Canal Street Music,Theatre and Film

If you love the North, then this blog is for you.We hope this music and film blog is a celebration of culture and enterprise, from theatre, music, authors and art to heritage,as well as everything in-between.We also want to flag up forthcoming gigs, theatre and film across our region.

We scour the region for interesting gigs and stories, histories, ambitions and events. Want to read a carefully crafted article about an oddball museum or go behind the scenes of a leading institution? You can find that here.

We chatted to Anton Cross ahead of the opening of a performance at The Lowry of Arinzé Kene  new play.


Arinzé Kene  – star of The Pass, Eastenders and Crazyhead – returns to theatre for the first time since God’s Property in 2013.  His latest work, good dog, is a vivid, high-energy monologue, which tells of community, growing up in a diverse area unified by class and survival, and what happens when you lose faith in being good.  Starring in the UK tour is Anton Cross, and we asked him a few questions ahead of the Manchester shows.  
“Arinze created a play that is so familiar to me, which initially drew me in,” Anton said, when asked about what attracted him to Kene’s work.  He’s familiar with the feeling of growing up in a diverse area; “I am also from Peckham,” he says, referring to the 2011 riots which served as inspiration for the piece. “It was a very unsettling time.”
Kene’s work, whilst drawing from a background of volatility, also tells of community, what it’s like growing up in a diverse area, unified by class and survival.  An idea planted with the problems of six years ago, but prevalent still today, with flashpoints for political instability occurring not only nationwide, but on a global scale, too.    good dog claims to be the clear human voice in a troubled landscape, and the familiarity Cross has with the subject likely does the piece no harm.
It was this connection that drew Cross to the piece in the first place.  “Plus,” he added, “The idea of doing a one-man show excited me, I’d seen so many great ones in the past.”  Usually an ensemble cast member, he’d never done a solo show before, but said, “I now know I enjoy doing both, but I’ll admit I do miss the camaraderie you get from working in an ensemble.”
Cross hopes people will take away feelings of joy, openness, understanding, and inspiration, and Kene’s work reminds us that, when prejudiced voices are amplified, the arts must remind us of the humans obscured within the propaganda storm.  Whilst current politics creates a climate fraught with troubles and discontent, Cross tells us young creators to always remain true to yourself; an answer perhaps clichéd, but if he’s drawing from personal experience to enhance the intimacy of a political and personal piece of theatre, maybe he’s right.  

Still tix here

Also take your #canalstcard for savings too at Pier 8 and other bars 

By Beccy Hamilton for Canal St Online.

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 13:41:58 +0000

Beccy Hamilton caught up with Actor Anton Cross ahead of this weeks open at The Lowry.

Anton Cross (As You Like It, Stig of the Dump, Gentlemen of Verona – all Storyhouse Summer season 2016, Chester) has been cast in Arinzé Kene’s good dog which will be opening at The Lowry on 22nd February.

Arinzé Kene - star of The Pass, Eastenders and Crazyhead - has returned to writing for theatre for the first time since God’s Property in 2013. In this vivid, high-energy monologue, Kene tells of community, growing up in a diverse area unified by class and survival, and what happens when you lose faith in being good.

Click here  for more information and to book.


• What drew you to want to be a part of Arinzé Kene’s work?
Arinzé created a play that is so familiar to me which initially drew me in. Plus, the idea of doing a one-man show excited me, I’d seen so many great ones in the past.

• What do you hope people take away from the performance?
Joy, Openness, Understanding, Inspiration.

• You mentioned in another interview that you’ve never done a one-man show before- would this experience encourage you to do more or do you prefer being part of an ensemble?
I now know I enjoy doing both but I’ll admit I do miss the camaraderie you get from working in an ensemble!

• Did you have any particular experiences from 2011 that gave you a connection to the subject matter?
Well, I was in London at the time, I think that’s enough of a connection to go off. I am also from Peckham where the riots spread to. It was a very unsettling time to be in London.

• Political instability like we’re in today, and like the time set of the play, often inspire a lot of creative pieces or desire to put new things out into the world – do you have any advice to aspiring writers or performers?
Always remain true to yourself.

