Marti Pellow has come a long way from the cheery-faced lead singer with Scots pop stars Wet Wet Wet in the 1980s and 90s. A move into musical theatre has included roles in Chess, Evita, Blood Brothers and, most notably, Chicago in which he starred both here and on Broadway. In addition, solo albums and concerts have remained a constant throughout his career. In 2022, he’s on a greatest hits tour.
If Channel 5’s Friday music documentaries are to be believed, the 80s was the best decade for music. Many from the class of ’81 to ’84 are particularly feted, and few more so than Clare Grogan. In 1981, she was everywhere: in the top 10 with her band Altered Images, on screen starring in cult movie Gregory’s Girl, and in print adorning the covers of Smash Hits and NME. During the intervening years, Grogan has acted in theatre as well as a diverse range of TV shows, including Father Ted, Red Dwarf and EastEnders. In the latter she played Ian Beale’s love interest (plucky woman).
At the risk of sounding like Golden Girl Sophia Petrillo…picture it. Glasgow, February 1992. A young (ish) media studies student is tasked with the assignment of writing a collection of pieces about the representation of a current topic in the media. I chose how HIV and AIDS were being portrayed as EastEnders had just introduced soap’s first HIV positive character, Mark Fowler (played by Todd Carty). This caused headlines galore, reflecting the views of those who deemed it inappropriate family viewing and people worried that the show would trivialise an important issue.
Versatility is the key to surviving as an actor. With a CV ranging from Guys and Dolls and the Kingsman films to EastEnders and even Eurovision, Samantha Womack has barely stopped working during the past 30 years with high-profile roles in TV, film and theatre. This Christmas she is heading to The Lowry in Salford to scare the living daylights out of us as the evil White Witch in C.S. Lewis’s classic tale, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.
It can be disheartening when someone you greatly admire turns out to be a bit of a let down. Thankfully, there was no chance of that happening with Julie Hesmondhalgh. She really is as lovely as you might think. Now the curtain on live theatre has finally been raised, the hardworking actress is back on the road with husband Ian Kershaw’s piece, The Greatest Play in the History of the World.
While theatres remain closed, many venues have created online events to connect with audiences. Hope Mill Theatre’s upcoming An Evening with Jonathan Harvey, hosted by actress and presenter Denise Welch, promises an unmissable mix of music, memories and special performances. Harvey’s back catalogue includes TV comedies Gimme Gimme Gimme and Beautiful People, the much-loved play and film Beautiful Thing, and he also writes for Coronation Street.
Poet, writer, musician and BBC radio presenter are just a few of the roles on David Scott’s CV. He also runs a production company making short films and is head of creative arts at the soon to be opened (COVID-19 willing) Hide Out Youth Zone, a charity helping kids to access the arts. A true renaissance man, Scott has been steadily carving out a creative career for the past five years but is possibly more familiar to poetry and music fans as Argh Kid.
Don’t you wish politicians would just tell it like it is instead of waffling on without actually saying anything?
Humour can be a great way to make news and opinions easier to digest. You can be subtle about it, or you can be Janey Godley. In 2016, Godley was pictured outside Donald Trump’s Turnberry Golf resort in Scotland holding a sign emblazoned Trump is a c**t. The image went viral.
Lulu was just 15 when she had her first hit in 1964 and has been a fixture of the entertainment business ever since. She’s done pretty much everything and worked with everyone. Forget Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon where you link the actor to anyone in the business in six moves. You can do it in two with Lulu. From music legends such as David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix to light entertainment icons like Morecambe & Wise, Bruce Forsyth and Basil Brush!
Celebrating 55 years in the business, Lulu’s still going strong. Extended interview can be found here
She is an accomplished stage and TV actress, a ‘loose’ woman, a mental health advocate and, most recently, a patron of Manchester’s award-winning Hope Mill Theatre.
Denise Welch is also renowned for speaking her mind, even if it flies in the face of popular opinion. From the moment we start chatting, it’s a relief to discover that she’s as funny and forthright as I’d anticipated.
Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed lots of celebrities and people of note. But I was bricking it when I was granted a chat with the Stockport Viaduct.
