If you live in South Liverpool, North Liverpool, St Helens, Warrington or on the Wirral, the chances are that there’s a theatre that’s quicker to get to than the Playhouse, Esptein, Unity or Royal Court.
And, more than likely, if you live outside Liverpool City Centre you’ll be aware of more local theatres that consistently offer excellent entertainment on your doorstep.
We thought about this, we looked at what was on, and we decided that these places deserve their time in the SevenStreets sun, so we’ll be looking at what the wider Merseyside area has to offer in terms of theatre, comedy and music for the rest of the year.
First up is Runcorn’s The Brindley, and it’s a mere 15 minutes from certain parts of Liverpool and Wirral, having been set up eight years ago when Halton Borough Council saw the potential for an arts space in the area that brought together a number of art forms.
“The Brindley came about really through a couple of forward thinking people at Halton Borough Council,” says Pete Bentham, Marketing Manager at The Brindley.
“The old venue the Queen’s Hall was beginning to show its age so the council applied for lottery funding to build a new place that wasn’t just a venue, but a place where people could enjoy and participate in all kinds of artforms, regardless of age or ability, and so brought all the arts development work under one roof.
“This long-term investment in the arts is starting to really pay off. We’ve just had a young lad from the area, a former rugby player who became interested in ballet, who has just become only the third British person ever to be accepted by the Bolshoi ballet in Moscow.”
The Brindley is a physical example of the investment that the council has made in arts and culture in the area, says Bentham, and the venue is an art gallery, gig venue, cafe, studio and performance space rolled into one.
The Brindley has two performance spaces; a 420-seat theatre and a 108-seat studio that doubles as a cinema and can also host standing gigs. There’s also a gallery space which has exhibitions by touring and local artists, workshop spaces and a terrace café overlooking the Bridgewater Canal.
And in that eight-year history the venue has been host to John Bishop’s early comedy career, while the likes of Al Murray, Mark Thomas, Lee Mack, Marcus Brigstocke and Rich Hall have also played in the past.
Coming up are Russell Kane, Dave Spikey, Andi Osho, Mark Steel, Lee Hurst, Jerry Sadowitz and Chris Ramsey, while old-schoolers such as Cannon & Ball and Max Boyce are on in coming weeks – the Brindley is nothing if not eclectic.
‘Audience With’ nights have featured Will Self and John Cooper Clarke, while walking continent of common-sense, Ann Widdecombe, is up next week (yeah, we know, but some people like her).
Beyond that there are also plays, ballet, films and a panto (Bruno Langley off of Corrie and Bev from Brookie) over the next two months. The gallery currently hosts an exhibition by pop-art pioneer Eduardo Paolozzi.
Music at The Brindley tends towards acoustic and roots music, with Glenn Tilbrook, Ralph McTell and Humphrey Lyttleton gracing the stage in times gone by. Coming up are husband-and-wife folk duo Megson, symphonic prog loons Focus, and Roachford.
The root of The Brindley’s ability to attract big names are in the areas’s rich history, says Bentham.
“The forerunner to the Brindley, the Queen’s Hall in Widnes was home to several Beatles gigs and all the bands from that Merseybeat era. It was also the scene for big soul nights and then later bands like Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets played there.
“And of course Spike Island is in Widnes where the legendary Stone Roses gig was – they’ve been shooting the forthcoming film there in the last few weeks.”
But history isn’t quite enough. The venue’s location – and its close relationship with the local community and customers are a big part of the venue’s success too.
“Because of our location, we haven’t got the competition that the city centre venues have. We also have an amazing building and we are small enough to have a personal relationship with our customers.
“You may also think that being between Liverpool and Manchester would be a disadvantage but I actually think it’s a plus. We are close enough to get to from those major cities but we also have a big catchment area in Warrington, Chester and North Cheshire.”
There’s a wealth of stuff on at The Brindley over the next couple of months, with almost a new show every day, so we implore you to head over to the website to peruse what’s on. We think you’ll find something that takes your fancy – and hope you find a new venue to enjoy performances you wouldn’t have otherwise known of.
High Street, Runcorn, WA7 1BG
Telephone 0151 907 8360