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Interview – Director Abbey Wright on leading a 50-strong community company, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, Director led productions and more.

Abbey Wright – Director.

Would you be interested in interviewing the director Abbey Wright ?” they said.

“Yes that would be very nice,” I said.

The director in question is Abbey Wright who is currently in technical rehearsals for a new adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes Of Wrath.
Wright was Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse for 18 months from 2008-09, during which time she worked with such notable directors as Michael Grandage, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Herrin, Peter Gill, Sean Holmes, Jamie Lloyd and John Tiffany.
(‘FYI’ Abbey is currently Associate Director at the Nuffield.)
Oh and The Grapes of Wrath opens at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres Campus next week with opening night on 14 March and runs until 25 March. The production then tours each of the co-producing venues throughout 2017, apparently.
So, what is it all about, how is it working with a 50-strong community company and what are her thoughts on Director led productions? Well…


Hi Abbey! How are The Grapes of Wrath rehearsals going?
Hi Carl! I am loving this project. It’s a wonderful company, a great team and an awe-inspiring piece to be working on.

How did you get into this Directing lark?
I directed a youth theatre first in Worcestershire where I am from. Then I trained as an actor. Then assisted at the Donmar and the National Theatre. Then just started to put plays on that interested me and kept going.

Steinbeck isn’t for wimps. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ could make for a heavy night out, what can audiences expect from your production?
Yes, well, I can’t pretend it is light. But you can expect a moving story which speaks deeply to our world today; great ensemble acting from a top company; fantastic live music composed by Matt Regan; a contemporary or perhaps I should say mythic treatment of the story; a community company and brilliant design from Laura Hopkins and Nigel Edwards. Steinbeck is exploring a migration, dispossession and fragmentation but he is also making the case for love, family, connection, and the nurturing of the human spirit.

Would you agree that one of the biggest themes of the play is the way that solidarity, not politics or religion, see us through dark times?
Yes, sort of. I think that Steinbeck has the idea that there is ‘one big soul that everybody is a part of’. I think that idea works on lots of levels; spiritually, politically, socially. It is the unification of those levels that makes the politics of the play becomes ‘holy’ which is one of the great strengths and beauties of The Grapes of Wrath.

How have you integrated The Grapes of Wrath 50-strong community company made of up local residents (That sounds fun) into the production?
That’s a good question because we have just spent the day doing that! Mainly they will play the people who are staying at the 3 camps the Joads travel through in the second half. And it’s very exciting having that number of people onstage.

What are your thoughts on Director led theatre productions?
I don’t tend to categorise theatre shows in that way – more that I might see something and like it whether it was a ‘high-concept piece’ or a really simple piece. I guess I’m interested in something feeling live and I tend to be interested in theatre that explores fantasy? or the surreal? But that’s just a personal thing.

How important is it for Theatre’s to manage a balance between revivals and new work?
I think it’s important because it’s great to see as wide a range of stuff as possible.

Why are women still underrepresented at every level of the industry– and what needs to change?
Well, I think there are more women who are working as directors now. I am aware of a fair few. I think that men were in charge of things for thousands of years and women weren’t and that takes a long time to change culturally and psychologically. And that maybe we are still more comfortable with men in charge in some ways because it conforms to something traditional and we have to think twice before putting a woman in charge. Also, I think that we maybe just struggle with seeing people in charge who don’t exhibit traditional qualities of leadership. I hope and feel this is changing and am excited to see what this does.

Do you believe that honesty is always the best policy?
Yes. I mean, no.

Is there anything that you’d like to add?
All done.

Tickets are available from the Box Office 023 8067 1771 or online at nstheatres.co.uk

Indian High Commission, the Ministry of Culture, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and leading Indian festival producer Teamwork Arts to deliver a festival of Indian culture from May to November 2017 in the UK

2017 UK-India Year of Culture launched

2017 UK-India Year of Culture launched

  • Festival delivered in association with the Shakespeare’s Globe, British Library, Barbican Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Tramway, mac birmingham, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Birmingham Hippodrome, Sampad Arts Birmingham and Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre.
  • The festival’s five strands will showcase the cultural diversity of India – ZEE JLF @ British Library, India @ Edinburgh, Independence Gala @ Southbank Centre, Festival of Dance & Theatre; and the UK premiere of the Freedom Symphony by Dr L Subramanium and the London Symphony Orchestra.
  • [email protected] also supports several high profile events – notably Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya, the 8thLondon Indian Film Festival, and the Darbar Festival 2017 with Akram Khan this year. 

India and the UK, bound together through history and shared values of democracy, rule of law and pluralism, share a strong and multi-faceted partnership with deep cooperation across various fields including economics, business, science, and culture. The India-UK Year of Culture follows the joint announcement in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then-Prime Minister David Cameron of a bilateral initiative to mark the deep cultural ties  and the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence; a commitment that was reiterated during Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India in November 2016.

The Year of Culture is a year-long celebration of this partnership between India and the UK, and will see a vast programme of cultural exchange and activity taking place in cities across both countries.

This will include programmes celebrating India’s heritage and contemporary culture as part of the dynamic [email protected] festival. The [email protected] programme organised by the Indian High Commission and the Ministry of Culture, with a number of partner organisations and institutions, will blend artistic traditions from the UK with a wide spectrum of Indian cultural and literary traditions across multiple venues in the UK.

Simultaneously, UK/India2017 organised by the British Council, with a number of partners and institutions, is developing a programme of cultural activity which will connect and inspire people in both countries, and strengthen and celebrate the UK and India’s cultural ties.

2017 is a year of great significance for the world’s largest democracy – India, marking 70 years as an independent democratic republic, standing for its core values of inclusiveness, peace, and progress. In the past seven decades, India has travelled through upheaval and transformation with a spirit that has remained indomitable and forward-looking. It has seen the steady formation of a variegated, multifaceted and flavourful cultural matrix created by a formidable past legacy and a new contemporary identity. Continuous exploration of the complexities of ancient cultural traditions have brought India’s classical arts into a modern idiom which is acclaimed across continents.

Celebrating seventy years of India-UK relations during UK-India Year of Culture, the Indian High Commission, the Ministry of Culture, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and festival producer, Teamwork Arts, in association with the Shakespeare’s Globe, British Library, Barbican Centre, Sadler’s Wells, mac birmingham, Tramway, Birmingham Hippodrome, Sampad Arts Birmingham, Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre, and Festival Theatre Edinburgh have planned a series of events in the UK and India, developed through various important artistic collaborations.

The festival will present five strands in the UK which will showcase the cultural diversity of India through the year, including ZEE JLF @ British Library, India @ Edinburgh, The Independence Gala @ Southbank Centre, a season of Dance & Theatre; and the UK premiere of the Freedom Symphony by Dr L Subramaniam and the London Symphony Orchestra.

In addition, [email protected] will be supporting several high profile events – notably Ravi Shankar’s Sukanya, the 8th London Indian Film Festival, and the Darbar Festival 2017 with Akram Khan this year.

The Science Museum will open a season of exhibitions and events in September this year dedicated to the people, culture and skills of India. Running from September 2017 to May 2018, the Illuminating India season will centre on two exhibitions celebrating the rich culture and history of innovation in India.

A grand Reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Her Majesty The Queen on the 27th February 2017 will mark the official start of the India-UK Year of Culture.

HE Mr. Y.K. Sinha, Indian High Commissioner, said “The Year of Culture assumes special significance in light of the 70th Anniversary of India’s independence. These celebrations indeed offer our two countries a unique opportunity of renewing and revitalizing the common threads of our cultural heritage and to enhance our engagement at the people- to-people level. I am hopeful that the partnerships forged during the year between people and organisations in both countries will serve us well in the years to come.”

Sanjoy K Roy, Director of Teamwork Arts, said, “There has long been an affinity and a rich cultural dialogue between India and the UK. Over a number of years we have seen interest and appetite for Indian theatre, dance, literature, and music blossom in the UK. In this important year of commemoration we are honoured to be presenting a wonderful, rich and colourful programme of performances up and down the country to share with many people across the UK our passion and culture, as well as the wonderful work that has been developed by artistes from both our countries working together.”


20 – 21 May 2017

In May, the British Library will host the London leg of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival for the first time.

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival travels to London for the fourth time with a creative caravan of writers and thinkers, poets and balladeers brought together by co-directors Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple. Showcasing South Asia’s unique multilingual literary heritage and the festival’s global programme and appeal, ZEE [email protected] Library is an intense two-day teaser of the original Festival which celebrated its 10thanniversary in January. Inspired by the 70th anniversary of Indian Independence ZEE [email protected] Library will look at ‘The Idea of India’ with eminent authors from India and the UK.

