*The Centre for the study and development of narrative.

14 November 2006

Midwinter Songs and Carols

A words and music programme of regional and historical carols with Coope, Boyes and Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes

St Michael's Church, Coxwold, Friday 8 December, 7.30pm.

Tickets in advance 10.

For centuries, voices echoing through frosty streets heralded the arrival of midwinter with joyful and vigorous, darkly resonant or sublime village carols. Catching the spirit of this older Christmas, Voices at the Door brings together the outstanding acappella singing of Coope Boyes and Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes with stories of squabbling choirs, composers, collectors and controversy in a words and music programme of regional and historical carols. With superb unaccompanied harmonies and lesser-known traditional carols, Voices at the Door captures the essence of the season and is the best possible start to Christmas.

12 September 2006

This autumn in the gallery at Shandy Hall an exhibition will focus on a section of A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne.  The narrator hears a voice in an alleyway in Paris repeating the phrase 'I can't get out' and discovers the cry for help is coming from a caged starling.  The encounter causes the narrator to reflect upon liberty and imprisonment and he declares to the reader that he considers slavery to be 'a bitter draught'.

Museum specimens, DVD, stained glass, text, sculpture and installations by contemporary artists will be on display to explore the themes of social justice, citizenship and slavery - heralding the 200th anniversary of Parliaments' abolition of the slave trade in 2007.
Tickets for the concert are limited, will not be available on the door and are expected to sell quickly.
We look forward to seeing you.
With thanks to The Carstairs Countryside Trust and the Pidem Trust

8 August 2005

Asterisk* Residencies

In the autumn and winter of 2005, Asterisk* will offer two residencies of three weeks duration each. These will provide exceptional opportunities for artists keen to experiment with current practice in diverse media, specifically exercises in non-linearity, with an emphasis on interactivity and audience participation. Intersections with technology are encouraged and technology specialists will be available for collaboration.

Residency One (running from Thursday 13th October until Thursday 3rd November 2005) is intended for an artist with some previous experience of working with new media technologies and who wishes to extend or develop that practice through a deeper engagement with technological and/or non-linear ideas.

Residency Two is intended for an artist with minimal technological background who wishes to explore the possibilities that new technology can offer his or her practice. This bursary will run from Saturday 12th November to Saturday 3rd December 2005.

Both residencies offer an extended period for artists to work within the environment of Shandy Hall. Each residency will have eight days of support from the Curator and associated technologists.

The successful applicants will recieve a bursary of 2100 plus accommodation in Wolfson Cottage in the grounds of Shandy Hall, a charming converted 19th century stone barn set in a two-acre garden. Included are kitchen, spacious living room, bathroom and bedroom. Oil-fired Aga, central heating, washing machine, TV, parking for one car. Self catering.

The successful applicants will be expected to attend a one day evaluation seminar with all the project's participants in January 2006.

CVs accompanied by a letter of interest should be addressed to The Curator, Asterisk*, Shandy Hall, Coxwold, York, YO61 4AD to arrive by Friday 26 August. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview at Shandy Hall on 5 September. Successful applicants will be notified on Friday 9 September.

We seek applicants from any artistic discipline.

Asterisk* is supported by Arts Council England, The National Association of Writers in Education, KMA Creative Technology, and the University of Teesside.

8 July 2005

Visual Wit

Over 25 Royal Academicians (including Peter Blake, Richard Long and Tom Phillips) explore the concept of Visual Wit. Opens 1 July 2005 at the Old Granary Gallery, Shandy Hall. Open everyday until 31 August (except Saturdays) 11a.m. - 4.30 p.m.

The next exhibition, PB squared - An exhibition of works by Paul Brandford and Philip Barnes, will open on Friday 9 September.

25 June 2005

A Taste of Shandy

The Independent's Christina Patterson was at the world premiere of 'A Cock and Bull Story' at Coxwold Village Hall. Her feature can be read here.

1 June 2005

A Cock & Bull Story

The first showing of Michael Winterbottom's forthcoming film A Cock & Bull Story based* on Laurence Sterne's The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Dylan Moran, Stephen Fry and Gillian Anderson will be at the Village Hall, Coxwold, York, North Yorkshire in support of The Laurence Sterne Trust on Friday June 17th at 7.00pm. Tickets 17.50 (To include drinks and 'first rate things to nibble' (this not '9 Songs'.. ed.)).

