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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke

Vignettes at Contact Theatre

Review by Eileen Earnshaw

Contact Theatre is situated on Oxford Road in Manchester. it’s an interesting building having a monitoring system capturing data allowing fine tuning of the environment within the theatre making it ‘green’.

Vignettes is a series of short plays that investigates the inequalities and misogyny between genders from differing points of view and a celebratory explanation of work by the Manchester Rape Crisis Centre since its conception 45 years ago.

The narrator was a characterisation of Ann Stebbings, a mentor for the centre for 20 years and the differing situations she had dealt with over her time.

Play One, Bhaijan. Writer Zoe Iqbal. Actors Jessica Kaur and Alex Hewitt. A boy and girl play as children but progress to gradual separation. She unable to become a nurse as the uniform would show her legs. She’s talked into an arranged marriage, secretly hoping marriage may give her more freedom. Instead, she is raped by her husband. Her lifelong friend, although sympathetic, is unable to fully understand her situation, merely saying this is our culture, he being able to fulfil his ambitions.

Play Two, Burden. Writer Max Hedghog Actors Kelise Gordon-Harrison and Krissi Bohn. A lovely piece of writing. The daughter is contemptuous of the mother’s seeming docility in the face of her husband’s violence. She has societal attitudes towards L.G.B.T.Q.+ community and is happy with her Lesbian lover only to realise that abuse is a cross gender problem.

Play Three. Lifelines. Writer Debbie Oates. Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh. The protagonist having received help from the centre, volunteers to become a mentor. It is a subtle yet powerful piece describing her fear of being unable to cope as she enters into the world of mentoring.

Play Four. Broken. Writer / Actor Lois Mackie. Describes the situation victims of rape are in regarding the law. When complaint is issued against a rapist, she is forbidden to either explain or defend herself. This does not, affect the rapist who is free to say whatever he wants.

Play Five. Writer Lekhani Chirwa. Actors Alicia Ford Leah Baskaran. Describes the mental stress that those who choose to mentor at the centre have to cope with on a day- to- day basis.

Play Six. Brings together each Vignette by introducing Ann Stebbings from the first piece onto the stage. The work does service to the aims and objectives of the Crisis Centre being both educational, entertaining, and very powerful.

Established in 2019 by Hannah Ellis Ryan, HER Productions is proud to produce a range of work, including established texts, workshop development & new writing.

​The only thing they have in common is a female voice at the core. Learn more:

Greater Manchester Rape Crisis began over thirty years ago as a feminist collective responding to the needs of women who shared their experiences of sexual violence. GMRC is now a registered charity providing vital services for women and girls throughout Greater Manchester, and beyond. Learn more:

Contact is a vibrant multidisciplinary arts venue in Manchester, recognised nationally and internationally as a game-changer in the field of youth leadership and creativity. At Contact young people aged 13-30 genuinely lead, working alongside staff in deciding the artistic programme, making staff appointments, and acting as full Board members. This model is seen as a national exemplar of best practices in relation to young people and diversity and accessibility, influencing organisations nationwide. Contact receives core funding from Arts Council England, Greater Manchester Combined Authority,

Manchester City Council and The University of Manchester and is also supported by charitable trusts & foundations and individual donors.

Learn more:

Justin is back: still funny, yet middle aged.

Preview by Steve Cooke

A chance to catch local treasure Justin Moorhouse at the Octagon.

Justin is a multi-talented entertainer - a stand-up comedian, Young Kenny in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, writing and appearing in his own BBC Radio 4 sitcom Everyone Quite Likes Justin.

This is a brand new show that may contain: Yoga, getting older, Madonna, shoplifters, Labradoodles, middle-aged cyclists, The Menopause, running, hating football fans but loving football, not drinking, funerals, is Tapas a rip off?, Captain Tom, Droylsden, the environment, self-improvement, ruining a sexual position, electric car charging spots used by doggers, nursery graduation, horses, Stig look-a-likes, home cooked food in places that aren’t your own home, the odd advantages of fundamental religions, the gym, shop door etiquette. And he’s got a new suit.

If you enjoy a fun night, then this is for you!

Saturday 28 October 2023, 19:30

The Theatre, The Octagon, Howell Croft South, Bolton, BL1 1SB



Graeae Beyond - Bespoke Artist Development Programme at the Octagon

Preview by Steve Cooke

Graeae Beyond is an artist development programme for deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists. Started in 2020 it has supported 48 deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists in developing their careers, taking on new challenges and building successful connections.

