Arts news January & February 2016

Wenlock Poetry Festival

Wenlock Poetry people

On January 30, retiring Wenlock Poetry Festival poet in residence Jean Atkin hands over to this year’s resident poet, Paul Francis at Wenlock Pottery – and you can come along to watch the transition. As well as the cosy log fire, a licensed bar, poetry and music, the Wenlock Poetry Festival programme will be launched to great fanfare.

The artwork for this year’s event is provided by Shrewsbury-based writer and artist Emily Wilkinson, who has used the town’s iconic clock as the starting point for a range of pieces for this year’s theme, Time.

Preparations for the 2016 Festival, which runs from Friday 22 to Sunday 24 April, are hotting up, with one of the headliners in the news recently as the winner of the Guardian First Book award. Andrew McMillan won for his collection physical, and he’ll be joining Don Paterson on 23 April, as well as leading a creative writing workshop on 24 April.
And, if poetry is what inspires you, consider joining the Friends of the Festival for a host of special deals and privileges. Visit for full details of tickets, performers and events at the Festival.

Schools open for Hoods

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre has announced a groundbreaking collaboration with hip hop dance company ZooNation and local schools ahead of the visit of the touring production of ‘Into the Hoods: Remixed’ to the Grand from 25 to 27 February.

With support from Arts Connect, the Grand and ZooNation have created an outreach scheme to enable KS 4 dance students across 12 schools to train with professional choreographers, as well as giving business studies students the chance to work alongside the Grand’s marketing and sales staff. The schools will present a showcase at the Grand Theatre in January 2016, prior to performing a curtain raiser for the highly acclaimed dance show during its visit to the Grand. The show was a huge hit in London; Time Out said, “The cast radiate an infectious joy that makes it hard to stay still in your seat”. Visit or call 01902 429212; tickets range from £12.50 to £28.50.

Veteran funnyman visits Telford

Comedy legend Ken Dodd has been making people laugh for over 60 years – and now he’s bringing his fun-filled ‘Happiness Show’ to Telford’s Oakengates Theatre. His new show is suitable for all the family, with non-stop gags and laugh-along songs that range from ballads to grand opera. Ken thrives on entertaining audiences – after all, that’s what he does best. The show visits Telford on Friday 26 February at 7.30pm – tickets are £21.50 and can be booked online at, or call the box office on 01952 382382.

Big names at Folk Festival

Shrewsbury Folk Festival has announced the first names in the line-up of its 2016 festival. Grammy award-winning American singer songwriter Rosanne Cash – daughter of Johnny Cash joins folk rock band The Levellers (pictured), Eliza Carthy and the Wayward Band, and Tom Robinson at the four-day festival. The event, which started life in Bridgnorth in 1997, also includes workshops for musicians, an interactive mini-festival for teens, a lantern parade for children, and the ever-popular ceilidh tent. The festival takes place at the West Midlands Showground in Shrewsbury and tickets are available through

Alice in Hope

A touring production of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is set to hit the stage in a whirl of handmade puppets and vibrant colour. This magical tale is brought to life by Box Tale Soup and won the Best Family Show award at the 2014 Buxton Fringe. Perfect for children aged four and over and their families, the show visits Hope Village Hall (SY5 0JB) on Sunday 17 January at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced at £8 or £5, with a family ticket at £25. Call 01743 296160 for details or go to

Mountains on film

The international Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is returning to Shropshire, with two different film programmes being held at the Theatre Severn on Thursday 11 February and Thursday 31 March, both at 7.30pm. This year showcases a selection of the most breathtaking and remarkable films from the global mountain and sports community, and each film celebrates incredible characters and stories. There’s a discount if you come along to both films – tickets are £12.50 to £14.50. For more information visit or, to book, call the box office at 01743 281281.

Play provokes reflection

Appearing at Bridgnorth’s Theatre on the Steps on Wednesday 7 February, ‘Yizkor’ is a thought-provoking exploration of the unthinkable horrors of the Second World War. Written using testimonies from two Holocaust survivors, the play unfolds with a potent and moving reality. The story forces the viewer to consider everyday people going about a way of life that was all but wiped out as a result of racial hatred. Tickets range from £6 to £10 – visit for more information.