Construction began in 1839 and, one year and eleven million bricks later, the viaduct stood proud over the town below. Today it remains one of the largest brick structures in the UK. Designed by George Watson Buck, the 111 ft high, 1,786 ft long viaduct carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
“There’s nothing contrived or canned, it’s just Debbie and Chris.” While these may seem like ordinary names, they take on extraordinary status when you realise that Debbie is Debbie Harry and Chris is Chris Stein, the latter being the long-term creative partner of the former and co-founder of Blondie. Harry barely needs any introduction, suffice to say that along with her band, she was the biggest pop sensation of the late 70s. Today Blondie’s hits are as familiar as those by The Beatles, including Rip her to Shreds, Hanging on the Telephone, and Heart of Glass. The band initially dismissed as too kitschy went on to sell more than 40 million records worldwide.
I know we all say it about the telly of our childhoods, but kids’ TV in the 70s really was special. There may only have been three channels but there were lots of shows you rushed home after school to watch, many leaving an indelible mark on young imaginations. Wacky Races, The Double Deckers, Follyfoot, Banana Splits, Vision On…the list goes on. And then there was Newsround.
She’s been big in Japan, ‘loose’ for almost two decades and is a member of entertainment’s favourite families. A new challenge now awaits Coleen Nolan this Autumn when she appears alongside Beverley Callard and Mina Anwar in the world premiere of The Thunder Girls.
Nik Kershaw was everywhere in the 1980s. During that decade he amassed eight hit singles, two bestselling albums and had his own set in the Wembley afternoon sunshine at Live Aid. Despite his success, Kershaw never felt comfortable in the pop star spotlight, even describing himself as being “rubbish” at it.
A fixture on our screens for more than 35 years, Sue Johnston’s telly CV is impressive: Brookside, The Royle Family, Waking the Dead, Coronation Street, Downton Abbey and Jam & Jerusalem to name but a few.
She’s just enjoyed one of her busiest years with projects including Age Before Beauty, a new TV series written by Debbie Horsfield, guest roles in The Good Karma Hospital and Kiri, the radio series Love in Recovery and a movie Walk Like A Panther.
“I know it looks like I’m everywhere,” says Johnston.
“I have no idea where the time has gone,” Joan Armatrading tells me. “It’s insane.” The award-winning singer, songwriter and musician wrote her first song when she was just 14-years-old and released her debut album 46 years ago. Now aged 67, her work – and her voice – are as strong as ever. In fact, earlier this year she released her 21st studio album, Not Too Far Away.
During my pre-teen years, I shared a bedroom with my sister. Of the many trials this presented, one of the most challenging was trying to sleep while the mullet-haired, tartan-trimmed lead singer of the Bay City Rollers grinned down at me from the wall. “Sorry, but I can’t pay for your psychiatrist bills,” laughs BCR front man Les McKeown when I recount this story.
When it comes to album sales in 2016, you can forget Beyoncé, Rag’n’Bone Man and Justin Bieber. Last year belonged to Ball and Boe.
As you might expect, chatting with John Barrowman is a cheeky and gossipy encounter. His tales are peppered with one-liners about threesomes with The Krankies and being the best ‘Dick’ in the business. With his larger-than-life personality, what is sometimes overlooked is his astonishing CV.
“The gigs were so rough that I had to come out kicking everyone in the face.” So says Jenny Eclair of her early gigs. As a student in the 1990s, I worked at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was able to see many of today’s big comedy names begin to make headway, including Jo Brand, Jack Dee and Eclair. In 1995 she was the first woman to win the festival’s Perrier Award. Her act was full-on and took no prisoners.
It’s 1973. Industrial action has plunged the UK into darkness and things are pretty gloomy (except for this pre-teen excitedly reading comics by candlelight). But there is one shining light: glam rock.
Bright, brash bands like Slade, Sweet and Wizzard injected some much-needed cheer into the 1970s with their multi-coloured jumpsuits, platform shoes and glittery eye shadow, all on public display thanks to Top of The Pops
Bucks Fizz will forever be remembered as UK Eurovision winners. A plucky quartet, put together for the 1981 contest, bopping their way to victory with the chart-topping Making Your Mind Up.
