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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


Previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke


Project Dictator comes to HOME this Autumn.


Rhum and Clay make a triumphant return to HOME with Project Dictator, following the 2019 smash hit The War of the Worlds and 2018’s The Stage Award-winning Mistero Buffo,

Offering a tour-de-force of clowning, satire and social commentary, Project Dictator exposes the fearful reality of dictatorial regimes.

Their choice? To die onstage – or off it.

Beautiful and bonkers – it’s the clown show about totalitarianism we never knew we needed.

Informed and inspired by conversations with international artists living under authoritarian regimes. This is an urgent cry against apathy that is disturbing, surprising, and moving.

Wed 20 Sep - Sat 30 Oct.

Get £5 tickets for any performance of Project Dictator using the promo code PROJECT5.

Running time: 70 minutes (no interval)

Age recommendation: 12yrs+

Content warning: Haze, flashing lights.

Tickets: £15 (Concessions available)

Phone: Box Office 0161 200 1500

Isabel Williamson cello and Jonathan Ellis piano at TLC

REVIEW By Dr Joe Dawson

This highly qualified and experienced duo, both first class honours and postgraduates of the RNCM and Manchester University, gave an uplifting and magical recital.

Freelance cellist, Isabel Williamson works additionally as a teacher, session musician, creative artist, and collaborator. She is also part of the indie band ‘Bonfire Tide’ and toured internationally with the folk-rock band ‘The Wishing Well’.

She was partnered today by pianist Jonathan Ellis who works extensively around the NW as soloist, accompanist, repetiteur, and chamber musician.

The Sonata in A major by Franck is well-known as a violin sonata but also works well with cello. The first three movements were admirably performed, full of powerful drama and passion. Isabel’s tone was skilfully supported by Jonathan’s suitably orchestral accompaniment. Their ensemble playing was second to none, rapport in the celebrated fourth movement sheer delight.

Vocalise by Rachmaninov and Bruch’s moving evocation, Kol Nidrei, transported the audience with lyricism and emotional intensity.

This superb duo rectal was rounded off with a richly deserved encore, The Swan by Saint-Saens. Yet again at St Mary in the Baum, here was a recital worthy of any concert stage.

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. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.


Immersive Watergrove - a great success!


Visual Artist Babs Smith and Sound Artist Sophie Cooper’s Immersive Watergrove was a great success and had to be extended for a week in order that everyone who wanted to see it could get there!

Immersive Watergrove was an outdoor, site specific work exploring themes of climate change, water usage, local history, and new technology. The first collaboration between Visual Artist Babs Smith and Sound Artist Sophie Cooper, bringing together their separate practices of augmented reality and sound design creating a completely unique, audio-visual experience that was situated around Watergrove Reservoir over August 2023. This project was also supported by Ebor Studio in Littleborough who hosted an in-house exhibition of the work to coincide with the on-location installation.

Immersive Watergrove vividly highlighted the very visual and real effects of climate change on the area’s water supply inspired by the reappearance of the former community’s remnants during the drought of 2022. By positioning four viewing posts around the reservoir visitors were invited to observe the site by using an app called Artivive that triggered augmented reality images and sound highlighting four topics associated with each location.

Site topics and titles:

1. The Mothers, how people personally engage with the reservoir today.

2. The Wave Wall, imagines an alternative reality inhabited by previous tenants of the site.

3. Marled Earth: Climate change impact and water loss.

4. Hades: the importance of water preservation and how the reservoir serves us.

Although the exhibition experienced two thefts of posts and some vandalism, they managed to keep the exhibition intact for four weeks with walks/talks and demonstrations to many different groups.

Visitors downloaded the Artivive app and held their mobile phones in front of each of the four images situated around Watergrove Reservoir which activated the sounds and images created by the artists and facilitated a short recording which could be used on social media #immersivewatergrove.

There were lots of oohs and aahs as viewers physically reached and moved in the space, many expressing how meditative they found the experience.

Immersive Watergrove was so successful that it has created further opportunities which could see other reservoirs hosting art next year.

Huge congratulations to Babs, Sophie and Gallery Frank, Ebor Studios.

