Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake comes to the Empire

Sir Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is soon to grace our city, and it’s not one to be missed!

This classic tale was originally composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875 and is known to be a timeless love story across the globe. Combining passion and tragedy with what is arguably the most powerful style of dance, this production captivates its audience long after leaving their seats.

The enchanting story traditionally features a swan princess, Odette, and a prince, Prince Siegfried, conveying the tale of their forbidden love as Odette changes form from day to night under the curse of a sorcerer.

Holding eight Olivier awards and a Knighthood for his services to dance, Bourne is renowned for his unusual and breathtaking interpretations of traditional ballet. His dance-theatre company, New Adventures, are “committed to finding and developing diverse young talent”, delivering initiatives such as Swan School, a two-week long intensive designed to prepare their graduate-level dancers for the audition process.

New Adventures’ annual open auditions were attended by over four hundred hopefuls; a gruelling process throughout which Bourne and his associate artists, Lez Brotherston and Paule Constable, have selected only the most talented and ambitious dancers. Working behind the scenes to create an unforgettable production, Brotherston ditches the tutus for feathered slacks and paints each performer with a sleek, black beak, putting a simple, yet tasteful spin on this reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Starring Will Bozier and Max Westall, both dancers make their debut as The Swan, challenging all conventions of the typical female ensemble. Returning to the role of The Prince, Liam Mower and Dominic North are accompanied by New Adventures’ newcomer, James Lovell, who will also make his professional debut with the company.

The show will take place at Liverpool Empire Theatre from Tuesday 9 April to Saturday 13 April and will then go on to tour internationally, spreading its magic worldwide.

209 Women Series: A History of Parliamentary Portraiture

The tradition of honouring political figures with public portraiture stretches back hundreds of years — through oil paintings, marble statues or bronze busts. The UK Parliamentary Art Collection is full of portraits of notable British figures, although the weighting of the parliamentary collection is, undeniably, chiefly towards white middle-class men. It tells a story not just of the history of our politics, but also how that history is managed, and who gets to have a place in it.

When the new Palace of Westminster was under construction in the 19th century, the Fine Arts Commission intended on covering the newly built walls with paintings — ideally by British artists. The intention was to rouse national interest and illustrate Britain’s refusal to fall behind its European neighbours in artistic endeavours. This included many portraits of significant figures, chiefly members of the royal family, as well as scenes of British military success, such as the Spanish Armada. However, the Commision never managed to fill the newly built Houses of Parliament, chiefly due to financial issues, and over time the blank spaces on the walls of the palace were plastered instead in wallpaper.

In the 1950s there was a revival of the Fine Arts Commision as it was agreed that there was a need to capture and celebrate the history of British politics. By the 1950s, there were huge gaps in political history that had no artistic documentation, it was felt that many significant political figures had been forgotten. This resulted in the compilation of a list of notable figures that, it was felt, had earned a space on the walls of the Palace of Westminster. Many political figures that merited a portrait were finally recognised, such as William Wilberforce and Neville Chamberlain.

In more recent years, the focus on political portraiture has at long last become more inclusive. Of course, the huge oil paintings of Queen Victoria in the Houses of Parliament remain, but now every MP, despite gender, race and sexulality has been offered to have their portrait captured — not through painting, but through the more accessible and democratising medium of photography. In 2017 the MPs Portrait Project worked alongside photographer Chris McAndrew and succeeded in capturing universal and up to date portraits of British MPs to be viewed on the Parliament website. The aim was to ‘humanise the public figures responsible for running our country’¹. This project went down a storm with the general public ‘the pictures went down well on social media – and showed MPs weren’t “alien species” but a “reflection of us as real people”’. ²

Today, other projects also attempt to capture and celebrate the achievements of MPs in UK Parliament, such as 209 Women. This exhibition focuses specifically on the 209 women MPs in UK Parliament, individually photographed by 209 female photographers. The exhibition launched at Portcullis House, allowing for all the female MPs to have their portrait hang in parliamentary residence. Like the MP Portrait Project, it also humanises the women that manage our country. 209 Women arguably goes one step further, as it captures each MP for the woman she is, depicting these female MPs and their personalities, also the relationship between each MP and her photographer is clear. The photographers endeavoured to capture the essence of each MP: 209 Women, then, acts as a good middle ground between the universal archival nature of the recent MP portrait project and the traditional, more personal element of portraiture paintings.