Tickets available only from; The Laurence Sterne Trust, Shandy Hall,Coxwold,York, YO61 4AD. Tel. 01347 868 465.

Email reservations without payment will be held for 3 days only. Strictly limited numbers.

This event kindly sponsored by Revolution Films, Rural Arts, Minster Gate Bookshop and Ken Spelman Bookseller.

*adapted by Martin Hardy

6 May 2005

Pause on the Landing

Patrick Caulfield, The British Library and Tristram Shandy including works by John Hoyland, Tom Phillips, Martin Rowson, Anthony Whishaw and students from the University of Teesside

The Old Granary Gallery, Shandy Hall, May 6th to June 24th 2005

The centrepiece of this exhibition is the design for a tapestry. It was conceived by the artist Patrick Caulfield for the British Library, St.Pancras, but has not yet been realised. We are proud to exhibit the design for the first time, along with a sample of the tapestry created for this exhibition by the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, at the instigation of the architect of the British Library, Sir Colin St John Wilson.

Patrick Caulfield chose to illustrate Volume 4 chapters 8 - 12 of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy and intended the tapestry to hang on the 'Shandy Hall Landing' in the Conference Centre. A generous sponsor has been found and it was learned, just before this exhibition opened, that the whole tapestry is now being woven.

The subject is a comic episode in which Walter and Toby Shandy, engrossed in conversation on their way down a flight of stairs, pause for a considerable time on the landing. Walter several times extends his foot on to the next step downwards, only to withdraw it each time he warms to his next topic of conversation.

So difficult does Sterne find it to get his characters off the stairs that he eventually employs a hack writer to come into his novel to do it for him, and when later in the book a conversation again ensues on a staircase, Sterne has to reassure the reader: 'Do not be terrified, Madam, this staircase conversation is not so long as the last.' (Chapter 30)

The episode begins with a Chapter of chances - how do we equip ourselves to deal with the many misfortunes that chance throws at us? Toby suggests religion. Walter thinks we can counterbalance evil with good, and that by naming his son Trismegistus, ("Thrice great") he will arm him against further troubles.

"WE shall bring all things to rights, said my father, setting his foot upon the first step from the landing -- This Trismegistus, continued my father, drawing his leg back, and turning to my uncle Toby -- was the greatest (Toby) of all earthly beings - "

Tristram, poor boy, instead of being thrice great, suffers three crushing blows: one with the squashing of his nose by Dr Slop's forceps; another by his being misnamed Tristram and a third with the unfortunate premature closing of the sash window.

The pause on the landing - on the very stairs where stands the clock that entered Mrs Shandy's head, with such unfortunate results, at the crucial point of Tristram's conception - is a moment out of time in which Toby and Walter Shandy discuss chance, the misfortunes of life, and ponder how to deal with them. The episode is not just comic, but a meditation on change, chaos, and much else besides, and it gives rich scope for the artists who have taken up the challenge for this exhibition.

The clock, symbol and measure of the passing of time, has a central role in Caulfield's tapestry. It is the clock which is depicted in the sample woven by Dovecot studios and which forms the centrepiece over the 'landing' at the far end of the gallery (modelled on the British Library stairs). Consciousness of the speed of passing time shows everywhere in Tristram Shandy - often with comic effect - as in this passage of the impossibility of recording a life in detail while living it at the same time:

'I am this month one whole year older than I was this time twelve-month; and having got, as you perceive, almost into the middle of my fourth volume -- and no farther than to my first day's life -- 'tis demonstrative that I have three hundred and sixty-four days more life to write just now, than when I first set out ; so that instead of advancing, as a common writer, in my work with what I have been doing at it -- on the contrary, I am just thrown so many volumes back-- was every day of my life to be as busy a day as this -- And why not ? -- at this rate I should just live 364 times faster than I should write -- It must follow, an' please your worships, that the more I write, the more I shall have to write -- and consequently, the more your worships read, the more your worships will have to read. Will this be good for your worships' eyes?'

