Wanted! York artists sought for Navigators Art’s Punk/Jazz show, plus musicians and poets for live events in The Basement

Navigators Art’s poster seeking artists for the Punk/Jazz exhibition

YORK community collective Navigators Art & Performance is inviting York artists to submit work for its next show, Punk/Jazz.

“We’ll select the pieces we think work best and they’ll be exhibited in two bar venues in York – one small, the other, average size –from August 16 until October 17, with an official launch night on August 18,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.

Submissions must be made by 9am on Monday, July 17. Full details can be found on Navigators Art’s Facebook and Instagram pages, @navigatorsart, or send an email to navigatorsart@gmail.com.

Maps, Some Heads, by Nick Walters, from Navigators Art’s newly extended Hidden Treasures exhibition at York Explore

Explaining the exhibition theme, Richard says: “Positive vibes or no future? Are Punk and Jazz at odds or two sides of a coin? Both can be controversial, uncompromising, confrontational. Both can be healing.

“The best of each is groundbreaking, seeking to push the limits of what’s possible. The differences are interesting too! How does the music channel your own feelings? Can your art reflect all or some of this?

“The show will be a creative exploration of the two genres, so be imaginative with your response. Whatever your experience in making art, we encourage submissions from all areas of society. No sculptures, installations or screen-based work this time, sorry.”

York Minster floorscape, by Richard Kitchen, from the Hidden Treasures exhibition

A related themed live event at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, on October 14 will complement the exhibition. “We’d like to hear from interested musicians, as well as visual artists for the exhibition, with the same deadline for submissions of 9am next Monday,” says Richard.

Updating on Navigators Art & Performance’s projects in 2023, Richard says: “At present we’re stripping down the Navigators engine and doing a bit of retuning. Our Hidden Treasures exhibition, which ran at York Explore library until July 6 as part of the York Festival  of Ideas, has  now expanded and will extend its run there  to early September.

“The Living Treasures performance event, featuring writers, musicians and performers in  an evening of original music and words at The Basement on June 10, was a big success, leading to us being offered a regular slot there. We’ll be able to do all kinds of music, spoken word and art events there and we’ll soon have some ideas in place.”

Hidden Treasures: Expanded and extended show at York Explore until early September

For this Basement project, Navigators Art & Performance is issuing a call-out to “team-spirited creatives”:  musicians (bands, solo, indie, jazz, punk, folk, world, hip-hop, electronica and more), plus poets/spoken-word performers, dancers and comedians.

“We’ll be organising a series of live events between now and December at The Basement,” says Richard. “We often link themed live events to our art exhibitions, but this is an additional showcase for emerging acts as well as for experienced artists who may want to try out some new material. Of course, you may just love an opportunity to play somewhere!”

Richard continues: “We’ve built a friendly, talented, enterprising team, and there’ll be opportunities for creative collaborations and other activities in the future.

Peter Roman Visualises York-born W H Auden’s Poetry, from the Hidden Treasures exhibition

“These events are like an open mic but with a prearranged line-up and costs to cover. Because of the nature of the occasion and our ethos, we try to keep prices down and affordable to all.

“We aren’t funded so we aren’t employers. We have to ticket events to pay for venue hire and a sound engineer’s fee. Anything over gets split between performers and group funds to subsidise future occasions.”

Outlining the performance strategy for these live events, Richard says: “We want to present original music rather than cover versions or tribute acts, plus new poetry, dance, etc. We’d like the audience to feel they’ve discovered something new and exciting.

Gillygate Deconstruction (detail), by Timothy Morrison, on show at York Explore

“If interested in taking part, please give us a follow and message us @navigatorsart (Facebook and Instagram) or email navigatorsart@gmail.com. Tell us what you do and include a link to a performance of some kind, especially if we don’t know you already. And be sure to list your available Saturdays. We aim to kick things off in late-July and we’ve already had some interest, so don’t delay.”

Looking ahead, Richard says: “We’re planning a live show for the Christmas festive season, inspired by ancient traditions and folklore. Then, looking into 2024, we’ll be taking over York Barbican for an all-day festival, expanding on the Living Treasures show we did for York Festival of Ideas.

“This will feature musicians of all kinds, along with spoken-word artists, comedians and York stallholders, all celebrating aspects of York life and culture in fresh and creative ways.”

Navigators Art & Performance’s billboard for the Living Treasures line-up on June 10

Navigators Art & Performance: the back story

THIS York collective of artists, writers and performers engages in community activities.

A three-month residency at the StreetLife hub in Coney Street featured an exhibition and a live event.

This summer, the collective programmed three events – an exhibition, a live performance and a film screening – for the 2023 York Festival of Ideas.

The collective is keen to mentor young and emerging artists and offers a platform to those who are underrepresented for reasons of social and cultural background or health issues.

Crazy Kate, from a series by Navigators Art artist Katie Lewis, at York Explore

What artists need to do to apply to exhibit in the Punk/Jazz exhibition

SEND high-res images or scans of up to three original works to navigatorsart@gmail.com.

Subject heading: your name, then ‘Punk’ or ‘Jazz’ or ‘Both’.

