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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke





Forthcoming ORTOA Recital: John Hosking

Preview by Dr Joe Dawson


The ORTOA (Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside Organists’ Association) series of celebrity recitals throughout the area continues with the eminent soloist John Hosking.


He describes the Rochdale Town Hall Organ as ‘one of the best’. Whilst that instrument is being restored, he will put another fine Rochdale instrument at St Chad’s through its paces.


His programme will consist of iconic organ composers J.S. Bach, Widor, André Fleury, Charles W. Pearce, and W. T. Best, along with contemporary composer Philip Moore, as well as Hosking’s own composition.


John is Organist in Residence at Blackburn Cathedral, Organ Advisor to the Diocese of St. Asaph and an organist for BBC Radio 4's Daily Service. Prior to this, he was Director of Music at Holy Trinity, Southport for four years and Assistant Director of Music at St. Asaph Cathedral for fourteen years.


A prize-winning graduate of the Royal College of Music, John held the organ scholarship at Westminster Abbey for an unprecedented three years, during which time he played for Royal and State occasions. As a composer, John has over 40 published works. 


He played for two live broadcasts on BBC1 from Blackburn Cathedral at Christmas 2023, as well as a Choral Evensong broadcast on Radio 3.


St Chad’s Rochdale Parish Church, OL16 1QT

Saturday 27 January 2024 at 3 pm.



Littleborough Coach House Concerts

Preview by Steve Cooke


The offer to music lovers in our borough is greatly enhanced by Littleborough Coach House Lunchtime Concerts


The Coach House arranges a series of Lunchtime Concerts on the last Tuesday of every month throughout the year (excluding December) and these are proving to be very popular.


Each concert costs £5.00 per person (payable on the door), commences at 1pm and there is no need to reserve a seat in advance. 


The programme of concerts through to the end of 2024 comprises:


January 30th - Phoenix Brass


February 27th - Kell Wind Trio. Flute, clarinet & bassoon.


March 26th - Hindle Wakes. Folk Group.


April 30th - Gail Randall. Flute. With St. Thomas Moorside (Oldham) Bell Ringers


May 28th - Stella Whitehouse, soprano, Steven Miller, bass


June 25th - Edward Rigg, piano.


July 30th - Sveta & Slava, Cello & piano.


August 27th - Freda Farnworth, soprano.


September 24th - Rombolds Recorder Orchestra.


October 29th - Susan Fletcher, soprano.


November 26th - The Nightingale Singers.


If you would like more information about any of these concerts or would like to enquire about performing at a future concert, contact Edward Rigg on 01706 370287.


The Coach House Is a thriving Community Hub in the heart of Littleborough, nestling in the Pennine hills above Rochdale and comprises:

A Heritage Centre with tourist information, art gallery and craft displays.

A meeting venue with two meeting rooms, brewpoint and licensed bar

A cafe offering a range of drinks, snacks, light meals, and substantial repasts, catering for meetings and other events.

A venue for celebrations of all kinds

Littleborough Coach House is a focal point for local groups and voluntary organisations, many of whom meet regularly at the Coach House and welcome new members and casual visitors alike.


Littleborough Coach House is managed on a purely voluntary basis by the Littleborough Coach House Trust.


Located on Lodge Street, a quiet cobbled area in the heart of Littleborough's central conservation area.  Within 2 minutes’ walk of both the bus terminus and railway station (on the Manchester-Leeds via Rochdale line).  Just opposite the Parish Church.  There is free car parking at the Coach House and on adjacent streets.


Opening Hours


Heritage Centre

Mon-Sat - 10am to 3pm

Sun - Closed


Cherry Tree Cafe

Mon-Sat - 9am to 3pm

Sun - Closed


Littleborough Coach House, Lodge Street, Littleborough OL15 9AE

Phone: 01706 378481



Hamlet + recorded Q&A at HOME

Preview by Steve Cooke

Two-time Academy Award nominee and Shakespearian titan, Ian McKellen, stars in this thrilling and uniquely modern take on The Bard’s classic tragedy. A special one-night event, the screening will include an exclusive recorded Q&A with Ian McKellen and Director, Sean MathiaA tale of revenge that has stood the test of time, Shakespeare’s classic tragedy is reimagined for the modern day as a gripping psychological thriller!

Transcending the confines of the stage in a uniquely modern take, the film utilises nearly every room of the Theatre Royal Windsor to transform it into the immortal Elsinore Castle, from basement dungeon to roof-top battlement. Ian McKellen – reprising his lead role as Hamlet, a man who descends into madness as he seeks vengeance against his uncle for the apparent murder of his father – leads a stellar cast including stage and screen legend, Steven Berkoff, and stars of the critically acclaimed, recent stage cast of Hamlet: Frances Barber (King Lear, Chekhov’s The Seagull), Jonathan Hyde (King Lear, Titanic, Crimson Peak), Jenny Seagrove and BAFTA-winner Francesca Annis, bringing their iconic roles to life in this compelling new film adaptation.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester M15 4FN

Box Office 0161 200 1500

Restaurant 0161 212 3500


Touchstones to be transformed

Preview by Steve Cooke

Great news that Touchstones is to be transformed into a much needed creative and cultural hub with new flexible performance and production spaces for artists, improved areas for training, live events, and exhibitions.

