Alone with a phone, are you a Good Neighbour as you walk Layerthorpe’s streets in York Mediale’s community policing experiment? The verdict

Neighbours, everybody needs Good Neighbours…or do they? You decide by taking part in York Mediale’s “weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk” in Layerthorpe this week

THE message arrived via email to confirm participation in York Mediale digital arts festival’s Good Neighbours scheme.

Your chosen Date: 20th October. Your chosen Time: 16:45. Location: 2 Foss Islands Rd, Layerthorpe: https://goo.gl/maps/BsBJjfxuB2tg7hkr6.

That’s opposite Walmgate Bar, should you be wondering, after a change from the original intention to mount the Good Neighbours project in The Groves, only for the City of York Council’s much publicised/controversial traffic measures to scupper that plan.

Never mind the bollards. Focus on Layerthorpe. “Please arrive promptly as we may have to cancel your slot if you arrive more than 5mins late,” the email warned.

Welcome to Good Neighbours, wherein “individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, taking place in York city centre”.

A limping CH clocked in 3mins late, cutting it fine. “IMPORTANT: Bring a (charged) mobile phone with access to the internet (4G),” the email advised. “This will be a self-guided outdoor walk so do remember to dress appropriately and take care whilst engaging with the work, as you will be responsible for your own safety.” It is not easy to walk and keep on looking at the phone simultaneously, CH was to discover.

“Would you mind being filmed?” CH was asked before partaking in the dress rehearsal. No problem…unlike CH’s phone, whose data juice had run dry on holiday in Norfolk. Not a problem, CH was assured, by the guides, one filming all the while, the other (a familiar face from the York arts scene) conducting a Covid-secure safety check, hand sanitiser stern lecture and Green Cross Code reminder et al.

Stringent phone-cleaning measures ensued as CH was provided with an all-important mobile to follow instructions on a walk that should take you ten to 15 minutes but was destined to run rather longer thanks to CH’s initial ineptitude.

Can your friends experience Good Neighbours with you, you may be wondering. The answer is: “We would encourage each adult to book their own slot as this experience has been designed to engage one person at a time. We do however exempt children accompanying parents and carers supporting individuals with access needs from this guidance.” 

CH was being guided around the streets and housing of the Layerthorpe Neighbourhood, but nevertheless still imagined the solo experience…although you are never alone when you are on the phone and assorted instructions and text messages keep popping up, as you follow the green Good Neighbours logos and white arrows on the pathways.

Suddenly CH came across a young man in a tracksuit dancing to rave music, crushed tinny in his hand. “Is that noise irritating you?” asked one irritated neighbour in a vexed text. Would you just let him be, or ask him to turn it down? Live and let live, CH suggested. Not the answer one neighbourhood watcher wanted to read.

By now, the raver was raving in a different way, asking if CH thought he was a chav and “you better move on, mate”. No problem, exit CH…but then came a message that Punch the dog was missing. Would CH help to look for him? And guess who was being accused of taking poor Punch. Rave on, crazy dancer.

To cut a long story/short walk shorter, after various encounters and stressful text messages, CH ended up having to knock on a door to ask if Punch was inside. “Go away”, a woman at the window suggested. She had just filmed CH at her doorway on one of those new-fangled home-security/delivery check cameras filling up TV advertising slots right now.

No sooner had CH “gone away” than a young woman from across the street aggressively started asking CH, “What do you think you’re doing? I’ve been watching you. Why have you got your phone out?”

CH was beginning to feel Punch-drunk by now, a Neighbourhood Watch novice assaulted from all sides, nervously awaiting his Good Neighbours Personality verdict at charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com. It never came, alas.

So, what was the purpose of this York Mediale outdoor project, brought to the 2020 festival by Klasien van de Zandschulp and Natalie Dixon of affect lab, an Amsterdam research hub and creative studio with a focus on the relationship between technology and communities, mounted against the backdrop of an increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown?

“As places across the country head back into lockdown, there’s a lot of debate around ‘community policing’ and the micro-politics of communities,” they say.

