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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke






Preview by Steve Cooke

Roy McFarlane FRSL the Canal Poet Laureate will be launching Create and Connect’s new book Poetry by the Canal on Friday 9th February.

The book is a large print anthology of poems inspired by the Rochdale Canal and funded by Grantscape.

 Elizabeth White of Create and Connect, organiser of the project, said

"Roy MacFarlane is a well-known poet and we are looking forward to hearing him read from his work. His latest book “Living by Troubled Waters’ has received excellent reviews.”

Tickets are available FREE on Eventbrite

Poet Roy McFarlane grew up in Birmingham and the Black Country, surrounded by canals. He says, “I lived, played and loved by canals and rivers and am looking forward to recapturing those stories; tales of diverse communities in urban settings who lived with canals in their backyard.”

During lockdown, Roy, like many people, spent a lot of time outdoors. He retraced routes along his local canal towpath and has developed a newfound understanding of how waterways can become sites and spaces for wellbeing and an aid to mental health.

Roy begins his role as Canal Laureate in December 2021, following in the wake of poets Nancy Campbell (Canal Laureate 2018-9), 2021 Forward Prize-winning Luke Kennard (2016-17) and Jo Bell (inaugural Canal Laureate, 2013-15).

During his Laureateship, Roy is interested to explore how people feel about their local canals currently, and how our national and global history can be read in the story of the canal network’s development. He adds: “I’ll be exploring stories of women, labour and migration in the building of these canals, and how that contributed to the Industrial Revolution with its hidden histories of colonialism and imperialism.”

Roy is both writing his own poems, and working with various groups of canal users, including boaters, to create new collaborative works. His first project involved a canal walk on the shortest day of the year, followed by return visits on the Equinoxes and the longest day. Other projects with a wellbeing, nature or history focus are following – including Poetry by the Canal.

Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust, said: “Every one of our Canal Laureates has shown us the waterways through new eyes. Roy is passionate about telling the stories of people, places, and history: topics that resonate in the Trust’s work. Growing up in the heart of canal country, his perspective on the changing nature of the waterways and their growing importance in the wellbeing of local communities is exciting. I am delighted to welcome Roy as our new Canal Laureate and look forward to hearing the stories he finds to tell.”

Judith Palmer, Director of the Poetry Society, said: “We’re really proud of the new work that’s been created through our longstanding partnership with the Trust. Rivers have never been short of glory, but it was time canals began to receive the attention they were due. Now there’s a vibrant new body of work which celebrates the many ways canals touch our lives, with poems responding to the people, places, history, and wildlife of our amazing canal network. We can’t wait to see how Roy McFarlane opens up new perspectives on the UK’s canals over the months ahead.”

Established in 2013 by The Poetry Society and the Canal & River Trust, the Canal Laureateship aims to encourage exciting new writing about Britain’s historic canal network. Previous Laureateships have seen poems stencilled onto towpaths in biodegradable paint, designed into new lock-beams, and translated into short films. Poets have drawn on conversations with boaters and engineers, kayakers, lockkeepers, and litter-pickers, delved into archives, and given new life to forgotten classics in performances, publication, and animations.

Canal poetry has been celebrated at venues and events including: the Hay Festival, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Birmingham Literature Festival, National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port, London’s Southbank Centre and Crick Boat Show, Braunston Historic Boat Show, Welshpool Poetry Festival, Market Bosworth Festival, Leeds Liverpool Biennial, and in a dedicated canal edition of BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please.

The project is part of the Arts on the Waterways programme, a partnership between the Canal & River Trust and Arts Council England to attract new audiences for both the waterways and the arts, working with a range of partners and engaging actively with local communities.



Preview by Steve Cooke

World-renowned guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson arrives in Manchester on his Ship To Shore tour.

A pioneer of British Folk Rock and winner of the coveted Ivor Novello Award for song writing, Richard Thompson hits the road in 2024 with a stop at Aviva Studios.

