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THE OTHER SIDE OF MIKE BENNETT

This is a new series of films covering known artists from a different angle produced by Grey Area Productions.

Today TreTre did her first in a series of People You Might Know for One Thing, But Not Necessarily for Another. The first of this exciting 2 hour series explores the other career of writer, composer, producer Mike Bennett whose wide and diverse credits include Wishbone Ash, ELP, The Fall, Poly Styrene, The Specials, Neville Staple, Christine Sugary Staple and more. I caught up with Mike after grilling him for 2 hours today about his other side…. he was not expecting the questions I asked him. Initially flummoxed by the questions he was being asked, he held his ground and we ended up having great fun as the banter naturally enveloped into a conversation that revealed the other jobs he carries out in tandem with his work in music production. This is how our post show candid conversation went…

  1. How did you feel about doing a 2-hour interview about yourself with no stops and in one take?

 

  1. Well, I was mildly surprised to say the least how things went forward. I was led to believe I was doing an interview about the new Fuzzbox album we’ve done for Gonzo Multimedia and then you started asking me about my personal life, which I was up front about regarding my borstal days. I would like to take the opportunity to downgrade that to Approved School, I did not steal the car, I was just an unfortunate passenger, but I have to say at least you were gracious enough at the end of that tricky moment to acknowledge that my mild turbulent teenage behaviour for good grist for my poetry.

 

  1. Despite my lack of Fuzzbox questions you expected I managed to get to chat to you about your work writing for actors and comedians, you’ve written for Jim Bowen, Phil Cool, Frankie Howerd, Bobby Davro, Anita Harris… who have enjoyed writing for the most to date?

A Difficult question as usual, I was honoured to do the Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Rik Mayall, but I have to say I have just reimagined Aesop’s Fables for my favourite actress of all time, Anna Savva, who is the main reason I watch the period drama series The Durrells. I love the fact that you you’re working closely with Ian Hills because the Granada/ITV connection ties in with Anna Savva and The Durrells and although the connection is tenuous he made me feel easier as you were grilling me, and he was genuinely interested in my work with Anna in respect with my work with Aesop. During the pernicious pandemic pantomime, we have been creative on a daily basis taking a left field spin on Aesop who is a writer from six thousand years ago, whose is as relevant as it is today. Can we not talk just a little bit about the Fuzzbox album?

  1. Maybe later, what was Frankie Howerd like to work with? 

 

  1. He would have loved Fuzzbox, he was into all sorts of stuff, Pet Shop Boys, Motorhead and he did love Sinister Warts by The Fall…he was not as confident as you may imagine, but he was a kind and gifted man, after I did a play with Frank Skinner I was surprised and chuffed that he was a fan of The Fall as well.

 

  1. Not my bag as you know Mike, and as you know there’s a lot if your stuff I am not really into and I will never pull the wool over your eyes just to flatter your ego, which I have to say is rather healthy to put it politely, but I do like Pink Sunshine by Fuzzbox but my favourite version is the one you produced with Steve Etherington who I saw live with The Rubettes ft John, Mick and Steve! Your weird dub version is definitely not for me, it is the students that go to places like District in Manchester or hip students into Psyche music and all the subject’s genres that go with it.

 

  1. Steve Etherington gives every broadcast quality commercial aspect, he is the best! It would be a crap production model to work with the worst. Put a good team together and they will make you sound talented, I love spinning plates and I love throwing in a swerve ball and when I met him on the Shane McGowan sessions I never looked back, as I said in the interview, the artist’s job is to put the painting on the canvas, the production team, which incidentally includes Deborah Allen, who has helped me put the Polyfest stuff together in order to celebrate the life of the late, great Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, she’s meticulous when it comes to strategic but out of the box manoeuvres, she takes good counsel and listens to the often troublesome menagerie of colourful artists. With Steve Bowden, Friedbananaand Andy Chester on audio visuals, Leah Mckavanagh on administration because I cannot even tie up my own shoe laces, and the artists themselves all being brilliant gives me confidence to carry on melding my script writing endeavours with pop music, any genre will do if I get it! I have had to turn down amazing jobs because I knew there were people better than me for that artist.

