Yorkraine benefit concert for Ukraine has it covered when it comes to York bands

The poster artwork for Yorkraine, Ian Surgenor’s benefit concert for Ukraine

THE Yorkraine benefit concert for Ukraine brings together York cover bands The Supermodels, The Mothers, The Y Street Band and Sister Madly on May 24.

Acoustic sets from Alex Victoria and fellow York singer-songwriter Mal Fry and contributions from guest speakers complete the “totally York” 7.30pm bill at the Grand Opera House, York.

The evening of pop and rock classics from the past six decades will raise funds for the British Red Cross DEC appeal to aid Ukrainian refugees who find themselves in dire circumstances. All artists, hosts, sound tech and crew have donated their time free of charge.

Concert organiser Ian Surgenor says: “I’m a taxi driver by trade, and when I was working at night, there was a newsflash that Russia had invaded Ukraine. I was mortified, and then, like 99 per cent of the British population, I just felt helpless.

The Supermodels

“The only thing I thought I could do was to arrange a concert for the DEC appeal. I’ve always held York Rocks Against Cancer concerts at the Grand Opera House, so I got in touch.

“The manager, Alice [Long], went out of her way to find us a spot, squeezing us in for May 24, and we’re delighted to be doing the show there as the acoustics are great.”

Explaining the choice of musicians for the night, Ian says: “Cover bands have a broad appeal, and I have a really good relationship with most of them in York, just from doing events and seeing gigs.

“There’s a mutual respect, so I approached Dave Sykes, from The Supermodels, who did the first York Rocks; I knew Rob Wilson, from The Mothers, and I’ve done shows with The Y Street Band.”

Sister Madly happen to be Ian’s own band, also featuring two stalwarts of the York musical theatre scene, Jo Theaker, last seen in York Stage’s Calendar Girls at the Grand Opera House, and Ian’s wife, Marie-Louise Surgenor, from Rowntree Players.  

Sister Madly, featuring Ian Surgenor, Jo Theaker and Marie-Louise Surgenor

Ian was keen to include acoustic acts too. “I’d seen other venues putting on acoustic singers on such nights,” he says.

“In fact, I provided the sound for the acoustic lounge when Big Ian Donaghy held a fundraiser for the Ukraine emergency appeal at York Sports Club in March, with Huge playing in the main room, and Dan Webster, Emily Lawler, Rich Hardcastle, To The Blue and a young lady called Alex Victoria in the lounge.

“I was blown away by her. ‘What a voice this girl has,’ I thought, and I wondered if she’d like to do the Yorkraine gig. She said she’d be honoured!”

In attendance too will be a civic party led by Andrew Digwood, Undersheriff of the City of York, while a speaker from the British Red Cross will explain “what will happen to the money and what it’s like on the front”.

The Mothers

“We’ll also be welcoming a Ukrainian gentleman, Dimitri, who works for the Studio Cloud Nine fitness company. He drove to Poland to bring a family here, but couldn’t get them into the country, so they ended up going to Portugal, where the children were placed in a school within two days. Amazing what can be done, isn’t it?”

Look out too for a guest appearance by York vocal drag diva supreme Velma Celli, alias York’s West End musical theatre actor Ian Stroughair. “Ian approached me and said he thought what we were doing was amazing and asked how he could help,” says organiser Ian, who duly slotted Velma into the bill.

Surgenor has secured sponsorship from four sources: Nestlé, Vincent & Brown, Ainsty Ales and Fenton Simpson Financial Services. “They’ve covered the costs totally for hiring the theatre, projection, and so every ticket sold, every penny raised on the night from a collection, all the money will go the DEC appeal.”

The last mention goes to Simon Hudson, who is providing the sound and lighting…for free, of course.

Yorkraine, Ukraine Benefit Concert, Grand Opera House, York, May 24, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Velma Celli: New addition to the Yorkraine bill

Velma Celli turns drag outlaw for alternative Guy Fawkes night at NCEM. Just add gin

Raising a glass to outlaws: Velma Celli evokes the spirit of Guy Fawkes at the National Centre for Early Music tonight

YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli invites you to “release your inner outlaw” at his outre Outlaw Live cabaret soiree tonight.

Hosted by York Gin at the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, York, the night promises song, laughter and gin as Velma and friends “unleash a riot of glamorous outrage”.

“York is a city of outlaws: Guy Fawkes was born here. Dick Turpin was hanged here,” says York Gin Company events coordinator Harri Marshall. “It’s even home to the super-strength York Gin Outlaw, which comes with a warning: ‘Drink, with ice, tonic … and care’.

“Now – for one night only – one of the UK’s ‘baddest’ drag queens will be celebrating all that’s naughty, villainous and defiantly outrageous about York and its outlaws.”

Since returning home from a month of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships shows, Velma Celli already has played a “banging show” at York Theatre Royal, presenting Me And My Divas, a celebration of “the songs and behaviour of all your favourite divas” with York singer Jess Steel and West End leading lady Gina Murray, at York Theatre Royal last Saturday.

Velma Celli in the WonderBar at Impossible York

That cabaret night of impressions and banter celebrated Whitney, Aretha, Bassey, Streisand, Garland, Cilla, Dolly, Madonna, Adele, Sia and latest addition Jessie J.

Tomorrow’s new show will raise a glass to the outlaw spirit of Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin and general naughtiness at large in York with a riot of rebellious songs and a gin cocktail on arrival.

“If you love drag, gin, and being just a little bit naughty, this one’s definitely for you,” says Velma, the vocal drag creation of West End musical actor Ian Stroughair, 39.

