Simon Thackray – biography

Simon Thackray with The Books: Photo © Mary Thackray

Simon Thackray was born in Ryedale, North Yorkshire in 1960. He left school at seventeen and worked in the family business of agricultural engineers. He held his first one man show of drawings at York University in 1978 and in 1987 he went into his shed to make sculpture, paint, draw and make prints. In 1992 he photographed his shed door and founded The Shed.

Twenty one years on, The Shed is a pint-sized arts venue on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors, presenting world-class music, poetry and comedy – from Stewart Lee to Carol Ann Duffy, Les Murray to Lau – and Simon Thackray’s own unique live-art events that are the ‘essence of Shedness‘: The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race ®, The Fish and Chip van tour, Lol Coxhill in a skip, Mrs Boyes Bingo, Sebastian Rochford’s VAN GIG and Alan Tomlinson and the River Seven are just a few of his special art events entertaining audiences from across the UK.

“North Yorkshire’s hub of improvised happenings.” Jez Nelson, Jazz on 3.

John Walpole and Gail Brand - Shed Builder - The Shed at 20 on BBC Radio 3

“For the past 20 years, The Shed, near the market town of Malton, has been responsible for some of the smallest and most inspired art events in the country.” Alfred Hickling, Guardian

“He could, if he chose, make a bigger splash in the art world than he does here – which acts more as an extension to his shed.” Mary Sara, Yorkshire Post (Review: Simon Thackray at Scarborough Art Gallery).

Sleeping Ploar Bear

Simon occasionally promotes poetry gigs: Carol Ann Duffy (Poet Laureate), Liz Lochhead, Simon Armitage, Brian Patten, Bob Cobbing, Rosa Liksom, Pete Morgan, Adrian Henri, Matthew Hollis, Les Murray, Jackie Kay, Ian McMillan, Ian Duhig, Matt Harvey and John Hegley have all read or performed at The Shed.

And (funnily enough), the occasional comedy gig: Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Miles Jupp, David O’Doherty, Henning Wehn, Simon Munnery and Josie Long…

Simon’s live-art projects have been featured on or in (this is a small selection): Front Row, Jazz on 3, Pick Of The Week, Big Breakfast, Sky News, Steve Wright In The Afternoon, BBC Music Magazine, Vogue Knitting International, Bridge Building and Engineering, Daily Telegraph, Express, Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Independent On Sunday, BBC Radio 2 Arts Programme (broadcast live from The Shed in 1994). Four episodes of BBC Radio 4′s ‘With Great Pleasure’ were recorded at The Shed (for Stewart Lee, Mike Harding, Ian McMillan and Barry Rutter). “All Shook Up!” by Ian McMillan was commissioned by Simon and subsequently became an Afternoon Play on Radio 4 and the story forms the basis of the North Yorkshire Elvis Bus Tour.

Simon conjured the words, music and participatory knitting spectacular, ‘HAT‘, (written and performed by Ian McMillan and Billy Jenkins) and invented the knitted Elvis wig (now a world-wide accessory worn by artists in New York and bin men in Wakefield). Simon’s special live-art projects have toured to the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Union Chapel and Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and venues in Halifax, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Gateshead, Sheffield, Belfast and Cork.

“He’s a strange’un alright, but the art world could do with more of his kind of far-reaching woolly thinking. Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph.

Simon was invited to show photographs at the Music Research Centre, University of York in 2008 (funded by the Heslington Foundation and University of York). “…in small part, a thank you to Simon for his amazing contribution to the arts in North Yorkshire.” Dr. Tony Myatt, MRC.

Pied Piper

Simon co-founded the Pied Piper Project with Sarah Derbyshire MBE in 1997. Pied Piper is a registered charity that brings leading professional musicians and poets to North Yorkshire to work with young people in youth centres, village halls and schools. Annie Whitehead, Jan Kopinski, Gwyneth Herbert, Snake Davis, Jackie Kay, Ian McMIllan, Sebastian Rochford, Pete Wareham, Mark Lockheart and Billy Jenkins are all former Pied Piper workshop leaders. More…

Simon Thackray © Mary Thackray

Simon Thackray talks:

Simon gives highly entertaining lectures and talks. He is opinionated, controversial and irreverent and has a large reserve of funny stories.

Recent speaking engagements include:

Clore Leadership, Fellowship Programme
City University, London – MA, Cultural Policy and Management
University of York St. John (Fine Art Faculty)
Lancaster University – Creative Rural Economy Conference
North Yorkshire Cultural Consortium
Rural Arts North Yorkshire
Arts Council England
Arts & Business (The Shed and Sirdar Spinning won the Arts and Business Award for Outstanding Achievement for Simon’s hand knitting project ‘HAT’).