The tradition of parliamentary portraiture is continuing into the 21st century, and although the mediums may evolve from traditional paintings and statues to photography, this allows for more inclusivity, allowing more MPs to be recognised and praised for their work.

References:

1. Carrie Kleiner, ‘Making History: Official Portraits and Open Images’, Parliamentary Digital Service, (2017), [accessed 6th March 2019].

Georgina Pattinson, ‘MP’s portraits: Photos show ‘human’ side of Parliament’, BBC News, (28 July 2017), [accessed 11th March 2019].

From 1918 to 209 Women: 100 Years of Women in Politics

209 Women is an upcoming exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery, launching at the end of February. This exhibition marks one hundred years since the first British women gained the right to vote in 1918.

 

This piece was written by Alisha Snozwell, currently on placement at Open Eye Gallery. Thanks to Alisha and Open Eye for sharing it with us

Throughout the last century the role and rights of women have advanced significantly; the twentieth century saw more achievements for women’s rights in the UK than, perhaps, previous centuries combined. These advancements were not just political but social too, such as women’s workplace and reproductive rights. These achievements were milestones in the ongoing move towards gender equality in the UK.

2018 marked a hundred years since the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918, the first of a number of political achievements for women. This act allowed British women to vote in UK Parliamentary Elections for the first time, although only certain women were granted the right to vote. Yet, despite the initial inequalities, the years of suffrage campaigning finally led to the right to vote for millions of women. In 1918 the Parliament Qualification of Women Act was also passed, allowing women to be elected into UK Parliament, making 2018 the centenary of one of the most significant milestones in UK political history, for women anyway. Yet, over a hundred years later British politics remains overwhelmingly patriarchal, with women making up only 32% of MPs. 209 Women aims to acknowledge how far we’ve come but also to illustrate just how much further we need to go.

With continued suffrage campaigning after 1918, women finally achieved universal voting rights with men in the UK by the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. The Life Peerages Act was passed in 1958 allowing women to sit in the House of Lords for the first time. This inclusion of women kickstarted the the breakdown of this traditional patriarchal system. By 1979 the first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was elected. This illustrates the progression of women’s rights: at the beginning of 1918 women couldn’t even vote, yet in just over sixty years a woman is elected to represent the country.

As well as political achievements, women have also achieved social rights. In 1961 the contraceptive pill was made available to all on the NHS, sparking the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The pill has been called the ‘greatest scientific invention of the twentieth century’ by some due to the freedom it awarded millions of women. Similarly, the 1967 Abortion Act granted women the right to an abortion under certain conditions. This enabled women more autonomy over their own lives, not to mention their own bodies. Both allowed for choice and increased sexual equality with men. Women could now be freed from inescapable motherhood. This parliamentary act gained serious opposition, ‘the bill came under attack almost immediately, and this has continued to the present day with fifty attempts to restrict it’. Both the contraceptive pill and the Abortion Act received opposition, mainly from faith groups.

As well as reproductive rights, women also fought to secure gender equality in the workplace. In 1968 the Ford Dagenham sewing machinists’ strike over the lack of ‘sex equality’ led to the 1970 Equal Pay Act. The fight for equal pay often divided opinions as ‘not every trade union representative was initially supportive of what now seems obvious, that women and men should be paid the same rate for doing the same job.’ Yet in 2018 the gender pay gap in the UK was 17.9%, this again proves how far the UK has to go to achieve gender parity.

By the 21st century the inclusion of women in UK politics reached a record breaking level: there are currently 209 elected female MPs out of a total 650. Although this is a cause for celebration I can’t help noting that this is still only a fraction. UK politics is still dominated by men, we need more women in the political picture.

By Alisha Snozwell, University of Liverpool

Image: Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, by Hannah Starkey

Five for the Family

Christmas is coming! At this time of year, there’s always plenty of all-ages fun to be had. Here are our top five for the family this December…

The Snow Queen

Unlike any other panto in the city, the multi-talented cast of The Snow Queen sing, dance, entertain and play music live on stage, making sure The Snow Queen is as cool as can be.