Fiddler in Bridgnorth

Bridgnorth Musical Theatre Company’s production for this year is ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. ‘Fiddler’ was an enormous success on Broadway when it first appeared in 1964 and became the longest running Broadway musical for 10 years until ‘Grease’. It tells the life-affirming story of Tevye, a poor milkman, whose love, pride and faith help him face the oppression of turn-of-the-century tsarist Russia, through beautifully evocative music and a heartwarming script. The show runs from Tuesday 16 until Saturday 20 February at Bridgnorth Leisure Centre, with evening shows at 7.30pm and matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm. All tickets are £15 from the Leisure Centre – call 01746 761541 for the box office or email For more information, check the website at or visit Facebook: Bridgnorth Musical Theatre.

Get ’em while they’re hot…

A new play at Quatt Village Hall on Saturday 20 February explores love through the medium of one of our nation’s best-loved meals: chips. ‘Chip Shop Chips’ by Box of Tricks looks at young love and past love in an immersive tale set in a chippy. Audience participation includes tucking into a fish and chip dinner – what could be more British?! Tickets for the show, which starts at 7.30pm, are £10/12.50, including fish and chip supper (alternative available). Call 01746 781759 or 781214 for details.

Scrooge revisited

Travel with Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future in this production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Severn Valley Country Park in Alveley. Taken back to view forgotten images of his life and what might have been, Scrooge begins to realise the meaning of Christmas and starts to develop a new understanding of his fellow humans. With surprises throughout, this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale is played out in Victorian costume with a cast of five playing a whole host of characters. This is a family-friendly show with a generous sprinkling of ‘Bah – humbug!’ The play takes place on Sunday January 3, with doors opening at 6.15pm for a 7pm performance. Adults are £10 and children £6 – call 01746 781192 or 03306 600541 or email to book.

Sinbad at the Birchmeadow

The panto at Broseley’s Birchmeadow this year comes from a scriptwriter who’s proved a hit in past productions. Alan P Frayn’s version of ‘Sinbad the Sailor’ is a fast and funny tale all about the exotic eighth voyage of the intrepid sailor. Action will include an underwater scene, the treacherous Valley of Diamonds and a sand dance, and the show is accompanied by the five-piece band who charmed audiences last year. The play is set to run for nine performances from Thursday 28 January to Saturday 6 January, with tickets priced between £6 and £9. Tickets from Downes’ greengrocers in Broseley High Street. Alternatively, call 01952 884842 or visit

Best Thing at Theatre Severn

The UK’s leading full mask theatre company presents ‘The Best Thing’, a swinging sixties story of mistaken morals, sexual revolution and unconditional love. Sheila was 17 back in 1966 when she got pregnant – and, like many women at that time, she had no choice but to give up her child. Eighteen years later, her daughter returns looking for her mother. But her digging may yield more than she wants to know…

Poignant, humorous and gritty, ‘The Best Thing’ celebrates a decade of sexual revolution, women’s liberation and radical fashion and music. It highlights the conflict between this new social freedom and the rigid morals and beliefs of an older generation and looks to the human stories from this vibrant decade to explore the realities for a teenager living through it. The show appears at Theatre Severn at 8pm on Thursday 11 and Friday 12 February, with tickets priced at £15 and £13. Visit or call 01743 281281 for details.

Kit returns

On February 13, Kit Holmes will again be playing at Broseley’s Birchmeadow. Her sultry vocals and virtuoso guitar playing have wowed audiences across the UK, and she was warmly received during her last visit. Recent gigs include a masterclass at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, a performance for Bill Bryson and Andy Kershaw, and a headline slot at the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain. Not easily pigeon-holed, Kit cites her musical influences as Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits. Expect an enthralling and energetic live performance of original blues-driven roots with a soul sensibility. Tickets £9 from Downes’ or E Davis on Broseley High Street, or £10 on the door – you can also buy them online at Call 07890 057832 for details.