“It’ll be my first time at the NCEM., and the gig came about after I popped into York Gin in the week when I’d been doing Funny Girls in Blackpool, and it turned out the woman serving me had seen Funny Girls the night before,” says Ian.

“This led to the idea of doing this Outlaw Live show with me, a small band, Guy Fawkes-inspired songs; songs from Six, the musical about Henry VIII’s wives; songs related to baddies in history, and the opportunity for everyone to drink nice cocktails.

The poster for Velma Celli’s Outlaw Live concert with a dash of York Gin

“I’ll be in kind of Guy Fawkes mode, and the plan is that we’ll see how this one goes and then look at doing a night with a different York Gin theme.”

Meanwhile, Ian is spreading Velma’s wings at the drag diva’s regular haunt of Impossible York, in St Helen’s Square, adding to the repertoire of shows in the WonderBar.

He has resumed performing The Velma Celli Show at 8pm on the last Friday of each month (except this month, when the gig moved to last night (24/3/2022).

Two sittings of Velma’s Drag Brunch are held on the first Saturday of each month, to be joined on the second Saturday by the new Movie Musical Brunch from April 9, when Ian’s special guest will be West End musical star Zoe Curlett, who played Christine in The Phantom Of The Opera and Corsette in Les Miserables.

Velma also launched a new Back To The 80s night in the WonderBar on March 18, when the 8pm set gloried in the songs of David Bowie,  George, Michael, Wham! and more Eighties’ favourites besides.

Velma Celli in David Bowie mode for Irreplaceable

At the planning stage is a QNY (Queer Night York) regular night. “The idea behind it is that there isn’t an essentially gay venue in York that’s been successful, and what’s needed is a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people,” says Ian.

“QNY won’t be a Velma Celli night; there won’t be a performance; I’ll be hosting the night and DJing, and again it will be monthly in the WonderBar, with the starting date yet to be confirmed.”

One Velma Celli show fell by the wayside last month: the February 26 performance of Irreplaceable, a celebration of David Bowie, was cancelled at Theatre@41, Monkgate.

We must wait for that gift of sound and vision, but one day, hopefully, Irreplaceable will be added to Velma’s portfolio of York performances. “So far, I’ve done it in a week’s run of four shows in Southampton,” says Ian.

“It came about because my friend Sarah Walker is obsessed with Bowie, and I’ve created the show for her.”

Velma Celli’s A Brief History Of Drag: Playing Pocklington Arts Centre this summer

Ian shares that passion. “There are so many amazing David Bowie songs, and in my case it was the Labyrinth era that I first loved, and also how he’s been so influential. Look at Lady Gaga, for example,” he says.

“In the show, my make-up is inspired by Aladdin Sane and my look is kind of androgynous: I wear a black suit jacket and a long, hooped skirt.

“I do a section about how Bowie was gender-bending before anyone else came out doing that, skipping around Manhattan in a catsuit, and there’s also a bit about RuPaul in there, who was such a big, big fan.”

Irreplaceable is yet to replace its scrapped Theatre@41 show, but one further show in the diary is Velma Celli’s A Brief History Of Drag at Pocklington Arts Centre on June 30.

Velma Celli: Outlaw Live, presented by York Gin, at National Centre for Early Music, York, tonight (25/3/2022); doors, 7pm; show, 8pm to 10.30pm. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/yorkgin/590817/. For Pocklington, 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk. For Impossible York shows and brunches, visit impossibleyork.com.

More Things To Do in York and beyond, whether locating your ‘inner outlaw’ or just going out. List No. 74, courtesy of The Press

Charles Hutchinson unearths Indian jazz, jive, cabaret, ceramics , 70 years of hits and a candlelit concert for Ukrainian solidarity for your diary.

Re-entry, by Danny Barbour, on show at According To McGee from today

Exhibition launch of the week: Christine Cox, Geoff Cox and Danny Barbour, Unearthed, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, today until April 24.

CHRSTINE Cox, Geoff Cox and Danny Barbour will be at Terry Brett’s gallery today from 11.30am to 2pm to talk about their Unearthed exhibition.

Pyramid Gallery’s spring show combines Christines ceramics, derived from repeated visits to a Cumbrian sea-cliff; Geoff’s ceramic pots and sculpture, rooted in archaeology and long-lost civilisations, and Danny’s paintings and collages that draw on his fascination with what lies beneath the surface.

“Unearthed features the work of three artists whose work is inspired by the passing of time: changes observed in the built environment and found remnants from the past,” says Terry.

Lady Lounges, ceramic, by Geoff Cox, at According To McGee

Diva at the double: Velma Celli: Me And My Divas, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7.30pm; Velma Celli: Outlaw Live, National Centre for Early Music, York, doors, 7pm; show, 8pm

YORK’S drag diva deluxe, Velma Celli, returns to York Theatre Royal for “an overindulgent diva fest celebrating the songs and behaviour of all your favourite divas” with York singer Jess Steel and West End leading lady Gina Murray.

This cabaret night of impressions and banter celebrates Whitney, Aretha, Bassey, Streisand, Garland, Cilla, Dolly, Madonna, Adele, Sia and latest addition Jessie J.

Next Friday, Velma and York Gin launch Outlaw Live, an outrageous night of cabaret and gin at the NCEM, raising a glass to Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin and all that’s villainous and defiantly naughty about York and its outlaws. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/yorkgin/590817.

“Explore your inner outlaw”: Velma Celli in Outlaw Live mode

Welcome to the Pleasure dome: King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, Selby Town Hall, tonight, 8pm

AFTER 6,500 performances across 21 countries in more than 30 years on the road, the jump, jive and swing band King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys bring their high octane, good-time show to Selby.

