Oldham at the end of the line from Bury, Bolton and JM Barrie


National Portfolio Organisations are leaders in their areas, with a collective responsibility to protect and develop our national arts and cultural ecology. Public investment brings public accountability, for us and for the organisations we invest in, and this is reflected in our expectations. Funding application forms for NPO’s projects are accepted all year round. However, the organization must have registered with the Directorate of Non-Profit Organisations which provides an online form that can be filled in. The registration process can be quickly done online. There are, however, doubts about the sustainability of such schemes.

on receiving news of Oldham Coliseum from Steve Cooke

As you will have no doubt heard, said Steve Cooke (left) ,to his all across the arts readers a few days ago,the Oldham Coliseum is in the midst of a very challenging situation. Having lost a third of its income with the loss of Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation  funding it  is proposed that the doors will close at the end of March

I hadn´t heard, and found the news deeply disappointing, not least because of the joyful memories so many thousands of people from across the North West of England have of visiting the Coliseum. I was amolng those

It is not yet certain that the Coliseum will close forever as options for a way forward are explored. In the meantime, there is still a great range of shows coming to this historic stage.

The Coliseum is not just the historic building so many have come to love, it’s the company that runs it and the people who fill its halls with memories. The best way that we can support the Coliseum is to go and spend an evening for one of the remaining events running until the end of March. You can read all about what’s coming up below.

Tuesday, March 14 – Saturday, March 18  – Noughts and Crosses By Malorie Blackman

Tickets £7 – £22.50

This gripping Romeo and Juliet story by acclaimed writer Malorie Blackman and adapted by Sabrina Mahfouz is a captivating drama of love, revolution and what it means to grow up in a divided world.

Thursday, March 23 – Saturday, March 26 – How Not To Drown By Nicola McCartney and Dritan Kastrati

Tickets £7 – £20

Award-winning theatre company ThickSkin return to the stage with an action-packed, highly visual production telling the painful yet uplifting true story of an eleven year-old unaccompanied asylum-seeker.

Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Fairbottom Street, Oldham, Greater Manchester, OL1 3SW

To book, visit Oldham Coliseum website here.

Phone: 0161 624 2829


wonders Norman Warwick

That was disappointing and worrying news to hear from Steve Cooke, so I dipped into the theatre´s web site to see how the venue and management might be responding. The comments held on line certainbly sound fairly hopeless.

Following the news on 4 November 2022 that Oldham Coliseum will no longer be part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from 1 April 2023, the Board of Trustees and Senior Leadership Team have been working hard to find a solution to this reduction in funding. However, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the running of a full-time theatre. It is with great regret therefore that we announce that we have entered into a consultation period with all staff and it is proposed that Oldham Coliseum Theatre will close its doors on Friday 31 March 2023.

The Coliseum is working with Arts Council England and Oldham Council to ensure a smooth transition period for the company, including funding to enable support for our workforce and honouring commitments to artists.

The Coliseum has been at the heart of theatre in Oldham for over 100 years, with a highly regarded history in the industry dating back to the Oldham Rep which launched the careers of many famous faces. Many of the Coliseum’s staff have lived in Oldham all their lives and worked with the company for over a decade. They are the priority for the company at this time.

All events at the Coliseum until Sunday 26 March will go ahead as planned. Ticket holders for all other events will be refunded over the coming weeks. If you have paid for tickets using a debit or credit card this will be refunded directly onto your card. If you have paid for tickets using cash the Box Office team will be in touch to arrange an alternate refund method. Any donations made to the theatre when booking tickets for cancelled events and Our Coliseum members whose memberships are due to expire after 26 March will also be refunded. The Coliseum asks audiences to be patient whilst staff work through each transaction manually.

The Coliseum would like to thank its audiences, participants, sponsors, partners, funders, patrons, industry colleagues and friends for their support over many years.

So I took a metaphorical flight over a regional art-trail I used to know very well, to seek news of other art posts between Oldham and Bolton.

I looked in at Edwin Waugh Dialect Society in Rochdale and learned they are holding their Annual Suppering-Do: Edwin Waugh’s Birthday Celebration and Trophy Presentation Evening tomorrow, Tuesday March 14th.

Edwin Waugh Dialect Society meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month (previously Wednesday) from October to June. 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.

