Millgate at heart of the Arts scene in Saddleworth

FROM pantomime to proms, murders to miners, Classical to Crisp, the 2018-2019 programme at Millgate Arts Centre promises virtually every possible genre of entertainment available.

With more than 100 nights scheduled from a September launch, little wonder the Delph based collective is already bursting out of its own self-styled title as the ‘premier entertainment venue in Saddleworth’.

Certainly, with its myriad of plays, concerts, films and music all under the same Millgate roof, the only thing missing is space in the diary to fit everything in.

The Millgate is home to: Saddleworth Players, Saddleworth Live, Saddleworth Concerts Society and Saddleworth Film Society as well as community-run Delph Library.

Each of the groups unveiled their new season schedules at an open evening attended by the Mayor of Oldham, Councillor Javid Iqbal, on Saturday, June 16.

He and fellow guests were treated to a backstage tour, a re-run of the most recent play ‘We are Three Sisters’, as performed inimitably by the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society, aka the Players, and news of the new season of events.

Already promising to be one of the highlights of the year is a 15-day, 26 performances of the first ever professional Millgate pantomime, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ by the Dream Factory Theatre (December 16-31).

Dame Trott, actor Scott Worsfold, delighted the audience with an outrageous scene setter for the pantomime which also includes special performances for schools.

Opening the evening was chair Ian Shepherd who started by thanking predecessor, Edwina Rigby, for her 12 years in the role.

“But she has also been very supportive member of Saddleworth Players since she was a teenager,” he explained. 

“We owe her a huge debt of gratitude for 50 years of service.”

Ian added: “This season has been the busiest we have ever had, mainly thanks to the addition of Saddleworth Live presentations.

“There have been in excess of 10,000 tickets sold this year for events which is an absolute record.

“It has put Millgate Arts Centre firmly on the map as the premier entertainment venue in Saddleworth.

“We are very pleased we can offer such a diverse range of events. You name it, we have had it.

“We have invested quite a large amount of money into the building for the past few years to make it the best facility in the area. And we are continuing to do that.

“The most important part of the building though is our audience and our members. It is great we have such support and been able to maintain it for so many years.” 

Vice chair Verity Mann, who will direct two of the five new productions by Saddleworth Players, introduced the schedule starting with ‘Out of Sight, Out of Murder’ (September 29-October 6).

This is a comedy ‘whodunnit’ thriller after an author’s characters are brought to life by an electrical storm – with one trying to kill him.

‘The Pitmen Painters’ (November 24-December 2) is written by Billy Elliot author Lee Hall and tells the true story of a group of miners who took evening classes in art to better themselves and became part of the 1930’s avant garde art scene.

Millgate stalwart Carole Davies set the scene of ‘Playhouse Creatures’ (February 2-9, 2019), a look at the lives of the first women allowed legally to perform on the English stage including Mary Saunderson Betterton and Eleanor ‘Nell’ Gwyn who goes from serving wench to mistress of King Charles II.

‘The Thrill of Love’ (March 30-April 6) is a drama based on the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

The curtain comes down on 2018-19 with ‘Incorruptible’, a farce rich in verbal and physical humour set in a French monastery in the Dark Ages. 

Launching the entire programme is the first event by Saddleworth Live creators Tim Newbold and Michael Powis, who transported their popular programme at The Swan in Dobcross to the Millgate.

And not only is Millgate Night of the Proms (Saturday, September 8) poised to be a memorable evening of music and song but all proceeds will go to the Arts Centre’s Auditorium Refurbishment Appeal.

The Proms are followed by the Mikron Theatre’s ‘Revolting Women’ (September 13), ‘Quentin Crisp: Naked Hope’ (September 15), Christine Bovill’s Paris (October 12), ‘Shivers’ (October 28), ‘From Heaven to Hell’ (November 11), a World War One drama directed by one-time Coronation Street and Brookside actress Sue Jenkins, and a concert featuring 80s pop singer Mari Wilson on February 16. 

You’ve forgotten the pantomime? Oh no we haven’t! Casting has taken place, the costumes are being made, the set built in Sussex and the script being written for what should be a riotous end to the first part of the season.

There are also four Wednesday nights of musical entertainment organised by Saddleworth Concerts Society: pianist Clare Hammond (October 17), Quatuor Danel (December 5), Trio Volant (February 13, 2019) and Kosmos Ensemble (March 13).

For details of Saddleworth Film Society’s Monday night offerings and how to join contact Howard Wrigley on 01457 876600 or Nancy Hobson on 0161 665 2821.

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