The Hills Are Alive – Tues 5th to Thurs 7th July 2016 – St Mary’s Creative Space #chesterculture

Singers and musicians from as far as the Philippines, Zimbabwe and Canada will be arriving in Chester to take part in a mini international celebration. The international performers will add to a programme which blends some of our finest local musicians with high ranking performers of all ages from across the world in a mini festival which is being hosted by St Mary’s Creative Space in the city centre.

Organisers at Theatre in the Quarter have been working with the International Eisteddfod to provide choirs and dancers the chance to visit the city on their way to Llangollen where they will be taking part in the high profile competitions there.

Artistic Director Matt Baker, who recently brought hundreds of singers together in Chester City Centre to perform for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, said, “The standard and range of international performers at Llangollen is breathtaking, and we have been working with the organisers to not only give some of these visiting groups the chance to visit our beautiful city, but to give people in Chester a glimpse of what amazing things happen just a few miles away from here in Llangollen every year.”  Matt added “But we also have some great choirs and musicians of all ages in Cheshire, and so we wanted to create line up of local and worldwide acts to form an intimate celebration with an international flavour.” 

The festival, entitled ‘The Hills Are Alive” takes place from Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 July and will feature the following groups:
Cantilon – an exciting young choir from Alberta Canada
Coro San Benildo – a choir of young performers from the Philippines
Mother Touch Dance Group – a children’s dance ensemble from Zimbabwe
Hillside Singers – dynamic young singers from Helsby
The Fireflies – a vivacious all women’s choir from Cheshire
Soundwall – a music sensation from Chester
Hope Street Harmonies – a terrific close harmony group from Liverpool
The Little Big Band – a fantastic musical ensemble from Chester

Matt Baker concludes “This is a wonderful addition to the city’s cultural calendar, and in the intimate and beautiful setting of St Mary’s Creative Space. We hope that people will come along and support these musicians, whether they are from another continent or just up the road. We hope that this is just the beginning of a celebration that will grow each year. It has been terrific to partner up with the International Eistedfodd for this, and we hope that visitors to our mini festival will also have a glimpse of what is on offer just over the border on the following days.”

The Hills Are Alive
Tuesday 5th July to Thursday 7th July 2016
St Mary’s Creative Space
More information can be found by visiting . Tickets for each event are just £5 from


#chesterculture – Minerva Arts ‘In Bloom’ mini-season – St Mary’s Creative Space –  Saturday 4th June and Tuesday 7th June 2016

This Saturday sees the launch of ‘In Bloom’, a ‘mini-season’ at St. Mary’s- A Creative Space in Chester City Centre.
This season will consist of two events that have been programmed and managed by Work Based Learning students from the University of Chester working on behalf of local arts education and development charity Minerva Arts.

The first event will be brought to you by Influx Arts, whose multi-art form cabarets have become regular occurrences in Chester’s cultural calendar.
On Saturday 4th June at 7.30pm the doors will open for an evening of new theatre, dance, comedy and music. These events are not to be missed and give local artists the opportunity to showcase their talents.

The second event will be held on Tuesday 7th June and will be led by local graduate dance company Encompass Collective who will be sharing an evening of contemporary dance from talented local artists. This event will also open at 7.30pm.


So if you’re looking for a good night out and an opportunity to support local artists in the stunning setting of St Mary’s, get yourselves along to these events and help make ‘In Bloom’ a regular season.


Minerva Arts In Bloom Season

St Mary’s Creative Space

Saturday 4th June and Tuesday 7th June 2016

Tickets available on the door or online here.

Saturday – £5 plus booking fee 

Tuesday – £4 plus booking fee

#chesterculture – Come and Sing Yeoman of the Guard with Chester Bach Singers at St Mary’s Creative Space – Saturday 7th May 2016

This May acclaimed local choir the Chester Bach Singers are offering the opportunity to join them for a fun afternoon of singing and a scratch performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard.

The event is the latest in a number of events the choir hold annually to encourage other amateur singers to join them for a one-off singing rehearsal and performance.

