Michael McGinn (Genie of the Lamp), Bradley Judge (Aladdin) & Jennifer Harding (Slave of the Ring) (c) Brian Roberts

By Nigel Smith

THE Floral Pavilion Christmas show is always a highlight of the local panto season, pretty much guaranteed to deliver both star quality and rich storytelling. This year they have again assembled a particularly fine cast, but somehow there’s something slightly Wishee Washee about their rendering of Aladdin.

In fact, you could almost rename the show Wishee Washee, because it’s dominated throughout by Aladdin’s dippy brother, played by CBeebies Balamory star Andrew Agnew. He also directs the show and is given maximum stage time by writer Andrew Ryan. Certainly Agnew’s celebrity holds the attention of the children, but rather to the expense of the remaining cast all of whom, along with the story, are relegated to second fiddles.

Which is a great shame, as many of them are highly accomplished musical theatre performers. Bradley Judge is perfect casting in the title role, Kelsey-Rae Marshall is a charming Princess Jasmine and Andrew Gallo has all the qualities of a splendid Emperor, if not the lines to go with it. Michael McGinn and Jennifer Harding are also great choices for the Genie of the Lamp and the Slave of the Ring, while Michael Chance plays the Widow Twankey with considerable relish. Former Corrie and Emmerdale star Bill Ward is a very malevolent Abanazer, but again is short changed in the script. Several of the cast clearly struggle vocally, with many of the songs played in the wrong key for them.

Most of the usual party games involving the audience and water pistols is despatched early on so as to leave the field open for the storytelling but, for reasons that it’s hard to put a finger on, the text appears simultaneously under written and over long. Fortunately the panto format allows the players to point out to the audience where they’re supposed to laugh, clap and cheer – and even when to give a standing ovation. Without this it would be a long night. Many of the topical jokes feel shoehorned in, and when TJ Lloyd’s PC Pong and Widow Twankey exchange a wisecrack about GDPR compliance and accepting cookies you can almost hear the tumbleweed.

Notwithstanding all the above, the show looks great and benefits from some splendid choreography, with an excellent supporting adult cast and a group of outstanding young dancers from Hoylake School of Dance. It is certain that the children in the audience are having a great time, and are happy enough adding their own extra action sequences, with light sabre fights up and down the aisles using their sparkly wands.

This Aladdin has all the makings of a very fine show, and some pruning to bring it down to under 2 hours 30 minutes would really benefit it, as its present almost 3 hour run time stretches the material, and the audience, too far.

Aladdin plays at the Floral Pavilion until 6th January.


THE finale of the Giants trilogy broke all records for free events in Liverpool according to an independent report.

Liverpool’s Dream took place from 4-7 October and brought in 1.3million visitors to the city and Wirral, and generated a massive £60.6m for the local economies. Broken down, this equates to around 1,220,000 visitors to Liverpool bringing in £58m, and 80,000 to Wirral, bringing in £2.2m

It smashes previous records held by 2014’s Giants event Memories of August 1914 which had an economic impact of £46m, and 2015’s Three Queens event which welcomed 1.2million visitors to both Liverpool and Wirral. Many of the city’s most famous attractions also saw a 100% rise in attendance.

The Giants proved to be massively popular on social media too, with #LiverpoolGiants trending each day (4-7 October) and tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts reached 12.4 million people. There was interaction with followers from across the globe including Australia, New Zealand, China, Columbia, South Africa and Canada.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “These incredible figures won’t come as a surprise to anyone who witnessed the visit of the Giants.

“This is a city used to staging major, outdoor events, but October’s event took it to the next level. The iconic image of the Giants on The Strand surrounded by people as far as the eye can see captured it perfectly.

“The creative brilliance of Royal de Luxe attracted people not only from across the region, but from all over the globe who came here specifically to see Wirral and Liverpool become a stage on which these Giant characters would perform.