Call for Live Arts entries

The Wenlock Olympian Games start with a festival of Live Arts over the weekends of 12 and 13 and the 19 and 20 March. There are competitions in music, dance, and speech and drama for entrants aged 18 and under, all held in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Categories this year include one for youngsters’ own poems, as for acting solo and for reading prose. Visit or call 01746 785167 for details.

Out for the Count

Children’s TV classic Count Duckula comes to the stage for the very first time in the action-packed new adventure ‘The Jewels of Duckula’. Join Duckula, Nanny and Igor in a race against time to solve the clues and find the long lost treasure. With songs, games and tons of fun, it’s the perfect show for all the family. The show visits Theatre Severn on Monday 15 February at 2pm, with tickets priced at £11. Call the box office at 01743 281281 or visit

Wenlock author unleashes mice

Wenlock resident Pamela Hunter’s book for the youngest member of her family has turned into a surprise hit. The Holiday Adventures of the Mice at Number 2 was first penned by the long-time professional artist with two-year-old Oscar in mind, but now local firm Smith York Fine Art Publishing ( has printed a run of 100 copies and is considering printing more. The book tells the story of a family of mice who explore some of Much Wenlock’s beloved shops, and the book was launched at Wenlock Hardware’s new Cup of Rosie Lee café in November.

Unloved animals have their day

Oswestry-based Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press and Bridgnorth ecologist John Handley appeared on BBC Radio Shropshire’s Jim Hawkins show towards the end of last year to talk about their Maligned Species project, which aims to celebrate animals that are normally shunned by humans. House spiders, grey squirrels and stinging nettles are just some of the species celebrated.

“It’s a poetry-writing project… with a scientific slant,” explained Nadia. “Four ecologists and nine poets have been recorded and their podcasts are available at

It’s a UK-wide project but I hope lots of Shropshire poets aged 12 and upwards feel inspired to write poems along the theme. It’s free to enter – and you may see your poems publishedin one of our ebooks.”

There is a grey squirrel-related event planned for the Darwin Festival in February – visit the website at for more details of this annual celebration of the county town’s most famous son.

Edgy Liaisons

National Theatre Live brings the Donmar Warehouse’s highly anticipated new production of ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ to The Edge Arts Centre in Much Wenlock. In 1782, Choderlos de Laclos’ novel of sex, intrigue and betrayal in pre-revolutionary France scandalised the world. Two hundred years later, Christopher Hampton’s irresistible adaptation swept the board, winning the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play – and Josie Rourke’s revival now marks the play’s 30-year anniversary. This showing takes place at The Edge at 7pm on Thursday 28 January, with tickets priced at £10-11. Visit for more information, or call 01952 728911.

Upgrade planned for town icon

Bridgnorth’s cinema, the Majestic on Whitburn Street, is looking forward to a makeover that will improve the experience for film fans while retaining many of the original features of this striking building. The art deco cinema, which was built in 1937, has won an outstanding achievement award from Reel Cinemas for its live content sales and boasts one of the biggest screens in the county. Manager James Frizzell (pictured) is looking forward to the planned upgrade – he worked his way up after starting as a projectionist nine years ago and is one of the cinema’s biggest fans.

“There are not many cinemas like us left in the country,” said James. “I love looking up at our auditorium, and I know a lot of our customers, as they like to chat about film and theatre.”

The Majestic will remain open during the refit with most of the work taking place at night, and two of the live streaming presentations in the pipeline are the Bolshoi Ballet’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ on Sunday January 24 and the Royal Opera’s ‘La Traviata’ on Thursday 4 February. Tickets are priced at £15 for adults and £12.50 for concessions. Visit or call 01746 761815 for details.

Colourful candles

Children will have the chance to dip candles and indulge in a range of other creative pursuits during half term, as Blists Hill Victorian Town in Madeley will be offering a range of drop-in arty activities. Youngsters can create their own candle, print a Valentine’s card, or make miniature roof tiles from Saturday 13 to Sunday 21 February. The Museum is open daily from 10am until 4pm; activities vary from day to day and some incur an additional charge as well as the entrance fee, which ranges from £11.50 for children to £16.95 for adults. For details call 01952 433424 or visit

Telford’s in tune

Telford & Wrekin Music Education Hub has been shortlisted for a prestigious award for high quality music provision throughout the borough. The Music Education Awards celebrate the work of music services across the UK, highlighting the work of those that demonstrate imaginative, inclusive and all-round high quality music output that engages young people. Telford & Wrekin has been shortlisted in the National Major Award for Music Education Hubs, with the winner due to be announced in February.

