Canal Street Online Manchester

Northern Soul - Manchester a View

If you love the North, then Northern Soul is for you. Written in the North of England by Northern writers, Northern Soul is a celebration of culture and enterprise, from theatre, music, authors and art to heritage, small businesses, food and leading figures, as well as everything in-between.

Talking to people who work, rest and play in the North of England and scour the region for interesting 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 on Northern Soul.

Dan Dare is back: we chat to the brains behind the revival of the sci-fi classic

The North of England may not exactly have been the epicentre of the 1950s space race, but it did have its moments. In the Cheshire countryside, the mighty Lovell Telescope was constructed to look for signals among the stars. On television, extra-terrestrial threats were combated by Professor Quatermass, from the mind of Cumbrian-born writer Nigel […] The post Dan Dare is back: we chat to the brains behind the revival of the sci-fi classic appeared first on Northern Soul.

The North of England may not exactly have been the epicentre of the 1950s space race, but it did have its moments. In the Cheshire countryside, the mighty Lovell Telescope was constructed to look for signals among the stars. On television, extra-terrestrial threats were combated by Professor Quatermass, from the mind of Cumbrian-born writer Nigel Kneale. Meanwhile, young readers of the weekly Eagle comic were thrilling to the adventures of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, drawn by a team of artists based in Southport, led by Audenshaw boy Frank Hampson.

Dan Dare became an icon of its era, running until the late 60s and spawning a popular radio series along the way. Down the decades since, the character has been revived several times in comics, but with limited success. Many have tried to adapt it for film or television, though only a little-seen CGI cartoon version made it through. Now, B7 Media, in association with Big Finish Productions, have launched a brand-new audio drama version, starring Ed Stoppard as the redoubtable Dare, Geoff McGivern as his right-hand man Digby and Heida Reed as their trusty ally Professor Peabody.

Dan Dare TM (c) Dan Dare Corporation 2017. All rights reserved.The project has been masterminded by producer/director Andrew Mark Sewell, who was all too aware of the pitfalls of reviving Dan Dare. Sewell tells Northern Soul: “When we approached this, we were very mindful of the fact that we had to embrace the essential spirit of why Dan Dare was so successful back in the day, but at the same time we had to find a way in which to update it and modernise it, to make it relevant for an audience today. That was our prime concern. So we had to get rid of the old-fashioned stiff upper lip quality, the analogue levers. Also, our awareness of the solar system is so much more informed now than when Dan Dare was first created. Having said that, it’s extraordinary how some of the visionary depictions of space exploration in the comics have actually played out to be real and we’ve embraced that.” 

Sewell explains that the new audio stories are aiming for a near-future setting rather than some kind of 50s flavoured retro-future.

“My feeling was that Dan Dare was of its time in terms of when the character was created back in the 1950s, but it’s kind of become of its time again now with Tim Peake. He’s re-ignited the romance of space for people. I felt that we had to actually do something which was fast-paced, in many ways like what Steven Spielberg did with Indiana Jones, which was very influenced by 1930s action-adventure serials like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. He took the key components and made a rollicking daring-do adventure. I think people want a sense of optimism and heroics, so it just felt right to do Dan Dare again now.”

B7 Media has something of a track record with rebooting sci-fi classics. The company started out with a new audio version of Blake’s 7, which gave the firm its name. Subsequently, they produced a Radio 4 adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel The Martian Chronicles starring Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell.

“Again, that was written in the 1950s but we updated it and made it modern,” says Sewell. “We treated it as if we were in a parallel world, so yes, there could be civilization on Mars and so forth. We took the same approach with Dan Dare. The thing is, to be brutally honest, whilst I would have loved to have done a Dan Dare television series, the rights are tied up. But radio just feels like its natural home in a way and I do love radio. I love the intimacy of radio and the scope, the ambition and the boldness that you can adopt with it.”

Sewell likes to think of B7 Media’s output as ‘audio movies’. “We take a very cinematic approach. Actually, I remember watching the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which in terms of its origin was a little-known comic coming out of the Marvel stable. So, I went in with no expectations, but I came out with a spring in my step and I thought ‘now I know how to do Dan Dare’. So that’s how we approached it, by adopting a sort of cinematic tone, in the way that we designed the soundscape and the economy with which we wrote the scripts and told the stories. They are inspired by the comics, but they’re original stories in their own right.”