The first writers and speakers have been confirmed as Ajoy Bose, Audrey Truschke, Chintan Chandrachud, Giles Milton, Helena Kennedy, JP Losty, Mihir Sharma, Patrick French, Shashi Tharoor, Vayu Naidu and Festival Directors Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple.

As Time Out said: “The Jaipur Literature Festival is officially the Woodstock, Live 8 and Ibiza of world literature, with an ambience that can best be described as James Joyce meets Monsoon Wedding.”


A Friend’s Story by Vijay Tendulkar

Akvarious Productions, Directed by Akash Khurana

20-21 SeptemberShakespeare’s Globe, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Set in and around a college campus in Poona (now Pune) in the 1940s, A Friend’s Story is about three students – the diffident Bapu, the carefree Mitra, and the deceptive Nama. Essentially a love triangle, A Friend’s Story is Vijay Tendulkar’s understated ‘Greek tragedy’ about obsession, jealousy, betrayal, and a search for redemption. Based on events that took place around the middle of the last century, about a theme that many still consider taboo, the play that once expanded the horizons of Indian drama, stands out even today, as an avant-garde tour-de-force.



Dramanon Bangalore

5-6 October – Blue Room at Southbank Centre London

8-9 October – mac birmingham

Akshayambara is an experimental play that uses modern theatrical tools and the dance drama form of Yakshagana to create a contemporary narrative that raises questions on female representation and male ownership. A male artiste in ‘Streevesha’ plays ‘Draupadi’ while in a tradition-defying move a woman is cast as the ‘Pradhana Purushavesha’ of the ‘Kauravas.’ What happens to the interpretation of gender when a man plays the streevesha and the purushavesha is played by a woman? Who is the real woman and who is the real man? When tradition can accept a man as a streevesha, can that same tradition accept a woman as a purushavesha?

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – Inter_rupted

20-21 October – Tramway Glasgow

23 October – Birmingham Hippodrome

11 November – Sadler’s Wells, Darbar Festival (on sale soon)

Aditi Mangaldas is a dance revolutionary. A renowned Kathak dancer and choreographer she is now forging a dynamic path remoulding Kathak’s traditional vocabulary with 21st century sound, rhythm and light. Inter_rupted is a high octane work based on the ideas of disintegration, fragility, vulnerability, age and transience. Mangaldas herself dances in a company of seven with music by Sajid Akbar performed live on stage. Aditi will also perform a solo Kathak piece at the Darbar Festival.


Daksha Sheth Dance Company

Saturday 23 – Sunday 24 September – mac birmingham

Wednesday 27 September – Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Fri 29 – Sat 30 September – Tramway Glasgow

India’s tradition of handwoven textiles, with its incredible range of colour, texture and design has, for millennia, been one the most visually striking elements of the Indian persona. As the quintessential expression of the weavers’ imagination, talent and skill, the ‘sari’ continues to be the jewel of the Indian handloom industry.

Renowned dancer and choreographer Daksha Sheth’s Sari is a celebration of the creation of this unique drape, in constant play with the body, both in stillness and in movement.


4 October – Independence Gala – Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Centre.

This evening will be a rich and eclectic coming together of India and UK through dance and music, which characterise each country’s cultural legacy, showcased in a seamless fusion.

The show will present a wide range of the performing arts including Indian violinist Dr L Subramaniam, British soprano Christine Rice, Dindigul drummers, singer Sonam Kalra and her Sufi Gospel Project, singer Vidya Shah joins singers from the UK, indigenous Gotipua, Pung Cholom and Churkula dancers will light up the stage with Scottish bagpipers, highland dancers and British Morris performers, Kathak doyen Aditi Mangaldas, and conductor Sharat Chandra Srivastava will orchestrate a grand foot-stomping finale.


This strand will showcase some of the best music, dance, theatre and crafts in association with Festivals Edinburgh.

At the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Teamwork Arts will showcase the Bollywood Musical and possibly the best military band in India today, The Naval Band, whose performances have been enthralled audiences in faraway places such as Rabat, Tokyo, Sydney, Odessa, Istanbul and London.

Theatre includes singer-actress MD Pallavi in her best ever solo performance – a witty, humorous and satirical interrogation of what it is like being a woman in the entertainment industry today, C. Sharp. C. Blunt. Aditya Roy brings his story telling born out of martial arts training in the tale of Gurudakshina. And Kuch Puppet Theatre’s masked production of the eternal story of a child’s thoughts, Pinocchio.

Telling the tale of Majuli, the world’s largest and stunning river island in Assam’s mighty Brahmaputra river, through an evocative narrative of movement, dance, music, and theatre Shilpika Bordoloi celebrates the spirit of Majuli and the intricate bond between people and their land at Edinburgh’s Dance Base.

An evening of Sacred Music @ Traquair House brings together filmmaker and folk singer Shabnam Viramani, Mirasi singer and musician Mukhtiyar Ali, British Indian composer and sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta and Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Café, a band dedicated to taking the timeless verses of Kabir to a young and dynamic India.

Handicrafts and live demonstrations from across India will be displayed at the Assembly Rooms during the August Festivals.


28 November 2017 – Closing concert – Barbican Centre.

The performance will include Dr L Subramaniam’s Freedom Symphony performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and Dr Subramaniam’s performance of an Indian classical music programme.

Dr. Lakshminarayana Subramaniam is an acclaimed Indian violinist, composer and conductor, trained in the classical Carnatic music tradition and Western classical music, and renowned for his virtuoso playing techniques and compositions. Yehudi Menuhin once said “I find nothing more inspiring than the music-making of my very great colleague Subramaniam.”

“Positively dazzling… he achieved a delicate balance of all these factors (technique, sense of structure, development, soul and intensity). He balanced wrenchingly beautiful melodic exposition with tumbling multi-noted cascades…. Within the context of a sinuous elegance that made his improvisations seem exceptionally coherent.” New York Times


Australian hit Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story comes to UK

Peace Train - The Cat Stevens Story

Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story

The internationally acclaimed Cat Stevens experience Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story is to receive its UK premiere in a nationwide tour. In an evening of musical storytelling featuring a full live band, audiences will be treated to a full concert of Cat Stevens’ hits, revealing the man in the music and the real stories behind the classic songs. Starring award-winning Australian musician Darren Coggan, Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story will take audiences on the same journey of discovery and enlightenment travelled by Cat himself.

Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story began in 2010 for a sold-out concert at The Sydney Opera House, and was followed by national tours throughout 2012, 2013 & 2014, playing every major theatre in Australia. Considered to be one of the most important artists in the history of music, Cat Stevens began his musical career in the 60s and went on to sell more over 60 million albums worldwide.

In Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story, audiences can re-live 23 hits from the seldom-seen icon, such as: Remember The Days Of The Old School, Lady D’Arbanville, Sad Lisa and Peace Train. Tracing the path of a man who never stopped wondering about how to make the world a better place is Darren Coggan. One of Australia’s most exciting young artists, Coggan and his band’s performances in Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story have met with critical acclaim in Australia.

“Coggan, better known as a Golden Guitar winning country singer, sounds amazingly like Stevens… Coggan’s affable persona, the intriguing story and the amazing catalogue of songs adds up to a winner.”
Troy Lennon, The Daily Telegraph (AUS)

Darren Coggan’s is one of Australia’s most successful country music recording artists. In January 2001, Darren was awarded his first Golden Guitar at the Toyota Country Music Awards of Australia. In recognition of his outstanding achievements, Darren was awarded the Centenary Medal for ‘Services to Australian Society’ in 2003. This same year, he released his second album, Balancing Act, for which he was awarded Australian Independent Male Vocalist of the Year. 2008 saw Darren release his fourth album, War Stories, a moving salute to the ANZACS for which he was awarded his second Golden Guitar.

In 2016 Darren was awarded ‘Male Artist of the Year’ at the Australian Celtic Music Awards, and in 2017 Darren will release his long awaited new album ‘The Wide Horizon’.

Nicholas de Jongh’s new play Pricked Out will play for 4 performances in a production without décor from 25-29 March at King’s Head Theatre

A young man, lying asleep on a deserted beach, is woken up by another young man who has lost his bearings and needs help in discovering where he is. After beginning to question each other it quickly becomes clear that neither of them have any idea of who they are or where they find themselves. But did they perhaps know each other well a very long time ago?

From further along the beach come the sounds of something strange going on. Two young women, a Runner on a film set disturbed by a recurrent dream,  a middle aged figure adorned in long blonde hair and snoring in a deck chair, a retired Professor of English Literature form part of the puzzle. Finally somebody arrives swimming from the sea and the painful truth begins to emerge.