 

Well you don’t appear to be falsely self-deprecating and I have to say your artistic policy appears to be sound and talking about sounds I’m going to include some sounds from your recent work on the slightly seedy film you have made, Laundry Matt, which is finally coming out after 2 years which you amazingly claim you made on a budget of 15p!

 

Just some of the artists and songs to appear on the forthcoming film Laundry Matt.

 

The Rubettes ft John, Mick, and Steve 

Lady Starlight,

Born to Be Alone,

New York City

Mrs Pringle

Dynamite

Back to Drak

 

Melanie Williams

Ain’t No Love Ain’t No Use

 

Fuzzbox

Spirit in the Sky

 

Christina Sugary Staple

Way of life

 

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COVID-19 – Firefighters urge residents to be safe at home

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is urging people to make sure they are keeping themselves and their family safe at home following the outbreak of COVID-19.

With many people now working from home and schools closed to most children, it is even more important than ever that households are taking the right steps to ensure they are safe from fire.

Everyone can do their part by taking small simple steps such as ensuring your smoke alarm is working and never leaving cooking unattended.

GMFRS is urging people to:

  • Fit a smoke alarm on each level of your house and test the batteries regularly
  • Take extra care when cooking – never leave cooking unattended or leave children alone in the kitchen when the hob or oven is on. Never cook while under the influence of alcohol
  • Plan a route to escape your home if there is a fire and make sure everyone in the house knows the plan
  • Check for fire hazards, such as electrical items or hobs left switched on, in your home before you go to bed
  • Don’t overload plug sockets – keep to one plug per socket and also look out for plugs and cables that are poorly wired, as they can be dangerous
  • Always stub cigarettes out properly and dispose of them carefully. Don’t smoke in bed or anywhere you could fall asleep
  • Make sure candles are secured in a stable holder and kept away from curtains, fabrics and paper. Always put candles out before going to bed or leaving the room
  • NEVER try and tackle the fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999

GMFRS’ Head of Prevention, Area Manager Paul Fearnhead, said: “We know more and more people are now spending extended periods in their homes, whether that is to work, to take care of children or to take part in social distancing.

“This is absolutely the right thing to do as we all try and do our bit in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 and follow the advice to stay at home. However, this brings with it a number of risks when it comes to fire safety and we are asking everyone to also do their bit to ensure people are safe in the home.

“While we are all spending more time in the house there is no excuse to not have working smoke alarms and to not be testing them regularly. Also take extra care in the kitchen, especially if you have young children around and if you are enjoying a drink, consider getting a takeaway delivered instead of making something yourself.

“Scaling back from non-emergency activities will not only help to protect the public and our staff from the threat of COVID-19 it will ensure that we have enough firefighters and fire engines to be able to provide an effective emergency response across Greater Manchester.”

You can find even more information on keeping your home safe from fire here.

Safe and Well Visits

To limit the contact between fire service staff and members of the public due to COVID-19 risk, GMFRS will be assessing people’s fire risk and giving fire safety advice over the telephone instead of the usual Safe and Well Visits.

There is lots of information on the GMFRS website to help people keep safe but if someone is still concerned and wants to enquire about a telephone Safe and Well they should email contact@manchesterfire.gov.uk

There is more about the changes to Safe and Well here.

Specific flat fire safety advice for residents of a high-rise building can be found here.

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Isolate your household

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Wash your hands

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Sunday Night at The Grand Blackpool

An evening of unforgettable conjunction with the Lyndene Hotel, Blackpool and Tower Top Entertainments.

You’ll be taken through a journey of laughter with some of the North West’s funniest comedians, be swept of your feet by some astonishing vocalists and entertained by an array of show stopping dancers!

Headlined by TV’s Comedy Legend Johnnie Casson, 90’s POP Boyband 911 and Britain’s Got Talent star ventriloquist Gareth Oliver.

For a non stop night of the best variety entertainment and all proceeds going to the Not Forgotten Association.

Prices

  • £19 to £27
  • Concessions
  • £1.50 Off
The Grand 33 Church Street, Blackpool, FY1 1HT

 

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Cinderella Opera House Manchester

Pic copyright Phil Tragen

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2

This magical family pantomime stars Coronation Street’s Connor McIntyre (Pat Phelan) and TV presenter, comedian and actor Les Dennis as the Ugly Sisters, alongside pop star turned theatre star Gareth Gates as Prince Charming.