Set in the Tower of London, during the 16th century, Yeomen of the Guard is the darkest, and perhaps most emotionally engaging, of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Savoy Operas, ending with a broken-hearted main character and two very reluctant engagements, rather than the usual numerous marriages.

Martin Bussey, Musical Director of the Chester Bach Singers, said: “Our Come and Sing events are a real highlight of our musical calendar. It’s great to have the opportunity to share such fantastic works with new faces and with old friends.”

Part of the fun of these special events is learning a lot of music quickly, but you don’t have to be in a choir to join in, there are no auditions and you don’t have to have any knowledge of the music. Just come along on the day with energy and enthusiasm and you’ll go home having met new people and learned some songs to brighten up the dark nights.



Come and Sing Yeoman of the Guard
St Mary’s Creative Space
Saturday 7th May 2016
£10 including refreshments and home-made cake.
Music can be hired for an additional £2

#chesterculture – The Iranian Feast – 7th & 10th April 2016

Following their first successful UK tour in 2014, Farnham Maltings Theatre Company are delighted to return to Cheshire with their highly acclaimed theatre production with an exciting fusion of theatre and persian cuisine to two Chester venues this week.

iranianThe Iranian Feast, written by Kevin Dyer – who is very well known in the borough for his nationally acclaimed work with Action Transport and other companies –  features traditional Persian food prepared by Abbas, his wife and daughter with help from their friends and neighbours.

Part thriller, part cookery lesson this is a story of a family working out how life will be in the future. One that is surprising, uplifting and a celebration of being alive. Going in the pot are fresh herbs, spices, sweet vegetables and Eli’s mother’s secret ingredient.

The Iranian Feast is played out in the midst of the audience and offers up tricky moral questions whilst exploring how repressions of the state are mirrored by repressions within the family.

Matt Baker, artistic director of Theatre in the Quarter is delighted to be hosting a performance at St Mary’s Creative Space and had this to say about it: The Iranian Feast is a contemporary piece of British theatre – with delicious food – set in modern day Tehran. This company were only here a few weeks ago where they brought their theatre adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life which sold out.  The company fell in love with the delightful space, and they even reported back that it was their number one venue of the Christmas tour!
I am very confident that audiences will love Iranian Feast either in the sumptuous surroundings of St Mary’s Creative Space or in the wonderfully intimate surroundings of Mollington Village Hall.  This is not the first time Iranian Feast has toured to Chester; we hosted it in the Garden Quarter in 2014 and the audience feedback was so incredible that I did not hesitate to bring it back.”

The Iranian Feast forms part of the Cheshire Rural Touring Arts spring programme bringing a rich array of dance, theatre and music to venues all over the city and county.

The Iranian Feast – Farnham Maltings Company

7th April 2016
St Marys Centre, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2DW
Book here or by calling 07747 110933

10 April, 2016 7:30pm
Mollington and Backford Village Hall, Chester CH1 6NJ
Book by calling 01244 851045




Review: Twelfth Night Double Bill at St Mary’s Centre

Last night I was delighted to attend the second of a three-night collaboration event between Jigsaw Music Theatre and Quartz Youth Theatre, showcasing their skills in two short plays entitled ‘Twelfth Night Double Bill’. St Mary’s Centre was packed out with proud parents and eager spectators gathered to enjoy two very talented crews in two fresh, original pieces of theatre.

The first to take to the stage was Jigsaw Music Theatre in their production of ‘Christmas Day in the Workhouse’, a piece based on the local history of the Victorian Chester Roodee Workhouse, written by Will Wood and the Company themselves. Direction was provided by Millie Stevenson and Sara Hirst, whilst the original musical numbers and adaptations of popular carols were done by Erin Elston, Lily Adams and Lucy Bradburn.

The story follows the children of the workhouse through their typical daily grind, outlining some of the circumstances by which they come to be at the mercy of the sinister Master Gross-Nature and how their grueling routine of ‘Work, Learn, Bed’ wears them down. Until, on Christmas Day, there is a change to the routine, and the possibility of a brighter future ahead. The cast of thirty one children filled the caverns of St Mary’s with sound as they performed excellent songs and choral speaking, creating a bittersweet atmosphere as they try to make the best of their situation. The musical numbers were well timed and often darkly humorous despite the children’s desperate situation.

