What’s On in Yorkshire during December

Courtney-Mae Briggs, with James Bennett, wears a show-stopping turquoise gown in Strictly Ballroom

Courtney-Mae Briggs, with James Bennett, wears a show-stopping turquoise gown in Strictly Ballroom The Musical - Credit: Archant

Entertainment and events for your enjoyment chosen by Tony Greenway.


December 8th–January 28th


Berwick Kaler’s annual pantomime at the York Theatre Royal isn’t just famous in Yorkshire. It enjoys a nationwide following built up over decades. There are no ‘celebs’ as such in the Kaler productions — you’ll find no-one on stage moonlighting from Emmerdale or CBeebies but because his pantos put glorious production values front and centre, the audience always knows what it’s getting and tickets tend to sell out as soon as they go on sale.

The main draw is Berwick himself because he makes a splendid Dame (this will be his 38th outing in the dress); all Geordie accent (‘me babbies and me bairns!’), outrageous frocks, ill-fitting wigs and hobnail boots. But Kaler would be the first to admit that he’d be lost without his cast of regular co-stars. This includes principal glamour girl Suzy Cooper, OTT villain David Leonard (always hilarious) and sidekick Martin Barrass, the Hull actor usually cast as Kaler’s idiot son.

This year, though, the laughter stopped in the run-up to the panto. In September, Barrass suffered serious injuries in a motorbike accident and was in intensive care. At the time of writing, Martin was, thankfully, recovering but it still wasn’t clear whether he would be involved in this year’s production. When he does come back, though, whether it’s this year or next, expect the rafters to lift off when he appears on stage.

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He is a generous actor. I interviewed him once in the cafe at the Theatre Royal, and he was full of praise for Kaler. ‘We have such fun working on these productions,’ he said. ‘We’re always laughing. And Berwick is superb, an absolute perfectionist. He’s the first to dole out praise or advice. There are so many different ways of getting laughs and he knows them all.’

York Theatre Royal 01904 623568


December 9th-31st


Joyce Branagh, sister of Ken — see our interview with her this issue — directs a rip-roaring production. Don’t sit in the front two rows if you’re a bloke because, Joyce warns, the Ugly Sisters will try to ‘pull’ you.

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield 01484 430528 thelbt.org

December 3rd-January 8th

Snow White

Well here’s a twist: this production is set in the era of Art Deco Hollywood. Oh yes it is.

Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond 01748 825252 georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk

December 9th-January 8th

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Corrie’s Wendy Peters and Phil Gallagher — that’s CBeebies’ Mister Maker, to you — get Happy; and Grumpy, Doc, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy and Sleepy, no doubt.

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


December 14th-18th

Disney on Ice presents Frozen

The biggest Disney movie of all time gets the ice star treatment in a production hosted by Mickey and Minnie, with special appearances by skating Disney princesses, characters from Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Lion King. Oh, just let it go...

Sheffield Arena 0114 256 5656 sheffieldarena.co.uk

December 11th

Alan Bennett: A Life in Writing

The Great Man is on home turf when he takes to the WYP stage in Leeds to talk to The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins about his award-winning career in theatre, television and literature.

West Yorkshire Playhouse 0113 213 7700 wyp.org.uk

December 3rd

Christmas at the Courthouse Museum

Nothing says ‘the season of goodwill’ like criminal legal proceedings so enjoy a Dickensian Christmas at the Courthouse with a festive trial. To be fair, the blurb does make the event sound like a lot of fun: ‘Take part in determining if the defendant is innocent and will get their figgy pudding... or is guilty and will face their just desserts!’

Also in Ripon, at the Workhouse Museum (December 10th), you can ‘meet the many characters who inhabited the workhouse, from the wealthy guardian handing out festive fruits to the inmates themselves.’ Um... fun for all the family, then. Homemade treats are also on sale in the Christmas pop up café.

Courthouse Museum, Ripon 01765 690799 riponmuseums.co.uk

December 9th-11th

Christmas Tree Festival

On show are 80 sponsored trees, decorated by various organisations. Entry with programme is £2 (children are free).

Beverley Minster 01482 868540 beverleyminster.org.uk


December 1st- 24th

No Knowing

A Christmas comedy from Alan Ayckbourn which focuses on a seemingly mousey couple who are celebrating 40 years of unspectacular marriage. But are they all they seem? The master does it again, effortlessly.

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

December 2nd–January 21st

The Witches

The Roald Dahl book was scary and the film version was even scarier. This production, suitable for children aged five and above, is described as ‘a tremendously terrifying treat for the whole family’.

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds 0113 213 7700 wyp.org.uk

December 2nd–January 7th

A Christmas Treasure Island

A new version of an old tale, this time from award-winning writer Debbie Oates (whose credits include Coronation Street, among others).

