SONGS Under Skies will bring together the National Centre for Early Music, The Crescent, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance for a September series of open-air acoustic concerts in York.
Taking part will be Amy May Ellis; Luke Saxton; Dan Webster; Bella Gaffney; Kitty VR; Boss Caine; Wolf Solent; Rosalind; Polly Bolton; Henry Parker; Elkyn and Fawn.
The setting will be the garden of St Margaret’s Church, home of the NCEM, for six double bills that will mark the return of audiences to the verdant Walmgate premises for the first time since the March lockdown.
Concerts for last month’s online York Early Music Festival had to be recorded and filmed behind closed doors at the NCEM, with no audiences, for digital streaming from July 9 to 11.
Songs Under Skies will take place on Wednesday and Thursday evenings between September 2 and 17. Gates will open at 6.30pm for each 7pm start; acts will perform either side of a 30-minute interval with a finishing time of 8.30pm. Social distancing will be strictly observed and masks must be worn inside the NCEM but will not be required in the garden.
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.
NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re thrilled to be able to welcome artists and audiences back to our home at St Margaret’s Church, thanks to the invaluable help of our York partners, and I’d like to say a huge thank-you to them.
“We hope that this marks the beginning of a gradual and safe return to being able to bring you much more music over the months to come.
Like all arts organisations, the last few months have been difficult, but we’re lucky to have received overwhelming support from our loyal audiences and from our funders, to whom I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks. We hope you’ll be able to join us for these wonderful Songs Under [the] Skies of our beautiful city.”
Chris Sherrington, who runs The Fulford Arms and is the North East regional coordinator for the Music Venues Alliance, says: “Both The Crescent community venue and The Fulford Arms are excited to be working with our York Music Venue Network partners, the NCEM, to help fill some of the cultural vacuum that has sadly been affecting York since March.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring our expertise together and programme a beautiful series of shows in a safe and stunning space with a range of amazing talent. We hope this will be the first of many such endeavours.”
The NCEM has been one of the first arts organisations to stream online concerts, seeking to keep music alive since the beginning of lockdown and attracting a worldwide audience of more than 70,000 in the process.
Over the past few months, the NCEM has streamed a series of concerts from its archives, followed by the aforementioned York Early Music Festival Online with its combination of concerts and talks. The Director’s Cut, Delma’s selection of festival concert highlights, is available to download and keep. Go to ncem.co.uk for more details.
Songs Under Skies tickets cost £6 per show and audiences are invited to buy tickets for family groups or as individuals. Seating will be in pods with a maximum audience capacity of 50. Full details can be found at tickets.ncem.co.uk/.
DAVID Ford and Jarod Dickenson should have been playing their double bill of exquisite songwriter fare and soulful Americana tonight at The Crescent, York.
Instead, the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown has enforced a switch to September 17, pending any further Government social-distancing strictures, with tickets valid for the revised date.
Ford, from Eastbourne, has known Dickenson, from Waco, Texas, for “years and years”. “The first tour we did together, I invited him to be my tour buddy for my album Charge [released in March 2013] and he’s been coming over ever since,” says David.
“I’ve been wanting to do this joint tour for ages, where it’s not ‘I’ll headline, you’ll support’, or even co-headlining, but instead it’ll be a collaboration, taking our catalogues of songs and combining our talents, and seeing if we can make an interesting show out of that.”
Until Covid-19 intervened, Ford and Dickenson’s plans were to make a long list of songs on either side of The Pond, then meet up a few days before their spring tour to knock the show into shape.
That still will be the case, whenever the shows are confirmed for take-off. “I’ve got an idea of what songs of mine will fit with Jarod, and I’m a big fanatic of his songs, sometimes jumping on stage to join his band, so we’ll be thinking about what songs will work best,” says David.
They will just have a longer time to think about those choices now.
ALL shows at the Black Swan Folk Club,
Peasholme Green, York, are postponed until the end of August in response to the
Most prominent among them is the Roland
Walls Weekend from June 5 to 7. Formerly known as the City of York Folk Weekend,
it has been re-named this year after the driving force behind both the folk
club and the weekend, who died last June.
This postponement policy also applies to
the club’s concerts at the National Centre for Early Music and The Crescent.
In the club’s latest newsletter, organiser
Chris Euesden says: “We’re going to review things at the end of May to see
where we stand. This includes the Roland Walls Weekend, which was to
have taken place in June.
