Get ready ’cause here they come… North West Theatre Arts Company is back!

The doors of NWTAC‘s theatre on Lightbowne Road, Moston, reopened to the public last week to a full on music and dance show – ‘The Sound and Soul of Hitsville, Motown.’

Tickets were limited for safe distancing so you had to be quick off the mark to secure a booking. Those lucky enough to get a seat were treated to a wonderful, warm welcome and a superb performance full of music, cheer, dance and sheer Motown magic.

The full company kicked off the show with ‘Get Ready’; a song written by Smokey Robinson that became a hit for the Temptations in the 1960’s. It was neatly followed by a variety of solo performances, duets and group numbers.

Who doesn’t love a bit of Motown? Timeless hits such as Walk on By, Under the Boardwalk and Heatwave followed one after the other. Pheobe Sutherland had Tracks of My Tears nailed while Anthony Horricks and ‘the boys’ rendition of My Girl was perfect. We had our socks blown off as Act One concluded with the full company gathering to deliver an impressive rendition of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’.

There was a short interval, a chance to replenish our drinks and indulge an ice-cream then we were soon into Act Two. Owen Maudsley sang a great Mustang Sally, Jade Hamer and the girls gave us I Say a Little Prayer, James Burke and Eva Carty sang Endless Love beautifully and Poppy Evans treated us to I Want You Back. There were many more hits and individual performances but before long the full company gathered on stage for the finale with Lean on Me, followed by Dancing in the Street and We Are Family.

A light, witty narrative threaded through the vocals telling the ‘story’ of Motown, including it’s early beginnings in 1950’s Detroit, the international appeal and events that inspired some of the music. I’d no idea that ‘War’ was originally a protest song by Edwin Starr about the Vietnam conflict sending a message that is, sadly, still relevant today.

As ever, the production team put together a seamless show, directed by Prab Singh with Bethany Singh as the Musical Director, Katie Gough the choreographer, Tempany Windsor took on lighting and Weronika Czerwinska managed the sound.

While we’ve all been busy with the challenges presented by the covid crisis, I am truly grateful that NWTAC have been quietly getting on with the business of preparing a show that was ‘ready to go’ as soon as restrictions were relaxed.

If you missed out this time there are plenty more productions in the pipe-line and you won’t have long to wait. Tickets are now on sale for Puss in Boots running during half-term starting on Friday 28th May and the Broadway musical ‘Hairspray’ is scheduled for the 20th to 24th July. Also, keep an eye out for ‘Lights Up – an evening of musical entertainment’ running from the 15th to 19th June.

Book early is all I can say.

To keep up to date with everything NWTAC, including how to book, follow them on Facebook or check out their website here. The box office number is: 0161 207 1617.

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Boxes on Wheels

Brownsfield Mill, by the Rochdale canal just off Great Ancoats Street, was built in 1820-5 as a spinning mill, but by the 1880s was already home to various small traders, making umbrellas, prams and other items. One such trader was William Payne, a wood-turner and chair maker originally from Berkshire, who settled there in 1889. Another was Humphrey Verdon Roe, who made surgical dressings and “Bull’s Eye” braces.

Brownsfield Mill in 2008

In the early 1900s, Humphrey let his younger brother, Edwin Alliott (who always preferred his second name) use his workshop for making experimental model aeroplanes, and later full-sized ones, William Payne often supplying the timber. William’s grandson, Jack Whitehouse, would occasionally hang around his grandad’s workshop, and many years later recalled Alliott as a very friendly young man, asking how he was getting on at school, and so on.

With help from his brother, in 1909 Alliott founded a company that was to become world-famous: A.V.Roe & Co, shortened to AVRO. Some of his early designs, including the “Bull’s Eye” triplane, which was the first successful all-British aeroplane, were fabricated in Ancoats. After being disassembled they were taken by horse and cart to London Road station, to be sent by train to places like Brooklands for assembly and testing.

Newton Heath branch

In 1910, the firm moved to larger premises at Clifton Street, Miles Platting. By then, young Jack had left school and found work on the railway, but Alliott offered him a job as a wire splicer: early multi-wing planes needed a lot of wire bracing, to give strength while keeping the weight down. Three years later an even larger works at Newton Heath was acquired, at the corner of Briscoe Lane and Ten Acres Lane, in an extension originally built for Mather and Platt.

Jack (who by the way was my grandad) was photographed here, with the splicing team, in 1914; he is at the back, second from the left

The First World War, of course, established Avro as major aircraft designers and manufacturers, and the experience Jack gained with them led to his being recruited into the Royal Flying Corps as a rigger, making netting and other ropework for reconnaissance balloons, which were still very much in vogue. After the war, he was offered his old job back at Avro, but said he preferred being in the open air. He went back to the railway, first as a shunter and eventually as a goods guard.