Councillor Liz Clare, cabinet member for Leisure Services and Culture, said, “This is absolutely fantastic news for everyone who works so hard to make the Music Education Hub here in Telford and Wrekin so successful. Being shortlisted for the award shows how incredible our music offer is and it’s excellent that this is being recognised nationally.”
For more information call 01952 380981, email or follow Telford & Wrekin Music on Facebook and Twitter.

Shakespeare on love

‘As You Like It’, Shakespeare’s glorious comedy of love and change, comes to the National Theatre for the first time in over 30 years, with Rosalie Craig (London Road) as Rosalind. An atmospheric live streaming will take place at the Edge Arts Centre in Much Wenlock on Thursday 25 February at 7pm. This comedy has all the key elements of a Shakespeare classic – burgeoning affection, self-realisation and, of course, cross-dressing, as Rosalind disguises herself as a boy, embraces a different way of living and falls spectacularly in love. Tickets are priced at £11/10. Visit for more information, or call 01952 728911.

Grand welcomes Horrible visitors

Thousands of years after the Ruthless Romans, Savage Saxons and Vicious Vikings stormed ashore on the coast of Britain and the Gruesome Greeks competed in the first ever Olympic Games, you can relive those horribly exciting times by bringing your family to see Birmingham Stage Company’s brand new Horrible Histories stage shows. These two new shows are coming to Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Wednesday 2 to Saturday 5 March, and like the other Horrible Histories smash hits, ‘Incredible Invaders’ and ‘Groovy Greeks’ use actors and 3D Bogglevision special effects to bring history to life in all its horrible glory.

In ‘Incredible Invaders’, the Celts are crunched when the Ruthless Romans invaded Britain. Can crazy Caratacus can save the nation? Can you stop King Alfred burning his buns?
‘Groovy Greeks’ takes the audience on a journey from savage Sparta to angry Athens to discover the truth about growing up in Greece. Take on the Trojans and pummel the Persians! Compete in the first ever Olympic Games and appear in the very first play! Tickets are priced from £12 to £16. Visit or call 01902 429212.

Horrible Histories x 2

Acclaimed theatre group Oddsocks are heading out on tour with their latest production ‘The Legend of King Arthur’, and Oakengates Theatre @ The Place is playing host to the show on Sunday January 24. The high-octane performance sees the stage brought to life in a tale of magic, music and mirth as ‘the boy who would be king’ pulls the sword from the stone – to create a legend that has endured for around 1,500 years. The audience can cheer for a favourite jousting knight of the Round Table, admire the gusty Lady Guinevere as she reveals her strength and skills, and gasp at the magic Merlin as he controls the twists and turns of this classic English legend. Tickets £14 each and can be booked online at or by calling the box office on 01952 382382.

Nahko visits Wolves

Nahko, an Oregon-native born a mix of Puerto Rican, Native American, and Filipino bloodlines, considers himself a citizen in service to the planet. Inspired by Bob Dylan, Nahko left home as a teenager in search of adventure and self-discovery and he visits Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms on Saturday 23 January as part of a national tour. The Huffington Post called Nahko’s music, a mixture of hip‐hop and folk rock with a world message as “beautiful and stirring.” Tickets are £16.50; call 0870 320 7000 or visit

Flowers at Twenty Twenty

Penny Rees’s vivacious personality is reflected in her bright and cheerful paintings of flowers and gardens. Penny’s bold and vibrant artworks are perfect to banish winter blues and remind us spring is just round the corner. Her paintings will be at Twenty Twenty gallery in Much Wenlock’s High Street from Saturday 6 February until Saturday 5 March. Call 01952 727952 or visit for details.








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