“Viking Hall” planned for Castle car park  

With the organisers of the Shakespearean Rose Theatre eager to return next summer for a repeat performance, it looks like they may have to dislodge Viking invaders first.

The York Council is reporting that they have been approached to provide a Viking themed theatrical experience which would include a Viking Great Hall and courtyard theatre “creating an immersive performance space with a capacity of approximately 100 people per show – with 360-degree sets, live actors, and special effects”.

The installation would also include a Viking themed homestead featuring food and beverage outlets, box office, sheltered and unsheltered seating, entertainment and demonstration stage and the potential for a craft and skills market.

The Council says this would involve the closure of the Castle Car Park to create a new area of “high-quality public realm”. Work on an alternative car park – a multi storey on St Georges Field – has not yet started.

The Rose theatre benefited from one of the warmest and driest summers we have had since the second world war. The test for outdoor attractions always comes with poorer weather. Time will tell what type of events are sustainable near the Castle.

As for the Viking Hall, our predecessors from Scandinavia were famous for their love of the arts. Many a happy evening was spent sitting next to an open fire sipping buttermilk and listening to the harps, lyres and lutes.

They might occasionally drink ale and mead, prompting the following poetic warning

Less good than they say
for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink,
the less they can think
and keep a watch over their wits.

Beers in those days were much weaker than today.

If the Viking Hall operators hope to get a license for their establishment, no doubt they will restrict sales to Kaliber and the like (No I didn’t think so either)

The Viking Hall would be open between January and May.  January to March is a notoriously quiet time in the York City centre.

Big increase in potholes as ice takes its toll

Some of the worst potholes have appeared on the Castle car park,. They are a hazard for pedestrians and could damage vehicles. The Council needs to take swift action to fill them in.

Councillors have been out and about reporting highway defects like this one on Askham Lane. Cllr Sheena Jackson has reported potholes on Walker Drive

Sheena has also been engaged with Talk Talks broadband installation programme. There has been more surface damage to roads and footpaths than was expected in some areas.

Rose Theatre project – further details published

£197,308 rent offered for use of Castle car park

The York Council is being recommended to close part of the City’s most popular car park, next to Clifford’s Tower, between 21st May and 23rd September next summer.

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will be Europe’s first full-scale working replica of a traditional Shakespearean Theatre which is modelled loosely on a combination of the Rose Theatre and the Globe Theatre which were built in 1587 and 1599 respectively.

 It will aim to attract 100,000 people over the ten-week season, including up to 20,000 students.

It is unclear whether the lessons of last year’s Mystery Plays have been learned. There, matinee performances mostly sold out while evening mid-week performances were markedly less popular.

The twelve-sided, three storey building will create a theatre experience for approximately 950 people including a standing audience of 300 who will enjoy a “high level of involvement in the show”. With a 100+m2 stage most of the audience are within 15m of the action. Around the theatre there will be a “Taste Village”, show casing local food and beverage as well as an area for free wagon performances.

Four plays: Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Richard III and A Midsummer Nights Dream, will be produced by esteemed UK directors, including potentially a production by York Theatre Royal. Approximately 140 shows are anticipated over a ten-week season.

Ticket prices for adults will start at £12.50

The report details how the Council will be compensated for the loss of parking spaces,

“135 car parking spaces will be needed for the pop-up theatre (out of the 318 available).

Lunchbox will reimburse the Council a total of £197,308:

  • £1,616 per day for the period 28 May to 19 June
  • £1,679 per day for the period 20 June to 4 September
  • £1,616 per day for the period 5 September to 16 September”

The report goes on to say, “There is a small risk that the council will lose £40k of revenue”

The Piccadilly multi storey would remain open in the evening for the use of theatre goers.

On the future of the Castle car park the Council report says,

“One of the key aims of the high-level vision, and the working assumption for the master planners, is that the Castle Car Park is to be closed and replaced with alternative uses”.