My favourite exchange was certainly: “These potatoes are hard as rocks”, to which one adorable urchin replied: “I think mine is a rock”.

After a short interval, Quartz Youth Theatre transformed the stage into a rowdy tavern named ‘The Illyria Arms’ for their Revellers’ Adaptation of the Shakespeare classic Twelfth Night. The piece was adapted by Steph Green, with music from Erin Elston and Joanne Bently.

The classic tale of mistaken identity, love triangles and cross-dressing was given a fresh spin by a second cast of pubgoers, who regularly interrupt Shakespeare’s original prose to move the story along, and clarify the more unclear plot points for those who may be unsure. Twenty one young actors took on parts as narrators or Shakespeare’s cast to recount the tale, which was superbly acted throughout. The excellent Feste the jester led many of the cast in their musical interludes, which were rousing and joyous. Everyone in the production gave it their all and can be very proud of a story well delivered.

For me, the standout performance came from the young lady whose dual role as Viola and Cezario was complex and compelling. She delivered Shakespeare’s prose beautifully, and her duet with brother Sebastian at the very end of the play was a real tearjerker.

If you’re looking for somewhere to go tonight, head down to St Mary’s before 7.30 (well before, if you want a good seat) and take in the final night of this high quality double bill. More details can be found at St Mary’s What’s On Page.

Review: Paul Dabek – Mischief at St Mary’s Creative Space

If you’re looking for somewhere to take in a show tonight, you could do a lot worse than dropping in to St Mary’s Creative Space to see the second night of magician Paul Dabek and his show ‘Mischief’. If you’re in the mood for puns and quickfire witticisms, largely at the audience’s expense, then Dabek’s somewhat awkward brand of comedy is sure to charm you. There were laughs aplenty last night in the first of the two shows, as the magician used audience participation and humour for misdirection whilst his sleight of hand magic came to life.

Dabek performed the kind of tricks that magic fans will have come to expect, favouring small props and plenty of interaction to keep the patter fresh. There were also a few unexpected additions, such as optical illusions and shadow puppetry, which were highly enjoyable and added great variety to his show. Within the beautiful setting of St Mary’s and its ample bar and refreshments for the interval, your Saturday night could be very well spent in magic and mischief!

Get details of tonight’s show here, as well as what else is on during St Mary’s superb Christmas season.

Review: Deck The Halls at St Mary’s Creative Space

There’s nothing that warms the soul on a winter’s night better than a rousing selection of festive melodies, and that’s exactly what St Mary’s Creative Space presented on Thursday 10th December with Deck The Halls. Described as a ‘selection box’ of winter tunes drawn from the last eight centuries, the evening’s music came from a variety of sources and a collection of uniquely talented individuals.

First to grace the stage were the intriguing Maranella, initially a four piece group of ladies in medieval dress, who inspired images of beautiful birds and glorious nature with their harmonious folk songs and authentic woodwind instruments. For someone whose knowledge of medieval music only extends as far as Greensleeves, I found myself delighted in particular by ‘The King’, an ode to the mighty wren. The ranks of Maranella swelled for the second half of the show, when the two male members (and a whole host of fabulous medieval instruments) joined the troupe. The 13th century hi-jinks were superb, filling the massive space of St Mary’s with the sound of drums, harps and even bagpipes.

The charming Rose Price acted as a sort of compere for the event, introducing her fellow artists with humour and a knowing smile. She also performed some delightful folk ballads which encouraged participants from the enthused audience to sing along, not least the popular theme of Lark Rise to Candleford. Rose also performed duets with various members of the other acts, some extremely fresh and impromptu, but all hugely effective and enjoyable.

James Bazley, the self proclaimed contemporary act of the night, switched up the pace with some rousing acoustic guitar arrangements, including a country and western style reworking of We Three Kings and a beautifully haunting rendition of Silent Night which sent the audience into rapturous applause. James also returned in the second half with a bluesy rock cover of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, as well as one of his own original songs written for the Christmas season. He is a fabulously talented guitarist, and his sets can only be described as a stunning musical event.