“In these tough financial times, economic boosts of this nature are invaluable. But it’s not just about the money. The pride the Giants engendered is priceless. Events like this aren’t commonplace – very few cities in the world have the creative ambitions to push boundaries, so I am proud that Liverpool and Wirral stand out from the crowd.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the team involved in making Liverpool’s Dream such a success – partners across the city, from the police and transport networks right though to volunteers and sponsors, worked together tirelessly to make sure our city shone during this Giant extravaganza.”

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: “This third and final visit of the Giants has exceeded all expectations.  It provided a huge boost for the local economy and the inclusion of the Wirral this time round has helped to showcase what the wider city region has to offer as a visitor destination.  That’s why we were proud to invest £5million into the 2018 cultural programme.”

The report was produced by the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.


Toby Park & Sophie Russell in Spymonkey's A Christmas Carol. Photograph by Johan Persson_

By Andy Green

AS Christmas shows go they don’t come more classic and traditional than this timeless masterpiece by a certain Charles Dickens. Who knew he was a magician?

Spymonkey’s take on this most festive of tales is beautifully bonkers – it’s as mad as a heavy goods vehicle full of frogs.

It’s hard to believe that there’s only a cast of four but they do have a plentiful supply of hats! Spymonkey are Toby Park, Petra Massey, Aitor Basauri and Sophie Russell and between them they deliver an absolute delight of a show.

Mr Dickens himself (played by the utterly crazy Aitor Basauri) opens the show and sets the tone for the silliness that is to follow.

The show roughly follows the plot of the novel…ish. One of the many highlights is the ghost of Christmas present (Basauri) ‘flying’ around the stage with a shrunken Scrooge (Park) quite literally in tow.

It’s difficult to describe how wonderful this production is without spoiling it if you’re going to see it – and you should!

There’s inventive use of puppetry, a brilliant band, fabulous ad libs when things don’t go quite right and a refreshing lack of profanity.

Spymonkey have proved that you can produce hysterically funny theatre without being coarse or crass.

A masterpiece of madness.



Liverpool, United Kingdom - 2016 January 1: TWOMEY Billy, (IRL), DIAGHILEV during CSI4* - 1,40 competition at CSI4* Liverpool International Horse Show at Echo Arena. (photo: Bonnaud)

THE Theraplate UK Liverpool International Horse Show is set to host the biggest and best sporting spectacle at The Echo Arena on Liverpool’s iconic waterfront this New Year.

Kicking off on Friday 28th December world-renowned double individual Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin OBE will light up the stage for the opening night of this equestrian and family extravaganza, with a rare guest appearance from the living legend that is multiple medal-winning horse Valegro.

Charlotte Dujardin is the most successful British dressage rider and winner of all major titles and world records within the sport and spectators will see her compete on the night with her super-talented, grey mare Florentina VI. Dujardin will be joined by Olympic gold medallist Carl Hester MBE to host a signing and meet & greet session for young aspiring riders before the show. The line up of dressage superstars competing at the show also includes Ulrik Molgaard, Nicki Crisp, and London and Rio Paralympic Gold Medallist Sophie Wells.

Charlotte commented: “Having competed at Liverpool International last year it is great to be returning and to partner Florentina in such an electric arena will be fantastic.”

As well as seeing the super stars of dressage, visitors to this incredible show will experience a world-class display of show jumping with the biggest names in the sport from around the Globe arriving in Liverpool to compete. Famous names such as Olympic hero John Whitaker and several members of the talented Whitaker family – Michael, John and Robert along with 2018 World Equestrian Games team member Holly Smith and one of the world’s top female riders, Laura Renwick will all be heading to the city for a chance to get on the leader board.

The event will have a real family feel as Liverpool-born Peter Charles supports his son Harry in the 4*, with daughters Sienna and Scarlet also competing in the under 25 category. And Irish eyes will be smiling as two-time Liverpool International Grand Prix Winner, Irishman Billy Twomey returns to the Arena to defend his prestigious title.

The incredibly high level of international competition each day will be nail-biting enough then crowds will witness the spectacle of brand new Horse Stunt action from Gilles Fortier who will be performing his spectacular pyrotechnic routine ‘Phoenix’, as well the much-loved entertainment of the Shetland Pony Grand National and the awesome and adrenalin-filled action of the Arenacross UK Freestyle Motocross crew with live music from Rick Parfitt Jr.

Show visitors will also have the chance to see the City’s official closing ceremony for Liverpool 2018 during the Saturday evening performance on 29th December. And of course on New Year’s Eve an electric atmosphere will build for the 7pm performance, starting with the Theraplate UK Grand Prix and climaxing at midnight with a breathtaking display of indoor fireworks and pyrotechnics to welcome in the New Year.

Families can enjoy this rare opportunity to spend such an important occasion altogether with all ticket holders having access to the Champagne Bar and Shopping Village, with unallocated seating in the Arena all day from 9am to enjoy the full programme of amateur and pony jumping finals.

The Theraplate UK Liverpool International Horse Show is the perfect way to spend the New Year weekend and will make an ideal Christmas gift for loved ones with family tickets start from only £13.85pp plus booking fees.

For further information and to book tickets visit

THERE’S a brand-new bar in town. Albeit one which won’t be around for long – you’ve got to be quick.

Bongo’s Festive Party House is a pop-up taking place in Cains Brewery Village this Christmas.

Channelling the festive spirit of Bad Santa filtered through Scrooged, this is a wilfully sordid social spot with its calcified heart very much on its torn sleeve. Festooned with twinkling lights and Xmas deccies daubed upon every available space, the intimate setting is like the best house party you’ve never been invited to. 

Opening on Thursday 13th December from 5pm, its creaking doors will be open on select dates all the way through to NYE. Titillating tipples and crazy cocktails – many infused with festive-themed magic – will be available, along with a wide range of mouth-watering drinks. 

From Joshua Burke and Jonny Bongo, the duo behind the phenomenal Bongo’s Bingo, the Party House transforms The Old Gas Station into a festive-inspired hideaway.

Then after a complete refurbishment in January, it will re-open in February as the latest permanent addition to the bustling Baltic Triangle. More news will be coming on that soon.


Bongo’s Festive Party House
Cains Brewery Village, Stanhope St, Liverpool, L8 5RE

Insta and FB: @bongosfestivepartyhouse
Opening dates/times:
Thurs 13th – 5pm to midnight (opening night)
Friday 14th – 5pm – midnight

Saturday 15th – 12pm – midnight

Sunday 16th – 12pm – 9pm

Tuesday 18th – 5pm – midnight

Thursday 20th – 5pm – midnight

Friday 21st – 5pm – midnight

Saturday 22nd – 12pm – midnight

Sunday 23rd – 12pm – 9pm

Wednesday 26th – 5pm – midnight

Thursday 27th – 5pm – midnight

Friday 28th – 5pm – midnight

Saturday 29th – 12pm – midnight

Sunday 30th – 12pm – 9pm

Monday 31st NYE – 5pm – 1am

Sourdough baker Owen McShane at Squash Toxteth

KNOWN for her 1970s portraits of Toxteth life, Tricia has revisited the city more than 40 years later to document communities fighting against austerity and the loss of services and spaces.

Her new collection – Liverpool 2018: A New Kind of Community – revisits some of the original areas. It showcases an ‘inspiring’ grassroots fight back, with community businesses working to transform their neighbourhoods.

Her photos capture a new kind of activism, grounded in the community business movement, and harnessing a Liverpudlian spirit. They will be exhibited at community business, The Florrie, in Dingle, in the New Year.

Kitty’s Launderette’s Grace Harrison and Rachael O’Byrne North Liverpool

The black and white and colour images, commissioned by Power to Change – the independent trust that supports community businesses across England – show communities reclaiming their neighbourhoods, celebrating diversity and providing a sense of togetherness.

The images form part of the trust’s new campaign ‘Liverpool is our Business’ that aims to shine a light on the importance of community business and the role it plays in supporting and responding to local needs.

