Rochdale And Lanzarote, similar in shape, size, and style !

Rochdale And Lanzarote


by Norman Warwick

The town centre came alive with music and dancing last month when more than 2,000 people gathered for the Second Annual Rochdale Folk Festival. The three day event included individual and collaborative performances in all sorts of disciplines including Circus Acts to singing and dancing with even the business sector represented and involved.  Local training provider, Skylight Circus Arts, (left) was heavily involvcd, as were Rochdale´s music service youth folk group, That´s All Folks.

I  have extremely fond memories of introducing a line-up of this group as long as ten years ago at a Christmas event at the lovely Visitor´s Centre at Hollingworth Lake.. They were young. vibrant, thrillingly not risk-averse and patently loved their music. I have heard constantly rave reviews ever since.

There was something for everyone to enjoy at the Second Annual Rochdale Folk Festival and all the participants will have been gladdened by the remarks of one visitor, Lynne Percival, who said,

´We´ve had three wonderful days and want to say thank you. What a wonderful array of local and trans-atlantic acts. We have especially enjoyed the evergreen, energetic, age-defying Alistair Anderson, Willie Carlisle (who told us stories of his home in the Ozarks, and taught some of us how to square-dance), Mama´s Broke, Hebble and Drop The Floor´.

The event kicked off on the evening of Friday June 10th with live music taking place at venues like The Flying Horse (home of the Pegesus Poets, reported on these pages many times), Hoochi Koochi, an outdoor stage at The Medicine Tap and a folk session in The Baum.

Byrony Griffith and Alice Jones had their audience up and dancing, and on Saturday June 11th, local morris dance team Oakenhoof, entertained town centre audiences, alongside five other teams.

Skylight Circus Arts, who are a force of nature and totally tireless, specially created a new show called Spark, designed to perfectly illustrate that anyone can have a go at learning circus skills.´ I have vivid memories of working in multi-discipline events with Skylight Circus when their artists interpreted the descriptive verses of members of The Touchstones Creative Writing Group and Skylight member the young Mr. Shuttleworth an incredible cinematic backdrop to it all. Rochdale felt then, and obviously still feels now, truly blessed to have identified and nurtured and been so well rewarded by this very talented pool..

Meanwhile music events continued at Touchstones and Vocola Del Vino.

the following day included a very special performance by That´s All Folks when some of their alumni, writing under the dialect pun of That´s Auld Folks, part of the first ever group, who joined the class of 2022 for a live performance

This saw the brilliant Harp And Monkey, The Lancashire Society, including, I think, Michael Higgins an expert and trusted correspondent to these pages, as well as   Rochdale´s own Becky Lanagan accompanied by the ever-smiling Richard Moss bringing the festival to a triumphant close at The Flying Horse.

The Festival had proven another sure footed step in the journey shared by English Folk Expo and The Alliance Of Kashmiri Arts, a partnership which aims to celebrate the traditions of both English and Kashmire music.

Tom Besford, Chief Executive of  English Folk Expo, (right) said,

¨We were absolutely delighted to present so many amazing performers across our beautiful town centre  as part of the Second Annual Rochdale Folk Festival. The whole town was buzzing and we have already had some wonderful feedback.

There was something very special in seeing artists from around the world performing on our stages, whilst also being able to welcome the best of up-and-coming musicians.

We had live music, morris dancing, circus skills, family workshops, jamm sessions and much more, in a free event that was made possible by the support of Rochdale Town Centre Management and the local Rochdale Council´.

Unless my chronology is running off course, I seem to remember Tom Besford arriving in town pretty much as I was packing for what I still laughingly refer to as a ´retirement´.

I do remember being impressed by his passion, obvious love of the arts, his commitment to Rochdale and his eloquence on his subject matter.

Being able to place this review on my daily blog posted here on Lanzarote and know somehow finds it readers around the world from Tel Aviv to Timbukto and from Accrington to Y, Arizona gives me enormous pride and pleasure and I warmly congratulate Tom on the success of an event that has certainlky got us all talking.

