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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke

Black History Month 2023 Community Activities


Throughout October, HOME creatives and artists continue their work in local communities, with special celebratory cross arts workshops and sessions with women and young people in Hulme and Moss Side.

Ascension Church’s women’s group will host HOME artist Selina Chibanda for an exciting and creative Saturday night celebration of African print fabrics and painting. Ascension Church also welcomes HOME Artist Linda Wachaga to do a self-portrait painting workshop centred around self-love. Linda’s workshop is intended to be a creative wellbeing space for women from the Global Majority, who will be invited to identify and paint their favourite features, perhaps those they may have insecurities with, as well as recognising their non-visible characteristics such as personalities, heritage and personal stories that could be conveyed in their portraits. To find out more about HOME’s Workshops Hosted by Ascension Church please Visit:

In Moss Side, HOME from HOME juniors’ group at Powerhouse Library will have a surprise multi-sensory musical and acrobatic addition to their weekly sessions with a heart-pounding Djembe drumming workshop with musician Godfrey, followed by a taster of Ethiopian acrobatics, traditional dance styles and circus skills with Movement and Circus Artist Masresha Wondmu.



Factory International presents Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance based on The Matrix films and created especially for the official opening of Aviva Studios, Manchester’s landmark new cultural venue.

Free Your Mind is a dramatic retelling of the classic 1999 sci-fi film through dance, music and visual effects. Featuring over 50 professional dancers from the North West and across the UK and almost 100 participants from Greater Manchester, this world-first adaptation will take place throughout the building’s ultra-flexible spaces.

Directed by Danny Boyle, Free Your Mind brings together the visceral movement of choreographer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy with a powerful score from renowned composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante (co-founders and artistic directors of the Olivier award-winning Boy Blue), large-scale stage sculptures by world-leading designer Es Devlin and the work of the acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz.

The creative team also includes celebrated costume designer Gareth Pugh, award-winning lighting designer Lucy Carter, sound designer Gareth Fry and renowned video designer Luke Halls.

Working with BAFTA-winning producer Tracey Seaward, this unique cross-art collaboration of world-leading artists, will showcase the breadth and ambition of Factory International’s artistic programme and invites audiences into a new realm of possibilities spanning real and imagined worlds. Free Your Mind will recreate some of the film’s most iconic scenes through hip-hop choreography combined with immersive set design and visual effects, provoking visions of an alternate future.

Created for Manchester, the birthplace of the world’s first industrial revolution, Free Your Mind will explore where the digital revolution has the power to take the world. Free Your Mind journeys from 1999, the year The Matrix was first released and the moment before people’s lives were irrevocably entwined with technology, to the present day, where the Metaverse is about to engulf the world. The show will bring the words of The Matrix character Neo to the forefront: “I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.”

Free Your Mind is a world premiere commissioned and produced by Factory International.

Based on the Warner Bros films written and directed by the Wachowskis, produced by special arrangement with Warner Bros Theatre Ventures.

Factory International is the organisation that runs and programmes Manchester International Festival and the landmark new cultural venue, Aviva Studios, a global destination for arts, music and culture in the heart of Manchester. Factory International will commission and present a year-round programme of original creative work, music and special events at its new venue, online, and internationally through its network of co-commissioners and partners.

Designed by Ellen van Loon, OMA Partner and lead architect, the ultra-flexible building is based around vast, adaptable spaces that can be constantly reconfigured, enabling artists to develop works of invention and ambition, of a kind not seen anywhere else in the world. The venue’s development is led by Manchester City Council, with backing of £99.05m from HM Government and £7m National Lottery funding from Arts Council England.


Free Your Mind

Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester, M3 4JQ

UNTIL 5 November 2023

Standard Tickets £20, £25, £30, £40

Concessions from £10

Over 12's only. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult over 18.


Exquisite recital of Lieder and English Art-Song with John Powell and Elin Rees at TLC


London-born baritone John Powell studied music at Cambridge, before settling in Manchester. He initially taught and ran the choirs at Chetham's for many years, followed by the National Youth Choir, Bolton School and the University of York. He now teaches privately. He directs several choirs including the John Powell Singers (with whom he has broadcast on BBC Radio nearly 200 times).

Welsh pianist and organist Elin Rees is a freelance accompanist at the RNCM, where she had studied piano whilst also the organ scholar at St Ann’s Church. She continues to be in demand in both disciplines as choir accompanist, resident organist at Bury Parish Church and a recitalist such as at last summer’s Welsh Proms.

They began with the charming Adelaide by Ludwig van Beethoven, followed by his exquisite song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved). Their authoritative interpretations continued with English Art-songs and folk song arrangements by Malcolm Williamson, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Martin Lessons, Jonathan Dove, E J Moeran and Britten. All worthy of a professional CD recording.

Lieder and English Art-Song require an equal partnership of excellence from singer and pianist. We had this and more in a sophisticated and satisfying recital, beautifully played and sung by these two distinguished northwest performers.

