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British Poet and Comedian Ian McMillan introduces an excellent, action packed arts and cultural Autumn at The Witham

With a little help of celebrated poet and wordsmith Ian McMillan, The Witham introduces our autumn programme packed with over 90 months of excellent arts and cultural events for all to enjoy from September to December 2017

Ian McMillan, the jovial friendly face and voice of British Poetry, played The Witham for the second time back in March and was so struck by the arts centre, he wrote a wonderful introduction to the autumn programme of events - as he comments, ‘The Witham is a perfect example of what an arts centre in a small town can be and what it can strive to become…. Long may The Witham continue to thrive: visit it regularly, cherish it, challenge it, enjoy it. And then have some more lovely cake.’

The Witham’s contemporary music gigs this autumn offer folk (including Three Cane Whale on 9th September, Lady Maisery on 10th November, Blazin’ Fiddles on 25th November) , jazz (Birkett and Fiske on 27 September) and excellent acoustic guitar (Adrian Nation on 16th September).

Following the wonderful fundraising concerts to help towards the purchase of a new piano at The Witham in 2018, autumn brings three wonderful evenings of classical music including Royal Northern Sinfonia String Octet (28th September) bringing Mendelsohn’s beloved Octet, Borodin’s evocative string Quintet and the stirring brilliance of Shoctakovich’s Octet.

Screenings continue to bring the world’s Operas and Ballets to Barnard Castle High Street live at the time they are occurring at the Royal Opera House with The Magic Flute (20 September) and La Bohème (3 October). Carmen on the Lake (14th September) is an encore screening of the performance on the floating stage at during the Bregenz Festival. Christopher Wheeldon’s exuberant ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on 23 October offers an explosion of colour, stage magic and inventive choreography, while The Nutcracker on 5 December offers an enchanting start to the festive season.

The Spoken Word programme continues to expand at The Witham with a screening live from London’s Royal Festival with John Le Carre – An Evening with George Smiley (12A, 7 September) and evening presentations from both Dales vet Neville Turner (4 October) and Artist Illustrator Linda Birch (24 October), both of which are fundraisers for The Witham.

There is a wealth of theatre this season with six live performances including physical theatre exploring the stories of women workers in Britain’s munition factories, (Canary, 13 September), a funny and uplifting piece of dance theatre inspired by hair styles and a sizzling soundtrack of Ghanaian music (The Head Wrap Diaries, brought to The Witham thanks to the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme on 6 October). We are the Lions (29 November) tells the story of Jayaben Desai, the inspirational female leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Factory Strike.

The Castle Players bring two shows this season – Peter Shaffer’s ingenious Black Comedy (27 & 28 October) and the festive classic A Christmas Carol (with a matinee performance at 3pm & 7.30pm 16 December).

For the very first time, you can watch theatre live from Shakespeare’s Globe in London at The Witham with King Lear (21 September) starring Kevin McNally. RSC and National Theatre Screenings continue to bring the very best theatre live to The Witham big screen with RSC Coriolanus (11 October), an encore screening of the National Theatre’s Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch, 1850 drama broadcast live from The Bridge Theatre in London called Young Marx (7 December) and Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical Follies (9 December) starring Imelda Staunton.

Family highlights include Theatre Hullabaloo presents TakeOff Festival, England’s leading children’s theatre festival brings La Baracca - Testoni Ragazzi (Italy) presents Little Red Riding Hood on 19 October. Illustrator Korky Paul, the energetic, interactive illustrator is bringing the wonderful world of Winnie the Witch to The Witham on 14th November.

The Funny Way To Be Comedy Club continues to deliver fantastic quality laugher from the very best in the business, including Robin Ince (23 Sept), Matt Richardson (11 Nov) and legendary stand up Omid D Djalili (22nd November).

Exciting Visual Art exhibitions include Anne Mason bringing her bright and beautiful representations of flora and fauna in Nature Abstracted into the Dispensary Gallery from 17 August to 9th September, whilst Under Northern Skies, an exhibition of paintings by Hazel Smith and Jill Eagle. Highlights Rural Touring Craft Tour exhibition brings Luminosity.

The critically acclaimed Exhibitions on Screen continue with Canaletto and the Art of Venice (26 Sept), David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts (21 Nov), featuring intimate and in-depth insights into the exhibitions that are lighting up the visual arts world.

The Witham are offering an increased number of all day arts workshops for grown ups for £50 per person including the popular Cumbrian Printmakers with Monoprint (9 September), Carborundum (23 September) and Book making (7 October). Curiously Contrary returns with a mixed media workshop (21 October) and March Hare Fabric sculpting workshop (15 November). Designer maker Kathryn Guy brings a new day workshop of Christmas Decorations using upcycled materials (3 November).

There is also a new monthly creative evening workshop Make It Thursdays with artist Gemma McColl every second Thursday of the month starting on 14 September from 6.30 – 8.30pm, where each session gives you the opportunity to try a different creative technique. The Witham continues to have lots of weekly workshops for children and adults alike, including a new Hatha Yoga class on Tuesday evenings and the Arts and Crafts group with artist Jane Young on Friday mornings.

Film Thursdays continue at The Witham in 2017 including critically acclaimed Hidden Figures (12th October), Their Finest starting Gemma Arterton (19 October), Lady Macbeth (26 October) and The Sense of an Ending (2 November).

The Handcrafted Wedding Market offers the chance to collect alternative and creative ideas for your big events and showcases The Witham as a wedding venue, working with the Designer Makers Market and Vintage Essence. Designer Makers Market brings the very best of regional designers and craftspeople (18 & 19 November), Northern Craft Market (2 September, 7 & 21 October, 4 November and 2 December) and the Handcrafted Fair (30 September, 28 October, 25 November).

For the first time this year, you can celebrate with your work colleagues at The Witham’s Christmas Do (24 November and 1 December) with live comedy, food and live music. And for the second year running, The Witham are holding a New Year’s Eve Bash, with Ceilidh Hog Roast and Live Band.

Sarah Gent, Arts Marketing Manager at The Witham says ‘ We have created a season that truly holds something for everyone! From Neville Turner sharing his music, words and pictures and Korky Paul drawing Winnie the Witch to The Work Christmas Do with soul, come to one of over 90 events at The Witham and not only support Barnard Castle’s arts centre but also have a brilliant time while you’re here!

With so much going on, pop in and pick up your copy of the latest programme so you don’t miss out.’

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