“Love them or loathe them, the introduction of neighbourhood Whatsapp and Facebook groups has changed the way we communicate with our neighbourhoods, whether that’s positively or negatively, particularly in the already tough times of Covid.”

The lab duo note: “The introduction of fines and government ministers weighing in on whether it’s OK to snitch on our neighbours for breaking the rules has put community policing at the top of the agenda.”

Oh joy, what a wonderful time we are all having in Covid-19 2020, when Layerthorpe’s student residences reinforce the town-versus-gown frown that is growing across the face of the city.

CH’s verdict? Snooping, no, but pulling together to help each other via Whatsapp and Facebook, yes. Oh, and keep an eye out for Punch.

York Mediale runs Good Neighbours until Sunday, October 25. To book a walk, go to: yorkmediale.com.

We’re watching you! CH caught on camera in his search for Punch the dog.

More Things To Do in and around York and at home despite the second wave. List No 17, courtesy of The Press, York

Keeping an ear to the wind for the sound of an artbeat. Charles Hutchinson stands by The ScallopMaggi Hambling’s tribute sculpture to composer Benjamin Britten on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Picture: Celestine Dubruel

WE may be beset by tiers before bedtime, but the arts world will not lie down meekly in the face of the pandemic’s second wave. Instead, Charles Hutchinson highlights events on-going, on the horizon and online.

Robin Ince and Laura Lexx: The last hurrah for Your Place Comedy this weekend

The rule of six, over and out: Robin Ince and Laura Lexx, Your Place Comedy, live-streaming on Sunday, 8pm

YOUR Place Comedy, the virtual comedy club launched in lockdown by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones and ten independent Yorkshire and Humber arts venues, concludes with its sixth line-up this weekend.

The last laugh will go to The Infinite Monkey Cage co-host Robin Ince and Jurgen Klopp’s number one fan, Laura Lexx, introduced by remotely by regular host Tim FitzHigham, alias Pittancer of Selby, as they perform from their living rooms into yours. The show is free to watch on YouTube and Twitch via yourplacecomedy.co.uk, with donations welcome afterwards.

Matt Haig: Discussing his tale of regret, hope, forgiveness and second chances

Online literary event of the week: Matt Haig, The Midnight Library, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, streaming from 8am tomorrow (October 23)

MATT Haig, the award-winning author with the York past, discusses his latest novel, The Midnight Library, a tale of regret, hope and forgiveness set in the strangest of libraries, one that houses second chances.

Haig asks a burning question: If you could wipe away your past mistakes and choose again, would you definitely make better choices? If you can’t view the free stream at 8am, second chances abound: “Come back here on Friday, at a time to suit you,” say the festival organisers. Go to: https://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/literature-festival/matt-haig/

Offering glimpses into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious: Rachel Goodyear’s Limina, part of York Mediale’s Human Nature exhibition at York Art Gallery

Exhibition of the week and beyond: Human Nature, York Mediale/York Museums Trust, at Madsen Galleries, York Art Gallery, until January 24 2021

THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature combines the British premiere of Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson’s sensory woodland short film Embers And The Giants with two York Mediale commissions.

London immersive art collection Marshmallow Laser Feast look at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem in nature inThe Tides Within Us.  

Manchester artist and animator Rachel Goodyear’s Limina combines a surrealist, Freudian and Jungian series of animations and intricate drawings, responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection as she offers glimpses into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.

Hannah Davies: York writer, tutor, actress and spoken-word performer, taking part in Signal Fires Festival

Fired-up event of the week: Northern Girls, Pilot Theatre and Arcade, at Scarborough YMCA Car Park, for Signal Fires Festival, October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm

YORK company Pilot Theatre team up with new Scarborough arts makers Arcade to present Northern Girls by firelight for the nationwide Signal Fires Festival.

The one-hour performance sets free the stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline, encouraging them to write and present tales that matter most to them in 2020.

