THE inaugural York Alive festival of comedy, spoken word and music will be held in late-September and October in the city’s theatres, music venues and pubs.
Director Miles Salter and his team are working with venues throughout York to deliver an “exciting and dynamic” programme of events this autumn.
Ending a seven-year itch, York Alive marks Miles’s return to co-ordinating festivals in York, where he programmed York Literature Festival from 2008 to 2016.
“I learned a huge amount running York Literature Festival: how to put on engaging events, how to make sure people heard about it, and I’m still driven by the same desire, wanting to see York have an exciting, inspiring, great arts festival,” says the York published poet, storyteller, York Calling podcaster, broadcaster and songwriting frontman of Miles And The Chain Gang.
“We have so much to offer. Badging things together helps to raise awareness of the fantastic arts scene in York.”
Under the York Alive banner, the festival acts will perform at venues across York, including York Barbican, the Grand Opera House, National Centre for Early Music and Victoria Vaults pub.
Among the contributing acts will be musicians Howard Jones, Paul Carrack and Gabrielle; comedian, author and presenter Ruby Wax; poet Helen Mort, spoken word performer Luke Wright and Miles himself in myriad guises.
For blues lovers, York band DC Blues, American guitar wizard Toby Walker and fast-emerging Belfast guitarist Dom Martin will be in action at the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, where Miles is the gig programmer.
“The team behind this new festival live and work in the city,” says Miles. “Friendly and intimate, York is one of the best places to live and work in the UK. Visitors love coming to our historic city, but York is more than Romans and Vikings.
“Today, it’s home to so many talented writers, artists, actors, comedians, filmmakers, musicians and dancers. That’s why we want York Alive to celebrate this talent, as well as our great venues and fantastic city, by showcasing some of the best art and culture that’s happening in York this October.
“There’ll be a brilliant mixture of music, comedy and spoken word, and we’re delighted to include some events run by other venues and promoters in York.”
Miles has one regret. “Stopping my involvement in York Literature Festival in 2016 was a mistake really,” he says. “It was a bit like when Berwick Kaler said he was retiring from the Theatre Royal pantomime, but then wanted to go back to playing the dame again.
“I wish I hadn’t made the decision but I was in a bad place at the time, but my ambition was always to broaden it out to include other things: some theatre, comedy and music, some cross-artform combinations, like when we put on folk musician Martin Carthy with crime writer Peter Robinson at the NCEM. Now we can do that with York Alive.”
Miles has not sought any funding. “My passion is just to see a really good arts festival running in York. Why haven’t we got one already?” he says. “I thought what happened when Martin Witts’s Great Yorkshire Fringe came to an end in 2019 was an awful loss to the city.
“I must be crazy to try, but I hope that York Alive can become a regular yearly event.”
York Alive: Calendar of Events
September 28, 7.30pm, Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was, Grand Opera House. October 2, 7pm, Toby Walker, guitar virtuoso, Victoria Vaults. October 4, 8pm Luke Wright, spoken word, Victoria Vaults. October 6, 7pm DC Blues, Victoria Vaults. October 8, 7.30pm, neo-classical Gifts From Crows Trio, National Centre for Early Music.
October 10, 8pm, Helen Mort and Miles Salter, poetry, Victoria Vaults. October 11, 7pm, Howard Jones: Celebrating 40 Years 1983 – 2023, York Barbican. October 12, 7.30pm, The Waterboys, York Barbican. October 14, 10.30am, Stories with Miles (Salter), children’s show for ages 6 to 10, The White Horse, The Green, Upper Poppleton, York.
October 15, 4pm, Miles And The Chain Gang, Victoria Vaults, free entry. October 19, 6pm to 7:30pm Dylan Thomas: 70 Years On, York Stanza’s Professor John Goodby in conversation with Miles Salter, Marriott Room. October 19, 7.30pm, Paul Carrack, York Barbican.
October 21, 7pm, Gabrielle: 30 Years Of Dreaming Tour, York Barbican. October 21, 7pm, The Very Grimm Brothers (poet Adrian Mealing and guitarist John Denton), plus Miles Salter, Victoria Vaults. October 24, 7pm, Samantha Fish & Jesse Drayton, American blues and rock, York Barbican. October 27, 8pm, Dom Martin, Buried In The Hail Tour, Victoria Vaults.