Nicholas de Jongh’s magic realist play Pricked Out delves into time past to pose questions and offers tentative answers about the one sensational and turbulent love affair of William Shakespeare’s life.

This is Nicholas de Jongh’s third play – the first, Plague Over England premièred at the Finborough in 2008, before being transferring to the West End by Bill Kenwright in 2009. The second, The Unquiet Grave of Garcia Lorca, debuted in an early version as part of the Finborough’s Vibrant 2013 – their season dedicated to rehearsed readings, where, in two earlier of these seasons his Keep the Ghost Awake and There Goes my Future had been presented – and then later at the Drayton Arms. He has also contributed a one act play Aids Memoire in 1990 to Max Stafford Clark’s season of Platonic Dialogues at the Royal Court.

De Jongh went almost straight from University to the Guardian as a reporter, he subsequently became the paper’s arts correspondent and deputy theatre critic, covered three major Obscenity trials Oz School Kids, the Gay News Blasphemous Libel and the Romans in Britain. He wrote about gay issues and wrote features on a succession of gay artists from Derek Jarman to Thom Gunn at a time when gayness was more of a taboo subject than out in the open . From 1991 to 2009, he was the Evening Standard’s chief theatre critic.

His book Politics, Pruderies and Perversions (Methuen), an analysis of the operations of twentieth century Theatre Censorship in the UK won a Theatre Book Prize from the Society of Theatre Research. His Not in Front of the Audience was a pioneeering  account of homosexuality on stage  in the twentieth century.

Pricked Out                                                                                                                                                        Listings

King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, London, N1 1QN


0207 226 8561

Twitter: kingsheadthtr

Facebook: kingsheadtheatre



Major programme announcement for Hull UK City of Culture 2017

  • Hull New Theatre reopens following £16m transformation with a visit from The Royal Ballet led by its Hull-born director, Kevin O’Hare
  • Philip Larkin’s life and work celebrated with major exhibition New Eyes Each Yearand Grayson Perry as The Philip Larkin Society Distinguished Guest Lecturer
  • Slung Low’s year-long epic adventure Flood by James Phillips told online, live in Hull and on BBC television
  • International performance, technology and site-responsive pioneersdreamthinkspeak premiere ONE DAY, MAYBE in Hull
  • The Ferens Art Gallery hosts the Turner Prize and presents a major exhibition exploring Skin, including works by Ron Mueck, Lucian Freud and the first showing ofSpencer Tunick’s photographic work featuring 3,200 local people in the nude and painted blue for Sea of Hull
  • The 10th Waterstones Children’s Laureate will be announced in Hull prior to the first ever children’s literature festival in the city
  • New work by artists including Bob & Roberta Smith, Tania Kovats, Chris Dobrowolski, Claire Barber and Claire Morgan in shopping centres, car parks, streets and public squares as part of the visual art series Look Up

Hull UK City of Culture 2017 today unveiled details about seasons two and three of its year-long cultural programme with 42 new commissions and world premieres, 24 festivals and 13 new exhibitions amongst hundreds of events and activities taking place from April to the end of September 2017.

Hull’s New Theatre re-opens with an exhilarating evening of classic and modern dance presented by The Royal Ballet. Specially curated by the company’s Hull-born Director, Kevin O’Hare, Opening The New brings together artists from Hull with a selection of Royal Ballet principals and soloists. Joining The Royal Ballet on stage will be some of the exciting dance talent emerging in the city today, as well as Hull’s own Xander Parish, soloist with The Mariinksy Ballet and Joseph Caley, principal with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The two seasons, Roots & Routes (April to June) and Freedom (July to September), continue Hull 2017’s commitment to inspiring and entertaining residents and visitors alike, as well as asking questions and raising debate. From art to music, from theatre to film, and dance to family friendly activities, there is something for people of all tastes and ages, with more reason than ever to visit Hull.

The aim is to build on the success of opening season Made in Hull, which since January has drawn hundreds of thousands of people, including to the opening event, the Look Up public art installations Blade and The City Speaks, and successful exhibitions at Ferens Art Gallery, Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull and the newly opened Humber Street Gallery.

Spring and summer bring 24 festivals, from the 10th anniversary of the acclaimed Freedom festival and Humber Street Seshto Radio 1’s Big Weekend, and Hull Jazz Festival to Tidal Waves. Fifty years after the start of decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, Pride in Hull stages the first ever UK Pride, kicking off week-long LGBT 50 celebrations in July.

The major partnership with BBC continues, including the Uproot festival in April and Contains Strong Language, a major new national spoken word and poetry festival, launching on National Poetry Day in September.

Martin Green, Director Hull 2017 said: “The response to our opening season Made in Hull has exceeded all our expectations and as we go into seasons two and three, we want people to continue to be excited, whether they live here or are visiting. With our wonderful partners there’s a terrific line-up over the next six months. We’ve a summer of festivals and a host of new commissions by national and international artists that cement UK City of Culture as the nation’s cultural quadrennial. Get planning, it’s the perfect time to visit this great city.”

Councillor Stephen Brady, Leader of Hull City Council, said: “With season one almost completed, the signs are that Hull is going to be one of the most successful cities of culture there has ever been. The seasons two and three events, revealed today, show a world-class programme that will continue to engage, excite and enthral local residents and visitors throughout spring and summer. Combined with the transformation of the city centre and some of our most important cultural venues, Hull’s tenure as UK City of Culture is creating a surge of positivity, pride and celebration. We are now being talked about for all the right reasons and we’ve never been more proud to say ‘Welcome to Hull’.”

Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, said: “I am immensely proud of my roots in Hull, and what has been achieved so far in Hull’s year as UK City of Culture. For me this opportunity to return to my home city, for the company to take to the stage in the magnificent setting of Hull’s refurbished New Theatre and to create new links with the young talent of Hull is unique and special for all of us.”



Flood, created by Leeds-based Slung Low and written by James Phillips, is a year-long epic told online, live in Hull and on BBC television. It is Slung Low’s most ambitious and experimental project to date, mixing live performance, special effects, film and digital elements to tell a story across an entire year.

Flood is the story of what happened when the world was destroyed, and how the people who lived tried to make it new again. Far out on the North Sea a fisherman raises a girl in his net, miraculously alive, from the deep sea. Is she one of the migrants now washing up on English shores? Or someone sent for some higher purpose? One day it starts to rain and no-one knows why. And it doesn’t stop. Each of Flood’s four separate parts will enrich and link to each other, but can also be experienced separately as stand-alone pieces. Details of Parts Three and Four will be revealed at a later date.

Part One of Flood, the prologue From The Sea, is available now at www.hull2017.co.uk/flood. Part Two, Abundance, will be performed live on the Victoria Dock (11 – 15 April). Part Three, To The Sea, will be broadcast on BBC television in the summer.

The University of Hull will host the prestigious National Student Drama Festival on its Hull campus in April. NSDF is for young people who love theatre – making it, watching it, talking and writing about it. With 14 productions, 100 workshops, discussions and late night events, NSDF provides an exciting opportunity for anyone aged 16-25 to watch, discuss, write and try something new. The festival has provided a springboard for thousands of theatre makers since being founded in 1956, with famous alumni including Simon Russell Beale, Mark Gatiss, Meera Syal, Sir Antony Sher, Caryl Churchill, Ruth Wilson, Ade Edmondson and Sir Richard Eyre (8 – 14 April).

Hull Dance will host Transgression: Breaking the Rules, a weekend of contemporary dance featuring dancers from Hull and across the Humber region at venues around the city, including Humber Street Gallery (12-14 May).

The first Hull 2017 theatre commission of Roots and Routes at Hull Truck Theatre will be Richard III (4 –27 May), a co-production with Northern Broadsides directed by the remarkable company’s artistic director and founder Barrie Rutter. This production of Shakespeare’s iconic history play marks the 25th anniversary of Northern Broadsides, whose first ever work was a 1992 staging of Richard III in a boatshed in Hull’s marina.

Depart is a spellbinding spectacle from internationally acclaimed circus artists, Circa. Inspired by the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, Depart will take you on a path through the underworld in the uniquely atmospheric General Cemetery (Spring Bank West) from 18 – 21 May. Led by Yaron Lifschitz with a creative team including the electronic musician Lapalux, this ethereal collaboration brings together acrobats, aerialists, choral singers and video artists for a remarkable performance that has been described as a meditation, a playground for the soulful. Depart is co-commissioned by LIFT, the National Centre for Circus Arts, Spitalfields Music, Hull 2017, LeftCoast and Brighton Festival, and is supported by Arts Council England. SOLD OUT

Assemble Fest (3 June) takes place for one day only on Hull’s Newland Avenue and will transform the most unlikely of places into pop-up performance spaces. The avenue will come alive with flashmobs, interactive shows, music, art and dance in a variety of the area’s independent venues, from delis to hairdressers. Supported by Newland’s local and international traders, the festival features new site-specific works from Hull’s burgeoning theatre companies and family-friendly activities along the street.