By Beccy Hamilton for Canal St Online
Images courtesy of Wasi Daniju.

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 11:53:25 +0000

Smother and Comedy night at Contact

Queer Contact: 201 Dance Company - Smother 

There has been sell out performances in New York, London and Edinburgh and now Manchester.201 Dance Company burst into Contact Theatre with stunning movement, choreography, lighting and music which made everyone in the room enthralled.‘Smother’ was a story of two men’s broken encounter which was interpreted through dance and amazing drive by all that were on the stage.

Comedy night at Contact.

Each year queer performances and comedians come together for an epic night of stand-up comedy at Contact Theatre and this year was no different from any other.

First up the dazzling host Jonathan Mayor took to the stage shining from head to toe in all of his beautiful glory with funny phrases and stories that would make anyone laugh out loud. Interacting with the audience and getting the entire theatre to move down and closer towards him brought everyone together as one as it should be within our community. Jonathan continued to talk to the audience and came across a gay couple with the touching yet hilarious story of how they met at Bible Studies while reaching for the same Bible.

Next up was Sophie Willan (Magners New Act of the Year 2015, On Record) who bounded onto the stage with a strong Northern Accent. Funny jokes were played around jobs, prostitution and working life.

Onto the next performer walked Debs Gatenby (Hi, Anxiety) who came slowly onto the stage while still talking on the phone. This of course was part of the act about how she was an 'Online Entrepreneur’ who had combined the two hobbies of Yoga and drinking. The two cans of actual beer worked perfectly as props, they were not empty!

Mawaan Rizwan (YouTube sensation / BBC Three How Gay Is Pakistan?) took to the stage next with songs, poems and raps which got some people roaring with laughter in their seats as an amazing member of the audience named Gary got dragged up onto the stage. From then on Gary was the target within the audience, but he loved every second of it.

Next up was the comedy duo Toots & Leigh who performed short sketches based on a number of things like a lesbian bingo caller who had just been cheated on, and two prison inmates stealing each other’s cake and again Gary was pulled onto the stage for his second appearance.

Finally headlining the night was the absolutely hilarious American Desiree Burch (Funny Women Winner 2015, Welcome to Night Vale). Giving her insight into how London is different from the US and how the people differ in every way. Poking fun at herself went down well with the audience by stating how flat her ass is that you can even sign paperwork on it!

The host Jonathan Mayor was always heard off stage at the side laughing which brought the atmosphere in the room even higher which made for a great evening.

Tickets cost £13 which was a great price for the amount of performers that were there and the amount of laughs that were had.

Queer Comedy Night is one not to be missed next year when Queer Contact returns in February 2018.

Image and review by Drew Wilby for Canal St Online

More about Queer Contact here at

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 11:06:40 +0000

Dance: Blak Whyte Gray

I was lucky enough to see Zoo Nation’s Into the Hoods at HOME last year – with my nephew, so I was keen to see more hip hop dance at Manchester’s newest arts hub, and I was not disappointed.

Danny Boyle plugged this show when he introduced T2 at a Q&A recently, and rather than just feel he had to, because he is HOME’s patron, he did this from experience, as he worked with this show’s choreographer, Kendrick ‘H20’ Sandy.
Boy Blue have managed to create a show which is totally accessible, regardless of your level of interest in hip hop. Athletic, kinetic and poignant, the show explores the topic of identity and this is beautifully explored by dancers entering the stage on their backs, like human caterpillars.

From the opening minute, you are completely mesmerised, with each performer bringing something unique to the piece, and none of them ever fade into the background. Similar to ZooNation, this talented troupe perform, as opposed to simply dance. Their facial expressions convey pain, disappointment and pleasure in equal measures.

Blak Whyte Gray can be read in so many ways, as it is about how we are losing identity, but there is so much more going on. It is about roots and colonialism and with Trump strutting about the White House, like a deranged T-Rex, it’s also about the abuse of power in today’s society.

