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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke




I am looking forward to reviewing the Manchester International Festival 2023 [MIF23] with a special focus on the performances of Angelique Kidjo, Afrodeutsche, John Grant and Alison Goldfrapp.

Over the past four decades, ANGELIQUE KIDJO has cemented her status as one of the most extraordinary voices in international music. With four Grammy Awards under her belt, she’s known for her eclectic sound and endless creative spirit combining Beninese and West African music with Afrobeat, Afro-pop, dancehall, hip-hop and alt-R&B.

No stranger to MIF, Angélique explored community and the strength and resilience of women in her native Beninin with her short film Eve(s), as part of our Postcards From Now series.

Her show at MIF23 is her first in Manchester for ten years and, in the true spirit of collaboration, she’ll invite some of the best emerging talent from the city to join her as she takes to the stage.


Acclaimed conductor and composer Robert Ames teams up with two icons of Manchester’ s cutting-edge music scene: the world-renowned Manchester Camerata and polymath DJ, composer, and producer AFRODEUTSCHE.

UNQUIET is a progressive new live experience created by Robert Ames in collaboration with Manchester Camerata. For MIF23, they premier a brand-new piece composed by AFRODEUTSCHE specially for the Festival.

Merging contemporary classical, techno, house, and electro, AFRODEUTSCHE is no stranger to pushing boundaries. As a DJ, she commands crowds from Berghain to Dimensions, while hosting shows on BBC Radio 6 Music and NTS. As a composer and producer, her works blend a range of genres.

Her latest work is performed by Manchester Camerata–one of the UK’s most adventurous orchestras. Whether it’s opening Glastonbury Festival or making music in care homes, Manchester Camerata reimagines the chamber orchestra for the modern age. This is the second piece AFRODEUTSCHE has composed for them–the first, He Sings Over Me, premiered at the Southbank Centre in London as part of the PRSF New Music Biennial.

For MIF23, this new composition is brought to life by internationally renowned conductor Robert Ames–who’s known for championing new music and working with some of the most exciting artists around today


Two of the best live artists around come together in celebration of the legendary country star Singer Patsy Cline paved the way for a thousand imitations – bridging pop and country with her unforgettable voice and star quality before her life was tragically cut short.

For MIF23, a pair of modern-day icons take on her repertoire for the very first time: John Grant and Richard Hawley. Known for his searing wit, tenderness and commanding stage presence, singer-songwriter John Grant lends his commanding vocals to proceedings, while Richard Hawley and his band–often considered one of the best live acts in the UK–bring their sumptuous live sound.

Drawing from a songbook full of classics like Walkin’ After Midnight and Crazy, you’ll hear the crème de la crème of country pop from some of the finest performers around. With songs spanning romance, heartbreak, and drama–with a good dollop of joy–this is set to be a real sonic and visual feast. Cowboy boots optional.

John Grant says “Very excited to be playing MIF as Manchester is the home of Piccadilly Records and many of the folks I work with. I’m doubly excited to be singing the songs of Patsy Cline whose music and voice I’ve been a big fan of since the mid-80s when the movie Sweet Dreams came out. I’ve been singing those songs ever since and now I get to do that with one of my favourite singers and musicians, the incredible Richard Hawley, and his spectacular band. And I get to do all this in Manchester, one of the all-time great homes of music.”

ALISON GOLDFRAPP is a magnetic songwriter, vocalist, performer, and producer who set the bar for synth-pop in the twenty-first century. Never shy of innovation, she returns to MIF with her iconic modern sound.

Her seven albums with Goldfrapp were fuelled by a sixth sense for sounds more timeless than any trend. Starting out in 1999, Goldfrapp’s debut album was nominated for a Mercury Prize, and over their career they produced chart-topping singles and garnered huge critical acclaim – winning an Ivor Novello and receiving multiple Grammy and BRIT nominations.

Fast forward to the present day and recent solo work with Röyksopp and Claptone tease her signature dreamy vocals and infectious sound. Fever – her latest release, a club collaboration with house legend Paul Woolford – is a sweat-inducing future club classic made for the dancefloor. These tracks are just a taste of what’s to come.

If you attend any MIF23 events and would like to share your thoughts in our column, contact me on and visit;


UPDATE By Steve Cooke

I recently caught up with Ray Stearn the Chair of Touchstones Creative writing group to get an update.

‘With the shadow of Covid still not quite departed it seems a good time to take stock of what was formerly known as Touchstones Creative Writing Group. The pandemic nearly saw us off, but we survived by offering workshops via Zoom. These were popular, so popular some members of the group wanted to continue with them after lockdown finished but we found we were not blessed with any members so up with the technology that we could offer a live workshop simultaneously with a Zoom broadcast.’

