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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke




Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake marks 30th anniversary with UK tour

Preview by Steve Cooke

Early notice of an opportunity to see Matthew Bourne’s iconic production of Swan Lake at the Lowry Theatre.

Matthew Bourne’s audacious, rule-breaking reinvention of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece caused a sensation when it premiered almost 30 years ago. It has now become the most successful dance theatre production of all time, creating new audiences and inspiring generations of young dancers. In celebration of that ongoing impact, Swan Lake will take flight once more in a major new revival for the next generation of dancers, and for audiences who will experience it for the very first time.

Thrilling, bold, witty, and emotive, this genre-defining event is still best known for replacing the female corps-de-ballet with a menacing male ensemble, which shattered convention, turning tradition on its head.

First staged at Sadler’s Wells in London in 1995, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake took the dance theatre world by storm becoming the longest running full-length dance classic in the West End and on Broadway. It has since been performed across the globe, collecting over thirty international accolades including the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production and three Tony Awards for Best Director of a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.

Bourne’s dance theatre company New Adventures has also teased a programme of talent development activity aimed at children and young people, to run alongside performances.

In addition to the regular schools tour, this expanded programme will be specific to Swan Lake, with further details forthcoming.

Bourne’s production - which replaces the female corps-de-ballet with a male ensemble - has won thirty accolades internationally.

Bourne commented: "When our Swan Lake was premiered nearly 30 years ago, it created a sensation that none of us could have predicted. I think we knew that we had a good idea but could never have dreamt of the impact it would have on all of us, our audiences, and the wider dance world. I have seen over those 30 years how this production has continued to change lives, create new audiences and inspire young dancers."

He continued: "The inspiration of Swan Lake is central to our ’talent development’ programme at New Adventures, especially in our Cygnet School and Swan School, where we aim to develop the dancers of the future to feature in our many productions. Indeed, this new revival of Swan Lake will feature dancers who have been nurtured through these programmes, or through their professional development as New Adventures company members, with many of them making their debuts in these coveted roles.”

"As our swans take flight once more in this major revival, I’m full of anticipation for the challenges it will bring for our next generation of dancers and the wonder that it will bring to audiences who will experience it for the very first time."

Lowry in Salford from November 19 to 30

Tickets from £20



Review by Dr Joe Dawson


Jonathan Ellis is no stranger to Toad Lane Concerts having appeared as a soloist, chamber music player and accompanist to singers and instrumentalist over many years. He has phenomenal technique, stamina, and powerful delivery. So, it was great to see him in his own right as a first-rate concert pianist, making the most of the vintage 1933 Challen Grand Piano in the St Mary in the Baum Church acoustic.


After starting to learn the piano at the age of three, Jonathan studied at Wells Cathedral School, and moved on to the prestigious joint music course of the RNCM and Manchester University, where he graduated first-class from both institutions and gained an impressive range of higher diplomas and prizes.


He works regularly with his Ryebank Trio as well as for City of Manchester Opera, Bury Choral Society, Opera Seria, Heritage Opera, the Pennine Spring Music Festival, and the Buxton Festival Fringe, where he has three awards and five nominations since 2010. He also works for the musical charities “Music in Hospitals” and “Live Music Now.”


Schubert’s dramatic Sonata in A minor, D. 784 was brilliant, virtuosic with touches of deep passion.  A worthy performance to celebrate the great composer’s birth, this day in 1797.

A suite by Ravel in homage to Schubert followed, Valses nobles et sentimentales.  This most often heard in its orchestral version, but here in its original form for piano, Jonathan made the most of the varied styles and moods of the waltz movements, taking it to another level with breathtaking stamina and energy.


Ballade #2 in B minor by Liszt was taken at a powerful and blistering pace to top off another sensational recital.


You would have to travel far to hear a live performance of this quality. Here we had it in the centre of Rochdale.

Italian folk song & selection from Schubert’s Winterreise at St. Chad’s

Preview by Steve Cooke

Young Tenor Christopher Why, from Wakefield, will be giving a recital of lieder and song, accompanied by Linda Hinchcliffe, in the iconic setting of St Chad’s, Rochdale Parish Church – the latest of the popular Saturday lunchtime concerts.