Regular Everyman writers unite with musical director Greg Last to bring the usual music and mayhem to this chilly tale. Already in swing, the Snow Queen runs until Saturday 19 Jan, with tickets priced from £15 to £35.

For more information click here.

A Christmas Carol

Join the Playhouse Theatre for an evening of festive fun, music and merriment, in their 2018 adaption of A Christmas Carol. Packed with thrilling, fast-paced entertainment and delight, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will whisk you on a brilliantly funny flight of theatrical fancy. On until 12 January, each performance starts at 7:30pm, with tickets ranging from £10-40.

For more information click here.

Dear Santa

A perfect introduction to theatre for those aged 2 to 7 years old, Dear Santa is a Christmas present children and parents alike will never forget.

Santa is determined to deliver the most fantastic Christmas present to our little hero Sarah. But he doesn’t get it right straight away! With the help of his cheeky Elf, he finally settles on something ‘perfect’, just in time for Christmas Eve. All the ingredients of Rod Campbell’s ingeniously simple and charming style are brought to life on stage, plus a whole lot more… with music, laughter and plenty of audience participation.

Come along to The Atkinson and enjoy the magic from the 12 – 18 Dec, with performances starting at 1:30pm, for just £12.50!

For more information click here.

In the Window: Mister Finch

A story sewn in, woven in. Velvet curtains from an old hotel, a threadbare wedding dress and a vintage apron become birds and beasts, looking for new owners and adventures to have. Storytelling creatures for people who are also a little lost, found and forgotten.

For the month of December, the Bluecoat Display Centre window will be brought to life with a unique installation by Mister Finch. Come along for free to see the fantastic and magical world of In the Window.

For more information click here.

Beauty and the Beast

Come along to the Unity Theatre, for the bold re-telling of the classic family tale; Beauty and the Beast. Produced in partnership with the innovative disability arts organisation DaDaFest, Beauty and the Beast shows that everyone’s attitude can, at times, be beastly!

The show started on 30 Nov and runs until 5 Jan, so head over whilst you have the chance for just £9.50. Performances start at 6pm every evening.

For more information click here.

Celebrating 90 Years of the Williamson Art Gallery

In celebration of its 90th birthday we take a look inside the Williamson Art Gallery, one of Birkenhead’s hidden gems.

Located just a few minutes from the centre of Birkenhead, sitting pretty in the beautiful village of Oxton. Established in 1928, it was funded by Birkenhead Borough Council through philanthropist John Williamson (a director of Cunard Steamship Company) and his son Patrick, who gave the gallery its name.

These days, the Williamson is permanent home to ceramics, sculptures, internationally-recognised paintings, Liverpool Porcelain and the biggest public collection of Della Robbia pottery in the UK. The building hosts a whopping 14 gallery spaces, housing not only one of the North West’s most significant art collections but also an ever-changing roster of exhibitions from local, national and international artists.

The Williamson has a strong community focus; the gift shop is packed to the rafters with work from local craftspeople and artisans. Potters, jewellers, textile artists, painters, jewellers and photographers are all represented in an amazing showcase of Wirral’s creative community.

The gallery’s community focus extends into its programme, with local artists regularly running workshops in drawing, life drawing, painting, jewellery, mixed media and lots more. There are also twice-monthly drop in workshops aimed at families, and a weekly art group aimed at children under the age of five.

The Williamson is home to an independently-run café with food for all tastes and pockets. The café is also home to a whole host of workshops and community events, including an informal book club named ‘Books and Banter’, young person’s art groups, and the regular meetings of the Wirral Embroiderers Guild.

The Williamson Art Gallery is open Wed – Sun, 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.

A New Way to Say Goodbye

Koffin are on a mission to change how we think about death. The way we live has changed dramatically over the last century but for some reason, the way we say goodbye hasn’t.


The start-up — led by British artist, Gina Gzarnecki, and copywriter/brand consultant, Clare Barry, is currently being exhibited at Liverpool Oratory as part of DaDaFest International.