The sartorially sharp British band have performed their dance-hall rhythm & blues opening for BB King, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles and have toured with the Blues Brothers Band from the movie. Box office: 01757 708449 or selbytownhall.co.uk.

King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys: In the swing at Selby Town Hall

Jazz gig of the week: Arun Ghosh and Yaatri, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

IN a showcase of Indian-influenced jazz, York promoter Ouroboros presents award-winning clarinettist Arun Ghosh’s return to The Crescent to perform music from new album Seclused In Light. Ghosh and his band deliver a passionate sound driven by soaring melodies, hypnotic rhythms and transcendental textures as he melds jazz with  jazz myriad of musical influences, from jungle to punk, blues to Bollywood.

Support act Yaatri are an art-rock/jazz crossover five-piece, formed in Leeds in 2018, led by Indian/American guitarist and composer Liam Narain DeTar. Box office: thecrescentyork.seetickets.com.

Arun Ghosh: Showcasing his Seclused In Light album at The Crescent, York. Picture: Emile Holba

Why life is a minestrone: 10cc, The Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour, York Barbican, March 26, 7.30pm

CO-FOUNDER Graham Gouldman leads 10cc on their return to the concert stage after the lockdown lull, as the art-rock icons perform the chart-topping I’m Not In Love, Rubber Bullets and Dreadlock Holiday alongside eight more top ten hits.

Bass and guitar player Gouldman, 75, is joined by lead guitarist Rick Fenn, drummer Paul Burgess, keyboards player Keith Hayman and vocalist Iain Hornal. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Graham Gouldman and 10cc: Playing their greatest hits at York Barbican

Candlelit concert of the week: The Ebor Singers, How Do You Keep The Music Playing?, Chapter House, York Minster, March 26, 7.30pm

THE Ebor Singers return to the Chapter House for the first time since March 2020 to celebrate being together again, while pausing to reflect on what society has endured together.

The candlelit programme features Allegri’s Miserere; choral pieces by Whitacre and Esenwalds; an arrangement of Michel Legrand’s jazz classic How Do You Keep The Music Playing? and premieres of two lockdown commissions, Kerensa Briggs’s The Inner Light and Philip Moore’s O Vos Omnes.

In solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the singers perform works by Kyiv composer Valentin Silvestrov, 84, who managed to leave the country safely last week. Tickets: on the door or at tickets.yorkminster.org.

The Ebor Singers: First Chapter House concert at York Minster since March 2020

Nostalgia of the week: 70 Years Of Pop Music, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, March 27, 7.30pm

THIS year marks the 70th anniversary of the dawn of the British pop charts, when Al Martino claimed the first number one spot with Here In My Heart on November 20 2022.

Don Pears’ singers and musicians take a journey through the decades from Perry Como and Doris Day to Adele and Ed Sheeran in this fundraiser for the JoRo theatre.  

“Somewhere between A for Abba and Z for ZZ Top, whether you are a fan of the Fifties and Sixties or the Nineties and Noughties, there will be music that will delight you,” promises Don. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Eboracum Baroque: Heading back to the alehouses of 17th century England

Baroque’n’roll: Eboracum Baroque, Purcell And A Pint, York Mansion House, St Helen’s Square, York, May 7, 7.30pm

EBORACUM Baroque are teaming up with York Gin for an evening of rowdy drinking songs, fiddle tunes, alongside music by Purcell and baroque composers “he might have had a pint with”.

“This time our concert is called Purcell And A Pint, sadly not a pint of gin but you still get a free gin on arrival!”, says trumpet player and percussionist Chris Parsons.

“We’ll transport you back to the alehouses of 17th century England. Taverns were raucous surroundings and overflowed with music, alcohol, sex, gossip, fights, fumes, shouting, singing, laughing, dancing. Our performance won’t have all of these – but audience participation is a must.” Box office: eboracumbaroque.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond despite Killer Queen banning rock music. List No. 69, courtesy of The Press, York

Bohemians in rhapsody: We Will Rock You weaves its way through 24 Queen songs at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Johan Persson

FROM Queen’s “rock theatrical” to Britney fandom, a café’s mug exhibition to folk’s witching hour, outlaw cabaret with gin to confronting digital intrusiveness, Charles Hutchinson finds diversity aplenty to enjoy.

Musical of the week: We Will Rock You, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday

WRITER and comedian Ben Elton directs the 20th anniversary of We Will Rock You, the “guaranteed-to-blow-your-mind” Queen musical built around his dystopian futuristic storyline.

In a system that bans rock music, a handful of rebels, the Bohemians, vows to fight against an all-powerful global company and its boss, the Killer Queen.

Musical advisor Brian May says “the world’s first true Rock Theatrical” now has a state-of-the-art new look, with a story of breaking free from conformity more relevant than ever. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Reiko Kaneko: Taking part in the Cups and Such exhibition at FortyFive Vinyl Cafe. Picture: Cat Garcia

Cracking (or hopefully not) exhibition of the week: Cups and Such…or, A Hug In A Mug, FortyFive Vinyl Café, Micklegate, York, until March 6

“A HUG for you, or for someone else, Cups and Such is an exhibition of beautiful, handmade drinking vessels that promises to offer comfort and solace for all,” says curator Lotte Inch.

Working in tandem with FortyFive Vinyl Café, that welcoming haven of music, coffee and comfort food, Lotte Inch Gallery has selected cups, mugs, beakers, tea bowls and more, made by hand by Rebecca Callis, Reiko Kaneko, Ali Tomlin and the Leach Studios to “offer someone a moment of warmth, a sense of connection and an opportunity to embrace”. 

