Going it alone: A celebration of York’s solo stars

12 Nov 2014 @ 5.21 pm
| News

As the live theatre and dance event SLAPsolo brings a sextet of talented solo performers to the De Grey Rooms on Wednesday (November 12), Pete Wise picks out some of the finest home-grown solo acts doing the city proud


  De Grey Rooms, St Leonard’s Place

  Wed Nov 12 @ 8pm

  Pay what you think after the performance

  More on the Theatre Royal website

There’s something quite special about watching a truly great solo act.

Ensemble performances present their own unique possibilities, but they’ll seldom offer the intimacy, intensity and tension you can find when a talented lone artist performs to an audience.

A fair few talented soloists inhabit this city, and a fair few more now living elsewhere have deep York roots.

Here are five particularly interesting York solo acts who deserve – and can readily command – your attention…

Iestyn Davies

Here’s a name to call upon the next time you hear someone say that Shed Seven are York’s only ‘big’ musical export in recent decades…

Counter-tenor Iestyn Davies is a huge success in the classical music world. Born in York and trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Davies performs at concerts all over the world and featured as a soloist at the Royal Albert Hall for the Last Night of the Proms 2013.

James Swanton

Character actor James Swanton cut his teeth in the oppressive depths of the York Dungeon, before heading south to variously terrorise and entertain the theatre-goers of London Town.

Swanton’s macabre one-man production of Sikes And Nancy has earned the approval of Simon Callow, no less! You can catch it over the Christmas period at the Trafalgar Studios in London’s West End.

David Ward MacLean

Inevitably, many of the music lovers reading this article will already have encountered David Ward MacLean, whether at one of the Scottish songsmith’s phenomenal gigs, or on the inner-most streets of the city where he can often be found busking.

Full of stories, bristling with darkness and possessing a hard-earned mastery of the acoustic guitar, David Ward MacLean is a local hero; gold-dust for fans of Nick Drake and Neil Young.

Sophie Unwin


As part of dance duo 70/30 Split, York St John graduate Sophie Unwin has attracted praise from the likes of The Guardian and iiTime Out magazine.

Along with her dance collaborator Lydia Cottrell, she programmes live arts events in York under the banner SLAP.

She performs her solo piece The Chronicles of Joy at the De Grey Rooms tonight (November 12), as part of the solo performance event SLAPsolo. For information on the event, click here.

Luke Saxton

Luke Saxton has been quietly crafting musical masterpieces in his family home on the outskirts of Acomb since childhood.

Enamoured with slivers of dreamy classic pop songwriting discovered in his parents’ record collection, Saxton creates music that’s nostalgic and evocative, without ever descending into pastiche.

Now signed to local record label Bad Paintings, Luke has begun to earn the admiration of a broader audience beyond the city walls.