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


P.G. Wodehouse’s iconic double act at the Octagon Bolton for a night of very silly nonsense!


Adapted for the stage by brothers Robert and David Goodale and brilliantly directed by Marieke Audsley, this is a hilarious rendering of P.G. Wodehouse's much loved classic novel, The Code of the Woosters. An incredibly talented cast of just three actors bring Bertie, Jeeves and their friends (and foes!) to life, as the wonderful creative team immerse us in the fabulous world of Berkeley Mansions and Totleigh Towers.

Following a riotous weekend at country house Totleigh Towers, Bertie Wooster has a tale to tell. Forced to play matchmaker between his newt-fancying friend Gussie Fink-Nottle and the girl of his dreams, Madeline Bassett, Bertie must also secure an antique silver cow creamer for his Uncle Tom, husband of the formidable Aunt Dahlia. This is in the possession of rival collector Sir Watkyn Bassett and Bertie is tasked with stealing the valuable item. Further complications ensue, regarding a lost notebook, the impending wrath of Roderick Spode and the danger that Bertie may become marriage material himself!

Bertie wants to give us his own version of events in the form of a play, the problem being that only Jeeves and Aunt Dahlia’s valet Seppings are available to play all the characters. Thus follows a multitude of memorable moments with delicious Wodehousian dialogue, farce and eye wateringly fast costume and character changes, as Jeeves and Seppings portray, in astonishingly quick succession (and sometimes at the same time!): Aunt Dahlia, the terrifyingly tall Roderick Spode, Sir Watkyn Bassett, Stiffy Bing, Gussie Fink-Nottle and his dippy fiancé Madeline, Sir Watkyn’s valet Butterfield and Constable Oats!

Luke Barton perfectly captures the character of Bertie as the loveable upper class idiot, totally endearing in his attempts to please everyone and save the day. We can only wonder at the amazing energy and skill of Patrick Warner (Jeeves) and Alistair Cope (Seppings), as their various characters seem to magically disappear and re-emerge at a moment’s notice!

High praise must go to designer Olivia du Monceau for a stunning set, transporting us from Bertie’s art deco flat to different believable locations via various doors and panels. The ingenious use of props was a joy to behold, particularly the assembly of Bertie’s car and the scene at the level crossing.

Burning Salt at Ebor Studio - An atmospheric evening of genre-defying song, sound, and poetry.


Award-nominated artist Burning Salt presents a special, one-off performance - their first live offering in three years. Hannah Hull (vocals, piano, acoustic guitar) will be joined by long-time collaborator Bobby Williams (electric guitar) to perform an uninterrupted set of soundscape, song, and poetry. They invite you to join them on a meditative sonic journey.

This intimate show will take place in a small art gallery in a converted mill. The audience will sit amongst artwork created by Hannah for their first solo exhibition, entitled Do you know the slope, the grain? This beautiful, sinking, fearless pain? (on display from 14 October until 5 November). The exhibition features somatic drawing, poetry, and animation, and you will have the opportunity to further explore the work after the performance.

By Hannah Hull a.k.a. Burning Salt

Thu, 2 Nov 2023 19:00 - 21:00 GMT

Ebor Studio, William Street Littleborough OL15 8JP

Manchester wins bid to host WOMEX international music convention in October 2024


International music convention WOMEX will be coming to Manchester next year after the city won its bid to host the prestigious global event on behalf of the UK and Ireland next autumn, 23-27 October 2024.

WOMEX - Worldwide Music Expo - is the most international and culturally diverse music meeting in the world and the biggest conference of the global music scene.

It takes place each year in a different European city and features a huge trade fair, talks, films and showcase concerts. While the daytime activities are reserved for music industry delegates, the live night-time music events will be ticketed and open to members of the public as well as delegates.

With Manchester Music City at its helm, Manchester's winning bid was led by the city council with key partners Brighter Sound, English Folk Expo, the hub and Factory International, and supporting partners Horizons, British Council, Arts Council England and Marketing Manchester.

Hosting WOMEX will put Manchester firmly front and centre of the international music scene with the event expected to attract over 2,600 music professionals and performing artists from around 90 different countries.

Its musical spectrum covers everything from the most traditional of music forms to the latest local underground, embracing folk, roots, jazz and local cultures, alongside urban and electronic sounds from across the globe.

The convention will take place at venues across the city centre - with Manchester Central hosting the main conference and trade fair, and venues including Aviva Studios, Albert Hall, Bridgewater Hall and O2 Ritz all set to host live music showcases, alongside a programme of international films at HOME.

Debra King, Director of Manchester Music City, said:

“As a city with music in its DNA, where better to host one of the most important international music events in the world. Bringing WOMEX to Manchester in 2024 demonstrates a strong commitment to the value of international music, and of being connected to the global music industry.

Hosting WOMEX will help us to promote our incredible city region on the world stage, strengthen our reputation as an innovative, diverse and international hub for music, and channel our innovative and creative spirit into supporting new waves of talent.