But the story didn’t end there: the band went on to amass 13 top 40 hits and record sales of more than 15 million. Nevertheless, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the perky popstars.
Look away now if you don’t want to feel old: it’s been 30 years since the recording of power-pop anthem Heaven Is A Place On Earth.
I bet you’re humming it in your head now. And it was this record that propelled former lead singer of The Go-Go’s, Belinda Carlisle to solo superstardom
Toyah Willcox will always be associated with early 80s pop, punk and new romanticism – and that’s no bad thing.
With her flaming sunset hair, rebellious lyrics and tribal synths, she is unforgettable.
“Britain has become Royston Vasey and we’ve never had any credit for it.” So says Mark Gatiss, the actor, screenwriter, comedian and novelist whose CV includes Doctor Who, Sherlock and, of course, The League Of Gentlemen…
He’s oop North to appear in a touring production of Matt Crawley’s The Boys In The Band.
No TV panel series, chat show or comedy programme is complete without an appearance from Tom Allen. In the past month alone he has been on The Comedy Bus, 8 Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown, Sunday Brunch, Mock The Week and Hypothetical, not forgetting hosting duties on Bake Off The Professionals
She’s preparing a new album and tour for the New Year. She’s released a festive single with thrash metal band Lawnmower Deth. She’s playing a yuletide show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz with Toyah and Carol (T’Pau) Decker. She’s probably already got her sprouts on and iced her Christmas cake for the big day.
In short, Kim Wilde is a busy woman. But she did manage to stop for a nanosecond to tell Northern Soul about musical role models, going viral and looking forward to 2018.
TV soaps have produced many iconic female characters, effortlessly coping with philandering partners, blackmailing bosses and notorious neighbours. Brookside Close resident Jackie Corkhill had her share of heartbreak but for Sue Jenkins, the actress who played her for 11 years, it was a dream role. Jenkins has since played a wide range of parts on stage, TV and radio and has also turned her talents to directing. That’s the role she’s taken on for new play Peg & Bessie at this summer’s Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.
You’d have to be allergic to magazine racks to miss the new series by Debbie Horsfield on BBC1. Front covers of TV listings mags are festooned with mentions of Age Before Beauty and pictures of cast members including Robson Green, Sue Johnston and Polly Walker.
Christmas can always be relied upon to throw up musical mishaps. Each year we endure the murder of pop classics for TV adverts as well as the dismal output of so-called celebrities who’ve no business stepping foot in a recording studio, let alone bringing out an album (yes, Nick Knowles, I mean you). Writer and comedian Adam Kay has taken inspiration from such festive frights and created the show Smutty Christmas Songs.
Margaret Cho is one of America’s most provocative stand-up comics. Never afraid to cover red button issues, her routines feature addiction, abuse, activism, Asian-ness… and that’s just the A’s. “Rolling Stone” magazine named her one of their 50 best stand-up comics of all time and last year, Cho made headlines when she expressed her irritation at non-Asian actors playing Asian roles.
He promises poems about “death, human frailty and other classic conversation stoppers”.
As pitches go for a literature event hoping to put bums on seats, it’s not your run of the mill promotion. But Henry Normal isn’t your conventional fella.
Some surnames are instantly recognisable in the showbiz world.
Jackson, Sinatra, McCartney and, of course, the family dynasty that is Osmond.
I’ve only tried ice skating once. I made Bambi look like Tonya Harding and almost left a Drew-shaped hole in the rink. Competitive figure skating is a tough and potentially dangerous world. Sharp blades on rock hard ice, stupidly early morning starts and endless hours of practice in order to perfect even the briefest of routines make it a long slog. Careers in the sport are also notoriously short as new, young talents emerge, all determined to freeze their rivals off the rink. So what does a skating star do when their competitive life ends?
North East soul and funk band Smoove & Turrell have been creating big banging dance tracks for more than a decade.To celebrate, they’ve released Solid Brass: Ten Years of Northern Funk, a retrospective of 18 of the biggest numbers from their live shows. Currently on tour, if you’ve never seen Smoove & Turrell live, you’re missing out.
