Watching Simon Pegg stride through Great Northern ODEON on a Sunday afternoon is more than a little strange.
This is a place where people come to see the movie stars – but today it looks like a celebrity has stepped right off the big screen.
Fans flock to grab photos with Pegg as he weaves from the box office towards the theatre; filling the walkspace with the clamour of shouts and snapping cameras.
Bumping into the star of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz on Deansgate would be arresting at the best of times, but it’s even more extraordinary when you consider the context.
Pegg is in Manchester for a premiere he couldn’t originally attend, for a film that almost didn’t get shot, starring in a role that’s unrecognisable to anything he’s done before.
“It felt like something I needed to put right…”
One of the big features on the bill this weekend at Manchester International Film Festival is Lost Transmissions – an independent movie starring Pegg and Juno Temple about music, creativity and psychosis.
Pegg made the movie in between stints on Hollywood blockbusters Star Trek and Mission:Impossible, and whilst his busy schedule had cast doubt on any potential appearance at the premiere, a last-minute scheduling change means that Pegg makes it to town just in time.
Lost Transmissions is a smaller kind of production than the star is used to nowadays, but he’s as visibly passionate about the project as much as any other he’s been involved with.
Grappling with complex mental health issues, Lost Transmissions presented Pegg with am unfamiliar and particularly challenging role – but it also allowed him to break new ground by working with a female filmmaker.
“I hadn’t done a movie that has been directed by a woman in twenty years of making films,” Pegg tells us, sounding a little surprised by his own answer.
“That felt like something I needed to put right.”
Pegg has long been a loud advocate for female representation in cinema, and when the opportunity came to work with Katharine O’Brien for her directorial debut, he was hungry to take it.
“It was the script [that attracted me to the project] first and foremost… and the fact that Katharine had sent me a script that was straight drama.
“I tend to get pigeon-holed as a comedy actor, which is my own fault.”
“At one point, it looked like it was going to get dropped…”
After realising they were both on the same page, Pegg and O’Brien began to throw some momentum behind Lost Transmissions, with excitement growing around its potential. However, schedule clashes meant the film was, for several months, left dangling by a thread.
“I was attached to the project for a very long time,” Pegg tells us.
“At one point it looked like it was going to get dropped or I was going to have to drop out because of Mission: Impossible.
“But Katharine waited for me, thank goodness, and we got to make the film.”
“Making it was a really fun experience. It was a 20-day shoot, which is not what I’m used to compared to the bigger films, but she was so sure of what she wanted in terms of performance and the look of the movie.
“It’s really nice when you work with a director who knows what they’re doing.”
Lost Transmissions dives into territory few films have dared to explore and even fewer have managed to understand: The world of schizophrenia.
Speaking about his role Pegg explains: “I play a guy called Theo Ross whose a music producer working in Los Angeles, a British guy, who has developed schizophrenia due to some bad acid he took in the nineties.
“In the movie, he decides to come off his medication because he’s worried it’s stifling him creatively, but of course that leads to him drifting back into the realm of schizophrenic delusion.
“It comes down to Juno Temple’s character trying to save Theo as he drifts off further and further into mania.”
“It’s easy to approximate madness in film; mental health issues seem to be one of the last kind of things that it’s ok to be flippant about…”
Pegg went to great lengths to embody the character during production – with the role of Theo so different to his usual roles.
“I researched it thoroughly; it didn’t feel like a role I could just guess,” Pegg says.
“Schizophrenia is a very real, very specific condition. It gets mistaken a lot of the time for split personality, but schizophrenia isn’t like that at all. [It’s] more about people’s perception getting confused, the brain starts to make certain patterns and create delusional narratives which the person responds to.
“So, I really had to learn about that and meet schizophrenics, read about it, watch documentaries, and go into the film knowing what I was talking about.
“It’s easy to approximate madness in film, mental health issues seem to be one of the last kind of things that it’s ok to be flippant about. Acting crazy, you know, anyone can do that – but it’s not at all the way to approach it.
“You have to approach these things faithfully and give a genuine, authentic portrayal.”
Before Pegg heads off to host a Lost Transmissions Q&A alongside his director, he fills us in on his next chapter.
“I’ve got two Mission:Impossible films to make over the next two years,” he confirms.
“And there’s something I’m developing at Stolen Picture – mine and Nick Frost’s production company.
Pegg’s features scrunch together as he searches his memory banks.
“It’s a show I’ve been developing for… eight years, I think. I’ve finally found a way to do it!”
Suddenly, a wide smile spreads across his face.
“But I can’t say anything about it yet… which is really frustrating.”
Now’s not the time for that, anyway. Today is all about the indie film that pulls Pegg from his self-confessed comedy “pigeon-hole”. And he’s proud of it.