Tricia’s original photographs, taken between 1972 and 1974, painted a vivid picture of everyday life in Toxteth. They revealed tight-knit communities being fragmented by economic uncertainty and aggressive redevelopment. She is keen to speak to anyone who featured in her original photos to see how life has changed for them.

Tricia explains: “When I photographed inner city Liverpool over 40 years ago, there was a sense that the communities and people there had simply been left behind and forgotten by the powers that be.

“By documenting the lives of the people living in these areas, I wanted to show the reality of their situation, which included joy, pride and togetherness, as well as great difficulty.

“It has been a heart-warming experience and an honour to have been asked to visit and photograph these community businesses and to see the positive impact they are having on the city’s neighbourhoods.”

The projects she visited include The Florrie, a restored Grade II Victorian community centre in the heart of L8, and Anfield’s Homebaked; a community land trust and co-operative bakery.

Tim Tierney and The Florrie’s guitar group Dingle

The Florrie’s Chief Executive, Anne Lundon, says: “We all remember Tricia’s photos from the ‘70s and those images have been relevant to many parts of L8. The Florrie lay derelict for 23 years and like so many of our neighbouring communities across Liverpool, we have to come together to save our assets and build up our communities again.

“Today, we are at the heart of the community and Tricia’s new work shows how much is being done across the city to make positive changes.

“Local people are looking to organisations like us and other community businesses for hope and a way forward and we’re delighted to exhibit this important collection of photographs.”

In the Liverpool city region, Power to Change has supported more than 30 businesses, all trading for the benefit of the community.

Power to Change’s ‘Liverpool is Our Business’ project highlights the growing importance of community business and the people making it happen. Over the next few weeks they’ll host events looking at the impact of community businesses, the future of the high street and Christmas spending, as well as launching a new film voiced by Sue Johnston.

Power to Change CEO, Vidhya Alakeson, says: “At a time when many areas are facing cuts and a lack of adequate local services, community businesses are playing a vital role by responding to local needs. It is a pleasure to present Tricias latest exhibition as part of our ‘Liverpool is Our Businesscampaign, which will draw attention to the essential work of community businesses and raise awareness of the Power to Change mission.”

The Tricia Porter and Power to Change ‘Liverpool 2018: A New Kind of Community’ free pop-up exhibition will be on display in The Florrie, 377 Mill Street, Liverpool from Tuesday 15th January to Friday 18th January 2019 before moving to a number of sites across Liverpool.

If you are one of the people featured in Tricia’s original photographs, Power to Change would love to hear from you at or

For more information visit


NEW images showing a radical revamp to Lime Street have been revealed.

A series of CGIs depict a major redesign that includes a new public square outside Lime Street station and an expanded plateau outside St George’s Hall.

The scheme is part of a wider £45m programme that will transform connectivity and how people move around Liverpool city centre.

Liverpool City Council has revealed the images ahead of a public information exercise on the Lime Street plans, which are central to the Liverpool City Centre Connectivity (LCCC) scheme, at Central Library on Wednesday, 12 December from 10am to 6pm.

The widening of St George’s Plateau, to begin in early 2020, will see Lime Street reduced to a single carriageway for northbound traffic only with access in to the city centre via St John’s Lane.

New square outside Lime Street station

A key aim of the LCCC scheme is to achieve a major reduction in congestion in the city centre by creating a new hub for buses to park and layover in. This project includes the proposed repositioning of Queen Square bus station for northbound bus routes and Liverpool One bus station for southbound bus routes, which will be underpinned by the Lime Street redesign.

It is estimated the new hub and re-routed bus services will save over 750,000 bus miles and 2,000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere every year. A planning application is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Committee on Tuesday, 8 January.

The Lime Street designs also include the installation of a water feature at the southern end of the plateau, which lies within the city’s World Heritage Site. A proposed dedicated cycle lane will no longer feature in the scheme following feedback from the public consultation last year.