The programme will include Italian folk song and selection from Schubert’s Winterreise

Chris Why is a freelance tenor based in West Yorkshire and currently studies with Paul Nilon. He commenced his formal training as a chorister at Lincoln Cathedral under Aric Prentice. Chris continued his education at the University of Sheffield, where he gained a first-class degree in music, receiving the Mrs Stewart Blake recital prize in his final year. In his undergraduate years, Chris served as a Choral Scholar and Lay Clerk at Wakefield Cathedral.

Upon graduating, he obtained a Lay Clerkship at Manchester Cathedral under the direction of Christopher Stokes. As a soloist, Chris enjoys a varied mix of oratorio and recital work. Recent highlights include Bach Johannes-Passion (Evangelist) with Lincoln Cathedral Choir, Britten Saint Nicolas at Beverley Minster, Verdi Requiem with Exeter Festival Chorus, Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle with Bath Bach Choir, Schubert Winterreise at Ripon Cathedral, Handel Messiah with the combined Cathedral Choirs of Liverpool Anglican and Metropolitan, and Stanford Missa Victrix at Lincoln Cathedral. Chris has performed with numerous ensembles, including the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service Singers, Stile Antico, and the Armonico Consort.

His interest in polyphonic works led him to establish and direct his own professional vocal ensemble, the Tallis Consort, which he has directed since 2017. As two entities, the consort consists of a highly regarded professional quartet that performs across the country and a larger ensemble for concerts. As part of the Tallis Consort's upcoming engagements, the group will deliver varied programs across the North of England. Chris is committed to educating and developing young singers despite being in the early stages of his career.

In 2023, Chris was appointed the Acting Director of Music at Sheffield Cathedral, where he also taught singing to the Choral Scholars and founded Sheffield Cathedral Community Choir. Currently, Chris teaches singing to the Choristers of Wakefield Cathedral and the pupils of Gateways School. In his spare time, Chris also runs a thriving private singing practice.

Linda Hinchcliffe started learning piano at the age of four and gained an Associate and Licentiate diploma in performance and then a Graduate degree in music from London College of Music followed by a PGCE from Reading University.

She has taught music to all ages throughout her career and still into her retirement (to a lesser extent these days.)

Highlights of her career include being MD for productions such as Oh what a lovely War, My Fair Lady and Oliver and playing in the pit for various amateur groups through Yorkshire.

She has accompanied numerous examination students ranging from Grade 1 to Diplomas, various recitals with singers and instrumentalists and numerous charity concerts.

From 2006 to 2019 she was the accompanist for Leeds Youth Opera rehearsing 2 operas/large scale musicals every year and performing with the orchestra when required.

Notable productions being Love for Three Oranges, Appomattox, Candide, Magic Flute, Sweeney Todd and Les Misérables.

For the past few years, she has accompanied and helped various societies and loves nurturing and encouraging the next generation of musicians.

St Chad’s 24th February, refreshments available from 11.30am & included in the admission charge - payable on the door of £6.00. The concert is 12 to 12.50 and further information is available from Jill Midgley 01706 639162.



Review by Steve Cooke

While Touchstones is temporarily out of action for its refurbishment the team are continuing to provide plenty for art lovers to get their teeth into.

Diving into the heart of Rochdale’s creative community with The Touchstones Tapes, a captivating podcast that sheds light on some of Greater Manchester’s unsung cultural heroes.

The Touchstones Tapes amplifies the voices of those who tirelessly contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. Delving deep into the essence of art, culture and community, the series engages in heartfelt conversations with individuals who stand at the forefront of community initiatives. Their dedication, stories and remarkable efforts are captured in episodes that explore the remarkable tapestry of human connection and creativity.

Listen in as they delve into the stories and work of individuals who elevate our community through the lens of art, culture, diversity, and creativity!

Produced by Carlie Foster for Audio Always as part of the Manchester Amplified programme.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 1

How did artist Liz Collins and the local LGBTQ+ community transform Touchstones’ gallery in Rochdale into a social haven? Want to know how this inclusive haven created a fun, artistic environment, free from all judgement and expectations? Ever heard of the co-collection policy that empowers residents to shape cultural heritage decisions?  And what do our three remarkable guests’ cherished objects reveal about their journeys in this extraordinary realm?