Time: 7.30pm start – 9pm

Phone: 01706 826227

Information: Visit the website here

Address: St Andrew’s Methodist and United Reformed Church, Entwistle Road, Rochdale OL16 2HZ

Just around the corner, a long established series of classical concerts is not only surviving in these hard times, but is actually thriving. Steve still reports on these events in his column, I remember gathering their details into the all across the arts listing Steve Cooke, Robin Parker and I compiled together for The Rochdale Observer until eight years ago, when I ´retired´´ here to Lanzarote leaving Steve to gather around him a great team to help fight the good fight for the arts offer in the area.

Toad Lance Concerts Rochdale

Wednesday, March 15

Toad Lane Concerts – Rochdale’s Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week brings Imogen Garner soprano and John Gough piano.

The concert series has been held at St Mary’s (right) 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.

Cost: £6

Time: Doors open 12 noon, concert starts 12.30pm – 1.30pm

Phone: Dr Joe Dawson 01706 648872

Address: St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane/St Mary’s Gate, Rochdale OL16 1DZ

On my flight-of-fancy, imaginary journey I even stumbled upon news  of  a local brass band celebrating after winning big at the North West Regional Championships.

Wardle Anderson Brass Band competed in the First Section of the North West Regional Championships at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and were named the ‘stand-out winners’ by judges.

It means the band, (with some of their trophy winners shown left) will now represent the North West in the National Finals in Cheltenham in September.

The band is made up of 25 brass players and five percussionists and they play traditional brass band music and contest pieces.

Band member Becky Whitehead said: “For the recent contest, our conductor Brad McCulloch and the band worked extremely hard for two months solid with many, many hours of rehearsals.

“We competed against 16 other top class bands in the 1st section at the opera house at Blackpool Winter Gardens, and came away with best trombones and first place, with the adjudicators staying we were stand out winners.

“It was absolutely amazing to win after so much time and hard work had been put into perfecting our performance.

“The band are now thrilled to be going to the national finals in Cheltenham in September representing the North West. It’s huge and will be an amazing experience.”

The band was formed in the 1990s, consisting of players from the Wardle Academy Youth Band who, at 19, became too old to play in youth band competitions.

The Wardle Anderson name originated from a former Headteacher of Wardle Academy (previously Wardle High School), William Anderson, after he died in 1996.

William enabled hundreds of children to learn a brass instrument and the band wouldn’t have existed without him.

Becky added: “We’re all the bestest of friends in the band (right) and it’s great that a hobby can turn into such a big part of people’s lives.

“We regularly perform for the community at local churches and events, it’s great to be able to bring something to the local community.

“The band also recently did some filming for a TV show which will hopefully make it onto the screens this year! It’s great to be given these opportunities.”

Whilst i was metaphorically in the Rochdale area, I caught up with our occasional jazz correspondent, Steve Bewick, presenter of the Hot Biscuits jazz mix-cloud programmes

We are taking a break this week from producing the weekly jazz broadcast, Hot Biscuits, as we´re going on a week´s walking holiday with friends´, Steve told Sidetracks And Detours,´It would be really helpful, though, if you could let your readers know that we are looking for a volunteer to join us in the production of the show. They would need to have an interest in jazz in its various forms, as well as an interest in researching jazz and commenting on the music. Experience of the software used to record and build files to slot into the broadcasts would also be helpful. Training and support will be available

All anyone needs to do is contact Steve on messenger. So now we have put the message out there Steve can get back to relaxing. Hot Biscuits archives are available at

Strangely enough, Steve´s request for a volunteer from a similar request we published recently from the Jazz in Reading. I hadn´t enough petrol in my flying carpet to travel that far down the motorway, but i am happy to place their request again at this appropriate juncture.

¨As you may be aware´, Jim Wade had told me a few days earlier, ´both Jazz in Reading and the Progress Theatre are staffed 100% by volunteers.

As well as the regulars who fill most of the duties, the Progress Theatre maintains a list of people who have kindly offered to help out from time to time with various duties – helping to keep the audience safe, answering queries, selling programmes, coffee and tea etc.

This valuable assistance applies not only to our jazz gigs but also to the Theatre’s own productions.

We’d like to be able to add a few more names to the occasional volunteer list; if any of your readers of Sidetracks And Detours might be interested in helping from time to time, they should email Stuart McCubbin who will explain the various roles – some of which have the added benefit of allowing you to enjoy the show free of charge!¨

Not wanting to leave a massive carbon footprint I slipped my magic carpet into gear ride and floated over to my old home town of Heywood, where I learned at the local Phoenix Brewery that one of its brews is being supped by the great and good (?) down in London.