Hull Truck 01482 323638 hulltruck.co.uk

December 1st–30th (selected dates)

The Elves and the Carpenter

Kate Bramley’s Badapple Theatre Company brings a magical mix of theatre, songs, clowning, puppetry, music and animation to a location near you. The plot has Mrs Claus coping with the mischievous missing elves she finds hiding among the up-cycling at Mrs Carpenter’s shop. Appearing at too many venues to mention here, so log onto the website for the full rundown.

Across Yorkshire 01423 339168 badappletheatre.co.uk

November 31st-January 21st

Strictly Ballroom: The Musical

The WYP don’t ‘do’ panto but they do pull out all the stops for their Christmas productions. They’ve been trailing this one for some time, and no wonder, it’s a musical, directed and choreographed by Olivier award-winner Drew McOnie, which is based on the hit Aussie film of the same name. Featuring songs including Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time. Courtney-Mae Briggs pictured here with James Bennett wears a show-stopping turquoise gown made with 80 meters of fabric and 55 meters of ostrich feather boa. All costumes are designed by Catherine Martin, who worked on the Baz Luhrmann blockbusters The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge and who has earned a total of four Academy awards.

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds 0113 213 7700 wyp.org.uk

December 9th-January 14th

Annie Get Your Gun

Rootin’, tootin’ western sharpshootin’ gal Annie Oakley don’t take any messin’ from no man (do excuse my appalling grammar); but, oh-oh, then she meets the charming Frank Butler. The Irving Berlin musical rides again, with songs including There’s No Business like Show Business, Anything You Can Do and I Got the Sun in the Morning and The Moon at Night. Yee and ha.

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


December 10th

Handel’s Messiah

Hallelujah! It’s the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Harrogate Choral Society and the Manchester Camerata.

Harrogate Theatre Royal 01423502116 harrogatetheatre.co.uk

December 8th-15th

York Early Music Christmas Festival

For one moment I thought that heavy metal was coming to this year’s Early Music Christmas Festival. Then I realised the programme said ‘nuns and roses’ (aka a carol concert performed by the five female voices of Joglaresa). Other highlights include Spiritato!, Gothic Voices, Yorkshire Bach Choir, Trevor Pinnock and Rachel Podger, Renaissance and a winter baroque carnival from Red Priest.

Various venues 01904 658338 ncem.co.uk

December 15th & 16th

Christmas Carol Concert

This is one of the most popular events in York Minster’s year and certainly one of the most atmospheric. The concerts, featuring the York Minster Choir and the Yorkshire Volunteers Band, include seasonal readings by two celebrity readers, Glenda Jackson and Miriam Margolyes.

York Minster 01904 557200 yorkminster.org

December 29th

Orchestra of Opera North: Viennese Whirl

You’ve got through Christmas unscathed and are speeding into New Year so how about a quick Viennese Whirl with the Orchestra of Opera North? (I couldn’t, thank you: I’m full). Aleksandar Markovic, who, fittingly, has lived in Vienna for the past 20 years, is the conductor. Also at Leeds Town Hall on December 31st

Huddersfield Town Hall 01484 225755 tickets.kirklees.gov.uk


December 6th

Kate Rusby

What’s the musical genre you like the least? I started to think about this the other month when Phil Collins announced that he was coming out of retirement. When the news broke, Twitter and Facebook erupted in fury and various national newspaper music reviewers worked themselves into a frothing frenzy, all because the drummer from Genesis who also sang that he could ‘feel it coming In the Air Tonight’ would be playing some easily avoidable dates in London next summer. How could one person’s brand of pop/rock arouse such naked hatred? And have Phil’s myriad critics heard A Trick of the Tail? Honestly. The production is masterful.

But back to the original question: what kind of music do you loathe? Among large swathes of the population, jazz always gets a bad rap for some reason, as does rap, ironically. Personally, I love jazz — just listen to any Charlie Parker recording and tell me I’m wrong — although I know various people who would rather stick pins in their eyes than subject themselves to a sax solo. I’m the same with country and western. As soon as I hear the twang of a steel guitar or a yodel, I’m out of the room before you can say ‘Garth Brooks’. Lay the blanket on the ground? No thanks.

I’ve also never been a big fan of hardcore folk music; too much fiddle-dee-diddle-dee-dee, for me and too many people in chunky cable-knits sticking their fingers in their ears and going ‘ohhhhh’ for my liking. And yet... and yet... there is something wonderful about the music of Kate Rusby, who is undeniably a folk singer. (Yep, I’ve double-checked, and she definitely is.) Blessed with the voice of an angel, Kate can do no wrong although she did once perform a duet with Ronan Keating. But I forgive her and, anyway, the acclaim for Rusby does rather stack up: she’s a Mercury Prize nominee, Folk Singer of the Year, Best Live Act, Best Album and Best Original Song winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

And here she is again playing her now regular round of Christmas concerts. She’ll be performing tracks from her new album (Life in a Paper Boat) and famous carols — but versions that are usually only sung in pubs in and around South Yorkshire. Some have different tunes but the same words, others only have a nodding acquaintance with the originals. ‘I thought how amazing would it be to take these carols out of their setting and do our own versions of them,’ says Kate. Pretty amazing, actually. She also plays Harrogate Royal Hall (December 15th); Huddersfield Town Hall ( December 17th) and York Barbican (December 18th). Grab a merry olde ticket and enjoy.