Short pieces commissioned from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles will be complemented by York spoken-word artist Hannah Davies’s work with a group of young women from Scarborough.

Re-Wild Geodome at Pavilion Lawn, York Museum Gardens, for York Design Week, October 26 to November 1, 11am to 4pm

Both eyes on the future festival of the week ahead: York Design Week, October 26 to November 1

SUPPORTED by York’s Guild of Media Arts, the York Design Week festival will seek to design a positive future for the city under five themes: Re-Wild, Play, Share, Make Space and Trust.

In Covid-19 2020, the festival will combine in-person events with social-distancing measures in place, and a wide range of online workshops, exhibition seminars and talks.

Look out for workshops bringing together homeless people and architects to work on solutions for housing; sessions on innovation and rule-breaking; an exhibition inspired by a York printing firm; discussions on community art and planning and city trails designed by individual York citizens. Go to yorkdesignweek.com for full details.

Utterly Rutterly: Barrie Rutter’s solo show will combine tall tales, anecdotes, poetry and prose

Barrie’s back: An Evening With Barrie Rutter, The Holbeck, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, Leeds, November 7, 7.15pm

BARRIE Rutter OBE is to return to the stage for the first time since his successful treatment for throat cancer.

The Hull-born titan of northern theatre, now 73, will perform his one-man show at The Holbeck,  home to the Slung Low theatre company in Leeds. The Saturday night of tall tales and anecdotes, poetry and prose will be a fundraiser for the installation of a new lift at the south Leeds community base, the oldest social club in the country.

“I’m absolutely thrilled at the invitation from Alan Lane and his team at Slung Low to perform at The Holbeck,” says Rutter. “What goes on in there is truly inspirational and I’m delighted support this wonderful venue.” 

Meet the Godbers: Jane, Martha, John and Elizabeth

Family business of the autumn: John Godber Company in Sunny Side Up, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 28 to 31; Hull Truck Theatre, November 17 to 22

THE waiting for Godber’s new play is over. The world premiere of the ground-breaking former Hull Truck artistic director’s Sunny Side Up! will be a family affair, starring John Godber, his wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha, with daughter Elizabeth doing the stage management.

Written and directed by Godber, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! depicts a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it. “Join proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in this seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about,” invites John.

Showtime for Anton du Beke and Erin Boag at York Barbican…but not until 2022

Looking ahead to 2021/2022: Dance shows at the treble at York Barbican

STRICTLY Come Dancing’s glittering weekend return to BBC One was a reminder that regular professionals Anton du Beke, Giovanni Pernice, Graziano di Prima, Aljaz Škorjanec and Janette Manrara are all booked to play York Barbican sometime over the rainbow, Killjoy Covid permitting.

Ballroom couple Anton & Erin’s: Showtime celebration of Astaire, Rogers, Sinatra, Garland, Chaplin, Minnelli, Bassey, Tom Jones and Elton John has moved from February 19 2021 to February 18 2022.

Aljaz and Graziano’s Here Comes The Boys show with former Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev has switched to June 30 2021; Aljaz and Janette’s Remembering The Oscars is now booked in for April 21 2021, and Giovanni’s This Is Me! is in the diary for March 17 next year.

Brydon and band: Rob Brydon will add song to laughter in next year’s new tour show

News just in: Rob Brydon in An Evening Of Song & Laughter, York Barbican, April 14 2021

WOULD I lie to you? Actor, comedian, impressionist, presenter and holiday-advert enthusiast Rob Brydon is to play with a band in York. It’s…true!

Yes, Brydon and his eight-piece band will take to the road next year for 20 dates with his new show, Rob Brydon: A Night of Songs & Laughter, visiting York Barbican on April 14 on his second tour to combine songs and music with his trademark wit and comedy. Expect Brydon interpretations varying from fellow Welshman Tom Jones to Tom Waits, Guys And Dolls to Elvis Presley.

The 5ft 7inch Brydon last appeared at York Barbican for two nights of his improvised stand-up show, I Am Standing Up, in October 2017. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Will you dig it all as York Mediale, the digital media arts festival, seeks a cutting edge?