A beer brewed by the  Heywood brewery is now on tap in the House of Commons bar.

Visitors to Strangers’ Bar in Parliament will be able to order Phoenix Brewery’s Arizona beer after Heywood and Middleton MP Chris Clarkson (shown left) chose one of his favourites. Steve Parker (also shown) from the brewery travelled down to Westminster with members of his team to pull a pint and celebrate the achievement.

Phoenix Brewery (right), which is based on Green Lane in Heywood, is one of a number of guest beers from constituencies up and down the country which feature in the bar throughout the year.

Steve Parker from the brewery travelled down to Westminster with members of his team to pull a pint and celebrate the achievement.

Mr Clarkson said: “We are very lucky to have some fantastic local breweries in the constituency.

“It’s a pleasure to showcase one of Heywood and Middleton’s finest in Parliament and great to see it’s been a big hit with the regulars in Strangers.”

It was then a quick drive to Bury, to a venue where I was often an audience member and occasionally a performer in my capacity as a creative writing facilitator and poetry slammer. I also ran Sunday poetry evenings at Bury Met for several years.

The Bury Met (left) is a performing arts venue in Bury, Greater Manchester, England. It consists of two theatre spaces, as well as the Edwin Street recording studio. There is also a café bar that provides refreshments. The centre is operated by Bury Metropolitan Arts Association, a registered charity. The musical, Legally Blond, is showing there from Wednesday 15tgh March 2023 to Saturday 18th.

Elle Woods appears to have it all. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend Warner Huntington III dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle ingeniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. …

MCR It was cheering to see this lovely old Victorian (on the outside, modern on the inside) with a lengthy list of forthcoming events. so it might be worth subscribing to the I Love Manchester sites, or checking your Bury Times, or simply getting yourself established on the Met mail out list

There was one other venue I wanted to check out , so I smoothed out my magic carpet gain and prepared for take off. I flew over Ainsworth and into Bolton, to a theatre that, like the Coliseum in Oldham, is long established but seems at the moment to be enjoying a higher trajectory,  somehow surviving recession and raging inflation.

Bolton Octagon

The Octagon Theatre (right) has enjoyed a great start to the year, with a recent production of Spring and Port Wine. In fact theatre critics like Glenn Meads say the Octagon theatre is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment

Following a successful first half of their season, their musical adaptation of The Book Thief was not only loved by critics and audiences in Bolton, but is now headed to Coventry and Leicester. That was followed by Bill Naughton’s Spring and Port Wine which closed on March 4th having drawn rave reviews.

Mr. Meads wrote that the production almost felt like a thank you for local audiences who have supported this reliable theatre through the thick and thin of the rollercoaster ride of the last few years.

This warm hearted and perceptive family drama is set in Bolton in the 1960s and change is coming, just don’t tell dad (played with a real sense of order by the brilliant Les Dennis, (centre left) )  – the head of the Compton household.

His wife Daisy (Mina Anwar) spends her days fretting, trying to balance the books and faking it until she tries to make it, loaning a few bob here and borrowing a few bob more there. She also tries to keep all of the drama within the house, as the net curtains in her road always have someone behind them, desperate for a bit of gossip. Her time is filled with trying to protect her three adult children who are not all happy about Dad’s rules, whilst keeping the peace with the stubborn old ox.

Spring And Port Wine cast, Octagon Theatre 2023

Les Dennis(shown centre right with cast) captures Dad’s way of the world, this house is his kingdom.

What he says goes and he has a monologue ready to fire back at his kids – complete with rhetorical questions, which leave his clan with nowhere to go until…. he leaves the room, that is. Then they conspire and complain. Florence (Monica Sagar) is loyal and sticks up for him and appreciates that he is doing what’s best for them all but she is met with resistance, particularly from Hilda (Natalie Blair) who has the same personality traits as her dad.

Wilfred (Gabriel Clark) is an agreeable lad but even he is beginning to buckle under the pressure of living up to his father’s high standards, hiding his copy of the News of the World, every time he hears him enter the room. Harold (Charlie Ryan) is the older rebel, who has the humour to wow the younger members of the family and get them to join him in his quest to fight back against his pa.