Avro’s went from strength to strength, with premises at Woodford, Yeadon and Hamble being used at various times. In 1939 another huge works was built at Greengate, Chadderton, although the Newton Heath works was retained until 1947. One of the best-known aircraft of the Second World War, the Avro Lancaster, was designed here, around half of the 7,000 built coming from Chadderton. Another famous design followed just after the war: the Vulcan bomber, also designed at Greengate.

BAE Greengate, Chadderton

AVRO became part of Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1963, during which period my uncle, Albert Robinson, worked in the offices at Chadderton. In 1977, the year he retired, the merged company was acquired by British Aerospace (later BAe Systems), who continued making aviation equipment until 2011.

I have not discovered what became of the Miles Platting works, but the other three buildings mentioned are still standing. Brownsfield Mill, after many years housing small businesses, is now an apartment block. The Briscoe Lane works, once used by the Co-operative Wholesale Society as a repair depot for their vehicle fleet, acts as a clothing warehouse, and the huge Chadderton plant is now home to Mono Pumps and Kitbag Ltd (sports clothing).

“Bull’s Eye” triplane

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester has an example of a “Bull’s Eye” triplane, although this is actually a replica, built from original drawings in 1964 for the film “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”.

In the 1950s, my grandad was interviewed by a reporter from the Manchester Evening News, recalling the pioneering days in Ancoats, so perhaps I should let him have the last word:

“Those machines looked for all the world like boxes on wheels, but we thought they were wonderfully up-to-date then.”

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A much more complete history of AVRO, its sites and products, can be found at their heritage centre in Woodford, Cheshire. Click here to view their website.

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Lakeside Community at the Café, Boggart Hole Clough

Here we are in January. It’s been a very trying year; many have faced huge difficulties and have struggled as we all faced an uncertain situation together.

One year ago, as the newly formed Lakeside Community Interest Group, we were devastated when our plans for a gardening club, reading circle, Easter egg hunt, lakeside lap challenge and a super VE Day party had to be put on hold for the foreseeable.So, we gave our heads a wobble, looked at what we could do and here’s what we managed to achieve:

We received funding from WeLoveMcr to tackle period poverty within the M9 area, dropping bags at doorsteps, care homes, schools, doctor’s surgeries and nursing homes. We also gave out hand cream, lip balms and hand sanitiser.We were given 100 Easter Eggs from Mantra Learning and Sheridan Lifts, which we distributed to households in M9. Plus arts and craft packs to keep the children occupied during the long months while the schools were shut. As well as bird boxes, bug jars, fairy doors and nature hunt sheets.

When the national lockdown ended we received funding from the Eric Hobin Fund, Northwards Housing. We used this to fund binoculars and bird books to encourage people to come out of the house and admire the natural beauty we have on our doorstep.

White Moss Youth Club gave us over 100 pedometers that we have been giving to people so they can monitor their steps while keeping active.

Working with MCC Parks Team we got involved with the Big Boggart Clean Up. Over 50 people joined in on the litter pick, making the park even more beautiful. We followed it with a cake sale for Macmillan raising £436.

As the weather got colder we created winter packs to give out from Lakeside Café; many of the items were given to us by @HealthyMcr.Over 20 shoeboxes were dropped off in Sharston for the Manchester Shoebox Appeal in November. A box was taken to the Lalley Centre for their reverse advent calendar campaign.

Winning Hearts and Minds have gave us 20 Christmas gift bags to distribute which accompanied the 100 boxes of mince pies supplied by Iceland. White Moss Youth Club enjoyed some at their luncheon club.

Partnering with Manchester Libraries we passed on 20 Winter Library Activity Packs, crammed with essential info and activities.In December we ran an amazing Christmas Raffle. The brilliant prizes included hampers from North Manchester Fitness, Winning Hearts and Minds and a fishing membership from King William IV Anglers.

None of this would have been possible without the support, help and generosity of the local community. We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive feedback and beautiful compliments received this year.

In no particular order our huge thanks go to: North Manchester Fitness, White Moss Youth Club, Walk2Run, MCC Parks Team, We Love Mcr Charity, Eric Hobin Fund, Northwards Housing, MCC Neighbourhood Investment Fund, HealthyMcr, Winning Hearts and Minds, King William IV Angling Society, Sheridan Lifts, Mantra Learning, Iceland, Manchester Libraries. Thank you all so much from the Team at Lakeside Café. We raise you a glass to say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to a fabulous 2021.

Keep up-to-date with opening times and events at the Lakeside Café on their Facebook page, just click here. And for Lakeside CIC click here.

Boggart Hole Clough is a large park with gardens, lakes and woodland walks situated on Charlestown Road, Blackley, Manchester. There’s a visitor carpark to the right of the main entrance.

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