top of page
  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA



previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke





A Taste of Honey at the Royal Exchange Theatre is still very relevant.

Review by Steve Cooke

How relevant today is Shelagh Delaney’s 1958 play A Taste of Honey?

After seeing Emma Baggott’s production at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester I can confidently say VERY!

Of course, societal norms and values have changed since the 1950’s as evidenced by such as the availability of the contraceptive pill, decriminalisation of homosexuality, acceptance of mixed-race relationships and single motherhood [orphanages at that time were full of illegitimate children] – however the effects of poverty on people’s life choices certainly hasn’t and it can’t be denied that there are still the residues permeating our society of homophobia, racism, attitudes about what constitutes a ‘family’ and what ‘good parenting’ looks like.

“It feels so unbelievably relevant,” says Jill Halfpenny, taking on the role of Helen. “They are such outliers in the way they live, so much on the boundary of what is acceptable and what is expected of them. The choices they make would still have some people comment and turn their noses up at them today.”

Women are still judged for their choices, particularly as mothers, says director Emma Baggott. She recalls working on a show at the Royal Shakespeare Company just before Covid: “I was the only mother in the company. But there were quite a few fathers, and no one ever commented on the fact that the fathers were away for a long period of time from their children. But it was commented upon extensively that I had left my daughter – who was 14 or 15 at the time, and totally fine to be left with her dad.”

There is very little left of the Salford that colours the lives of Delaney’s characters. Media City has replaced the docks, there are now shiny high-rises packed full of students and media-types where there once stood the terraces soon to become the focus of ‘slum clearance’ - where Jill Halfpenny’s promiscuous mother, Helen, abandons her teenage daughter, Jo, in an oppressively seedy bedsit.

The 19-year-old Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey on a borrowed typewriter after her very first trip to the theatre, having decided she could do better than the play she had seen on a date at Manchester’s Opera House. Sixty-six years later, and 13 after her death from breast cancer, we are half a mile away at the Royal Exchange - a cotton trading centre during her teenage years.

Rowan Robinson as daughter Jo is at the centre of the play with her sharp wit and vocal disdain of her mother and mother’s boyfriend. Her lines are way beyond those of a schoolgirl, lines reflecting a resilience developed as a reaction to a total absence of parenting from her mother, who she calls Helen and who behaves more like a self-centred stroppy teenager than her daughter.

Jill Halfpenny loves two women being centre stage, rather than as supporting characters to men. “It’s lovely to have that time on stage together where you’re not just coming in as the partner, or as the girlfriend. We have boyfriends coming in. That’s great, isn’t it?”

Three very different, but equally weak, males come in and out of Jo and Helen’s lives as love interest fuelled by desperation. Andrew Sheridan’s Peter encapsulates lecherous entitlement, Obadiah’s Jimmy promises to be a way out for Jo but inevitably lets her down and David Moorst’s Geoffrey, a necessarily closeted gay man, is desperate to be Jo’s baby’s dad but not strong enough to overcome Helen who tries to reassert herself in a mother/grandmother role following her latest dumping.

David Moorst and Rowan Robinson deliver comedic lines and heart-warming interactions that lighten the atmosphere and generate outbursts of audience laughter.

Peter Butler’s set with crane-like metal beams allude to the industrial ‘dirty old town’ -metal beams that are lined with fairground lights creating an atmosphere of both harsh grittiness and glimpses of hope.

Nishla Smith poignantly sings verses of Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town”, written about Salford, and complements the play’s jazz rhythms that are perfectly paced throughout this nearly three hours of totally engaging and highly relevant live theatre


Jill Halfpenny as Helen

David Moorst as Geoffrey

Obadiah as Jimmie

Rowan Robinson as Josephine

Andrew Sheridan as Peter

Nishla Smith as the Jazz Singer


Written by: Shelagh Delaney

Directed by: Emma Baggott

Designer: Peter Butler

Lighting Designer: Simisola Majekodunmi

Sound Designer: George Dennis

Fight and Intimacy Director: Kaitlin Howard

Arranger/Orchestrator: Alexandra Faye Braithwaite

Movement Director: Sarita Piotrowski

Voice and Dialect Coach: Natalie Grady

Casting Director: Annelie Powell CDG

Casting Assistant: Alice Walters

Birkbeck Assistant Director: Sam Holland-Bunyan

Photo by Johan Persson


 A Taste of Honey is at the Royal Exchange Theatre, St. Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH, until 13 April.

