Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Review for Pinocchio

Every now and again this happens and it blows me away.

As you may know Oldham is a poor town and many parents can't afford theatre.

From a teacher.

"I'd just like to say how much the children from Mather Street Primary School and Yew Tree Community School enjoyed your performance of Pinocchio this morning. It was lovely to be able to take our children to see live theatre, something which most of them won't have had the opportunity to do before. The setting was great, and with it only being small was perfect for our children, as they were all really close to the action. They loved every minute of it, and the talk amongst the children on the bus on the way home was "shall we go there again?"!!
Thanks once again, and we look forward to attending future performances."

And from social media...

Just been to watch Pinocchio with families from Alexandra children's centre and we had an amazing time! The show was brilliant, funny and entertaining and the dancers were outstanding. I would recommend a trip to this show to put you in the Christmas spirit.

What a fabulous performance!If you want to be amazed...and amused,come and watch Pinocchio...Watching the show today made my Christmas that little more extra special.The performers are all so talented.Well done to all of you.Such a special treat just before Christmas...The "mise en scene" is so cleverly done...

Absolutely loved 'Pinocchio' today! Fantastic show. I always look forward to seeing your productions.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Like father, like son.

We are about to charm audiences with a very novel double act.  

Award winning Hard Graft are about to begin rehearsals with a father and son in the cast.  Mark Whiteley will play Geppetto  in this year’s production of Pinocchio at the Oldham library and Civic hall Uppermill and his 11 year old son, Billy, will be playing Lampwick, the cheeky waif who befriends Pinocchio on Pleasure Island.

“Billy has been acting of some years now, on television and with his grandmother’s theatre classes at Saddleworth Drama centre”. Mark said.  “I suppose it must run in the family, with Judith Barker as your gran, Kenneth Alan Taylor as your Grandad and me as your dad, you’re going to have some sort of talent for performing’ 

"Billy has been working with us for years, generally backstage and front of house.  He was there when we did out Manchester Theatre award winning show ‘Thick As Thieves’ and again last year when we presented GRASS.  

“I’m really excited, not only do I get to perform with my dad, but I get a lift home too.” said Billy, aged 11.

Talk about a chip off the old block- if we’re not mistaken, Geppetto, Pinocchio’s “dad”, is a carpenter who knocks a few chips off old blocks to make a real boy!
The production also sees the return of Alex Phelps who blew audiences away last year as the wolf in Red Riding Hood and introduces the very talented Danielle Dawson and Bethany-Jo Clews. And let’s not forget the talented dancers from Infinity dance, who’s vibrance and energy enhance the production enormously. We can’t wait!  

Pinocchio is running from 8th - 17th December at Oldham Library & 22nd - 24th Dec at Uppermill Civic hall

For further information and to book tickets

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Spread the love.

I was thinking about Jesus the other day and it got me wondering about being a great human being. Imagine living like Jesus. Not miracles or God or the acres of written material about a man, but being selfless, simple, at one.

Imagine living your life like that. Imagine having no money only faith that things will come, food will come, shelter will come, everything you need will come. Imagine just putting good into the world, to give freely and to receive freely.

Ten years ago I walked across the country with nothing, no money, accommodation or food, for the simple reason that it would make a good adventure story for the kind of theatre I work in. What we discovered is that people are great. People love people and if you scratch the surface you'll be surprised at what you'll find.

When we did our adventure we had nothing but a rehearsed show, we were travelling minstrels if you like and we offered our comedy freely to groups, families, anyone we met on the road. After our performance we would tell the audience what we were doing and 100% of the time someone would take us home and look after us. In fact I put a stone in weight on with all the cooked breakfasts and good living.

After the first week we ditched everything that we thought we needed, because you quickly learn that stuff is heavy and if you ever needed something you had to just ask and most days someone would help you. Stuff, luggage, possessions slow you down, by the end of our cross country walk we had nothing only the clothes we stood up in and a spare pair of underpants and socks. Life was simple and easy.

When I write a story I have a strong moral compass to point my audience the way I think life is better. Life, like my stories is simple, but we sometimes look too hard and find too many problems instead of looking at the wonderful world we all share.

Suffering comes from three places.
1. Loss

Appreciate and Enjoy
Learn and Grow
Love, Give, and Be Grateful

Monday, 6 June 2016

Unidentified Floating Object

My brother, Darren was the first to spot it.  He switched on the living room light at my grandma's house and as he went to close the curtains it was there.  A floating glowing orange orb hovering over Fraser Crescent.  Darren read about UFO's and had a great knowledge about extra terrestrials, so we all listened.

"What they do is take data" He explained.  "These surveillance ships scout planets for minerals and stuff, then when they have what they want targeted they give the signal to the mother ships".
"Our Darren knows what he's on about" My Grandma said. "Tell em about the pipes they stick on your head to drain your brains, do you think we should ring someone, get the experts in?"

Darren explained that in Close Encounters nobody was believed until it was too late, we should ring the Evening Post.

The girl on the phone didn't seem too interested, even when told her about the pipes sucking out brains.  "I'll take your details and pass them on."  She said.

By now word had spread and the slow trickle of excited kids wanting to see the phenomena was getting longer.  "As long as they wipe their feet they can come in." Gran told us. "We should charge." I said.

Within hours, Mr. Swanick learnt of the news and was knocking.  Mr. Swanick (Ted) worked for the council and was famously doing an Open University course, so his views were always sort.  "I've heard all about your sighting" he said. "Thought I'd come and see it for myself."  He walked into the living room where a group of ten year olds were talking about the best places to hide when the alien invasion happened.  "If they came now I'd lock myself in the Co-Op, you could live for years".