Give details of:

1. The medium and size of each piece plus its title and price (this doesn’t need to be exact).

2. A bit about yourself as a person and your experiences/achievements in making art.

3. How you relate to the exhibition theme and why Punk or why Jazz? If there is a crossover, explain how and why.

If selected, you must:

1. Transport your own work and instal and take down on the specified dates (times TBC) or arrange an alternative.

2. Commit to sharing promotional activities and responsibilities, such as online posts and physical flyer distribution.

3. Agree to share promo costs and necessary expenses: this should not be more than the price of a few pints each.

No submission fee applies. No commission will be charged on sales.

The venue will take 25 per cent commission, so factor that in when deciding prices.

Navigators Art & Performance will decide on selections by August 1. “If you’re in, we’ll tell you which of your submissions we’ve chosen,” says co-founder Richard Kitchen.

Next Door But One reflect on death and lessons for life in Operation Hummingbird

Next Door But One chief executive officer and artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle directing a rehearsal for Operation Hummingbird

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are taking part in the 2023 TakeOver Festival at York Theatre Royal next week, performing a revival of Operation Hummingbird.

NDB1 premiered artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s one-act two-hander to sold-out audiences in the socially distanced summer of 2021. Now, buoyed by being among 984 arts organisations to be granted National Portfolio (NPO) status by Arts Council England and winning the award for Resilience and Innovation at the 2023 Visit York Tourism Awards, they have launched their new programme.

“It’s quite apt that our first touring production as an NPO is Operation Hummingbird,” says Matt. “‘We’ve spent ten years working hard, dreaming big and forging fruitful partnerships. That’s how we got here. Now we’re looking into the future and are so excited for what the next three years hold. A reflective, hopeful story about looking back and looking ahead feels perfect for now.”

Already this month NDB1 have staged Operation Hummingbird in library performances York Explore, Haxby Explore, Clifton Explore, Tang Hall Explore and Acomb Explore, from May 9 to 12, and now they are heading to the theatre and arts centre circuit. 

Midday and 7pm performances on May 23 and 24 on York Theatre Royal’s main stage will be followed by Pocklington Arts Centre on May 25 and Helmsley Arts Centre on June 2, both at 7.30pm.

David Lomond, back, and James Lewis-Knight in Next Door But One’s 2023 tour of Operation Hummingbird

“I realised it could work as a main-house piece when I watched Pilot Theatre’s Run Rebel, when they had sold only the stalls, but there was something nice about playing a performance to the stalls,” says Matt. “We’ll make it intimate by using only the front half of the stage, working with a new lighting designer, Abi Turner, from London,  who has designed  previously for the Donmar Warehouse.”

Based on his own memoir of living with loss, Matt’s two-hander tells the story of teenager Jimmy, who is dealing with his mum’s terminal diagnosis by diving into computer games. Through this virtual reality, he meets his future self and asks: will everything turn out OK?

“Operation Hummingbird is a humorous and uplifting exploration of grief, loss and noticing just how far you’ve come,” says Matt, whose cast features NDB1 associate artist James Lewis-Knight, returning in the role of Jimmy, and Scarborough actor David Lomond, joining the company for the first time to play James, the future version of Jimmy, 35 more years on the clock.

“For me, the concept is: this play is a really specific look at terminal illness, death and bereavement, but the narrative is universal. If we could fast-forward time and then be able to go back, older and wise, to stop our younger self by passing on advice. We’ve all had those questions that our older selves would like to have been able to give the answer to our younger selves.”

The two-hander format is ideal, suggests Matt. “After Covid, people are wanting shorter shows – this one is only 50 minutes – where you don’t have to travel far to see it and you could even see it at lunchtime if you went to a library performance.

James Lewis-Knight’s Jimmy in a scene from the 2021 premiere of Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s Operation Hummingbird. He returns for the new production

“We’ve brought Operation Hummingbird back after we had brilliant feedback from the first run, when we had only just come out of Covid restrictions and so only small, socially distanced audiences were allowed.

“For the 2023 revival, we decided we’d go to the satellite Explore York libraries we didn’t play before. Now we’ve been able to pick up the project and say, ‘we know it works but what’s the full iteration?’.

“That means also performing it on the Theatre Royal main stage and taking it to Pocklington and Helmsley. It’s actually our first ever show at the Theatre Royal because we’ve never looked into doing one there before, as the heart of our work is taking it to the community, places on people’s doorsteps, such as libraries, community centres and the Camphill Village Trust (with our show The Firework-Maker’s Daughter).”

Matt continues: “It feels like a significant moment of growth for us. We’re known to the communities we engage with, like the Snappy Trust and York Carers Centre, who appreciate our values, and this revival is an introductory chance for us to say, ‘if you don’t know our work, this is what we do’.

“I hope I have turned a story that started from a very personal place into something that we can all relate to,” says writer-director Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“One of the first pieces of feedback we had was someone saying, ‘I can’t believe how much you can tell in a story with so little. We’re the opposite of doing big-scale theatre productions. It’s still a big story, about death and bereavement, and for me, as a director, the main thing has to be the story.