Sheffield City Hall 0114 278 9789 sheffieldcityhall.co.uk

December 9th


The North London nutty boys have a new album out — Can’t Touch Us Now — and have been playing the festival circuit this summer (including Glastonbury). Incredibly they formed 40 years ago. They may be older, but they’re still not acting their age, I’m happy to report.

Sheffield Arena 0114 256 5656 sheffieldarena.co.uk

December 3rd

The Human League

Do Phil Oakey and friends only have to pop up the road for this gig? They are, famously, one of Sheffield’s most famous and most successful bands. The League also play York Barbican on December 15th.

Sheffield Arena 0114 256 5656 sheffieldarena.co.uk

December 17th

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas

Here’s an unexpected treat for the good people of Wakefield. Motown legend Martha ‘Heat Wave’ Reeves in concert. Reeves is now 75 years old but she’s still singing, and the fans are still coming to see her. Expect hits galore including Jimmy Mack, In My Lonely Room, Nowhere to Run... and Heat Wave, naturally.

Warehouse 23, Wakefield 01924 200162 warehouse23.co.uk

December 17th

Status Quo

Here’s a question for you: is Status Quo really Status Quo without Rick Parfitt strumming along beside singer Francis Rossi? According to their website, Parfitt is still very much part of the band but he had to quit the Quo’s autumn tour after another heart attack, and it’s not yet clear if he’ll be able to rejoin.

First Direct Arena, Leeds 0844 248 1585 firstdirectarena.com

December 2nd


Remember Showaddywaddy? If you do, I’d keep quiet about it, because that makes you very, very old indeed. Only a couple of members remain from the original line-up — Romeo Challenger on drums and Scarborough boy Rod Deas on bass — but old teddy boys might experience a pang of nostalgia when the band fires up Under The Moon of Love, When, You Got What It Takes, 3 Steps To Heaven and Hey Rock & Roll.

Picturedrome, Holmfirth 08444 780 898 picturedrome.net


Until February 26th

Angela Harding: Flights of Memory

A printmaker and illustrator whose work has appeared everywhere from BBC’s Countryfile to lifestyle magazines, Harding spent part of her childhood in North Yorkshire and has revisited locations for this exhibition of paintings and prints. Put it like this: if you enjoyed the Emily Sutton show at the YSP a couple of years ago, you’ll enjoy this one too.

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

Until January 22nd

Ian C Taylor: Happy Anniversary DADA

Dean Clough says that Bradford-based Ian C Taylor is ‘not so much a resident exhibitor as an artist claiming squatter’s rights’. In this exhibition he ‘raids his personal collection of forgotten objects’ (an old Elastoplast Airstrip tin, anyone?) to amusing effect.

Dean Clough, Halifax 01422 250250 deanclough.com

December 3rd–January 28th

Liz West: The Trolley Series

West who is Manchester-born and Barnsley-raised, says she is an artist who creates ‘vivid environments that mix luminous colour and radiant light’. Well, it’s mission accomplished if this show is anything to go by. West takes the supermarket as her canvass and fills it with bold blocks of colour.

Barnsley Civic 01226 327000 barnsleycivic.co.uk


December 19th

It’s a Wonderful Life

In my humble opinion, there are two films you absolutely must see at Christmas. The first is White Christmas (with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye). This is the other: a 1946 Frank Capra masterpiece with mild-mannered Jimmy Stewart having so much bad luck that he thinks he might as well end it all. But then an angel shows him what life would have been like if he had never existed. Get the hankies out and have a good old festive blub.

Howard Assembly Room, Leeds 0844 848 2720 operanorth.co.uk/

December 14th

The Snowman

That film about the snowman Walking in the Air. While it’s on, Howard Blake’s soundtrack is played live and in perfect synchronicity with the on-screen action by the Snowman Orchestra, whose members have been assembled from some of the top orchestras in the country. Also playing Sheffield City Hall on December 15th and York Barbican on December 16th.

Hull City Hall 01482 300300 hcandl.co.uk


December 15th-January 7th

Beauty and the Beast

This monster of a fairytale has had numerous outings over the years (and in 2017 we’ll get one more when Emma Watson plays Beauty in a big screen, live action version of the Disney cartoon musical). Here’s a rather more highbrow take on the story from Northern Ballet with music by Saint-Säens, Bizet and Debussy, played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia.

Grand Theatre & Opera House, Leeds 0844 848 2700 leedsgrandtheatre.com