Indeed, the two audio adventures to have been released so far, Voyage to Venus and The Red Moon Mystery, are pacey, thrilling riffs on the original comics yarns. Dare’s arch-nemesis, Venusian overlord The Mekon, is present and correct, as portrayed by Raad Rawi. There’s also an extra layer of back-story and intrigue. In a nice touch, the off-world expeditions of Dare and co are now funded by the shadowy Eagle Corporation, and there’s an ongoing mystery about the fate of Dan’s space-faring father (who, perhaps wisely, isn’t referred to as ‘Dad Dare’).

Dan Dare TM (c) B7 Media. The Eagle incarnation of Dan Dare is imperishable, but it could be argued that it stands or falls on its artwork and storytelling, rather than its sophisticated approach to character development. In rewiring it for the 21st Century, that’s one factor that Sewell and his team have had to address.

“Traditionally, comics didn’t adapt well into other mediums. It’s only recently that they’ve started to really get how to translate comic book characters and make them real. And I think that’s the key – to make them real, to be truthful to them. However fantastical the scenario, make sure you’re rooted in a recognisable reality. But with the characters of Dare and Digby and Peabody – I mean, Peabody, even back then, was a strong woman. So, we had a very good template to work from.”

In terms of the target audience for the Dare adventures, Sewell says this: “I hope that it will appeal to a family audience. I mean, I’ve got two teenage sons who don’t generally listen to radio. Initially, obviously, I forced them to sit down to listen to it. But they stayed put and they said, ‘we wouldn’t normally listen to this kind of thing, Dad, but we really enjoyed it’. It’s just fun storytelling. It embraces that sense of wonder and adventure. I hope that the old school Dan Dare aficionados will like it, too. There’s still an Eagle Society and actually we went in to do a talk for them. I did go there with a certain amount of fear and trepidation about how they would react. And initially they were very suspicious, but they loved it.”

By Andy Murray

 

Dan Dare, (c) B7 Media. Dan Dare – The Audio Adventures Volumes One and Two are available as either a CD Box set or a digital download via dandareaudio.com. Click here to view the teaser trailer. 

The post Dan Dare is back: we chat to the brains behind the revival of the sci-fi classic appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Wed, 19 Jul 2017

Caroline Clegg from Feelgood Theatre talks about A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Caroline Clegg, the founder and driving force behind the award-winning Feelgood Theatre, would be the last to deny that the company has had its ups and down over the years since the first show in 1994. “It’s nearly killed me off a few times,” she laughs of the various trials and tribulations, including the biblical […] The post Caroline Clegg from Feelgood Theatre talks about A Midsummer Night’s Dream appeared first on Northern Soul.

Caroline Clegg, the founder and driving force behind the award-winning Feelgood Theatre, would be the last to deny that the company has had its ups and down over the years since the first show in 1994.

“It’s nearly killed me off a few times,” she laughs of the various trials and tribulations, including the biblical weather that has occasionally accompanied the promenade shows in Manchester’s Heaton Park.  “But we’re still here and we’re still passionate about making accessible, adventurous theatre. I love this city, so everything I do has got to be of Manchester and made with that at its heart but with a universal thread.”

Indeed so, and it’s the passion, heart and indomitable spirit of adventure in all its work that’s made Feelgood beloved of so many theatre-goers. This summer the company is returning to Heaton Park for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, its first outdoor show there in several years.

“We went back there last year for Echoes Of Heaton but this is our first outdoor show there since Macbeth in 2009,” says Clegg. “It is slightly different from previous shows though because we do go inside the hall at the end.”

She describes the production as “site sympathetic”, as opposed to site-specific, and promises that it will definitely have a Feelgood-style edge to it.

“Obviously A Midsummer Night’s Dream has not been written specifically for Heaton Park, but it does sit well in these surroundings. What we’re trying to do is to bring all the history and the culture and the great stories of Heaton Park into the play as well. So, although I haven’t rewritten the Bard and without giving too much away, some of the Egerton family who lived there will, in our dream-like world, be part of a play within a play within a play.”

She adds: “The family were a great musical and theatrical family. For example, Seymour Egerton, who was Lord Wilton, the fourth Earl of Heaton, was a musician who had a highly regarded, albeit amateur, orchestra called The Wandering Minstrels Orchestra for 34 years, during which time they toured the world and opened the Royal Albert Hall, no small feat. He was also best friends with Arthur Sullivan. Charles Hallé often used to go there, and the actress Ellen Terry stayed there when she was performing in Manchester. We’ll be bringing a lot of those characters to life and also bringing into it other music that’s been connected with the hall since those early Edwardian times, for instance Oasis.

