top of page
  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke


Manchester Folk Festival 2023 An Eclectic Celebration of Music and Community

PREVIEW By Steve Cooke

Manchester Folk Festival, a dynamic event now in its 7th year, returns to captivate music enthusiasts from 19th to 21st October 2023. This year, the festival proudly presents a unique collaboration and an expanded program that promises an immersive and diverse musical journey.

The Breath and the D&B Soundscape System A highlight of this year's festival is the exclusive performance by Manchester's own The Breath. Audiences will have the extraordinary opportunity to witness The Breath's mesmerizing artistry merged with the innovative D&B Soundscape system. This cutting-edge 360-degree, fully immersive PA envelops both performers and audience in an unprecedented auditory journey, all within the historic and newly refurbished New Century Hall.

A Move to the Musical Heart of the City Manchester Folk Festival relocates to the vibrant Northern Quarter and Ancoats, taking full advantage of the city's premier live music venues. The iconic Band on the Wall, recently refurbished to perfection, becomes the musical hub of this year's festivities. Mark Radcliffe

A Tapestry of Sound and Tradition Embracing the essence of folk music beyond genre constraints, the festival's eclectic mix of performances celebrates the contemporary diversity of folk music. Committed to inclusivity, the festival stands as a beacon for equality, maintaining a balanced gender representation on stage. The festival embraces self-identified folk and folk-influenced artists, reflecting the enduring relevance of traditional music in a dynamic landscape. Featuring over 60 artists across 9 venues throughout 3 days, Manchester Folk Festival is a testament to the enduring popularity of folk music.

An Inclusive Experience: Free Programme of Events Introducing an exciting addition to the festival's offerings, attendees can now enjoy a range of free events. The Band on the Wall Bar Stage will host daily live music sessions, while The Smithfield Market Tavern welcomes traditional music sessions. On Saturday 21st October the all-female dancing group Boss Morris brings their vibrant performances to Cutting Room Square for all to enjoy.

‘Once again an amazing line-up has been put together for what is arguably the UK's leading urban folk festival - which given its relatively short history is a real endorsement of the event.’ - Mark Radcliffe

About Manchester Folk Festival Since its inception in 2017 as the development of Homegrown festival in Bury, Manchester Folk Festival has consistently garnered the attention of music lovers. Taking place over three days across select venues, notably the renowned Band on the Wall, the festival annually draws over 2,500 attendees who revel in exceptional concerts and performances.

About English Folk Expo Produced by English Folk Expo (EFEx), the festival stands as a testament to the organization's dedication to nurturing and promoting the English folk, roots, and acoustic music sector. As an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, EFEx supports the genre through initiatives like Manchester Folk Festival and its parallel industry showcase, attracting music buyers and programmers from around the world.

Visit for tickets, schedule details, and more.



August 02: Edane Ng piano (Malaysia & RNCM) 300 years of great piano music from JS Bach, Schumann Fantasiestücke, Brahms Rhapsodies, Bartok Suite Op 14, to contemporary Ng Chong Lim’s A distant of rainforest. Prize-winning pianist also toured Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 as a Manchester-based social justice activist with classical music and animation.

August 09: Voci Voices Elizabeth Ambrose soprano, Isobel Jenkins mezzo, Eric Cymbir tenor, David Cane bass and Jonathan Ellis piano. Lively and jazzy arrangements of popular songs mixed with duets and quartets by Handel, Rossini and Lauridsen. Dramatic duets and quartets from Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Rigoletto, Puccini’s La Boheme and Mozart’s Magic Flute followed in a mini opera gala; with a much-deserved rousing encore.

August 16: Tim Kennedy at short notice accompanist turned solo piano recitalist.

Tim studied music at Cambridge and is now a staff accompanist at the RNCM; he is also a professional singer, vocal coach, and organist. Great playing of Debussy, Amy Beach, Ovenburg, Yimura contrasted with Scott Joplin, Katie Melau and a Polka written 1900 for Bradford Football (Rugby) Club!

