Support Your Local: York's Arts Venues


Sophie Lutkin looks at some of the best arts venues in York and why we need to support them now more than ever.

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Image by York Museums Trust

By Sophie Lutkin

During these uncertain times, our beloved arts venues are doing their best to cope with the huge impact the pandemic has had upon the sector. Theatres, art galleries, museums, and bookshops are struggling to comply with the government’s fluctuating regulations whilst simultaneously trying to ensure their business is economically viable. That is why, more than ever before, it is crucial that we continue to support such important centres of heritage if we wish to see them re-open to the public.

York Theatre Royal

Theatres have suffered a particularly hard hit since they were forced to close back in March this year. York Theatre Royal, with its beautiful architecture dating back to 1744 and situated just a stone’s throw away from the iconic Minster, is another site which has unfortunately had to adapt to stringent budget cuts. Producing shows inspired by cherished classics, innovative new writers, and aspiring young playwrights,the theatre is adept at nurturing both seasoned and upcoming actors, writers, set designers and lighting assistants. With an exciting programme already in place for 2021 - including an audience with astronaut Tim Peake and an appropriately magical Cinderella pantomime - York TheatreRoyal is looking forward to a future where it continues to safeguard access for all to York’s cultural life.

York Art Gallery

Just around the corner from York Theatre Royal is the vibrant York Art Gallery. Hosting a collection of paintings from the 14th century to the modern day, intricate prints, detailed watercolours, and stunning ceramics—with an exhibition featuring the earliest works of GraysonPerry coming to York in summer 2021—this is the artistic nucleus of the city. The gallery also frequently collaborates with local schools, running workshops, tours, and providing resources for the budding Picasso's amongst us. I was fortunate enough to visit the gallery just before lock-down, and I was mesmerised by Harland Miller’s witty, personal, and geographically inspired Penguin Book Covers.
Responding to coronavirus restrictions, a selection of their current artwork has been uploaded online, allowing greater access for those self-isolating and unable to leave their homes.

**Minster Gate Bookshop     **

This is one for the devoted bibliophiles, the avid readers, and the learned scholars. A positive trove of hidden gems including treasured members of the literary canon, and exquisite antiquarian books, you could quite easily spend a number of days browsing the well-stocked shelves of the Minster Gate Bookshop. Located on the street formerly known as ‘Bookland Lane’ at the entrance to York Minster, the five floors of this Georgian townhouse are packed to the rafters with books: from history to horticulture,archaeology to anthropology, physics to philosophy, there’s a paperback or hardback to suit even the most out-there of tastes. Housing gorgeously gilded leather-bound classics, a collection of rare first editions, as well as contemporary best-sellers, this is a proudly independent book shop you’ll be dreaming about for days.

York Castle Museum

Established on the site of York Castle, which was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068, this museum was founded by John L. Kirk in 1938. It is housed in the debtor’s and female prisons which were constructed from the ruins of the castle. Bordered by Clifford’s Tower and the scenic river Foss, the museum contains incredible artefacts including a 17th century iron corset, over 100 historic patchwork quilts dating back to the 1700s, and an unused cocoa tin belonging to explorer Ernest Shackleton. Additionally, authentic period rooms such as a Victorian parlour and a 17th century dining room can be visited alongside the cell once possibly occupied by notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin. Boasting a huge variety of individual attractions - ranging from a recreated Victorian street complete with cobbled road, schoolroom, hansom cab, and police cell to an exhibition on the history of children’s toys - this museum will take you on an exciting tour through stories of decades past.

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Sitting on a deckchair in an old church surrounded by the works of one of art’s greatest names - what could be better ? Accompanied by a suitably breath-taking soundtrack,marvel as Van Gogh’s renowned paintings such as* The Starry Night *and his Sunflowers series come alive upon the walls around you. Explore every intricate brushstroke,see a vase animated by his floral paintings, and even create a masterpiece of your own to project upon the church walls. Walk in the stunning imagination of one of the world’s most revered artists, and live life in a blaze of colour- if only for a short while.