Earlier this year, BBC1 launched “Let It Shine”, a nationwide search for five singers to form a group for new theatre show “The Band”, based around the music of Take That. After singing and dancing on Saturday night TV for judges including Gary Barlow, five men triumphed including Leeds singer/songwriter Curtis T Johns
If there was an award for never giving up, Darius Campbell would surely win it. After THAT TV audition in 2001 on “Pop Stars” trying to make it into pop group Here’Say, the plucky Scot picked himself up, paid a trip to the barbers and, undaunted by his first experience, auditioned for the first “Pop Idol”. He came a creditable third.
The 1970s brought us space hoppers, lava lamps and boob tubes. The 60s had swung, allowing the next generation of teenagers to discover the world.
But where did they go for the issues that mattered to them?
It isn’t easy to get a novel published, let alone read by the public. But when it finally happened for Lancashire-based writer Andrew Michael Hurley, it was well worth the wait.
Songs and artists come into your life in all kinds of ways. Ten years ago, I won a radio phone-in competition and received ten CDs. Most were dreadful and bound for the charity shop. As I listened to the last album I stumbled upon a sublimely gorgeous song called Tomorrow in Her Eyes. The singer and writer was Ron Sexsmith and a new musical connection was made.
She was ‘Loose’ for 14 years, recently rejuvenated Mrs Slocombe and her Temple Savage struts round the Solana as the queen bee of Benidorm.
There’s no one better qualified to play the Genie of the Ring in Manchester’s big pantomime ‘Aladdin’ than Sherrie Hewson.
Kate McCabe has been building a name for herself on the comedy circuit with stand up spots and improv shows and this Saturday she performs her first ever 50 minute piece ‘Stuff & Nonsense’ at the Manchester Women Of Comedy Festival.
She had a massive pop hit in the swinging sixties thanks to Dusty Springfield. She appeared in two “Carry On” movies. She worked with showbiz legends such as Eric & Ernie and Tommy Cooper in the golden TV age of the 1970’s. She had her own kids telly show (“Anita In Jumbleland”). She was even a figure skater!
It used to be the case that soap stars were pretty well pigeon holed. You could be a big name in Walford or Weatherfield but step outside the Square or the Street and work could be hard to come by as the public and casting directors struggled to accept a TV favourite in a different guise.
Best known for playing love starved Gladys Pugh in TV comedy classic ‘Hi Di Hi’, Ruth along with Ray Quinn and Jon Robbins brings ‘The Wedding Singer’ musical to Manchester.
From September ’til Christmas, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ becomes unmissable Saturday night TV as celebs sweat, shimmy and salsa under the patient gaze and tuition of professional dancers.
The pros don’t hibernate while the show is off the air however. Current glitter ball winner Joanne Clifton has been on tour playing the lead in the musical ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’, now heading to Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
The Flatley of Fallowfield ‘Riverdance’ and its many related shows has been a theatrical phenomenon for over 20 years. Michael Flately’s creations constantly tour the world to packed houses. This week, the latest show ‘Dangerous Games’ comes to Manchester and performing the lead role of The Lord is the city’s very own James Keegan
Big. That’s the only word to describe anything Jim Steinman-related. It’s no surprise then that the much anticipated ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ musical continues that tradition – big songs, big set, big show.
Right in the eye of this musical storm is Andrew Polec prowling round the stage as lead character Strat.
Do you remember the 80s? The merging of technology and music, bands performing behind a mountain of gadgets and gizmos? Of course you do, and that means you remember Howard Jones.
A regular theme of new writing for theatre is the coming-out story, with writers regularly reflecting on their formative gay experiences. But is there anything new to say about it? Or at least a new way of saying it? How about a musical featuring a troubled teen from 1988 time-travelling in his wardrobe to the present day to compare notes with the boy now living in his 2018 bedroom?
When it comes to art, how much should you reveal? Can you offer too much? Theatre-maker Nathaniel Hall leaves nothing in the locker in his one-man show, First Time. The autobiographical piece explores the actor and writer’s experience as a young man who contracted HIV after his first sexual encounter.