“You could detract from it with a big set and a light show, so we tell a story with three boxes, a few props and two actors and no blackouts of the auditorium. The focus is on the story.”

Matt concludes: “There’s something in this show for everyone. I hope I have turned a story that started from a very personal place – with the sudden death of my mum in 2016 – into something that we can all relate to. I know that audiences in 2021 left entertained and reflective about their own life. I hope we can achieve the same this time, but reach an even bigger audience across the region.”

Tickets for all venues can be booked at www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk. Also: York Theatre Royal, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; Pocklington, 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; Helmsley, 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Tim Murgatroyd to launch silent movie-era novel The Electric with readings, talk on York’s ghost cinemas and Phantom film

The book cover for Tim Murgatroyd’s novel The Electric. Illustration by South Bank architectural artist Elliot Harrison, alias @york.360, who says. “My first book cover, so I’m really pleased it worked out well and totally suited my illustrative style that also matches my other York cinema prints. It was great working with Tim and I wish him success launching this title”

YORK author Tim Murgatroyd is launching his latest novel, The Electric, in a series of events spread over October, starting this evening.

Published by York independent publishers Stairwell Books, this work of historical fiction depicts a young pilot returning from war. Can music, cinema, love – and a curious cat – heal his wounds?

“Each event is very different, with a special focus on the glamorous, lost world of silent cinema,” says Tim, whose writing spans historical novels, a dystopian trilogy and a poetry series, as well as being a former columnist for The Press, York.

Combining romance, tragedy and offbeat comedy, The Electric is set in 1919 when young pilot David Young returns from the First World War, scarred physically and mentally.

A gifted concert violinist, he drifts into a humble job accompanying silent movies at The Electric, a fleapit cinema in provincial York, joining a diverse cast of misfits, each with secrets and tragedies of their own.

A detail from Elliot Harrison’s cover illustration for Tim Murgatroyd’s historical novel The Electric

“These strangers, and a chance meeting, hold the key to regaining his lost hopes as the world of silent cinema meets the glamour of the Downton era in Britain’s most popular tourist city,” reads the publicity blurb.

As part of The Big City Read 2022 collection, Tim’s book will be the subject of an entertaining hour of readings, wine and discussions at York Explore Library and Archive, in Library Square, Museum Street, this evening from 6pm

Tim will explore bringing silent cinema back to life and love, with assistance from award-winning poet Ian Parks. Afterwards, Tim will be hosting drinks in the Eagle & Child on High Petergate.

Tickets are available on the door or by pre-booking at: eventbrite.com/e/book-launch-the-electric-with-tim-murgatroyd-tickets-403289819707?aff=odcleoeventsincollection&keep_tld=1. A Pay What You Can policy offers four options: £0, £2.50, £5 or £7.50.

Pianist Neil Brand: Improvising his piano accompaniment to The Phantom Of The Opera at City Screen Picturehouse on October 28. Picture: Julie Edwards.

On October 26, in An Evening With Tim Murgatroyd at 7pm at Waterstones, in Coney Street, the focus will be on Ghost Cinemas of York: Bringing silent cinemas back to life.

Prepare for surprising facts and stories about the characters and picture palaces of York that brought Hollywood glamour to a city recovering from war. Through images, music and film clips, Tim will show how the ghost cinemas of York haunt us still, and how silent cinema was never really silent at all, as he explores those lost cinemas and their legacy.

In addition, he will explain how he wrote The Electric in an evening led by Dr Rob O’Connor, from York St John University, in association with York Literature Festival.

Tickets are on sale at Waterstones, Coney Street, York or at waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-tim-murgatroyd/york. The £5 admission qualifies buyers for a 20 per cent discount on the book price.

Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in Rupert Julian’s 152-minute silent classic The Phantom Of The Opera, showing at City Screen Picturehouse later this month

The book launch trilogy will culminate in a night of romance, horror and suspense at a gala performance of the silent classic The Phantom Of The Opera (PG), with live improvised piano accompaniment from Neil Brand, at City Screen Picturehouse, Coney Street, on October 28 at 6pm.

Lon Chaney, “the man of a thousand faces”, gives his most famous performance in this first version of the oft-filmed tale, drawn from Gaston Leroux’s novel. Chaney’s Phantom haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, where he falls in love with the voice of a young opera singer (Mary Philbin). Infatuated, he kidnaps her, dragging her to the depths below, where she will sing only for him.

Directed by Rupert Julian, this lavish 1925 production launched the Hollywood Gothic style, one that can be appreciated all the more in the British Film Institute (BFI) Photoplay restoration that carefully reinstates the film’s dramatic colour techniques.

The screening will be preceded by a short Q & A with pianist and broadcaster Neil Brand and author Tim Murgatroyd about music in the silent cinema and its impact on audiences. Please note, a British Sign Language signer will be on hand at the Q & A; the BSL accessible viewing seating will be on the left-hand side of the auditorium.

