What’s On in Yorkshire during August

The Pantaloons; Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

The Pantaloons; Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield - Credit: Archant

Tony Greenway bemoans the ‘cultural desert’ that is August but managed to find some highlights

In the opening lines of his epic poem The Wasteland, TS Eliot wrote ‘April is the cruellest month’. But old TS was wrong. Artistically speaking, the cruellest month is the one we are living in now: August. It’s not quite a cultural wasteland but, when you compare it to the other 11 months, it’s certainly on the light side, particularly if you want a good night out at the theatre.

Put it like this: every month at Yorkshire Life Towers we trawl through the county’s cultural highlights and flag up some of the best shows, festivals, musicals, concerts and exhibitions to write about on these pages. Note the word ‘some.’ Usually we’re spoilt for choice because there are hundreds of events to choose from. London might be the centre of the UK art scene, but our county is no slouch in this area either and we’re acutely aware that The Diary — with its limited space — can only hope to scratch the surface of what’s going on in Yorkshire every four weeks.

But then August rolls around and all of a sudden we’re scrabbling to find significant artsy things to bring to your attention. That’s not to say there aren’t some notable shows to see this month. Look at Sirs Patrick Stewart (a local lad) and Ian McKellan, for instance, burning up the stage at the Sheffield Lyceum in Pinter’s No Man’s Land, which would be a big deal at any time of the year.

Alan Ayckbourn has a world premiere at the SJT in Scarborough. And then there’s the incredible and inspiring Malala Yousafzai, a global icon who is appearing in Leeds. And at the other end of the spectrum — mega-musical alert! — Wicked is on at the Alhambra in Bradford.

Yet most of the big festivals have wrapped up their tents and gone home, there are no rock gods coming to the arenas, and many theatres are much like Donald Trump’s hair; seemingly impressive at first glance but, underneath it all, really rather sparse. Of course, lots of people are on their summer holidays and arts folk need a break too. Even so, I say role on the autumn season. It will be good to get back to normal.


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August 17th-20th

Ebor Festival

Fancy a flutter on the gee-gees while wearing a big hat, tight dress and high heels? And what about you, ladies? Then the Ebor Festival (which features Ladies Day on August 18th and the Betfred Ebor on August 20th) was practically designed for you.

York Racecourse 01904 620911 yorkracecourse.co.uk


August 5th-7th

NiddFest Literary Festival

Impressively programmed as always, this year’s NiddFest features Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Queen’s Gold Medal winning poet Imtiaz Dharker, Mercury Prize-nominated musician Kathryn Williams and green-fingered One Show presenter, Christine Walkden.

Pateley Bridge, 07528 817282 niddfest.com

August 1st–31st

Ilkley Summer Festival

Oodles of musical entertainment in a month which includes the Ilkley Jazz Festival (16th-21st), featuring jazz singer Tina May.

Various venues, Ilkley summerfestival.ilkley.org

August 7th

Malala Yousafzai

Oh dear. We seem to be living in a world where the likes of Frankie Essex, Binky Felstead (no, me neither) and assorted wags are role models and heroines to millions of selfie-taking teenage girls. That’s a shame because those same girls are overlooking a real role model/heroine under their very noses — one who is a teenager herself, Malala Yousafzai.

On October 9th 2012, Malala was sitting on a school bus in Mingora Swat, Pakistan, when a masked man boarded the vehicle and asked for her by name. He then pointed a gun at her and shot her in the head and neck, also injuring two of Malala’s friends. She was 15 years old.

It turned out that Malala had been marked for death because she had been angering the maniacs in the local Taliban by advocating education rights for girls. Her story has since made headlines around the world. She survived against the odds, was treated in the UK and, to this day, refuses to be silenced, tirelessly campaigning for the rights of everyone to receive an education. The youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, she has also been the subject of a documentary, He Named Me Malala.

So does she harbour any bitterness or resentment? Nope. Incredibly, when Malala spoke at the UN on her 16th birthday, she said: ‘I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.’

This month there’s a chance to see this fearless and remarkable young woman — now aged 18 — on stage in Leeds when she talks about her life and experiences and takes part in a Q&A session with the audience. Expect her to receive various standing ovations throughout the evening.

First Direct Arena, Leeds firstdirectarena.com

August 19th – 21st

Harrogate Foodies Festival

Fun for foodies with Rachel Green, Ping Coombes, Aldo Zilli and Stephanie Moon, a vintage cider tent, pop up restaurants, a chilli eating competition (burp!), artisan producers and more.

Ripley Castle, Harrogate foodiesfestival.com/harrogate-food-festival


August 3rd – 13th

No Man’s Land

Here are a couple of knights to remember: Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan who, in another showbizzy, Hollywood life, are known the world over as the hero and villain respectively in the X Men movies. In real life they’re the best of friends and bringing Pinter’s classic play No Man’s Land to Sheffield after a hit run on Broadway. ‘Sheffield is very important to me, because it was at the old Sheffield Rep that I got my first full acting job,’ says Stewart. ‘I think I played the boyfriend in The Reluctant Debutant. I had a hairpiece. It was lovely. And I know the Lyceum as the location where I saw most of the pantomimes of my teenage years.’

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield 0114 249 6000 sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

August 5th, 24th & 25th

The Pantaloons

The acclaimed and anarchic Pantaloons (a company of just five actors) put on three different shows at the Botanical Gardens. First they present every single one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s tales in under two hours (August 5th) in fast-paced and funny style (a good trick if you can do it — and they can). On August 24th they get to grips with Gulliver’s Travels and, finally, on August 25th, they give Romeo & Juliet a fresh twist (‘live music, audience interaction and that famous bit with the balcony’.)