Joining them are CBBC’s Shannon Flynn (Dani’s Castle, Friday Download, Waterloo Road) in the title role, alongside comedian Ben Nickless as Buttons, Soul singer Hayley-Ria Christian as the Fairy Godmother, Jack Wilson as Dandini and the Stalder Academy of Dance.

We follow Cinders as she transforms from rags to riches, outwits her very Ugly Sisters, and, with the help of her best friend Buttons and one very magical Fairy Godmother, wins the heart of the dashing Prince Charming.

Cinderella features all the ingredients of the perfect pantomime; a fabulous orchestra, laugh-out-loud comedy, superb casting, spectacular stage sets, jaw-dropping special effects, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses.

The big names this year are Connor McIntyre and Les Dennis as wonderful, over-the-top dames who play the show’s ugly sisters, Phelina and Michaela. Coronation Street fans will have plenty to laugh at – look out for their song “I Gotta Phelan” and each entrance featuring increasingly outrageous, hilarious outfits.

Chart-topping Gareth Gates is the handsome Prince Charming. With plenty of Pop Idol gags, my personal favourite was: “We really wanted Will Young but he was booked up.” Gareth Gates sings his biggest hit ‘Unchained Melody’ when he falls for Cinderella, played by CBBC’s Shannon Flynn.

Buttons (played by Ben Nickless) as the lovelorn best friend of Cinderella, brought us celebrity impressions and hilarious comedy routines that I have never seen before. Soul singer Hayley-Ria Christian as the Fairy Godmother is a delight.

The transformation scene of Cinders to a Princess and the pumpkin and mice to a crystal coach and flying horses offers the most magical panto effects I have ever seen at the Opera House, something you might expect to see in Las Vegas.

If you enjoy a traditional pantomime you will enjoy this Cinderella and leave the theatre in a festive mood this Christmas.

Cinderella is on at the Opera House until December 30th with performances at 7pm and matinees each day except Tuesdays (Check online for times).

For tickets phone the Box Office on 0844 871 3018 or call in person 90 minutes before a performance. For online bookings go to atgtickets.com/Manchester.

[Pic:Gareth Gates and Shannon Flynn starring in Cinderella – Phil Tragen Photography]

 

 

 

 

 

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Wicked the Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, Palace Theatre, Manchester

Review by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2

A Witch’s broom has been seen parked up by the Stage Door of the Palace Theatre, which can only mean one thing, Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West, is in the building.

When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch, we only ever heard one side of the story. Gregory Maguire’s acclaimed 1995 novel, ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’, re-imagines the Land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to the familiar story, written by L. Frank Baum, and first published as ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ in 1900.

’Wicked’ tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two young women who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl named Elphaba.

Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Having seen Amy Ross in her role as Elphaba from ‘Wicked’ singing at the Manchester Christmas lights switch on, I was very impressed with her powerful and beautiful voice which had me looking forward to seeing the production at the Palace Theatre.

Having worked on a production of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and having seen the classic film which made a star of Judy Garland in 1939, I am very familiar with the storyline so I was very interested in this prequel which tells us the story of Glinda and Elphaba, before the moment at which ‘The Wizard of Oz’ starts, but also runs in a parallel timeline, overlapping the events of its forerunner.

The curtain rises on a on huge clockwork dragon roaring and piercing us with its bright red eyes. As monkeys bounced onto the stage, the performance was off to a fiery start, all housed inside a massive fantastic constellation clock setting.

Glinda’s arrival on the clock’s pendulum from above, as the princess, could outshine the arrival of the singer Cher who comes to Manchester next October. Not Disney, nor Barbie, is this Princess; she is smart, sassy and with a ‘wicked’ sense of humour.

At Shiz University of Sorcery we meet the students Glinda (Helen Woolf), Elphaba, (Amy Ross), Madame Morrible (beautifully played by Kim Ismay), and the love interest of both girls, Fiyero (Aaron Sidwell).

In other notable scenes, we meet the Wizard of Oz/Doctor Dillamond (Steven Pinder) and the classic scene from the film where the tornado blows Dorothy’s house away and the denizens of the Emerald City, dazzling in every shade of green. We also get to see how the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and Toto the Dog come together.