“We’re aiming to juxtapose the history of the hall with this sense that Heaton is a real people’s park.”

Since last year, Feelgood has been the official theatre partner with Manchester City Council for the park and hall. Clegg has ambitious plans for what this could mean for the city.

“My dream and long-term vision I’m calling a Field Of Dreams from the film of that name – anyone of a certain age will know what I mean. I’d like to get a regular summer repertory theatre company in the park, similar to what we did several years ago, with a team of actors that would also be part of the Heaton Park revival through culture. This is an amazing place and I’m passionate about it. We did our first show The Wizard Of Oz here in 1998 and really magical things happen in the park.

“It’s been a while coming but the council is now really positive and committed to reflecting the fact that it is so rich in culture. Eventually I’d like to encourage other groups to come in and do stuff too, as we did with the dance troupe Tangled last year. It’s all with the aim of having a permanent theatre in Heaton Park. Regent’s Park has one, so why can’t we?”

By Kevin Bourke, Theatre Editor

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs in Heaton Park and Hall from July 20 until August 6, 2017 (no performances on July 23, 24 or 31). It’s suitable for ages eight and above – children must be accompanied by an adult. Venue is wheelchair accessible, although some of the grassy locations will need a strong push. At least the wheelchair pusher goes free. This is a walkabout show and rain will not stop play, so no refunds and please wear sensible clothing and footwear. Feel free to bring a cushion, blanket or light fold-up chair.   

The post Caroline Clegg from Feelgood Theatre talks about A Midsummer Night’s Dream appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Wed, 19 Jul 2017

Painting the North: Construction by the Rochdale Canal, Steven Bewsher

In the third instalment of a new series entitled Painting the North, Ant Cosgrove, the man behind The Northern Art Page on Facebook, will be sharing striking works of art, sketches and drawings from around The North of England. As the weeks progress, Ant will bring you his image of the week from the popular […] The post Painting the North: Construction by the Rochdale Canal, Steven Bewsher appeared first on Northern Soul.

In the third instalment of a new series entitled Painting the North, Ant Cosgrove, the man behind The Northern Art Page on Facebook, will be sharing striking works of art, sketches and drawings from around The North of England. As the weeks progress, Ant will bring you his image of the week from the popular social media page. This week it’s Construction by the Rochdale Canal by Steven Bewsher.

Ant says: “Steven Bewsher was born in Manchester in 1964. He graduated from Manchester and Wolverhampton and has exhibited widely. In 1995, he displayed at the Mall Gallery in London after taking part in the Discerning Eye Competition. In the same year, he held his first one-man show in Knutsford to great acclaim. This led the way for further solo and group shows around the country, most recently in Bath.

Bewsher’s work concerns the effects of light and shade on the landscape and the urban scene, capturing the changing colours and luminosity of the seasons, and the texture of the built environment. Reminiscent of David Tress, his painting is vigorous but painterly, showing clearly the process of his knife work.

His subject matter is varied from landscape to demolition, but all painted with energy and feeling for the paint. His work has been featured in The Art Magazine, Artist and Illustrator and Cheshire Today, and he has contributed to several tuition books.

This work is featured in the large mixed Northern art exhibition currently showing at Gateway Gallery in Hale, Cheshire. The paintings are all inspired by the urban landscape of Greater Manchester both past and present.”

Construction by the Rochdale Canal, Steven Bewsher

 

By Ant Cosgrove, The Northern Art Page

 

The exhibition runs until July 29, 2017 and works can be viewed in the gallery or online at http://www.gateway-gallery.co.uk/exhibitions/

facebook.com/thenorthernartpage

The post Painting the North: Construction by the Rochdale Canal, Steven Bewsher appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Wed, 19 Jul 2017

Photo Gallery: Life in the Yorkshire Dales

Northern Soul’s North Yorkshire Photographer, Paul Hunter, shares a gallery of striking images of the Yorkshire Dales, full of colour and character.  By Paul Hunter The post Photo Gallery: Life in the Yorkshire Dales appeared first on Northern Soul.

Northern Soul’s North Yorkshire Photographer, Paul Hunter, shares a gallery of striking images of the Yorkshire Dales, full of colour and character. 

[See image gallery at www.northernsoul.me.uk]

By Paul Hunter

The post Photo Gallery: Life in the Yorkshire Dales appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Wed, 19 Jul 2017