Catch Lost Transmissions in cinemas during its wide release from 14 March. For more information on some of the fantastic films playing this week at MANIFF, head to their website.
Rochdale Town Hall – one of Greater Manchester’s most spectacular buildings is about to reopen
Rochdale Town Hall is one of Greater Manchester’s most impressive and historic buildings – but until now, large parts of the building have been closed to the public.
All that is about to change this weekend when, following several years of careful restoration, the magnificent Grade I-listed giant throws open its doors.
From Sunday 3 March, people will be able to visit Rochdale Town Hall completely free of charge seven days a week (excluding Bank Holidays), exploring grand halls, historic offices, and impressive sweeping staircases.
The landmark looms over the heart of Rochdale town centre, an easy walk from tram and train stations.
Up until this year, spaces were available to book for events like weddings, and it was used for official business, but has never been properly utilised as a tourist attraction.
It’s taken a 500-strong team of volunteers and teams of conservation specialists thousands of hours to bring it fully back to its former glory – they’ve carefully stripped away years of grime using cotton buds and other equipment to expertly bring life back to the ornate stained glass windows and historic features in almost every room.
So what exactly is it like inside after its multi-million-pound refurb, you ask? Well it’s pretty damn impressive.
The most breathtaking space of all is the Great Hall, where 350 hand-painted panels cover the vaulted ceiling, carved wooden angels hold lanterns, stained glass windows tower overhead, an enormous organ stands on the stage, and a huge Magna Carta mural covers one wall.
It’s a room filled with red and gold patterns, including images of the English lions and Scottish thistle, and you might recognise these colourful walls from a little show called Peaky Blinders…
But before you even reach this point, there are wonders to behold.
The Grand Staircase sweeps its way up from the ground floor – look up and you’ll see enormous stained glass windows documenting Rochdale’s place on the global stage.
The Exchange will be used as the town hall’s main entrance, where different shades of granite and marble were used to make candy-striped ceilings, and craftsmen carved various flora and fauna into the stone pillars.
The Great Staircase at Rochdale Town HallThe Exchange will be used as the main entrance for Rochdale Town Hall
Off here there’s a brand-new exhibition space, known as the Welcome Gallery, which tracks the timeline of the landmark, including the fire that destroyed its original clock tower (it was later re-designed by the legendary Alfred Waterhouse).
There are also historic spaces, where the walls are covered not with wallpaper but with hand-painted patterns. These intricate designs have also been restored.
In one room, you can see the history of the cotton industry in the paintings, from the Ancient Egyptians all the way up to the industrial era that Rochdale played such a huge part in.
And as well as celebrating the historical features of Rochdale Town Hall, there are also new artworks that have been created with local community groups and schools, celebrating present day Rochdale.
Rooms which were formerly used by council staff and councillors have been turned into usable spaces for the public, like the new Bright Hall, which has double-height ceilings, angels along the walls, and a window overlooking the Great Hall from up high. The Bright Hall will now be available for community use and events.
Hundreds of volunteers and specialists have worked on Rochdale Town Hall’s refurbishmentAnother grand space in Rochdale Town Hall
When it officially reopens on Sunday 3 March, there’ll be bookable tours, longer opening hours, and new exhibition spaces for locals and visitors to explore.
And in a few months’ time, a brand new restaurant – The Martlet – will open, under the steer of executive chef Darren Parkinson who has honed his craft at some of the country’s best gastropubs.
The whole building has been made fully accessible for the first time, and there are new heating systems and a sturdier roof in place to future-proof Rochdale Town Hall for decades to come.
Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “It’s been a long wait for our residents and I’m delighted that they will finally get to see their beautiful town hall, fully restored in all its glory.
“Not only will they see the town hall they know and love, looking as good as it would have when it first opened in 1871, but they will see brand new features, like the Welcome Gallery, which makes it an even better space than it was before. We can’t wait to welcome people back in.”
One of many beautiful stained glass windows inside Rochdale Town HallThe huge organ in Great Hall
Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member with responsibility for Rochdale Town Hall, said: “Sunday 3 March will be a wonderful celebration, but it’s really just the beginning for our brand new town hall. Our new offer means that residents will be able to see it and enjoy it seven days a week.
“We will soon be offering guided tours, alongside a full activity, events and education programme, which will be revealed soon.
“We anticipate the opening day being very busy, so people who would prefer a quieter experience may wish to come along another day. This beautiful building certainly isn’t going anywhere and our new extended opening hours offer many opportunities to enjoy this special place.”