Tickets can be booked at: picturehouses.com/movie-details/000/HO00012085/the-phantom-of-the-opera-1925-with-neil-brand?date=2022-10-28&cinema=018

Tim Murgatroyd: Author of The Electric

The author

TIM Murgatroyd was brought up in Yorkshire. He read English at Hertford College, Oxford University, and now lives with his family in York. He is the author of several novels of historical fiction, a poetry series and a trilogy of dystopian novels.

The verdict on The Electric

“AN evocative, almost poetic, love letter to 1920s’ York and the silent movie era. Poignant, charming and wryly funny, with a cast of beautifully drawn and unforgettable characters. Not to be missed.” Emma Haughton, author of The Dark.

“Fascinating…the ending was a lovely surprise – romantic but in a completely unexpected way.” Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures.

Did you know?

THE Electric Theatre, on the north-east side of Fossgate, was the first purpose-built cinema in York, opening in 1911 and later being renamed the Scala, closing in 1957. Converted into a furnishings store, Macdonalds, that shut in early 2016. Since 2017, it has housed the Cosy Club York bar and restaurant.

Imagine if you could go back to talk to your younger self… Matt Harper-Hardcastle does in his new play Operation Hummingbird

James Lewis Knight, left, as Jimmy and Matt Stradling as James in Operation Hummingbird. Picture: James Drury

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are teaming up with Explore York for a library tour of Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s Operation Hummingbird from Thursday.

James Lewis Knight will play Jimmy and Matt Stradling, James, in a one-act two-hander that takes the form of a conversation across the decades about a sudden family death, realising an opportunity that we all wish we could do at some point in our life: to go back to talk to our younger self.

Death, dying and bereavement have been prevalent factors in Next Door But One’s artistic programme for many years now, led by artistic director Matt’s own loss in 2016.

“When my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my whole family turned to what they did best: some looking after all the paperwork, others the planning of appointments and medication, while I turned to what I knew, telling stories,” he says.

“From keeping a blog up to date so that friends and family were in the loop of what was going on, to telling stories of my mum to keep her memory alive”. 

This quickly transferred to the stage in 2016 when Next Door But One produced Matt’s autobiographical play about his relationship with his mum, Any Mother Would. “The reaction to this relatively low-key performance was quite remarkable, with audiences saying they wished they had the space and tools to share memories and process their own grief in this way,” he recalls.

This set in motion a core strand of activity for Next Door But One, who ran a series of creative Death Cafés; hosted Playback Theatre performances for people to share stories of loved ones who had died; ran art and bereavement workshops for carers and produced Laura Wade’s Colder Than Here as part of York’s Dead Good Festival 2019.

Alongside this, Matt’s original blog was published as a book by The Writing Tree under the title of The Day The Alien Came. In response to this memoir of his mother’s death and his experience of living with loss, “people were then asking, ‘do you think your book will ever become a play?’,” he says.

“We’re not good at talking about death, even though deep down we know we need to,” says Operation Hummingbird writer-director Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“I didn’t feel I could make it into a play but wanted to create something from the book’s themes and the parallels between the different experiences that have been shared with Next Door But One over the years”.

The result is Operation Hummingbird, to be performed on August 5 at New Earswick Folk Hall at 3.30pm and Dringhouses Library at 7pm and on August 12 at York Explore, 2pm, and Hungate Reading Café, 7pm. Seating will be limited to ensure Covid safety.

The mini-tour will finish in September with a closed performance, hosted by The Gillygate pub, in Gillygate, specifically for members of York Carers Centre, who have recent experiences of loss. Tickets are on sale at: nextdoorbutone.co.uk/Operation-Hummingbird.php

Commenting on the partnership with Explore York, creative producer El Stannage says: “We felt it made sense to partner with Explore on this production, as not only is the play connected to a story and a book, but after 18 months we have all experienced different losses through the pandemic.

“This way we are able to connect with audiences to the north, south and centre of York, providing them with a heartfelt portrayal of an experience we hope they can relate to.”

Next Door But One are not only excited to be taking their work out into the community once more, but also buoyed by taking up resident status at The Gillygate after re-launching live performances in Step 2 lockdown-eased York with Yorkshire Trios in the new outdoor theatre space in Brian Furey’s pub garden on April 23 and 24.

“We now have a home, a place to create and rehearse in the heart of the city, and with the support of The Gillygate, and their shared ethos of community engagement, our potential is rapidly expanding,” says Matt.

James Lewis Knight ‘s James playing on a games console in Operation Hummingbird. Picture: James Drury

Ahead of Thursday’s opening performance, Matt answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on play titles, dealing with death, talking to our younger selves, Hamlet versus King Lear, working with Explore York and taking up a residency at The Gillygate.

What is the significance of the title Operation Hummingbird, Matt?

“The title alludes to the central character’s childhood coping mechanism for dealing with his mother’s terminal diagnosis; rather than trying to grapple with medical terminology he draws parallels to battles he is more familiar with, like those on his games console.

“The hummingbird is a reference to who the character’s mum hopes she can become ‘afterwards’. So together, ‘Operation Hummingbird’ is the character’s fight to save his mum, which turns into his journey of living with loss.”

Death is a difficult subject to discuss; for some it is still taboo. Yet facing up to your mother’s death instead has awoken the need for you to contemplate grief in myriad ways. What has been the impact of all that creativity, both on others and on yourself?

