Friday, 28 August 2009

Bolton Food and Drink Festival

These ingredients can only mean one thing, the Bolton Food and Drink Festival (Fri 28 - Sun 30 August) is back and it’s better than ever. I can vouch for this as I went for a wander at lunchtime and my wallet is significantly lighter for it. My eye was caught by beautifully coloured and scented soaps (great stocking fillers for Christmas), a bottle of Dandelion and Burdoch Cordial (it was the lovely packaging) and the jewellery stall. Luckily, I had already had my lunch or I could still be out there grazing...

This year, celebrity TV chefs The Hairy Bikers and James Martin are heading to Bolton. The main event on Victoria Square, in the heart of the town, is the live Rangemaster Cookery Theatre and a speciality market offering great food and drink produce plus ample opportunities to sample and savour. My favourite site was a lady with a double buggy with three plates of different food on the hood so she could eat and browse at the same time. Now that's multi-tasking!

In addition, there’ll be events at participating local venues plus special offers at a wide range of restaurants and food outlets throughout Bolton. You can download your vouchers for the offers we are doign at the Octagon here and here

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

What's On in September

It has been dark here at the theatre for the last few weeks but this doesn't mean it has been quiet. It has given time for staff to take holidays, time for renovations and time for producing our BoltON programme. As I said it hasn't been quiet but it has been quiet on stage and in the building with the obvious absence of actors and rehearsals. It isn't due to stay quiet for much longer as the cast of Ghosts are in the building to work on translating the script; the cast of Mixed Up North arrive next week for final rehearsals and come September the theatre will be buzzing with a whole range of events. Here's what to expect:

In the main auditorium

10 - 26 September 2009

Octagon Theatre Bolton and Out of Joint present

The first show of our new season (Mixed Up North) is a verbatim piece of theatre, based on the words of a group of young people and their community group leaders during their involvement with a project set up after the Burnley riots. It explores what it means to be a young person in today’s society; the pressures; the sometimes shocking stories of the young people involved and the positive changes young people can make given the space and support to do so. Read more here...

In the Studio

12 September 2009
In association with North West Playwrights

Investigate: Who Needs Writers?

This innovative new programme of Investigate events aims to supplement theatregoers experiences as they delve deeper into the issues and themes raised by the productions shown in the main auditorium. This first event investigates Mixed Up North and verbatim theatre. Read more here...

16 - 18 September 2009

Three of the Best from 24:7

Three new shows hot off the press from 24:7 Theatre Festival. The line up features 5:30 (winner of Best Actor - Peter Ash), Lub You (winner of Best Actress - Eve Steele) and As We Forgive Them (winner of Best Production) So a whole host of talent to look forward to. You can read what Citylife had to say here, read more about the shows and book tickets online here and watch video of the shows here.

19 September 2009

Investigate: Three of the Best from 24:7

Chaired by Martin Thomasson, senior creative writing lecturer at the University of Bolton, the second in the Investigate series will be a workshop session offering an insight into the background of the plays and allows the audience to discuss them with the writer, cast and director. Audience members can thus contribute to the development of the production, giving vital feedback as to how the plays can move forward. Read more and book tickets here...

23 - 24 September 2009

Corin Redgrave in De Profundis

Corin makes his debut at the Octagon Theatre Bolton with his performance of one of the most moving love letters ever written. This is the first event that Corin will perform in the Studio. He also returns in November but more about that at a later date. You can read more about this show and book tickets here...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Calling all script writers in the North West

Organised Chaos Theatre Company are inviting writers living and/or working in the North West of England (Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria) to submit new scripts for entry into a new initiative they are running.

Writers are asked to submit an original script with a performance running time of up to 2 hours, any running time below this will be accepted. The script must be your own work and not previously published or professionally performed.

Please send your entries by email in word format including a cover sheet with the title and writers name.

Organised Chaos will commit to produce the selected play in Manchester in the early part of next year with the potential for future productions in the North West (and beyond) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Writers should email their script to Kirsty or Gayle at Deadline for submissions is 27th September 2009.

Monday, 24 August 2009

VIDEOS: Three of the Best from 24:7

One of the first events of the new BoltON programme is Three of the Best from 24:7. Now, through the magic of technology you can view a bit of each of the shows below.


