York Civic Trust events
Review of recent digital events and in-person events update (April 2021)
We know how much you all value our social events programme and the York Civic Trust thanks all its members for their patience as we postponed our 2020 programme due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, due to ongoing social restrictions introduced by the government, we have had to postpone our Spring-Summer programme of 2021. Your ticket will be valid for when we can re-arrange a date for them. If you cannot attend the new dates, we kindly ask you to consider donating the value of your ticket to help us continue our work, rather than request a refund and maintain your free access to our virtual events programme. The money we raise through our very popular social events is invested by the Trust in protecting and promoting York’s heritage. Through planning casework, campaigning, conservation works, education and our city enhancement, the money we raise through our events makes a difference.
We will update you as soon as the restrictions are lifted and we are confident that our Members will feel safe to resume in-person York Civic Trust events.
We have however been very busy offering virtual and online events during the Covid restrictions. A taster of our most recent events is below.
The Civic Trust were delighted in early April 2021 to explore the theme of innovation and innovators in a York context. This took place via a virtual panel discussion and presentations, which included invited panelists from a range of sectors in York.
The discussion was adeptly chaired by Prof. Chris Bailey, Clerk of York’s Guild of Media Arts, who has kindly contributed this fantastic summary of the event for anyone who was unable to attend.
‘Making Good – Innovation in York Past, Present and Future‘
Innovation is clearly a powerful force. A standard 20 foot long box, the shipping container, has changed the economic geography of the entire world (thank you John Lanchester, London Review of Books, 22 April 2021), while the hamburger changed diets around the globe, and arguably population health and the environment into the bargain.
But what causes innovation? Around this time last year the chief adviser to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, announced that some adverts for civil service posts were going to appear, inviting applications from ‘weirdos and misfits with odd skills’. These people Cummings assumed, would shake things up, so that No 10 could ‘change fast’ that is, innovate. The idea destruction must precede creation is also implied by the title of a Mark Zuckerberg biography entitled ‘Move Fast and Break Things’.
From what we know of innovators throughout history, many were indeed mavericks, outsiders, and deeply unpopular with the establishment at the time. But Cummings’ prescription ‘hire weirdos, get innovation’ is a basic fallacy. Having a wayward haircut doesn’t make me Einstein.
A recent panel discussion convened by York Civic Trust presented expert views on innovation past and present, and future. Two YCT staff, Duncan Marks and Joshua Scarlett, showed how York has innovated, and which innovators we choose to celebrate. Then an artist, Rebecca Carr, two social innovators, Kelly McDonald and Catherine Oakley, and the University of York’s PVC for Partnerships and Engagement, Kiran Trehan, opened up some radically different ways to think about how we change things, processes and systems.
In his historical introduction Duncan Marks acknowledged the stereotypes, such as the fictional ‘survivor’, Robinson Crusoe ‘of York’, in his survey of lesser known innovations that began in York. Innovations can quickly become so ubiquitous we forget they had to be invented in the first place – the Portakabin and the Portaloo, or the first metal-hulled boat. York Civic Trust’s Blue Plaques serve to commemorate people for a range of reasons, one of which is innovation of all kinds. Joshua Scarlett’s five case studies included the urban transport revolution that was the Hansom Cab, but also Samuel Tuke’s foundation of a new kind of hospital, The Retreat. In part, this caring institution was established as a response to the cruelty meted out to the ‘mad’ in eighteenth century asylums, but the approach to treatment adopted owed everything to the respect for others that Tuke learned through is adherence to the Society of Friends, the Quakers.
Perhaps this points to a distinctive root of York’s tradition of innovation, for York welcomed Quakers when many other cities regarded them as troublemaking dissenters and excluded them. The Rowntree family, which supplied another of Joshua’s examples, seem often to combine innovation and social reform. Joshua described the simple shape-sorting test used to help select workers for the chocolate packaging department. This could be seen as a forerunner of time and motion studies, sacrificing employee welfare for business efficiency. But, as a simple test of dexterity, it skirts round the social bias of the requirements job applicants otherwise had to meet, such as tests of supposed ‘good character’. Over time it proved to be socially progressive, giving working-class women, who might lack education, a route into stable employment.
The national organisation UnLtd claims that one in four new businesses are social enterprises. Certainly that ratio seems realistic in York, where many young graduates are looking for ways to put their knowledge and skills at the service of the community. One of the connectors of this network is Kaizen Arts Agency, founded by artist Rebecca Carr. She prefers not to distinguish between creativity and innovation, arguing that the values you adopt will attract collaborators and steer the work in a worthwhile direction. For her, learning is also crucial. One reason she gives for setting up the successful York Design Week in 2019 is to provide a platform in for ‘activists’, from a breadmaking regeneration project in Liverpool, to a creative thinking guru from California.
Like Rebecca, the organisers of the York MCN Network aim to fix, rather than break, things. Kelly McDonald and Catherine Oakley wanted to know why the system fails so many homeless people. They recognised that ‘multiple, complex needs’ implies many specialist organisations and services having to coordinate their dealings with a single individual. Getting this right every time requires change deep within every organisation.
The importance of lived experience in helping improve services, and the need to overcome the structural barriers to collaboration, are two of the most obvious ways to make life better for people whose existence is made needlessly miserable by the way things are currently being done. MCN goes beyond inviting diverse voices and views to join the debate, acting to tackle inequality by involving users and providers in making the changes. Kelly and Catherine brought out two important features of social innovation; that it is about iterative processes rather than quick, one-off fixes, and that getting on and doing things, while thinking critically about it, actually increases the chances of success.
The Chat function in Zoom is all too often a pointless distraction, but not so on this occasion. A request for ‘actual concrete’ examples of social innovation in action was answered immediately by participants citing beneficial changes in the environment and in everyday life around the city.
Kiran Trehan described her aim in making external partnerships as to ‘create the conditions for successful enterprise’, literally building institutions of learning around the process of innovation. The University of York having been founded on the idea that its goal is ‘public good’, it is no surprise to find that the Science Park, Science City York (in partnership with York St. John University and City of York Council), and the incubator project Phase One, have been home to many successfully innovative companies.
If innovation is a good thing, then how should we make sure there is more of it and that it serves a useful purpose? Removing barriers to communication between people, service providers and service users, groups and organisations, and between levels perceived or real, seemed to be a pre-requisite. Worldwide, cities like York are encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to the trickiest of urban problems. Our membership of global networks such as UNESCO Creative Cities and the US based Cities of Service also helps us refresh our thinking.
The imminent launch of the remodelled Guildhall, and the more distant prospect of a ‘tech accelerator’ possibly located within York Central, hold out the prospect of a bright future for York as a UK centre of innovation.
Getting up-close to York’s river heritage
The Covid-19 ‘lockdowns’ have presented many of us with the opportunity and need to get out and about in our local community and environment. In doing so, many of us have rediscover it anew. It has led to solo urban explorers, the 21st-century flâneurs, perhaps, to investigate York’s lesser well-known corners and crevices, often rich in history and tangible evidence of heritage, and digital technologies allowing these to be shared.
The Trust’s very own CEO, Andrew Morrison, is just one of these intrepid adventurers and digital masters! In March, Andrew gave two fascinating virtual ‘tours’ of the North Street Gardens and Foss Islands Road areas.
North Street Gardens were created in middle of the 20th century on the site of the original Rowntree’s factory. Supplied with its own railway line and serviced by the River Ouse, the original factory produced many early Rowntree’s products. What is now one of the quietest spots in the city was once the heart of an industrial and trading area. With the factories and merchants no longer present, medieval buildings can be seen facing the river again. Now in the shadow of a large modern hotel and connected by a concrete walkway to the historic Ouse Bridge, traces of the garden’s less green past can be still be seen hidden behind the protective floor barrier.
Foss Islands Road was once a very different area to that which is there today. It was dominated by a large power station that supplied electricity to the area. Its cooling tower and chimneys dominated the skyline. The River Foss dissected the site and was its lifeblood. Today only its chimney and the enigmatic Blue Cable Bridge survive.
Andrew’s urban exploring took him down to the river’s waterline, producing images and understandings of the river that are unknown to the majority of us.
In case you missed it, you can now watch the full talk and virtual tour of the Blue Cable Bridge and York power station remains, featuring the fascinating history of the Foss Islands Road area and its pivotal role in powering York: https://vimeo.com/536034270
You will also discover York Civic Trust’s ambitions to raise awareness of the area’s past and how the area might be improved, with a feasibility study to see if the bridge can be opened once more to pedestrians.
All donations for the feasibility using the following link (not the one in the video – sorry for any confusion!) are warmly welcomed: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=B7J7GJABQMLV8
POSTPONED SPRING / SUMMER Events:
POSTPONED: Mansion House Lunch
Now that the Mansion House is open to the public for part of each week it is possible to hire the premises for private functions on other days. The Trust is hosting a lunch for members in the splendid dining room. After the two-course meal Rachel Semlyen will speak on some of the more colourful Lord Mayors who have lived here. Rachel co-authored the book ‘Lords of the City – The Lord Mayors of York and their Mansion House’.
For those who would like to stay a little longer, Darrell Buttery will take a group to see some of the challenges facing the Trust when we financed and guided the major restoration of the Mansion House in 2000.
Venue: York Mansion House
Ticket cost: £45
Purchase Ticket: https://mansion_house_lunch.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: St. Mary’s Abbey Figure of Christ: A New Treasure in the Yorkshire Museum’s Collection
Expertly crafted from rich materials in 13th century France, the figure would have provided a focal point for wonder and worship in the church of St. Mary’s Abbey.
Acquired by the Yorkshire Museum in September 2019, and now on display for the first time since 1826, museum curator Lucy Creighton will lead a talk on this fascinating artefact.
Venue: Yorkshire Museum
(museum charges will still apply)
Ticket cost: £10
Ticket purchase: https://st_marys_abbey_figure_of_christ.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: Coffee Morning Social
Join us for this traditional start to the Civic Trust’s season of events. Twenty or so early pictures of the city have been added to the collection at Knavesmire Lodge and members who would like to see them can view them in the rooms where they are displayed. The antiques stall will be raising money to go towards the cost of installing the organ from St. Michael-le-Belfrey into St. Lawrence’s Church.
Venue: Knavesmire Lodge, 304 Tadcaster Road, York YO24 1HE.
Bus stop at Chalfonts, nearly opposite.
Ticket cost: £5
Ticket purchase: https://coffee_social.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: York Racecourse: Forever Changing
Deemed to be one of the best Racecourses in the world, York has continued to thrive and develop its facilities. Members will be given a chance to see the new areas and those only accessible by jockeys or trainers.
Meet: York Racecourse main entrance
Ticket cost: £12
Ticket purchase: https://york_racecourse.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: 31 St. Saviourgate
Members have been offered a marvellous opportunity by York Conservation Trust to look at the interior of 31 St Saviourgate. The present tenants will have moved out in the spring and the Conservation Trust wish to do some restoration work before the next occupants arrive. They have kindly said that during this period we may have access to see the building’s interiors.
Built mainly in 1739 as a house, it has also had an existence as a school and later as offices. Throughout all these periods, the fine 18th century interiors and access patterns have survived and where subdivisions have been made the original cornices and skirting boards enable the original layout to be an easily and
intriguingly understood puzzle.
Venue: 31 St. Saviourgate
Ticket cost: £12
Ticket Purchase: https://31_st_saviourgate.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: The Peoples of York, Lecture 1: Arrivals
This is the first in a landmark series of six talks. The lectures will explore how York was shaped by settlers from Europe and beyond from the earliest times. The stories of individuals and the history of familiar places will come to the fore in six enlightening and engaging talks.
Organised by YCT, and supported by York Museum Trust, these fascinating sessions will be open to everyone. The series will launch with an insight into Roman and Anglian arrivals in York. In the autumn of 2020, the stories of medieval settlers will come to the fore. In 2021, we will hear how the city was shaped by the turbulence of 19th and 20th century migrations across Europe, and bring York’s story up to the present day.
Venue: Tempest Anderson Hall, Yorkshire Museum
Ticket cost: FREE
Ticket purchase: https://peoples_of_york_lecture1.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: A Visit to the Borthwick Institute
A chance to visit the Borthwick Institute for Archives to see some of the treasures there relating to the University and the city.
New Keeper of Archives and Special Collections, Gary Brannan will be our host for the evening along with the Borthwick’s talented team of archives, conservation and digitisation specialists and provide an opportunity to tour behind the scenes, see unique records relating to the University’s links with York and the City’s own history; and hear rare recordings from the Borthwick’s extensive music holdings.
Access: Entry to the Borthwick is via the main entrance to the Library. By bus, the 66 and 66a stop by the Library bridge on University Road: by car, use Car park Central adjacent to the bridge.
Venue: Borthwick Institute University Rd, Heslington, York YO10 5DD
Ticket cost: £12
Ticket purchase: https://borthwick_institute_visit.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: Minster Precinct: History and Heritage
Peter Goodchild will lead a walk around the Minster Precinct, illustrating the major changes that have taken place in the buildings and spaces of the cathedral close, especially during the 19th century. We will use as a guide the detailed map by Edward Baines, published in 1822, which has been described as the last map depicting the streets and housing of medieval York.
Please wear sensible shoes and consider the possibility of rain.
Meet: Monk Bar
Ticket cost: £12
Ticket purchase: https://minster_precinct.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: York’s Defences: The City Walls
The city walls have protected York from Roman times against war and turbulence. In the Middle Ages, in the Civil War and during the 1745 uprising, the walls have been York’s first line of defence.
Dr. Jane Crease will lead the walk around the lesser known, western section of the walls from the two Norman mottes of William the Conqueror to Lendal tower. We will look at the history of York castle itself, and the western section of the walls, protected at each end by great chains across the river Ouse.
The walls reflect the developing technology and strategy of warfare; we will trace that development from the arrow slit to the artillery platforms of the Civil War. We will look at how the walls were altered by the settled peace of the 18th and 19th centuries and how their survival was threatened.
Not suitable for those with limited mobility. Please wear sensible shoes and be aware that parts of the tour are over uneven ground.
Meet: The base of the steps at Clifford’s Tower
Ticket cost: £12
Ticket purchase: https://yorks_defences.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: The Retreat
The Retreat psychiatric hospital was opened by York Quakers in 1796. Its mild methods of treating the insane instantly made it famous, and it became a major influence on changing attitudes to the mentally ill.
The Retreat transferred in-patient services to the Schoen Clinic (based on-site) in December 2018 but continues to operate as a specialist mental health care provider offering a range of out-patient and community services.
The Retreat site, which includes the hospital buildings and grounds, Lamel Hill, and the York Quaker burial ground, is of great historical significance, and is not normally open to the public. Dr Kath Webb, who has catalogued the rich and fascinating Retreat archive, will lead a walk around the site, examining its development and how this reflects the contributions the Retreat has made to the development of mental health care over the last 200 years.
Meet at the front of the Retreat, 107 Heslington Road, York YO10 5BN
Ticket cost: £12
Ticket purchase: https://the_retreat.eventbrite.co.uk
CANCELLED: Primary Schools Public Speaking Competition
The Primary School Public Speaking Competition aims to raise the awareness of the young people of York in their architectural, cultural and historic heritage. Participants choose from topics relating to York in the past, present or future. It always proves to be an astonishing display of the talent of the children of the city.
Venue: Merchant Adventurers’ Hall
Ticket cost: FREE
Ticket purchase: https://primary_schools_public_speaking_competition.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: Thomas Horsley, Gunmaker of York
In the mid-19th Century every town in England had at least one gunmaker. London and Birmingham had hundreds. Most guns were for self-defence, defence of the Empire or supplying a growing arms trade. But the high end market was in sporting guns for the landed gentry where shooting game became a fashionable pastime for the rich, led by the Prince of Wales.
Advances in design came thick and fast, and for 50 years and two generations of ownership, a shop in Coney Street, York was right at the forefront. A list of buyers of Horsley guns in the 1860’s reads like a Who’s Who of Yorkshire. Horsley’s guns were of the highest quality and initially at least, all the work and innovation was done in York.
Tim Manners will show a selection of his guns and talk on the history and rise and fall of one of York’s most famous businesses.
Venue: Medical Society Rooms, 23 Stonegate, York YO1 8AW
Ticket cost: £10
Ticket purchase: https://thomas_horsley.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: Millthorpe School
In 1920 two new grammar schools, Nunthorpe and Mill Mount, were opened in York, both situated in fine houses designed by the famous partnership of J.B. and W. Atkinson. This mid-Victorian house, Nunthorpe Court, became Nunthorpe Grammar School for Boys. The original house was retained and over the years extended to accommodate the growing number of pupils. After comprehensive education arrived in 1985, the school became Millthorpe School.
Members who would like to see the house and grounds will be met by Darrell Buttery who will guide the party round the principal interiors.
Meet: Outside the main front of the house, reached from Nunthorpe Avenue
Ticket cost: £8
Ticket purchase: https://millthorpe_school.eventbrite.co.uk
POSTPONED: Annual Lunch and Social
A major social event of the Trust is the annual lunch at Knavesmire Lodge. This follows the familiar pattern of a review of the year and a look to the future, including comments from members, which will last for about 50 minutes. Drinks are then served and members can enjoy socialising in house and garden before lunch.
Venue: Knavesmire Lodge, 304 Tadcaster Road, York YO24 1HE
Bus stop at Chalfonts, nearly opposite
Ticket cost: £22
Ticket purchase: https://annual_lunch.eventbrite.co.uk
CANCELLED: Wentworth Woodhouse
After last year’s very successful visit we will this time focus on other parts of the house, again accompanied by Peter Brown. We will have two tours, the Clifford Tour of the private family rooms in the baroque house (Western front) behind the Georgian house, and the Hidden Tour which goes behind the scenes in parts of the house not normally open to visitors. Lunch will be taken in between the two tours.
There is a generous discount for members of the National Trust so the pricing is based on this. NT members must bring their membership cards. Those joining us who are not NT members will be asked for a £10 supplement.
Coach departs from Memorial Gardens, Leeman Road, YO1 6FZ at 10.30 am prompt. 4:30 pm expected arrival back into York.
Ticket cost: £50, with an additional £10 surcharge for non NT members, includes coach travel, charge for 2 tours and lunch.