This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Thursday 6 June 2024, 6pm to 7.15pm
  • Location: In-person only
    Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate (Map)
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

Behind many museum collections are rarely seen archives telling remarkable human stories. At York Art Gallery, one such collection is the WA Ismay collection of British studio pottery. Bill Ismay, a Yorkshire librarian, amassed 3,500 pots by over 500 potters, documenting it through a vast archive to create a fascinating record of the 20th century.

One highlight is letters exchanged by Ismay and his favourite potter, Michael Cardew. Using these letters and research by curator Helen Walsh, Bridget Foreman created Clay Fever, a tender, moving play, offering a glimpse into the studio pottery world through the long friendship between collector and potter. It explores the hold that pottery exerts over them both and the bond it forges between two extraordinary but very different men.

The unique collaboration between Bridget and Helen resulted in a play performed live during the 2018 Restating Clay conference at the Yorkshire Museum. Join Bridget and Helen for the first public screening of the film of the play, and an accompanying talk.   

About the speakers

Bridget Foreman is a playwright and Lecturer in Playwriting at the University of York. Her work has been presented in theatres and on tour across the UK and internationally. Her recent writing credits include My Place and Surprise Ending (Riding Lights Theatre Company) The Whispering House, Clay Fever (York Museums Trust), Everything is Possible - the York Suffragettes (York Theatre Royal / Pilot Theatre), Simeon's Watch (Riding Lights Theatre Company), In Fog and Falling Snow (co-written with Mike Kenny) for York Theatre Royal / Pilot Theatre, Airlock (Company of Angels / Theatre Café), Inheritance, (Riding Lights Theatre Company), Fantastic Acts and Monsieur de Coubertin’s Magnificent Opymlic Feat! (Riding Lights Theatre Company), In the Shadow of the Quarks (York Theatre Royal / Playhouse), Beyond Measure (York Theatre Royal / Back and Forth), Salaam Bethlehem (Riding Lights Theatre Company), Pinocchio (York Theatre Royal / Shysters / Full Body and the Voice), Black Market (Riding Lights Theatre Company), Calvary - a passion play for York Minster, which also toured Australia prior to a run in Brisbane, the premiere adaptation of the satirical novel Augustus Carp Esq, (Friargate Theatre), and the award-winning musical Dick Turpin for Riding Lights at Friargate Theatre.  She currently has a new play, The Bare Bones, in development with York Theatre Royal, is under commission to York Trailblazers and Riding Lights, and is co-writing the new York Theatre Royal community play for summer 2025.

Dr Helen Walsh has a background in crafts and has worked in the museums sector since 2001. She has been the curator in charge of York Museums Trust’s important contemporary British studio ceramics collections and of the historical ceramics collections since 2004. Her exhibitions at York Art Gallery include the touring exhibition and book Gordon Baldwin: Objects for a Landscape, the Lucie Rie: Ceramics and Buttons exhibition and catalogue, and the 2023 redisplay of the permanent ceramics collection to celebrate women artists. Helen founded the UK’s Contemporary Studio Ceramics Subject Specialist Network in 2012, leading its activities including developing the 2018 two-day international ‘Restating Clay’ conference. She helped establish the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) at York Art Gallery, which opened in 2015. Helen completed Doctoral research on the WA Ismay collection through Manchester Metropolitan University in 2017, which resulted in the exhibition and a publication The Yorkshire Tea Ceremony based on her PhD research. She has written and presented a number of articles and conference papers and has supervised a range of student placements, including an AHRC CDA student researching York Museums Trust’s ceramic collections, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and the British Ceramics Biennial. Helen has sat on a number of steering groups and is a judge on the Henry Rothschild Bursary.


Riding Lights Theatre York Art Gallery

Venue details

  • Not wheelchair accessible