There’s something brewing in York and maybe it’s called change…

O’Hooley & Tidow

WE are standing in the sunshine in a new corner of York. It’s one of those days when York doesn’t feel like York and England doesn’t feel like England. Or maybe it’s one of those days when York feels like a perfect version of York and England feels like England perfected.

This has been our home for nearly 30 years and the city has changed. Whether for the good or not is a matter of taste, I guess, but on this sunny afternoon it’s hard not to feel the city has come alive.

There always is a danger that a historical city lives only in the past, and York has glorious acres of that, but a place needs to move forward, too. York seems more exciting, mixed and vibrant than it was 30 years ago, I’d say.

This is the opening weekend for Spark:York, a community-minded collection of small businesses with bars and a food court – or that tatty pile of used shipping containers, if you are a member of York’s grumpy congregation.

Yes, it all took longer than intended; and, yes, it is fashioned from shipping containers (and so what so that) and it is temporary. But standing here in the Sunday sunshine everything feels enjoyably different, a new way of doing things in the old city.

We have a filled crepe and chat to our son and his partner. They live bang in the centre so this is their doorstep and their fatal distraction: should they cook or pop out? I missed the opening on Friday as I had to work and was teased for moaning about everyone else be able to go while I was stuck at a computer screen.

Good luck to Spark:York – it’s an ambitious project run by hard-working young people with a vision to get things done differently; or, in their own idealistic words: “An ecosystem of entrepreneurial community, where collaboration solves pressing social challenges.”

We leave for another great addition to York, Brew York, the expanding craft brewery around the corner. It’s been here for two years and seems to be moving now, with an evolving selection of beers that are never less than delicious – and that deserve to be tried by all proud beer lovers of this city. I’ve done my bit, although others have dedicated more of their bellies and wallets to this fine place. Recently Brew York did a spot of crowd funding that raised £54,000 towards boosting the business, with the money invested being exchangeable for beer vouchers.

We are at Brew York for a concert by the Huddersfield duo O’Hooley & Tidow. The gig is in aid of Refugee Action York and is being put on by the enterprising people behind Thorganby folk club.

We’ve seen Belinda and Heidi before: they were great then and they are great tonight, generating so much sound and emotion from two voices, an electric piano, percussion and a piano-accordion.

Most of the songs are their own compositions, but they do a lovely cover of Down Where The Drunkards Roll, and that pleases this long-time Richard Thompson fan.

I interviewed the duo over a pint in Huddersfield a while back, and we have a chat in the break. They are as friendly as usual, give me a hug and remind me that my Yorkshire Post piece is framed on their wall at home.

After the encore, after sweet beer and sweeter harmonies, we dash for the last-but-one bus home.

Today we are going on a local walk with friends, starting from home. We found this route on the YorkMix website. And that’s another enterprising change in this city, another independent spirit of the new old York. It’s informative, attractive and fully engages with life in this changing place. The people who produce the website work tirelessly, and if you live here and haven’t had a look yet, well, you should.

And you should try that beer too and visit that collection of old shipping containers.

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