“His enthusiasm seems to light up the street. I muse on the idea of future cultural historians citing a shed door as the fulcrum of a rural arts renaissance.”
Ian McMillan, BBC Radio 3

“An outstanding contribution to Yorkshire culture I’d say!”
Toby Hyam, Managing Director, Creative Space Management.


Simon Thackray art events – ‘the essence of Shedness’:

Sebastian Rochford's VAN GIG

Sebastian Rochford’s VAN GIG. Event copyright Simon Thackray. Photo: Kippa Matthews

Sebastian Rochford’s VAN GIG

Art event copyright Simon Thackray. Photo: Kippa Matthews

Sebastian Rochford drumming in the back of a white van in Leeds, York, Malton, Pickering, Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley. “Everywhere you look people have got smiles on their faces…”. Jules Bellerby, Jonathan Cowap Show, BBC Radio York. Read Charles Hutchinson’s review:

“He could, if he chose, make a bigger splash in the art world than he does here – which acts more as an extension to his shed.” Mary Sara, Yorkshire Post

Alan Tomlinson and the River Seven

Alan Tomlinson and the River Seven.

Art event copyright Simon Thackray. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

HOW did you spend your Sunday? How about driving for an hour into ever hardier Yorkshire country; following intermittent improvised signs to the River Seven, down the narrowest of moorland lanes; then watching cars being pushed up a muddy incline to park in a field, before a cross-country trek to a babbling brook.” Read the review:

Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race ®

Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race ® Photo © Tony Bartholomew

Event concept copyright Simon Thackray. All rights reserved.
The Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race is a registered trade mark of Simon Thackray.

Lol Coxhill in a skip © Simon Thackray. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

Lol Coxhill in a skip

Event concept copyright Simon Thackray. All rights reserved. Photo © Tony Bartholomew

Simon put the maverick saxophonist Lol Coxhill in a skip. Launch event of FuseLeeds06 and broadcast on Jazz on 3 and Pick Of The Week on Radio 4.

Mrs Boyes' Bingo Photo © Simon Thackray

Mrs Boyes’ Bingo featuring Mark Sanders (World Premiere 1999)

Mrs Boyes’ Bingo featuring Mark Sanders

Event concept copyright Simon Thackray. All rights reserved.

Photo © Simon Thackray (World Premiere 1999)

Mrs Boyes’ Bingo photo (World Premiere ’99)

Mrs Boyes’ Bingo featuring Mark Sanders was premiered at The Shed in 1999. It was performed at FUSELEEDS04 and at The Shed as part of The Shed’s Greatest Hits. Mrs Boyes’ Bingo and the Fish and Chip Van Tour (see below) entertained delegates at the International Art and Science conference ‘Rules Of Engagement’ at the National Centre For Early Music in 2005. Mrs Boyes’ Bingo was most recently performed in the famous Spiegeltent at Belfast Festival 2009.

Knitted Elvis Wig Pattern

The North Yorkshire Elvis Bus Tour

Knitted Elvis Wigs

Originally created for the North Yorkshire Elvis Bus Tour

FREE knitting pattern here:

Event concept copyright Simon Thackray. All rights reserved. Photo © Tony Bartholomew

Simon propagated the rare species of Yorkshire Pudding Flower and invented the knitted Elvis wig for the first North Yorkshire Elvis Bus Tour. Knitted Elvis wigs are appearing across the world – from Wakefield allotments to the ‘Day Of Dada’ parade in New York City!

Ian McMillan © Tony Bartholomew

Ian McMillan – HAT

The Award Winning words, music and knitting performance. More..
Event concept copyright Simon Thackray. All rights reserved. Photo © Tony Bartholomew

“I muse on the idea of future cultural historians citing a shed door as the fulcrum of a rural arts renaissance” Ian McMillan

“Soon it’ll be like Woodstock: people will pretend they were there – people will want to say, ‘I was there when it all started’”

Independent on Sunday.

Fish and Chip van tour © Simon Thackray

Fish and Chip van tour © Simon Thackray. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

Fish and Chip van tour

Event concept copyright Simon Thackray. All rights reserved.

Photo © Tony Bartholomew

Photos by Simon Thackray available from The Shed Online Shop.

“Intrepid arts explorer… pioneer of improvised arts events”
Yorkshire Evening Press

guardian.co.uk

GUARDIAN – TRAVEL 20.3.10

The insiders guide to the world’s best small music venues.
Musicians, DJs and authors reveal their favourite hangouts.

“The Shed was the inspiration for my tour of village halls around Britain, which I am currently writing up as a book. And, after 235 villages, The Shed is still the loony best.” Hank Wangford, Guardian. Read the whole article:

The Shed Radio Party

The Shed Party, the Jules and Julia Show, 9 June 2005

(Fantastic archive recording from 2005).

Ian McMillan, Snake Davis, Billy Jenkins, Simon and Hank Wangford on the Jules and Julia Show..

Listen now..

(requires Real Player)