“If you’ve already bought tickets for any
of our events that have had to be postponed, you can get a refund from the internet
ticket provider or you can hang on to your tickets, as they will be valid for
the new date.
“This applies to all events except The
The Crescent on April 5, which is cancelled. If you have already bought tickets,
you’ll be able to get a refund from seetickets.com. Go to their support
section for further details.”
One Black Swan concert during the folk
furlow is yet to be postponed: Chris Cleverley, presented by Broken Record on
June 25. At the time of writing, it is “still hoped” that this night of songs
on the theme of deteriorating anxious minds, damaging gender constructs and
mystical tales of the occult will go ahead. Watch this space; ticket
information is yet to be announced.
Reflecting on the present state of no-play, Chris says: “Well, we’ve never issued a newsletter quite like this
one before. As the current situation has changed from day to day, so has the
“With the [Government] announcement of the closure of pubs and other music venues and
the uncertainty surrounding the amount of time this is going to go on for, it
seems like a good point to let you all know what’s in place at the moment.
“It’s highly likely there will be more
changes, but we’ll do our best to keep you all informed on our website, blackswanfolkclub.org.uk,
via Facebook, Twitter and with additional newsletters.”
Wheels are in motion already, however, for re-arranging postponed concerts.
Maz O’Connor, a Lake District singer-songwriter
of Irish roots, now living in East London, is transferring her March 26 Black
Swan gig to The Basement, City Screen, on September 9 with tickets on sale at
O’Connor, who studied literature at Cambridge
University, has been commissioned to write songs for the British Parliament and the
Royal Shakespeare Company and is devising a piece of music theatre.
Eliza Carthy Restitute Live/Through That Sound concert at The Crescent on April
10 is re-scheduled for January 24 2021, with tickets on sale at seetickets.com.
the Robin Hood’s Bay singer, songwriter, fiddler and self-styled “modern
English musician”, released Restitute as her first “solo” album of traditional music
last May, recorded at her North Yorkshire home on the coast.
Carthy at The Crescent will be the Restitute band of Ben
Seal, Ben Somers, Willy Molleson and David Delarre, complemented by a support
slot and special guest appearance from Saul Rose.
well as the Restitute material, Carthy and co will perform selections from Through
That Sound (My Secret Was Made Known), her upcoming April 1 album of original songs
recorded with Fife producer, arranger and band member Ben Seal.
Roberts and Sean Lakeman’s 25th anniversary concert on April 22 at the
National Centre for Early Music has a new date of November 17 (box office, ncem.co.uk).
husband-and-wife duo will mark this milestone by revisiting and reinterpret
songs spanning their career, from the early days of folk supergroup Equation to
2018’s album, Personae, plus a nod or two to their extracurricular musical
club is in the process of re-scheduling Grace Petrie’s May 18 show at The
Crescent. Drever, McCusker, Woomble, alias three of Scotland’s busiest
musicians, Kris Drever, John McCusker and Roddy Woomble, are booked for The
Crescent on August 24 (box office ents24.com), so keep an eye open for what may
change or not.
ahead, Black Swan gigs are in the diary for Anthony John Clarke on September 10;
Christine Collister and Michael Fix, September 18; Maria Dunn, September 24;
Sam Kelly & Jamie Francis, October 8; Lucy Farrell, October 15; Sam Carter,
October 22; Charlie Dore & Julian Litmann, November 19, and Martin Carthy,
Eliza’s father, on December 3.
Across the wider folk scene in York, hurdy-gurdy musician, wildlife biologist, broadcaster, song and story writer and York Hedgehog Rescue founder Toni Bunnell’s Tracking The Changes show on March 29 at The Basement, City Screen, has been postponed.
Music sessions are suspended at:
The Maltings, Tanner’s Moat, on Tuesdays;
The Golden Ball, Bishophill, on Sunday evenings;
The Three Legged Mare, High Petergate, on Friday evenings;
Havin’ the Craic at The Fox, Holgate, first Wednesday of each
French & Breton, Eagle & Child, High Petergate, second
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.
“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. 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.
IN his new tour show, mischief-making activist comedian Mark
Thomas is pondering “how we have come to inhabit this divided wasteland that some
of us call the United Kingdom”.