August 23: Lewis Kingsley Peart piano trained at Chet’s and Trinity-Laban Conservatoire returned to the northwest from his London base. A virtuoso showcase (all from memory) consisting of Paderewski, Dohnányi, Charles Williams’ Dream of Olwen (1947) and Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto (1941), Gershwin song transcriptions and Grünfeld. Much appreciated by the audience.

August 30: ‘Opera for the people’ Nicola Mills

Operatic soprano Nicola Mills continued her mission ‘Opera for the people’ with infectious enthusiasm at Toad Lane Concerts at St Mary in the Baum (where, incidentally she was married). More than ‘opera karaoke’ she creates her programme around items chosen by the audience, and it is backed by sophisticated equipment. Her charming, no-nonsense, down-to-earth approach is immediately engaging, as are her insights into the singer’s world from her own experience.

Originally an Oldham lass, Nicola now lives in Halifax where her singing recently caused a sensation at the Yorkshire Proms at Piece Hall.

Nicola studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama for 6 years followed by 10 years in international opera houses before becoming freelance.

Operatic favourites by Puccini, Gershwin, G &S, Mozart, Dvorak, and Rossini demonstrated that she is a top-notch classical soprano with panache who would grace any stage. From coloratura to crossover, songs such as What a wonderful World, and Danny Boy also showed that she has the popular touch. Add to that a stunning finale of Barcelona, you have the hallmarks of a great all-round vocal entertainer … for the people.

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.

TLC at St Mary in the Baum OL16 1DZ every Wednesday 12:30-13:30. Admission £6.

Queries 01706 648872




I am delighted to see the involvement of Falinge Park High School in Factory International’s new training and learning opportunities.

Factory International, the organisation behind Manchester International Festival and the city’s new flagship venue, Aviva Studios, have announced their latest free skills, training, and education opportunities for people from Manchester delivered through their Factory Academy programme and partnerships with local schools.

The award-winning Factory Academy delivers free courses to local people and provides opportunities for training, enrichment, and careers in Manchester’s ever-growing creative industries. With the official opening of Aviva Studios next month, following its successful preview during MIF23 this summer, the new venue provides further opportunities for local people to learn in a world-class environment.

A new Stage Management course starting this week will allow participants to learn from Factory International’s in-house production team to gain an insight into the backstage world of the live events industry. Two students will go on to secure living-wage paid Stage Production Assistant roles, where they will help to bring Factory International’s official opening show, the Matrix-inspired Free Your Mind to the venue in October.

Upcoming courses in October include Managing Creative Projects, where students will learn from expert industry tutors, to develop the skills needed to deliver their own creative project and find out what funders look for in successful applications. Another course, Broadcast and Film teaches skills in production filming, editing and visual effects (VFX) direct with industry professionals. This course will also allow students to gain a BTEC accredited qualification: Introduction to Digital Media. Launching in November, Foundations in Freelance will support participants to turn their passions into freelance careers and develop the skills needed to freelance in any industry. 

Factory International is also supporting local people through a new partnership programme with schools across Manchester. Starting next week, it will provide 200 students from Melland High School, Parrs Wood High School, St Peter’s High School, Levenshulme High School for Girls and Falinge Park High School with free artist-led creative sessions designed in line with the National Curriculum to boost arts access for young people and provide early insights into creative careers, combining weekly artist-led sessions, guest workshops from artists such as the award-winning Boy Blue who are co-creating the opening show of Aviva Studios, and trips to the venue.

As part of Factory International’s work in developing the next generation of talent in the region, the schools programme will be led by local artists Lay Full Stop, who performed alongside Angélique Kidjo at MIF23 and Reece Williams, who performed at MIF21. Factory Academy alumni will also support the delivery of the programme through paid apprenticeship roles.

Since launching in 2018, Factory Academy has supported over 650 local people through its free training programmes and aims to support 1,500 people by 2025 as part of a 5-year plan to create more accessible pathways into creative careers. Courses are targeted at people who are under-represented in the sector, who are unemployed, on Universal Credit or are earning less than £20,888 to apply for the fully funded programmes, which include free training courses, several of which lead to an accredited qualification, apprenticeships, traineeships, and paid internships. Thousands more will benefit from further learning and engagement opportunities including online learning, masterclasses, open days, and workshops.