The first inspiration for Gina was being with her mum while organising a coffin for her departed dad. The ‘more you spend the more you love’ attitude infuriated her. Koffin became a cause for Gina, arguing that ‘many people are exploited at their most vulnerable and are subjected to out-dated practices that compound grief and poison our planet.’

The process of making the Koffins was lengthy. The first was a papier-mache coffin made for a friend in 2014, in the shape of a giant winged sphinx. Even in this pseudo-business stage, they realised that if they were to make all coffins this way they would be just as unaffordable as existing ones; so, they set about finding a material and a process that was not only mass producible but also the best environmentally.

Koffin is now a product that’s practical and designed to be totally fit for purpose. It is also a symbol of protest about the monopolisation of the ‘death industry’ and the 80% rise in funeral costs over the last ten years. The decorated Koffins are diverse observations and provocations, questioning ownership, authorship, taboos, values, traditions and cultural practices.

Gina observed ‘it’s a proven fact: making things makes you feel better. Art in healthcare environments has economic impact because people get better quicker. If people can express themselves in any way – a colour, a hand print or an image on the Koffin, this can help people in their grief.’

The project is also about sustaining a career in art through capitalisation of ideas; if the artist is a trader in ideas, why leave this to someone else to make a living from? For Gina, after 30 years of experiencing the difficulties of making a living as an artist, it was time to combine everything and change.

Gina’s work is now the only bio-polymer coffin in production in the UK. In a business sense, Koffins are not for maximum profit and any economies of scale are used to benefit the customers. But are they art? Does it matter? As she elaborated, ‘I’m trying to turn the hardest thing into something beautiful for people – to help them in grief by way of a product option…an idea and to therefore look at ways of sustaining my practice and making something that everyone can relate to – not just the gallery-going public.’

The end point of the exhibition is only the starting point. Gina and her team now need to raise investment through crowdfunding or other ways to get into production properly. The artist explained ‘it is a venture into how to earn a wage, to employ and skill-up local creatives through transforming the prototype and all the years of R&D into a good business.’

They are also running free master classes for locals, teaching them skills for more possibilities of creative employment, development and diversification. Classes will be held at Ignite, Liverpool from November 2018.

Take a look inside the 2018 Winter Arts Market

This year’s Winter Arts Market returns on Saturday 1 December, offering shoppers the chance to buy handmade artworks, crafts and design gifts in the lead up to Christmas. Over 200 independent artists, designers and makers will transform Liverpool Cathedral into a bustling market displaying colourful creations alongside an artisan food fair and vintage fair.

This year Open Culture are celebrating the tenth edition of this special event, which will feature stalls from over 200 artists, designers, makers, crafters, food producers, clothing designers and vintage sellers.

A huge variety of handmade work will be available including intricate jewellery, original screenprints, paintings, tableware, beauty products, colourful decorations, accessories, textiles, photography, knitwear, plus food gifts, clothing and vintage at prices for all pockets.

Read on for just a taster of the thousands upon thousands of items on sale at this unique festive event.

Liverpool is packed full of talented illustrators turning their pen to everything from cute colourful animals to detailed monochromatic portraits, fairy tales and magic. At this year’s Winter Arts Market, you can pick up their incredible designs on everything from prints and mugs to greetings cards, tea towels, accessories, key rings tote bags and coasters.

There’s also tons of beautiful jewellery to be found, from traditional gold, silver and gems to work that is a bit more left field with pieces made from clay, glass and plastic. Keep an eye out for visual artist Aliyah Hussain’s abstract, playful clay, Kim Lawler’s beautiful laser-cut terrarium pendants and statement pieces in plastic, acrylic and even wood from Anna Mulhearn.

Beauty products are always a popular pick for Christmas and have become a staple at the market in recent years; choose from naturally-produced soaps by Carmel Carney, palm oil-free skincare from Scent Trail and health and wellbeing products from local beekeeper Vonnybee, amongst others.

Painting and photography have always been staple fixtures at Open Culture markets and this year is no different; originals and smaller items will be on sale from most artists so grab a beautiful image of Liverpool, Wirral, or something a little more abstract if that’s what you’re into! This year’s market will also feature work from contemporary landscape painter and first-time exhibitor Holly Lloyd.

