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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke

Rochdale Town Hall Re-opening Concert with The Black Dyke Band

Preview by Steve Cooke

In 1871 The Black Dyke Band performed at the original opening ceremony for Rochdale Town Hall. Now 153 years later the band will perform a special concert to reopen the newly refurbished Town Hall.

Over 160 years old, Black Dyke is probably the most famous Brass Band in the world having toured such places as Australia, Europe, Japan, and the USA. They have performed with pop icons such as The Beatles and Elton John and even a performed on The Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury in 2017.

They have now emerged as victorious at the 2023 National Brass Band Championships, held at the iconic Royal Albert Hall. Up against strong competition the mighty Black Dyke Band showcased its exceptional talent and determination and prevailed in a truly stylish manner.

Black Dyke definitely is no run of the mill Brass Band!

06 Mar 2024, 19:30

Rochdale, Town Hall, The Esplanade, Rochdale OL16 1AZ, UK

From £5.00 to £16.00

TLC – Joseph Buckmaster with Tim Kennedy piano

Review by Dr Joe Dawson

Few things command the attention as much as a full-throated tenor voice, be it on the opera stage, football world cup anthem, or adverts for internet comparison sites. It immediately conveys passionate emotions writ large. Following the tradition of household names Mario Lanza and Pavarotti, Joseph Buckmaster proved to be a risng star.

He equally enjoys working with opera companies, such as Opera Holland Park and Heritage Opera, chorus for both the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, and concert and oratorio appearances. His career began as a Chorister and Lay Clerk at Chester Cathedral before studying at the RNCM and the Royal Academy of Music.

Joseph was expertly accompanied by multi-talented Tim Kennedy who studied music at Cambridge and is a freelance professional singer, vocal coach, organist, and piano accompanist, including ten years as a repetiteur at the RNCM. (See Tim also supplied a delightful virtuoso solo piano interlude.

Glorious oratorio singing from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus and Messiah, and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria linked well to operatic arias from Puccini’s La rondine, Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Singing in English can be challenging but works by the American Lee Hoiby and Vaughan Williams were also effortlessly interpreted.

Finally two arias from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni were ideally suited to Joseph’s maturing ‘lyric spinto’ voice, leaving the audience demanding more.

This was concert number 1,064 since taking over from the council in 2001. The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday 12:30 – 13:30 at the Grade 1 listed St Mary in the Baum Church, Rochdale OL16 1DZ, admission £6.


Preview by Steve Cooke

Following the much-lamented demise of Oldham Coliseum Theatre, it is great to see that there will still be a seasonal presentation with OTW [Oldham Theatre Workshop] in association with Oldham Coliseum Theatre giving us The Wrong Reindeer.

‘A town where there’s nothing to look forward to. A donkey that wishes they were a reindeer and a child who can’t wish at all. As the winter sets in, and Christmas draws close, an unlikely friendship is formed, and an adventure begins that will remind everyone the true meaning of kindness.’

Suitable for ages 4+

8 - 24 December

Please note: Saturday 16th December, 2pm, will be a relaxed performance. Perfect for neurodivergent audience members.

The shows will begin at the time stated on the ticket. They recommend that you arrive 15 minutes before the show is due to start.

They aim to ensure that everybody has an enjoyable and welcoming experience. Late comers may be asked to wait outside the performance space until an appropriate time in the show before they can enter.


Oldham Libraries performance space, Oldham Library and Lifelong Learning Centre, Cultural Quarter Greaves Street Oldham OL1 1AL

Christmas with Cantare

Preview by Steve Cooke

Following their excellent concert with the Northern Baroque Orchestra at St Aidan’s the wonderful Cantare Ladies Choir have their first concert at the Parish Church of St Chad in the Rochdale Town Centre. This will also be current MD, Adam Summers’s farewell concert.

It promises to be one of the highlights of the festive season with candlelight, mince pies, and beautiful festive music in an atmospheric setting.

