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.
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?
Name a female singer-songwriter from the past couple of decades. Easy isn’t it? Adele, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Dido, Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith, Emili Sande, Taylor Swift, Jessie J. The list goes on. But it was a very different story back in the 60s and 70s. Making your own music was almost exclusively a man’s world. Only a few determined, talented women managed to break through, and none more so than Carole King.
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.