benjamin Francis Leftwich in contemplative mood at York Minster ahead of playing the Nave in April 2019

Artists are sensitive, says Ben, to the point where “sadly it’s no secret that lots of us decide we don’t want to be alive anymore”, as he struggled after his father, University of York politics professor Dr Adrian Leftwich, died from cancer in April 2013. 

“It’s hard to explain. Single parents, teachers, are the real rock stars, but we do have things we struggle with, and it’s good to talk about it. There’s a lot of witchcraft around, but the only touchstone to spiritual growth that I’ve experienced is suffering.”

From there, as well as “from above”, come the songs of To Carry A Whale. “It was an honest record; I surrendered to it, I said what I wanted to say, people are discovering it, and I’m really looking forward to playing the songs at The Citadel,” he says.

“I last went there for a religious ceremony when I was at school [he attended Bootham School], so I know it’s a magical place to play.”

Looking to the future, Ben already has a producer lined up for his next album. “It’s half written, but whether it’s a year or ten, it will be finished when it is,” he says. “I’ll colour it in as it goes along.”

Benjamin Francis Leftwich plays The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow (25/2/2022), supported by Elanor Moss and Wounded Bear, at 7.30pm. Box office: thecrescentyork.com. Also playing The Foundry, Sheffield, tonight; The Parish, Huddersfield, Saturday.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Dickens tales, dames and Damon drop in. List No. 59, courtesy of The Press, York

What the Dickens? Yes, James Swanton is reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas at York Medical Society

FROM boyish Boris to Dame Edna, Christmas concerts to panto dames, Dickensian ghost stories to solo Damon, Charles Hutchinson has highlights aplenty to recommend.   

Dickensian Christmas in York: James Swanton’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, York Medical Society, on various dates between December 2 and 13, 7pm

AFTER the silent nights of last December, York gothic actor supreme James Swanton is gleefully reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas performances of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes.

“I’ve scheduled extra performances of A Christmas Carol: the perfect cheering antidote, I feel, to the misery we’ve all been through,” says Swanton. “But the two lesser-known stories are also very relevant to our times.”

A reduced capacity is operating for Covid safety, meaning that tickets are at a premium on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Boris: World King, under debate at Theatre@41

Political debate of the week: Boris: World King, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE year is 1985 and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has plenty going for him, being young, posh and really rather blond. However, his efforts to become President of the Oxford Union debating society have been thwarted.

Never fear. Boris always has a cunning plan up his sleeve. Cue time travel, classical allusions and good clean banter in Boris: World King, Tom Crawshaw’s comedic exploration of a young man’s ambition and humanity explored as a half-hour one-man show. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Richard Kay: Co-directing York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir’s Christmas concerts

Harmony at Christmas: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Citadel Singers, Christmas Traditions 2021, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, Tuesday to Friday, doors 7pm

AFTER delivering an online Christmas concert via Zoom to an international audience in 2020, York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir return to live concerts for Christmas Traditions 2021.

The Citadel allows room for cabaret seating downstairs and balcony seating that can ensure safe distancing is maintained, while the show retains its format of carols old and new, Christmas songs, festive readings and sketches. Box office: arkevent.co.uk/christmastraditions2021.

The poster for Damon Albarn’s night at the double at York Minster

York gig(s) of the week: Damon Albarn, York Minster, Thursday, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

DAMON Albarn quickly added a second special intimate album-launch show at York Minster after the first was fully booked in a flash.

The Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen leader now plays two sold-out concerts in one night in his first ever York performances, marking the November 12 release of his solo studio recording The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows.

Albarn, 53, has been on a “dark journey” making this album in lockdown, exploring themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth.

Martyn Joseph: Lockdown reflections on landmark birthday on new album, showcased in concert at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

Gig of the week outside York: Martyn Joseph, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

“THE Welsh Springsteen”, singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, will be showcasing his 23rd studio album, 1960, a “coming of age” record with a difference, in Pocklington.

Last year, amid the isolation of the pandemic, Penarth-born Joseph turned 60 on July 15, a landmark birthday, a time of self-reflection, that shaped his songs of despair and sadness, gratitude and wonder, and gave the album its title. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Alistair Griffin: Series of Big Christmas Concerts in York

Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 3 (sold out) and December 10, 8pm; Alistair Griffin’s Candlelit Christmas, Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, December 11, 8pm

ON December 3 and 10, a brass band greets revellers, then York singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert takes a musical journey from acoustic traditional carols to Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues. “Sing along and sip mulled wine while enjoying the fairytale of old York,” says Griffin’s invitation.