“This can’t be it,” ponders Mark Watson in Pocklington tonight. Picture: Matt Crockett

Topical comedy gig of the outside York: Mark Watson, This Can’t Be It, Pocklington Arts Centre, tonight, 8pm

AMID so much pandemic pondering about the fragility of life recently, don’t worry, comedian Mark Watson has it covered.  At 41 – he turns 42 tomorrow – he is halfway through his days on Earth, according to the life expectancy calculator app that cost him all of £1.49.

That life is in the best shape in living memory but one problem remains. A huge one. Spiritual enquiry meets high-octane observational comedy as the No More Jockeys cult leader strives to cram two years of pathological overthinking into an evening of stand-up. “Maybe we’ll even solve the huge problem,” says Watson. “Doubt it, though.” Box office for returns only: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Shereen Roushbaiani in Saving Britney at Theatre@ 41, Monkgate, York

Noughties’ nostalgia of the week: Saving Britney, John Cooper Studio, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, tomorrow (13/2/2022) at 8pm

MILLENNIALS such as Jean grew up with Britney Spears. Saving Britney recounts how the Princess of Pop influenced Jean’s life and how the connections shared between them led to an unbelievable moment of self-discovery.

Inspired by the #FreeBritney movement, Shereen Roushbaiani takes a humorous yet heart-breaking look at celebrity obsession, sexuality and growing up in the early Noughties. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Heal & Harrow’s Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl

Folk concert of the week: Heal & Harrow, National Centre for Early Music, York, Monday, 7.30pm

HEAL & Harrow are folk musicians Rachel Newton, from The Shee, The Furrow Collective and Spell Songs, and Lauren MacColl, of Rant and Salt House.

Working as duo for the first time, they combine newly composed music and accompanying visuals in a tribute to those persecuted in the 16th and 17th century Scottish Witch Trials, 80 per cent of them women.

The project also explores historical beliefs in the supernatural and modern-day parallels, each piece being based on commissioned works by author Mairi Kidd. Box office: 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

Reality check: Corinne Kilvington’s Polly in The Girl In The Machine

Premiere of the week: Theatre Space North-East in Girl In The Machine, John Cooper Studio, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, February 17, 7.30pm

STEF Smith’s ground-breaking play Girl In The Machine explores our unease over digital intrusiveness, then pushes it a step into the future in Jamie Brown’s touring production.

In brief: Owen (Lawrence Neale) and Polly (Corinne Kilvington) are in successful careers and wildly in love, feeling ready to take on the world, but when a mysterious new technology, promising a break from the daily grind, creeps into everyone’s phones, their world is turned upside down.

As the line between physical and digital dissipates, Owen and Polly are forced to question whether their definitions of reality and freedom are the same. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles Salter lines up new band members for Black Swan gig

Meet the new Gang: Miles And The Chain Gang, The Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, February 19, 8pm to 11.30pm

YORK writer, musician and storyteller Miles Salter is back with a new Chain Gang for a headline show at the Black Swan.

“This is the first gig with the new line-up and it’s sounding great,” says Salter, introducing Daniel Bowater on keyboards, Steve Purton on drums, Mat Watt on bass and Mark Hawkins on lead guitar.

Miles And The Chain Gang will be supported by Sarah Louise Boyle, Lee Moore and Monkey Paw. “It’ll be a diverse and fun evening, so do come along,” says Salter. Tickets: at prime4.bandcamp.com/merch/miles or on the door.

Sax Forte: First concert of York Unitarians’ 2022 lunchtime series

Sax to the max: Sax Forte, York Unitarians Friday Lunchtime Concerts, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, March 11, 12.30pm

CELEBRATING their 350th anniversary in 2022, York Unitarians open their 11th season of  Friday lunchtime concerts with the return of York saxophone quartet Sax Forte.

Playing together since 2016, Chris Hayes, Keith Schooling, Jane Parkin and David Badcock all have extensive experience with other quartets, bands and orchestras. They are equally at home playing programmes of serious and light classical music or jazz and swing standards. Tickets cost £6 (cash) on the door.

Gin up: Drag diva Velma Celli hosts Outlaw Live cabaret night with a dash of York Gin

Not just the tonic: Velma Celli and York Gin’s Outlaw Live cabaret night, National Centre for Early Music, York, March 25, 8pm to 10.30pm

YORK drag diva Velma Celli invites you to “celebrate your inner outlaw” at York Gin’s cabaret soiree at the NCEM.

For one night only, glamorous Velma and friends will be celebrating all that’s naughty, villainous and defiantly outrageous about York and its outlaws, from Guy Fawkes to Dick Turpin, with a combination of song, laughter and York Gin.

Tickets are on sale at tickettailor.com/events/yorkgin/590817/ and admission includes a gin cocktail on arrival.

Drag diva Velma Celli is just the tonic as York Gin hosts ‘outrageous’ Outlaw Live cabaret at National Centre for Early Music

Velma Cellli: A night of song, laughter and York Gin

YORK drag diva Velma Celli invites you to “celebrate your inner outlaw” at York Gin’s outrageous cabaret soiree at the National Centre of Early Music, Walmgate, York, on March 25.

“York is a city of outlaws: Guy Fawkes was born here. Dick Turpin was hanged here,” says York Gin Company events coordinator Harri Marshall. “It’s even home to the super-strength York Gin Outlaw, which comes with a warning: ‘Drink, with ice, tonic … and care’.

“Now – for one night only – one of the UK’s ‘baddest’ drag queens will be celebrating all that’s naughty, villainous and defiantly outrageous about York and its outlaws.”