With a 15-piece orchestra and 20 wonderful songs, both the solos and duos by Helen Woolf and Amy Ross were beautifully sung. The big number of the show, ‘Defying Gravity’, with the full cast was truly spectacular and a huge hit with the audience.

The combination of great cast of over 30, the incredible sets, wonderful lighting, visual and sound effects, brilliant costumes, wigs and makeup, made it a truly outstanding production from London’s West End.

If you want to see something totally different this Christmas this is the show to see.

‘Wicked’ is on until 5th January 2019.

For tickets contact the Palace Theatre box office on 0844 871 3019.

Book online at atgtickets.com/Manchester

 

 

 

 

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Kinky Boots UK Tour arrives alive and kicking at the Manchester Opera House

Reviewed by Ian Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.2  13th November 2018

Since winning the 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Kinky Boots is the winner of every major Best Musical award and is the most anticipated show to tour the UK this year. Based on a true story when a London based store specialising in glamour wear for Transvestites and Drag Queens wanted some high heeled boots in men’s sizes contacted a shoe factory in Northampton who produced handmade shoes.

It was brought to life by author Harvey Fierstein for the theatre and was made into a feature film in 2005. With songs by Grammy and Tony winning Cyndi Lauper, this fabulous musical celebration is about the friendships we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. 0

Kinky Boots takes you from the factory floor to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price, played by Joel Harper Jackson, is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son with the shoe factory future hanging in the balance help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, played by Callum Francis, a Drag Queen performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.

Kinky Boots stars two different characters, we have Charlie from Northampton set to inherit the family shoe factory and Lola, Simon who is a performer in a London Drag Queen club they both have a problem with their fathers which is revealed later.

The opening scene takes place inside the Price and Sons beautiful Victorian shoe factory with the big musical numbers including some brilliant dancing and singing on a moving conveyor belt When we see Simon as Lola in the night club ‘The Land of  Lola’ dressed in a long red sequin dress, full wig, makeup and in red boots you don’t see Simon but a fabulous Lola strutting down the stage with an impressive command of stilettos that most women could only dream of with his six Angels. It’s the first time we hear the fabulous singing voice of Callum Francis and what an entrance.

Charlie realises thigh-high boots for drag queens could be the niche market he needs to save the shoe factory, he invites Lola and the Angels to the factory to design the kinky boots.  The end of Act 1 for me has one of the best Cyndi Lauper songs ‘Everybody Says Yeah’.

Act two is getting the high heeled boots ready for the most prestigious footwear show in Milan, a wonderful moment when Lola and the Angels arrived at the midlands-based shoe factory to meet the workers. Time is running out to have the boots ready for the Milan show tempers are short the workers walk out, and Lola goes back home to Clacton, but all is not lost the kinky boots are finally ready, Lola and the Angels arrive back to save the show as the Italian models have not been booked through lack of funds. In Milan Lola and the Angels sashaying down the walkway as transvestites dressed in glamorous outfits with thigh high heeled boots, they are the new stars of the shoe fashion world and the factory is saved.

Paula Lane, Lauren (ex Coronation Street) returns as one of the factory girls makes the character her own and is the love interest when she falls for her new boss Charlie, told in her very moving solo ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ I enjoyed Don, Demitri Lampra’s, another factory worker performance who takes on Simon in a boxing match.  My favourite songs in act 2 are Hold me in your Heart and Raise you Up/Just Be had the audience on their feet.

Kinky Boots has a great cast, flamboyant, theatrical, camp, celebrates drag culture, very funny and sad, with music and songs by Cyndi Lauper. It  is a fabulous production, one of the best shows in Manchester this year.

Finally on a personal note, I was part of a BBC TV crew who filmed the late Cilla Black when she visited a men’s shoe factory in Northampton, it would be a wonderful coincidence if it was the same factory Kinky Boots was based on in true life.

Showing at the Opera House till Saturday 1st December.

Ticket Box Office 0844 871 3018. Online www.atgtickets.com/manchester.

 

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Christmas Pudding Dash Sunday 2nd December in Wythenshawe Park

Hundreds of local people will be pudding their best foot forward for a special event this weekend in aid of St Ann’s Hospice.

Families from across Greater Manchester will gather in Wythenshawe Park on Sunday 2nd December to take part in the eighth Manchester Christmas Pudding 5- Mile Dash.