Lub You

As We Forgive Them

Thursday, 20 August 2009


David Thacker, our Artistic Director, is today announcing the launch of BoltON. This is a new programme of special events and activities to complement the work in the main auditorium, covering a wide range of theatre productions, children’s theatre, poetry readings, discussion days and talks.

David comments, “My aim with BoltON was to programme events which link, thematically, to the plays staged on the main auditorium and those programmed in the Studio.”

Theatre in the Studio allows the Octagon to stage a diverse programme of theatre such as Three of the Best from 24:7 Theatre Festival (16-18 September), from the Manchester’s award-winning annual showcase of new one-hour plays by local writers; appearances from Corin Redgrave in De Profundis (23-24 September) and Trumbo (6 November); Oxfordshire Theatre Company presents Dancing in my Dreams written by Neil Duffield (12-17 October); and in the 25th Anniversary year of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike David is thrilled to be reviving his 1985 Young Vic production of The Enemies Within (14-19 December).
BoltON also feature Literature Live events from Poetry and Prose Now!, where contemporary poets and novelists read their own work to Poetry on a Plate where the actors from the Octagon Theatre Bolton will present lunchtime programmes on the life and work of major poets.

A new series of conversations between theatre practitioners and informed interviewers see The Royal Family’s Sue Johnston in Conversation with David Thacker (23 October).

Also, new to the Octagon are Investigate days, which encourage the analysis and investigation of plays and the issues that arise from them. These will be regular day-long Saturday events involving morning sessions, a matinee viewing and a post-show discussion. Investigate days include Who Needs Writers? (12 September), an investigation into verbatim theatre with panellists including Max Stafford-Clark, Robin Soans, David Thacker, Stephanie Street and Alecky Blythe; Investigating Three of the Best 24:7 (19 September), a day that gives time for analysis and discussion between each play with the writers, directors and casts; All My Sons An Investigation into the Play (14 October); Christopher Bigsby on Arthur Miller (17 October), telling the compelling story of the life of one of the 20th Century greatest playwright; Who Needs Translators? (14 November) David Thacker, Erik Skuggevik, actors from the Ghosts company and Brid Andrews of the University of Bolton and Professor Richard Wilson investigate the challenges and opportunities of translating classic and contemporary plays; and the season concludes with Who Needs Socialism? (19 December), which examines The Enemies Within.

Other events include Working with Arthur Miller (5 October), and All My Children (24 October). Caryl Churchill’s, Seven Jewish Children will be performed alongside an extract from All My Sons as a stimulus for investigation into the relevance of Chris Keller’s shattering indictment: “Once and for all you can know there’s a universe of people outside and you’re responsible to it”.

For more information visit our website or you can view the online brochure here.

Manchester Blog Awards

I recently received a newsletter from MIF and it reminded me about the Manchester Blog Awards. Here is what it said:

Writers and readers of the internet: The Fourth Annual Manchester Blog Awards is nearly upon us, so it's time to get out there and nominate your favourite blogs for the awards. (Hint hint!!)
This year's nominating period is now open and runs until September 18. We are looking for contenders in the following categories: Best New Blog, Best City or Neighbourhood Blog, Best Writing, Best Personal Blog and Best Arts and Culture Blog. For more information about the categories and all the fine print about who can enter please visit

This year you can nominate blogs using a form on our nifty new website, which can be accessed here. Remember, a blog only has to be nominated once to be in the running, and it's okay to nominate your own blog. And we're working hard on this year's event, which will be held October 21 at the Band on The Wall. Stay tuned for more updates by joining our Facebook group (MCR Bloggers) or following us on twitter (we're @mcrblogawards).

So go on, nominate a blog today. Maybe even this one? A shameless plug maybe, but if you don't ask you won't get!!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Sing When You're Winning - production shots

I managed to sneak into the tech rehearsal for Sing When You're Winning (see the deets here). I am not a very good photographer, the lighting, the movement and the fact I couldn't use the flash mean't that a fair few pictures look like the one below...looks kinda cool but not very good for showing you what the show is all about. I have the greatest respect for Ian Tilton our production photographer for managing to capture such great production shots for our shows as it is not easy.