The Lime Street revamp will also connect to the improvement works carried out by Ion Developments Ltd with a widened, boulevard style pavement running the entire length up to the Adelphi Hotel, which sits within the Knowledge Quarter Gateway. This area is currently subject to a new masterplan, which will finalised in Spring 2019.

Boulevard style design for Lime Street between station and Adelphi Hotel

The scheme is receiving £38.4m from the Local Growth Fund with local match funding of £7m and is a major part of Liverpool City Council’s £500m Better Roads programme. Local Growth Funding is awarded to the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and invested through the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority through its Strategic Investment Fund.

Councillor James Noakes, Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “For millions of people Lime Street is the gateway into Liverpool and these stunning new designs illustrate the potential for creating a world class welcome.

“A new public square outside Lime Street station and an expanded plateau at St George’s Hall will transform the experience of arriving in Liverpool and how people interact with arguably the UK’s greatest collection of iconic cultural venues.

‘’We’ve made some minor changes to the design as a result of the original public consultation but these plans for Lime Street cannot be taken in isolation. They are key to the wider transformation of how the city centre functions in the future.

“This redesign of Lime Street is critical to the proposed new bus hub and changes to Queen Square bus station both of which will ultimately create a cleaner, greener city centre for everyone to enjoy.”

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry, said: “We’re committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the Northern Powerhouse and building a Britain fit for the future.

“As these exciting images of the redesign show, the £38.4m million investment from the Local Growth Fund for the Liverpool City Centre Connectivity Scheme will not only reduce congestion and create a stunning new gateway to the City, but ensure that the people of Liverpool have the transport infrastructure needed to help grow our economy across the Northern Powerhouse.”




LIVERPOOL PR supremo Carolyn Hughes hosted her annual CHPR Charity Christmas Lunch yesterday at GUSTO Albert Dock, raising more than £23,000 for charity.

The 12th annual lunch has become the hottest festive tickets in town, supported by over 250 of Liverpool’s glitterati, movers and shakers, who enjoyed a drink on arrival a spectacular three course festive lunch and an afternoon of fun and entertainment.

The day was hosted by actress Lindzi Germain and entertainment included  performances from a DJ and Saxophonist, followed by a rousing set from dynamic duo Dixie Daye and Chantel Coleman, before FIRE rounded the afternoon off with a collection of party dance floor fillers.  

The event raised  over  £23,000 for Radio City’s Cash for Kids and was supported by  Rebecca Ferguson, Liz McLarnon, Danielle Lloyd, Gillian Kearney and RHOC Dawn Ward. 

Everton Football Club’s Darren Griffiths showcased his auctioneering skills, with prizes including:-  VIP Hospitality packages for Take That and Bon Jovi courtesy of LFC,  signed Liverpool shirt and signed boots from Everton and England goal keeper Jordan Pickford, plus a dining experience at Aiden Byrne’s new MCR restaurant in Manchester. 

Carolyn Hughes said  “This is the 12th annual CHPR charity lunch hosted at GUSTO Albert Dock.  The emphasis is always on fun and today was no exception.  I am grateful to those who support us year after year and delighted that we have raised £23,000 for local children.  Thanks to the Festive Decorators for the Giant CHPR Christmas Bauble and Tree”.

Pics by Diane Thompson

By Nigel Smith

DROPS of Light make a welcome return to the Liverpool panto scene this year with Aladdin. Moving from the Black-E to a new home at Hope Street Theatre, the performance is brought even closer to its audience in this cosy space, allowing us to see every tiny detail in this lovingly put together show.

The community theatre formula sees half a dozen professional actors joined by ensembles of adults and children from local drama and dance schools, some of whom are already climbing the professional theatre ladder.

Writer Jessica Lea has stuck pretty close to the traditional flow of the story, inserting plenty of local references but never overdoing it. She has gone for maximum child-friendly dialogue and a minimum of jokes for the adults, avoiding awkward questions at the breakfast table the morning after.