On the road since January 23, the South London satirical writer, political agent provocateur, TV and radio presenter, journalist and podcaster is bringing 50 Things About Us: Work In Progress to The Crescent, York, on March 4.
“The Crescent has a certain ramshackle charm, and it’s run with absolute integrity,” says Mark, breaking away from cooking up a pot of a very British winter warmer, leek and potato soup, to take this interview call.
Introducing the show’s theme, he explains: “I was really struck by one thought: how on earth did we get to the point we’ve got to, and part of the answer is that we’ve never come to terms with who we are.”
Was he referring to the English or the British here? “Well,
Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales; the United Kingdom includes Northern
Ireland too, and it’s been England that’s driven the creation of the union,”
says Mark, whose show combines storytelling, stand-up, mischief and typically well-researched
“All these places have a very distinctive identity and culture, and it defies this binary, simplistic definition.
“The Irish language was kept alive by Presbyterians when the
English buried it, and now the Irish language is being taught by Unionist women
on the Falls Road [in Belfast], so it’s a fascinating place that defies your
Mark notes how “English culture is seen as part of the British
empire, when Britain was ruling the world with this bombast, without
understanding the implications of that”.
So, it may be a generalisation, Mark, but why is that people
think the abiding negative aspects of the British empire are defined by Little
Englander characteristics, not British ones?
“That’s the weird thing. Scotland joined England in the union in
a time of fantastic prosperity, so Scotland doesn’t get out of its role in the empire,”
he says. “It’s fascinating that it’s
about England adopting the empire as its nationalist cause, with everyone else
50 Things About Us is billed as “a show about money, history, identity, art, tradition, songs, gongs, wigs, guns, bungs, sods of soil and rich people”, as Thomas picks through the myths, facts and figures of our national identities to ask how we have so much feeling for such a hollow land”.
Summing up his night of story-telling, stand-up and subversion as a “sort of funny national edition of Who Do You Think You Are?”, Thomas says: ” It’s another slightly odd show, a sort of sweary, History Channel with laughs and creative mischief. If you’ve seen my shows before, this one’s in the vein of 100 Acts Of Minor Dissent.”
As a work in progress, the list of 50 Things is not set in stone. “It’s always being added to. You always do that. You keep going ‘b****y hell’ when you discover new things,” says Mark. “I found out the other day we’re the only nation that doesn’t have its name on its stamps.
“We have a picture of The Queen, not even a picture, but a
silhouette, and there’s a certain weirdness about that. We won’t even say where
we are! We say, ‘here’s The Queen, we’re better than everyone else’.”
Thomas, 56, has made his mark down the years by stopping arms
deals; creating a manifesto and bringing the winning policy to parliament;
walking the entire length of the Israeli wall in the West Bank and setting up a
comedy club in the Palestinian city of Jenin.
He has hosted six series on Channel 4, alongside several
television documentaries and radio series; written books; grabbed a Guinness
World Record; sold out numerous tours; won awards aplenty; nabbed himself a
Medal of Honour and succeeded in changing some laws along the way.
In other words, he is a man of both action and words. How are his latest words going down on tour? “People say, ‘can’t you say something positive?’, but there’s a load of positives in there, like Britain being one of only five countries that doesn’t have a [codified] written constitution. New Zealand is one other, Canada another,” says Mark.
“We have the Charter of the Forest, our economic charter that came in in 2017, which recognises that idea of shared assets of the country [the charter re-established for free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by William the Conqueror and his heirs] .
“It was there for our mutual benefit and no-one else has ever produced anything like it. It used to be read out four times a year in church, when the squirearchy were at the front, the peasants at the back.
“It was the statute that remained longest in
force in England, but they just got rid of it in 1971 [when it was superseded
by the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act]. But it’s something to be proud of
as part of our history; there’s an historic part of our character that, since
1217, says we have the right to run things for our common benefit.”
Where does Brexit fit into Mark’s exploration
of who we are? “I think that notion that we are a country that can go it alone
is really that characteristic of English exceptionalism, where we believe we’re
different, we’re superior, because we’re the cleverer than anyone else, reckoning
we won two World Wars and a World Cup by playing fair, which is nonsense,” he
says. “Just looking at who we think we are, this idea we can stand alone is
“I’m not a great supporter of the European
Union, but I did vote Remain reluctantly, as I don’t want a move to the far right,
which is what we’ve ended up with.”
