The perfect Princess party

How to throw the dream party with Magic Fairy Wings


Most little girls go through a pink Princess phase where all things magic, sparkly and with wings are to be adored.

I’m sure many of you will have asked your daughters (or sons?) what kind of a birthday party they’d like this year, to be showered with ‘pleases’ for a Princess Party.


Princess Party


We asked Debbie Talbot from Magic Fairy Wings to help out with some top tips for conjuring up the perfect Princess Party.


Over to you Debbie ……

princess visit belle


Are you sitting comfortably – then I’ll begin!

Once upon a time there was a stressed out mum who had a party to organise, but didn’t have a clue where to begin or how to transfer her 1970′s semi into Camelot!

But with a wave of my wand a sprinkle of fairy dust I was able to help transform various shades of neutral into a gorgeous pink palace with all the special touches that make the perfect Princess Party.


Here’s my ‘How To’ guide with some top tips for the perfect party.




If it’s a summer celebration, then why not plan your party in the grounds of an actual castle, and have a fabulous Princess picnic.

Unfortunately we’re not blessed with an abundance of castles within striking distance of Manchester, so if having it at home isn’t an option, hire your local church hall, community or leisure centre sports hall, and turn it into a fairytale treat.

  • Create a pink carpet for the guests to walk into the ‘Princess castle’ with some sumptuous pink material.
  • Tie pink and silver balloons around the entrance and throughout the venue.
  • Make or buy some Princess Party bunting to spread the magic throughout the room.


Princess Party bunting



Princess Party Invites


Set the tone for your Princess Party with some special Princess themed invitations.

If you’d like to make them especially special then why not check out our Magic Fairy Wings personalised invites here.

To make them even more Princessy, roll them up like a scroll and tie them with a pink ribbon.

Invite all the guests to come dressed in pink, or as their favourite Princess. If anyone comes as Princess Ann then give them an extra slice of birthday cake!



Princess costume

Princess outfit


If you’re feeling crafty, then by all means have a go at making your own.

Have a look at this How to make a no sew Princess costume from a pillow case tutorial.

Alternatively we’ve got some beautiful Magic Fairy Wings dressing up outfits (click here) which will make your little Princess the Belle of the ball.

Accessorise with a tiara and wand from our collection.




  • Display a treasure chest full of beads and baubles for the party Princesses to bejewel themselves as befits their status.
  • Alternatively, buy some kids jewellery bead craft kits so that they can make their own.


  • Book a children’s entertainer – A Manchester based one I recently used for my daughter’s birthday party was Princess Impersonations which cost a very reasonable £40.00 for a half hour visit (see the Princess in the yellow dress above). The children heard a beautiful story written especially to include the birthday girl and learnt princess etiquette.
  • Play pass the parcel with a pink wrapped present full of Princess gifts.
  • Pin the jewel on the crown, the fly on the frog, the crown on the Princess, or the tail on the dragon.
  • Try musical statues to a sound track of Beauty and the Beast.


Party Food


Princess cupcake

  • Pink lemonade is a must for a Princess Party.
  • Use cookie cutters in the shape of stars, crowns and hearts to cut out themed sandwiches.
  • Make magic wands from a slice of kiwi fruit and a piece of star shaped water melon on a wooden skewer.
  • A Princess birthday cake is an absolute must – Asda sell a lovely princess cake (click here) for £9.00. Alternatively, create a tower of cupcakes with pink icing.


princess purses


Party Bags

At Magic Fairy Wings we’ve got some lovely and very reasonably priced party bags and fillers (click here)..

Another idea would be to provide a small gift for each child to take home instead such as one of our fabulous feather trimmed Princess purse (click here).

We hope that your little Princess has a lovely time!



Competition Time


We’ve got a super cute Melissa and Doug Princess Fancy Dress Outfit (see picture here), value £19.99 to give away to one lucky reader.

All we want to know is who is your favourite Princess?

Pop it in the comments box below – but only one comment per person please.

So don’t be shy – tell us who’s your favourite Princess!

Good luck!


Debbie x


Magic Fairy Wings


Web site:

Tel: 0161 787 8550


Twitter: @magicfairywings




Photographs: Elena Roussakis, USAG Humphreys, Clever Cupcakes, Lisa Marie Gee of Pamper and Pose, Magic Fairy Wings

This blog is produced in collaboration with our friends at Magic Fairy Wings. We occasionally publish blogs funded by commercial partners.


By taking part in this competition you are agreeing to 4Manchester Womens Terms & Conditions for competitions and prize draws.


Competition closing date: 9pm Friday 1st November 2013.

The winner will be the first name selected at random from all respondents. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Closing date is 9pm Friday 1st November 2013. The winner will be notified immediately. Only one entry per person. UK entries only. No automated entries. Supporting ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions, loquax and  Competitions Time. If you are the lucky winner, your contact details will be forwarded to the providers of the prize, strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the prize and not for any other purpose.
Please note: Should you be notified as the winner, and you do not respond within 2 days of our notification, we reserve the right to re-draw the winner.


Previous competition winners (last 6 months)

Real Nappy Week – win a selection of real nappies (16th April 2013). Winner Sarah Fisher.

Stylish Summer Homes – win Next home goodies (6th June 2013). Winner Ann Calland.

Lady Boys of Bangkok – win tickets (8th June 2013). Winners Rachel Fisher, Catherine Anderson.

The Cruise Show – win tickets (14th July 2013). Winners Kathy Cakebread, Karen Mckend, Claire Kelly.

Sushi Making Masterclass – win a sushi making kit (30th July 2013). Winner Sarah Plant.

Cocktails & Dreams – win a cocktail making masterclass at Lock 91 (29th August 2013). Winner Nicola Robinson.