The central pairing of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine (or Jazz here) are played by Adam McCoy and Tori Hargreaves. Both have great singing voices and big stage appeal, making it really easy for us to feel invested in their story. Jamie Greer is a fine, traditional dame as Widow Twankey but the role is pared down somewhat, giving more focus to the flow of the narrative. While Greer certainly manages to fit in some of the usual set pieces, such as a laundry scene, they never bring the storytelling to a halt, as can often be the case.

Helen Carter and Maia Johnson spar with each other well as the Genie and the Slave of the Ring, and Carter especially has some great singing parts. Emma Bispham is a deliciously evil Abanazer, sporting a luxuriant moustache and goatee for no readily explored reason, but which certainly makes a talking point. She has a back story involving rejection from a girl band, which provides an excuse for some of her musical numbers. The score under MD Henry Burnett contains quite a collection of carefully chosen songs for all the cast, which fit well into the storyline.

Wishee Washee, Aladdin’s intellectually challenged brother (Liam Dascombe) gleefully makes himself the butt of everyone’s jokes, saving the rest of the cast the trouble of taunting him. It all makes for great humour and his lovable character has the audience totally on his side. Dascombe appears to make it a mission to high-five every single child in the house by the end of the night.

The adult and children’s ensembles provide strong support in the various smaller roles, with excellent choreography by Lindsay Inglesby. They enable the stage to be filled with movement and colour, and there are some well put together action sequences. One such scene, where the cast are picked off one by one by a mummy, gets the children so involved that some of them practically have to be physically restrained from chasing after them. Several were genuinely taken in by it and showed complete outrage when Aladdin was whisked offstage.

What felt like one missed opportunity in the tale was the possibility of a double wedding at the end – surely Jamie Greer’s Twankey is a perfect love match for Tony Sheridan’s aloof but seemingly lonely Emperor?

I’m not the only commentator to take note of the children in the audience, and they were almost the real stars of the show. Director Sam Donovan has clearly factored them into what he was doing with every scene, because the performance totally engaged them throughout. Of all the Christmas shows I have seen this year, this has to be the one with the closest connection to its young audience, making this a perfect solution for any parent looking for something traditional but not too saucy to take the family to.

Aladdin is at Hope Street Theatre until 30th December.

Simon Rimmer and Laura Doyle

MERSEYSIDE celebrity chef Simon Rimmer and singer Laura Doyle were at the ICAP Charity Day Event to raise funds for Leadership Through Sport and Business.

Simon and Laura joined celebrities from the world of sports and showbiz for the blue-chip charity day in London.

The TV cook and singer with Merseyside-based Brazilian jazz band Baiana took to ICAP’s Trading floor in the City, where celebrity did deals with all proceeds going to good causes.

Simon and Laura worked to raise funds for Leadership Through Sport and Business (LTSB) which helps underprivileged young people get a start in careers with leading finance companies.

Among the other celebrities taking part during the day for a host of diverse charities included Keith Lemon, Jenny Agutter, Lauren Pope, Dani Dyer, Richard Ayoade, Kirsty Allsop and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Among those joining Laura and Simon on the Leadership Through Sport and Business team were football legends Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank and Viv Anderson, cricket’s Monty Panesar and Love Island’s Camilla Thurlow and Jamie Jewitt,

Baiana star Laura said: “The atmosphere on the trading floor was electric, with everyone pulling out the stops for their chosen charities.”

On the day, 100% of the revenues and commissions ICAP generates globally is donated to approximately 100 charities worldwide. LTSB will receive funding for their ‘I CAN with ICAP’ project, which aims to transform the lives of at least 10 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Baiana next play at Petit Café Du Coin on Berry Street, Liverpool, on Sunday, December 9th and 16th, and as a duo at Polidor 68, Lark Lane on December 13th and 20th  all at 7.30pm.

Give Baiana a follow @baianaband


By Nigel SmithTHE Floral Pavilion Christmas show is always a highlight of the local panto season, pretty much guaranteed to deliver both star quality...


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