The impact of WOMEX 2024 will be made possible by the partnership with UK and Ireland, ensuring a cultural, social, and economic legacy resonating across the city region, the North and beyond.”

The economic impact of hosting the conference in Manchester is expected to be significant.

Based on similar global events of this size hosted in the UK it's estimated that the total value of business generated at WOMEX 2024 will be around £28.3m, of which an estimated £5.6m will be generated by UK delegates.

Beyond the value of business done at the event itself, the conference and related live events are expected to provide a direct economic boost to Manchester and the city region of between £2.9m - £3.2m.

The convention is also expected to generate a significant economic impact across the wider UK of between £6.3m - £7.2m.

Councillor Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:

"The figures speak for themselves in terms of the economic impact that hosting WOMEX 2024 on behalf of the UK will have. But this isn't just about the numbers. Just as important will be the real opportunities it will give our musicians and other professionals working in the music industry to network and do business on their own doorstep with their peers from around the globe.

In Manchester we've long recognised the powerful role that music and culture can play in regeneration, creating jobs, and other opportunities, and are determined to do everything we can to support the sector and the people who work in it."

As well as a packed programme across the five days and nights of the convention, work is also underway to ensure that WOMEX 2024 creates a tangible, lasting legacy for everyone involved in music in Manchester, the North, and across the UK and Ireland. This work is being led by Manchester based Brighter Sound.

With an overarching focus on social justice and sustainability, it's hoped the plans being developed will better help musicians, producers, promoters, and other music professionals of all ages - including young people - to make a sustainable living from music, locally, nationally and internationally.

Whilst the convention itself is aimed at musicians and professionals in the music industry, there will also be a full programme of live music showcases and films that will be put on sale to the general public.

Tom Besford, from event delivery partner English Folk Expo, said: "Manchester will be an amazing place to host WOMEX. Whilst I'm incredibly excited to welcome the international music industry to our city, it's even more brilliant to have thousands of tickets available for local audiences to some of the most spectacular worldwide bands.


Sunday 22 October

Pop-Up Performance Shop

Tangled Feet and RDA present Pop-Up Performance Shop.

Saturday 21 October, 9.30am - 5pm

Sunday 22 October, 10.30am - 4pm

There’s going to be a touch of the funny, strange and beautiful in Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre as Tangled Feet’s pop-up performance shop opens its shutters. Tangled Feet theatre company and RDA has commissioned a menu of short performances to fill an empty shop with artistic offerings that you don’t have to pay for.

Taking a range of multimedia and interactive forms, you can expect something for every palate. Expect a musical take on social media filters, interactive video, an exploration of identity through interview and dance, clowns taking over the kitchen, video games coming to life, a local poet throwing down the gauntlet and a celebration of owning the room.

Six brand new performances, all between 5 and 15 minutes, will repeat during the day.

Lee Nelson: Move No Stones

Holding Space Collective: Who Are You…. Really? Reimagined

John Hinton: The Algorithm Is Taking Over The Asylum (WIP Title)

Shanez Pattni & Al Orange: A Brief History of Pride

Ankit Giri: New Reality (NR)

Lydia Harper: Cooking Up A Storm


Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre, Newgate, Rochdale OL16 1YL

Sunday 22 October

Dreamcoat Stars

Featuring stars from the hit production Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Experience the powerful star vocals of four phenomenal singers from the hit show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, coming together for a magical evening of West End and Broadway musical classics. This colourful production is packed with vibrant and energetic songs from the nation’s most loved musicals including Joseph, Jesus Christ Superstar, SIX, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You, Jersey Boys, Les Misérables, Moulin Rouge and more. Draw back the curtains, sing along and relive all your favourite productions in one epic show.

Dreamcoat Stars celebrates the life and work of legendary composers in this brand-new mega mix production, with exciting vocal arrangements, incredible four-part harmonies, slick choreography and memorable anecdotes from the star's time in the role of Joseph.

Grab your coat of many colours and join us on an emotional journey where Any Dream Will Do. With some of the biggest musical songs of a generation, this is a show that will raise your spirits and a night of theatre you’ll never forget.

Tickets from £27

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 



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

Wednesday 25 October

Rochdale Family History Group

The story of Henry Whittles of Littleborough by Dilys Pearson.

Donations gratefully accepted.

Phone: Lynne Nield 01706 655094


St Andrews UR Church, Entwistle Road, Rochdale (next to the Leisure Centre) OL16 2HZ

Wednesday 25 October

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Fourth Quarterly 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


Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start.

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP

Wednesday 25 October

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Freda Farnworth soprano (Guildhall) & J Edward Rigg piano.

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 25 October

Pioneer Pumpkin Decorating Workshop

12.30pm - 2pm

Rochdale Pioneers Museum, 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale OL12 0NU

Come and decorate your very own Pioneer Pumpkin and help Rochdale Pioneer Museum to recreate their famous 1865 photograph in pumpkin form!

Free family event, all children must bring a well-behaved grown up with them.


Rochdale Pioneers Museum 01706 524920


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

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