The festive race – where Christmas-themed fancy dress is encouraged – comprises a two-lap, flat, off-road course, using the footpaths, fields and trails in the park.  Suitable for both experienced runners and beginners, there’s also a 2.5 mile course, for those not wanting to take on the full 5 mile distance. A children’s race is also available for youngsters wishing to join the festive fun.

Organised by Nice Work, the annual event has proven popular with runners who enjoy the Christmas puddings and other festive goodies on offer on the day, as well as receiving a medal when they cross the finish line.

Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive of St Ann’s, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Nice Work for choosing St Ann’s as the local charity to benefit from this year’s race.  It will be a fantastic family event, and all of the money raised in sponsorship will help us to make a real difference to the lives of the patients we care for.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the Christmas-themed outfits on display on the day too, as I’ve heard there have been some brilliant ones in previous years.  It’ll be a great way to start warming up for the festive season too.

“We’d love as many people as possible to sign up to take part.  It’ll be a cracker!”

The Manchester Christmas Pudding Run starts in Wythenshawe Park at 11am on Sunday 2nd December.

For more information, or to book a place and join the race, got to the website:

https://www.nice-work.org.uk/races/manchester-pudding-dash

[Pic: Participants at last year’s Christmas Pudding Run] 

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New attraction at the Manchester Markets – The Ice Village

Corrie Legends Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre Opened this years Christmas Markets as well as The Ice Village attraction which is brand new to Manchester this year featuring 250 tonnes of hand carved ice sculptures, ice bars, Santa’s grotto and an ice rink – the Ice Village has something for all the family.

Set against a backdrop of snow-covered trees and twinkling lights, there is lots to see and do at the Ice Village. Wrap up warm and visit the Christmas elves hard at work in the Ice Cavern or see Santa in his Grotto. There’s plenty to enjoy for both children and adults and the Arctic Bar is the perfect place to indulge in a festive drink or two. Enjoy arctic games, find a range of unique gifts for loved ones and grab a bite to eat or drink at the traditional Christmas market stalls. You can also get your skates on and practice your moves on the Ice Rink. Our immersive ice experience is a guaranteed great day out for the whole family.

Ice Village Manchester is open daily from 11am to 9pm,  9th November 2018 to 5th January 2019. The Village is fully wheelchair accessible with the exception of the woodland area. A range of food and drink will be available on site. Please note, no food is allowed inside the Ice Cavern or Santa’s Grotto.

The Ice Village are closed on Christmas Day, Boxing day and New Year’s Day.

Get your tickets now for the Ice Village, Santa’s Grotto and the Ice Rink: www.icevillage.co.uk

Here’s a little taster of inside the village

 

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Have a happy Halloween and stay safe with Treacle

Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, and other organisations, have joined forces in the Treacle campaign to help Halloween and bonfire night revellers have fun and stay safe.

Advice about organising safe ‘trick or treating’, plus information about firework and bonfire safety and the law regarding fireworks, along with educational display materials, are all available on the following website: www.safe4autumn.com

Here are some tips from the website on staying safe and having fun, under the heading, ‘Halloween Safety Advice.’

Halloween can be a lot of fun for children and young people, but it can also be distressing and intimidating for some residents. If you are going ‘trick or treating’ please respect and consider others and follow these top tips to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time:

DON’T

  • Go alone – ‘trick or treating’ is more fun and safer if you go in a small group with friends and family.
  • Go into houses – stay on the doorstep where the responsible adult can see you.
  • Play pranks that may damage property – this could result in arrest and a criminal record.
  • Demand money or intimidate people – Halloween can be a night that some residents dread, so be respectful and polite.
  • Don’t throw eggs or flour – it’s classed as a criminal offence and you will be arrested!

DO

  • Look out for Treacle posters – These will let you know whether ‘trick or treaters’ are welcome at a house or aren’t.
  • Take extra care crossing roads – more accidents happen to children in the dark.
  • Go with an adult – get a responsible adult to go with your group to help in case you have any problems.
  • Dress to be seen – wear light, reflective clothes or carry a lamp or torch so that drivers and your responsible adult can see you.
  • Respect people’s rights – be polite, don’t go out too late, ring or knock only once, and be prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer.