On December 11, he switches from St Michael-le-Belfrey to a candle-lit Holy Trinity Church. “Take a seat, or in this case, a medieval pew and soak in the festive atmosphere,” he says. Cue mulled wine, Christmas tunes, acoustic festive numbers and a Christmas carol singalong. Box office: alistairgriffin.com.

York playwright Mike Kenny: New production of The Railway Children with his award-winning script at Hull Truck

On the right track show of the week outside York: The Railway Children, Hull Truck Theatre, running until January 2

YORK playwright Mike Kenny has revisited his award-winning adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children – first staged so memorably by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum – for Hull Truck’s Christmas musical.

Directed by artistic director Mark Babych in the manner of his Oliver Twist and Peter Pan shows of Christmases past, original music and dance routines complement Kenny’s storytelling in this warm-hearted, uplifting tale of hope, friendship and family, set in Yorkshire. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk.

Faye Campbell: Brushing up on playing Cinderella in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, opening on Friday

Evolution, not revolution, in pantoland: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, December 3 to January 2

YORK Theatre Royal’s post-Berwick era began last year with the Travelling Pantomime, establishing the partnership of Evolution Pantomimes’ man with the Midas touch, Paul Hendy, as writer and Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster as director.

After the 2020 road show, here comes the full-scale return to the main house for Cinderella, starring CBeebies’ Andy Day (Dandini), last winter’s stars Faye Campbell (Cinderella) and Robin Simpson (Sister), Paul Hawkyard (the other Sister), ventriloquist comedian Max Fulham (Buttons), Benjamin Lafayette (Prince Charming) and Sarah Leatherbarrow (Fairy Godmother). Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Unmasked: Barry Humphries tells all at the Grand Opera House, York next April

Hottest ticket launch of the week: Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, April 13 2022

AUSTRALIAN actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure Barry Humphries will play only one Yorkshire show on his 2022 tour, here in York.

Set to turn 88 on February 17, he will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of alter egos Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. Hurry, hurry, for tickets on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as musicals abound, comedy turns angry and Madchester revives. List No. 58, courtesy of The Press, York

So frustrated: Paul Chowdhry has his say on Covid, fame, England’s football team and Tom Cruise’s chopper at the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

IMAGINE if you could have a busy week ahead? Let Charles Hutchinson fill your diary.

Angriest comedy gig of the week: Paul Chowdhry, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

AFTER barely surviving the pandemic, British-Asian stand-up Paul Chowdhry tackles the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and why the rules of six only worked for white people in Family-Friendly Comedian (No Children).

Two years of pent-up frustration go into this new tour show, where Londoner Chowdhry also discusses fame, England football fans and Tom Cruise landing his helicopter in someone’s garden. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Chesca Cholewa: Writer of Imagine If Theatre Company’s My Old Man

Studio play of the week: Imagine If Theatre Company in My Old Man, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight, 8pm

IMAGINE If Theatre Company, from Leeds, is touring a part-theatre, part-film production of Chesca Cholewa’s humorous and heartfelt play My Old Man.

When Michal Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha (played by Cholewa), finally moves out, his whole world changes. The school dinner-lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves on to the street, and Michal (Paul Shelley) has to face his biggest battle yet as My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of this old, blind Polish soldier. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk.

Songs and Stables’ leadership: Kate Stables brings her band This Is The Kit to The Citadel tomorrow night

Experimental gig of the week: This Is The Kit, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

KATE Stables’ experimental folk quartet This Is The Kit return to York for a special show at The Citadel, the former Salvation Army HQ, presented by Please Please You, The Crescent and Brudenell Presents. Support comes from Nuala Honan and Pavey Ark. Box office: brudenellsocialclub.seetickets.com.

York artist Karen Winship, taking part in the Inspired Christmas event at York Cemetery Chapel

Christmas shopping? Opportunity presents itself at Inspired, York Cemetery Chapel, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

INSPIRED, the annual Christmas show by York artist and designer makers, will be held at York Cemetery Chapel, in Cemetery Road, York, this weekend.

Taking part will be Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, collage printmaking; Angela Newdick, collage and surface pattern design; Adi French and Karen Winship, painting, and John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture.

PQA York’s poster for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at the JoRo

Children’s show of the week: PQA Productions in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow and Saturday, 7.30pm

PAULINE Quirke Academy (PQA) York journeys under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, adapted from Disney’s Broadway show and film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of sacrifices made for love and acceptance.