Critically-acclaimed Hull theatre company Middle Child present a new piece of gig theatre, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything (6 – 17 June), mixing original live music from James Frewer with Luke Barnes’ bold new writing and direction from Middle Child artistic director Paul Smith. This visceral, immersive and anarchic show will be performed at The Welly, one of the city’s best-loved venues, and features some of the favourite local bands from Humber Street Sesh. Middle Child is an associate company of Paines Plough and a supported artist of Hull Truck Theatre.

The world premiere of Mighty Atoms by Amanda Whittington (Ladies Day, Be My Baby, Amateur Girl) will be directed by Hull Truck Theatre artistic director Mark Babych and is inspired by Hull’s original Mighty Atom, Barbara Buttrick. In a struggling pub on one of Hull’s toughest streets, ex-pro boxer Taylor Flint runs a women’s boxercise class. For Lauren, Jazz, Aneta and Grace the class is much more than a way to lose weight and have a laugh – they’re fighting the grinding challenges of everyday life. When the pub is threatened with closure, the women agree to be part of an unlicensed fight night to raise money and rally the community (8 June -1 July).

 National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), which is run by Sadler’s Wells and funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education, comes to Hull or the first time. Tarantiseismic, a new work from Guest Artistic Director Damien Jalet is staged at Middleton Hall and features 40 young dancers in a unique work addressing themes of melancholia, ritual, control and abandon. There will also be a newly created piece by young people from Hull and East Yorkshire (20 July).

 For the first time in the main house, Hull Truck’s Youth Theatre groups will unite to present a world premiere. Directed byTom Bellerby, Bryony Lavery’s feisty new script is based on Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (22 – 26 August), offering a fresh take on the famous novel about friendship, cruelty, money and lack of money, and is relocated to the banks of the Humber.

The Market Theatre of Johannesburg, known internationally as ‘Theatre of the Struggle’, challenged the apartheid regime and became a powerful voice for freedom and emancipation. Their production of The Suitcase will have its UK premiere at Hull Truck Theatre (31 Aug – 9 Sept) before touring Northern England. The Suitcase is a short story by Es’kia Mphahlele, adapted for the stage by the Market Theatre’s Artistic Director James Ngcobo with music from Hugh Masekela and choreography by Gregory Magoma. It follows a young couple from the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal who seek a better life in the city, soon to realise that urban life is cold, cruel and unwelcoming. With unemployment and pregnancy in the mix, a split-second decision is made which sets the couple on an unexpected course.

International pioneers of site responsive performance dreamthinkspeak present ONE DAY, MAYBE which will conjure a kaleidoscopic dreamscape where live performance, installation and cutting edge technology combine to create a vividly dystopian vision of a world spinning thrillingly out of control. Deep within a hidden office complex in the city centre, a mysterious new Korean technology company is about to change the way you view the world. ONE DAY, MAYBE is the company’s most technically ambitious production to date. Originally commissioned and produced by Asian Culture Complex, The Museum of Art, Kochi, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, AsiaNow and dreamthinkspeak, this new version will premiere in Hull (1 September – 1 October).

Hull 2017’s third season will see the reopening of Hull New Theatre following its £16m rebuild, the most significant since being opened in 1939 as a successor to the Hull Repertory Theatre Company. Hull City Council’s ambitious transformation of the Grade II listed building includes new state of the art technical and backstage infrastructure, alongside front of house enhancements including a new easily accessible entrance and foyer, lift access, increased audience capacity, plus additional catering and licensed bars, and spaces for business, community and social events. Hull New Theatre looks forward to establishing itself firmly in the spotlight as a world-class venue, set to be enjoyed by all for many years to come.

An extraordinary one-off visit from The Royal Ballet will officially reopen Hull New Theatre on 16 September, with other highlights of the programme including a touring production from the National Theatre, The Kings of Hull, a brand new work from renowned playwright and creative director John Godber (27 September to 7 October), and a residency from the acclaimed Opera North.

Specially curated by the Company’s Hull-born Director, Kevin O’Hare, The Royal Ballet performance brings together artists from Hull with a selection of Royal Ballet Principals and Soloists. Joining The Royal Ballet on stage will be some of the exciting dance talent emerging in the city today as well as Hull’s own Xander Parish, Soloist with The Mariinksy Ballet and Joseph Caley, Principal with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Royal Ballet’s visit celebrates Hull’s extraordinary contribution to dance and ballet with a day of citywide activities, happenings and community projects as The Royal Ballet immerses the city in an inspirational day of dance.


With the world class concert venue Middleton Hall, which has undergone a £9.5 million redevelopment, plus a well-established gig culture at Hull University Union, music lovers of all stripes are catered for. This year includes Once Contemporary, Always Contemporary, a series of live concerts celebrating the enduring appeal of classical music which includes a Big Chamber Weekend with BBC Radio 3 (8 and 9 July). The student union will host chart- topping British bandWhite Lies (3 March), whilst Peter Hook & The Light will perform Joy Division and New Order’s Factory Records compilation album ‘Substance‘ (11 May).

Hull UK City of Culture and Opera North present The Height of the Reeds: A Sound Journey for the Humber Bridge, featuring music by Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, guitarist Eivind Aarset and electronic wizard Jan Bang giving way to the vast sound of the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and threaded through with the deep music of the Humber Bridge itself, captured by Hull based sound artist Jez riley French. Evoking both the long history of sea travel from Hull, and the Bridge as a powerful symbol of home, The Height of the Reeds is an unforgettable experience in sound. Head to the Humber Bridge, put on a set of supplied headphones and disappear into a audio adventure, walking the epic span of the Bridge, with a world of sound in your ears (1 – 30 April).

The many other live music events happening throughout this period include Uproot (6 – 8 April) at Hull Truck Theatre, which explores the city’s rich folk music traditions. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Uproot will feature a series of concerts from one of the most recognisable faces in modern British folk music, Eliza Carthy, joined by some very special invited guests, alongside international artists Warsaw Village Band and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, representing Hull’s links with its sister cities in Sierra Leone and Poland.

A celebration of the deep cultural ties between the city of Hull and the Nordic states, critically acclaimed singer-songwriter John Grant joins forces with arts organisation Curated Place for John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux, Sounds from Smoky Bay (28 April – 1 May). Get ready for an experimental journey through electronica, spoken word, avant-garde, rock and pop music over four incredible days. Festival venues include Hull City Hall, Gate No.5 and more, with headline sets at City Hall from John Grant, GusGus, Susanne Sundfør and Lindstrøm. North Atlantic Flux features a whole host of acclaimed local and international talent taking to the stages including Wrangler, Sóley, Steve Cobby & Russ Litten, Sykur, Fufanu, Prins Póló, Mugison, Kill J, James Orvis, Nils Bech, Jez riley French, Tonik Ensemble, Pinquins, Adelle Stripe & Halldór Smárason, Sweaty Records, Science of the Lamps, Nordic Affect, Simon Desbruslais, Tom Kaye, Eyvind Gulbrandsen and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), with more to be announced.

BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend (27 – 28 May) is set to be one of the musical highlights of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 when it comes to Burton Constable in East Yorkshire. Kings of Leon, Little Mix and Stormzy have already been announced, with more names to be revealed. Further details, including how to get tickets, will be released in late March / early April, with an estimated 50,000 tickets to give away across the two days.

To complement the Big Weekend, Radio One’s Academy will take residence in Hull, aiming to inspire 16-19 year olds to take the next step in their creative careers. BBC Radio 1’s iconic Live Lounge will transmit from the Academy, while BBC Introducing gigs will provide a platform for local bands and artists. Stars from across the musical genres will host Q&As and practical workshops that will see attendees learn song writing and performance techniques from the best in the business.

Scottish art collective Neu! Reekie! present Where Are We Now? (2 – 4 June) bringing together radical artists for a three-day festival across the city. As the UK reaches a crossroads and the divisive forces of prejudice stir across Europe and North America, the festival will ask the radical artists from all four corners of the UK where they stand. Through hip-hop and live music, film, animation, poetry, spoken word, literature, visual art, street theatre and debates, Neu! Reekie! intend to take the pulse of the counterculture and try to find some answers.

