York Open Studios artist Nduka Omeife to take part in York Cultural Awareness Week

York Open Studios artist Nduka Omeife: Playing his part in York Cultural Awareness Week

YORK Open Studios 2023 artist Nduka Omeife will give a demonstration of his working practices tomorrow (25/4/2023) afternoon at the York Cultural Awareness Week, run by York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals.

Nigerian watercolour artist Nduka, whose wife is a nurse at York Hospital, will be taking part in the African/Caribbean Day, held in the MEC Classroom 1 and 2 on the Fifth Floor.

Nduka, who moved to York 18 months ago, exhibited his portraits, figures, street scenes and studies of still life and nature in Baker Street, Clifton, in his York Open Studios debut over the past two weekend. His latest work finds him embracing York’s architecture and cyclists.

One of Nduka Omeife’s watercolours from his York Open Studios portfolio

Nduka is a first class honours graduate in graphic design from the University of Benin, Nigeria. A Nigerian Breweries scholar, he has worked in various organisations as a graphic artist, head of creative and brand alignment officer, his last Nigerian post being as the creative head of one of the African country’s largest banks. 

A prolific painter, whose work explores wet-on-wet and dry approaches to watercolour painting, his official engagements have not deterred him from his love of painting. He owns a gallery and has many art collections. 

York Cultural Awareness Week runs from today until Saturday. Highlights include A Family Day Out in Bootham Park from 10am to 3pm on Saturday. The festival’s cultural focus will fall on Africa and the Caribbean; Great Britain, Europe and America; the Philippines, and Asia, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

‘I’ve got the NHS bug,’ says York artist Karen Winship as she starts new series after Askham Bar vax centre show launch

Not Just A Vaccine: Karen Winship’s commissioned painting of Nimbuscare staff at York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar

YORK artist Karen Winship honours NHS staff in her new commission, Not Just A Vaccine, on show in the “Tent of Hope” at York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar.

Karen’s acrylic-on-canvas work features ten staff from the Nimbuscare team at the vaccination site, where her NHS Heroes exhibition will greet visitors until the end of summer as they wait for their jabs and rest afterwards.

Not Just A Vaccine was commissioned by exhibition promoters Pocklington Arts Centre, ahead of Winship’s poignant portraits of frontline NHS workers taking up temporary residence in York after earlier pop-up displays on the railings of All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and at Hull Waterside and Marina.

“I was approached to do the new painting when I was doing the publicity for the Hull Marina show in April/May time,” says Karen. “I took photographs of staff, and there are ten portraits within the painting, so it took time to arrange and to get the composition right. It needed 40 to 50 hours, which is unusual for me, as normally I ‘slap them out’ and they’re done!”

Michelle Philips, director of quality and patient experience (Nimbuscare), left; Dr Nick Bennett; Zoe Spowage, St John’s Ambulance first aider; Karen Winship, artist; Sam Chapter, security, and Melanie Carter, lead nurse, (Nimbuscare) stand in front of Karen’s specially commissioned artwork.

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) director Janet Farmer says: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been making art accessible for all by taking two exhibitions by two fantastic York artists, Karen Winship and Sue Clayton, on tour to various locations in the region.

“When the opportunity to take NHS Heroes to the York Vaccination Centre arose, we couldn’t think of a more fitting location for these stunning portraits that have been created by a very talented artist.

“We hope they brighten up the space while honouring all those who have worked so hard at this challenging time.”

Karen says: “It has just been incredible to have been able to have my work toured across the region and seen by so many people thanks to PAC, and now it is in such a fitting, poignant location.

“The specially commissioned piece really finishes the collection off nicely and is a timely and relevant tribute to the team at the York Vaccination Centre, as well as to all NHS staff who have worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic.

Michelle Philips, director of quality and patient experience (Nimbuscare), left, artist Karen Winship and Sara Morton, of Pocklington Arts Centre, at the launch of Karen’s NHS Heroes exhibition at York’s Vaccination Centre

“There’s still much work to be done and I hope my portraits bring some joy into the working day of the Nimbuscare team, as well the hundreds of daily visitors to the site.”

Around 1,500 people pass through the “Tent of Hope” at the Askham Bar NHS Vaccination Centre, where 3,000 visitors file through the site at its busiest times.

Michelle Philips, Nimbuscare’s director of quality and patient experience, says: “Showcasing art within the ‘Tent of Hope’ brightens up everyone’s visit to the vaccination centre and we’re so grateful to have yet another fantastic collection from the very talented Karen Winship. We’re delighted with the special piece of art she has done for us which will be treasured by us all.”

Karen started her career in graphic design before gaining her teaching degree and going on to work in a maximum-security prison as head of art. She paints mainly in acrylics, always looking for the narrative within an image, and that narrative at present revolves around the NHS.

Karen Winship’s acrylic portrait of her daughter Kelly, an occupational therapist at York Hospital, from the NHS Heroes exhibition

“I’ve got the NHS bug, so I just seem to be obsessed, or maybe ‘upset’ is the better word for how I feel about the way the NHS is being overrun at the moment, and staff are just not being cared for,” she says.