Join Helen, Riz and Chris delving into community, self-discovery, and vibrant representation on the first episode of the Touchstones Tapes!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Helen Beckett – Touchstones’ Collections and Exhibitions Manager, Riz Ali – Touchstones’ Cultural Community Coordinator, Chris Hoyle – Theatre maker and actor

This episode’s object is a painting named Performance by John CM Loins.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 2

Do you want to know how to discover people, tales, and events in Rochdale’s past?

Join them as they chat to the wonderful ladies at Local Studies, who discuss how the immense breadth of our archives can open up a brand-new world that many don’t even know exists!

Listen in as Shakra and Janet talk about the work they do with children and adults alike to give the community a sense of place and connection, as they uncover the hidden treasures located in the Local Studies Centre.

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Janet Byrne – Local Studies Supervisor, Shakra Butt – Local Studies Assistant

This episode’s objects include a mugshot book, the book of Short History of Miss Joanna Worth, and the Annals of Rochdale. These pictures were provided by Rochdale Local Studies Centre 2023.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 3

How does food tie communities and cultures together, and what kind of stories can we learn from this? What do our guests have to say about how food offers a sense of place and belonging?

And how will the newly refurbished Touchstones create a space where food and the historical collections can combine?

A chat with guests Mark Doyle and Laura Mansfield about future plans in developing a lively museum collection, exploring the culturally rich world of food!

UPDATE: They are delighted to announce that they’ve received the National Lottery Heritage Fund support to make The Dining Room (new working title) a reality. Keep your eyes peeled on the website for more!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Mark Doyle – Director of Arts, Culture and Wellbeing at Touchstones, Laura Mansfield – Independent creator and writer

This episode’s objects include Mark’s recipe book made by family for his time away at university and Laura’s small ceramic plate made by Aaliyah Hussain.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 4

Can a simple van foster meaningful relationships, spark conversations and allow access to art which truly matters?

A chat with Sarah Taylor about Touchstones’ Collections on Tour programme, bringing art, such as the wonderful work of Lowry, to the heart of the community.

In this episode they explore the local community’s active participation in the arts, find new fun and fabulous ways to sustain the valuable connection between spaces and the community and uncover the tale of creating a museum without walls.

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Sarah Taylor – Community Development Organiser for Arcon Housing (

This episode’s object was a painting from LS Lowry named Our Town. This picture was taken at the Collection on Tour event with Arcon Housing in 2022.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 5

How important is cultural education, which stimulates creative learning and freedom within the arts for young people?

A chat with Leona Armstrong and David Allen, who both work alongside young people with the aim of rebuilding trust and positivity around their education.

Find out how this work is vital for the exposure of art for young people, some of whom have gone on to make and sell their own art.

Explore how love and passion for the arts ties these wonderful people together!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Leona Armstrong – Campus & Wellbeing lead at Pinc College, David Allen – CEO of Skylight Circus Arts

This episode’s object from Sarah is a painting named Pressure From One’s Environment by Jack Crabtree.




Sunday 18 February 2024

The Greatest Magician: An Evening of Wonders

This dazzling, five star rated magic show will leave you aching with laughter and dizzy in disbelief.

Directed by the late Paul Daniels in his final theatrical project and Rated 5 stars across the board – you’ll see why The List magazine called this show ‘one to watch in the world of magic’.

This enigmatic and critically acclaimed, glance at the most engaging of art-forms transports you to a jaw-dropping world of light-hearted hilarity, wonderment, and mystery.

One night only – and a sure sell-out so don’t miss out!

James Phelan is The Greatest Magician.

A limited number of VIP Meet and Greet Tickets are available; to include an up-close magic show separate to the main show, magic set & signed merchandise.

Standard Tickets £24.50 VIP Meet & Greet Tickets £36.

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


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


Tuesday 20 February 2024

Rochdale & District Camera Club

Tonight is composition YouTube & discussion. Mounting prints.

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 2023 syllabus.

Phone: Pete Williams 07967 969136


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


Wednesday 21 February 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Dimitra Ananiadou violin (Universities of Greece, York & Manchester) & Richard Whalley piano (Universities of York & Harvard).

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 21 February 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - portrait evening with Tatiana.

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

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP



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