Plans for the landmark redevelopment of Touchstones, the borough’s major arts and heritage venue have been approved by Rochdale Borough Council and work is due to commence this spring.

The project is funded by the Cultural Development Fund (a DCMS fund administered by Arts Council England) and Rochdale Borough Council as part of an £8.5 million investment into arts and culture across the borough. Touchstones also became one of Arts Council England’s ‘National Portfolio Organisations’ for the first time in 2023.

The work will also include a new dining space combining the theme of food with the borough’s collections, co-created alongside Rochdale’s diverse communities. Thanks to an additional grant of just under £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund ‘The Dining Room’ will see three artists commissioned to work with 20 community curators to produce a new museum space alongside several other projects in time for when it re-opens in 2025. This will include collaborations with Tate and the National Gallery and a reimagining of Harry Meadley’s 2022 exhibition Free-For-All.

There will also be vital works to improve the building’s accessibility and sustainability.

The project has been developed in partnership between Rochdale Borough Council, YourTrust who operate Touchstones as the council’s culture and leisure partner and Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) who lead on regeneration, including culture and placemaking on behalf of the council.

A main contractor is due to be appointed in the coming months and North-west based Hive Projects are leading on the project management, with architects Architectural Emporium, heritage architect BB Heritage Studio and landscape architect Gillespies. Structural and civil engineers Sutcliffe are working alongside quantity surveyor Identity Consult and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers Steven Hunt & Associates. Jenson Hughes are the fire consultant.

The Touchstones project forms a key part of the establishment of a creative district in Rochdale town centre, which includes the refurbishment of Rochdale Town Hall the new town hall square, the Fire Up digital and creative co-working space, new artist workspaces on Richard Street as well as new public art, signage, and marketing.

Councillor Sue Smith, cabinet member for communities and co-operation at Rochdale Borough Council said: “We are very grateful for the Arts Council support which is enabling us to significantly upgrade Touchstones and create new cultural projects which will help to boost visitor numbers, support local businesses, and drive economic growth. Work will start on site soon, turning the building into something truly wonderful and fit for the 21st century, creating more opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy culture in Rochdale.”

Jen Cleary, director north, Arts Council England said: “Rochdale is a priority place for our funding and so it is great to see the redevelopment of Touchstones taking place this spring, thanks to investment of £4,199,365 through the Cultural Development Fund. The establishment of a creative hub in the town centre will attract new audiences to an array of exciting performances, events and exhibitions as well as supporting the local economy. This project is an excellent example of how partnership working can transform places and I look forward to seeing how it develops.”

The Cultural Development Fund supporting the Touchstones works is a Department for Culture, Media and Sport fund administered by Arts Council England. Touchstones is one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations.


Tim Kennedy tenor and Catherine Hall-Smith piano at TLC

Review by Dr Joe Dawson


Two highly accomplished musicians presented 400 years of song in one hour. That is, enchanting vocal gems through the ages.


Tim Kennedy began his musical career singing for the late Queen, as a treble at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, before becoming a music scholar at Winchester College and then organ scholar at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He has now been based in Manchester for more than fifteen years pursuing a multi-faceted career not only as a tenor soloist but also a talented pianist (including being a staff accompanist at the RNCM), and organist. It was his gifts as a tenor that were enjoyed today.


He was accompanied by Catherine Hall-Smith who studied piano at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and as a postgraduate at the RNCM, where she has worked as an accompanist since 2015 as well as being a teacher, coach, accompanist, and examiner.


Extracts of early opera by Monteverdi and Mozart led to a reflective set of night songs. This was contrasted with a comic interlude featuring first a weasel and then a goat.


Charming parlour songs and ballads right through to the present day were elevated and took on greater significance in the wonderful acoustic of St Mary in the Baum, with Tim’s expressive and mellifluous tone and Catherine’s sensitive and supportive accompaniments.


The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts 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. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.



Tuesday 30 January 2024

National Theatre Live – Dear England

A new play by James Graham - Directed by Rupert Goold

Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale) plays Gareth Southgate in James Graham’s (Sherwood) gripping examination of nation and game.

The country that gave the world football has since delivered a painful pattern of loss. Why can’t England’s men win at their own game?

With the worst track record for penalties in the world, Gareth Southgate knows he needs to open his mind and face up to the years of hurt, to take team and country back to the promised land.

Filmed live on stage at the National Theatre, Rupert Goold (Judy) directs this spectacular new play.

Tickets from £10

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


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


Tuesday 30 January 2024

Rochdale & District Camera Club

Tonight is practical. Table top macro.

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 31 January 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Louise Taylor soprano & Jonathan Ellis piano (RNCM & Manc Univ).

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 31 January 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - LCPU folio 3.

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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