Back home in York from America after a month of shows on Atlantis Gay Cruise ships, Velma Celli promises a night of song, laughter and York Gin as Velma and friends “unleash a riot of glamorous outrage”.

Ingredients for Outlaw Live: Velma Celli + York Gin + Cabaret + NCEM

Tickets are selling fast at tickettailor.com/events/yorkgin/590817/ and admission includes a gin cocktail on arrival.

“If you love drag, gin, and being just a little bit naughty, this one’s for you,” says Velma, the vocal drag creation of West End musical actor Ian Stroughair, 39.

In Velma’s diary too is a March 19 performance of Me And My Divas at York Theatre Royal at 7.30pm and a June 30 performance of A Brief History Of Drag at Pocklington Arts Centre at 8pm. Box office: York, 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; Pocklington, 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Velma Celli marks birthday with Impossible York gig before American cruise ship shows

Velma Celli in the Wonderbar at Impossible York

YORK drag diva supreme Velma Celli is heading off to America for a month of cruise-ship shows, but not before a birthday bash at Impossible York.

Velma, the fabulous cabaret creation of West End musical actor Ian Stroughair, will mark Ian’s birthday on Thursday (13/1/2022) with an 8pm performance of The Velma Celli Show in the Wonderbar.

Then come those cruise-ship engagements for Atlantis Gay Cruises, whose publicity proclaims: “Gonna be FUN! Get on board the biggest event of 2022 for Atlantis’s 30th anniversary! 

“5,500 guys. Superstar performers. Cutting-edge productions. Legendary concerts. Mind-blowing parties. And you! All on the world’s largest and most spectacular ship.

“We’re finally turning 30 with the greatest production in Atlantis history as we sail the best of the Caribbean for the perfect start to 2022.” 

Here, CharlesHutchPress sets Velma/Ian the challenge of firing off quick answers to quick questions in a short break from packing for the travels ahead.

Velma Celli’s new show, God Save The Queens, will be premiered on the Atlantis Gay Cruises

How old will you be on Jan 13?

Twenty-one. It’s a New Year miracle!”

What would be the perfect birthday present?

“World peace.” 

What songs will you be performing at Impossible York?

“It’ll be a mixture of mine and the audience’s favourite from years gone by. A mixture of Whitney [Houston], Amy [Winehouse], Queen, Judy [Garland] and many more. Lots of impressions, banter and general camp fun! Doors at 7pm; show at 8pm.”

What show will you perform on the cruise ships and how often on each cruise?

“I’m performing two shows, A Brief History Of Drag and my new show, God Save The Queens, which is a celebration of British female recording artists. Adele. Annie Lennox. Amy. Dua Lipa. Four shows a week.”

Where will the two cruises sail to? 

“OOOOO, so many places! Miami, Bahamas, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerta Vallarta and many more!”

Have you worked with Atlantis Gay Cruises before? 

“I’m on contract number five. There should have been so many more but bl***y ‘Rona’ entered our lives, didn’t she!”

Any update on plans to present Irreplaceable, your David Bowie show, in York? 

“YES! February 26th at Theatre@41 Monkgate, 8pm, when I’ll be celebrating Bowie and the artists he inspired.”

Velma Celli’s Aladdin Sane sash for Irreplaceable, the Bowie tribute show

What’s coming up for you in York after that?

“Me And My Divas on March 19th on my return to York Theatre Royal, where I sold out A Brief History Of Drag last May. Line-up to be announced, but you can expect ‘an overindulgent diva fest celebrating the songs and behaviour of all your favourite divas: Céline, Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Cher, Britney (maybe not!) and many more.”

Of all those divas in that show – 2021 Best Cabaret winner at the Perth Fringeworld in Australia – who is your favourite vocalist and why? 

“Whitney Houston! Hands down the greatest singer of all time, in my humble opinion.” 

What else is in your diary for 2022?

“SO many more gigs at Impossible York, including my Drag Brunches and solo shows. We’re starting a new evening show called Back To The 80s and another brunch called Matinee Musicals Brunch! Tickets go live soon!” 

What are your hopes for this year? 

“No more ‘Rona’, lots of laughter and PEACE!” 

What are your hopes for the arts world at large this year?

“A thriving community and lots of new writing! We all love a ‘Les Mis’ etc, but ’tis time to shine a light on new writing, artists, creatives and producers. A shout-out to Lambert Jackson Productions, who have been smashing compelling and fantastic new work pre and throughout this pandemic. Proud!”

The Velma Celli Show, Impossible York, St Helen’s Square, York, Thursday, January 13; doors at 7pm; show, 8pm. Box office: ticketweb.uk/event/the-velma-celli-show-impossible-york-tickets/11662445.

Velma Celli: Irreplaceable, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 26, 8pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Velma Celli: Me And My Divas, York Theatre Royal, March 19, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

PS. Ian Stroughair will turn 39 on January 13.

Drag diva Velma Celli to host Yorktoberfest Beer Necessities marquee shows at Kavesmire and Impossible York events

Velma Celli: York drag diva will be hosting Yorktoberfest and Impossible Drag Brunch entertainment in October

YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli is to host the Beer Necessities marquee entertainment at Yorktoberfest, York’s newly expanded beer festival on Knavesmire.

The fabulous cabaret creation of West End musical star Ian Stroughair will be on song on October 21 and October 28 to 31, with two sittings on the Saturday (30/10/2021), but is unavailable for the sessions on October 22 and 23.