After a brief appearance in the first half’s choral performance of The Holly And The Ivy, musical duo John Finnan and Frank Welcomme took to the stage with some wonderful contemporary folk songs. Accompanied by instruments such as the harmonica, accordion and acoustic guitar, these two talented gentlemen roused the crowd into a warm campfire style singalong that would have brought a smile to even the frostiest faces. Christmas In The Trenches is a particular favourite that will be stuck in my head for quite some time.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed all the acts of Deck The Halls, my particular favourites were Roy and Mary Clinging, who delivered the perfect balance of historical whimsy and marvelous melody. Possessing superb harmonies and the complex strains of the English concertina, this duo covered all of the historic musical traditions that I was expecting from the night, from wassailing and the wren boys’ carols to the hilarious Victorian broadsides and upbeat Morris dancing tunes. Roy’s fascinating and descriptive anecdotes on the origins and style of each tune really rounded off the imaginative theme that Deck The Halls provided throughout the night.

An absolute triumph for a festive night out.

Find out more about St Mary’s Christmas Events here.

Review: ShooShooBaby’s Christmas Party

St Mary’s Creative started the festive season with a bang on Thursday December 3rd as the dynamic and delightful trio ShooShooBaby provided musical mirth. Self-branded as ‘unashamedly sparkly’, the upbeat arrangement consists of two female singers and their accompanying singer/musician, delivering a cabaret-style mixture of humorous chatter, musical numbers and audience participation. For their December show, the company took on several Christmas classics in their own unique style with superb vocals that captivated the audience from the start. Aside from the traditional songs and arrangements that one might expect at a Christmas cabaret, ShooShooBaby added a fascinating array of vintage and unusual selections to the mix, particularly the introduction of the surprisingly melodious musical saw.

Particular highlights for me included the Macedonian Christmas Carol, beautifully sung a cappella, in striking contrast to the improvised comedic lyrics to popular tunes that we all know and love. One such melody was James Bond themed, and the singers were accompanied by the audience themselves, who had each been provided with a trusty kazoo during intermission. In the words of ShooShooBaby themselves, no party is complete without a slow dance, so at the end of the evening two lucky gents were gently encouraged to partner up with the girls and sway to Lady In Red. The audience participation continued with a round of popular Christmas carols that everyone could join in with, ensuring high spirits for the subsequent final number and the much anticipated encore.

For more information about other upcoming events at St Mary’s Creative Space, check out their What’s On Guide here.

Useful link:

ShooShooBaby’s official website

Deck the Halls, St Mary’s Creative Space, Thursday 10 December, 8pm.

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Deck the Halls, St Mary’s Creative Space, Thursday 10 December, 8pm.

St Mary’s Hill, Chester CH1 2DW

Deck the Halls is a part of the rich and varied festival of events currently running at St Mary’s Creative Space until 15th January.

In a musical celebration of the winter season across the centuries, we’re promised a tour of songs and tunes (secular and sacred), from medieval to modern times, featuring traditional and contemporary interpretations.

Your musical companions for the evening are drawn from the city’s proud stock of the acoustic and folk fraternity, who have come together for this seasonal special that blends the familiar and the … well, not-quite-so familiar!

We aim to offer a relaxed and informative musical evening, presenting a slightly wider view of seasonal music from 13th to the 21st centuries – and with the option for the audience to air their vocal cords without fear!” said event curator Rose Price of SoundBox.

She added: “Matt Baker, Chair of St Mary’s Creative Space User Group, offered the opportunity to put together a concert for the venue’s Christmas festival – so we did!

We’re so blessed in Chester to have musicians, singers and artistes of many styles and genres – and now to have the much-needed inclusivity of St Mary’s Creative Space to give that diversity fuller expression.”

Tickets: £10/£8 (includes mulled wine and mince pie!)


Offline: Taylor & Brown’s coffee shop at 3 Old Port Square, Chester, CH1 4JP or enquire via Email: