Hidden down a little cut-through at the side of one of Manchester’s historic chop houses is Sonata, a brand new late-night piano and jazz bar.
Just off the main cut-and-thrust of the busy Cross Street, if you slip down the alleyway next to Mr Thomas’s you’ll come across a lit doorway concealing the newest addition to Manchester’s late-night party scene.
Set to take the city by storm, it will open until 1am through the week and 2am on the weekends.
The new cabaret bar has been brought to life by Dale Bassett – a former theatrical and musical entertainer who used to perform on the London scene – and is set to open in the city this week, with a glitzy launch party planned for Thursday 30 June.
Ahead of that, we were lucky enough to pop down for a sneak peek at the new bar – and we left feeling pretty impressed.
The new music-led venue draws inspiration from the cabaret scenes of the capital, as well as those in New York and Berlin. Tightly packed seating fans out in front of the bar’s main stage, with an eye-catching, spot-lit white grand Yamaha piano at its center.
Further back, large comfy red leather booths are tucked into corners and lit by low-hanging exposed filament bulbs, ideal for larger groups.
Whilst the tables here are pretty close together to maximise space, there’s no need to worry about squeezing out to get to the bar – as Sonata’s staff will come to you to take your food and drink orders.
Open seven nights a week with a late license, drinks will be served here into the early hours. We have it on good authority that a good martini will be a staple on the bar’s cocktail menu. whilst food-wise there will be a selection of tempting cheese and charcuterie to nibble on.
As for the music itself, the bar’s soundtrack will play host to a mix of genres from pop standards to Broadway ballads, jazz classics to quirky cabaret, as it showcases singers, pianists and cabaret artists from across the UK and beyond.
Acclaimed West End star Alex Young, cabaret iconPaulusand distinguished jazz pianist and vocalist Jeremy Sassoon are among those leading the bill, appearing alongside local musicians including songstress The Chanteuse, soul singer and pianist Charlie Cooper and pop sensation Passmore.
International talent, meanwhile, will include Berlin-based cabaret sensation Jack Woodhead (returning to his hometown of Manchester to perform at Sonata), American piano-vocalist Andrew J Boyer and Canadian soprano and comedian Delea Shand.
Husband and wife duo The Retrosetteswill host a regular residency, .and Olivier Award-winning composer Richard Thomas and comedian and singer Sooz Kempner will bring their original show ‘Wrong Songs’ to Sonata in July.
The venue will also present featured shows like ‘Voices & Lyrics’, a celebration of lesser-known musical theatre, and ‘Le Chat Noir’, a classical cabaret evoking Piaf, Dietrich and Brel, with timeless songs by the likes of Weill, Schoenberg and Debussy.
A regular open mic cabaret night, with accompaniment from a house pianist, will encourage budding singers to take to the stage, and Sonata will also showcase some of Manchester’s most exciting up and coming talent, including jazz fusion trio Outlier, singer-songwriters Adelaide Taylor and Daf Hughes, and BBC Introducingfeatured artist Rosita.
Speaking on the new opening Dale Bassett, founder of Sonata Piano & Cabaret Lounge, said: “This incredibly varied programme is the perfect way to launch this unique new Manchester venue.
“I am thrilled and privileged to be able to host such a wonderful selection of acts. Whether you want to see some of the world’s finest cabaret artists, the nation’s best pianists or the city’s most exciting new singer-songwriters, you will find it all at Sonata.
“I can’t wait to welcome these fantastic performers to our stage – and guests through our doors to experience their talent!”
Feature image – The Manc Group
Viral sportswear brand Gymshark is holding a huge free fitness event in Manchester this weekend
Some of the biggest names in the fitness community are coming together for a huge Gymshark event at Manchester Central this weekend.
The fitness brand’s previous Lift events have had queues stretching down the street as thousands flock to see figures from the worlds of lifting, fitness and bodybuilding.
Gymshark’s first post-pandemic Lift event is taking place right here in Manchester, featuring a programme of athlete seminars, meet and greets, competitions, challenges, and prizes – and it’s free.
It promises to be their biggest event yet, with the huge events space split into four zones.
There’ll also be a pop-up shop selling the brand’s activewear range, loved by fitness influencers across the globe.
Famous faces appearing at Lift this weekend will include Whitney Simmons, whose hilariously honest and educational fitness content has pulled in 3.5m Instagram followers (plus another 2.1m on YouTube and 1.4m on TikTok).
Also taking part are Gymshark’s creative director of lifting David Laid, Instagram star Libby Christensen, and power lifter Jamal Browner.
More than 10,000 tickets have already been sold for Lift at Manchester Central.
Gymshark itself was founded by Ben Francis in his garage in 2012. He used YouTube tutorials – and a little help from his grandmother – to learn to sew.
Now, there are more than 18 million Gymshark customers across 180 countries, and it’s achieved ‘unicorn’ status after being valued at more than £1bn.
The brand turned over around £500m in its last financial year and employs around 800 people worldwide.
You can book your spot at Gymshark’s Lift event at Manchester Central, taking place on 1 and 2 April, here.
Rio Ferdinand is helping change young lives with community programmes in Oldham and Salford
Ex-Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand and his foundation’s wonderful work is helping better the lives of young people in Oldham, Salford and across Manchester as a whole.
Over the past year, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and The Guinness Partnership have been putting together a vital social initiative aimed at providing opportunities and resources to young people across Greater Manchester, helping them develop their skills and aspirations for future working life.
Now, after a hugely successful 12-month campaign, their skills and progression community programme, participants are well and truly starting to feel the impact, with 90% of those taking part now stating that they are enjoying a clear idea and focus on what they want to do for a career.
It may have be thriving in Salford and Oldham at the moment, but given the benefit the scheme has already had — not to mention the ambition the Rio Ferdinand Foundation has shown around various areas of the UK since being set up in 2012 — we can only see this spreading further across the region.
The skills-based initiative engages young people aged under 25 years old and living in Guinness homes in a six-month skills-based programme which has been up and running in the two Manc boroughs, as well as the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, since March 2022.
Young people from both Oldham and Salford take part in a weekly schedule of activities designed to tackle youth unemployment, including digital media training (photography, product design, filmmaking, podcasting), building and construction, CV workshops, mock interviews and more.
Not only do these shadowing opportunities garner confidence and raise aspirations among other young people in the local community, but they also help directly develop their employability skills via mentoring.
For instance, Matthew, 19 from Royton in Oldham, completed the programme and then was supported to apply to the Guinness Aspire Awards to request funding to purchase camera and lighting equipment to help him start a small local photography business. Quality stuff.
Matt says that the scheme “has been an amazing opportunity and has given [him] a chance to get back on the right path… I know what I want to do now and can’t wait to start… I would recommend that other people in my position get involved with it in the future.”
As well as markedly increasing participants health and well-being, all 100% of those involved across Salford and Oldham reported feeling more confident, with many now enjoying opportunities with the Rio Ferdinand Foundation’s partners such as Warner Music, Kiss FM, The Jockey Club and the Gym Group.
Speaking on the programme’s success, Rio himself said in a statement: “The Foundation is committed to working with young people at the heart of their communities to offer support, training, and opportunities to those that need it… engaging with the Guinness Partnership has provided a great boost to our reach and our work”.
Well in, Rio. Thankfully, he isn’t the only ex-Manchester-based footballer still trying to make a difference in the local community either: