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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke

Go on a rip-roaring adventure at the Octagon this Christmas.


It is that time of year when thoughts turn to Christmas. The shops are stocking up and theatres are announcing their festive shows.

The Octagon Theatre is offering a world premiere musical adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale, Around the World in 80 Days, from Thu 16 November 2023 – Sat 6 January 2024.

Adapted for the stage by Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse, the writers who penned the Octagon’s 2022 festive production A Christmas Carol and 2019’s Treasure Island, comes this sensational new musical stage production, directed by Kash Arshad (An Adventure, Octagon Theatre).

Casting has now been announced, which includes a company of 7 talented actors including: Polly Lister (One Man, Two Guvnors and Hound of the Baskervilles, Octagon Theatre Bolton) as the eccentric entrepreneur, Lady Phileas Fogg.

She will be joined by: Emma Fenney (A Christmas Carol, Antic Disposition, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Live Online Production, Octagon Theatre Bolton and Guildford Shakespeare Company) as Lady Eliza Sullivan; Rob Jackson (Peter Pan, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Brief Encounter, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Stephen Joseph Theatre and Theatre by the Lake) as Sir John Sullivan; Darren Kuppan (Let the Right One In, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Jungle Book, Grosvenor Open Air Theatre and Chester Storyhouse) as Khatri; Charlotte Linighan (The Booth Show and Spinach, The Edge Theatre) as Felicity Fanshaw; and Kai Spellman (Billie The Kid, Kyriacos & Company and Dominion Theatre, Ali and Dahlia, Pleasance Theatre) as Passepartout. They will also play various ensemble roles. Completing the cast is Olivia Chandler who will be the company swing, marking her professional debut.

The creative team includes Katie Scott (designer); Sam Sommerfield (musical director); Jennifer Kay (movement director); Jane Lalljee (lighting designer); Mark Melville (sound designer); Rebecca Applin (additional orchestrations and arrangements).

Kash Arshad, director of Around the World in 80 Days said: “I am delighted to be directing this wonderfully fun and exciting new production that promises to take audiences young and old on a spectacular adventure this festive season. So be sure to book your tickets and join us in Bolton for this unmissable globe-trotting voyage of wonder and discovery.”

Wealthy and eccentric entrepreneur Lady Phileas Fogg makes a bet that she can travel around the world in just 80 days...but surely it can’t be done? With her entire fortune on the line, Phileas sets off from London in a wild dash across the globe.

Travelling through fascinating and exotic lands, Phileas and friends get into all sorts of adventures. They jump from boats to trains, trek across Europe to Asia, celebrate Diwali in India and soar through the Americas battling storms and bandits. Will they make it back to London in time for Christmas or will the bet be lost?

Thursday16 November 2023 – Sat 6 January 2024.

Tickets start from £15 and are on-sale now.

Find out more and book tickets via the Octagon Box Office on 01204 520661 or at



September 06: Isabel Williamson cello Jonathan Ellis piano

Both double graduates of the RNCM and Manchester University these first-rate performers once again brought great music off the page.

Sonata in A major by Franck full of powerful drama and passion, admirably performed. Vocalise by Rachmaninov and Bruch’s moving evocation, Kol Nidrei, transported the audience with lyricism and emotional intensity. An encore, The Swan by Saint-Saens closed a recital worthy of any concert stage.

September 13: Talented trio of enthusiasts Anne Butterworth soprano Stephen Taylor baritone sang duets from Mozart’s Magic Flute and Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, plus Pokarekare Ana a traditional Maori love song, interspersed with a wide range of solo songs from Kurt Weill and Vaughan Williams to Lloyd Webber and G & S. accompanied by Elaine Marsden. Local performers such as these make a significant contribution to entertainment, culture, and well-being in the borough.

September 20 Maria King concert pianist extraordinaire Trained at the RNCM and Paris, and alongside concerts, accompanying and recitals, Maria also built a career as an entertainer on the cruise ships and charity fundraising. Her memory skills alone are enough to put her in the front rank of players. Combining classical Debussy, Rachmaninov and Liszt with Liberace, Chaplin, and Victoria Wood, made for a breathtaking hour of music and wit with irrepressible energy and fun.

September 27: Telemann Baroque Ensemble This refined troupe’s latest of quarterly visits consisted of Alasdair Roberts on flute, Elaine da Costa and Sarah Snape violins, Penelope Bisby viola, Roger Bisby cello, and Peter Collier harpsichord. They made a glorious combination revelling in the acoustic at St Mary in the Baum. They played Telemann, Quantz, Boyce and Bandini, a true ensemble in name and nature.

The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday at 12.30pm at the Grade 1 listed church of St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale, OL16 1DZ. Entrance fee is £6. No refreshments available. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.



A couple of great concerts coming up in our atmospheric, iconic Parish Church of St Chad to brighten up autumnal Saturdays.

Saturday 28 October - 12 noon Dimitra Ananiadou (Violin) Richard Whalley (Pianoforte)

Music by:

Bach: Solo Sonata - A minor

Massenet, ‘Meditation’

Beethoven: from Op. 47 Violin Sonata

Admission £6

(pay on the door)

Including refreshments available from 11.30 pm

Saturday 18 November - 12 noon Reisling Piano Quartet

Including music by:

C.M. Weber

Frank Bridge

Elgar (Salut d’amour)

Admission £6

(pay on the door)

Including refreshments available from 11.30 pm


Phone: 01706 639162

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

Manchester Song Festival returns to Stoller Hall in 2024


One to look forward to in 2024 is the return of the Manchester Song Festival to the Stoller Hall, featuring live performance from three incredible artists as well as a wonderful opportunity for local singers to participate and learn from vocal professionals.

Award-winning Jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss kick starts the 2024 Festival on Friday 1 March with VocalSuite, a concert blending voice and technology for a unique display of a cappella vocal talent. This uses improvisation/counterpoint harmony, electronics, breakbeat loops and basslines (all live and from his mouth) to stunning effect, creating a unique, orchestral vocal soundscape with influences ranging from classical to African rhythm, to jazz and choral music.

VocalSuite fuses voice and technology, using real-time looping to create live compositions. No two performances are ever the same. Using technology to record, then layer the voice, an orchestral piece is created that is composed right before the audience. Sometimes Cleveland even uses the audience as contributors to the piece, and he always reflects the mood and ambience of the space.

On Saturday 2 March, classical tenor Mark Padmore will begin with a series of pieces by Robert Schumann before taking audiences on a journey through the works of 20th century British composers. His programme will span the full century, including popular works by Frank Bridge, Michael Tippett, and Rebecca Clarke, as well as celebrating the music of contemporary composer Tansy Davies.

Mark’s recent appearance at the Royal Opera House’s production Britten’s Death in Venice, was described as a “tour de force” and “exquisite of voice, [presenting] Aschenbach’s physical and spiritual breakdown with extraordinary detail and insight”. Other opera roles have included Captain Vere in Britten’s Billy Budd, Evangelist in a staging of St Matthew Passion for the Glyndebourne Festival and leading roles in Harrison Birtwistle The Corridor and The Cure at the Aldeburgh Festival.

Acclaimed Korean Opera star Hera Hyesang Park will close out the festival on Sunday 3 March with a blend of Korean art songs and operatic classics.

Hera Hyesang Park’s rising-star status is supported by a series of critically acclaimed performances everywhere from the Metropolitan Opera to the Glyndebourne Festival. In 2019 she won plaudits for her house debut as Musetta in Barrie Kosky’s new production of La bohème at the Komische Oper Berlin. Later in the year, her run as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Glyndebourne Festival was described by The Times (London) as “phenomenal”.

Alongside these performances will be a full day of participatory vocal workshops across many genres from classical to pop, musical to opera - aimed at singers of all abilities, as well as interactive sessions for families.

In addition to these workshops will be sessions on performance anxiety, how to look after your vocal health and more. For aspiring and early-career musicians, there will also be chances to talk 1-to-1 with the experts.

The Stoller Hall’s Creative and Commercial Director Fran Healey said:

“We are delighted to be bringing back Manchester Song Festival for 2024, celebrating some of the best in vocal talent with phenomenal singers performing across the weekend.

We’re particularly looking forward to welcoming singers from across the Northwest to our day of workshops on Saturday 2 March. If you or have ever been part of a community choir, theatre group or choral society; if you are a music student, or early-career professional; if you're someone who loves to sing, we'd love you to join us.

We’re also thrilled to announce that as with many of The Stoller Hall’s concerts, there will be £5.50 reduced price tickets for students and under-18s for Manchester Song Festival, reflecting our organisation’s strong commitment to the next generation of musicians, artists, and thinkers across Greater Manchester and beyond.”

Manchester Song Festival takes place Friday 1 – Sunday 3 March 2024.


Main Festival page:

Workshop Day bookings page:

Cleveland Watkiss:

Mark Padmore:

Hera Hyesang Park:

About The Stoller Hall

The Stoller Hall is located in Manchester city centre’s Medieval Quarter, opposite Victoria train station and Cathedral Gardens. The 500-seat venue is one of Manchester’s newest performance spaces for live music and events – from classical orchestras to folk, jazz, and comedy.


Wednesday 18 October

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Photographic quiz night (Hand in for the Centenary Cup - 4 Images – Theme TBA).

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.

Entry fee: £2.50 for room fee

Phone: Secretary - Ed Whitaker

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start.

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP

Wednesday 18 October

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Oldham Community Choir.

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

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

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