Through Factory Academy and their Schools partnership programme, Factory International is training the creative workforce of the future and inviting local people to utilise Aviva Studios as a place to train, learn and experience the creative industries. 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. Factory International is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, which means funding thanks to taxpayers plays a huge part in supporting its work.

Randel Bryan, Executive Director at Factory International said: “As we prepare to move into our new home, this marks an exciting new chapter where for the first time we’ll have a world class cultural venue that will provide an unparalleled learning and development environment, where local people can develop their skills and confidence alongside industry leading professionals at the top of their field.

We also look forward to the launch of Factory Schools next week, which will connect hundreds of local pupils across Greater Manchester with the creative industries, inviting them to our venue as a place they can learn, discover, and pave the way for their future careers.”

Josh Kelly, Live Event Crew at DNG - Factory Academy Live Events alumnus said: “I found Factory Academy at a really important time. I had been through a period of unemployment where I felt lost and unsure what I wanted to do. The Live Events course opened so many doors for me, including working as part of the event crew at this year’s Sounds of the City festival, and helped me rebuild confidence in myself.” 

Michael Appouh, Social Media Coordinator at Factory International - Factory Academy alumnus said: “Factory Academy really helped me to get to that next step in my career. It’s so exciting to now be a part of the team that’s bringing this incredible new cultural space to the city.” 

Sarah Maxfield, North Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “We want the North to be a place where people can train and make a living in the arts and creative sector, and skills and career development are key to this. Our investment in Factory International will help support the next generation of artists and creatives who will benefit from the opportunities provided by the Factory Academy and the Schools partnership programme.”

Deputy Council Leader Cllr Luthfur Rahman said: "Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International, is going to mean so much for Manchester. These new courses will inspire our young people and help them learn skills to develop careers in the creative industries, right here in a world-class venue and with talented tutors.

Factory Academy is a key part of the wider social benefits which this internationally important venue will bring for local people."

A Teacher from Holy Trinity Primary School, who worked with Factory International as part of their school pilot programme said: “The biggest impact has been on their confidence. A few children in my class were selective mute and I didn’t think they were going to do anything in front of the class at all. It turns out one of them had a really loud voice and showed this in front of more than just one class, so seeing their confidence go up has been amazing for me.”

Autumn/Winter course applications go live on 12 September. To apply for a Factory Academy course, go to 

To be the first to hear when new applications go live, sign up to the Factory Academy newsletter


Projects: 2 October 2023 - 8 December 2023

Learn how to make a plan and execute it – on time, on budget, on point. Project management is critical to the success of any creative endeavour. This six-week blended learning course will teach you how to define, develop and deliver a brief. Expert tutors cover all the key tools and skills, illustrated with real-life examples by guest speakers from across the creative industries. Upon completion of the course, participants have the opportunity to pitch their idea to an industry leader.

Broadcast and Film: 30 October 2023 - 22 December 2023

Develop essential skills with Manchester's top creative companies and cultural organisations. This course allows students to gain an accredited qualification: BTEC Introduction to digital media. The free eight-week programme blends classroom training with online learning, industry guest speakers, field trips and self-directed study, masterclasses delivered by industry professionals and challenges students to complete projects set by key industry figures.

Foundations in Freelance: 6 November 2023 – 15 December 2023

Starting a freelance career can be challenging but rewarding – opening up the freedom to manage your own time and work on projects that matter to you. This is course is designed to help participants develop the essential skills and knowledge needed to successfully freelance in any industry.

The course focuses on the key behaviours needed to thrive as a freelancer, from problem solving and analytical thinking to personal brand and presentation. Students will also be connected to industry professionals via Q&A sessions and master classes and will gain a network of freelancer peers based in Manchester.


REVIEW By Dr Joe Dawson

ORTOA (Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside Organists’ Association) continued the tour of its patch by presenting an afternoon recital on the exceptionally fine organ at Albion URC in Ashton.

