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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke






HOME Manchester unveils thrilling new theatre season, with West End hits, brand new work, and a festive spectacular.

Preview by Steve Cooke

The newly announced shows at HOME Manchester will take place across the autumn theatre season which will run from Aug ‘24 – Feb ’25.

Upcoming performances and events include a musical adaptation of the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, award-winning theatre show My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) starring social media sensation Rob Madge, moving production Two of Us retelling the imagined final meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, unapologetically queer, 1980’s inspired musical After The Act about pride, protest, and abseiling lesbians, and brand-new interactive show Feel Me presented by the UK leaders in devised verbatim theatre The Paper Birds.

We also can look forward to a variety of TV personalities and live music during the season; with the ever-tasteful writer and broadcaster Jay Rayner on Wed 4 Sep as he celebrates 25 years as The Observer’s award-winning restaurant critic with the publication of Nights Out At Home – LIVE, a memoir-in-recipes. Expect hilarious anecdotes and razor-sharp whit from Rhys Nicholson, as he presents his stand-up comedy concert Huge Big Party Congratulations on Fri 6 Sep. We can see cherished broadcaster Carol Vorderman on Fri 13 Sep as she shares stories about her unlikely pivot from daytime television’s queen of mental arithmetic to one of the country’s most fearless political activists.

The new theatre season offers an engaging blend of interactive experiences, uplifting stories, powerful narratives, and unique performances that highlight both local and international talent.

We shall be previewing events in detail in this column in the coming months.

Full details of the season can be found online by visiting:


Full cast and local brass bands announced for new production of Brassed Off at Octagon Bolton

Preview by Steve Cooke


Co-producers Octagon Theatre Bolton, Theatre by the Lake and Stephen Joseph Theatre have announced the cast for the much-loved modern classic, Brassed Off, based on the smash hit 1996 film. This new production will be directed by Theatre by the Lake's Artistic Director, Liz Stevenson.

The co-production will open at Theatre by the Lake from Fri 28 June - Sat 27 July before visiting Stephen Joseph Theatre from 2 - 31 August and Octagon Theatre Bolton from Thu 5 - Sat 28 September.

It’s 1994 and the tight-knit mining community of Grimley, Yorkshire, are fighting to keep their colliery open. Meanwhile, revered band leader, Danny, battles to keep his dispirited band of brass-playing miners together with the dream of qualifying for the National Championships at London’s Albert Hall. When the uncertainty around the pit’s future becomes too much for the band members, loyalty is tested, pressure mounts and the community begins to break apart.

With their whole way of life at stake, can the band find a way to play on?

A talented company of 10 actors including several actor-musicians make up the cast for this new production full of grit, heart and northern humour.

The cast features: Daneka Etchells (The Real And Imagined History of the Elephant Man - Nottingham Playhouse/UK Tour, Titus Andronicus - Shakespeare’s Globe); Maxine Finch (Maggie May - Leeds Playhouse, LIT - HighTide); Joey Hickman (Brassed Off - Aberystwyth Arts, Brief Encounter - Theatre by the Lake/Stephen Joseph Theatre/Octagon Theatre Bolton); Joanna Holden (Pinnochio - Hull Truck Theatre, Let’s Build – Polka Theatre/Bologna Festival); Matt Ian Kelly (What's Wrong with Angry - Oval House/BAC, I Am Star Trek - Hackney Empire); Greg Patmore (On The Night - Falling Pennies/Arcola, Educating Rita - Contexture Theatre); Russell Richardson (The Book of Will – Shakespeare North Playhouse/Octagon Theatre Bolton); Barney Taylor (The Unfriend – Playful Productions/Criterion, Henry V - Antic Disposition / Tour); Andrew Turner (Every Brilliant Thing - Theatre By The Lake, I Think We Are Alone - Frantic Assembly); Hannah Octagon Woodward (Dick Whittington and Sleeping Beauty - Queen’s, Hornchurch, The Wizard of Oz - Hartlepool Town Hall).

Brassed Off Director, Liz Stevenson (A Little Princess, Every Brilliant Thing – Theatre by the Lake), said: “We’re thrilled to collaborate once more with our co-producers Octagon Theatre Bolton and Stephen Joseph Theatre on this dynamic in-the-round production. It is a timely moment to present this iconic play, 30 years after the 1984 miners’ strike. Our production looks back on the battles of this close-knit mining community, asking, what has changed? And what does this play mean to us today? We have assembled an incredible team to make this show and we're excited to be working with local brass bands, to weave live brass music throughout the show to deliver a moving theatrical experience that celebrates the resilience of communities and the transformative power of music."

Joining the company for the Octagon dates will also include two local brass bands, Wingates Brass Band and Eagley Band (who return to Octagon following their performances in the Octagon’s 2013 production of Brassed Off).

Wingates band member Laura Hounsome said: "We are delighted to be invited back to work with the Octagon to perform 'Brassed Off'. The show depicts so many gritty, funny and emotive themes of British and banding history and community, with scenes backdropping the Whit Friday March Contests, and National Championships (of which Wingates has won four times in our history) still being annual highlights of the banding calendar. The music is hugely enjoyable to play and listen to and it is a privilege to be able to come and bring this play to life. Our players are looking forward to starting rehearsals for this iconic show!"

Eagley Band Treasurer, Deb Lyons commented: “The band are thrilled and excited to have this wonderful opportunity to perform in this latest production Brassed Off at the Octagon Theatre. Several of the band members played in the Octagon’s 2014 production of Brassed Off and still say it is one of the highlights of their playing with Eagley Band.”

The creative team includes Simon Kenny (Set and Costume Designer); Matthew Malone (Musical Supervisor, arrangements and additional compositions); Johanna Town (Lighting Designer); Russell Ditchfield (Sound Designer); Chi San Howard (Movement Director); Alice Roberts (Costume Supervisor); Callum Berridge (Associate Director).

Brassed Off plays at the Octagon Theatre Bolton Thu 5 - Sat 28 September.

Tickets start from £15 and are on-sale now.

Octagon Theatre, Howell Croft South Bolton BL1 1SB

Phone: 01204 520661




Saturday 13 July 2024

A Summer’s Evening with Cantare Ladies Choir

Join the choir for a celebration of summer: a varied programme of beautiful and uplifting music in the stunning setting of St Edmund’s Church.

Light refreshments available.


Phone: Joanne Eaves 07854116347


St Edmund’s Church, Edmund Street, Falinge, Rochdale OL12 6QF


Wednesday 17 July 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - Selection evening for Prestwich battle.

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 2024 syllabus.

£2.50 for room fee

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP


Wednesday 17 July 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Jonathan Ellis concert pianist (RNCM & Manchester University)

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


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

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