 “The temporary part-closure of the car park for the theatre would allow officers to understand the impact of the displacement of car parking on the highway network over a significant period of time without incurring the associated loss of revenue.

 Furthermore, it would also start to break the public perception of this area as a car park and encourage further public debate about its future”.

In effect, it is now clear that the Council plans to close the Castle car park on a permanent basis.

No details are provided of any spin off benefits that could be garnered from staging an “Elizabethan” themed summer in the City.

However, the four yearly Wagon Plays – which date from 1386 –  are due to be staged in the City  next summer.

There is no risk analysis included in the papers assessing any reputational risk associated with large number of visitors failing to find a convenient transport system in operation.

The Councils “free parking space” internet based system collapsed 4 years ago and many of the “on street” information signs have only recently started being brought back into service.

The Council is apparently mindful that part of the (woefully uneven) car park will need to be resurfaced to make it safe for pedestrians (which rather begs the question of the risk posed to current users when they get out of their vehicles!)

So, there is still a lot of work to be done with some risk still attached to what is basically an imaginative project

Questions raised about “Rose Theatre” reconstruction timetable

Reconstructed Rose Theatre planned for Castle car park

It seems that the announcement on Saturday – through the pages of the Yorkshire Post – took many people by surprise. Tourist organisations, the local authority, businesses and other media outlets were left playing “catch up” as they scrambled to give their take, on the event, to a receptive audience.

It seems that the leaked information came from the prospective producers of the plays and may have been prompted by concerns that the temporary use of the Castle car park was due to be mentioned – unspecifically – in the York Councils Forward Plan which was published on Monday.

The plan says that the project will be discussed at the Councils Executive meeting taking place on 31st August. The background papers for that meeting will be published in a couple of weeks’ time.

Sources at the Council claim that there is still much work to be done to come up with an effective alternative parking/transport plan to make up for the loss of capacity and income from the Castle car park – York’s busiest.

Barley Hall off Stonegate

There is limited spare capacity on most days of the year at the adjacent Coppergate centre multi storey (287 spaces) and St Georges Field (150 spaces) but nothing like sufficient to make up for a loss of 360 spaces at Castle. The Council has recently closed the Castle Mills car park leaving private sector options like Garden Place, Tanner Row and George Street anticipating a big hike in income.

But it is the timing of the announcement that leads to concerns.

Arguably any debate about a project of this size should have been concluded months ago.

 An “Elizabethan” themed summer tourist season could provide a major boost for period visitor attractions, like the Barley Hall and the Merchant Adventurers Hall, while also helping to maintain high customer numbers at hotels and restaurants.

During its Shakespearian season, the Rose project hopes to attract circa 50,000 paying customers.

To put that in context, it is nearly three times more than attended last year’s Mystery Plays at the Minister.

Marketing of the event needs to start soon.

Merchant Adventurers Hall – a stones throw from the proposed Rose Theatre location

Major hotels and visitor attractions in York are already drafting their programmes and brochures for 2018. It would be a shame if this important event wasn’t given the prominence that it deserves.

One of the reasons why the Mystery Plays didn’t attract the hoped for level of attendance was lack of early publicity in key Far East and American markets. Decisions on 2018 long haul holiday destinations will be taken by many potential visitors over the next few weeks.

So, if there is frustration at the pace of progress on the Rose Theatre project, we can understand it. The York Council and Visit York have a relatively short time to maximise the economic value that a quality “Elizabethan” summer experience could bring to the City.

As we saw with the TdF “Grand Departee concert fiasco, long term planning is all important.

Hopefully the lessons have been learned.

Castle car park to close to accommodate Richard III

Most of the Castle car park is set to close next summer when an ambitious project will see a replica of the Elizabethan Rose Theatre reconstructed  there.

According to media reports four Shakespearean plays will be performed there (Macbeth, A Midsummer’s Nights Dream,Romeo and Juliet and Richard III.

The season at the 1000 seat outdoor theatre would run for 3 months from next June. The car park is likely to be out of use for much longer than that.

The imaginative project is the brainchild of local production company Lunchbox promotions who have previously been responsible for “Thor’s Tipi bar” and “The Ice Factor” at Christmas. The latter had to be moved from the Eye of York to the Designer Outlet following complaints from the nearby law courts.about noise.

Sectional drawing of original Rose Theatre

The plans for the Theatre have not yet been published on the Council’s planning web site although the producers have been quoted as saying they hope to get permission “in September” (!).

It seems likely that talks on use of the car park have been on going with City leaders for some time. A decision to forgo income, from a car park which generates over £1 million a year, is a significant one for the Council.

The project is a welcome step up from the shipping container drinking village standard hitherto favoured by the Council for the Piccadilly area.  No doubt hyperbole will flourish as adjectives like “imaginative”, “bold” “longsighted” vie with “reckless” & “ill-considered” for public attention.

The announcement comes at a time when the future of the whole Castle/Piccadilly area is being subject to a major public consultation. Perhaps the plan is a preemptive strike by those with a fixed view about the future use of the Castle precinct?

There are certainty some questions to be answered about the effect that losing much of York’s popular, and most accessible car park, will have on a City centre retail economy which has been under siege for the last 5 years.

It probably means that the drift to York becoming a “playground” destination will accelerate albeit in this case with perhaps a slightly more refined clientele than comprise the average stag party group.

Ironically the original Rose theatre also had to compete with more down to earth Elizabethan pastimes including “bear-baitingbull-baiting, and brothels” (see below)

Richard III finally makes it to a York car park?

Footnote – The original Rose Theatre in London

.  The Rose was built by dyer and businessman Philip Henslowe in 1587. Henslowe, an important man of the day, had many impressive titles, including Groom of the Chamber to Queen Elizabeth from the early 1590s, Gentleman Sewer to James I from 1603, and churchwarden and elected vestryman for St. Saviour’s Parish from 1608.

Henslowe built the Rose above an old rose garden on the Bankside near the south shore of the Thames, in Surrey. The Rose property consisted of a plot lying on the corner of Maiden Lane and Rose Alley — an alley about 400 feet long, “leadinge [south] from the Ryver of thames into the saide parcell of grownde,” according to Henslowe’s own papers. By the time Henslowe acquired the land lease and began drawing up plans for the Rose, professional playhouses like the Theatre, and the Curtain had been open for over a decade.

Realising the ease with which audiences could ferry across the Thames to London’s South Bank, Henslowe desired to establish a playhouse in that particular location, already familiar to Henslowe’s contemporaries as an area saturated with sundry and sometimes infamous pastymes such as bearbaitings, bull-baitings, and brothels.

The Rose was round and elegant, solidly composed of brick and timber, and easily accessible, making it more sophisticated than the Theatre. After 1592, the Rose seems to have become very popular, and many acting companies performed on its stage, including Lord Strange’s Men (probably including Shakespeare as an actor) from 1592 to 1593, Sussex’s Men from 1593 to 1594, the Queen’s Men in 1594, the Admiral’s Men (Shakespeare’s chief rivals, who performed in the Rose for seven years starting in the spring of 1594), and Worcester’s Men as late as 1603.

Plans for London’s Rose Theatre

During the plague of 1593, the Rose closed down for a time, and nearly 11,000 Londoners succumbed. It appears that actors from Lord Strange’s Men were among those that perished because, when the Rose did reopen, Sussex’s Men opened in their place.

What happened to Shakespeare at this time is an enigma; however, he might have been making plans to move across the river and join Heminges at the Theatre.

The Rose had many successful years, standing the lone, majestic playhouse on the Bankside. But others wished to share in Henslowe’s success and new theatres were built beside the Rose, contributing to its ultimate demise.

The land lease Henslowe had secured some thirty-one years before, expired in 1605. Records show that Henslowe, although suffering financially due to the competing playhouses (primarily the Globe), was ready to renew his lease under the original terms, but the parish from which he was renting insisted on renegotiating the contract, tripling his rent, and demanding 100 marks toward the upkeep of the parish. Henslowe was livid and replied to the parish, exclaiming that he ‘wold [r]ather pulledowne the playehowse then . . . do so.”

Henslowe gave up the Rose in 1605, and it is assumed that it was torn down the following year. Henslowe went on to build the Hope Theatre in 1613, and he died in 1616.

Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare’s Theatres: The RoseShakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. 5th August 2017  http://www.shakespeare-online.com/theatres/therose.html .


York car parks busy as plea made to free up more space

This week has seen the start of the build up to Christmas in York City Centre.

The most popular car park, at Castle, has been packed for most of the week…. & this despite the surface deteriorating until it is so uneven it represents a safety risk for some pedestrians.

The York Council still doesn’t widely advertise its “on line” car parking space availability web site, 4 years after it was “overlooked” when the local authority relocated its HQ.

On line site confirms parking space availability click to access

On line site confirms parking space availability click to access

Street signs, which indicated the number of vacant  spaces available, have also now disappeared, meaning tourists will add to congestion as they tour the City looking for spaces.

Reynards Garage site left empty

Reynards Garage site left empty

All in all then, a sad state of affairs.

One simple way of supplementing the availability of shoppers car parking spaces in the run up to Christmas would be to create a temporary car park at the former Reynard’s garage (Airspeed factory) site.

This site was cleared about a year ago and now stands tidy, but inaccessible, in a prime location on Piccadilly. The surface is in good condition  and is certainly better than the surface at Castle..

All that is required is the installation of a ticket machine and Council taxpayers could look forward to a welcome financial bonus.

……and visitors to the City would find that there was  a bit less pressure on parking spaces. 



Castle car park potholes filled in but major resurfacing still needed

Pothole filled in on Castle Car park

Pothole filled in on Castle Car park

Some of the potholes on the Castle car park have been filled in. The whole car park still needs resurfacing.
Graffiti gone from second set of flood gates on North Street

Graffiti gone from second set of flood gates on North Street

Graffiti removed from one set of flood gates on North Street (but not wall)
Graffiti on second set of flood gates on North Street

Graffiti on first set of flood gates on North Street

But graffiti still on other set of gates
Riverside walk Graffiti

Riverside Walk Graffiti

…..and on Hotel wall
Weeds still growing on Ouse Bridge

Weeds still growing on Ouse Bridge

Our longest outstanding issue remains the weed growth on Ouse Bridge. First reported (this year) on 27th August
Weeds still growing on Riverside Walk

Weeds still growing on Riverside Walk

and weeds continue to thrive on the banks of the Ouse

All issues have been reported using the “Fix My Street” website

Condition of Castle car park causes storm

Castle short stay car park

Castle short stay car park

Visitors to York s best used public car park next to Clifford’s Tower have criticised the lack of maintenance of its surface.

The number of potholes have increased over recent years with many now posing a hazard for drivers when they leave their vehicles.

There are also widespread problems with “ponding”. Surface water is gathering in increasingly large pools.

The arrival of frost and ice over next few months may prompt a lethal cocktail of problems unless the York Council acts quickly to, at least, patch the worst areas.

The car park is the Councils biggest money earner with charges bringing in nearly £1 million a year. There are 318 spaces at the car park with 31 now reserved for blue badge holders.

Potholes on Castle car park

Potholes on Castle car park

Some drivers have criticised the decision of the last Council to increase the number of disabled spaces which can be used for an unlimited period of time by blue badge holders.. Many of the spaces are rarely used.

The car park forms part of the area blighted by indecision on Piccadilly/Coppergate redevelopment schemes.

A report on options for the area – now dubbed the “southern gateway” – was due to be considered by the Council this month but was hastily withdrawn from the Council’s forward programme a few weeks ago.

It is now scheduled to be considered at the end of October. It is expected to recommend changes to car parking arrangements in the area

Even after a development masterplan has been agreed,  it is likely to be several more years before any development actually takes place in the Castle car park area