Richard Thompson kickstarted his career as co-founder, lead guitarist and songwriter of Fairport Convention – a trailblazing rock outfit that ignited the British Folk Rock movement in the late 1960s.

Now a wildly successful soloist – with 19 solo albums and a string of awards under his belt – Thompson received perhaps the highest praise when the Los Angeles Times dubbed him ‘the finest songwriter after Dylan’.

In 2018, Thompson released his 19th solo album 13 Rivers. Self-produced at the famed Boulevard Recording Studio in L.A., 13 Rivers is powered by evocative songcraft, jaw-dropping guitar and an indefinable spirit.

Join Richard Thompson in the Hall for a journey through his extraordinary back catalogue – brought to life with a full band.

31 MAY 2024



£60.00 and £47.50

Suitable for age 14+ (under 16s must be accompanied by an adult aged 18+)


Accessibility features available for this event: Wheelchair Access

For ticketing and box office related enquiries, please contact or call 0333 322 8679 (phone lines are open Monday to Friday, 10am to 8pm and Saturday from 10am to 6pm).

PLAY at the Curtain Theatre

Preview by Steve Cooke

Prepare to be transported through the mind of playwright Brian Simpson who takes us on a hilarious journey with an unsuspecting and surprising cast. In true theatrical tradition “The show must go on” at the Curtain Theatre.

Written by Colin Smith and directed by Steve Bennett Play is a comedy which takes inspiration from all sorts of theatrical genres and is a nightmare journey through the mind of playwright Brian Simpson, who finds himself on opening night with the audience in situ but with no play! Through dreamlike sequences and hilarious interruptions from family and bizarre characters, is determined to get a show on stage, created in front of the eyes of the audience.

Saturday 10 February 7.30pm, Sunday 11 February 2.15pm

Monday 12 – Friday 16 February 7.30pm, Saturday 17 February 4.00pm

Phone: Danny Groves 01706 642 008

The Curtain Theatre, 47 Milkstone Road, Rochdale OL11 1EB

The Theatre took its name from the Elizabethan ‘Curtyn Theatre’, in London, at which Shakespearean plays were first performed (even before The Globe Theatre’s existence).

In 2015 the Curtain Theatre celebrated ninety years of putting on productions, without a break, even during the war years

After enduring some difficulties putting on productions first at the Drill Hall, near the old fire station, and then in a school hall in Deeplish, The Curtain Theatre moved into its present premises in 1933.

They are proud to say, that many of the customs that were used throughout their humble beginnings, still exist today. For example, because cast members were often required to help, ‘front of house’, a gown with a hood, or domino, was introduced to help to conceal their identities before they appeared on stage.


St Chad’s Rochdale Parish Church organ recital - John Hosking (Blackburn Cathedral)

Review by Dr Joe Dawson

Whilst eagerly awaiting the restoration of its historic organ recitals at Rochdale Town Hall, ORTOA (Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside Organists’ Association est.1908) has continued to bring its series of celebrity recitals to notable instruments throughout its patch.

The particularly fine instrument at St Chad’s Rochdale Parish Church was admirably demonstrated by the eminent soloist John Hosking, Organist in Residence at Blackburn Cathedral. John also plays for BBC Radio 4's Daily Service. Prior to his present post, he was Director of Music at Holy Trinity, Southport following fourteen years at St. Asaph Cathedral. 

His varied and eclectic programme began with the grandeur of ‘Vom himmel hoch’ by JS Bach, followed by a haunting Andante sostenuto from Widor’s ‘Symphonie Gothique’.

Sets of variations by André Fleury, Philip Moore, and the wistful Prelude on 'Slane' by Hosking himself, gave a contemporary experimental and improvisatory feel to the concert.

A prize-winning graduate of the Royal College of Music, John held the organ scholarship at Westminster Abbey for an unprecedented three years, playing for Royal and State occasions. So, the monumental ‘Fantasia on the National Anthem’ by CW Pearce, in this first year of Charles III was timely and appropriate. Even more so, as mentioned by the ORTOA president, as this was on Mozart’s birthday, who famously described the organ as the King of Instruments.

Some would say John was saving the Best until last, C19 composer WT Best that is, with Concert Fantasia on ‘Men of Harlech’ that made a rousing and triumphant finale. The fascinating use of orchestral colours from St Chad’s organ (originally by Hill & Son 1885) transformed it into a dramatic, symphonic tone poem.

As for the magnificent JJ Binns instrument at the Town Hall, it is to be hoped that the experienced voluntary custodians (ORTOA) are not left out of the loop in these crucial stages of reopening and the start of a new arts initiative.

Next ORTOA Celebrity Recital: Gary Hulme, St Paul’s Parish Church, Royton OL2 5LA, 16 March 2024 at 3 pm.



Preview by Steve Cooke

Phoebe Eclair-Powell's original new drama, opened on 9 February at the Royal Exchange Theatre. 

Winner of the 2019 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and inspired by Artist Cornelia Parker's work Cold Dark Matter this play is directed by award-winning director Atri Banerjee. 

Shed: Exploded View is ‘an explosion in action, beautifully emotional and heartbreakingly raw this piece digs into the cracks in relationships and turns them inside out’.

It is a delicately woven tapestry about violence, love, and loss - Three couples. Thirty years. Mothers and daughters. Lovers, partners, husbands, and wives. Babies, teenagers, birthdays, holidays, honeymoons, fireworks, near-misses, rain. This is a play about all of it. The smallest tremble. A smashed glass. The ripping apart of space and time. An explosion.

There is also a series of free wraparound events that engage with some of the themes of the play with a focus on the topic of domestic abuse in our society.

Allie Crewe's I Am Exhibition - On the Garages in the Great Hall

These portraits, from the series I Am, are a visual narrative reclaiming the face or body. They ask us to confront their gaze, pay attention to their trauma and survival, and note their resilience. All of the people here have lived experience of intimate partner crime. The work was commissioned by SICK! and SafeLives 2020 - 2022.

Panel Discussions in The Studio

Monday 19 February 5.30-6.30pm: Domestic Abuse & How Employers Can Support

Monday 26 February 5.30-6.30pm: Domestic Abuse & Systemic Policy

These events are free and will have live captioning.

Save With Season Tickets

Looking to budget but still have fun? You can book all 4 shows in the Spring Summer 2024 Season and save 25% off the total ticket price. This means you could get to see 4 shows from just £66!

As well as Shed: Exploded View, they've got Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste Of Honey based in Salford, 2017 Pulitzer-Prize winning drama Sweat by Lynn Nottage, and Oscar Wilde’s legendary quintessential comedy The Importance of Being Earnest.

Shed: Exploded View is on until Saturday 2 Mar 2024.

Phone: 0161 833 9833

Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH



Sunday 11 February 2024

Tap Factory

After mesmerizing audiences across five continents with over 700 shows, Tap Factory is thrilled to make its return to the UK with its 10th Anniversary Tour! Prepare to be captivated as eight extraordinary male performers deliver a sensational blend of dance, acrobatics, music, and comedy, creating a show that appeals to audiences of all ages. Brace yourself for an electrifying display of high-energy dance, explosive percussion, and jaw-dropping acrobatics, seamlessly woven together with live music and mesmerizing choreography. This mind-blowing experience will ignite your senses and make your toes tap. Fast and furiously funny, for all the family!

Directed by Vincent PAUSANIAS.

Tickets from £27

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


Middleton Arena, LCpl Joel Halliwell VC Way, Middleton M24 1AG


Tuesday 13 February 2024

Edwin Waugh Dialect Society

Tonight's session is "Lancashire Folk Night". ​Poetry and Song.

In the Chair: Jim Savile

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 2024 calendar.

Phone: 01706 826227

7.30pm start - 9pm

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


Wednesday 14 February 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Louise Taylor soprano with Jonathan Ellis piano (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 14 February 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Mersea Island photographic society challenge.

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.

Phone: Secretary - Ed Whitaker

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP



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