A big week for... horses, funny bones and a quirky ritual

Tragic singer Amy Winehouse died four years ago this week.
Tragic singer Amy Winehouse died four years ago this week.
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The week ahead will see festivals for both horse racing and comedy, along with the anniversary of the death of a major music star. Grant Woodward reports.

starter’s orders

Horse racing takes centre-stage on the sporting front this week with the 2015 Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival.

Meetings are planned every day at the county’s tracks – with Sir Tom Jones due to perform after Friday night’s meeting at York.

The festival ends this Sunday at Pontefract. Meanwhile it is Bingley Show’s turn to be in the spotlight on Saturday when town and country come together at the town’s Myrtle Park.

Honorary president of this year’s show is the one and only Harvey Smith, the former showjumper who is now a leading racehorse trainer with his wife Sue.

Their 2008 Cheltenham Festival winner Mister McGoldrick, named after a Leeds general Infirmary heart surgeon, is likely to be one of the star equine attractions.

swanning around

Britain is a world leader when it comes to quirky traditions and one of our best gets under way today. Swan Upping dates from the 12th century when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans on the nation’s waterways. It may have had something to do with the fact that they adorned many a regal banquet.

These days the Queen only exercises the right on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries.

In the Swan Upping ceremony, the Queen’s Swan Marker, the Royal Swan Uppers and the Swan Uppers of the Vintners’ and Dyers’ livery companies use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs in their five-day journey up-river.

When a brood of cygnets is sighted, a cry of “All up!” is given to signal that the boats should get into position. The cygnets are weighed, measured and examined for any sign of injury. On passing Windsor Castle, the rowers stand to attention in their boat with oars raised and salute “Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans”.

remembering AMY

This Thursday marks the anniversary of the death of singer Amy Winehouse. The 27-year-old died of alcohol poisoning at her north London home four years ago.

Despite her much chronicled problems with drink and drugs, her 2006 album, Back to Black, saw her become the first British female to win five Grammys.

After her death it then became the UK’s best-selling album of the 21st century, before being overtaken by Adele’s 21.

A documentary of her life, called Amy, is currently showing in cinemas. Director Asif Kapadia said: “It became a journey to say, let’s reveal who this young person really was, how funny they were, how intelligent they were and how brilliant musically.

“I’m hoping that the film will make a bit of a point by unravelling how she is depicted and that people will reassess Amy.”

The film received its premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival on 16 May and has been reviewed as “a tragic masterpiece”.

funny bones

Forget Edinburgh, this Friday sees the start of The Great Yorkshire Fringe, a 10-day comedy, theatre and music festival in York.

The city’s Parliament Street will be transformed into a vibrant performance space with four venues – The White Rose Rotunda, The BarmPot, The Turn Pot and The Tea Pot – featuring entertainment for young and old alike.

The acts appearing include Paul Merton, Al Murray and Stick Man, an original live-action adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s book, aimed at children aged three and over.

The festival will also host the New Comedian of the Year competition to find the best up and coming comedians from Yorkshire and beyond.