As we have pointed out many times on these pages there is real correlation between Rochdale And Lanzarote: Similar indigenous population numbers, similar sizes in dimensions and square miles a distinct shared love of the arts, There are comparisons to be drawn between Skylight Circus Arts and the Circus Festival held here in Haria every year, and the support structure between Rochdale Music Services and That´s All Folks is similar to that we explained recently between the Music Academy over here and its graduating students.

Indeed, even as the Second Annual Rochdale Folk Festival has packed its bags and gone away to grow up into the Third Annual Rochdale Folk Festival 2023 news on the street is already of more opportunities for local musicians.

Steve Cooke has informed readers of his excellent all across the arts pages in The Rochdale Observer pages of the Manchester Evening News Media Group that English Folk Expo is inviting applications from musicians for two great opportunities: The Artist Mentoring Programme and the Global Music Match.

The English Expo Arts mentoring programme has been running since 2018 and equips emerging folk roots and acoustic musicians with the skills, networks and experience to help them build sustainable musical careers. Over a telve month course the intensive porograme is designed to support the early career paths of young musicians seeking to ´de-cloak´ the international music industry and develop their professional network and profile.

This programme ios aimed at musicians on a very early stage of their career path. However, for those a little further down the sidetracks and detours there is similar advice available at

or search artist mentoring programmes

Global music match is aimed at early to mid-stage musical artists, and is recommended for acts who are starting to explore and embrace an international career. Participants will develop their social media skill sets, learn about new markets, interact with new audiences, create new and engaging material content and will be encouraged to work together to create musical collaborations on a global scale with out incurring the rising costs of interattional travel.

Artists have until Friday 29th July to apply.

The kind of joined up, grown up interactions between enterprises such as English Folk Expo (represented by Tom Besford) and  dedicated media services such as all across the arts (as represented by Steve Cook) , my own sites here at Sidetracks And Detours and Lanzarote Information, Steve Bewick at Hot Biscuits and Larry Yaskiel, who so generously shares a wonderful generosity of spirit with his readers and colleagues at Lancelot, can surely deliver the strong support network that will enable artists to focus on their creativity,….to the benefit of all of us and society in general.

In fact, Mr. Cooke treads heavy footprints all across the arts for the rest of us to follow. He is a prime example of how effective networking saves time, cost and energy, and a look at his current all across the arts round up in the glossy Style magazine(a newish venture, this dor Steve) will help he and and Ruth (who has taken over the editorship of the magazine from her father Colin Meredith) deliver news ever more widely. 

If you follow the link below

you will see how Steve focuses a little bit more narrowly on town centre arts events, whereas in his newspaper column he delivers news, interviews, previews and reviews of artists appearing throughout the Borough. In the current edition of Style, Steve looks closely at the work of Viktoria Whittaker, a Rochdale based pen-artist who loves to tell stories through striking paper illustrations and huge wall murals. This though allows Steve to offer broader descriptions of, for example, visual arts exhibition in town centre venues such as The Co-Operative Hub on Drake Street, Gregory Couzens Hair Studio, Bombay Brew, The Duke of Wellington Mural and Vik´s very latest work, showing at the entrance to The Exchange Shopping Centre.

Steve also points us in the direction of where the jewellery is ! This is a collection being shown at Touchstones Arts And Heritage Centre, created by feminist artist designer Liz Collins and curated Julia Bryan-Wilson.

The exhibition, titled with a certain self-awareness, perhaps, as Mischief,  traces not only the breadth of the artist´s career but also the threads, unbroken, that have run through her career to date.

Steve also inserts a note about The Friends Of Rochdale Art Gallery but reading that has brought me to instant mortification. I was invited to speak to that group fifteen or so years ago by its then treasurer, a lovely lady who was well thought of by everyone who worked in or around Touchstones. I feared I might be unable to offer a topic sufficiently sophisticated for a group of people who were art-sophisticats. However, she allowed me to give a talk that would compare and contrast the creating of a painting and the writing of a poem. I learned so much on researching my talk,… art forms all across the spectrums use the same building blocks, …. and giving that talk and discussing questions at its end was one of the most fulfilling events of my life.

And now I can´t remember the name of that softly-spoken lady who was such a ready volunteer to spread wider cultural awareness around Rochdale.