“Well, it’s been a real snowball effect. We’re not good at talking about death, even though deep down we know we need to. Many people just need an opportunity presented to them that feels safe and more recognisable.

“People came to watch Any Mother Would and wanted to write their own stories, which led to us running the Death Cafés and Playback Theatre on loss, which gained momentum and put us at the heart of York’s Dead Good Fest 2019.

“The experience of grief can be a very lonely and isolating one and the main impact we’ve seen from participants and audiences is reassurance that their feelings are valid and shared by others.

Shining a light as Matt Stradling’s James talks to his younger self in Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s Operation Hummingbird. Picture: James Drury

“For me personally, I thought I would be completely consumed by the grief of my mam’s death, but through creativity, I’ve been able to own it and take control over how it manifests itself in my life. So, strength is the impact it’s had on me.” 

Given how widely you have addressed this theme already, what new elements are you looking to bring out in Operation Hummingbird?

“In writing the play, even though I’ve leaned into themes and emotions I’ve experienced myself, it’s been really important to weave in all the stories of death, dying and bereavement that have been shared with us over the years so that they are represented as the collective they’ve become.

“In terms of how Operation Hummingbird complements our existing repertoire on this topic…we’ve had the celebration of a life lived (Any Mother Would), the reaction to a terminal diagnosis (Colder Than Here) and now we are looking at the long-term impact of bereavement and the role it plays in shaping our identity as we age (Operation Hummingbird).

“So, quite serendipitously, we’ve ended up with almost a trilogy of death, dying and bereavement spanning from 2016 to the current day.”

Knowing that we can’t go back to talk to our younger selves, but wish we could, why do we wish it? Some would see it as a futile exercise, but here you are devoting a play to that theme. For what reason? Are you addressing other selves who are still young?

“It’s actually the futility you mention that is central to the narrative; often we wish we could fast forward grief, that someone could give us an end date, or that someone has all the answers on how we ‘get over it’. When, in reality, the only way to deal with grief is to live through it, to feel every emotion, to articulate what’s going on and find a way to live alongside it.

“I guess that’s the take-away message of the play. Even when presented with this unachievable opportunity, our older character struggles with how much to tell his younger self for fear of changing the person he becomes.” 

James Lewis Knight, left, and Matt Stradling in a scene from Operation Hummingbird, whose Explore York library tour opens on Thursday. Picture: James Drury

How did you settle on the play’s structure of a conversation across the decades (about a sudden family death)?

“As you said before, we can’t actually have this conversation between younger and older self, so there’s something really freeing as a writer to set a play in this liminal, non-attainable space where the usual rules of time and conversation can be blurred.

“I’ve always found inspiration in Emily Dickinson’s ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’; the cold hard truth given to us directly can make us disengage, but set reality on a fictional foundation and look at it through a creative lens and it becomes easier to digest. Meaning that something classed as ‘taboo’ can be moved closer toward, rather than running away from.”

In Operation Hummingbird, you ask: “Does our grief age as we do?”. As I grow older, King Lear is becoming more significant to me than Hamlet, and yet Ian McKellen is playing Hamlet at 82, having already played Lear. Interesting! Discuss!

“Very interesting! Maybe it’s just because I’m in the throes of Operation Hummingbird, but maybe casting McKellen as Hamlet is to show the power that grief and loss can hold over us at any age?

“I wonder what the interpretation of a 28-year-old Lear would be? Discuss!” 

How long will the show be?

“The play is 45 minutes in length. I think lockdown has solidified my preference for a one-act play.”

Next Door But One’s playbill for Operation Hummingbird

What is the significance of linking up with Explore York for this library tour?

“There are three key reasons. Firstly, we wanted to bring live theatre closer to people, especially in light of Covid. So, having performances to the north and south of the city, as well as centrally, should hopefully give a space for everyone.

“Secondly, libraries are buildings that exist to house stories, so why not make a live one happen there too.

“Thirdly, some slight inspiration from my late mam. She was a librarian in west Cumbria and saw the building as central to the community. It’s where people connect with others, learn skills, tap into new interests, seek help, understand the area they live in, and that’s true to the ethos of Next Door But One’s work, so it seemed like the perfect partnership.” 

The Gillygate’s Brian Furey is a good friend to the arts, whether putting on Alexander Wright’s shows, both indoors and in a tent, or your York Trios shows. How did you cement the relationship to become the company in residence? What benefits will it bring to Next Door But One?

“There’s a genuine generosity that The Gillygate has to its staff and community that we admire. Little did we know that the Fureys were also admiring the same qualities in us when supporting Yorkshire Trios.

“The residency was cemented by us both discussing the fundamentals of what we were trying to achieve and realising that it was the same; we want to bring members of the community together to enjoy and benefit from a shared experience.

“So, in its simplest form, ‘two heads (or companies) are better than one’ when there’s a shared goal. As a company it now means that we have a home; we have office, rehearsal and performance space, giving us more autonomy over our programming.

“But above all, partnering with The Gillygate means we have a real community champion in our corner and that’s invaluable.”  

Artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle at the door to Next Door But One’s new home at The Gillygate pub in Gillygate, York

Explore York libraries, archives and reading cafes reopen this week after Lockdown 2

EXPLORE York libraries, archives and reading cafés will re-open for browsing and drop-ins from this week post-Lockdown 2.

The reading cafés at Hungate and Rowntree Park will resume eating-in and takeaway service from today (2/12/2020). On Friday (4/12/2020), all libraries will re-open for drop-ins, browsing and computer and printer use.

The Archives at York Explore will be open for pre-booked appointments from Friday; reading cafés at York Explore, Acomb and Tang Hall will open from that day too. 

Full information can be found at https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/were-back/

Explore York continues to provide a range of online Library At Home services:

* Online events and activities programme for people of all ages at: https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/digital/events-and-activities-this-autumn-and-winter/

* Free E-books and E-Audiobooks to borrow at: https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/digital/e-books

* Free newspapers and magazines via Press Reader at:  https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/digital/e-magazines/

Open and shut case of what will happen to York’s Explore libraries in Lockdown 2

Read on….

YORK libraries will stay open for essential services in Lockdown 2, when the Explore York Libraries and Archives services will include free PC and internet access and click-and-collect books.

In a statement released today, Explore York said: “Explore’s libraries are an essential service for the people of York. They are essential for keeping people connected through free access to PCs and the internet.

“And they provide essential and significant support for everyone’s health and wellbeing too with free books, newspapers and online events to keep people of all ages entertained and informed during these challenging times.

“Therefore, Explore’s chief executive, Fiona Williams, is happy to confirm that she will be keeping some libraries open during the second national lockdown starting on November 5.”

Explore centres at York, Tang Hall and Acomb will be open from Tuesday to Saturday, starting from November 10, for pre-booked appointments with access to PCs and printers and pre-ordered books for collection. Explore’s cafes at Rowntree Park and Hungate will be open for takeaway service only.

All books due back during lockdown will be renewed automatically; likewise that will apply to all items on loan, so you do not have to worry about overdue charges.

To join the library online, visit https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/getting-a-library-card-or-yorkcard/ or send an email to contact@exploreyork.org.uk

All libraries will be closed from November 5 to 10 to prepare for the changes.

The full story brought to book:

Libraries open: Explore centres at Acomb, Tang Hall and York will be open for appointments only from Tuesday, November 10. All other libraries are closed. Be aware, there will be no drop-in or browsing at any library.

Opening hours at Acomb, Tang Hall and York will be Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Books can be pre-ordered for collection from Acomb, Tang Hall and York libraries. 

You can reserve books from the Explore catalogue as usual and the library will contact you when they are ready to collect. 

Or you can choose a Lucky Dip: complete the form for children or the form for adults and Explore will pick some books based on your preferences.

Computers and printing will be available at Acomb, Tang Hall and York libraries. Bookings will be for one hour only and must be made in advance, either online or by phone to the library you want to use.


Explore has a full programme of online live events and activities planned for November to keep adults and children entertained and informed 


Books, audiobooks, newspapers and magazines are all free to borrow and available 24/7.

Library at Home:

Explore has gathered together a treasury of online links and information for children and families about reading, culture and creativity and archives and local history and to support health and wellbeing.

The Enquiries service will be operating as normal during office hours.

Home Library:

A doorstep delivery service will continue for vulnerable and housebound Home Library Service customers.

The Toy Library will be suspended during the lockdown period.


The Archives Reading Room will be closed from November 5 in line with archives services nationally. 

Reading Cafes:

The reading cafes at Rowntree Park and Hungate will be open during the lockdown, operating a takeaway service. Reading cafes at York, Acomb and Tang Hall will be closed. 

All these changes will be operational from November 5. 

Wanted! Your poems and doodles for Explore York’s record of this strange year

Stephen Lee Hodgkins: Self-styled “chronic doodler” and community printmaker

OCTOBER 1 is National Poetry Day and the word is: Explore York Libraries and Archives will mark it “in a very special way”.

Explore is launching a project to help everyone to make sense of this very strange year by asking you to send in poems and drawings that will create “a lasting record of what has happened in our lives”.

The project, World Turned Upside Down 2020 #haiflu edition, takes inspiration from spoken-word artist Liv Torc’s pandemic poetry initiative, Project Haiflu, and community artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins’ interest in York’s printing heritage.

Explore is asking you to send two haiku or #haiflu poems on the topic of No News and Strange News but with a flavour of lockdown. If you prefer to portray your thoughts and feelings visually, you can send in a doodle or cartoon instead.

Throughout October and November, Explore will be hosting free online haiku workshops with poets Janet Dean and Penny Boxall and doodle workshops with Stephen Lee Hodgkins.

The first two workshops will be on National Poetry Day itself. At the beginning of November, Project Haiflu originator Liv Torc will present an exclusive online talk and poetry show, Haiflu Ever After.

After the November 30 deadline for submissions, 20 pairs of #haiflu and 20 doodles that reflect York’s Coronavirus experience will be chosen for inclusion in a book. Hodgkins will create a 20-page limited-edition chapbook printed in the traditional way on handmade paper.