“We want to explore how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture,” says Tom Higham, York Mediale’s creative director

YORK Mediale returns next month to deliver ambitious and cutting-edge digital arts projects inspired by and reacting to 2020.

For its second iteration, the international new media arts organisation has lined up six new commissions, five being world premieres, the other, a UK premiere.

Running from October 21 into the New Year, the programme of events will take place in York neighbourhoods, online and at two cultural landmarks, York Minster and York Art Gallery.

The first York Mediale in 2018 was the largest media arts festival in Britain, drawing an audience of 65,000 to diverse digital-rooted events over ten days, celebrating York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

The Coronavirus pandemic has led York Mediale to forego the original 2020 festival dates of October 21 to 25, instead “pivoting from a biennial festival to a charity creating and delivering a year-round programme of exceptional digital arts events, embedded in and enriching the creative life of the city of York and beyond”.

In a progression from the 2018 debut, this will involve working closely with York artists, young people and neighbourhoods.

Themes of love, nature and community – particularly poignant at this time following months of lockdown and isolation – will run through artists’ installations and interactive performance, engaging audiences both in person and digitally.

Leading artists in their field from across the world have created work for York, such as Marshmallow Laser Feast, fresh from their show at the Saatchi Gallery in London; composer, musician and producer Elizabeth Bernholz, otherwise known as the artist Gazelle Twin, and arts collective KMA, whose installations have transformed numerous public spaces, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Shanghai’s Bund.

The York community is being encouraged to take part, so today the Mediale team is launching two calls for participation. Firstly, Mediale is calling out for 50 members of the public to feature in a piece that will serve as a memento for the times we live in.

Secondly, in collaboration with York’s Guild of Media Arts and nine other UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts, Mediale is launching a call-out to York artists, worth £2,500.

Tom Higham, York Mediale’s creative director for the  2018 festival and now the 2020 one too, says: “York Mediale is a place where, through digital arts, we can explore, challenge and reflect on our lives.

“Plans for this year’s Mediale were well underway as the pandemic took hold. That we’re able to work with artists and producers to create an event at all is something we’re really proud of.”

Mediale planned “as best it could” for what it knew would be a different type of event. “We looked closely at the works already submitted and worked to develop the pieces that would most closely examine these extraordinary times,” says Tom.

“We wanted to explore how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture. We have been developing projects around those themes, and we’re excited to now present a series of works.

“All of these projects resonated with us at the start of 2020 but we could never have imagined how they could develop to so beautifully reflect our worries, hopes and relationships to our communities.”

York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman: Collaborating with Gazelle Twin and University of York Music Department for Absent Sitters, an online event at York Mediale 2020

York Mediale audiences will discover how the human body is hardwired, synchronised and inextricably linked to nature; experiment with a new form of performance, and explore the invisible transaction between a person and a piece of art and how WhatsApp has shaped communities for the COVID generation at this year’s “diverse, digitally engaged and mentally stimulating event”.

What digital delights are upcoming in York Mediale 2020-2021?

People We Love, November 2 to 29 at York MInster

THIS commission from creative collective KMA will be positioned in the Minster nave, where a new temporary “congregation” will be made up of a collection of five large high-definition screens, showing a series of video portraits focused on people that have been filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love.

The viewer will not know who is being looked at but will experience the emotion on the face projected on screen before them, interpreting each unspoken story.  

Visitors can add their story to the installation as a pop-up booth will be on-site, ready to capture the love stories of the city without the need for words.

Human Nature, October 21 to January 24 2021 at York Art Gallery

A TRIPTYCH of installations under the banner of Human Nature, curated by York Mediale and York Museums Trust, comes together as a centrepiece of York Mediale 2020 in a “hugely ambitious show”.

Embers And The Giants, a short film by Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson, makes its UK premiere, exploring human intervention through thousands of tiny drones mimicking a natural spectacle, suggesting a time when we will need to amplify nature in order to convince the public of its worth.

The Tides Within Us, a commission from immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser East, looks at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echoes the ecosystem within nature. 

Fine artist Rachel Goodyear presents Limina, a series of animations supported by her intricate drawings, in response to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection; all offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.

Absent Sitters, October 21 to 25, online

GAZELLE Twin, billed as “one of the UK’s most vital contemporary voices in electronic music”,  collaborates with York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman and the University of York Music Department to experiment with a new form of performance.

In this intimate, shared event, you will be guided by a “performer medium” to investigate what is live performance in 2020? The audience, contributing via video call, will become part of an online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination” and the importance of “presence/absence” in a live event. Are we live? Can we connect? Who are you? Questions, questions, questions.

Good Neighbours, October 21 to 25, The Groves, York

GOOD Neighbours, from Amsterdam’s affect lab – interactive artist Klasien van de Zandschulp and researcher Natalie Dixon – is based on research into the micro-politics of communities and the increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown.

Individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, taking place in The Groves area of York.

What exactly is York Mediale?

York Mediale is an international media arts organisation that celebrates York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.  The independent arts charity was founded in 2014 to mark that designation.

As well as bringing new commissions from leading artists to the city for each festival, Mediale provides opportunities for the best emerging talents to showcase their art. Through incorporating technologies into their works, artists of all kinds will challenge, provoke, interrogate and celebrate our cities, our landscapes, our lives.

Welcome to Scarborough’s new Arcade – for theatre, not shopping. SJT involved

A new Arcade in town: directors Sophie Drury-Bradey, left, and Rach Drew launch community producing company in Scarborough. Picture: Stewart Baxter

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre is joining forces with Arcade, Scarborough’s new community producing company run by ex-York Mediale leading light Rach Drew and Sophie Drury-Bradey.

The long-established SJT will be sharing its skills, experience and expertise with its latest associate company while learning fresh approaches from the duo as part of its ongoing programme of new creative partnerships.

Arcade joins theatre companies Box Of Tricks, The Faction and Voxed in the coterie of associate companies.

Arcade and the SJT share the outlook that “everyone is creative and culture belongs to everyone”. Led by Drew and Drury-Bradey, Arcade “ aims to make incredible cultural experiences happen with artists and communities, to support communities to develop creativity and ideas and to collaborate to make community-led change happen using the arts, through creative projects, workshops, shows, festivals and events in Scarborough and across the UK”.

The first joint project will be Scarborough Stories, targeted at anyone who has a story they want to tell or is angry or passionate about an issue or challenge in their life or community. Running from April 2021 to March 2022, it will culminate in a site-specific show in the town centre.

Sophie says: “We can’t wait to work with the SJT to make some extraordinary community-led projects and shows happen. We’ll be asking our local community what they want and also supporting both local and national artists to work within the town and borough.

“Absolutely delighted”: Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director Paul Robinson

“We’ll aim to work in partnership, growing Arcade and the SJT’s relationships with other brilliant local organisations, such as Scarborough Museums Trust, CaVCA and others.”

Paul Robinson, the SJT’s artistic director, says: “We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Arcade as the latest of our associate companies. They’ll bring fresh new perspectives to our busy programme of community work.”

Rach Drew was formerly executive director of York Mediale, whose first £1.3m international arts festival – the largest media arts festival in Britain – was held in October 2018.

Prior to this, she managed York’s large-scale autumn light festival, Illuminating York. Originally trained as a theatre director, Rach has enjoyed a varied career, from founding her own youth theatre to collaborating with communities in museums and creating exhibitions for local artists.

Sophie Drury-Bradey was previously senior producer at Battersea Arts Centre, in London, for eight years. She has 15 years’ experience in producing, programming, participation and project management and a track record for supporting talent development and the realisation of new and ambitious projects, such as the award-winning show Brand New Ancients by Kate Tempest [now Kae Tempest] and Touretteshero’s Broadcast From Biscuitland for live TV broadcast on BBC4.

For more information on Arcade, go to: hello-arcade.com.