What's going on at the Royal Exchange?
A cancelled show and low morale - plus the rest of your Thursday edition
Dear Millers — in today’s edition we have a bit of news about why the Royal Exchange has cancelled its main summer show. Also, Jack checks out a stylish new cocktail bar in the city centre and Dani catches up with a couple who spent their pandemic building a contemporary Dutch townhouse — a “Passivhaus” no less — in Stretford. Plus we return to the scene of one of our most popular stories in Oldham — where the protagonist has just had some very good news.
Earlier this week, we published a great interview (members only) with James Gallogly, the managing chaplain of HMP Manchester, formerly Strangeways. It’s something we’ve spent months trying to set up, as we try to give readers a broader understanding of what goes on inside our local prisons (if you can help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org). And yes, the piece was headlined: “Does God work in Strangeways?”
As always, most of our Thursday edition is a members-only affair, but regular Millers will be able to read a few bits at the top. Join up now to read the whole thing, support our work and get all our journalism every week. You’ll even be invited to our 2nd birthday bash next month.
The Mill @ManchesterMillThe paranoid style in Oldham politics. After the removal of a second council leader in two years, we examine how one local activist is harnessing a town’s racial resentments for his own ends. By @joshi. https://t.co/P6FDcc6vZ8 https://t.co/k7b2ghhEGn
Your Mill briefing
What's going on at the Royal Exchange? Tomorrow was set to be the opening night of a much-anticipated show about the nineteenth-century black actor Ira Aldridge, whose name you might recognise from seeing his portrait in Manchester Art Gallery. The new production of Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet was going to explore "the far-reaching social repercussions" of Aldridge’s infamous performance of Othello in London's docklands in 1925, a major moment in theatrical history, and it’s the work of the Exchange's joint Artistic Director and CEO Roy Alexander Weise. Now the show has been cancelled, with the theatre citing health reasons. "It has been incredibly difficult to come to this complex decision, but the health and wellbeing of our teams and company is paramount," a spokesperson said, saying they are "in the process of planning new activity for the summer months". We hear the reason for the cancellation is that Weise is taking time off work because of stress — and that the theatre is suffering from low staff morale after coming out of the pandemic in bad shape. "The place is a fucking shitshow to be honest," says one source. "They have no momentum, completely coshed over the head by the pandemic and the government.” It was noted by insiders that the Exchange “went dark” (industry-speak for having no shows on) for six weeks in the crucial winter period, and now has little original work scheduled until Christmas. “The general mood is that they've had long enough to get themselves together," says the source. A former staffer laid off during Covid says heavy cutbacks are to blame. “I'd like Manchester to know how many long term, hard-working and dedicated staff were discarded," they told us. "Two or three staff leaving would be understandable. 35 is problematic." We contacted the Exchange about these comments, but haven’t heard back.
A major IT breakdown is causing delays at four Greater Manchester hospitals. North Manchester General, Royal Oldham Hospital, Rochdale Infirmary and Fairfield General have been affected, with the latter three declaring critical incidents. Staff across the four hospitals are struggling to prescribe medication, see test results or access patient histories, and some staff have resorted to paper processes. According to the Northern Care Alliance, which oversees the four hospitals, the "disruption and instability issues" started last Wednesday. Deputy CEO Dr Chris Brookes says staff are relying on "robust contingency plans," to deal with the situation, and added that all patient records and personal data remain intact. It's understood the issues are purely technical, and not the result of a cyber attack. Patients have been asked to attend A&E only if they really need to.
A planning application for a controversial student block in Hulme will go to the Highways and Planning committee next Tuesday. The development, which would be 13-storeys high and built on the site of the Gamecock pub, has been the subject of intense opposition since it was first proposed last year. Roy Barnett, 68, who lives in a nearby over-55s building, told The Mill, “it's going to be 2 years of sheer hell for people living in this block”. The proposed block would shadow a rare patch of green space used by elderly residents for regular meet-ups and BBQs in the summer, he says. The situation reflects the broader sense that Hulme’s longstanding community is being edged out by a glut of student accommodation. “I don't think Hulme will be Hulme for that much longer,” says Barnett.
Two more teenagers have been charged with the murder of Alan Szelugowski, a 17-year-old found dead in Clowes Park, Salford. A 17-year-old boy was charged with murder in March, and now a second 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy will appear before Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Our media picks
🎧 Listen: Our latest podcast just came out. We discuss whether the opening of Crossrail in London should be seen as a win for the whole country or a kick in the teeth for northern commuters; and ask why a big chunk of Piccadilly Gardens seems to have been closed off to the public for most of the summer. Listen on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify now.
📖 Read: It’s publication day for Jihyun Park, a woman who fled North Korea twice to escape famine and terror. Last year she stood as a Conservative candidate in Bury. Her memoir The Hard Road Out, starts: “‘Mummy, why did you abandon me?’ One afternoon in 2012, sitting beside me on a bench in a Manchester Park, Chul asks me the question. I search for an answer, but can’t find one. Where to begin?”
👓 Watch: A fisherman tries to stay afloat — literally and figuratively — in Alex Camilleri’s neo-realist debut Luzzu, which stars a multi-coloured fishing boat bobbing about on the Maltese waves, and its owner, Jesmark, who knows his trade is dying. The cast is mainly comprised of real-life fishermen. Watch it at HOME.
At Home With… Rachel and Ernst ter Horst
A year ago, we went to visit Rachel and Ernst ter Horst, who built a contemporary Dutch townhouse in Stretford during the pandemic. Ernst is an architect with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, and Rachel is the founder of UrbanX, consulting on regeneration, planning and development. The house is a Passivhaus, meaning it’s “super-insulated” and energy-efficient. It has 22 triple-glazed windows and boasts its own air circulation and filtration system (nicknamed PAUL). The overall cost of the build was around £330,000, and they used a Help to Build mortgage. Dani went back for an update.
Hi Rachel! Tell us about your home. The house has five double bedrooms, one ensuite bathroom, and two family shower rooms. There’s a full-height atrium and wooden-clad stairwell in the centre of the house, which floods the hall with sunlight. The ground floor and master doorways include window lights — and a useful place to store our vintage bottle collection!