Each contributor to the final piece will receive a copy; every library in York will be given one too, and a copy will be lodged in the Explore York archive, alongside the original World Turned Upside Down Chapbook from 1820.

You can find full details and more information on how to take part in the project on Explore’s website, www.exploreyork.org.uk, and book the workshops on their Eventbrite page.

In addition, Explore has made a short film about the project, to be posted on their YouTube channel at 11am on National Poetry Day.

Spoken-word artist and slam champ Liv Torc

What is Project Haiflu?

AT the beginning of lockdown in March, spoken-word artist Liv Torc posted on Facebook to ask how her friends were feeling when life-as-they-knew-it stopped.

She wanted them to tell her what they had noticed, either in haiku form – a three-line poem with five, seven and five syllables and no rhyming – or by posting a photograph.

She brought words, pictures and music together in a weekly film and Project Haiflu came into being. Liv made 12 weekly films, one overall 45-minute project film and an extra film based on contributions for public libraries.

The films contain more than 600 contributions from 250 people. Around 30,000 people have watched them so far; you can do likewise and discover more about the project on Liv’s website: https://www.livtorc.co.uk/.

What is The World Turned Upside Down, or No News, and Strange News?

DURING lockdown, community artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins was experimenting with an old Adana 8×5 tabletop letterpress printing machine. When searching for old instruction manuals, he came across the work of York printer James Kendrew, of 23 Colliergate, who had produced a series of chapbooks in the 1800s.

These chapbooks, or “cheapbooks”, were small, roughly printed booklets adorned with intricate woodcut illustrations. Chapbooks kept alive folklore, nursery rhymes, fairy tales and school lessons and were sold by travelling merchants across town and country. 

The World Turned Upside Down, or No News, and Strange News is an example of nonsense rhymes and riddles produced in 1820 that gives an insight, through a quirky lens, to life 200 years ago. Copies can be found in the archives at York Explore.

The Artists:

Liv Torc

SPOKEN-WORD artist, published poet and producer who “plunges the vast caverns and dormant volcanoes of the human and planetary condition”.

This former Bard of Exeter and now co-host of the Hip Yak Poetry Shack runs the spoken-word stage at the WOMAD festival, Project Haiflu and the Hip Yak Poetry School. 

In 2019, her poem about climate change in the face of motherhood, The Human Emergency, went viral, being seen by 80,000 people. She performed at Glastonbury Festival on the Poetry and Words stage and represented Somerset for the BBC’s National Poetry Day celebrations.

In 2020, she was chosen as one of four Siren Poets by Cape Farewell for a commission on climate change in the time of Covid-19 and wrote and filmed a poem for the BBC’s Make A Difference campaign.

Penny Boxall: Poet and Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of York

Penny Boxall

HER debut poetry collection, Ship Of The Line, won the 2016 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. Second collection Who Goes There? was published in 2018.

Penny has won a Northern Writers’ Award and the Mslexia/PBS Poetry Competition. She is a Hawthornden Fellow and has held residencies at Gladstone’s Library and the Chateau de Lavigny.

She has taught poetry on the MA course at Oxford Brookes University and in 2019 was Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford. She is Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of York.

Janet Dean

HER poetry has been shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, commended in the Stanza Poetry Competition and featured in the Northern Poetry Library’s 50th anniversary Poem of the North.

Her work appears in anthologies and magazines published by Valley Press, Paper Swans, Templar and Strix. As Janet Dean Knight, her first novel The Peacemaker was published in 2019 and her second novel in progress was shortlisted for the New Writing North Sid Chaplin Award.

Stephen Lee Hodgkins

THIS “chronic doodler” and community printmaker has an interest in people’s voices, texts and their experiences of places and spaces.

He is a self-taught community artist and visual thinker with a positive attitude, people and research skills, creative energy and a commitment to inclusion and human rights. He has experience aplenty of working with community organisations, applying an arts-based approach. 

He left school with no qualifications and later received the labels of dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit. Reflecting on these tags now, his preference is for the term “neurodiverse”, and he has learnt to embrace and harness his diverse language use and organisational approach to the world.

Returning to university as a mature student, in 2008 he completed a PhD in Social Psychology. An abridged version of his thesis was published as a chapter in an international text in 2009, Disabilities: Insights From Across Fields and Around The World. 

Book now! All Explore libraries, reading rooms and cafes will be open next week

Time to Explore: The message is loud and clear…Explore Libraries and cafes are reopening

ALL Explore libraries and cafes in York will be open from next week.

Larger Explore centres reopened in July, now to be joined by smaller libraries, enabling customers to drop-in to browse the books for the first time since March. Opening times will vary, with shorter than normal hours at some places and all libraries closing by 5pm.

The Reading Cafes at York Explore, Acomb and Tang Hall libraries will re-open too and books can be borrowed once more at the cafes in Rowntree Park and the new Hungate site.

The Local and Family History rooms at York Explore will be open, but anyone wanting to use them will need to book ahead, in order that safe social distancing can be maintained. The Archives reading room will re-open from October for pre-booked visits.