Anyway, here is one of the set. the photo doesn't do it justice as it looks really great and Lisa's inspired monochromatic colour scheme with accents of red works really well.
Here are some of the cast...

And here's the rest of them busting some moves or something...

They look a little apprehensive below don't they and I got a little carried away with photoshop...

And here's the Head of activ8 - the notorious C.A.Z. I tried to get photos of Lisa who is directing but she remains elusive as it was too dark. I think perhaps that is the mystique of Director types.
If the photos don't convince you then you need to blame my skills not the show as it looks (and sounds) great. The first show takes place this evening with further shows for Saturday. Tickets are a snip at only £6. You can read more about it and book your tickets here...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Community projects.

I caught a news item the other night about Tilda Swinton and her Screen Machine mobile cinema project. She is hoping to bring film to communities that no longer have a cinema by way of a 'cinema bus' called the Screen Machine. As she rightly pointed out most towns, back in the day, had a cinema of some description and she wanted to bring that resource back for a short period of time, encourage people to see little known films and share in a communal experience. Bolton, around 30 years ago, according to Keith (our finance man and expert on all things Bolton), had 3 'picture houses' in Bolton town centre alone. We obviously still have cinemas here but now they are more on the periphery. But anyhoo, this item got me thinking about communities.

This was compounded later that evening, there was a programme called Crime UK. A segment of this focused on how town planners were redesigning problem estates to provide a safer, crime free community. The bit on 'architecture with surveillance in mind' was very interesting but it also talked about Thames Valley Police and their community football scheme for the local young people. Both of these pieces prompted me to do a round up of some of the community focused projects that are currently on our radar:

Our involvement in the RECLAIM scheme.

activ8's Summer School project which plays to the public this week.

The first show of the new season, Mixed Up North, is based on the words and experiences of those involved in a community project in Burnley.

Our casting project for Oliver Twist where we encourage young people from the local community to audition. Please note: all applications must be received by 28 August so if your youngster wants to become part of the Octagon acting community request an application now!

Call: 01204 529407).


We are working with the lovely Abi at Urbis on the RECLAIM initiative. Here is a bit about it...

RECLAIM is an award winning leadership and mentoring project designed and delivered by Urbis. Starting in 2007, the project empowers young people across Manchester to make positive changes in their communities. RECLAIM enables some of the most disadvantaged young people to engage directly with the decision makers influencing their lives and their communities. By promoting leadership and facilitating dialogue with the police, council and media it helps those who are often marginalised to realise their voice.

RECLAIM takes place over six months. A cohort of young people identified as at risk of negative outcomes are nominated by their peers, schools, parents, and Youth Offending Teams. They are partnered with an adult mentor who supports them throughout the programme.

RECLAIM begins with a four day conference Urbis, featuring inspirational speakers, community and personal challenges and the creation of a youth manifesto for their area. Over the next 6 months the young people undergo a diverse programme of activities before graduating.


• To raise the aspirations, confidence and attainment of young people in disadvantaged areas of Greater Manchester
• To improve relations between young people and their communities
• To increase young people’s engagement in positive activity in their community
• To improve employment opportunities and employability skills of young people


•RECLAIM Philip Lawrence Award 2008 (above)
•RECLAIM National Crimebeat Award 2008
•Ruth Ibegbuna Peace Activist of the Year, Peace Week 2008
•RECLAIM/Urbis Optimism Arts and Culture Awards 2008
•Ruth Ibegbuna Kath Locke Award for outstanding contribution, Manchester Women Awards 2009

Future Plans

RECLAIM Breightmet, Bolton
New project working alongside Bolton Octagon, with 30 boys starting October 2009. Anticipated themes for the project:
• Developing a community identity and sense of place
• Raising aspiration

RECLAIM Bolton needs you! Are you male and aged 21 or over? Are you bright, resourceful, independent minded and inspiring? Are you passionate about working with young people? Can you commit to at least 6 months of focused mentoring?

Following the success of three previous RECLAIM projects we are looking to replicate the achievement with 30 Year 9 boys from the Breightmet area. We are looking for inspirational men from a diverse range of backgrounds to share their wisdom and insight.
If you can meet this challenge, contact the RECLAIM team for more information.