Underlying the comedy is a serious consciousness that life is short, and we must live it to the full:

'Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity Life follows my pen: the days and hours of it, more precious, my dear Jenny! than the rubies about thy neck, are flying over our heads like light clouds of a windy day, never to return more-- every thing presses on--whilst thou art twisting that lock,--see! it grows grey' Vol 4 67

Sterne's 'live the moment' attitude springs perhaps from his knowledge that he was ill and that his life would not be long. The energy and speed of 'Tristram Shandy' is driven by his consciousness of having to live life to the full, with death at his heels he resolves to live life at a gallop!

'had I not better, Eugenius, fly for my life? 'Tis my advice my dear Tristram, said Eugenius - Then by heaven! I will lead him a dance he little thinks of - ...'

The 'curious vehicle' which is man, is constantly jolted and jostled by misfortunes, but Walter talks of the 'secret spring within us' which 'sets all things to rights'. For Sterne, this secret spring is high spirits and laughter. As he writes in the dedication to Tristram Shandy:

'..it is written in a bye corner of the kingdom, and in a retir'd thatch'd house, where I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles, -- but much more so, when he laughs, it adds something to this Fragment of Life.'

The next exhibition at Shandy Hall, 'Visual Wit', shows work by Royal Academy artists on this theme, and opens on July 1st.

5 Aug 2004

The Case of Hezekiah and the Messengers

An exciting new contemporary art venue for York opens at St. Mary's, Coppergate with an exhibition, A Light Crescendo, showing works by major contemporary artists including Langlands and Bell, who have been nominated for this year's Turner Prize, Lawrence Weiner, Jaume Plensa, Gary Webb, David batchelor and Angela Bulloch.

On September 23 at 6.30pm a recitation of one of Laurence Sterne's last sermons will be given to shed a spiritual light on the events programme.

The sermon, The Case of Hezekiah and the Messengers, was first delivered in March 1764 at the English Embassy in Paris. Francis Seymour-Conway, first Earl of Hertford, was appointed English ambassador in April 1763 and the embassy became the centre of social life for the English in Paris. The embassy chapel was not a consecrated building or room but an institution. It was convened in whatever large room was available and followed the embassy wherever it went. When Laurence Sterne arrived in Paris the earl had recently acquired the Hotel de Brancas and the English community eagerly awaited the completion of the renovations to the building.

Sterne was invited to preach in the embassy chapel on Sunday 25 March 1764 and received the invitation from Earl Hertford the day before. He chose the story of how Hezekiah showed his palace to the messengers from Babylon as this text would allude to Lord Hertford and the Hotel de Brancas.

Two points need to be kept in mind. Firstly, Sterne (in his fiftieth year) was physically very weak and had suffered seven life-threatening attacks in the previous two years. He had ' long and obstinate coughs and unaccountable hemmorages in my lungs — I am foretold by the best physicians…. that 'twill be fatal to me to preach…'. Secondly, he decided to alter the text of his sermon and introduced a more vividly drawn version of Hezekiah's downfall which involves wives, concubines, boxes of ointment and treasures that are not mentioned in Holy writ. It was a foolish move by Sterne and one that caused offence - although the sermon itself was re-written for publication in 1766 with the genuine biblical text.

This sermon was preached in the Grand Gallerie, an elegant room with chandeliers, mirrors and tall windows overlooking over the gardens and the River Seine. Over 250 guests attended including the philosopher David Hume, the political refugee John Wilkes and possibly Diderot.

The sermon is a fascinating discussion of hypocrisy and integrity with interesting moral reflections and insights. This reading is the first occasion that it will have been heard in this country.

Source for notes: 'Laurence Sterne — The Later Years'. Cash, A. Methuen. 1986. pp.178-187.

The full text of the sermon can be downloaded here

30 Aug 2004

'Great Spunky Unflincher': A Transcript of Jonathan Coe's 2004 Laurence Sterne Annual Memorial Lecture

The full transcript of Jonathan Coe's 2004 Laurence Sterne Annual Memorial Lecture can be downloaded (PDF) here.

The transcript has an introduction by Martyn Bedford which is reproduced in full below;

"I have a hazy recollection of a short-lived TV series in the 1960s, or possibly early 70s, in which boxing matches were staged between fighters from different eras, their roles enacted by pugilistic lookalikes. Muhammad Ali versus Rocky Marciano is one such bout that sticks in my mind. The idea was that the boxers' relative strengths and weaknesses were fed into a computer and the two body-doubles would act out the predicted outcome of the contest. It has occurred to me, especially during several years' involvement with the Ilkley Literature Festival, that the concept would lend itself neatly to staged pairings of non-contemporaneous writers. Joyce versus Dickens, for example. Or Kelman versus Kafka. Non-violent, naturally (the idea of Woolf and Austen engaged in topless mud-wrestling holds little appeal, though no doubt a website exists.) I'm thinking more along the lines of invigorating mental sparring on writerly themes and the fiction-making process, scripted by experts and played by actors. As far as I'm aware nothing of this sort has been tried. However, we had the next best thing when the novelist and literary biographer Jonathan Coe delivered a talk on B.S. Johnson at the Laurence Sterne Trust's annual lecture. For there, in spirit, were Sterne and Johnson — duelling intellectually, as it were, through the medium of a modern writer who (as the text of his lecture demonstrates) has captured the creative tensions and affinities that resonate between these two dead souls. Among the one hundred people who packed the Huntingdon Room of the King's Manor, in York, I suspect there were more Sterne fans than Johnsonites. Yet, by the end of a fascinating, entertaining and well-received talk, it was apparent that B.S. Johnson left the arena with his held held high, if a little battered and bruised. Much as he did in life."

11 May 2004
8:32 am

Jonathan Coe Lecture

Jonathan Coe will give the Laurence Sterne Annual Memorial Lecture on Friday June 11th at the King's Manor, York. The lecture will coincide with the publication of Coe's latest book, Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S.Johnson.

Coe describes his approach;

My strategy will be this. Many of the people picking up this book will not (regrettably) have read anything by B. S. Johnson before. Revered though he is by a few, he is unknown nowadays to most British readers under forty. So I shall begin by explaining, in a little more detail, what it was that he wrote and that I think he achieved. After that, pace Milan Kundera, I shall have to bring myself to knock down the walls of his house and we shall take a wander through the rubble, perhaps shaking our heads in awe and wonderment at the melancholy grandeur of the ruins we find there. Then, by way of interlude, we shall listen to some different people talking about B. S. Johnson, arguing amongst themselves even though these are - in most cases - people who have never actually met each other. And last of all, a short coda. In which I shall attempt to put forward my own, highly personal - and, yes, speculative - thoughts about the forces that may have been driving him in his last few days and hours: a 'transcursion into his mind' - to use Johnsonian language - or even (the phrase is from his fifth novel, House Mother Normal) 'a diagram of certain aspects of the inside of his skull', as he gets ready to compose his final message to the world; to write his very last word.

Before we get that far, however, I hope there will be plenty to enjoy along the way. We're talking about novels, after all, and novels, even gloomy ones, are supposed to cheer us up, to provide recompense, when life isn't all that it should be. Supposed, in short, to give us pleasure.

Aren't they?

In his heyday, during the 1960s and early 1970s, B. S. Johnson was one of the best-known young novelists in Britain. A passionate advocate for the avant-garde in both literature and film, he gained notoriety for his forthright views on the future of the novel and for his idiosyncratic ways of putting them into practice. His innovations included a book with holes cut through the pages, and a novel published in a box so that its unbound chapters could be read in any order. But in November 1973 Johnson's lifelong depression got the better of him, and he was found dead at his north London home. He had taken his own life at the age of forty.

Jonathan Coe was born in Birmingham in 1961. His novels include What a Carve Up!, The House of Sleep and The Rotters' Club. He lives in London.

4 May 2004
3:11 pm

An Interesting Article...

This Is Not a Hypertext, But...: A Set of Lexias on Textuality by Michael R. Allen make strong reference to Tristram Shandy's role in the history of hypertext as well as specific reference to Sterne's use of the asterisk...

27 Apr 2004
8:40 am

Tom Phillips at Shandy Hall

Tom Phillips writes in the catalogue for his exhibition 'We Are the People' that he sees his exhibition of portrait postcards as 'an alternative National Portrait Gallery'.