Visit Instagram pages: @babssmithart to see how the work around the reservoir functioned.

Watergrove Reservoir, Wardle Road, Ramsden Road, Wardle, Greater Manchester, OL12 9EN

Gallery Frank, Ebor Studio, William Street, Littleborough, Lancashire, OL15 8JP

VIGNETTES is back with a very special focus.


VIGNETTES is back for its fifth showcase of local female playwrights, this time at CONTACT THEATRE, with a very special focus.

VIGNETTES has been made in special collaboration with Greater Manchester Rape Crisis, celebrating the 45th anniversary of their service. GMRC are women-led, providing a safe space in which survivors can be heard, understood, and supported.

Anne Stebbings (Chief Executive and Manager) of GMRC said:

“GMRC are so excited to be working with HER Productions and Contact Theatre in celebration of our 45th anniversary. Please come along and help us celebrate our work and the women of Greater Manchester we have been proud and honoured to support over the last 45 years.”

Working in close partnership with GMRC, HER Productions has commissioned 6 local female playwrights to write short pieces that celebrate this vital service. The six writers are: Debbie Oates, Maz Hedgehog, Lindsay Williams, Alex Keelan, Lekhani Chirwa & Zoe Iqbal.

HER Productions is also thrilled to be working with a stellar line-up of directors, including Bryony Shanahan, joint Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

VIGNETTES is joined by local icon, Julie Hesmondhalgh, who will perform in ‘Lifelines’ by Coronation Street writer, Debbie Oates.

Julie Hesmondhalgh said:

“I’m very excited and honoured to be part of this project, marking an important anniversary of such a remarkable and vital service in our city. I hope it will help to continue the ever-more urgent conversations around consent and cuts to crucial services, as well as sending a resounding THANK YOU to all who have worked for MRC over the years. I’m particularly chuffed to be speaking the words of the incomparable Debbie Oates.”

Vignettes is co-produced by local playwright Alex Keelan and HER Productions founder, Hannah Ellis Ryan, best known as Coronation Street villain Hannah Gilmore, HER Productions seeks to address the underrepresentation of female writers in theatre at a regional and national level.

Hannah Ellis Ryan said:

“We are so proud to be presenting another Vignettes, but this time with an incredible partner and in a new space. Every year we bring a new group of women together to pen stories they care about, and we’re consistently amazed by the quality and originality. This year, they get to write about a specific stimulus: the beautiful work of GMRC. I couldn’t be prouder that it’s us they have trusted to represent their work.”

VIGNETTES will showcase the six original short plays for the first time at CONTACT, a vibrant multidisciplinary arts venue on Manchester’s Oxford Road. The company will also be joined by Manchester’s SHE CHOIR, performing in the CONTACT foyer space pre-show.

Keisha Thompson, Artistic Director, and CEO of CONTACT, said:

“We are thrilled to welcome HER Productions’ Vignettes to Contact. Vignettes invites us to explore the human experience through a kaleidoscope of perspectives, platforming voices that often go unheard. It’s an honour to be a part of celebrating the 45th anniversary of Greater Manchester Rape Crisis with this work, and we can’t wait for Contact audiences to experience this remarkable collection of stories.”

For tickets and further information please head to:

Wednesday 4 October, 7.30PM, Thursday 5 October, 7.30PM,

Tickets range from £10 - £20.

The plays featured in VIGNETTES are:

Anger and Enthusiasm by Alex Keelan, directed by Kate Colgrave Pope

Bhaijaan (Brother) by Zoe Iqbal, directed by Gitika Buttoo

Burdens by Maz Hedgehog, directed by Ifeoma Uzo

Lifelines by Debbie Oates, directed by Bryony Shanahan

A Day in the Life by Lekhani Chirwa, directed by Amy Gavin

Broken by Lindsay Williams, directed by Ellie Rose


Wednesday 27 September

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Telemann Baroque Ensemble – Alastair Roberts flute, Alfred Pollard oboe, Elaine da Costa and Sarah Snape violins, John Goodstadt viola, Roger Bisby cello & Peter Collier harpsichord.

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 27 September

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Prestwich Battle (Home).

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

Phone: Secretary - Ed Whitaker


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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