Christmas with Cantare

Saturday, 16th December 2023, 7.30pm

Church of St Chad, Sparrow Hill, Rochdale, OL16 1QT

Tickets – £12 (children free), available from choir members.

Visit: Eventbrite ( – or on the door (cash or card payments accepted)

The choir was originally founded in 1982 as the Debrose Choir. In 2009, they changed their name to Cantare.

The choir includes women of all ages and from all walks of life – no superstars, just people who love to sing and who want to do it well. The repertoire is exciting and wide ranging, from pop standards and songs from the shows to classical and contemporary choral pieces. They enjoy a challenge, strive, very successfully, to make a great sound and they all have a brilliant time whilst we’re doing it.

You can enjoy them performing regularly at concerts and other events throughout the year.

A rip-roaring adventure awaits at the Octagon this Christmas.

Review by Hilary Dawes

The classic Jules Verne novel has been skilfully adapted by Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse, bringing us this sensational new musical stage production, directed by Kash Arshad.

This fresh take on the novel moves the action to 1923, and Phileas Fogg is portrayed as wealthy and eccentric entrepreneur Lady Phileas, determined to prove herself, despite the derision of many of the male members of her society. She takes up a bet with newspaper magnate and Reform Club member Sir John Sullivan that she can travel around the world in just 80 days. With her entire fortune at stake, Phileas sets off from London with her devoted butler Passepartout in a wild dash across the globe. Determined she won’t succeed; Sullivan despatches a spy to impede Phileas’s progress and prevent her from winning the bet.

As the travellers jump from boats to trains, trek across Europe to Asia, celebrate Diwali in India and soar through the Americas battling storms and bandits, their efforts are thwarted many times through natural disasters and human interventions. Will they make it back to London in time for Christmas or will the bet be lost?

The whole cast were outstanding, with brilliant performances from Polly Lister as the resolute and at times vulnerable Lady Phileas Fogg, and the excellent Kai Spellman providing many comic moments as the loyal Passepartout, with his exaggerated French accent and tricolour costume.

Sir John Sullivan’s spy, Amit Khatri, was beautifully played by Darren Kuppan, and we felt for him as his friendship with Phileas grew and he wrestled with his conscience to do the right thing.

There were remarkable performances from the remaining talented cast members, with Robert Jackson as pompous Sir John Sullivan, Emma Fenney as his feisty wife Lady Eliza and Charlotte Linighan as hot air balloon enthusiast Felicity Fanshaw. Between them they also managed to portray an astonishing multitude of characters, including a Hollywood film star, American gangsters, and inept officials, changing costumes with lightning speed.

The incredible creative team worked their magic through the ingenious set and lighting design, immersing us in the adventure as we followed Phileas and friends on their travels by sea, train and through the skies.

With joyous original songs, great jokes and hilarious physical comedy, this unmissable feel-good show is sure to delight children and adults alike.

Running at the Octagon Bolton from 16 November 2023 to 6 January 2024.

New garden accessible to all the senses coming in 2024.

Preview by Steve Cooke

A new £60,000 accessible sensory garden is taking shape at Hollingworth Lake Country Park, which promises to deliver a diverse and balanced sensory experience to engage the senses.

Work began earlier in the year thanks to initial funding of £27,500 from Pennines Township to kick off the vision created by DK Garden Designs.

The garden, adjacent to the new café at the former visitor centre site, will include many elements to stimulate and engage all five senses, allowing visitors to experience nature in a unique and immersive way.

Various colours, shapes, and fragrances feature heavily in the design, which will be brought to life through different flowers and foliage.

A woodland walk and wide stone pathways made from non-slip materials will allow access for wheelchair users, and raised flower beds will provide easy access for all ages and abilities.

Plants and wind chimes will create sounds and movement, plus touchable elements such as sculptures, willow structures, and an orchard will be just some of the highlights.

Additional funding from a local memorial scheme has allowed for further planting and installation of a copper memorial tree and benches, which will sit proudly in the finished garden alongside several trees donated by the RSPCA.

Once completed, the multipurpose all-season site will be ready for educational purposes, and a living willow structure meeting dome funded by local company Fraudenburg UK will hold events and classes in horticulture.

Councillor Liam O’Rourke, the council’s cabinet member for climate change and environment, said: “This garden will introduce a significant new facility for our borough and allow rangers to develop community engagement activities, including wildlife and therapeutic gardening sessions, alongside volunteer sessions, where we hope to recruit more members to our Green Volunteer scheme.

“On top of many health benefits, the planned sights, sounds, and scents will offer a tranquil environment, providing a retreat away from the demands of daily life, and I cannot wait to see this inclusive area used to bring people together to connect, learn, and appreciate nature in the most beautiful of spaces.”

David Keegan added: "I'm so happy that DK Garden Design could create the plan for the new sensory garden. The layout has taken careful planning to make the garden accessible to all, focusing on delighting the senses along the way, which will evolve. There are still many exciting features to come, and I look forward to my continued connection, seeing the plan come alive for all to enjoy."

The garden is due to be completed in early 2024.

For details of walks and other activities taking place at Hollingworth Lake, go to


Sunday 10 December

Carols, Christingle, and a Christmas Fair!

Share the light of Christ at St Thomas' Church Christingle service.

Followed by their mini-Christmas fair and refreshments.

Stalls will include Chocolate Tombola, Bottle Tombola, Regifted Gifts Cake stall, Local crafts, Children's tattoos and face painting, Refreshments available (including mulled wine and mince pies).

Phone: Judith Jones 07795 818047


St Thomas CE Church, Newhey, Church Street, Newhey, Rochdale OL16 3QS

Monday 11 December 2023

Reason To Sing (Gospel Choir)

A friendly group singing inspirational popular and gospel songs no auditions, no need to read music just the ability to have fun and join in.

£5 per person, per week

Phone: Louise Kay 07854 870167

2pm - 3.30pm

River Beal Café, Ladybarn Lane, Milnrow, Rochdale OL16 4GQ

Tuesday 12 December

Edwin Waugh Dialect Society

Tonight's session is "A Merry Yuletide" Kesmas Party. On this evening, members are invited to present their favourite dialect item with a Christmas theme, be it a poem, story, or song.

In the Chair: Alison Cooper

Edwin Waugh Dialect Society meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month (previously Wednesday) from October to June, commencing at 7.30pm at St Andrew's Methodist and United Reformed Church, Rochdale (between Rochdale Leisure Centre and Aldi). There is free onsite parking.

Annual subscription is £5, but voluntary donations at each meeting help defray the cost of the room hire. Your first meeting is free.

Formed in 1938 by a group of Lancashire Dialect enthusiasts, the objects of the society are the maintaining and increasing of interest in Lancashire.

At the meetings, members are entertained by a speaker or a performer.

Visit the link below for the full 2022 calendar.

Phone: 01706 826227

7.30pm start - 9pm

St Andrew's Methodist and United Reformed Church, Entwistle Road, Rochdale OL16 2HZ

Wednesday 13 December

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have ‘Rascallity’ Harp Duo: Alice Roberts & Kathryn Mason (both RNCM Manchester University).

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

Wednesday 13 December

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - President's Cup competition.

We meet every Wednesday at Rochdale Unitarian Church, starting at 7.30pm prompt (doors open from 7.15pm). The door is kept locked so please ring the bell on arrival.

If you would like to see the club for yourself and meet our members, you are welcome to attend as our guest for up to 3 weeks before committing to membership. Annual subscription is £36 for single or £46 for joint membership.

A weekly room fee of £2.50 is also payable on arrival at the meeting. Refreshments are 50p.

Visit the link below for a full 2023 syllabus.

£2.50 for room fee

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

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

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