Phone: 0161 833 9833


Introducing Richard Street Studios - Rochdale's new creative workspace, run by creatives

Preview by Steve Cooke

Richard Street Studios is a very welcome and much needed initiative run by creatives for creatives.

The studios have been developed by Rochdale Development Agency working in partnership with Rochdale Borough Council, as part of ambitious plans to support the development of our borough’s amazing and talented creative and cultural sector.

Located by Rochdale train station, Richard Street Studios is set to formally launch in April, offering an exciting range of creative workspaces tailored to the needs of Rochdale’s growing creative business community.  With 7 studios, the space caters to both digital and messier creative disciplines, perfect for art, photography and scriptwriting, to sewing and design, providing the ideal blank canvas for studio workshops, events, showcases and small exhibitions.

I am delighted that the studios will be let by lead tenant and local creative organisation Breaking Barriers, who will manage the space and run artist development programmes to support the wider creative sector! The model forms part of the Rochdale Borough Council’s commitment to the ‘Community Wealth Building’ model, which seeks to support and empower local organisations to run local services.

Breaking Barriers Artistic Director, Parvez Qadir said “This is an exciting time for art and culture in Rochdale. As a Rochdale-based production company, Breaking Barriers are so proud to be the creative operators of Richard Street Studios; a space for artists to create, imagine and make in our hometown. Richard Street Studios is an investment in the developing creative economy of our town, as well as future generations of creative innovators.”

The studios are part of the innovative ‘Rochdale Creates Space’ project, which is seeking to repurpose vacant properties to support the borough’s creative sector as part of a developing creative district within Rochdale town centre. Other capital projects underway within the creative district include the redevelopment of Touchstones, the refurbishment of the soon to reopen Rochdale Town Hall, and the Fire Up co-working space which opened in 2022. This is accompanied by the boroughs cross-sector initiative to support creativity and culture across Rochdale borough ‘Rochdale Creates’, which includes a range of business support programmes, talent development and commission opportunities.

Councillor Danny Meredith went on to say, “The Richard Street development illustrates the continuous dedication to revitalising the town centre and its pivotal role in advancing the broader economic development goals for businesses from all industries across the borough.”

The project has been managed by Rochdale Development Agency on behalf of Rochdale Borough Council. The works have been completed by Rochdale based building contractors H Bell and Sons, with Ian Tunnicliffe as Contract Administrator and Principle Designer. In line with the boroughs commitment to achieving net-zero by 2038, the studios have undergone an intensive retrofit designed to minimise operational carbon emissions. This has included upgrading of floor, wall and roof insulation, the installation of air source heat pumps, and new LED lighting throughout. This much reduced energy demand is sourced from renewable tariffs.

Councillor Sue Smith said, “This presents an excellent opportunity to bolster and empower the creative sectors in Rochdale, providing a creative hub for the remarkable talent within our borough.”

With a range of tenancy options, including flexible space for daily hire, creatives in the borough interested in space are encouraged to register interest.

In addition to Rochdale Borough Council and Rochdale Development Agency, Rochdale Creates Space is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, UK Shared Prosperity Funding, and the Cultural Development Fund administered by Arts Council England. Façade improvements were supported by Rochdale Town Centres’ Heritage Action Zone, funded by Rochdale Borough Council and Historic England.



Saturday 06 April 2024

Pioneer Egg-Hunt

This is a drop-in event and there will be a range of activities available today for children and families to enjoy.

Head up to the Learning Loft to try some of their Spring craft stations - these self-led activities will be suitable for a range of abilities, but they ask that all children please bring a responsible grown-up along to supervise.

On the ground floor, there will be hot and cold drinks available, plus perhaps a few biscuits or other tasty treats! (Free)

Finally, there will be an 'Egg Hunt' themed trail around the museum, where participants will follow clues left by the Baum Rabbit to try and find the Golden Egg.

Every completed trail will win a chocolatey prize. Ask at the front desk to take part.

This event is pay-as-you-feel, donations are welcomed but please don't let financial concerns stop you from letting your children take part.

Don't forget, you can also try dressing up, playing with their selection of toys from across the years or running your own grocers shop in the Museum!

Pay what you feel

Phone: Fanny Reiter 01706 524920

10.30am - 3.30am

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


Sunday 07 April 2024

HorrorWood - Heywood Horror Con

Heywood's first Horror themed convention!