"Have you tried communicating with it?" Mr. Swanick asked. Everyone looked at him open mouthed.  "What would we say?" Grandma said.  "I'd ask why it only appeared when Darren switched the living room light on?"

Lakes, House Buying & My Mum


This week Mark and Joanne (Foxy Wharton) have been on their hols to the lake district. After meeting Beatrix Potter in the pub they decide to buy a house in Rawtenstall (Rottenstall in East Lancs talk) and to excommunicate Jo’s Mum.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


When I was starting out acting I would say yes to any job, we should.  I was in a small co-operative agency in Nottingham and I'd regularly be put up for all sorts of little jobs.  Once I went to Matlock in Derbyshire to make a film made by a bloke in his caravan, on another occasion I was paid to be a witness that law students at Nottingham University could cross examine, but my favourite was Crimewatch.  Crimewatch (formerly Crimewatch UK) is a long-running and high-profile British television programme produced by the BBC, that reconstructs major unsolved crimes in order to gain information from the public which may assist in solving the case.

Crimewatch was one of my first television performances when I played "lad 1 in snooker hall".  All I remember was standing in a snooker hall one afternoon drinking tea.  The second time I did it I was cast as the victim, a bouncer from Cambridge who was shot in the back of the head on wasteland.  I spent the whole day with CID, the victim's girlfriend and his best mate.  The small crew moved all over Cambridge following his last known movements, until after returning from the shops there was a knock at the door and he went over the road to his death on a slice of wasteland.

Nobody saw anything.

What I loved was the extent I was involved.  I went into the police incident room and saw photos, I chatted to witnesses and police alike, I was allowed to ask questions about the man I was playing.  I had a long conversation with his girlfriend, who told me first hand what had happened.  I met his best friend who he'd been with minutes before his death.  12 hours later and I'm back on the train to London and thinking about the poor family that has no closure.  I'm putting the clues I have together and coming up with my theory.

That Thursday (Crimewatch night) I settled in my living room to watch.  I was shocked at how many of my friends watched texting "I've just seen you on Crimewatch" and "I always thought you were a trouble causer".  It was no longer about the victim, but about my ego, my acting, me on the telly.  I puffed my chest out and congratulated myself and carried on with life.

A couple of weeks later I received a call from the officer heading the enquiry.  He told me they had a few more leads but nothing substantial, but he said "what did you think about his girlfriend"?   "How do you mean?" I asked. "Did she say anything?" I told him what she had told me, what I remembered and then I said "But she's lying".
"What do you mean?" the copper asked.
"You can't kid a kidder, I have lied with the best of them and I know she's holding stuff back?" I said.  "Yea", he said "We know".

To date they still haven't found the murderer.

P.S. This episode was Claire Goose’s first job too.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Anti Social Media


I sometimes look at this Facebook and I think “What is this SHIT!” The bragging, the beauty, the brothers, the sisters, babies looking like Winston Churchill, rivers flowing, beaches glowing, walks, dinners……the endless dinners, shit grammer and spell mistakes, the sorrow (too much sorrow), red politics, anger I think, this is shit.

And I switch it off.
Bin It.
Delete the App.

Then, ten minutes or so pass and I think they must have missed me by now.  Someone must have liked it by now.  They must be worried sick, those waifs and strays, fighters & lovers, nurses, actors, builders and riders, sisters and cousins.  The thieves and liars, the ins and outers, mothers, adventurers, posties and people.

Because all you people are my kind of people, friends.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


A 15 year old has been reported missing in Rochdale. He parted company with his sister between 3.30pm and 4pm telling her he was going for a walk along the Rochdale canal.  That was 3 days ago and he hasn't been seen since.

I heard the news on Sunday afternoon listening to Johnny Walker 'sound of the seventies' on the wireless.  He's missing the news woman said.  Missing and his family are concerned for his wellbeing.

Jo!  Do you know that lad?  On the towpath, with the black coat and hood up on the hottest day of the year?  He was lying in the shade of a bridge on the way out and walking on the way back.  I mentioned him to you, well I'm worried.  What if it were George or Billy?

We need to go and have a look.

We drove, retraced our steps, 15 miles, nothing.

As I closed my eyes last night all I could think about was the boy, cold, scared, alone and his Mum, alone.

I awoke early switched on the Mac to read the news.  The young lad had been found 10 miles away, seems the lad we saw was another youngster living rough.  Glad we moved on it though.

Friday, 29 April 2016


Our New Podcast - about being homeless

Join Mark And Jo as they spout a load of ......

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Knife Crime.

Police recorded 26,370 knife offences in 2014/15. Yesterday I found out we didn't get an Arts Council grant to tour a play in youth zones in the North West about knife crime and gangs.

People who stab other people don't read flyers about not stabbing people. People who stab people don't wear stickers. People who stab people know that it's wrong and what the consequences of their actions may be, but they still choose to carry a blade.

We need to get them young.

If you have any money and you think this would be a good thing to do with young people give me a call 07956913666

Ghost Walks

I have written three ghost walks now, Oldham, Saddleworth and now Burnley.

This is how I do it.

  1. I usually go and visit the local reference library or museums and start to look for reported stories.  I would say 60% of the walks comes from local newspaper accounts.  From these stories we do our own enquiries about the people or the buildings involved and try and establish a story.  
  2. We ask local people if they have their own stories to tell.  These have come from many sources and their story always begins " I don't believe in ghosts, but..."  These have come from postal workers who saw a strange woman in a shop window, to a girl who had a strange experience on leaving an empty car park.
  3. A small percentage of the stories come from Psychics who will visit the walks and usually pick up other spirits present and tell another story. 
Then all you have to do is tell them, well.

A Ghostly Street we visit on a walk.