North West Theatre Arts Company – Christmas is Coming

Is it me or are we heading for Christmas like a steam train? There’s so much going on. What a contrast compared to last year.

I’m a devoted Christmas ‘last minuter’ but got a ticket for NWTAC’s Winter Wonderland Concert back in November and, well, haven’t looked back. The curtains opened and the first line of the first song put a smile on our faces…”Sleigh bells, ring are you listening?”. We were treated then on to a fabulous mix of Christmas musical numbers and great dance routines: Let It Snow, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, White Christmas, Jingle Bell Rock, Sleigh Ride and Merry Christmas Everybody, This show had them all and comedy sketches too.

Brumbly the Elf, Inspector Brumbly that is, aka Anthony Horricks, went through some new ‘rules’ about Christmas and we had a peep inside the elves workshop.

‘The Nativity’ scene was just brilliant. A nativity in reverse, if that makes sense. The usual characters were played by grown-ups pretending to be children rather than the other way around and it had the audience in stitches.

The enthusiasm and love of performing shone through as it always does. The audience joined in with the cast to close the show with ‘I wish it could be Christmas Every Day’. Honestly, Brumbly the Elf wouldn’t have it any other way. It made me want to go home and put my Christmas tree up straight away. Me, with my ‘last minute’ reputation!

Next up for NWTAC is Aladdin. So, if you weren’t able to get to Winter Wonderland, get a shift on and book your tickets. Your kids will love it. YOU will love it.

Aladdin runs from 22 – 31 December 2021 Contact NWTAC for tickets or book through Groupon

Here’s what’s in store…

A young dreamer, a beautiful princess, an evil magician, and a self-proclaimed beautiful Dame will keep you entertained in this spectacular Christmas show.

Next week the theatre is hosting The Black and White Mikado, a comic Gilbert and Sullivan opera performed by NMAODS (North Manchester Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society). The costumes look AMAZING! It runs for 4 nights starting on Wednesday 8th so you’ll have to be quick.

There’s plenty more going on in and around Moston in the run up to Christmas and beyond into 2022. If you’re uneasy with indoor events then go outdoors… and that’s not a plug for an outdoor retailer, by the way.

  • North Manchester Fitness and Morisso Health recently led an Elf walk in Boggart Hole Clough. A great turn out. Keep an eye out as they both run regular outdoor activities and there’s something to suit everyone
  • Simply Cycling are at Boggart Hole Clough Mondays and Saturdays
  • Michael Green from Broadhurst Community Centre leads well-being walks throughout the week
  • If you like gardening there are clubs at No 93 Church Lane, Moston as well as Failsworth Growing Hub next to Failsworth Library
  • Join Russell Hedley from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust on Thursdays and give the local wildlife a hand by volunteering – it’s a great project to be part of
The Elf Walk at Boggart Hole Clough 2021

Finally, today Saturday 4th December, Moston switches its Christmas lights on at Moston Green festivities commence at 3pm and NWTAC will be there! Forget your tree for now, you can put it up tomorrow.

The cast for Rent – coming to you in February 2022

For information about NWTAC and this seasons shows, how to book tickets etc just click here or follow them on Facebook.

For NMAODS website, including booking tickets just click here or follow them on Facebook.

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Street Life: The Lane – Part 1 (before incorporation)

Miss Mary Taylor lived in the house where the dog’s home stands today. In 1841, she sent her manservant, John Robinson, to take a record of the inhabitants of every dwelling in Moston. This private census provided a unique snapshot of Moston Lane at a particular moment in history. The hotch-potch of lanes and farm tracks that became today’s Moston Lane, started at Rochdale Road and wound its way to approximately where the Gardeners Arms now stands.

Moston was mostly farm land, but surprisingly it was the domestic hand loom which was more important to the local economy. On the Lane, there were 56 households in total. 34 relied wholly or partially on silk weaving for their income, while only 11 were supported by farming, with the remainder involved in trades such as bricklaying and textile finishing.

Weavers had a reputation for independence, and it wasn’t unusual to find them taking a St. Monday holiday in Boggart Hole Clough.

John Whitehead (known as Jack o’shop) kept a provision store at Street Fold, where he also baked oatcakes. It appears to have been the only place to purchase food on The Lane, with the nearest competition being from Ann Schofield on Ashley Lane (formerly Brass Knob Street).

Beer was to be obtained at the Thatched House, and from Samuel Taylor at the Owd Loom or John Whitehead of the Bluebell. For anything stronger, it was necessary to go to Kenyon Lane where there was a ‘hush’ whisky still.

The small number of given names made nicknames essential. Some of the more picturesque were Owd Yeb, Billy Buttonhole, Old Gimp, and Plutcher. And, because Sarah Holland’s tiny cottage was called ‘the castle‘, she was known to everybody as Sally Castle.

A couple of characters singled out in the census were John Howard, famous for running down (catching) hares twice. And Emmanuel Herd of Great Hurst farm, who claimed to have often sighted the Moston Boggart.

Some years later, an animal carcass believed to be that of the Boggart, was found trapped in briars on Nuthurst Farm. When it was exhibited at the Blue Bell Inn, hundreds flocked to view the creature.

Over the 40 years between Miss Taylor’s census and the nationwide census of 1881, many things had changed in Moston. The domestic silk weavers were all gone, and farm land was starting to disappear under bricks and mortar. The remaining farms on the Lane were mostly in the stretch from Yeb Fold to Toll House and Turnpike farms at Chain Bar.

Incomers who had been born in places as diverse as North and South America, Australia, Italy and Russia, as well as all counties outside Lancashire, had settled in Moston by 1881. These newcomers were a mixture of ‘masters’ and ‘men’.