‘Then we discovered that although Touchstones supported us by providing a room to hold our workshops in, we soon discovered that the echo in the cathedral- like gallery held too much echo to hear our speakers speak. So we searched for a new venue and didn’t have to look far. The Medicine Tap was glad to have us and the small numbers attending regularly after lockdown used the room well. Hindsight is a wonderful gift and with the imminent closure of Touchstones for refurbishment we would have been looking for new premises anyway.’

‘The move along the road meant that we had to find a new name for the group, so Writers On Tap (WOT) was born.’

‘We have been successfully meeting there now for well over a year and enjoy the benefits of refreshments being readily available to purchase, from soft drinks through coffee and tea to something a little stronger if needed.’

‘The format has remained the same, each month one of our pool of facilitators presents a workshop. Currently we choose from Seamus Kelly, Doctor Jennie Baillie Gaia Holmes and me, Ray Stearn. So we have changed the line up a little and find it works very well. All of our facilitators are published authors or poets and in Gaia we have an award-winning poet as well. Some members have also asked about sessions on editing or getting published and we have at least four published authors and poets within the group that could provide this.’

‘We have also continued to reach out to the community with “Pulling Threads” which aims to take a travelling piece to clubs and societies in the locality. The Castleton Literary and Scientific Society have been long time supporters of Pulling Threads, but this season have been joined by U3A at Littleborough and the Norden Historical Society and our current touring piece is Behind Closed Doors.’

‘So why not try us, everyone is welcome, and we meet at The Medicine Tap in the centre of Rochdale on the first Thursday of the month between two and four. The benefit of meeting there is that The Medicine Tap also provides excellent food, so why not come early, and have lunch before writing or stay on after our writing session and have tea.’


Saturday 08 July

Riverside Artisan Market

Running on the second Saturday of every month, the successful Riverside Artisan Market returns again to Rochdale Riverside this weekend.

A big thankyou to all our customers for helping us to grow this market every month.

A warm welcome is waiting from over 20 small independent businesses who grow, rear, make or bake what you see. All different, all quality and made by the people you speak to.

From artisan meats to hand made fudge and glass creations.

From room sprays, wax melts, handmade soaps, and quirky gift ideas

From preserves, chutneys, oils and vinegars to delicious savoury pies, sweet treats and fresh fruit and veg and so much more.

Come say hi, let us know what you think and while you’re here check out the great Rochdale Riverside and the other lovely places Rochdale Town Centre has to offer.


10am - 4pm

Riverside Retail & Leisure Complex, Riverside Walk, Rochdale OL16 1TR

On until Sunday 09 July

Gallery Exhibitions: Breakaway Art Group - Watercolours

Breakaway Art Group - Watercolours

*Gallery Slot (Victoria Room) Available for this period*

Most items on display are available to purchase.


Phone: Littleborough Coach House 01706 378481


10am - 3pm

Littleborough Coach House, Lodge Street, Littleborough OL15 9AE

Sunday 09 July

A Night at The Oscars

Dance School and College End of Year Show, celebrating 20 years of Centre Pointe Performing Arts.

2 Acts – 1st act is a full ballet; 2nd act is a mixture of dance numbers.

Tickets from £14

Phone: Middleton Arena 0300 303 8633 


12.30pm and 5pm

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

Wednesday 12 July

Wednesday Art Group

The weekly Art Club will regularly explore a variety of topics using collage, drawing, painting, and mixed media drawing from Touchstones Rochdale’s current exhibitions and the borough’s collections. All materials will be provided.

The sessions are designed to reduce stress, build confidence, and meet others through creativity.

Creative Health and Well Being Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation based in Rochdale. They run art sessions that are informal and relaxed whilst ensuring the topics are informative and help participants to build skills.




Touchstones Gallery Rochdale, The Esplanade, Rochdale OL16 1AQ

Wednesday 12 July

Visit Rochdale Parish Church of St Chad - Church Watch

As part of Church Watch 2023, the historic Grade 2* listed Parish Church of St Chad will be open every Wednesday and Thursday 2pm – 4pm starting on 7 June until the Heritage weekend on Friday 8, Saturday 9, and Sunday 10 September.

There has been a church on this site since 1194 and offers visitors much to see.

You’ll find the church at Top o’ th’ Steps behind the Town Hall, and they hope that stepping into the past for a moment will refresh you in the present and also inspire you for the future.


Phone: Graham Knox 01706 642311


2pm - 4pm

St Chad's, Sparrow Hill, Rochdale OL16 1QT

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


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