The festival’s opening event will take place at Hull City Hall on Friday 2 June, when they will be joined by Young Fathers,Charlotte Church and Hollie McNish. In addition to the music and spoken word guests, the evening will feature animation and short films. On Saturday 3 June, Neu! Reekie! and Hull music promoter Altu ‘Flowrex’ Collingwood will invite the guiding lights of UK hip-hop to The Welly for an evening of live music. The line-up includes Akala, The Four Owls, Stanley Odd and Eva Lazarus.

The three-day festival includes acclaimed dub-poet Linton Kwesi Johnson; artist, musician, writer and producer Bill Drummond; 2016 Stanley Kubrick prize-winning filmmaker, writer and curator Mark Cousins; artist Jamie Reid renowned for his work with the Sex Pistols; A Love From Outer Space founders Andrew Weatherall and Hull-born Sean Johnston; soul singer Law Holt; Caught by the River co-founder Jeff Barrett; UK rapper Chester P; pop provocateur Momus; poet and writerSabrina Mahfouz; and legendary Scottish outfit Finitribe.

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott perform a very special one-off show, Beauty in the East at Hull’s KCOM Craven Park with support from special guests The Divine Comedy and Billy Bragg (3 June), including songs from their two Top 5 albums and classic tracks from The Beautiful South and The Housemartins.

The Tidal Waves music festival takes place at South Cliff Beach, Bridlington, with two days of music showcasing a wealth of local talent as well headline acts including The Hoosiers, Reverend and the Makers and Toploader (9 – 10 June). Kicking off on the Friday night before a packed day-to-night programme on Saturday, Tidal Waves brings an eclectic mix for all the family, plus big names on the Saturday night. More to be announced.

The historic Zebedee’s Yard in the heart of Hull Old Town will host a series of shows from major artists, kicking off on Friday 23 June with Primal Scream and Echo and The Bunnymen and on Saturday 24 June with The Flaming Lips supported by Public Service Broadcasting (tickets on sale 9am Wednesday 1 March).

The Beverley Folk Festival brings the best of folk, acoustic, roots and Americana to Beverley Racecourse, with the likes ofEddi Reader, Martin and Eliza Carthy, Jon Boden and Heidi Talbot on the line-up. Also includes literature, comedy, poetry, workshops, dance and children’s activities (16 – 18 June).

Hull plays host to a celebration of new music, from the UK’s most innovative composers when the PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial (30 June – 2 July) treats audiences to world premieres of new performances that reveal the inner workings of the country’s most creative, musical minds.

In an initiative supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and delivered in partnership with the Southbank Centre and BBC Radio 3, explosions of sound will erupt across the city, as music pioneers including Eliza Carthy, Sam Lee, Jason Singh, GoGo Penguin and Hull’s own Daniel Elms stage a series of epic recitals that go beyond the boundaries of traditional musical composition.

Performances across the weekend include Anna Meredith & Southbank Sinfonia, Simon Holt & BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Gavin Bryars, Mica Levi and BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniel Elms (Friday 30 June). Ray Lee, Laurence Crane, Errollyn Wallen, Emily Hall, Hannah Peel, James McVinnie and Darkstar, Eliza Carthy and GoGo Penguin (Saturday 1 July), and Mark Simpson,  Jason Singh & Anne Martin, Jocelyn Pook, Peter Edwards, Philip Venables, David Hoyle & London Sinfonietta, Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walsh and Sam Lee (Sunday 2 July).

Jeff Lynne’s ELO, the globally renowned group known for their epic live shows, will perform a headline concert at the KCOM Stadium as part of Hull 2017 on 1 July. With a distinct style that seamlessly blends rock, pop and classical, Jeff Lynne’s ELO has had 26 UK Top 40 singles to date, selling in excess of 50 million records worldwide.

The 25th Summer Edition of Hull Jazz Festival (11 – 15 July) sees some of the freshest names in UK jazz perform alongside internationally renowned artists. British Jazz giant Courtney Pine CBE joins forces with soul legend Omar for the first time and MOBO Award-winning saxophone-drum duo Binker and Moses bring their hypnotic live show to Hull. Trailblazers Nérijaare paving a new way for women in jazz and the new wave of Gypsy Jazz is represented by Sébastien Giniaux Trio and The Grimaldi Quartet. Hull jazz legends Ain’t Misbehavin’ reunite after 25 years and saxophonist Snake Davis performs much-loved classic sax solos.

Now in its 27th year, Hull Folk and Maritime Festival celebrates Hull’s rich and unique folk heritage with a programme of more than 80 free events over four days filled with music, dance and family entertainment running from 20 to 23 July.

The award-winning grassroots music festival, Humber Street Sesh (Saturday 5 August) returns to Hull Marina in 2017 bigger and better than ever, with hundreds of artists – covering all music genres – playing across 14 stages. Drawing crowds of around 30,000, Humber Street Sesh celebrates the excellence and diversity of regional musicians and artists, providing a powerful platform for homegrown creative brilliance capturing the heart and soul of the city.

Freedom Festival (1 – 3 September) goes from strength to strength and this year celebrates its tenth anniversary with a huge programme over three days. Played out on city centre streets, with Hull’s architecture and heritage as the stage, Freedom Festival is not afraid to push boundaries with art and themes of freedom. More than 200 artists from over 30 countries will be performing alongside local talent. They include: a new visual arts commission from Brazilian sculptor Néle Azevedo exploring modern day slavery; the UK premiere of Cie Bistaki’s The Baïna Trampa Fritz Fallen; Counting Sheep, starring The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Canada’s only balkan-klezmer-gypsy-party-punk-super-band and one of the smash hits of last year’s Edinburgh fringe festival; an extraordinary dance work from Catalan heavyweights Lali Ayguade Company; The Dandy Lion Project, a photography exhibition that explores global expressions of the Black Dandy; and a new show from Newcastle’s brilliant dance company Southpaw. This is just a taste, the Freedom Festival team will be revealing full programme details for this year’s milestone event in due course.

Two days of live music featuring a vast line-up of local musicians, plus some very special guests, Hull Trinity Festival brings live performances to the city’s Old Town over one music-filled weekend (23 & 24 September) inviting audiences to explore and enjoy original acts in Hull’s city centre.

Classically Yours sees East Riding of Yorkshire Council join forces with Orchestras Live to bring some of the UK’s top orchestras to the area, including Manchester Camerata, Sinfonia Viva and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme is supported by Arts Council England with concerts throughout the year in Beverley, Bridlington, Pocklington and Withernsea (ongoing until March 2018). Includes Noisy Kids, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presenting an interactive, family friendly performance at Bridlington Spa (9 July).

Hull City Hall’s music programme continues throughout the year, including: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hull Philharmonic Orchestra, Caro Emerald, Al Stewart, Voices Across the Humber(featuring six choirs from both banks of the Humber), as well as Opera North’s production of Turandot.


Look Up, the year-long programme of temporary artworks, has placed Blade by Nayan Kulkarni and The City Speaks byMichael Pinsky, interrupting the city’s public spaces. The next commissioned works will appear in shopping centres, car parks, streets and public squares Artists include Bob & Roberta Smith, Tania Kovats, Chris Dobrowolski and Claire Morgan. Two of the co-commissions with The Deep: Chris Dobrowolski’s work (March to May) will look at environmental concerns around plastics and our oceans; and in August, Tania Kovats, working closely with The Deep’s staff, will create a large scale sculptural work, BLEACHED, which responds to the beauty of coral and its fragile position in the ecosystem.

 The Train Track and the Basket by Claire Barber explores the phenomenon of ‘transmigration’, and the notion that skills and belongings traverse transport routes alongside people. Between 1848 and 1914, more than two million people arrived into Hull by ship from mainland Europe, and left by train to the transatlantic ports of Liverpool and Southampton, seeking new lives in the New World. This mass movement of people, many of whom were in Hull for just a few hours, ended abruptly with the outbreak of the First World War. Barber’s installation at Hull’s Paragon Station is partly inspired by social narrative painting made at the time of transmigration, which captures loss, lament and excitement at a new beginning, and draws from personal travelling experiences, through Outer Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland.

Claire Morgan is creating a large scale suspended installation in the main atrium space of Princes Quay Shopping Centre as part of Look Up which will appear in mid-May, further information will be released in due course.

 Look Up: Paper City is a ten-day celebration of colour in Humber Street Gallery and Fruit Market, with installations by some of the most exciting creative figures in contemporary art, design and architecture using the specialist coloured paper Colorplan from Hull company G. F. Smith (30 June – 9 July). Also revealed at the launch of Paper City will be the World’s Favourite Colour, an international survey to discover what colour the world likes best (www.colorplanpapers.com).