Young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her magical ocean home and fins behind for the world above. First, however, she must defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula and convince Prince Eric she is the girl whose enchanting voice he has been seeking. Separate casts perform the two shows. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt, Alexandra Mather and Andrew Roberts in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny

Witty and warm songs of the week: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

FLADAM duo Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter take to the Theatre@41 stage with thespian friends Alexandra Mather, Andrew Roberts and Andrew Isherwood for two shows of musical comedy joy.

Fladam’s own topical witty ditties will be complemented by a celebration of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins, Victoria Wood and more. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Scarlett Waugh, left, and Libby Anderson: Sharing the role of Dorothy in NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

Sparkling slippers of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday (23/11/2021) to Saturday

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz, led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy.

Further roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Phoenix rising again: Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate their 40th anniversary this autumn, opening their tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance celebration of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in 40 Years Of Phoenix, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

PHOENIX Dance Theatre launch their milestone 40th birthday programme at York Theatre Royal, bringing together highlights from the Leeds company’s groundbreaking history.

Phoenix will combine celebration and reflection in a show featuring Lost Dog duo Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer’s Pave Up Paradise; former artistic director Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart Of Chaos; Henri Oguike’s Signal; Shapiro and Smith’s satirical piece Family and Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece Harmonica Breakdown. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Director Nik Briggs, left, choreographer Emily Taylor and lead actors Sophie Hammond and Damien Poole at the launch of York Stage Musicals’ festive show, Elf! The Musical

Christmas musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Elf! The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 25 to December 3

YORK Stage Musicals present the York premiere of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s Elf! The Musical, directed by artistic director Nik Briggs.

Based on Will Ferrell’s 2003 film, Elf! follows orphan child Buddy to Santa’s North Pole abode, where, unaware he is human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.

Given Santa’s permission, Buddy (Damien Poole) heads to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help the Big Apple to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Amaka Okafor: Taking part in the staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland at Friargate Theatre, York

Play readings of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company presents Maryland, Friargate Theatre, York, November 26, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

TWO staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s 30-minute protest play will feature Amaka Okafor, from the original Royal Court Theatre cast, Laura Pyper, Mark Holgate, Cassie Vallance, Kesiah Joseph, Patricia Jones and Meg Blowey.

Kirkwood wrote Maryland as a “passionate and furious act of resistance to draw attention to the shocking numbers of women who repeatedly suffer violent abuse throughout Britain. The play is not specific; it addresses issues of police behaviour and a culture of violence against women and girls”.

After sold-out performances in London, the Royal Court offered Maryland for free for theatre companies to perform in solidarity and protest. York company Riding Lights has taken up that opportunity, with associate director Bridget Foreman directing the readings. Box office: 01904 613000.

James: Teaming up with Happy Mondays for a Manchester night out in Leeds

Gig of the week ahead outside York: James and special guests Happy Mondays, Leeds First Direct Arena, November 25, doors, 6pm

ALL of 33 years ago, Factory label mates James and Happy Mondays first toured together. Now, two of Manchester’s champion bands reunite for a November and December arena tour.

 “Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink,” tweeted Tim Booth, James’s Clifford-born frontman, when announcing the dates with rapscallion rascals Shaun Ryder, Bez and co.

James, who played Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer, will be showcasing their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June. Box office: firstdirectarena.com. Stage times: Happy Mondays, 7.30pm; James, 9pm.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Step 3 gathers pace away from home. List No. 34, courtesy of The Press, York

York Minster, west front, by Susan Brown at Kentmere House Gallery, York

THE Roadmap route to recovery is becoming ever busier, like the roads into York. This has prompted Charles Hutchinson to resume his weekly, rather than fortnightly, eerie to spot what’s happening.

Exhibition launch of the week: Susan Brown, Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, until July 4

HUDDERSFIELD artist Susan Brown has returned to York Minster, one of her favourite locations for her architectural paintings, for her spring and summer show at Kentmere House Galllery, York.

Her artistic focus is on city life and our relationship with our environment, exploring the rhythm and movement within buildings and interiors, along with creating beautiful abstract paintings, inspired by still-life subjects and landscapes, with an emphasis on texture and pattern.

“Susan’s paintings are bold and striking, predominantly worked in watercolour and acrylic,” says gallery owner Ann Petherick. “The gallery is open anytime by prior arrangement or chance: you can ring 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or email ann.petherick@kentmerehouse.co.uk, or just take pot luck by ringing the bell. Please ring in advance if travelling any distance.”

Kentmere House Gallery’s next open weekend will be on June 5 and 6, 11am to 5pm; the gallery has a weekly late-evening opening on Thursdays to 9pm.