[In Greek mythology Graeae were three sisters who had grey hair from their birth and shared one eye one tooth between them.]

The Octagon have been supporting this programme over the last three years and have once again teamed up with Graeae as one of the seven venues across the country who will be providing artistic development over the next 12 months.

This year they will be working with three artists - Ash Cox, a devising theatre maker; writer Helen East; and Sam Jamil, an actor, writer, and theatre maker.

The Octagon’s Associate Director and Artist Development Co-Ordinator, Georgia Murphy said: Graeae’s Beyond initiative is such an invaluable programme that offers support and artistic development for Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists and we are privileged to once again team up with Graeae and offer our guidance to these incredibly talented artists in their early-stage careers.”

Graeae also commented: “Beyond is helping to develop greater access to regional opportunities across England ensuring Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists are at the forefront of new and emerging work. We recognise the immense value of our intersectionality across our communities, which includes Black, Asian, Global Majority, migrant, and LGBTQIA+ artists, which is why our approach is to be as bespoke as possible for each individual artist on the programme.”

Other venues teaming up with Graeae this year include Nottingham Playhouse, Cast in Doncaster, Hull Truck, Shakespeare North in Prescot, Everyman in Liverpool and Derby Theatre. The Beyond programme is helping create a national network of artistic support and development for Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists.

Sing As You Go Concert at St. Michael's Church, Bamford

Preview by Steve Cooke

Sing As You Go - an opportunity to join the Rochdale Light Orchestra at St. Michael's Church, Bamford for a free concert of easy listening music including Gracie Fields Songs sung by Fred Farnworth.

Among the music to be played will be the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni, A Medley of Gracie Fields songs and the Capriol Suite by Peter Warlock. There will also be the 'Lullaby for Alex James' by Graham Marshall and other Light Music classics.

Phone: Graham Marshall 07795 671768


Wednesday 08 November 2023


St. Michael's Church, Bamford, Bury and Rochdale Old Road, Bamford, Rochdale OL10 4BB.

Music Director Graham Marshall founded the Rochdale Light Orchestra in 2008. Graham has an extensive CV - Conductor of the Durham Colleges Orchestra (1961-62), Conductor of the Durham Colleges Light opera Group (1958-60, 1963-3), Post-graduate research Scholar Durham University (1960-63), Part-time Lecturer University of Durham Music Department (1961-2), Organist and Choirmaster St. Mary-le-Bow Durham 1958-60,1961-3), Parish Priest (CofE) from 1965 to 2002, Precentor of Manchester Cathedral (1975-78), Chairman of several Church of England Primary School Governing Bodies (1971- 2002), Member of BASCA, Member of the Delian Society, Vice-Chairman of the North West Composers' Association, Active Composer and Arranger of music of various genres

Richard Haslam Guitar and Anna Chiu Piano at TLC

Review by Dr Joe Dawson

Derbyshire-born classical guitarist Richard Haslam graduated from Hull University before higher study with Craig Ogden at the RNCM. He teaches and gives recitals as soloist and in a variety of ensembles.

The charming classical lines of Introduction and Variations on a Theme of Mozart by Fernando Sor rang through the acoustic in St Mary in the Baum where even the intricate and delicate sounds ring true without being forced.

Contemporary composer Gary Ryan’s Birds flew over the Spire similarly floated through the space. His Benga Beat however, with its use of extraneous percussive tapping and strumming and even vocals, produced a fascinating and joyous African mix.

Ideal warmups for the main treat of the programme, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Richard was joined for this by pianist Anna Hoi Ching Chiu to play the orchestral reduction. A graduate of Hong Kong University, Anna took her masters at the RNCM and now is an international accompanist and harpsichordist.

Any worries about the piano overpowering the guitar were soon dispelled as the skilful and judicious accompanist sensitively supported the soloist whilst giving power to the full orchestral sections. A memorable experience for the enraptured audience.

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.


Monday 30 October

All Hallow's Eve

Two ghost stories to chill the spine.

Written by A.G. Smith and read by 'The Librarian'.

5.45pm arrival

6pm start

7.30pm finish

Refreshments are available during the interval.

This event is free, but booking is essential. To reserve a seat email or ring 07471 709168.

Warning: unsuitable for under 12's and people of a nervous disposition.

Littleborough Library, Hare Hill Road, Littleborough OL15 9HE

Wednesday 01 November

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Centenary Cup: Judged by members.

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 for a full 2023 syllabus.

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start.

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP

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

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