Celebrity soloist was David Grealy, a native of Galway, who is the Assistant Organist at Leeds Cathedral. He previously held positions at Westminster Cathedral, and in Dublin’s St Mary's Pro-Cathedral and St Bartholomew's Church.

A first-class honours graduate of Maynooth University, David later completed a Masters at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Cologne and in 2019, became a fellow of the Royal College of Organists. He is in regular demand as an accompanist, both at home and abroad, and has featured in broadcasts for the BBC, RTÉ (Ireland) and WDR (Germany).

introduced his items briefly and in a relaxed and informative manner that added to a hugely enjoyable varied recital. This was greatly enhanced by the use of a large screen showing the player’s hands at work.

He explored a range of styles beginning with the dynamic Stanford Postlude in D minor and three exquisite chorale preludes by J.S. Bach.

Then came Mendelssohn’s Sonata no 3 in A minor which was clearly built on the shoulders of JS Bach, with an added movement of serene reflection, beautifully interpreted. This contrasted with Jean Langlais’ Théme et Variations (Homage à Frescobaldi), a sparkling and quirky twentieth century riposte to Renaissance keyboard music, and great fun.

David’s rendering of Norman Cocker’s Tuba tune in D showed why it has become such an evergreen favourite.

Finally, Vierne’s lilting Lied (Pièces en Style Libre) and the magnificent Finale from Symphonie no. 1 rounded off a scintillating programme well suited to the magnificent Lewis organ, in the Albion’s superb setting.

ORTOA is back on home turf on for the annual Brereton Memorial Concert, with Anthony Gray from Harrogate on the notable organ in St Chad’s, Rochdale Parish Church on Saturday 14th October at 3 p.m.


Saturday 09 September 2023 - Saturday 16 September

The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie is a stunning classic drama set in the Wingfield apartment in St. Louis, 1937. It centres around Tom, the family breadwinner, his loving mother Amanda, and his shy sister Laura.

Amanda, a faded Southern belle cares deeply for her daughter and searches to secure a safe future for her. Tom invites an old friend of his, Jim O’Connor, to his home for dinner, but all does not go well.

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by Nick Angus

Phone: Danny Groves 01706 642 008


The Curtain Theatre, 47 Milkstone Road, Rochdale OL11 1EB

Sunday 17 September

Hollingworth Lake Craft and Wellbeing Fair

The popular Hollingworth Lake Craft and Wellbeing Fairs are back at a new lakeside location.

Join them on Lake Bank for the best handmade goods or treat yourself to a relaxing complementary therapy.

Find them on Facebook- Hollingworth Lake Arts and Crafts


Phone: Karen Hill 01706 922132

10am - 2pm

Hollingworth Lake, Lake Bank Road, Littleborough OL15 0DN

Wednesday 20 September

Me and My Baby Choir - Free Taster event

Me and My Baby Choir are very excited to announce that they are launching a new choir where parents, grandparents, or anyone with caring responsibilities can come together and sing in a baby-friendly environment.

They are a non-audition choir, and no previous experience is required. You are invited to come along and sing songs from the movies and musicals, which the talented choir director will guide you through and teach some beautiful harmonies.

Children of pre-school age and younger (0-5) are welcome to join you.

Sessions will be held weekly, following a termly pattern similar to schools. ​The choir are very excited to get everyone together for a wonderful singing experience. ​​

Taster launch event - Wednesday 20 September.

In the session your choir director will teach you a short musical theatre song, and will get you all singing in harmony, giving you a taste of how sessions will run.

Afterwards, you will be given information on how to join the community.

Free for the first week

Phone: Laura Kelly 07598 738072


10am - 11.15am

Demesne Community Centre, Asby Close, Middleton M24 4JF

Wednesday 20 September

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Memorial Competition: Theme – Scapes. (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.


Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start.

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP

Wednesday 20 September

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Maria King piano (RNCM &Paris).

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.

: £6

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

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

2 views0 comments


bottom of page