“You can see how stretched they are, because so many staff are off with Covid or they’ve been ‘pinged’, which means they’re even more down on numbers. They’ve had to deal with the Covid pandemic and they’re tyring to catch up with everything else, so I’m now doing a series showing the exhaustion of the paramedics, doctors and nurses.

“I’ve done three so far. I’ve got a source close at hand because my eldest daughter Kelly [who features in the original NHS Heroes portraits] is an occupational therapist at York Hospital.”

Karen has further sources of inspiration for her subject matter. “My ex-husband husband, Kevin, is a paramedic and my father – who’s no longer with us – was a paramedic. I use references such as Kevin’s uniform for stock images,” she says.

Constant And Great, from Karen Winship’s ongoing new series of NHS paintings

Among the new series is the tribute piece Constant And Great. “I’ve taken an image of the statue of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, outside York Minster, and adapted it for the painting, where the figure still looks like him but now he has logos of key workers.

“He still has his cape but now it’s more of a hero cape, and he has a pair of trainers, thrown off by his bare feet. He has a nurse’s uniform and a stethoscope around his neck, and he’s now holding a staff of life, rather than a sword, in one hand, and a mask in the fingers of his other hand.”

Karen is “not sure what’s going to happen next with the series”, but says: “It would make sense, as it’s all about the NHS, to have the paintings put on show at York Hospital, but I already have my series of dementia paintings there, so I don’t really know what the plans are.

“Hopefully, I’ll get them shown at City Screen and I’ll approach York Art Gallery, as they’ve both shown my NHS Heroes portraits.

“These paintings are bursting out of me right now. I think one of the dementia paintings has been taken down at the hospital for being ‘too depressing’, but that’s what we’re going through. These are troubled times.”

Karen Winship’s self-portrait as she worked on her NHS Heroes painting of daughter Kelly

Red light for Blue Light Theatre Company’s 2021 pantomime after Covid call-off

The Blue Light Theatre Company cast for Oh! What A Circus at Acomb Working Men’s Club in January 2021

THE Blue Light Theatre Company are now the ‘red light’ company after stopping their upcoming winter pantomime in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

In an official statement, the York performers explain: “Due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19, we regret that we are unable to bring you our annual pantomime in January 2021. We have not taken this decision lightly but the safety of our cast and audience must be our main concern.

“However, we do plan to return later in 2021/2022 with more great performances while raising money for our chosen charities. We would like to thank you all for your continued support. Stay safe and well and we look forward to seeing you next year.”

Regular writer and co-producer Perri Ann Barley is keeping the show’s title under wraps until Blue Light resume pantomime business, hopeful of being given the green light for performances at Acomb Working Men’s Club in January 2022.

Company member Mark Friend adds: “We’re also hoping to perform a play in Summer 2021, but no decision has been made yet as to what due to the uncertainty that lies before us.”

Blue Light Theatre Company are so named on account of being made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers and York Hospital staff, as well as members of York’s theatre scene.

Last January, they presented Oh! What A Circus, a show replete with fairy-tale characters such as Pinocchio, Geppetto, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Tinkerbell and Hansel and Gretel, in aid of York Against Cancer and Motor Neurone Disease (York).

Grand Opera House donates £8,765 in bucket collections to York Hospital charity

Customer experience manager Lauren Atkins, left, deputy customer experience manager Laura Castle, ticketing and sales manager Beth Scott and York Teaching Hospital Charity community fundraiser Joe Fenton with the Grand Opera House bucket collection cheque in the York theatre’s auditorium.  Picture: David Harrison

THE Grand Opera House, York, is to donate £8,765 to the York Teaching Hospital Charity from bucket collections held at performances in 2019.

The donation will go towards “helping to fund the extras to improve healthcare facilities above and beyond the NHS making patients feel better”. 

Joe Fenton, the hospital charity’s community fundraiser, said: “We’d like to say a huge thank-you to the Grand Opera House and to everyone who generously donated at the bucket collections held across 2019.

“The incredible amount that has been raised is truly inspiring and will go a long way in improving the staff and patient experience across our hospitals. 

“The money will be used benefit a number of wards, including the Children’s Ward, Dementia, the Renal Unit and our Maternity Bereavement Suite, so thank you for your fantastic support.”

Clare O’Connor, theatre manager at the Cumberland Street theatre, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have contributed nearly £9,000 (£8765.17) to numerous departments – Renal  Unit, Children’s Ward, Dementia Appeal and Butterfly Appeal – in the hospital over the past 12 months, in conjunction with the wonderful York Teaching Hospital Charity.

“Without the very generous donations of our audience members, and the time kindly given by volunteers for collections, we wouldn’t have achieved so great a figure, which means so much to all the staff at the Grand Opera House.”

Clare continued: “The patients and relatives who use these departments at York Hospital will benefit greatly from these funds, which will improve their experience during a difficult time, and we look forward to more successful fundraising over the next 12 months. Thank you.”