Yorktoberfest will follow in the traditions of the first Oktoberfest staged in Munich in 1810, bringing beer, bratwurst and oompah to a giant Bavarian-styled beer tent in the Clocktower Enclosure at York Racecourse, complemented by a vintage funfair.

October 29 and 30 festival sessions have sold out already but tickets are available for other sessions at the new event run by North Yorkshire co-producers Johnny Cooper, chief executive officer of Coopers Marquees, and James Cundall, CEO of Jamboree Entertainment.

Billed as “the UK’s queen of vocal drag”, with diva devotees at New York and Australian clubs, the London Hippodrome and Edinburgh Fringe, Velma Celli will be joined in Yorktoberfest’s entertainment line-up by the New York Brass Band, from…York.

They will be stepping into the de rigueur Lederhosen and Dirndls to take on a new persona as the New York Oompah Brass Band. Expect thigh-slapping, foot-stomping Oktoberfest tunes to be added to their repertoire of feel-good disco classics. 

Dancing will be encouraged, as it has been for more than 200 years of Oktoberfests, aswill be the wearing of Lederhosen, Dirndls or any other fancy dress, with nightly competitions and prizes for the best dressed.

The poster for Velma Celli’s “Halloweenish” show, Equinox, at the Impossible York Wonderbar on October 15

The Bavarian Bar will serve authentic German beer, wines, prosecco and spirits or soft drinks for those who prefer not to “hop”. German-inspired food stalls will serve sausages, schnitzels and pretzels, plus vegan and vegetarian options.

Funfairs are an integral part of German Oktoberfests. Consequently, Yorktoberfest will have its own traditional funfair with thrills on the Dodgems, Twister, Speedway and Chair-o-Plane.

Tickets for Yorktoberfest are on sale through ticketsource.co.uk/yorktoberfest, priced at £15 per person for unreserved seating, a reserved table of six for £90 and a VIP table of six for £135, situated closest to the stage with table service. Please note, a booking fee applies; tickets also will be sold at the entrance, subject to availability.

Co-producer Johnny Cooper says: “We’re looking forward to seeing one of our biggest marquees at 160 metres long, installed on Knavesmire and themed with all things Bavarian, including a stage, bespoke thatched wooden barns, flags galore and generally everything needed for a great night out.”

Co-producer James Cundall adds: “We’re determined to bring events to York that people can enjoy after the long months of Covid restrictions, and with sessions selling out already, it seems there is demand for an autumn cheer-up event. 

“Yorktoberfest promises to be an evening of hearty fun, with beer, bands and bratwurst, not to mention a drag queen.  Dust off the fancy-dress outfits and come along!”

Meanwhile, now roosting back in York since the first lockdown, rather than in his adopted home of London, Velma Celli/Ian Stroughair has a diary filling up with engagements, ranging from the Pelton Arms in London (the pub used for exterior shots in Only Fools And Horses) to the Ian Stroughair Jazz Band’s jazz and blues gigs at Nola, the new York jazz restaurant at the former Rustique in Lendal; next up on October 5.

One for the future in York? Velma Celli in Aladdin Sane make-up for Irreplaceable, Velma’s David Bowie tribute show

After a summer and September on call to fill in for star turn Betty Legs Diamond at Funny Girls shows in Blackpool – where Ian/Velma trained, “watching Betty for 20 years” – Velma will be hosting her regular Impossible Drag Brunch slots at the Impossible York Wonderbar, in St Helen’s Square, on October 2, November 6 and December 4 at 12 noon and 2.30pm each Saturday afternoon, with a Christmas theme to the December shows.

In further Impossible York outings, look out for full-scale solo performances of The Velma Celli Show on October 15, November 19 and with a Christmas flavour on December 17, all at 7.30pm.

The October gig will be a “Halloweenish” version of Velma’s Equinox show, the one with “witches, creeps and freaks”. “I’ll be doing Hocus Pocus, I Put A Spell On You, Radiohead’s Creep, A Thousand Years from Twilight, and plenty more Halloween gore,” says Velma.

Coming up for Ian will be Velma Celli shows on Atlanta Cruises’ ships to Florida and Miami and, hopefully, but yet to be confirmed, a York performance of Ian/Velma’s new tribute show to David Bowie, Irreplaceable, with a three-piece band.

“I’ve only done it in Southampton so far, but I’m looking to do a small-scale performance in York,” says Ian. “I’m meeting York Stage director Nik Briggs – I played Fleshcreep in his York Stage panto, Jack And The Beanstalk, last winter – about the possibility of presenting the show here.”

Tickets for Velma Celli’s Impossible York shows are on sale via  impossibleyork.com/wonderbar

More Things To Do in and around York when not banished to ‘see you later, self-isolator’. List No. 41, courtesy of The Press, York

Rick Astley: Soul favourite’s post-racing show is a definite runner at York Racecourse tomorrow evening

IT ain’t worth a thing if it got that confounded ping, but let’s hope this NHS Covid app hazard does not apply to any of Charles Hutchinson’s suggestions as Step 4 starts to kick in.

Outdoor concerts of the week in York: York Racecourse Music Showcase Weekend, Rick Astley, Friday evening; McFly, Saturday late-afternoon

YORK Racecourse was never gonna give up on Rick Astley performing on a race day, even if the original show had to fall by the wayside last summer. Sure enough, the Newton-le-Willows soul crooner, 55, has been re-booked for tomorrow for a post-racing live set.

McFly: Promising Young Dumb Thrills at York Racecourse on Saturday

After Saturday afternoon’s race card, the re-formed McFly will combine such favourites as All About You, Obviously and 5 Colours In Her Hair with songs from their 2020 return, Young Dumb Thrills, such as Happiness, Tonight Is The Night and You’re Not Special. The County Stand has reached capacity for Saturday already.

Friday’s racing starts at 6pm; Saturday, at 2.05pm. For tickets, go to: yorkracecourse.co.uk.

Rachel Podger: The violinist plays, after self-isolation, for online viewing from the York Early Music Festival. Picture: Theresa Pewal

Online concert home entertainment of the week: Rachel Podger, The Violinist Speaks, York Early Music Festival

WHEN Baroque violinist Rachel Podger fell victim to the dreaded “pingdemic”, she had to forego her July 13 concert performance, condemned to self-isolate instead.

In stepped Florilegium violinist Bojan Cicic to play the very same Bach, Tartini and Biber repertoire at St Lawrence Church, Hull Road, at only three hours’ notice.

Rachel, however, subsequently recorded The Violinist Speaks without an audience at the NCEM for a digital livestream premiere at 7.30pm last Saturday. This online concert is now available on demand until August 13; on sale until August 9 at:  ncem.co.uk/events/rachel-podger-online/ncem.co.uk

Twinnie: Twinning with Velma Celli for tomorrow’s double bill at Impossible York

York’s queen of vocal drag meets York’s country queen: The Velma Celli Show with special guest Twinnie, Impossible York, St Helen’s Square, York, tomorrow, 7pm, doors; show, 8pm

YORK’S international drag diva deluxe, Velma Celli, will be joined by country singer Twinnie at The Velma Celli Show at Impossible York on her return home from recording sessions for her second album in Nashville.

“My mate and fellow Yorky the awesome Twinny is my v. special guest tomorrow night at Impossible – York,” says Velma, the cabaret creation of Ian Stroughair, on Instagram. Like Ian, Twinnie has starred in West End musicals, most notably in Chicago, under her stage name Twinnie-Lee Moore.

Tickets cost £15, £20 for VIP stage seating, at ticketweb.uk.

Michael Lambourne: Fenland storyteller at Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, this weekend

Storytellers of the week: Michael Lambourne and Shona Cowie, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Saturday and Sunday

NOT that long ago a familiar bearded face and booming voice on the York stage before heading south, Michael Lambourne will return north on Saturday to present the 7.30pm premiere of Black Shuck, a “responsive storytelling experience” based on the legend of the Demon Dog of East Anglia.

Penned and performed by Lambourne, Black Shuck is the tale of a hound of unnatural size, an omen of misfortune to those who see its eyes, wherein he explores the enduring effect it has on Fenland folklore in a personal account of how a rural myth can become a chilling part of the present day.

Scottish storyteller and physical performer Shona Cowie will open the evening with her Celtic tale of the dreamer and visionary Bruadarach and then present Beware The Beasts, a show for families (age five upwards), at 2pm on Sunday. 

Shona will provide case studies from leading monster evaders and offer instruction on the most effective ways to avoid being squashed, eaten or turned into a nugget. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/. 

Ralph Fiennes in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, on tour at York Theatre Royal next week

First full-capacity shows at York Theatre Royal since mid-March 2020: Ralph Fiennes in T S Eliot’s Four Quartets, July 26 to 31

YORK Theatre Royal will return to full-capacity audiences with effect from Monday’s performance of T S Eliot’s Four Quarters, performed and directed by Ralph Fiennes.

Good news for those who had missed out on tickets for the most in-demand production of the reopening Love Season when it was first put on sale with social distancing in place. This week’s unlocking of Step 4 frees up the sudden availability of seats aplenty.

Please note, however, the wearing of face coverings will be strongly encouraged; some safety measures will continue too, but not temperature checks on the door.

Wall art: The poster for Miles And The Chain Gang’s first gig in York in 18 months. Picture: Jim Poyner

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles And The Chain Gang, supported by King Courgette, The Fulford Arms, York, July 29, 8pm

AFTER an 18-month hiatus. York band Miles And The Chain Gang will return to the concert platform next week, tooled up with new material.

In the line-up are singer, songwriter, storyteller, published poet and radio presenter Miles Salter, on guitar and vocals, Billy Hickling, drums and percussion, Tim Bruce, bass, and Alan Dawson, lead guitar, augmented for this gig by Fay Donaldson’s flute and saxophone.

The Gang have been working on a debut album, recording with producer Jonny Hooker at Young Thugs Studios in York. Tickets cost £7 at thefulfordarms.co.uk or £8 on the door. 

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s poster for next week’s brace of Gilbert and Sullivan shows

Fundraiser of the week ahead: Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company Does Gilbert And Sullivan, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, HMS Pinafore, July 29, 7.30pm, and July 31, 2.30pm; The Mikado, July 30 and 31, 7.30pm

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, the JoRo’s in-house performing troupe, are producing concert versions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s biggest light opera hits, HMS Pinafore and The Mikado, next week.

The shows will be brimful of popular tunes and brilliant characters, with all profits from this topsy-turvy musical madness going straight back to the Haxby Road community theatre.

Rachel Croft: Cafe concert at Forty Five, with Reap What You Sow EP to follow in September

Music Café society gig of the week ahead: Rachel Croft, Forty Five Vinyl Café, Micklegate, York, July 31, 7.30m

NEXT Saturday at Forty Five, York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft will showcase tomorrow’s release of Reap What You Sow, a cinematic, moody taster for her four-track EP of the same name on September 9.

Exploring a more potent, bluesy style throughout, further tracks will be second single Time Waits For No Man, Roots and Chasing Time.  

Rachel will be supported by Kell Chambers and Evie Barrand. Tickets cost £10 via fortyfiveuk.com/whatson.