The huge project was made possible with funding support to the tune of an £8.9m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
For its launch weekend, there’ll be activities at Rochdale Town Hall like rug tufting workshops, the roving Bombay Raja brass band, and a special puppet show by Fool’s Paradise.
Pre-booking is now full but walk-ups are available, so, if you don’t mind a wait, you can head to Rochdale Town Hall between 10am and 4pm this Sunday to see the incredible spaces for yourself.
For more information about the town hall, including opening times and upcoming events and activities, go to rochdaletownhall.co.uk.
Five Manchester artists we’ve been listening to this month | February 2024
Ay up, you lot. It’s us again, back to give you another list of some of the best new music we’ve been listening to, be it little-known tunes from new and upcoming artists in Greater Manchester or the biggest releases from ever-rising names around the region.
We launched this new monthly series at the start of 2024 and will be serving up suggestions for all you Manc musos regularly throughout the year and beyond, so you best get in on the ground floor so as to as not to miss a single shout.
But let’s not faff about any longer, shall we?
Time to get stuck into five Manchester artists we’ve had on repeat throughout February — and it’s a leap year, so we’ve had an extra day of listening to make our picks.
Manc bands we’ve been listening to over the past month
1. Hello Cosmos
First off, we’ve got Hello Cosmos: a Manchester-based creative consisting of a four-piece at their core and other session musicians like Elara, a wonderful saxophone player and vocalist who is well worth looking into in her own right.
Founded by From The Fields director, Ben Robinson — the events organisers behind Kendal Calling and bluedot — their style is a seriously wild mix of alternative electronic and pop-punk. Think Yard Act if they had more synths, sax, keys, violins and had a Christopher Eccelstone sound-alike on vocals.
Our standout tunes to start with have to be their ‘FUSE’ from their debut Dream Harder, ‘Loud Is Beautiful’ (which pretty much encapsulates the full range of their sound in one track) and ‘Metaverse’ — there’s also a great twist on it by Catu Diosis and that goes for the whole Hard Dirt (Remixed) album too.
We also got to see them live at Stockport’s new Live at St Mary’s gig series and it was quite the experience.
Next up is an instrumental outfit and touring band called OMA, who have played on stage with the likes of American rapper Isaiah Rashad as well as Japanese hip-hop artists and producer Shing02, and they just might be some of the coolest cats on socials right now.
Going more and more viral on TikTok every week with their live takes on hip-hop classics by Dr Dre, Nas, MF DOOM, Lauryn Hill, 2Pac and countless others, we can’t accurately describe just how much we want to be in a room and headbob to their addictive recreations of iconic beats from down the years.
Every clip is an absolute earworm and you simply can’t listen to any of them just once. They don’t have any signature tracks of their own but it only takes one video to get hooked. I mean, honestly, just listen to them — and bonus points if you can figure out where they’re playing:
In at number three, although we couldn’t possibly put this is any particular ranked order, is local indie-pop group Hi Sienna — a bunch of best mates based out of Chorlton who make great stuff and they’re absolutely wonderful.
With every member taking time out of work to make their music dream happen, they sum up their sound perfectly in their tagline: unsigned, unmanaged and unbelievably good. Too right. We also recently had the pleasure of chatting with them as part of the new series of Stream GM’s Spill The Sound.
It’s nothing but positive vibes and non-stop fun listening to these lot and if we had to pick our favourites, they would be ‘Enter Disco’, ‘Be A Man’ and the soon to be released ‘Pickleback’ which we got a cheeky glimpse of over at The Yard recently. It’s a belter.
The penultimate stop on this month’s list is the mighty Maruja, who are bringing both funk and punk roots to their alternative rock scene here in Greater Manchester and we can’t get enough.
Playing White Hotel and New Century this April as their profile keeps growing around the city centre and beyond, we reckon it won’t be long before you see their name everywhere — not that our incredible fandom and heavy bias are getting away with us or anything…
Seriously though, they sound both familiar and unique enough if you’re this kind of stuff and genres that naturally overlap. We’d recommend kicking off with ‘Tao’, arguably their most popular tune ‘The Tinker’ second and then their latest single, ‘The Invisible Man’.
Last but by no means least is Cassia. They’re technically from down the Macclesfield but they’ve been plying their trade here in 0161 since they first began and we just hope they remember us and all our great proving grounds when they well and truly blow up. And trust us, they will.
Mixing tropical and Caribbean sounds with irresistible indie sonics and vocals, we just feel all nice and happy whenever we listen to them – almost as if we were on holiday. We also got to chat with these guys recently too and they were equally delightful.
If it’s your first time listening to them, you can’t go wrong with ‘Right There’, their new tune with KAWALA, ‘Circular Motion’, and a key part of our Summer 2022 soundtrack, ‘Drifting’. So, sooo good.