John Sankey, born Salford, employed 74 men at his match works, as well as a number of women making up matchboxes at home.

John Barber from Castleton Derbyshire, was one of two rope and twine makers living on the Lane, close to the ropewalk.

There was little physical separation of the classes on the Lane. Chain Bar was a typical example, with a mill owner who manufactured cotton sponge (absorbent) cloth, living in close proximity to a coalminer and a lamp man at the colliery.

In the 1841 census, there had been a significant number of females supporting themselves and their families by weaving. In some parts of the country, it was common for middle-class daughters to be kept at home to assist with domestic duties. On the Lane, girls from professional and the better-off classes were often sent out to learn a trade such as millinery or dressmaking.

With daughters out at work, families would sometimes employ a servant, like Mary Rose from Wednesbury, Staffordshire. She worked for Alfred Antrobus, a commercial traveller in provisions, and his wife. The statutory school leaving age was then 12, but Mary was only eleven. She was one of a number of similarly aged girls from the midlands who found employment in Moston.

As the Lane evolved from its semi-rural aspect, a few amenities began to spring up alongside shops and houses. Sergeant Moses Thompson lived at Number 2 Moston Lane, in a house belonging to Lancashire Constabulary. Jane Tickle occupied a cell at the Police station next door.

In 1845, a silk mill started up in a former residential school for pauper boys, which had once been a workhouse with 10 inmates.

At Chain Bar, a primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1864, and the Catholic cemetery was created in 1875. A Methodist chapel school opened at Street Fold in 1881.

The foundation stone for the Simpson Memorial was laid in 1885. The centre’s influence on Moston’s cultural life will feature in The Lane part 2, 1890 to 1959….coming soon.

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My Wild City: North Manchester Nature Network

How lucky are we? Parks, lakes, woodland and open fields all right on our doorstep. Some are well known, busy with visitors whilst others are quiet little pockets of nature.

They’re all part of a special project that Russell Hedley of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust has been working on since April.

“Funded by Cadent Foundation, it will engage members of the public to volunteer and help protect nature at existing Sites of Biological Importance between Bailey’s Wood and Moston Brook. Community groups and schools will also be involved.”

Meet Russ Hedley, nature encyclopedia on legs, and utterly charming

In addition to Bailey’s Wood and Moston Brook the other ‘sites’ are Boggart Hole Clough, Broadhurst Clough and The Fairway Nature Reserve.

Russ has been working with a group of volunteers who meet up each week and has also organised nature themed events throughout the summer. It’s a year-long project…

“…connecting people to wildlife, tackling isolation and loneliness and increasing nature’s diversity”.

Here are some examples of what’s been going on…

Balsam Bashing: Balsam is not an ugly plant by any means, the problem is, it’s invasive and prolific. That means it doesn’t really belong here, has no insect predators to control it so it spreads like mad. It prevents other plants from flourishing and the environment as a whole suffers. There’s a ‘window’ for getting rid of it so any time prior to the seed pods appearing is fine. After that, attempts to destroy it are more likely to aid its spread.

The root system is small for such a large plant so you just pull up and pile up (out of sight preferrably) and let it rot down.

Bashing the balsam in Boggart Hole Clough

Rhododendron is also an invasive species. It’s trickier to remove so it’s cut back and the branches woven into low hedges rather than left in a pile. The hedges provide the perfect habitat for small mammals and insects.

Sapling removal: At a time when tree planting is actively encouraged you may wonder why sapling removal is important. It depends on where the saplings are. We created a clearing near the pond on Broadhurst Clough to prevent them overtaking it and giving smaller plants access to light.

Wild flower planting:  Hundreds of wild flowers have been planted across all the sites to increase diversity and encourage insects to spread from one site to another. Planting a few in your own garden would help too.

Bat Walks: Russ led several of these towards the end of summer. I went on one and it was AMAZING. Bats are fascinating creatures and most of the time you wouldn’t know they were there. The UK has 18 species, which is a lot! They’re excellent pollinators and can eat around 3,000 insects a night. Their numbers have been in decline though so the more we learn about how they thrive the better we can help them.

Fungi walks: Led by Fungi expert Dave Winnard. What can I say? The man is a legend. We were truly entertained and even managed to find some mushrooms in the unusually dry tracts of the Fairway Nature Reserve. This is Manchester: It rains, except when you want it to. I haven’t stopped spotting mushrooms ever since though and, I quote, “they are one of the primary pillars of the food web…playing a critical role keeping forests and fields healthy”. Some have rather dubious properties – or so I understand!

In addition to these, Russ has also led Wildlife and Wellbeing Sessions at the NEPHRA centre, bug hunts, nature walks, litter picks, dinosaur trails, bioblitz events and he’s got plans for more activities over the coming months.

The project ends next spring so there are still lots of opportunities to get involved. Keep an eye out on Social media.

If you fancy volunteering contact Russ at mywildcity@lancswt.org.uk for details. You learn something new every time, meet fantastic people with a shared interest and give nature a helping hand.

Making small changes to your garden can help nature too. Think ‘insect friendly’ when you’re buying plants or have a veg patch. Leave a bit of lawn ‘unmown’ for a while, have a corner with a few old logs in or make a small pond – an old washing up bowl will do. The diversity will provide lots of wonderful habitats for natures little beasties.

Or, take a walk around our local countryside and just enjoy the green space.

Here are some links to keep an eye on: Moston Brook Friends Group and Forever Harpuhey and Moston on Facebook, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Memories of Boggart Hole Clough on Facebook.

David Winnard’s Discover the Wild website is definitely worth a look at and the iNaturalist uk app is brilliant for recording the wildlife you see.

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