On a much simpler level, the show astounds you, as these dancers as completely indefatigable, and engaging. When they enter HOME’s bar to applause at the end of the show, they seem so small and humble. Yet, on stage, their terrific talent means that they come across as towering figures, capable of stunning an audience.

Danny Boyle was correct in his praise of Blak Whyte Gray, as I doubt you will see anything quite like in Manchester for a long while. So, for now, there is no place like HOME.

See whats coming to Home here..

Five Stars

By Glenn Meads for Canal St Online.

Sun, 12 Feb 2017 12:33:46 +0000

In the Golden Lion watching three men reading from these hallowed tomes, in the buff.

When I was an A level English Literature student I did my major project on the Bronte sisters, complete with pilgrimage to Haworth on the Yorkshire Moors to see where they wrote their masterpieces. Little did I know that a couple of years…..OK decades…and a bit later I would be just down the road in Todmorden’s The Golden Lion watching three men reading from these hallowed tomes, in the buff.  
Naked Boys Reading is a movement led by drag star Dr Sharon Husbands along with her faithful DJ the Duchess of Pork and a whole host of readers, 138 at the last count.  Tonight’s event is a fundraiser for Salford’s Islington Mill, an independent art space in Salford which nurtures creativity across all genres. Like all old, big buildings, the Mill needs funding and has launched a new Temporary Custodians of Islington Mill scheme where art collectors can buy one (or more) of a collection of prints created by artist and director of Islington Mill, Maurice Carlin. For more information, visit
But back to naked men on the Yorkshire moors, I had an audience with Dr Husbands as she prepared to meet her adoring public and share three of the best from her harem. I was intrigued as to what to expect.
“All three Bronte sisters get a fair smack on the punani” she explains “and we engage Kate Bush in a beautiful and magical way”.
The Naked Boys Reading gang are resident at the Ace Hotel in London but have found themselves travelling as far as Berlin and there is even a Naked Boys Reading in Argentina.
“We’re looking to put on a quarterly event in Manchester if any venues are interested” she says subtly.
Naked guys reading literature is an unusual situation and definitely not one I’ve found myself in before, I wonder how the audience reacts. “We inspired someone to finger bang his girlfriend” cackles Sharon “he was on the front row putting his hand up her skirt, I had to tell them to stop”.
Gulp, I’m not sure if Todmorden is ready for this.
“In Zurich one reader moved everyone to tears” she goes on to explain “I couldn’t come up on stage I was a mess”
As it nears curtain up, I turn to the readers who look a mix of nonchalant and excited in equal measures. It’s a strange experience to interview someone that you know you’re going to see totally naked very soon. Dave is a Naked Boys Reading virgin and said, on a scale of 1-10 of nervousness he was probably about a three. “I love literature and I love getting my kit off” he shrugs.
Fair enough.
Peter is also a three but Gareth, who’s an old hand at this game is a fighting-talk zero. “It’s an electric and intimate atmosphere” he said “You feel vulnerable but also powerful”.
I leave them to their final preparations, whatever they are, probably best not to ask and go into the main room where a strange atmosphere awaits. The crowd is definitely mixed, all ages and sexualities but joined in a sort of nervous bewilderment. The room has been transformed into a camp cocktail bar with the Duchess spinning disco classics and bar staff in Hawaiian shirts, it definitely doesn’t feel like an 18th century literature reading.
Dr Sharon hits the stage with gusto, trying to pronounce TodMorDen in her American drawl and failing spectacularly instead bravely opting for “Manchester Adjacent”. I take it she’s never heard of the War of the Roses but the crowd are in the palm of her hand by the time she introduces the first reader who will be reading from Jane Eyre and it’s Dave.
Then a strange thing happened.
Where the atmosphere was party and fun, it suddenly went serious and you could hear a pin drop as Dave appeared from behind the screen totally naked. It took about 5 seconds to stop thinking “Gosh there’s a willy” to realise that this was really bloody brave and if he can do that, then we all had a responsibility to listen. I suddenly understood what Gareth had meant by feeling powerful, as Dave read the beautiful words of Charlotte Bronte, the audience were in thrall. It was an incredible moment.
After Dave had finished his piece, boom, the atmosphere shot back up again with more disco and stand up from Dr Sharon. I caught up with Dave at the bar to see how it had been, “I want to do it again” he laughed, clearly buzzing “The nerves got to me on the first couple of pages, I’ve only practiced once”.
Next it was the turn of Peter who was representing Anne Bronte with the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, he was a wonderful reader who really brought the text to life and didn’t show one scrap of nerves as he gently took us through the piece he had chosen, all the while not being intimidated by a woman on the front row devouring an ominously named Hot Banana Dessert.
With no break, Gareth came out with an excerpt from Emily Bronte’s stormer, Wuthering Heights. He confessed he couldn’t do a Yorkshire accent but to be fair he managed perfectly well. His delivery of the piece was fantastic and in a strange way brought Emily’s words to life in a way that just wouldn’t have worked if a dull artsy type in polo neck and jumbo cords had stood up there.
The last break is an 80s disco and the three readers stood at the bar, totally naked, chatting away with people as if it was the most natural thing in the world and to be fair by then it really felt like it was.
For a grand finale, Dr Sharon treated us to a poetic and incredibly dramatic version of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights and that was that, I left them all dancing to the tunes of the Duchess and discoing into the night.
For more information on the Naked Boys Reading, please visit their Facebook page.
By Chris Park for Canal St Online
Photos © Mick Ryan/

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:42:08 +0000

Our interview with Declan McKenna on his recent Mancs gig

Declan McKenna burst onto the music scene in 2016, propelled by a win at the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and a provocative song that garnered the attention of the press about the corruption surrounding the Fifa World Cup.

We went along to have a chat with him before his gig at the Albert Hall, supporting Cage the Elephant & Spring King.  
“I think, something I came up with, which I think kind of sums it up,” Declan says, kicking his feet against the bar top that we’re both perched on as he tries to articulate, “I think people need to start funding shit music to make good music.”
He’s like this throughout our interview - maybe nervous, definitely passionate. He worries that nobody will turn up to his show - but he needn’t have. The crowd was on his side. His music, so far, has talked about poverty in Brazil, transgender issues, religion, and his latest single, The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home, challenges public perceptions of younger generations. He insists his album (due out in May) will have lighter things on it, too.

He says Bowie is a big influence, but, "Right now, in terms of what I’m writing, ABBA, and Peter Gabriel.” He then laughs, “But I don’t really know what I’m on about.” He sounds carefree, as he sais, he’s just, “going with the flow.” But this would be understating. He’s smart, commenting on the patterns of Gabriel’s work, how he’s inspired by the “little weird sounds I want to try, taking this, taking that, making something.”

It would be easy then, as others have, to say he’s doing well (with the unsaid implying “for an eighteen-year-old”) - but that’s not fair, and he’s agreed in other interviews, a bit patronising sometimes.

“Politics is always going round in circles,” he says. “But there’s this sort of idea that young people aren’t quite mature enough, and I think it’s outdated that the sixteen/seventeen bracket isn’t informed.”

He’s definitely informed, about a lot. He was longlisted for the BBC Sound of 2017, and we ask him who his sound of 2017 is, who his home influences are.

He laughs; “Yeah, I’m very unfamiliar with it, thanks Tory government.”

He’s got ideas though, big plans to turn around the Hertfordshire music scene. “Especially with cuts and stuff, and all the youth clubs closing down, there’s no room for people to form bands. For the working-class kids it’s like, it’s almost a non-existent thing.” That’s where he quips us with his idea that for good music to exist, we need to fund the shit stuff too. He makes a good point.

“People have this idea that it is a natural thing, or that it’s just a bunch of kids making a racket, but that’s how every band starts out.”

On the back of winning the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2015, we ask him if we should keep our eyes peeled then for the Declan McKenna Talent Competition.

“I just…” he pauses then laughs, “I just think I’d be a bit of an arsehole.”

Despite being a self-proclaimed arsehole (he also admits it’s hard to portray sarcasm in interviews) he’s already won over radio support in the States, toured there with The Head and Heart, and is heading back soon to play Coachella - on top of a mini-European tour. “A lot of bands struggle to break the barrier, so to have done that quite early on is very good, rather than, you know, taking four albums like the Arctic Monkeys did.”

He laughs again.

He’s quick and witty. He’s clearly stoked about playing Coachella, yes, but it’s understated - just like the way he talks about his successes, of which there are bound to be more. Before we finish he reminds us, despite the numerous proclamations he’s headed for big things, that he’s still got his feet firmly planted on British soil;

Coachella’s not a real festival, he says - “There’s no mud.”

Check his site here 

By Becca Hamilton for Canal St Online.

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 12:30:10 +0000

St Paul and the Broken Bones

The 30th January saw us head down to the O2 Ritz to watch the powerhouse that is the Alabama-based soul octet St Paul and the Broken Bones. During this passionate and energetic show, the religious energy that once had a teenage Paul Janeway training for the clergy is evident; masterfully rousing the crowd convocation-style with his howling vocals, whilst his band provided classic soul, jazz and funk-infused backing.

On the British leg of their tour for the critically well-received September release Sea of Noise, St. Paul and the Broken Bones put on an effortlessly exuberant performance. Frontman Janeway notes the increased crowd size - this is their second visit to Manchester and they have packed the room, keeping the audience abuzz throughout the duration of their set. Despite the relentless energy and American showmanship, when commenting on the significant size of the crowd, Janeway is evidently humbled by the fact; “We must have had about 20% the size of this crowd last time we were here, I honestly don’t know what happened but I’m loving this!” Whilst the red suit-clad showman’s theatrics are the most compelling aspect of this performance, Janeway also knows when to let the rest of the band shine; with a demure “I’m gonna keep my mouth shut”, he disappeared, allowing guitarist Browan Lollar to showcase his funk-laden solos. A wonderful flute solo saw the stage bathed in blue and the room stilled to absorb the sheer skill displayed on stage. However, the energy was back following the band’s gorgeous hit I’ll Be Your Woman.

This is a band who’ve mastered the art of dynamics - one moment having the crowd clap along to setlist staple from their debut Call Me, (a slick, upbeat number), Janeway howling with a James Brown-esque soulful energy, and the next segueing into sensual, bass-driven instrumentals; they’re certainly one to watch.

By Katy Watts for Canal St Online

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 12:48:13 +0000

We review Jackie at Odeon, Printworks.

Jackie is a 2016 biographical drama film directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Noah Oppenheim. The film stars Natalie Portman as the titular character, following her life after the 1963 assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy. Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup and John Hurt also star.

Review By Belinda Scandal

An indicative invite into the intimate thoughts of Jackie Kennedy.
This is a play for motion picture is unusual in today’s world of cinematic blockbusters. It is the story of a world shattered by the infamous and now legendary assassination of JFK.  The lead is so gently performed by its Star Natalie Portman, no big swoop in the acting. If anything the role is totally underplayed, bringing to the screen the traumatized emotion of a woman who lost her husband in such horrific circumstances.
 The story takes place for some part in the weeks that followed JFK’s death and focuses on the realisation that what Jackie does will ultimately determine how her husband, father to her four children and The presidency of 1961-1963 be remembered in the history books
The cleverly placed camera work almost invites you into the conversation scenes. The film inserts original footage from 1963 and the funeral of JFK
For the most part this feels like a one woman show, although throughout the piece famous actors of stage and screen appear as does the unfortunate appearance of Richard E Grant, whos American accent is poor, John  Hurt is a welcoming face  in the film as a Priest. The role of Nancy played by Greta Gurwig, although brief is the steal of the co stars .
The film is a wash with splendour and definitely in my humble opinion one to see.
You may believe you know the story , by the end of this though, you are invited to ask is what we know truth or merely a conglomerate of the stories Jackie Kennedy forced us to believe? Is this just her Camelot!!

To book at Odeon Printworks click

Tue, 24 Jan 2017 11:20:50 +0000