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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke




Amongst the array of wonderful events that make up MIF23 from Yayoi Kusama to Benji Reid to Afrodeutsche Balmy Army stands out as shining beacon of hope in our uncertain and for many frightening world.

The Balmy Army project is a movement for youth-led mental health activating the power of art and activism.

Over the past year young people [including two groups from Rochdale], artists, madpride organisers, radical dreamers, disability justice doers and everyone else trying to cope have come together with the common aim of striving for Mental health support that works.

The have been busy sharing poetry, making placards, activating social media takeovers and mass acts of civil disobedience, In fact crea0ting a space where anything (safe) can happen, where the Balmy Army can play, plan protests, give performances and even print ‘madidas’ t-shirts.

Balmy Army is made by 80 young people from Greater Manchester, with the vacuum cleaner [James Leadbitter], Kevin Edward Turner, Lizzie Chapman, Toni-Dee, Caz Hughes, Evyn Seaton-Mooney, Rory Aaron, Rosalyne Norford, Gráinne Flynn, Cara Looij, Sascha Gilmour, Charlie Clark, HOME, Factory International, Contact, 42nd Street, Gorse Hill Studios and the Hope Horizon Wards at Fairfield Hospital, Touchstones Rochdale and Awakening Minds.

Most of us are struggling with our mental health or have a family member, colleague of friend who is and maybe we are supporting someone who is working in mental health or perhaps feeling the effects of poor mental health in our communities. The Balmy Army reminds us that beyond what we can do as individuals, community care, and creativity are some of our greatest ways to heal.

I urge you to find time to experience Balmy Army for yourselves - it’s free to drop into the Balmy Army's space at HOME.

Balmy Army until 17 September at HOME:

Phone: 0161 200 1500


Visit: (

‘the vacuum cleaner’ tells us:

“I went through mental health care as a young person, it was crap then and its crap now. Nothing seems to get better, however much those in charge say it has. I was in an adolescent hospital 20 years ago, has the mental health care got any better since then? Not enough, let’s put it that way. (I tota Accessibility features available for this event: acknowledge there are some cool people doing good stuff in young people’s mental health care – I’m not attacking them, we need you sooooo bad).

How many more excuses should we accept?

I want to work with YOU to imagine, dream up and then make real the mental health care you desire, that your friends deserve and that adults just don’t seem to be able to give you.

Enough excuses.

I’m starting a long-term project called Balmy Army. It’s part art, part activism and part mutual care project. I want to help you fight for what should be a basic right…. good mental health care. I want to do this because I know how much bad mental health care affected me. (i’m lucky to still be here). It’s going to start in Great Manchester – but hopefully could be a national thing…

SO, let’s do this thing, let’s make an army of young people who are struggling with their mental health. Let’s not be ashamed of who we are, let’s be totally proud of what we can do together. Let’s imagine something brilliant and kind and that actually works.

Let’s do thing safely, sustainably, let’s do it right and take our time… but not like 20 years (lol).”

A note about language… the vacuum cleaner says.

“The language around mental health is still in debate; I think it always will be. In a similar way to how it is around race, gender, sexuality and so. That’s a good thing, we’ve always got to get better at it, and try to reduce harm.

In a lot of my art work I use the language around mental health in a playful way, words like mental, mad, barmy, crazy. For me personally I want to reclaim these words as something to not be ashamed of. Perhaps in a similar way to how Queer has been reclaimed. I understand not everyone is down with this. But I also want you to know that I use these words with love. Because I love crazy people. We are amazing. We are really good at surviving, and helping others, and being empathic, and standing in solidarity with other people who face mainstream BS. Being mad isn’t easy, and it’s really important to be honest about that, but equally I’m not going to be ashamed of who I am, what I have been through, and how I want to talk about my experience. I want to be able to love my madness – so much so I did a project called Madlove. I’m not going to let it define me, but I’m also not going to ignore it”.


REVIEW By Dr Joe Dawson

Tim Kennedy’s career began as a treble at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, then to a music scholar at Winchester College. A gap year performing at Truro Cathedral led to studying music at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Now Manchester-based for fifteen years, he pursues a varied freelance career as a lyric tenor soloist, but he also works as an organist, vocal coach, and pianist, including as a staff accompanist for singers at the RNCM - see

John Gough is an international solo pianist and chamber musician who has just retired after 30 years’ service as Senior Tutor in Piano at the RNCM, as well as at Chetham’s, and examining at the Royal Academy, Guildhall School of Music, and Manchester University.

This distinguished pair opened with a sacred set of Panis Angelicus, Schubert’s Ave Maria and Malotte’s The Lord's Prayer, along with Schubert’s An die Musik. Tim’s clear and expressive soaring delivery continued with attractive modern songs by Katie E. Laing, Lin Marsh, and Dorothy Buchanan.

The perennial Loch Lomond, sung unaccompanied was particularly effective.

Thiman’s setting of I wandered lonely as a cloud, led to tenor favourites, I'll walk beside you, and I'll sing thee songs of Araby, followed by If ever I would leave you, from Camelot, all accompanied superbly by John Gough.

Interestingly, as a finale we had Golden by Cliff Richard. The original 1960’s teeny boppers and rock chicks in the audience managed to restrain themselves. It was interesting that the pop song transferred to the concert platform well, as substance won over style.

As the old ballad goes jolly good songs and jolly well sung and jolly good company … whatever the form. Especially with such consummate artistes.

The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday at 12.30pm at the Grade 1 listed church of St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale, OL16 1DZ. Entrance fee is £6. No refreshments available now, but the venue is Covid-19 compliant.

Contact 01706 648872 for further information.


Sunday 06 August

Alkrington Village Craft Market

Pop along and support your local small businesses and community.

With over 30 stalls we have a fantastic range of brilliant crafters selling their handmade and unique crafts not available on the high street.

Free entry and hot food and refreshments available.

We have free customer parking outside Alkrington Community Centre, plus additional parking outside Tesco Mainway Alkrington.

Everyone welcome, see you soon.

Phone: Lee Yates 07807 457 703


11am - 4pm

Alkrington Community Centre, Hardfield Road, Alkrington, Middleton M24 1TQ

Sunday 06 August

Friends of Hare Hill Park Band Concert - Besses o'th' Barn Band

Kick back and relax to the sound of a brass band in Hare Hill Park.

Refreshments will be on sale. Please bring your own chair or picnic blanket as we only have a limited number of chairs available.

All these events are possible thanks to volunteers who give up their time to make them happen. If you would like to get involved and help with the events in Littleborough, please submit your details here:


Phone: LEAF 07931 992393


3pm - 5pm

Hare Hill Park, Hare Hill Road, Littleborough OL15 9HE

Wednesday 09 August

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have Voci Voices: Elizabeth Ambrose soprano, Isobel Jenkins mezzo, Eric Cymbir tenor, David Cane bass and Jonathan Ellis piano.

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 09 August

Summer Smoothie Making

Join Rochdale Pioneers Museum as they enjoy the taste of summer and make smoothies using seasonal fruits in a co-operative way.

The session is led by their very talented Cat Jessop and will last around 1.5 to maximum 2 hours.

All food and equipment provided. Food will be vegetarian and halal.

Part of the session involves taste testing and use of non-dairy milks so please carefully consider any potential allergens to see if this event is suitable for your group. Booking is required as there is limited space - please email

This is a 'pay what you feel' session, we are a small charity, every donation makes a difference.

Phone: The Pioneers Museum team 01706 524920


12pm - 2pm

Rochdale Pioneers Museum, 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale OL12 0NU

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

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