Telephone: 0161 605 8200

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Mixed Up North - casting news

We set to launch the new season with a World Premiere that has its roots close to home. Mixed Up North is based on real events which took place while trying to unite the divided communities in Burnley. It’s a co-production with the internationally renowned theatre company Out of Joint and is directed by their celebrated Artistic Director Max Stafford-Clark. You can read more about the production here.

Stafford-Clark says
“I was invited to the Royal Society for a debate on racism, at which the playwright David Edgar talked about the difficulty for an ethnic group to integrate into parts of society already dominated by another group. For example, he said that it was unsurprising that no Asian had played cricket for Yorkshire. He suggested that if we really wanted to integrate, we needed to create brand new spaces, and mentioned this theatre group founded to bring together young people from Bangladeshi and White communities. I thought this was fascinating, so Robin and I and the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) students went to Lancashire to meet the people involved, and made their stories into a play. The LAMDA students were very talented and I’m delighted to have been able to cast many of them in the play’s first professional production.”

Mixed Up North follows the story of Trish, who leads a youth theatre group in Burnley that is designed to unite young people from the divided racial communities. As the harassed director Bella struggles to share her artistic vision with the cast, the compelling stories of the young stars and their dedicated community workers unfold. And as the final dress rehearsal begins, tensions rise and bonds fracture.

David Thacker, the Artistic Director of the Octagon, said:
“I am thrilled that one of the leading directors of new plays in the country, if not the world, will be launching my first season at the Octagon. Mixed Up North is a vibrant new play that shows the way that young people from Burnley worked to overcome the things that divide them and work together.”

The cast of fourteen features the Olivier Award-winning Celia Imrie; whose credits include Calendar Girls, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Dinnerladies and Acorn Antiques. She shares the role with Judith Amsenga. Burnley-born Muzz Khan will be appearing at the Octagon for the first time, and he will be juggling his role in Mixed Up North with his other job as a DJ at London’s Pacha nightclub. Also making their Octagon debuts will be Lisa Kerr, Asif Khan, Kashif Khan, Rose Leslie, Tyrone Lopez, Kathryn O’Reilly, Claire Rafferty, Stephanie Street, Mia Soteriou, Lorna Stuart and Matthew Wait, best known as Luke Warren in Casualty.
For more information or to book online visit or call the Ticket Office on 01204 520661.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Experiments in the Lab

You might remember me talking about the work that is going on here at the Octagon. I posted about the changes to the Dressing Rooms and the Bill Naughton Studio Theatre aka the Studio. These are pretty much finished now so I need to post some updated pics but we also made some changes to what was the Rehearsal Room.

It has been given a lick of paint...

And a tidy to brighten it up...

We have moved the door which makes an unbelievable difference. You can just about see the outline of where the old door was and the new door...

It looks fresh and bright and all ready for the experiments to begin. The Lab will be used as a space for rehearsals still but will also be used for workshops, experimentation, risk-taking and sharing new work.

More details on workshops and other events taking place in the Lab and the Octagon's other spaces will be announced soon. Watch this space...

activ8 Summer School 2009

activ8’s annual summer production at the Octagon Theatre is here again - you can read about last year's here. The summer project give the chance to 30 young people from the local community to rehearse and perform a world premiere in the Main Auditorium!

This year’s production Sing When You’re Winning has been written by Kim Wiltshire. This comic tale is based on the story of a community youth choir whose funding is pulled when their choir leader is found to fiddling the statistics.

The production is full of feel good music sung by the cast under the direction of Jo Sercombe, a Gospel Choir MD from Bath who’s previous choirs have been televised on the BBC’s Last Choir Standing competition.

The play gently explores the theme of ‘inclusion’ and addresses the tick box culture we live within. The young people involved in the production were recruited through open auditions.

When: Friday 14 and Saturday 15 August 2009
Where: Main Auditorium,Octagon Theatre Bolton
Time: 7.30pm (2pm matinee, Sat 15 August)
Tickets: £6 (£5 concessions)
Book: Call the Ticket Office on 01204 520661.