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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke






Remembering and celebrating WW2 Heroes with Gary Bridson-Daley

By Steve Cooke

Local writer and veterans’ champion Gary Bridson-Daley has just returned from 3 weeks away in Spain and France, and before returning managed to interview his first World War Two U.S Veteran at his home in Normandy, France. Native American Indian Veteran, Charles Shay.

When I caught up with him, he explained:

“He was a survivor of that hellish 1st wave to hit Omaha beach on the 6th of June 1944 as chillingly depicted in the opening scenes of the film Saving Private Ryan! As a Combat Medic he saved many lives that day and won the Silver Star, one of the highest awards for courage under fire in the U.S Army. After that he was Involved in many hard battles all through Western Europe until the end of WW2.He continued to serve in the U.S Army and went on to be a Combat Medic in the Korean War in the 1950's, and after that he was seconded to the United States Air Force to be a part of the Medical and Observation teams in the Pacific Atoll Nuclear Bomb tests in the 1950's and 1960's!

He completed 22 years Military service from 1943 to 1965 and followed this with 25 years’ service for the United Nations Atomic Agency and Refugee Committee in Vienna.

A truly incredible human being and humble man who has been through hell and back and survived it to a large degree with the help of his Native American Spirituality, which helped him through the darkest of times.”

“I was truly moved and honoured to spend time with this great man and to also conduct my very first WW2 Veteran Interview in France, and my first with a serviceman from a Native American Indian background, he is also a Tribal Elder in his Penosbscot Indian tribe in the U.S.”

Gary recommends that we have a look at the difficult but very realistic opening scenes on Omaha Beach from Saving Private Ryan.

“Not easy viewing, but it gives you a real idea of what a 19-year-old Charles Shay went through and experienced on D-Day! He suffered this whilst saving friends and fellow combatants from his and other units that were being massacred under murderous enemy fire in that first wave that morning! This is what they went through to give us the freedom that to a large extent we still enjoy to this day as a result of their sacrifices!”

From the tens of thousands who applied to be at the big 80th Anniversary Events at Bayeux on the 5th of June and at the British Normandy Memorial in Normandy, France on the 6th of June Gary has been selected for both!

“Only 500 of us with Veterans, Dignitaries and Royalty at the big one on the 6th!!”

Gary has just done a re-working of his first book and tells me he has done a fair bit of new content and reformatting on it especially for this year of big 80th Anniversaries of D-Day, Arnhem and more, and as a result a new Special Edition of that book with extra veterans and additional material alongside the original veterans has just been released by the History Press and is now available worldwide.



The Octagon Theatre have announced an exciting new Bolton Comedy Festival

taking place Fri 12 – Sun 14 July 2024.

Preview by Steve Cooke

This summer, for those of us who love a good laugh over 20 comedians will perform at the Octagon across the 3 days from Fri 12– Sun 14 July.

Featuring some of the top names in stand-up including headliners - Dara Ó Briain, Dylan Moran, Emmanuel Sonubi and Catherine Bohart, plus appearances from Jenny Ryan, Justin Moorhouse, Huge Davies, Chloe Petts, Sophie Duker, Lucy Porter, Ania, Magiano, Steve Bugeja, Ryan Cullen, Angelos Epithemiou, Harry Stachini and Johnny Pelham.

The packed programme will include daily headline performances in the Octagon’s main theatre, a series of work in progress shows in the intimate studio space and live podcast recordings with special guests.

A great opportunity for us comedy fans to get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in stand up.

Chief Executive Roddy Gauld commented: “Bolton has a reputation for funny people! With names such as Peter Kay, Diane Morgan, Sophie Willan, Paddy McGuinness, Stu Francis, Hylda Baker and so many more hailing from our town. We felt it was time that Bolton had its own Comedy Festival, to celebrate our famous sense of humour and comedy heritage. The response we had for our Peter Kay shows at the Octagon last year was phenomenal and audiences loved seeing a comedy genius up-close - the atmosphere felt electric! So, this new comedy festival is great opportunity to come together and enjoy fresh new material from some of the biggest names in stand-up, as well as chance to discover someone new. The Octagon is known for its intimate, friendly environment and for just three days it’ll be home to the funniest people in Britain.”

Bolton has been named as Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture for 2024, so the Bolton Comedy Festival promises to be a great addition to the town’s cultural calendar.

Friday night headliner will be stand-up comedian and television presenter Dara Ó Briain, best known for hosting Mock the Week, Blockbusters, Robot Wars, Stargazing Live, Dara and Ed’s Great Big Adventure and Dara Ó Briain’s Go 8Bit. His latest show So… Where Were We? was winner of Best Tour at the 2023 Chortle Awards and has been performed across the globe, touring in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, the Middle East and North America. London based Emmanuel Sonubi will be headlining on the Saturday. A regular favourite on the live comedy circuit, he has become one of the most sought-after acts working today. As seen on the recent series of ‘Live at the Apollo' Comedy Central’s Stand-Up UK and ITV2’s The Stand-up Sketch Show.

On Sunday afternoon Irish comedian, writer and actor Catherine Bohart will be bringing her new show And Now With Feelings to the Octagon. Best known for her BBC Radio 4 show Who Runs the World? plus TV appearances on Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week, A League of their Own and 8 out of 10 Cats.

Actor and writer Dylan Moran closes the festival as our Sunday evening headliner. Best known for his observational comedy along with the BAFTA award winning sitcom Black Books that he co-wrote and starred in. As a comedian, Moran has toured the world many times, and has also works extensively in film including performances alongside Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead and Run Fatboy Run.

Bolton’s own Jenny Ryan – better known as the dream-crushing brainbox The Vixen on the hit ITV quiz The Chase – will be making an appearance alongside Lucy Porter with a live podcast recording of their popular podcast Fingers on Buzzers – perfect for any quiz show fans or pub quiz fanatics!

Local Bolton comedian Justin Moorhouse will return to the Octagon after sell-out shows in 2023 with brand new material and commented on his home-town festival: “Bolton has significantly contributed to my comedy career. Not only did it provide me with the incredible opportunity to join Peter Kay in Phoenix Nights and the various chances that followed, but some of my most cherished on-stage moments have taken place in the town. With Bolton being known as one of Britain's most fun-filled towns, it is only fitting that a comedy festival be held there.”

For the full line up of the comedy festival visit:

Octagon Theatre, Howell Croft South, Bolton BL1 1SB

Phone: 01204 520661


My Son's A Queer (But What Can You Do?)

Preview by Steve Cooke

HOME have announced that the sensational, award-winning production My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) will take the stage this summer ahead of Manchester PRIDE, as the acclaimed production makes its glittering debut in Manchester between Mon 19 Aug – Sun 25 Aug.

Written and performed by the multi-talented, social media sensation Rob Madge (Bedknobs & Broomsticks (national tour), Jack & the Beanstalk, Peter Pan (London Palladium)) and directed by Luke Sheppard (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 (Ambassadors Theatre, London), The Da Vinci Code (UK tour)) , My Son’s a Queer, (But What Can You Do?) has garnered widespread acclaim, evolving from a cult

sensation to a WhatsOnStage award-winning and Olivier Award nominated production.

When Rob was 12, they attempted to stage a full-blown Disney parade in their house for their Grandma. As Rob donned a wig and played Mary Poppins, Ariel, Mickey Mouse and Belle, their Dad doubled as Stage Manager, Sound Technician and Goofy. Unfortunately, Dad missed all his cues and pushed all the floats in the wrong direction. Mum mistook Aladdin for Ursula. The costumes went awry, and Ariel’s bubble gun didn’t work properly. Grandma had a nice time though.

My Son’s a Queer, (But what can you do?) is the joyous autobiographical story of Madge as they set out to recreate that infamous parade, inviting audiences on a journey filled with laughter, love, and the occasional mishap.

Originating at the Turbine Theatre in 2021, it had a sold-out season at the Edinburgh Festival in 2022, followed by a national tour and then two West End runs. Three years on, join Rob Madge as they set out to recreate that parade – and this time, nobody, no, NOBODY is gonna rain on it!

Mon 19 - Sun 25 Aug

75 mins (no interval)

12+ Content warning: Contains some swearing, a fair bit of precociousness and scenes of utter joy. May cause happiness!

Tickets from £25

If you’d like to discuss a group booking, please email or call Box Office on 0161 200 1500 (12:00-20:00 daily).

HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester M15 4FN




Tuesday 28 May 2024

Rochdale & District Camera Club

Tonight is Practical.

We meet every Tuesday at 8pm at Syke Methodist Church Hall.

You are more than welcome to come down to one of our club nights to see if you would enjoy joining the club.

Visit the link below for the 2024 syllabus.

Phone: Pete Williams 07967 969136


Syke Methodist Church Hall, Syke Road, Rochdale OL12 9TF


Wednesday 29 May 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Charlotte Thomson soprano, Mila Johannsen mezzo-soprano and Minyu Shi piano (all RNCM)

The concert series has been held at St Mary’s since 2001 and was granted the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2020… during the pandemic!

Running every Wednesday, Music at Lunchtime is a weekly live classical music concert series that has been going since the 1960s. The sessions were initially run at the old Rochdale Art Gallery by the local authority, but since May 2001 have been run by volunteer-enthusiasts and artistic director, Dr Joe Dawson.


Phone Dr Joe Dawson 01706 648872

Doors open 12noon, concert starts 12.30pm - 1.30pm

St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane/St Mary's Gate, Rochdale OL16 1DZ


Thursday 30 May 2024

Free Crafty Drop-In Session at our Half-Term Hive

Free-bee Event: Half- Term Hive Time!

We need your help to create our new museum display- using recycled materials to craft and decorate a whole hive of bees!

We’re absolutely buzzing to be putting together a display all about bees and how they relate to the co-operative movement – but we need your help!

Bumble on down to this drop-in session where you can create your own unique bee which will then be used in our display!

This event is free (we're not pollen your leg!), but donations to the museum are always welcomed.

Please note that if we experience busy periods, you may need to wait to get the chance to craft your bee.

The museum has lots of fun activities which can be enjoyed whilst you wait.


Phone: Rochdale Pioneers Museum 01706 524920

11am - 2pm

Rochdale Pioneers Museum, 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale OL12 0NU




celebrating creative arts and artists - an oasis of positivity supporting individual and community wellbeing.


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