As the biggest arts and crafts fair in Merseyside, the Winter Arts Market has room for pretty much every art form you can think of with wood, ceramics, and glass all represented. Don’t miss out on unique work from woodturners, pen makers, furniture upcyclers, glass blowers, glass fusers, teapots, smiling pots and tableware made from foraged clay.

Alongside hundreds of crafters, downstairs in the Cathedral’s lower corridor the Food Fair is back and piled high with artisan chocolates, blended teas, cake, fudge, jams, liqueurs and lots more tasty treats. Along the corridor, be ready for a good rummage through the retro treasure trove that is the Vintage Fair, which also features independent clothing designers showcasing their work at the market for the first time.

The Winter Arts Market is open 10am – 7pm and costs just £3 to enter (under 16s go free).

Interview: Filipe Bustos Sierra, Nae Pasaran

We spoke to Chilean director Felipe Bustos Sierra about his documentary Nae Parasan, which tells the story of a group of Scottish factory workers who defied the Pinochet dictatorship by refusing to repair his air force’s engines. The film is in cinemas now and screens at ODEON Switch Island on 5 Nov.

Nae Pasaran tells the story of how a group of factory workers in Scotland grounded the Chilean military – for four years – by refusing to repair the engines of their Hunter Hawker jets. It also introduces its audience to a brutal period of Chilean history, 45 years on from the coup that led to 17 years of totalitarian rule. This was especially important for Bustos Sierra, who grew up in Belgium after his father was exiled from Chile.

‘Stories of solidarity are rarely told from both the perspective of those who carried it out and those who benefited from it. Nae Pasaran was an opportunity to follow the storylines of people with similar values and attitudes in different contexts. For the Scots, their solidarity with the Chileans meant risking their livelihoods; for the Chilean Air Force officers, their solidarity with the worse-off in Chile meant torture, death and disappearance. As someone who grew up in exile, it was important to show the Chileans’ struggle and resilience too.’

It was in Belgium that Sierra first heard of the boycott, at a fundraising event for the Chile solidarity movement. ‘It was already over by then but the “Scottish boycott of Chilean engines” was often told as an afterthought, even though it connected directly with the most iconic image of the Chilean coup: Hawker Hunters firing rockets into the presidential palace on the 11 September 1973, an irreversible moment in Chilean history.’

‘As I grew older and more cynical, I remembered the story with fondness but not much faith.  It felt too good to be true.  When I started researching I was interested in finding out if their solidarity had worked, beyond the moral boost it gave us.’

When watching the film, historians and experts who have studied this period of history are notably absent. Sierra explains that this was a conscious decision.

‘I wanted to treat the Scots and Chileans as they should be, the voices of authority of their own stories and for them to be responsible of their own accounts, beyond just bearing witness.  They’ve carried their story for four decades.’

Does he feel like this impacted the film in any way? ‘It does change the tone of our film, as it becomes more emotive and personal, but we also didn’t expect initially that their action had been so positive, that took us all by surprise.  This a film about history, if course, but focusing on the lives of individuals going through those historical moments and the choices they each made.’

Sierra first explored the story of the boycott in 2013, with a short version of what eventually became Nae Pasaran. Five years later, he’s been able to craft the story he wanted to tell.

‘I’ve always wanted to go further into the actual consequences of the boycott, but I made a short film first in 2013, which reunited three of the guys for the first time since their respective retirements from Rolls Royce. That film focused on the day of the boycott itself but ended on an ambiguous note. It was a learning experience, a way of getting to know the guys and an opportunity to see if they’d be keen to do more. The feature became a much different experience, both in scope and tone. The short is a more nostalgic affair, while with the feature we became active participants in exploring every thread of the history behind the boycott.’

The world premiere of Nae Pasaran closed the Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year, with the film so well-received that audiences began clapping even before the film had ended.

‘The previews were fantastic; most of them selling out and the Q&As with the workers won everyone over. It does get overwhelmingly emotional in the last 30 minutes of the film, once we understand what the Chileans went through to survive and how that connects with the Scots.’

Given the current political climate in many parts of the world, a film like Nae Pasaran – exploring actions of solidarity from both sides – feels especially pertinent.