The Friends Of Touchstones have been given a glimpse of how the Touchstgones Gallery is to adapt its viewing options over the next few years and make even better use of the splendid space available. No doubt Steve Cooke will expand on all that over the coming editions of Style.

News from Rcohdale includes new listings of The Toad Lane Concerts which take place in the church of St. Mary In The Baum, pretty much slap-bang in the middle of town. Perhaps somewhat irreverently I used to refer to the series as The Classics On The Cobbles, but in fact that were the very epitome of refinement. Often curated and hosted, and reviewed, by Dr. Joe Dawson,  one of at least two classical music buffs in the Borough, aloing with Graham Marshall, The Toad Lane Concerts were lunch-time escapes from the queues at Gregg´s.

As always, Steve offers detailed listings and passes on Dr. Joe´s invitation to readers to turn up and sing The Messiah in the church on 30th July.

The Rochdale Feelgood Festival is still alive and kicking, and stepping out again after a two year hiatus induced by covid. The Fratellis will ensure the festival returns with all its old energy.

I am reminded by Steve´s page in Style that it was in 2009 with the fantastic help of Val Chapman I established Touchstones Creative Writing Group. He says in his piece that the group now has 180 members and is the largest of its kind in the Rochdale Borough and they still retain their Pulling Threads performance group, that has enjoyed many notable moments over the years.

During the twelve month or so post-lockdown, Touchstones Creative Writing Group has made enormous strides with publications of members´ works and with the performances of its Pulling Threads creations. They have published A Diamond Co-Operative, an anthology of prose and poetry created by the members.

From 2014 to 2017 TCWG Pulling Threads took part in the World War One commemorations by producing poetry for performance at The Rochdale Literature And ideas Festival.

Their performance of The Mask Of Anarchy, commemorating dreadful historic events at Peterloo, was also filmed and subsequently shown at The Literature And Ideas Festival, too.

The group is currently rehearsing their creation of the new Steampunk Production for performance at Castleton Literary And Scientific Society in September and for the U3A at The Coach House in Littleborough.

The group has also made an audio recording with the Vibecast team.

Meanwhile the Touchstones Creative Writing Group continues to welcome new members to their meetings on the first Monday of each month held at Touchstones Arts And Heritage Centre, with the friendly and informal workshops running from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm

The biggest of the Borough´s creative writing groups they may well be but a Venn diagram would reveal that that there are many aspirant and established writers in Rochdale who are members of several of the town´s groups, such as Falinge Writers and Langley Writers. Such members can enjoy and benefit from the top class facilitators who advise the groups on techniques and attitudes.

Seamus Kelly, James Nash, Eileen Earnshaw and several other fcilitators keep coming up with new idea-generating triggers.

for further information check out www.touchstonescreativewritinggroup

On air sign background

Monster fm Radio will be broadcasting all across Europe as usual from Lanzarote on 99.9 fm tonight when Sidetracks And Detours will be the subject of The Aileen Hendry programme, The Perfect Storm at 5.00 pm on Monday 11th July 2022.

Aileen will interview Norman Warwick about his life as a poet, novelist, journalist and editor over the past fifty years and will invite him to speak of his work in the folk clubs of the UK and as a peripatetic educator and facilitator. Norman will also talk about his work as a radio presenter on Radio Cavell and Crescent Radio and as a guest on several BBC local radio stations and commercial radio outlets.

Eyez – @eiranbailey

.The playlist for the programme will include The Kingston Trio, The Beatles, The Monkees, The Byrds, Tom Paxton, Cat Stevens, Townes van Zandt, Gary Hall And The Stormkeepers, John Stewart and Lendanear.

Monster fm Radio broadcasts out of their offices on the Main Street in Tias, and Aileen (left) is one of their most popular presenters.

¨Stormin´ Norman´ will speak of how he has continued his work as music journalist even after ´retiring´ to Lanzarote from the UK seven years ago. He will be proud to talk of Rochdale´s recently very successful folk festival and the plethora of great community artists working all across the arts in the Borough, as mentioned above along today´s Sidetracks & detours

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