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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke






A chance to catch some ballet at Middleton Arena with The Wizard of Oz from Ballet Theatre UK

Preview by Steve Cooke

An opportunity to join Ballet Theatre UK at the Middleton Arena and follow the yellow brick road to discover all the wonders of Oz.

Get to enjoy Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion, (and yes Toto too) as they seek the Wonderful Wizard to find that there’s no place like home!

The Wizard of Oz is a two act, full-length, ballet adaptation of the iconic tale by L. Frank Baum, told through the magic of classical dance. Set to a classical score which brings the story to life, this production is family friendly and is the perfect way to introduce children to the classical ballet.

The production is presented with beautiful backdrops, stunning theatrical sets and costumes evoking the iconic sketches by W.W. Denslow, from the original publication.

Sat 13 Jan


Doors open: 7pm

Tickets from £13.00

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

About Ballet Theatre UK

Ballet Theatre UK provides a platform for talented young dancers to perform the highest quality of ballet in provincial theatres throughout the UK. By doing so the Company provides access to the classical art form to audiences who may not otherwise have been able to witness live ballet.

The Company more than 20 dancers, hand selected from around the globe, each year. The last decade has seen the Company earn its place in the dance industry by performing new work of the highest calibre, both nationally and internationally.


As the Company has passed its ten-year anniversary, the future is clear - to continue to be known as a high-quality bespoke ballet company providing audiences globally with modern productions of the iconic classics. They aim to raise the bar with regards to quality, offering only the very best in British Ballet.

Jim Cartwright’s new play premiers at Hope Mill Theatre

Preview by Steve Cooke

A new play by award-winning Jim Cartwright (Little Voice, Road), starring Matthew Kelly and Denise Welch premiers at Hope Mill Theatre.

The Gap tells the story of the audacious adventures of Walter and Corral - He’s back up north, she’s still down south - They haven’t seen each other for fifty years, not since their Soho days, back in the swinging ’60s - A chance phone call reunites them for one magical night and in next to no time, they’re back to their old tricks.

Matthew Kelly following his successful West-End run of Noises Off, and Denise Welsh, making her return to the stage after many years come together as Walter and Corral for this strictly limited, intimate run.

Matthew says, ‘I’m coming home, and I can’t think of a better excuse to return than with actress Denise Welch and playwright Jim Cartwright’.

‘Denise and I are to star in the world premiere of Jim’s brand-new play, The Gap, at Manchester’s premier theatre, Hope Mill. It’s a funny, moving, exquisitely crafted play which will show off the superb talents of Denise Welch and I shall be showing off beside her all the way. Anthony Banks will direct. It’s a top team embarking on a top project at a top venue. I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited. I’d love it if you could come and share it.’

Denise adds, ‘I am so excited to be returning to my first love, theatre, working alongside the fantastic team at Hope Mill Theatre.’

‘To play opposite Matthew Kelly in a new Jim Cartwright play is a dream come true.’

‘I hope you’ll all come and see what I hope will be a great production.’

The Gap

9th February 2024 — 9th March 2024

Hope Mill Theatre

113 Pollard Street


M4 7JA

A 2-minute walk from New Islington Metrolink Station. Just one stop from Manchester Piccadilly.

Blue Beard at HOME.

Preview by Steve Cooke

Emma Rice brings her own brand of theatrical wonder to Blue Beard, this most beguiling and disturbing of tales.

Multi-award-winning director, Emma Rice returns to HOME with her ground-breaking theatre company Wise Children for her latest world premiere production.

Blue Beard the Magician makes hearts flutter and pupils dilate. With a wink, a stroke, and a flick – things just seem to vanish.

Cards, coins, scarves… and women. Puff! Gone. Without a trace.

He meets his match when his young bride discovers his dark and murderous secret.

She summons all her rage, all her smarts and all her sisters to bring the curtain down on his tyrannous reign.

Written and directed by Emma Rice, with her signature sleight of hand, Blue Beard explores curiosity and consent, violence, and vengeance – all through an intoxicating lens of music, wit, and tender truth.

When someone tells you not to look, OPEN THE BLOODY DOOR!

Tue 13 Feb – Sat 24 Feb

Tickets from £11.20 – £33.20

Groups of 10 – 39 get 10% off each full price ticket.

Groups of 40+ get 15% off each full price ticket.

Tickets for school groups are £11 each. A teacher gets a free place with every 10 student tickets. This offer is available on weekdays only and must be booked in advance.

Please email or call Box Office on 0161 200 1500 (12:00-20:00 daily).

About Wise Children

Created and led by Emma Rice, Wise Children launched in April 2018 and is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. Based in the South West, they make ground-breaking work with exceptional artists, and tour across the world. Alongside shows, they run a unique professional development programme, The School for Wise Children, training a new and more diverse generation of theatre practitioners. They have just bought a building, The Lucky Chance, in Frome, Somerset which is used as the creation space, a home for the School and theatre in which to welcome audiences of all shapes and sizes. They launched The Lucky Chance to the general public in December 2023 with The Little Matchgirl and Happier Tales.

Lots to look forward to from ORTOA.

Preview by Steve Cooke

ORTOA (Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside Organists’ Association) est. 1908, has consistently striven to support music in the area, and in recent years in particular promoted celebrity soloist concerts on the renowned JJ Binns organ at Rochdale Town Hall. This valiantly continued through Covid when it was allowed to.

Then the Town Hall organ was carefully placed under wraps for the duration of the restoration of the building and the mission extended to other significant instruments in its patch, notably Rochdale Parish Church, St Paul’s Church Royton, and the Albion URC Church in Ashton. Distinguished celebrity virtuosos included James Bowstead, Asher Oliver, David Grealy, and Anthony Gray.

I understand that the instrument has now been taken out and is being worked on at the contractor’s works. Hopefully the organ might be fully restored and back home to thunder again in 2024.


•          Saturday Jan 27th, 3 pm Organ Concert - Rochdale PC St Chad's OL16 1QT

John Hoskin (Blackburn) 3.00pm

•          Saturday Feb 14th, from 11 am. Visit to the Church Organ World showroom and Holy

Trinity Church Shaw OL2 7DE. This is a joint event with our friends in the Bolton & District Organists Association.

•          Saturday Mar 16th. 3pm Organ Concert - St Paul's Church, Royton OL2 5JS

•          Sunday April 28th. 3 pm. ORTOA AGM and President’s Event.





Wednesday 17 January 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Imogen Garner soprano (RNCM) & John Gough piano (RNCM staff)

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 17 January 2024

Rock Choir Middleton - Sing with the nation’s leading adult choir

Rock Choir is much more than a choir - it's a multi layered singing experience.

The power of music, meeting new friends and performing at life changing events, together contribute to an emotional and powerful journey for our members. We have been perfecting Rock.

Choir for 10 years now and have achieved an award-winning standard of excellence in both the educational and emotional aspects of what we try to do.

Rock Choir is the pioneering contemporary choir of the UK and remains unique with over 28,000 members enjoying it across the UK. Each member is welcomed into the Rock Choir family and their journey with us allows music, friendship and a new found confidence to impact their everyday lives. Together we have created a safe, up lifting, and exciting experience just for you.

As a new member, you may choose to simply rehearse with your friends or take to the stage and join them at a variety of Rock Choir events and shows - it's up to you. You can take as much or as little from the experiences on offer. You'll never have to sing on your own or be under any pressure.

First session FREE

Phone: Xander–Jaymes Le Petit 01252 714 276

8pm - 9.30pm

Edgar Wood Academy, Heywood Old Road, Middleton, Heywood OL10 2QN


Thursday 18 January 2024

Have You Been Here before? – The Time Traveller

Audiences prepare to be truly amazed by Tony Rae (The Time Traveller) in an Evening unlike anything you have ever seen, the show will totally mesmerise and captivate those who are curious about having lived before and how our experience from past lives contributes to and effects our choices and decisions in this life.

“The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry lifetime after lifetime “

The world master of regression will give a brief introduction of discovering previous lives, some dating back to 3000BC.

Audience members will then be selected to time travel on a journey to their past lives, will anyone speak in a foreign language they know nothing about, or write in the styles of days gone by? The fascinating experience is then directly relayed by audio and video to present one of the most astonishing events in theatre history and a night you will never forget.

Tickets from £23.50

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


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



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