Jonty Ward: Recital organist and director of music at St Lawrence Parish Church, York

Festival of the week: St Lawrence Trinity Festival, St Lawrence Parish Church, Lawrence Street, York, May 29 to June 5

A £410,000 restoration has perked up the 1885 Denman organ transferred from St Michael-le-Belfrey for installation by organ-building firm Nicholson & Co at St Lawrence Parish Church.

A celebratory festival programme will include a demonstration by Nicholson & Co ahead of the inaugural recital by Robert Sharpe, York Minster organist and director of music, on May 29 at 10.30am.

Further organ recitals will be performed by musicians associated with St Lawrence and the City of York: William Campbell, May 31, 4pm; David Norton, June 1, 4pm; St Lawrence director of music Jonty Ward, June 3, 4pm, and Timothy Hone, music and liturgy administrator at York Minster, June 4, 4pm. The Black Sheep Consort will give a 7pm recital on May 31.

Attendance is free, but booking is required for the Inaugural Recital at festival@stlawrenceparishchurch.org.uk.

A T-shirt to mark the Super Cool Drawing Machine exhibition at The Crescent, York

Hippest exhibition of the week in York: Yuppies Music presents Super Cool Drawing Machine, The Crescent, York, today (26/5/2021) until Sunday

YUPPIES Music’s touring exhibition of musicians’ “other” work, will run at The Crescent community venue for four days from today. This celebration of art created by international touring independent musicians is billed as a “much-needed exploration of fun stuff”, on show each day from 11am to 9pm with Covid-secure measures in place.

Under social distancing restrictions, attendees will have to book in advance, choosing a specific time slot to view the exhibition. Consequently, only a small number of tickets are available at £5 for each time slot at seetickets.com.

Among the artists will be will be trailblazing jazz saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings; Welsh singer/producer Cate Le Bon; experimental folk musician Richard Dawson; African-American experimentalist Lonnie Holley and drummer/composer Seb Rochford, plus members of This Is The Kit, Mammal Hands, Haiku Salut, Snapped Ankles and more besides.

Ben Caplan: Singer-songwriter, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, playing Pocklington Arts Centre in November. Picture: Jamie Kronick

Gig announcement of the week outside York: Ben Caplan, Pocklington Arts Centre, November 11, 8pm

CANADIAN folk-rock singer-songwriter Ben Caplan will play Pocklington on his European autumn tour. 

His extensive itinerary will mark the tenth anniversary of his October 2011 debut, In The Time Of The Great Remembering, and will follow hot on the heels of Recollection, a retrospective collection of stripped back re-interpretations of songs from his back catalogue, out in October. 

Venue manager James Duffy says: “I saw Ben perform at Cambridge Folk Festival in 2019 and was blown away. He has a fantastic stage presence and mixes a wonderful blend of musical styles from folk to gypsy through to rock. Imagine the love child of Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello and you’re getting somewhere close.”

Caplan’s support act will be fellow Canadian Gabrielle Papillon. Tickets are on sale at pocklingtonartscenytre.co.uk.

The girl next door in The Girl Next Door: Naomi Petersen in rehearsal for Alan Ayckbourn’s 85th premiere. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Premiere of the week ahead: Alan Ayckbourn’s 85th play, The Girl Next Door, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, June 4 to July 3

THE SJT’s first in-house production of 2021 will be director emeritus Alan Ayckbourn’s The Girl Next Door, a lockdown love story.

Veteran actor Rob Hathaway is stuck at home during the summer of 2020 with only his sensible older sister for company. Rob has little to do but relive his glory days as fire-fighting wartime hero George “Tiger” Jennings in the nation’s favourite TV period drama, National Fire Service. 

Then, one day, Rob spots a stranger hanging out the washing in the adjoining garden, when the neighbours have not been around for months. Who is the mysterious girl next door? And why is she wearing 1940s’ clothing?

“The Girl Next Door is an affirmation of love across the generations,” says Ayckbourn. “I hope it’s positive and hopeful for those today crawling out of their metaphorical Anderson shelters blinking into the light.”

Benjamin Francis Leftwich: Playing The Citadel in his home city next February

Gig announcement for next year: Benjamin Francis Leftwich, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, February 25 2022

YORK singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich, now resident in Tottenham, London, will return to his home city to play The Citadel on his 26-date British and Irish tour next year. 

The tour will follow the June 18 release of his fourth album, To Carry A Whale, on June 18 on the Dirty Hit label.

His first to be written and recorded entirely sober, it was made over four months last year at home, at Urchin Studios in Hackney, in a hotel room in Niagara and at a Southend studio owned by Sam Duckworth, of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Tickets are on sale at benjaminfrancisleftwich.com.