Mark continues: “I’m a Socialist and I think
massive changes are needed but when you ignore democracy [the Brexit referendum
vote], it will bite you on the backside. If I were a Leave voter, I’d be b****y
angry. This idea that people got it wrong, and we should vote again and again
until we get it right is extremely patronising. The way they’ve been treated is
pretty awful, though I’m not defending the far right.”
Why does Mark call Britain “a hollow land”? “The fact that masses
of our history is ignored at the expense of our identity, like the history of
the NHS…that sense of absence, because we don’t tell parts of our history, is
wrong,” he says.
And now for the big question, after all Mark’s research, can he
define who we are? “It’s an important question to answer, because we’re changing
all the time, as a collective, as individuals, as parents, grandparents, how we
see ourselves,” he says.
“Though interestingly, who we think we are is not who we are.” Let’s
leave that thought hanging in the air, the perfect enticement to find out more
at The Crescent on March 4.
Mark Thomas’s 50 Things About Us: Work In Progress tour also
takes in further Yorkshire gigs at Sheffield Memorial Hall, March 1; Wakefield
Theatre Royal, March 5, and Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, April 9.
Box office: York, 01904 622510 or at thecrescent.com; Sheffield, 0114 278 9789 or sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; Wakefield, 01924 211311; Leeds, 0845 644 1881 or cityvarieties.co.uk.
Did you know?
Mark Thomas also broadcasts 50 Things About Us
as a podcast.
PORTICO Quartet play a standing show at The Crescent, off
Blossom Street, York, on Tuesday night.
Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and
minimalism since forming in London in 2005, these Mercury Prize nominees have
created their own singular, cinematic sound over the course of five studio
albums and one EP.
In the line-up areDuncan Bellamy, drums and electronics; Milo Fitzpatrick, bass; Taz Modi, hang drums and keys, and Jack Wylie, saxophone.
Portico Quartet made their breakthrough with 2007’s Knee-Deep In The North Sea, followed by the John Leckie-produced Isla in 2010, the self-titled Portico Quartet in 2012 and Art In The Age Of Automation in August 2017, plus its companion EP, Untitled, in April 2018.
Each album has seen Bellamy, Fitzpatrick, Modi and Wylie expand their
palette or explore new trajectories, a modus operandi continued with last
October’s Memory Streams, released on Gondwana
Ouroboros presents Portico Quartet at The Crescent, York, on Tuesday (February 25). Tickets cost £18.50 from The Crescent or Earworm Records, in Powells Yard, Goodramgate or at seetickets.com or more on the door from 7.30pm.
The Bailers, the York band du jour you just have to see, will play The Crescent
in York on February 20.
“This show is
what I’ve been working towards for the past six months with my fabulous new
band The Bailers,” says Bonnie Milnes, the fast-rising York combo’s singer and country-noir
songwriter. “I’ve loved smashing out hits with these world-class musicians and
can’t wait to take it to the stage at a venue I’ve always dreamed of
“Next Thursday’s audience can expect a mix of heart break and
full-frontal sass as I write material on some tough times with some kickass
comeback songs. I’d describe the show as feminist, sexy and straight from
Before then, on Wednesday, Bonnie is “so excited to be sharing a new single, Baby Drive, with an absolutely beautiful video shot by Luke Downing on a beautiful day at Rufforth Airfield, starring myself and my best friend and bass player Jack Garry”. “The song’s about thinking you’re in love with your best friend,” she says.
Looking ahead, Bonnie says: “We don’t have any other York shows lined up
but we have got an exciting little tour of gigs that kicks off tomorrow
(February 11) in Hull [at 9.15pm at The Sesh at The Polar Bear, in Spring Bank]
and we’ll be supporting York’s own Benjamin Francis Leftwich at Komedia, Brighton,
on February 26.”
Meanwhile, Bonnie has been building a rehearsal studio with Young
Thugs’ sound technician Matt Woollons. “Called Boom, this has been my base for
writing, rehearsing and – before long – recording something new,” she says.
Tickets for February 20 cost £8 at eventbrite.co.uk/e/bonnie-and-the-bailers or seetickets.com, or in person from Earworm Records, in Powells Yard, Goodramgate, or The Crescent, off Blossom Street. Alternatively, pay more on the door from 7.30pm.