Botanical Gardens, Sheffield 0114 249 6000 sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

July 29th – August 27th

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Don’t let the title fool you. The Conan Doyle horror classic is turned into ‘a howling comedy’ with tongue-in-cheek humour and physical slapstick. A show for anyone aged eight or over.

York Theatre Royal 01904 623568 yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

July 28th – September 3rd

The World Goes Round

A musical review of songs by Kander and Ebb, the geniuses behind Chicago, Cabaret, Fosse, Zorba and New York, New York.

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough 01723 370541 sjt.uk.com

August 5th–October 8th

Consuming Passions

The World Premiere of two one-act 50-minute plays (entitled Premonitions and Repercussions) from the maestro, Alan Ayckbourn, which both feature the same characters. Until September 8th, shows take place at lunchtimes in the Bistro and include a soup and a sandwich in the ticket price.

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough sjt.uk.com

June 8th–August 20th

The National Joke

A jet black comedy from playwright Torben Betts (who has described himself as ‘Alan Ayckbourn’s darker, younger brother’) about an MP’s dysfunctional family meeting up to watch a solar eclipse.

Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough 01723 370541 sjt.uk.com

August 16th – 20th

The Glenn Miller Story

London-born song and dance man Tommy Steele isn’t the first person you’d think of to play American big band leader Glenn Miller; and reviewers have asked if it was really a good idea to cast the veteran 79 year old alongside a female co-star young enough to be his granddaughter. Even so, those songs alone are enough to propel this show along: In the Mood, The Very Thought of You, Moonlight Serenade, Tuxedo Junction, Little Brown Jug and Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield 0114 249 6000 sheffieldtheatres.co.uk


Until October 5th

Stanley Spencer: Of Angels and Dirt

A major exhibition — the first in 15 years — celebrating the work of Stanley Spencer, one of Britain’s best loved painters. Timed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of his birth, the show features over 70 works spanning his entire career.

The Hepworth Wakefield, 01924 247360 hepworthwakefield.org

Until October 5th

A Tender Tumult: The Art of David Storey

Wakefield-born David Storey is best known as a novelist and playwright: he did, after all, give us one of British cinema’s finest kitchen sink dramas, This Sporting Life. This exhibition at the Hepworth presents hundreds of Storey’s drawings, plus books, archive posters of his theatre productions and films and personal photographs.

The Hepworth Wakefield, 01924 247360 hepworthwakefield.org

Until October 30th

Editions and Objects: Yorkshire Sculpture Park presents St. Jude’s

St Jude’s was founded in 2005 by Simon and Angie Lewin, and collaborates with an eclectic range of artists to create and print unique fabrics, cushion covers and wallpapers. Those exhibiting in this show, which is presented in the YSP centre, include Mark Hearld, Karen Mabon, Charles Shearer, Terry Shone and Emily Sutton.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield 01924 832631 ysp.co.uk


August 4th

The Damned

The Gothic punk stylings of The Damned hit Holmfirth, still with Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible in the line-up (although, sadly the brilliantly named drummer, Rat Scabies, left the band some time ago). The Damned should play their hits I Just Can’t Be Happy Today, Smash It Up, New Rose, Love Song, and their 1986 cover of Paul Ryan’s Eloise. But, if you’re really unlucky, the Captain might also unleash Happy Talk.

Picturedrome, Holmfirth, 08444 780 898 picturedrome.net

August 13th & 14th

Sheffield Film & Comic Con

Do you enjoy wandering around dressed as Chewbacca and/or the Tom Baker version of Dr Who? You do? Well, it takes all sorts. You’ll most likely be off to Sheffield’s third film and comic con, then. Guests at the event include Simon Fisher Becker (Dr Who and Harry Potter), George Roubicek (Star Wars), Katy Manning (Dr Who), Camille Coduri (Dr Who) and Dave ‘Darth Vader’ Prowse (Star Wars).

Sheffield Arena, 0114 256 5656 sheffieldarena.co.uk

August 18th – 21st

Tribfest Music Festival

Here’s a question for you. Tribute bands: are they nice or naff? Some of the names appearing at this year’s decade-old Tribfest Music Festival (‘the world’s biggest tribute band moosic festival!’) are undoubtedly on the naff side. Let’s see, there’s Meet Loaf, Badness (geddit?), Viva La Coldplay, Bee Gees Fever, The Beautiful Couch (that one doesn’t even attempt to make sense), Happy Mondaze, Wingsbanned and (my favourite) Antarctic Monkeys.

Granted, all of these names sound terrible. But, crucially, the bands themselves don’t sound terrible. The members of Bee Gees Fever, for example, may look like three Kenny Everett impersonators going to a 1970s bad taste party night, but they sound uncannily like the Brothers Gibb. And as Pink Floyd won’t be reforming any time soon (for one thing keyboardist Rick Wright is no longer with us and, for another, David Gilmore and Roger Waters aren’t hugely fond of each other) then The Floyd Effect — also performing at Tribfest — is about as close as you’re going to get to the real thing. And close your eyes and The Beautiful Couch could be The Beautiful South and/or The Housemartins.

The prize for the worst ever tribute band name was, of course, No Way Sis, the Oasis tribute act that split up as the popularity of the world-conquering Britpoppers declined. Also, do you remember that terrible Oasis tribute band which split a couple of years ago? Beady Eye, it was called. And that one actually had members of Oasis in it.

Sledmere House, near Driffield tribfest.co.uk