This is a Freedom of Expression Centre by Bob and Roberta Smith will take over Hull School of Art and Design during its summer break hosting talks, workshops and a new exhibition created by the artist, exploring the differing degrees of freedom experienced by artists around the world, following his most recent investigations into the nature of modern protest (1 August – 8 September).

Humber Street Art Gallery

Hull’s new contemporary art space Humber Street Gallery teams up with Film and Video Umbrella to present Somewhere Becoming Sea (5 April – 17 June), an exhibition of international artists working with the moving image, including Lavinia Greenlaw, Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, Simon Faithfull and Cecilia Stenbom. The show explores Hull’s long-standing importance as a gateway to the North Sea and beyond, and how expanses of water that divide countries are also channels that connect them.

 Worm Mini Festival (23 – 26 June) will see Rotterdam’s WORM, a venue which was ‘born under the stars of punk, Dada, Fluxus and hacktivism’ will take up residence in Humber Street Gallery. Artists, filmmakers, musicians, DJs and performers will host a series of workshops and events showcasing the talent in the progressive underground culture of Hull’s ‘sister city’.

The gallery also teams up with the Crafts Council and a host of international artists to present States of Play confirming that play and creativity isn’t just for kids (6 July – 25 September). Supported by Arts Council England and British Council.

Ferens Art Gallery

The Ferens Art Gallery follows its acclaimed reopening with a major new exhibition, SKIN, which opens in April and explores the human body and how artists have depicted the nude form, including Ron Mueck, Lucian Freud and Édouard Manet. Features the much-anticipated photographic work by Spencer Tunick , created last year when 3,200 people stripped and were painted in shades of blue for Sea of Hull (22 April – 13 August).

OffshoreArtists Explore the Sea, at the Ferens and Hull Maritime Museum includes artists John Akomfrah, Tacita Dean, China Mieville, Martin Parr and Mariele Neudecker. Curated by Invisible Dust, it explores the sea, monster myths, climate change and Hull’s maritime history (1 April – 28 August).

The Ferens also plays host the world’s greatest contemporary arts prize, the Turner Prize (26 September – 7 January 2018), the shortlist for which is announced in May.

 Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull

 Each year the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery commission a portrait from the winner of the BP Portrait Award resulting in a selection of portraits of some of Britain’s best known cultural figures. The exhibition represents the diversity, creativity and vision of a group of people who have shaped Britain today, and the best in contemporary portraiture. It features portraits of public figures, including JK Rowling, Paul Smith, Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren and many more. Artists include Richard Towse and Stuart Pearson Wright (29 March – 11 June).

Cairns, an exhibition of life size sculptures by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir will be placed around the university campus, reflecting on the historic connection between Iceland and Hull (29 April – October). Cairns are a common sight in the Icelandic landscape and were used as landmarks for people to find their way from one place to another. They were also often placed on coastlines to guide ships to harbour. The figures on campus portray frozen moments of contemplation and take on the form of human trail markers, referencing themes of spirituality and physicality. Steinunn is well known in Hull for her iconic sculpture Voyage overlooking the Humber estuary at Victoria Pier. On 1 May, as part of John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux: Sounds from Smoky Bay, University of Hull lecturer and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais will give the world premiere of a piece by composer Deborah Pritchard in response to Voyage, at the foot of the sculpture itself.


The Artlink Centre for Community Arts is curating Square Peg in conjunction with Shape Arts, showcasing work by a range of artists who are disabled, throughout 2017. It includes an exhibition of work by the shortlisted artists and recipient of theAdam Reynolds Memorial Bursary. The seven artists are Anna Berry, Juan delGado, Ruth Le Gear, David Lock, Peter Matthews, Aidan Moesby and recipient Oliver MacDonald (April – July).

Hull Maritime Museum

The next major installation at Hull Maritime Museum be The Weeping Window from 24 March. By artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper and part of 14-18 NOW, the arts programme for the First World War Centenary, it is made up of several thousand handmade ceramic poppies from the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red that drew thousands of visitors to the Tower of London in 2014. A Cabinet of Curiosities draws on the comedy writing talents of youngsters from ten schools in Hull, who will mix factual and imagined interpretation to create an ‘openly populist’ and ‘light-hearted’ feel with the help from Britain’s best loved comedian Bill Bailey who will help curate this curious collection of Hull’s history (27 May – 10 September). A Common Foe (15 July – 24 September) will explore how Iceland and the UK have helped each in adversity at sea, as well as confronting each other over fishing rights.


The Big Malarkey Festival (26 June – 2 July) is Hull’s first ever children’s literature festival and will be held in East Park. The week-long festival will feature writers, poets and puppeteers as well as animation workshops and a Poetry Slam. The Big Malarkey will also feature a special programme for under-5s, and will finish with an all-dancing finale weekend. Produced in partnership with Hull Library Services, the festival is made possible with funding from the James Reckitt Library Trust and is for everyone aged 0 – 16 years old.

Prior to this, on 7 June, the 10th Waterstones Children’s Laureate will be announced in Hull. The role of the children’s laureate is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children’s books to celebrate outstanding achievement in that field.

The English poet, novelist, and biographer Sir Andrew Motion FRSL, who was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009, will speak at BP Cultural Visions Lecture Series which takes place at the University of Hull (24 June).

Larkin: New Eyes Each Year (5 July – 1 October) will be a biographical exhibition at the University of Hull, where Larkin spent three decades as librarian, and will lift the lid on the life of one of Hull’s most influential creatives. Curated by Anna Farthing, and featuring unseen letters, photography and personal possessions, the exhibition will explore connections between Larkin’s life and work in Hull.

Complementing the exhibition, this year’s Philip Larkin Society Distinguished Guest Lecturer will be acclaimed British artistGrayson Perry (5 July).

Contains Strong Language (28 September – 1 October) is a major new national spoken word and poetry festival in Hull created with Hull’s literature festival Humber Mouth and in association with the city’s independent publishing imprint,Wrecking Ball Press. Beginning on National Poetry Day with local, national and international poets, Contains Strong Languageis a celebration of new and exciting wordcraft. The festival will include John Cooper Clarke and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, along with world premieres, gala readings and concerts to be announced. The festival will also create a mammoth washing line of poetry about city landmarks, written by Hull residents.

The heart of Contains Strong Language will be The Hull 17, an ensemble of seventeen artists including Kate Tempest, Imtiaz Dharker, Kate Fox, Joe Hakim, Harry Giles, Helen Mort, Alice Oswald, Bohdan Piasecki, Jacob Polley, Louise Wallwein, Fred Voss and Dean Wilson. BBC national and local radio stations will be broadcasting from the festival and live shows fromContains Strong Language will include Jo Whiley on BBC Radio 2, The Verb with Ian McMillan and the BBC’s flagship arts radio programme Front Row.

Running concurrently with Contains Strong Language will be Humber Mouth (28 September – 7 October) Hull’s increasingly influential literature festival. This 25th anniversary edition will use both conventional and digital platforms to explore literature and poetry. This includes How Was Your Day? which will gather experiences of everyday life in Hull’s sister cities.


A packed programme of more than 400 film and documentary screenings, festivals and one-off events is taking place in Hull throughout 2017, as part of the UK City of Culture celebrations. There are films for audiences of all ages and tastes and filmmakers are coming to the city to be part of the year-long Transformative Film Culture for Hull programme. It includes discussions, workshops, children’s activities and screenings at venues around the city, including Middleton Hall at the University of Hull, which recently underwent a £9.5m redevelopment to create a state-of-the-art concert and arts venue, and Hull Truck Theatre, as well as some less obvious locations.

Transformative Film Culture for Hull is being delivered through Hull 2017 and by Hull Independent Cinema and a unique partnership of film festival, educational and archive partners from across the north. Funded by the BFI with National Lottery funding and led by its partner BFI Film Hub North, it reflects the BFI’s UK-wide strategy to bring a wide range of films and related activities to local audiences and to support local film networks and audience initiatives.

BP Big Screens is also coming to Hull, bringing free opera and ballet outdoors on the big screen. People are encouraged to come with friends, family and a picnic for the three screenings in Zebedee’s Yard. Being shown are a triple bill of the Royal Ballet’s The Dream/Symphonic Variations/Marguerite and Armand, Verdi’s tragic La traviata and Puccini’s spectacularTurandot (7 June, 4 and 14 July).


Hull will be at the forefront of national events to mark 50 years since the start of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Hull 2017 is joining forces with Pride in Hull and the iconoclastic queer collective Duckie to create LGBT 50 (22 – 29 July). Pride in Hull will kick off a week of events, hosting the first ever UK Pride on the opening Saturday, including a new route for the annual parade, which will finish in Queens Gardens. Throughout the week there will be exhibitions, socials, films, debates and more. The biggest celebration of LGBT+ culture in the region will culminate on the second Saturday with a very special Duckie Summer Tea Party in Queen Victoria Square and the opportunity to be part of a specially commissionedYorkshire Dance production by choreographer Gary Clark. Everyone is invited to one of the highlights of the summer.