 

For more information on Halloween and Bonfire night safety, including links to organised fireworks displays go to www.safe4autumn.com.

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‘Let it Be’ Manchester Opera House 22nd October 2018 – Opening night

Reviewer Ian Robert Hills Wythenshawe FM 97.

Just down the road 55 years ago the Beatles made their first TV appearance at Granada TV Studios to record two performances for ‘Scene at 6.30’ on Wednesday 14 August 1963. They performed ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘She Loves You’.

‘Beatlemania’ is still alive and kicking with the audience’s reaction to ‘Let it Be’ at the Opera House in Manchester. The audience was singing, clapping and dancing from the start as the cast sang 40 of the Beatles greatest hits.

The show opens with four old-style TV sets showing films and adverts from the 1960s to set the scene and the mood.

The curtain rises on the Cavern Club, where it all started for the Beatles, and we move on to the Royal Variety Performance in 1963 where the Beatles played such hits as ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Twist and Shout’ and where John Lennon famously said: For our last number, I’d like to ask your help; the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands and the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery.”  That did not stop the Queen from making them Members of the Order of the British Empire in 1965.

We follow the Fab Four on their first US tour in 1964 and hear more of their greatest hits. We move swiftly through the live gig era which ended for the Beatles in 1966 and we then find ourselves in 1967 with Sergeant Pepper and the cast wearing the iconic uniforms as they play songs from the legendary album.

Act Two was an imaginary reunion concert held on John Lennon’s 40th Birthday on October 9th 1980. We had more of the Beatles greatest hits, including ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’.

I thought it was a brilliant concept to see stage performances of their later songs which were only performed in the studio. We also get to hear solo songs from Paul McCartney (Emanuele Angeletti), George Harrison (John Brosnan), John Lennon (Michael Gagliano) and Ringo Starr (Ben Cullingworth) who showcased their singing and musicianship, not forgetting, on keyboards, Musical Director, Michael Bramwell. It was FAB.

Combining the sets with back projection, including some original footage, lighting, sound and costumes take you from the 1960s through to the 1980 brilliantly.

This is as near as you will ever get to a Beatles concert. If you are, like me, a child of the sixties, it will take you back when all you needed was love, and a little help from your friends.

‘Let it Be’ is on at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 27th October.

To buy tickets, go to atgtickets.com or phone the Box Office O844 871 7615.

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‘Mr Metrolink’ wins special accolade for lifetime service

 

TfGM Chair Councillor Andrew Fender with 100th tram

Andrew Fender, Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) ex-Chair, has been given the Judges’ Special Award at the Global Light Rail Awards.

Only bestowed at the judges’ discretion, the award is given to individuals and organisations that have made a significant difference to a city, region or the wider light rail industry.

Andrew Fender received the award for being one of the main advocates and driving forces behind Greater Manchester’s Metrolink, the UK’s largest light rail network. The award recognised his commitment and dedication which helped develop Metrolink from a single 31km line between Altrincham and Bury in 1992 to today’s 97km network that carries 42 million passengers each year.

Andrew Fender served as a Manchester councillor between 1977 and 2018 and was the Chair of TfGM from 2011 to 2018. He also chaired the Rail Study Group which initially developed the ambitious plans for Metrolink.

Daniel Vaughan, TfGM’s Head of Metrolink, said: “It’s no surprise that Andrew is known as ‘Mr Metrolink’. From its inception and delivery, to its development and expansion Andrew was there every step of the way, tirelessly advocating, persuading and negotiating.

‘Our trams are now an essential part of tens of thousands of people’s daily lives and they’ve helped ensure residents across our city-region can benefit from Greater Manchester’s continued growth. A large part of this is down to Andrew’s tenacity, vision and passion and this award is a welcome recognition of a career dedicated to delivering the public good of public transport.’

Alongside the Judges’ Special Award, TfGM and MPact Thales (MPT) were highly commended in the Best Environmental & Sustainability Initiative and Technical Innovation of the Year categories for their joint utilities and traffic management work on the Metrolink Trafford Park Line (TPL) extension.

KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM), the company that operates Metrolink, was highly commended in the Outstanding Engineering Category for its gigabit ethernet (GBE) resilience project to improve the network’s IT resilience.