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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


Review by Steve Cooke


While Touchstones is temporarily out of action for its refurbishment the team are continuing to provide plenty for art lovers to get their teeth into.


Diving into the heart of Rochdale’s creative community with The Touchstones Tapes, a captivating podcast that sheds light on some of Greater Manchester’s unsung cultural heroes.

The Touchstones Tapes amplifies the voices of those who tirelessly contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. Delving deep into the essence of art, culture and community, the series engages in heartfelt conversations with individuals who stand at the forefront of community initiatives. Their dedication, stories and remarkable efforts are captured in episodes that explore the remarkable tapestry of human connection and creativity.

Listen in as they delve into the stories and work of individuals who elevate our community through the lens of art, culture, diversity, and creativity!

Produced by Carlie Foster for Audio Always as part of the Manchester Amplified programme.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 1

How did artist Liz Collins and the local LGBTQ+ community transform Touchstones’ gallery in Rochdale into a social haven? Want to know how this inclusive haven created a fun, artistic environment, free from all judgement and expectations? Ever heard of the co-collection policy that empowers residents to shape cultural heritage decisions?  And what do our three remarkable guests’ cherished objects reveal about their journeys in this extraordinary realm?

Join Helen, Riz and Chris delving into community, self-discovery, and vibrant representation on the first episode of the Touchstones Tapes!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Helen Beckett – Touchstones’ Collections and Exhibitions Manager, Riz Ali – Touchstones’ Cultural Community Coordinator, Chris Hoyle – Theatre maker and actor

This episode’s object is a painting named Performance by John CM Loins. This picture was obtained from the Art UK website:


The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 2

Do you want to know how to discover people, tales, and events in Rochdale’s past?

Join them as they chat to the wonderful ladies at Local Studies, who discuss how the immense breadth of our archives can open up a brand-new world that many don’t even know exists!

Listen in as Shakra and Janet talk about the work they do with children and adults alike to give the community a sense of place and connection, as they uncover the hidden treasures located in the Local Studies Centre.

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Janet Byrne – Local Studies Supervisor, Shakra Butt – Local Studies Assistant

This episode’s objects include a mugshot book, the book of Short History of Miss Joanna Worth, and the Annals of Rochdale. These pictures were provided by Rochdale Local Studies Centre 2023.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 3

How does food tie communities and cultures together, and what kind of stories can we learn from this? What do our guests have to say about how food offers a sense of place and belonging?

And how will the newly refurbished Touchstones create a space where food and the historical collections can combine?

A chat with guests Mark Doyle and Laura Mansfield about future plans in developing a lively museum collection, exploring the culturally rich world of food!

UPDATE: They are delighted to announce that they’ve received the National Lottery Heritage Fund support to make The Dining Room (new working title) a reality. Keep your eyes peeled on the website for more!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Mark Doyle – Director of Arts, Culture and Wellbeing at Touchstones, Laura Mansfield – Independent creator and writer

This episode’s objects include Mark’s recipe book made by family for his time away at university and Laura’s small ceramic plate made by Aaliyah Hussain.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 4

Can a simple van foster meaningful relationships, spark conversations and allow access to art which truly matters?

A chat with Sarah Taylor about Touchstones’ Collections on Tour programme, bringing art, such as the wonderful work of Lowry, to the heart of the community.

In this episode they explore the local community’s active participation in the arts, find new fun and fabulous ways to sustain the valuable connection between spaces and the community and uncover the tale of creating a museum without walls.

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by:Sarah Taylor – Community Development Organiser for Arcon Housing (

This episode’s object was a painting from LS Lowry named Our Town. This picture was taken at the Collection on Tour event with Arcon Housing in 2022.

The Touchstones Tapes: Sleeve Notes 5

How important is cultural education, which stimulates creative learning and freedom within the arts for young people?

A chat with Leona Armstrong and David Allen, who both work alongside young people with the aim of rebuilding trust and positivity around their education.

Find out how this work is vital for the exposure of art for young people, some of whom have gone on to make and sell their own art.

Explore how love and passion for the arts ties these wonderful people together!

Hosted by Touchstones’ Bryan Beresford, Richard Philbin and Katie Roberts.

Joined by: Leona Armstrong – Campus & Wellbeing lead at Pinc College, David Allen – CEO of Skylight Circus Arts

This episode’s object from Sarah is a painting named Pressure From One’s Environment by Jack Crabtree. The picture was obtained from the Art UK website:

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