As part of LGBT 50, Humber Street Gallery will host The House of Kings and Queens (27 July – 24 September), which will exhibit especially commissioned photography by Lee Price. Captured in Sierra Leone, where homosexuality remains illegal, Price’s powerful images offer a glimpse into The House where inhabitants can live without oppression, exposing what it means to be gay in Hull’s sister city Freetown.

Freedom Talks in September sees the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation inviting internationally-renowned speakers to help explore the notion of what freedom means to us. The Institute is a proud recipient of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its outstanding contribution to uncovering the true extent of slavery around the globe and how lessons from the past can educate the future. More details, including the final line-up and booking information, will be announced later in 2017. (1 – 4 and 28 – 29 September).

Throughout the year, the British Council, a Major Partner of Hull 2017, is organising Hull-Freetown 2017, which builds on the long-standing links between the twinned cities with a series of cultural and educational projects. Slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce was born in Kingston-upon-Hull in 1759, became its MP and was a key figure in the founding of a free colony in Sierra Leone in 1792. Civic links between the two cities stretch back 37 years and in 2016, a delegation from Hull was one of the first UK groups to visit Sierra Leone after the end of the Ebola epidemic. Hull-Freetown 2017 will feature specially commissioned films, art exhibitions, music workshops, theatre residencies and community based football projects. It is designed to stimulate growth and skills development in the creative industries, strengthen existing links between schools and foster new ones.


Hull 2017’s first Back To Ours festival has just taken place, with shopping centres, social clubs, schools and other local venues across the city hosting an huge variety of performances. They included the likes of drag king show Joan, the hugely acclaimed The Red Shed by Mark Thomas, indie stars The Pigeon Detectives, drag artist Ceri Dupree, Jenny and Lee from Gogglebox, film screenings and family friendly shows. Building on its success, Back To Ours runs two more times this year, with line-up details to come (half terms: 26 May -3 June and 27 October – 4 November 2017, www.hull2017.co.uk/back-to-ours).

Also taking place across the year, 60 original projects funded through the Creative Communities Programme continue, with artists developing projects alongside local people in the heart of Hull’s communities. Inspired by local stories and aimed at inspiring creativity and connectedness, a variety of new work is being produced, from site specific installations, to music and performance, to photography and film (ongoing, http://bit.ly/2mivmp5).

Taking place in different locations around the city throughout the year, Land of Green Ginger takes inspiration from a famous street in Hull’s Old Town to create another ground breaking citywide story. Designed to infiltrate everyday life, Land of Green Ginger is the antidote to boredom; it is astonishment and delight and curiosity and it will spread across Hull as each chapter leads on to the next. An exciting cohort of artists, including Lone Twin, Davy and Kristin McGuire and Macnas will be spinning myth and magic across Hull neighbourhoods, transforming places which can feel unnoticed into places of possibility, where “Acts of Wanton Wonder” can occur. Our story begins: “There once was a land that nobody believed existed. And every day people passed by it or around it or over it or through it, but never once saw it or felt it or heard it or knew any person or thing in it. Until – one day – the land revealed itself…” (throughout 2017).


www.hull2017.co.uk / @2017Hull / #Hull2017 


National Theatre announces tour of Patrick Marber’s adaptation of Hedda Gabler

The current Lyttelton cast of Heda Gabler

The current Lyttelton cast of Hedda Gabler © Jan Versweyveld

Following a sold-out run at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre, the NT will begin a UK tour of its acclaimed production of Hedda Gabler on 2 October 2017.  Beginning at Theatre Royal Plymouth,  the tour will journey across the UK to Edinburgh, Leicester, Salford, Norwich, Hull, Aberdeen, Northampton, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Milton Keynes, where the tour finishes on 3 March 2018.

Just married. Bored already. Hedda longs to be free…

This vital new version of Ibsen’s masterpiece by Olivier and Tony Award®-winning playwright Patrick Marber (Closer, Three Days in the Country) is directed by Ivo van Hove, one of the world’s most exciting directors.  Olivier and Tony Award®-winning  van Hove made his National Theatre debut with Hedda Gabler, which is running in repertoire at the NT’s Lyttelton Theatre until 21 March 2017.  His acclaimed production of A View from the Bridge recently played to sold out houses at the Young Vic, in the West End and on Broadway.  Van Hove’s next production for the NT will be the world premiere of Network based on the Oscar-winning film.  It will feature a UK stage debut for Bryan Cranston.

Set and lighting design for Hedda Gabler is by Jan Versweyveld, with costume design by An D’Huys and sound by Tom Gibbons.  The Associate Director isJeff James.

Patrick Marber said:  ‘It has been a huge honour to work with the great Ivo van Hove on this version of Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre. I am thrilled that this tour will enable more people to see his incredible production.’

Casting and further tour venues will be announced soon.


Hedda Gabler Tour                                                                                                                                            

Theatre Royal  Plymouth                                2 – 7 October 2017                          

Edinburgh Festival Theatre                           17 – 21 October 2017

Leicester Curve                                                 23 – 28 October 2017                          

The Lowry Salford                                           30 October – 4 November 2017

Norwich Theatre Royal                                   7 – 11 November 2017                          

Hull New Theatre                                             13 – 18 November 2017                          

His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen                 21 – 25 November 2017

Northampton Royal & Derngate                  28 November – 2 December 2017                                        .

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton                23 – 27 January 2018                          

Nottingham Theatre Royal                             5 – 10 February 2018

Newcastle Theatre Royal                                12 – 17 February 2018                          

Milton Keynes Theatre                                   27 February – 3 March 2018

The Gate Theatre announces an extension for its smash-hit production of George Brant’s Grounded

Lucy Ellinson

Lucy Ellinson

The Gate Theatre today announced an extension for its critically acclaimed, smash-hit production of George Brant’s Grounded which is returning to the Gate following two previous sell-out runs. The production, starring Lucy Ellinson, now runs for an extra week until 25 March.

She’s a hot-rod F16 fighter pilot. She’s pregnant. Her career in the sky is over. Now, she sits in an air-conditioned trailer in Las Vegas flying remote-controlled drones over the Middle East. She struggles through surreal 12 hours shifts far from the battlefield hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night.

Grounded is a gripping, compulsive play that targets our assumptions about war, family, and what it is to be a woman.

George Brant’s play Grounded was produced Off-Broadway in New York at the Public Theater, starring Anne Hathaway and a film of the play is currently in creation, also starring Hathaway. His other plays include Elephant’s Graveyard (David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center, Austin Critics’ Table Best New Play Award, and Keene Prize for Literature), The Mourners’ Bench, Salvage, Three Voyages of the Lobotomobile, Grizzly Mama, Any Other Name, Defiant, Dark Room, Miracle: A Tragedy, Good on Paper, Ashes, NOK, The Lonesome Hoboes, One Hand Clapping, The Royal Historian of Oz, Lovely Letters, Three Men in a Boat, Borglum! The Mount Rushmore Musical, Tights on a Wire and Night of the Mime. He has received writing fellowships from the James A. Michener Center for Writers, the McCarter Theatre Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Fundacion Valparaiso and the Blue Mountain Center as well as commissions from Dobama Theatre and Theatre 4.

Lucy Ellinson plays The Pilot. Her previous work for the Gate Theatre includes The Christians (also Traverse Theatre – Best Supporting Female Actor, Off-West End Awards), Trojan Women and Tenet (Gate Theatre and Greyscale). Other theatre credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RSC and tour), World Factory (Young Vic), Money: The Game Show (Unlimited Theatre and Bush Theatre), Oh the Humanity! and other good intentions (Northern Stage and Soho Theatre), A Thousand Shards of Glass (Jane Packman Co), Presumption (Third Angel, UK/international tour), Land Without Words (UK/international tour), 3rd Ring Out (Metis Arts), Where We Meet, Who We Are, Speed death of the Radiant Child and Home-made (Chris Goode), They Only Come at Night and Helium (Slung Low) and Monsters (Arcola). Radio credits include 15 Minutes Live and The Fall. She is an associate artist with Third Angel and Forest Fringe. Her solo work includes One minute manifesto, Kaidan and #TORYCORE.