And Florence’s boyfriend Arthur (Adam Fenton) witnesses all of this and dares to speak out against Rafe’s old fashioned ways, which he rightfully sees as destructive. Meanwhile nosy neighbour Betsy-Jayne (Isabel Ford) is always trying to cadge cash from here, there and everywhere which starts off a chain of events.

Bill Naughton has essentially written a kitchen sink drama which has farcical elements, dark comedy and high drama. It is one of those plays that seeks resolution following one key moment, so that the audience go home happy and some may find the conclusions too neat and pat. But Lottie Wakeham’s production celebrates that feeling of ‘wait until your father comes home’ with genuine hilarity and warmth.

There were many reasons to like The Octagon´s lively and finely tuned production. One of them was the performances. Every member of the cast was so is in synch with the other that audiences totally bought that this is a family. Their mannerisms and child-like reactions surely reminded many in the audience of their own households, as some of the situations that take place are still familiar.

Les Dennis and Mina Anwar have beautiful chemistry, and they gace off a sense of a life lived to the best of their abilities. Natalie Blair makes her professional stage debut but you would not know it as she is so completely at home and in control as Hilda, the herring dodger.

Gabriel Clark was also great as Wilfred, who has a naïve way about him but a strong sense of loyalty to his siblings and his parents, not wanting to rock the boat. Charlie Ryan followed what he had done at the recent Oldham Coliseum panto Robin Hood, in conveying excellent comic timing, landing his humour, right at his co-stars feet for them to pick up and run with.

Monica Sagar ´was also making her stage debut and again, is completely natural as the only one with complete loyalty towards her dad. Adam Fenton’s Arthur conveyed change incredibly well, as the tide turns and the family embrace that, standing up for themselves and others.

Isabel Ford was Betsy-Jayne – the neighbour from hell, complete with Hilda Ogden style garb and she embraceds the farcical elements and worked in synchronisation with Mina Anwar and they made a great double act, and the laughs came thick and fast.

Katie Scott’s set and costumes were filled with eye catching and intricate detail and a sense of familiarity to those who have lived this life. I loved the furry tortoise foot stall/pouffe, as my nan had one and it took me right back to her house and the memories that came with it.

Spring and Port Wine has some situations which many in the audience perhaps found out-dated given that some of the behaviour is controlling and might be thought to  not sit well with how far we have moved on, in terms of gender roles.

So, although it is far from a museum piece, it celebrates the fact that whatever our differences may be, we can seek resolutions by listening to each other, instead of simply blocking or shouting. And that is a great message for the here and now.

The Octagon are continuing their Spring/Summer  season with Quality Street from the writer of Peter Pan.

J.M. Barrie’s acclaimed regency comedy, Quality Street (left) Northern Broadsides and New Vic Theatre production comes to Bolton Octagon this April.

.The acclaimed original run in 2020 was cut short by the pandemic and has now been revived. J.M. Barrie’s romantic comedy was such a sensation in its day that it gave its name to the UK’s most loved chocolates: Quality Street.

The show was created with a team of retired workers from the Halifax factory where Quality Street™ chocolates have been proudly made since 1936, wrapping the action in their witty and outrageous observations. The lead, Phoebe Throssel, this time will be played by Paula Lane, who will be familiar to audiences for her six years in Coronation Street as Kylie Platt, as well as her work in Call The Midwife, Father Brown, and Kinky Boots.

Phoebe Throssel runs a school for unruly children on Quality Street. Ten years after a tearful goodbye, her old flame returns from fighting Napoleon.

But the look of disappointment on Captain Valentine’s face when he greets an older, less glamorous Phoebe spurs the determined heroine to action, becoming the wild and sparkling Miss Livvy, a younger alter- ego.

Tuesday, April 25 – Saturday, May 6

Information: Visit the Bolton Octagon website here.

Phone: 01204 520661.

Taking this imaginary journey has led me along the back roads, by the rivers of my memory, with Rochdale ever gentle on my mind, and encouraged me to subscribe to the I Love Manchester (left) newsletter. The arts scene of Oldham, Rochdale, Bury and Bolton seems, in fact, healthier than when I left it, notwithstanding the sadness about the Oldham Coliseum. The area could have no stronger and has working champions Steve Cooke and all his cookies, producing so much positivity all across the arts from behind the scenes.

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