‘I think, for many, the film works as an antidote to current political events. Its unfortunate how timely this story is.  Nae Pasaran calls for kinder politics, something that many saw possible in Chile 45 years ago.  We’ve come a long way since – in the opposite direction.’

The film is yet to be shown in Chile, and Bustos Sierra knows there’s a possibility the reaction will be somewhat different there. ‘We’ll be in Chile next year. I’m aware the current government in Chile will be less receptive to this story than previously, although there’s no reason for them to be. The film lets all its contributors speak candidly, within the boundaries set by what we could find in the documentation. There’s only one claim in the film that we can’t back up, but its contextualised by what evidence is available.’

So what does he hope Chileans will get from the film? ‘I hope those who may not welcome this film initially will give it a chance. Chile does need to reclaim its history and be able to tell it with confidence, beyond the political agendas. It’s the only way forward towards a fairer society for all.’

Interview: Adam Szabo, Manchester Collective

Founded in 2017, Manchester Collective are redefining how a new generation of audiences engage with the arts. A pioneering supergroup made up of world-class instrumentalists, they bring their new show ‘Romantic Hero’ to the Invisible Wind Factory on 5 October. We spoke to Managing Director Adam Szabo about the show, their new season, and the future.

It’s been almost two years since Manchester Collective was formed. It was founded, says Szabo, for one simple reason – ‘because nobody was programming the kind of work that we wanted to perform. For us, it was originally about producing great shows, and programming music that felt risky and exciting. Along the way, we discovered that we had a real passion for building new audiences, and that it was great fun to take this work out of the concert hall and into a range of offbeat, alternative venues.’

The collective’s mission statement is ‘radical human experiences through music.’ Can he expand on this idea?

‘This idea is incredibly important to us’, said Szabo. ‘It’s far too often that we go to concerts in the classical world and come away feeling something like “Well, that was nice…”

We’re not interested in “nice”. The idea of radical human experiences is about crafting a show that our audiences will have a strong, emotional response to. People might love some of the music, they might hate some of the music, but the one thing that is for certain is that it’s not going to be a forgettable, lukewarm experience. These shows, and the works that we perform, are polarising. Art is too important, the stakes are too high, for performances to be a “meh” experience.’

This is Manchester Collective’s third time performing at the Invisible Wind Factory; they’ve also played a cotton mill, post office and steel mill and will take their 2018-19 season to, amongst others, Newcastle’s Cobalt Studios and infamous Salford nightclub the White Hotel. What’s important about bringing music that’s usually heard in much more formal settings to venues like these?

‘Two things. Firstly, when we play at a venue like the Invisible Wind Factory, (a venue that is basically a large warehouse in an industrial area, but that already has a reputation for producing incredible live music), we reach an entirely new audience. There are so many people who are super engaged in live shows, in culture, in art, who love tricky, experimental, crazy beautiful music, but who wouldn’t describe themselves as lovers of classical music.’

‘When we play in these venues,’ he says, ‘we can attract those people – the people who wouldn’t normally attend a show at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool or Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. We remove one of the main barriers that prevent new audiences from engaging with the music that we play – that is, that most of that music is performed in large, intimidating concert halls, halls that generally serve an affluent, white, conservative, middle class, middle aged audience.’

He continues, ‘the other important part of the picture is that when we produce a world class show at an alternative venue, we get critics from the establishment who come along to those shows, and maybe start thinking “hmmm… maybe you can have this music performed at a high level for a great audience without being in a concert hall.” From both directions, we’re rebuilding the perception of the music we perform.’

In a short time the collective has already spent time as Ensemble in Residence at Stoller Hall, appeared in several important publications and been featured by Classic FM and the BBC. How do they plan to maintain such a stratospheric trajectory?

‘We have big goals for the Collective. At the moment, we’re growing at a slightly terrifying pace – we played our first ever show in January last year, and this season (18/19) we perform over 50 shows across 12 venues, and tour to Europe for the first time.

Building new audiences is always going to be a core part of our DNA, and as we continue to grow, the productions we can bring to those audiences are getting larger, more ambitious, and even more exciting!’

