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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


 previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke






Review by Dr Joe Dawson

This joyful mixed voice choir, many of whom have been leading soloists in the area for some time, raised the roof as well as spirits in a varied and hugely enjoyable choral feast.

Originally founded in 1987, they were amiably presented by Alyson Brailsford and their Music Director of 20 years, Ken Greaves, and well supported by accompanist J Edward Rigg.

Following Morley’s charming Elizabethan madrigal, Now Is the Month of Maying, their first choral set effected the transition from traditional English to American with Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair and The Sound of Silence, to Copland’s vigorous Ching-A-Ring Chaw.

Further poignant tones followed with When She Loved Me, California Dreamin' and Gershwin’s Summertime.

In contrast, the tenors and basses gave an hilarious and boisterous rendering of a delightfully non-PC Bold Gendarmes by Offenbach. Then more rich harmonies in Gershwin’s Our Love Is Here To Stay, and Martini’s Plaisir D'amour.

The programme was interspersed with excellent soloists: Freda Farnworth with the soprano favourite, Vilja; A duet version by Alyson Brailsford & Graham Sivills (plus guitar) of The Fields of Athenry; with Margaret Curzon’s heartfelt Some Day My Heart Will Awake by Novello; and a passionate Stars from Les Misérables by Martin McLoughlin.

Finale was a delightful up-tempo Tea for Two.

The next Nightingale concert will be at 7.00 p.m. on Saturday 15th June at St Catherine and St John's Church, Colwyn Bay, LL29 9RG. If you would like to host a Nightingale concert, or join the choir, Ken is contactable at

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.


WOW - Women of the World, and Factory International have announced the full programme for WOW Manchester, which will take place at Aviva Studios from 24-26 May.

 Preview by Steve Cooke

Over two days and three evenings the world’s biggest, most comprehensive festival celebrating women, girls and non-binary people comes to Manchester for the first time, bringing together inspiring speakers to celebrate the achievements of women, girls and non-binary people and find solutions to the pressing issues of gender inequality.

Sara Pascoe will join WOW Founder and CEO Jude Kelly on Saturday 25 May for an evening of conversation and readings from her debut novel Weirdo, providing insight into what it takes to craft comedic and captivating stories on the page in an evening filled with gags, entertainment and inspiration.

She joins previously announced headliners Melanie Brown in conversation with Louise Gannon (Friday 24 May) and Jordan Stephens in conversation with Miquita Oliver (Sunday 26 May).

The Saturday and Sunday day programmes will each feature a different line-up offering audiences the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of events, discussions, performances and workshops, housed within a huge central marketplace as well as taking place throughout Aviva Studios’ many different spaces.

Across the festival WOW’s much-loved Marketplace will feature over 50 pop-up stores, experiences and happenings. There will be interactive spaces from Global Fund for Women, a film screening from Womankind Worldwide; a confessional booth inspired by Gillian Anderson’s new book Want; drop-in workshops on block-printing and clay modelling; a Re: Yak workshop on upcycling clothes from Lucy & Yak; a Youth Zone and new artistic installations commissioned especially for WOW Manchester - Womenity by Ina-Maria Shikongo and MOONMOTH by Tania Kovats on display.

Alongside the Day ticket programmes, WOW will present free events throughout the weekend. Guided history walks highlighting women confined to the footnotes of history will take place, whilst a WOW Pop-Up will host a range of activities in the Social Space including learning how to make dyes from natural ingredients, poetry and WOW bites sessions. As part of ongoing project My City, My Voice, four musicians from Istanbul and Manchester will take up residence at WOW Manchester to create new music, in situ at the festival over a six-hour period. WOW’s much-loved Speed Mentoring sessions will take place in the lower foyer offering an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with people from a huge variety of fields, including theatre directors, journalists, scientists, campaigners, artists and WOW speakers.

In the lead-up to the festival, WOW will bring a very special edition of The Hope Brigade to Manchester. Originally conceived in 2020, The Hope Brigade is a photography series profiling incredible women working at the forefront of their fields in 10 essential areas from conflict to climate justice, from Ake to Athens and Beijing to Brisbane. Working in partnership with Selfridges, WOW Manchester has added a further 10 portraits to the collection, profiling incredible leaders, activists and experts living and working in the North West. The series will be on display at Selfridges Exchange Square from 13 - 28 May.

Run by UK charity The WOW Foundation, 2024 will be the 14th WOW Festival in the UK and the first to be held in Manchester. In 2018, WOW Founder Jude Kelly built on the success of the festival to create UK-based charity The WOW Foundation to run the global WOW movement that believes a gender equal world is urgently needed, possible and desirable. Since the inaugural London Festival in 2010, launched by Kelly at the Southbank Centre, WOW and its partners across the world have reached more than five million people in more than 45 locations across the globe on six continents. Alongside Manchester WOW Festivals have also taken place this year in locations including Pakistan and Istanbul, with Kathmandu coming up later this year.

WOW Manchester 2024 24-26 May, Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester, M3 4JQ



Review by Dr Joe Dawson


FRAG (Friends of Rochdale Art Gallery) dangles from a strong but slender thread whilst Touchstones is closed for renovation. Thanks to the friendly accommodation supplied by Rochdale Music Service in The Butts, the Friends enjoyed another of their talks, this time online, via Zoom (other apps are available). FRAG’s first tangle with the world wide web was arranged and introduced by Sarah Hodgkinson (Senior Curator - Exhibitions & Collections at Touchstones).  


Ceri Lewis, Senior Curator for ARTIST ROOMS and Beth Wratislaw, Partnerships and Programme Manager, talked about how the collection of modern and contemporary art has developed.


ARTIST ROOMS presents the work of international artists in exhibitions drawn from a national touring collection jointly owned by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Its programme reaches audiences across the UK and is developed through local partnerships.


The renowned Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider in her ARTIST ROOM exhibition at Aberdeen, is indicative of the calibre of artist involved in the project. Touchstones’ partnership has already begun to spin with artists in our local community and will be part of the exhibition programme on re-opening in 2025.


We might not get the giant spider sculpture in Rochdale, but some other notable contemporary artwork could capture you in its web.


Next FRAG talk is an opportunity to meet Leeds-based artist Harry Meadley 13 June 2024 – with more insights into the future possibilities for Touchstones.


Why not support the Friends whilst Touchstones is being renovated?


Rochdale Music Service, 7-11 The Butts Rochdale OL16 1XT, every second Thursday in the month. 13:00 arrival downstairs - 13:30-14:30 meeting upstairs.

Annual Subscription £10 - Entry £4 (members £3).


Phone: 01706 648872




Wednesday 22 May 2024

Rochdale Photographic Society

Tonight's session - recreated album covers/film poser competition.

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.

£2.50 for room fee

Doors open 7.15pm, 7.30pm start

Rochdale Unitarian Church, Clover Street, Rochdale OL12 6TP


Wednesday 22 May 2024

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Nicola Mills (Royal Scottish Conservatoire)

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



Thursday 23 May 2024 - Saturday 25 May 2024

Visit Fireground Museum

Join us at Fireground this week to discover Greater Manchester's firefighting story.

Fire museum attractions are on show inside the museum including our collection of historic firefighting artefacts from the 18th century to present day, plus home-made refreshments in the new Fireground Café, and souvenirs from our fantastic new gift shop! We have a wide choice ranging from toddler to collector.

Under 4s are free, Children (aged 4-15) and Concessions £5, Adults £7 and Family (4 people) £20.

Phone: Fireground 01706 341219

Open Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10am - 4pm

Fireground, Maclure Road, Rochdale OL11 1DN



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


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