Stories this way: A welcome sign of better times ahead

In-person events are not yet possible but Explore has planned a programme of virtual events for Autumn 2020, so look out for further announcements or follow Explore on social media for the latest information. In addition, thousands of newspapers and magazines are available online through the PressReader app.

Fiona Williams, Explore’s chief executive, says: “We are so happy to be able to welcome everyone back. I was heartbroken when we had to close our libraries in March because of the pandemic. Throughout the closure, we supported people through our online library and website and kept in touch with our users.

“We began to plan reopening as soon as it was possible and we were so pleased to reopen partially at the beginning of July. We received so many lovely comments from our users who missed us and we are still running the Missed My Library survey, so please do go to our website to complete it and let us know what you missed the most.”

Explore cafes are back in business

Explore has planned carefully for the reopening, taking into account the safety of both staff and the public. “We have trained staff and risk assessed our buildings, designing in social distancing,” says Fiona.

“The first reopening stage has been very successful and we are now able to extend that from the beginning of September when all libraries will be open for browsing and borrowing, but with shorter than normal hours.  Please see our website, exploreyork.org.uk, for full details of each library.  We look forward to seeing you soon.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for Culture, Leisure and Communities at City of York Council, says: “Explore have provided tremendous support to York’s communities throughout the pandemic and I’m delighted to see this next phase of carefully considered and safe reopening.

“Whether you’re a regular visitor or have never popped in, I urge everyone to take this wider reopening as an opportunity to enjoy and explore the brilliant range of services on offer at your local library.”

York Explore Library and Archive

Did you know?

IN 2019, Explore York Libraries and Archives had more than one million visitors, held 1,466 events, told 1,734 stories to children and loaned more than 2,000 books every day.

Holding more than 850 years of civic records, the City Archives are the most complete outside London.

Explore was born in 2014 as a community benefit society with charitable status, owned by its staff and community members, and recognised nationally for its innovative approach. In 2019, Explore won a 15-year contract to deliver libraries and archives for City of York Council.

Bookings for books in new chapter for Explore York when libraries re-open in July

York Explore: Library and archive re-opening from July 7 on a pre-booked basis only

EXPLORE York libraries and reading cafés are preparing to re-open from July 6.

The libraries at York Central, Acomb, Clifton and Tang Hall will open from July 7, but on a pre-booked basis only.

The Mobile Library will be back too, but the rest of the smaller Gateway libraries will remain closed during this first stage. 

Opening hours at the libraries will be from 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday. For mobile stops and café opening times, visit exploreyork.org.uk/ for more information. 

Explore’s new reading café in Hungate will open for the first time on July 7, preceded by the cafés at Rowntree Park and Homestead Park on July 6. All will be serving drinks and snacks to take away and enjoy outside.

“All our venues will have safety measures in place to protect customers and staff,” says Explore York’s statement.

“We can’t wait to welcome people back to our physical buildings. We will be operating a little differently for a while though. Some libraries will be open; books will be available using a click-and-collect system; computer and printer use will be by appointment only and opening hours will be shorter.” 

Borrowing books using click and collect is simple, Explore York advises, saying books can be collected from Acomb, Clifton, York, Tang Hall and the Mobile Library. 

Step one: Reserve your books in the usual way, using the online catalogue or, from July 7, by phoning or emailing your nearest open library. Alternatively, fill in one of the Lucky Dip online forms for adults or children, whereupon Explore will choose up to 15 books based on your taste and preferences.

Step two: When your books are ready, Explore will ring you and arrange a time for you to collect them. 

Books also may be returned by pre-booked appointment. Explore is happy to accept returns and all loans have been renewed until September 30.

Computers and printing will be available for pre-booked slots. You can book online or contact your nearest open library by phone or email after July 7.

“Explore customers now have even more choices than before because, while we were closed, we took the chance to enrich and expand what we offer online,” the statement concludes. “As lockdown is lifted, we encourage everyone to carry on using these online services as well as coming into libraries.” 

For more information, go to exploreyork.org.uk/were-back/.

Misbehaviour encouraged in Hungate Clearances show at York library tonight

Not sorry to be a nuisance at York Explore tonight

WHISPER it loudly, the word is out that history will misbehave tonight at York Explore Library, Library Square, York, from 7.30pm to 9pm.

Why? Because the air will be thick with Paul Birch’s live audio drama The Nuisance Inspector, wherein a sinister slice of York’s past, the Hungate Clearances, will be re-told.

Birch travels back to the 1930s when York’s newest Health Inspector encounters more than he bargains for in the mysterious and extraordinary alleys and yards of Hungate.

A strange body in the Foss, ghostly goings-on in Carmelite Street and an unlikely romance all feature in this moving tale of love, loss and community spirit.

Based on real events and inspired by letters, maps, books and photographs from the civic archives, The Nuisance Inspector uses drama, comedy and live music to transport the audience into a powerful and poignant past.

Tonight’s immersive performance comes in the wake of two sold-out shows in December. Doors open at 7pm for the 7.30pm start and tickets are FREE. Be sure to arrive in good time for start.