‘Romantic Hero’ marks the first time pianist Jayson Gillham has performed with the collective. ‘Jayson is a bit of a superstar, really lovely’ says Szabo. So how did he come to be involved?

‘We were already familiar with his playing and fortunately, we also had a pre-existing relationship with his manager; so we asked him whether he would be interested in coming on tour with us and thankfully he said yes!’

Some of the shows Szabo and his collaborators have put together in the past have been real melting pots of genres and disciplines, featuring artists as diverse as electronic artist Vessel and cellist Oliver Coates.

This variety, Adam tells us, forms a core part of what they do.

‘Over the course of this season we cover a huge range of repertoire: we’re performing a cult work by George Crumb (Black Angels) in a one-off midnight performance at The White Hotel nightclub; touring to Kings Place in London for a revival performance of our show about electronics and live strings, 100 Demons; and producing a staged production of one of the most controversial works ever written – Pierrot Lunaire by Schoenberg. Those projects are just a small part of the season – we promise to keep surprising our audiences’.

Szabo generally develops programmes alongside Music Director Rakhi Singh, often years in advance. It’s a fun process, but a tough one. ‘Our shows can go through many, many iterations before we settle on the programme that audiences come to experience’. So why romantic heroes?

There was something about the works in this particular programme, said Adam, that conjured up this idea of the Romantic Hero in their imaginations. ‘The Schumann Quintet in particular is a super passionate work – very earnest and swashbuckling – almost like the fantasy of teenage boy, still convinced that he is invincible. Pianists in the 19th century were regarded as the superstars of the classical world – passionate, intense musicians that wowed audiences with their incredible technique and musicianship. So – Romantic Hero.’

So other than a packed season of shows, what’s next? The collective were featured in an NTS broadcast earlier this year; do they have any similar projects in the works?

‘We had a great time on that one. NTS actually approached us and asked us to put together a two-hour show. We were totally green, never having done anything like that before, but were really excited about the prospect of taking listeners on a journey through some really disparate music. We played some of our own material, but also lots of our favourite tunes from other artists and composers. The set is still up on the NTS website – you can listen to it here’.

‘We’d love to do more – maybe someday we’ll have our own, regular show on NTS. Or 6Music! Who knows what the future will hold…’

Manchester Collective perform ‘Romantic Hero’ at the Invisible Wind Factory tomorrow, 5 October. Tickets are available here.

All images Adam Szabo

The City of Liverpool Tattoo

For the first time, a spectacular City of Liverpool Tattoo is being held this September at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. As part of the city’s ten-year Capital of Culture celebrations, the captivating two-hour show promises everything from bicycle acrobatics and pyrotechnic-style flag waving, to traditional dance, national and international band performances.

When most people think about Tattoo performances, they cast their minds to Edinburgh’s Royal Military Tattoo which has taken place annually for the last fifty years. The practice grew from Dutch origins, where drummers were sent out into the town at half past nine each evening to inform soldiers to return to the barracks, the process becoming known as doe den tap toe, Dutch for ‘turn off the tap’. The term ‘military tattoo’ originally meant a military drum performance, however has since evolved into a more elaborate display of theatrics and musical displays over the years as seen in the renowned performance held on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.

The City of Liverpool Tattoo offers a platform for bands from the local area to appear on an international stage, where they will perform alongside a fusion of over 600 acts and artistes, all with their own unique story to tell.

The spectacle will feature the highly anticipated sound of Massed Pipes and Drums, a powerful performance led by Senior Drum Major Brian Wilson MBE, David Ogilvie (lone piper at the Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast Tattoo), and lead drummer Alan Craig, who leads the current world champion Drum Corps of Liverpool and Clyde Pipe Band.

Packed with national and international talent, the line-up is also set to showcase The Band of the King’s Division, Pride of Ballinran Flute Band, Lume De Biquera, The Artane Band, Innova Irish Dance Company, Fanfarekorps der Genie, Imperial Corps of Drums, Highland Dancers, and many more outstanding acts.

Liverpool’s strong bond with both Belfast and Glasgow has drawn the unique event into the city, where people from North West England can enjoy this renowned performance with their community.

There will be a total of three performances, with an evening show on Friday 14 September, and two tattoos on Saturday 15 September.