Christopher Haydon directs. He is the outgoing Artistic Director at the Gate Theatre and formerly an Associate Director at the Bush Theatre. His credits at the Gate include The Convert, Diary of a Madman (also Traverse Theatre), The Iphigenia Quartet, The Christians (also Traverse Theatre, winner: Fringe First), Image of an Unknown Young Woman (winner: Best Production, Off West End Awards), The Edge of Our Bodies, Trojan Women, Purple Heart, The Prophet and Wittenburg. Other theatre credits include Twelve Angry Men (Birmingham Rep/West End), Sixty-Six Books, In the Beginning (Bush Theatre/Westminster Abbey), A Safe Harbour for Elizabeth Bishop (Southbank Centre), Grace, Pressure Drop (On Theatre), Deep Cut (Sherman Cymru/National Tour), Monsters, Notes from Underground (Arcola Theatre) and A Number (Salisbury Playhouse). His short films include The Taming of the Shrew/Two Gentleman of Verona (Shakespeare’s Globe), Devil in the Detail (Royal Court Theatre/Guardian). As a journalist he has written for: The Scotsman, The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The New Statesman and Prospect Magazine. He is the co-editor of three books: Conversations on Religion, Conversations on Truth (Continuum), and Identity and Identification (Black Dog).

Grounded Listings
Gate Theatre, Above The Prince Albert Pub, 11 Pembridge Road, London, W11 3HQ

Twitter: @gatetheatre
Box Office: 020 7229 0706

23 February – 25 March
Press night: 27 February 7pm

Performance times:
Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday matinees at 3pm

Previews and matinees: £10
Full price: £20
Concessions: £15
Under 26’s on selected Young Peoples Night: £7.50

Captioned performance:
16 March

Casting announced today for Guards at the Taj by Pulitzer Priz finalist Rajiv Joseph

Guards at the Taj

Guards at the Taj

Casting is announced today for the European premiere of Guards at the Taj, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph and directed by Jamie Lloyd. Danny Ashok (Disgraced, Bush Theatre; Capital, BBC) will play Humayun and Darren Kuppan (East is East, West End/ UK Tour) will play Babur. A new image of the cast has been released today and is now available to download here.

This darkly comic play will open the 2017 season at the Bush Theatre, following its major £4.3m capital project to revitalise the building. Guards at the Taj takes an enduring legend about the Taj Mahal and prompts audiences to explore questions about art, privilege and duty. The play premiered at the Atlantic Theater in New York to great acclaim in 2015 and is the recipient of both the Obie Award for Best New American Play and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play.

“If we hadn’t done our jobs tonight, we’d be hanging by our necks in the royal courtyard getting our eyes pecked out by the royal crows. So excuse me if I don’t wallow in some misbegotten guilt all night. Was it fucked up? Yes, it was. But I don’t have to feel terrible about it.”

It’s 1648. Agra, India. Imperial guards Humayun and Babur keep watch as the final touches are put to the mighty Taj Mahal behind them. The emperor has decreed that no one, except the masons, labourers and slaves who exist within those walls, shall turn to look at the building until it is complete.

Guards at the Taj is written by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Jamie Lloyd and designed by Soutra Gilmour. Lighting design is by Richard Howell with sound design and music composed by George Dennis. Fight direction is by Kate Waters.

Danny Ashok’s credits at the Bush Theatre include the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced, which transferred to Broadway and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. Most recently at the Bush he appeared in Zaida and Aadam, part of last season’s This Place We Know. Elsewhere his theatre credits include The Djinns of Eidgah (Royal Court), Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (Theatre Royal Bath) and Blood and Gifts (National Theatre). He most recently appeared in the International Emmy Award-winning BBC Drama Capital. Further television work includes The Five, Chasing Shadows and the BAFTA-winning The Dumping Ground. He has recently finished shooting the lead role in Finding Fatimah, directed by Oz Arshad, which will be released this spring.

Darren Kuppan most recently appeared on stage in The Tempest (Shakespeare’s Globe). Previous credits include Cymbeline (Shakespeare’s Globe), as Maneer Khan in East Is East (West End/ UK Tour), An August Bank Holiday Lark (Northern Broadsides), England Street (Oxford Playhouse), Great Expectations (English Touring Theatre/ Watford Palace), Rafta Rafta (Bolton Octagon/ New Vic Stoke), the lead in Theatre Royal Stratford East’s Aladdin, Arabian Nights (New Vic Stoke) and Bollywood Jane (West Yorkshire Playhouse). Television work includes Spooks and Britannia High.

Jamie Lloyd (director) has directed many productions in the West End for The Jamie Lloyd Company, including Doctor Faustus, The Maids, The Homecoming, The Ruling Class (Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for James McAvoy), Macbeth (Olivier nomination for Best Revival), The Hothouse, Richard III and The Pride. He won the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical for Passion while he was Associate Director of the Donmar Warehouse (2008 to 2011) and the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for The Pride (Royal Court). Lloyd’s other extensive credits include Urinetown (St. James Theatre/ West End), The Commitments (West End/ UK Tour), The Duchess of Malfi (Old Vic), She Stoops to Conquer (National Theatre), The Faith Machine,  Inadmissible Evidence, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Polar Bears (all Donmar Warehouse), Piaf (Donmar Warehouse/ Vaudeville/Teatro Liceo, Buenos Aires/Nuevo Teatro Alcala, Madrid; Olivier nomination for Best Musical Revival, Hugo Award for Best Director, Clarin Award for Best Musical Production, ADEET Award for Best Production) and Three Days of Rain (West End; Olivier nomination for Best Revival).  He is currently directing a double bill of Philip Ridley’s work, Killer and The Pitchfork Disney, at Shoreditch Town Hall.

Rajiv Joseph (playwright) became a Pulitzer Prize finalist (2010) for his Broadway play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which starred Robin Williams in his Broadway debut. Other plays include Gruesome Playground Injuries, Animals Out of Paper and All This Intimacy (Second Stage Theatre). Screen credits include seasons 3 & 4 of the TV series Nurse Jackie and he was the co-screenwriter of the film Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner.

Soutra Gilmour (designer) is an award-winning designer whose extensive credits include many productions in collaboration with Jamie Lloyd. She has designed several productions for The Jamie Lloyd Company in the West End including Doctor Faustus, The Maids, The Homecoming, The Ruling Class, Richard III, The Pride, The Hothouse and Macbeth. Previous work at the Bush Theatre includes Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Qur’an.

Kneehigh’s brand new show The Tin Drum to visit Bristol Old Vic this November

The Tin Drum

The Tin Drum

From the team behind sell-out smash hit Dead Dog in a Suitcase… Bristol Old Vic is delighted to announce that Mike Shepherd’s (Kneehigh Artistic Director and Founder) new version of Gunter Grass’s epic novel The Tin Drum will play at Bristol Old Vic this November.

On Oskar’s third birthday he rails against the adult world and decides to remain a child forever. Armed with a heart full of rage, a singing voice that shatters glass, and a seemingly indestructible tin drum, Oskar sets about to reveal the world for what it truly is.

However, the world has other plans for our hero…

Often hailed as one of the greatest novels ever written, Gunter Grass’ surreal post-war masterpiece has never been more prescient. Kneehigh will retell this extraordinary story of love, war and fizz powder as a startling musical satire. Part Baroque opera, part psychedelic white-out, part epic poem: a burlesque, a blitzkrieg, a tsunami.

Written by Carl Grose (The Grinning Man), composed by Charles Hazlewood and directed by Mike Shepherd, the team that brought you the internationally acclaimed Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), The Tin Drum is a folktale for troubled times: one political, profane and profound.

Kneehigh Artistic Director Mike Shepherd said: “I have reassembled the creative team behind Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) to make a new version of Gunter Grass’ extraordinary novel The Tin Drum. Our iconic anti-hero, Oskar, will lead us through a world as delicate as moth’s wings and as incandescent as a blazing saw mill. A grand musical satire, it promises to be furious, funny and fiercely full of hope – a story very much for now.”

Prepare to dance to the beat of a different drum!


Bristol Old Vic is also welcoming back its adopted Cornish cousins Kneehigh with two of their most beloved tales. In July, the legendary Cornish love story Tristan and Yseult will return. This production, which catapulted Kneehigh onto the national stage, is one of Kneehigh’s most loved shows; full of comedy, live music, grand passion and tender truths. In 2014 and 2015 it toured the US and returns to launch a tour of the UK beginning at Bristol Old Vic. The Kneehigh and Bristol Old Vic co-production The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk follows in August, again launching a UK tour from Kneehigh’s adopted Bristol home. Having premiered at Bristol Old Vic in May 2016, it tells the story of the love affair between the painter Marc Chagall and his wife Bella, who were immortalised on canvas as the picture of romance, while in reality, they walked through some of the most devastating times in history.