HorrorWood is bringing horror themed stalls, live scare actors, a tattooist, authors and book signings, Q&A sessions, cosplayers, horror themed carnival games, hot food and drinks, sets, props and photo ops!

Plus, live demonstrations from a team of paranormal investigators, and a chance to learn how to play a horror-based RPG dice game.

A portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales will be donated to the nominated charity The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

£3.50 in advance or £5 on the door

Phone: Kim Goldie 07807 906828

10am - 5pm

Heywood Sports Village, West Starkey Street, Heywood OL10 4TW


Sunday 07 April 2024

Petrus Comedy Club event

Stand Up for Women!

A triple headline comedy show raising money for the women’s support services delivered by Petrus.

Petrus has been supporting those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness for more than 50 years in Rochdale. They have a dedicated safe space for women, providing support for women who are in contact with the criminal justice system, those at risk of offending or becoming a victim or those who are generally vulnerable and in need of support.

The afternoon features an all-female line up:

MC: Katie Mulgrew presents Allyson June Smith, Dawn Bailey and Jules O’Brian

Doors open at 1pm.

Please purchase your tickets on the link below.

Entry fee: £20 (+£2 booking fee)


Frog & Bucket, 102 Oldham Street, Manchester M4 1LJ


Tuesday 09 April 2024

Edwin Waugh Dialect Society

AGM at 7pm

Tonight's session is "A Neet wi' Sam Fitton o' Shay". ​Presented by Alyson Brailsford.

Sam Fitton originally worked in the local cotton mills, but he went on to make a living as a skilled illustrator & cartoonist, poet, dialect writer and performer.

A number of his verses - 'Eawr Sarah's Getten a Chap' and 'My Owd Case Clock' - became standards in the dialect repertoire.

​Fitton was also a marvellous mimic and comic entertainer. He was above all a Lancashire man with a Lancashire view of the world, or as one of his friends described him, 'a gradely man with a gradely sense of humour'.

In the Chair: John Pye

Edwin Waugh Dialect Society meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month (previously Wednesday) from October to June, commencing at 7.30pm at St Andrew's Methodist and United Reformed Church, Rochdale (between Rochdale Leisure Centre and Aldi). There is free onsite parking.

Annual subscription is £5, but voluntary donations at each meeting help defray the cost of the room hire. Your first meeting is free.

Formed in 1938 by a group of Lancashire Dialect enthusiasts, the objects of the society are the maintaining and increasing of interest in Lancashire.

At the meetings, members are entertained by a speaker or a performer.

Visit the link below for the full 2024 calendar.

Phone: 01706 826227

7.30pm start - 9pm

St Andrew's Methodist and United Reformed Church, Entwistle Road, Rochdale OL16 2HZ


Tuesday 09 April 2024

Rochdale & District Camera Club

Tonight is deadline for prints for exhibition and competition.

We meet every Tuesday at 8pm at Syke Methodist Church Hall.

You are more than welcome to come down to one of our club nights to see if you would enjoy joining the club.

Phone: Pete Williams 07967 969136


Syke Methodist Church Hall, Syke Road, Rochdale OL12 9TF


Wednesday 10 April 2024

Dinosaur Adventure Live – Trouble on Volcano Island

Dinosaur Adventure Live is back and even more ROARSOME!

Join our brave rangers for another action-packed Dinosaur Adventure in the all new and exciting show: Trouble on Volcano Island.

When the island's ancient volcano becomes active, it spells danger for everyone – including the dinosaurs! It's a race against time to help our rangers and favourite dinosaurs in this thrilling prehistoric expedition, to save Volcano Island from imminent disaster.

Meet the incredible Triceratops, the cheeky Spinosaurus, our cute baby dinos and the gigantic T-Rex as we follow in their huge footprints and journey across the island. We'll encounter wild new species of dinosaur and conquer exhilarating challenges at every turn!

This amazing, immersive and interactive show is guaranteed to be an unforgettable adventure for the whole family. Remember to join us after the show for a free photo opportunity and meet the dinos!

To book your tickets please visit the link below or call the Box Office on 0300 303 8633.

Tickets from £15

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 

2pm & 4.30pm

Middleton Arena, LCpl Joel Halliwell VC Way, Middleton M24 1AG


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


284 views0 comments


bottom of page