The Trials Of Cato: Tomos Williams and Rob Jones with new trio member Polly Bolton, playing Primrose Wood Acoustics in early August

Going down in the woods next month: The Trials Of Cato, Primrose Wood Acoustics, Pocklington, August 5, 7pm

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Trials Of Cato will headline the third Primrose Wood Acoustics session in Pocklington on August 5.

Organised by Pocklington Arts Centre, the outdoor concert series will complete its summer hattrick by popular demand after sold-out sylvan shows on July 1 and 8.

Leamington Spa singer-songwriter Polly Bolton joins co-founders Tomos Williams and Rob Jones for the showcase of imminent second album Gog Magog. Tickets cost £14 on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Pocklington Arts Centre confirms July 21 reopening and first film show in 491 days

Open welcome: Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer looks forward to reopening on July 20

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will reopen to the public on July 20 and film screenings will re-start on July 23, 491 days since the last performance.

Director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy have chosen this date to ensure the safety of customers and volunteers.

“Over the past few months, our main focus has been planning the safe reopening of the building, ensuring all staff are trained appropriately and making sure the venue has all its new systems, resources and processes in place and working well,” says Janet. 

“We have sought feedback from staff, volunteers and customers and this will be vital to the success of this process. Our main aim is to ensure the visitor experience at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) is safe, secure and enjoyable.”

In late-March 2020, the East Yorkshire venue launched a crowdfunding page, raising more than £18,000 in under a month, followed by successful funding applications to the Smile Foundation’s I Am Fund and the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. 

Spiers & Boden: October 20 booking at Pocklington Arts Centre

Janet says: “I would like to thank our customers, in addition to Pocklington Town Council, the Friends of PAC, the Smile Foundation, Arts Council England and the Music Venue Trust for their collective support over the past year. 

“It has been a very difficult time for everyone, but their kind words, financial support and continued interest in all things PAC has meant a great deal and helped carry the venue through these extraordinary times.”

Staff have rescheduled forthcoming events for the autumn and winter, transferring more than 4,000 tickets and refunding customers for 20-plus cancelled events. 

“Throughout the closure period, we have stated our determination to emerge from the situation more vibrant than ever and our autumn and winter programme is a testament to that,” says Janet. 

“2021/22 will see a fantastic range of live events being staged here, alongside our trademark diverse mix of film screenings, live broadcasts, exhibitions, community events and private hires.” 

Velma Celli: York’s queen of vocal drag will make Pocklington debut on December 3. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

In the diary are Grammy Award winner Loudon Wainwright III, September 24; Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) in Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people”, The Importance Of Being Earnest, September 30; North Eastern gypsy folk-rockers Holy Moly & The Crackers, October 16; Oxford singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore, October 7, and Irish jazz/blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan, October 19.

Bellowhead alumni and BBC Radio Folk Award winners Spiers & Boden are booked in for October 20; Red Ladder Theatre Company, from Leeds, in Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s My Voice Was Heard But Was Ignored, for November 25; television and radio broadcaster and author Jeremy Vine, November 26; Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, December 2, and York drag diva deluxe Velma Celli, December 3.

Confirmed for 2022 are An Evening With Julian Norton, from Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, January 18; singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson, January 22;Welsh guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and former Amen Corner cornerstone Andy Fairweather Low, February 11, and Eighties’ pop singer and actress Toyah Willcox, March 3.

PAC’s two open-air acoustic concerts in Primrose Wood, Pocklington, with Martin Simpson and Katie Spencer on July 1 and The Dunwells and Rachel Croft on July 8 will go ahead despite the Government’s Step 4 roadmap delay, but now under social-distancing restrictions. Both 7pm shows have sold out.

Janet says: “We always knew this was a possibility when the shows were first planned and there’s sufficient space for people to enjoy the event safely, while experiencing the atmospheric setting of Primrose Wood.”

Martin Simpson: Headlining at a sold-out Primrose Woods on July 1

PAC increased its online artistic output during the pandemic, staging 18 events to more than 9,000 audience members. 

In addition, a series of outdoor exhibitions has been held by PAC across the region. York artists Sue Clayton and Karen Winship have shown work at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and Sue will be following Karen into Hull Waterside and Marina. Those attending the York Vaccination Centre at Askham Bar can see her Down Syndrome portraits in the Tent of Hope. 

“We felt it was vitally important to have continued customer engagement throughout the prolonged closure period and the public response to these events and exhibitions has been very positive,” says Janet. 

“We’re also very much aware there’s no substitute to watching a live performance, in person, and sharing this experience with fellow audience members. 

“Everyone at PAC is now counting down the days until the doors can reopen and we can welcome customers back. It’s been a very long interval and we can’t wait for the second half to begin.”

For full event listings and ticket details, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

York artist Karen Winship at the launch of her NHS Heroes exhibition at Hull Waterside and Marina

Can’t see the wood for the bricks? Then head to Chalmers & Hutch’s podcast

Ah, but they’re not bricks, as tree-hugger Hutch discovers close up. These wood blocks form part of Karin Van Der Molen’s sculpture, Shield, at the Himalayan Gardens, Grewelthorpe, near Ripon

BE pepped up by the one and only arts club badinage from Two Big Egos In A Small car podcasters Chalmers & Hutch, as they discuss Grewelthorpe’s jewel, the Himalayan Gardens; Velma Celli’s Drag Brunch; Metronomy’s English Riviera landmark; the “Top 20 Most Inspirational Novels”; York’s strange version of The Masked Singer and Cruella & Disney reboots.

Head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/8674205