At the NPG about 1,000 cards from his collection of over 50,000 are displayed under distinct and delightful categories: 'Fantasy Transport', 'Charabancs', 'Make Believe: Children', 'Prizwinners'. The section entitled 'Aspidistra' shows the sitter and the plant in a variety of predictable and unlikely photographic situations. 'Picnic', records the happy occasion that 'is windless and midge-free' as picnicers wave sandwiches and smile for the camera.

All of the people shown in this exhibition are anonymous and the comments in the visitors book ('wonderful', 'deeply moving', 'hugely enjoyable') record the pleasure the public are deriving from this show at the National Portrait Gallery.

Anglican Clergymen are not represented at the NPG but Tom Phillips has given them a special place in his project by making a selection of anonymous parsons for the exhibition of his works at Shandy Hall, Coxwold.

The connections between Phillips' work and Shandy Hall are reflected in the works chosen

The original drawing for his mural at Preston Church and the beautiful collage and steel crucifixes link Phillips with the sacred; his remarkable skulls made of bronze and glass echo the fate of the jester Yorick, so closely identified with the North Yorkshire parson.

Sterne's playful experiments in non-linear narrative have their counterpoint in Tom's 'Humument' series of reworked texts.

There is much to see and marvel at in this exhibition by Tom Phillips R.A. in the Old Granary Gallery but the exhibition is unusual in that it spills out into the village of Coxwold. The Post Office window and 'The Fauconberg Arms' also have works on view making this a truly 'We Are the People' event.

The exhibition continues until 20 June. Open every day except Saturday

11.00 — 16.30. Telephone for enquiries: 01347 868465. Admission Free.


20 Apr 2004
11:07 am

Moving Stories

As part of plans to develop Shandy Hall as a centre for the study and development of narrative construction, The National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE), in collaboration with Asterisk*, are launching a new creative writing competition as an annual event. The theme or focus will vary in future years but this time we felt it appropriate to link the competition with Moving Stories.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the world's first steam locomotive journey and, as part of its bicentennial celebrations, the National Railway Museum has joined forces with NAWE and KMA to create a special website called Moving Stories. Anyone will be able to add their own writing to the Moving Stories website and it promises to be the the first truly international online writing event with such popular appeal. Everyone has stories to tell about journeys they have made, momentous or merely anecdotal. But this is also the chance to set off on imaginary journeys and see them come alive for other readers on the web. We'll be looking for social history, essays, short stories and poems - anything that expresses the train's impact on people's lives. Travellers' stories from around the world will be collected on the Moving Stories website where they will join forces with a range of historical and literary contributions from Dickens to Paddington Bear.

Starting on 10 May and continuing throughout the following month, Ian McMillan will be writer-in-residence, highlighting new contributions to the site and providing an ongoing editorial. Afterwards, the best contributions will be archived into a permanent collection.

NAWE Patrons Beverley Naidoo and Gillian Clarke are amongst the writers already contributing to the site.

The competition is open to NAWE members, the prize being a one week writer's retreat at Wolfson Cottage in the grounds of Shandy Hall, North Yorkshire.

29 Mar 2004
8:35 am

Chicago AWP 2004

Towards Real Hypertext: A Shandean Adventure.

Gary McKeone (Director of Literature at Arts Council England), Paul Munden (Director of NAWE), Kit Monkman (Creative Director of KMA) and Patrick Wildgust (Curator of Shandy Hall) gave a joint presentation to the American Writers Conference in the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, Chicago on 26 March. The presentation lasted for 75 minutes and was very well received by the audience. Great interest was expressed in the plans for asterisk* and strong contacts have been made in the USA and Canada. Leaflets were distributed to all the Literary Journals and presses that attended the book fair and the panel were delighted that a number of those who attended described the presentation as 'the gem of the conference'.

18 Mar 2004
10:28 am

Tristram Shandy Film?

On Thursday 18 March, a representative from Revolution Films visited Shandy Hall. The purpose of the visit was to explore the potential for the house to be used as a location for a film of Tristram Shandy which is due to begin shooting in early Spring 2005. Director: Michael Winterbottom; writer: Frank Cottrell-Boyce and actor Steve Coogan. The interior of the house was filmed on a portable digital film camera as was the garden and exterior. Coxwold church was also included.

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(* The Centre for the Study and Development of Narrative.)