Creative Stitches & Hobbycraft Show – win tickets (1st September 2013). Winners Claire Jackson, Pauline Rendell, Joanna Arthur, Fran Morgan, Liz Ferguson, Michelle Smith, Dil Price, Pam Gregory, Linda Weatherley.

The Independent Interiors Show – win a house hamper (3rd September 2013). Winner Nichola Gill.

Indulge Fragrance Boutique – win bottles of perfume (8th September 2013). Winners Gillian Shiels, Leanne Williams, Julie Ward.

Creamline Diaries / Getting Kids to Eat Breakfast – win a Saturday Cookshop course with a celebrity chef (18th September 2013). WInner Sara Perry.

The Lounge Gallery – win a Michelle Keeling necklace (22nd September). Winner Alison Ferrara








The Lost Carnival – Review

Step inside this imaginative and wonderful world


Over 100 years ago, this darkly strange circus disappeared, only to reappear last month in all it’s weirdly compelling glory in Burrs Country Park in Bury.

I can only assume that during the intervening century they’ve been spinning though the galaxy in a huge intergalactic big top, rubbing shoulders with Red Dwarf and the Tardis!


The Lost Carnival image credit credit Brett Harkness


The Lost Carnival is an immersive, spectacular experience that invites you to step into a world unlike any other.

From 22nd – 25th May 2015, The Lost Carnival treated visitors to a magical extravaganza. There were mermaids, a strong man, mind reader, ring master, acrobats and bearded lady to name but a few.

As we transitioned through the big top into the imagination of organisers Wild Rumpus (who are also behind The Just So Festival), we discovered that our mission was to collectively generate energy on an hourly basis. Thankfully no static bikes were involved in the making of this show – instead the aim was to harness the power of communal singing!




When we emerged from the big top into the carnival there was plenty to keep us busy. Mask making, mermaid chatting, the fabulous band Rum Buffalo and a banquet of street food meant that the time just flew by.

The programme of live music, acrobatics, dancing ladies and swinging balls meant that there was always something going on, without feeling over faced.

Our four year old daughter particularly loved getting dressed up – face painted like Pierrot she looked adorable. I on the other hand looked more like a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Kizz! I got some interesting looks on the M60!

She also loved chatting with the mermaids (“They weren’t real though mummy, I could see their feet”), playing games with the strong man, the music and just the overall spectacle.




Us grown ups loved all of the above – plus Ginger’s Comfort Emporium’s mint and fennel ice cream, which was spectacular!

We were blessed with great weather which contributed to a fantastic event which we thoroughly enjoyed. And although our tickets were complementary, I would have happily paid the £10 ticket price and felt like I’d got good value for money. Under 3′s go free.

My only query would be about the timing of The Lost Carnival. Starting at 4.00pm and running through until 9.30pm, it didn’t quite work for us. As a family event and with a 4 year old we’d have preferred it to start earlier. When I asked the organisers for the rational, their answer was:

“We like being outside on warm summers evenings, we like the transition from daytime through dusk to dark and staying up beyond bedtimes, not sticking to the routines and the excitement that brings with it.  

“I appreciate it’s not for everyone but we find it works for us and hopefully for those who can’t manage to hang on until the end we hope they’ve had a really exciting and brilliant experience before they have to call it a day”.

Coming at the end of term, with a tired little girl we didn’t manage to make it to the end. Hopefully next year will be a different kettle of fish. We can’t wait to see where and when The Lost Carnival lands next year.

For more information about The Lost Carnival visit


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Brett Harkness

Disclosure: Although our tickets were free, this does not ensure a positive review. We did genuinely love the event and look forward to it’s return.




Review – The Ghost Train

Brilliantly funny, the audience loved it – at The Royal Exchange


four stars


It’s a strong 4/5 for The Ghost Train. Our theatre reviewer Lorna loved it – in her view it’s definitely going to be a popular one!


Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride


Ghost Train is a frightfully funny affair!

On a dark and stormy night in the 1920s a group of strangers find themselves stranded at a railway station in the middle of nowhere.

And a beastly night at the station it turns out to be too, when they find out there’s not a train until 7am the next morning.


Station Master Saul Hodgkin, brilliantly played by Amanda Hadingue, is in a hurry to get going himself – because come 11pm strange and supernatural things start to occur.




Saul tells the group of a rail disaster that happened years before – seared into local folklore, where the stationmaster before him dropped down dead at that very station from the shock of it all, his lamp still lit in his hand.

For newlyweds Peggy and Charles Murdock it isn’t how they imagined starting their honeymoon – stranded with strangers! Strangers which include bickering couple the Winthrop’s, know it all cad about town Teddie Deakin and Mrs Bourne, the eccentric parrot-wielding spinster.


THE GHOST TRAIN Royal Exchange until 20 June. Photo Jonathan Keenan


Paranoia quickly sets in as the group quickly start to believe old Saul’s tale was true. Cue a rip-roaring night of hysterical – hysteria that will have you laughing and checking over your shoulder in equal measure.

The staging and sound is brilliantly done and Told By An Idiot theatre company certainly excelled at bringing the play to life in the round. The whole cast are strong throughout, although a special mention should go to Javier Marzan, who puts in an excellently comedic performance as the character of Mrs Bourne.


Calum Finlay as Teddie Deakin in THE GHOST TRAIN by Arnold Ridley - Royal Exchange Theatre until 20 June. Photo Jonathan Keenan (3)


Amanda Hadingue as Julia Price in THE GHOST TRAIN by Arnold Ridley Royal Exchange until 20 June. Photo Jonathan Keenan


And another top tit bit – Ghost Train was originally written by Arnold Ridley, aka Priavte Charles Godfrey of Dad’s Army fame.

Jump aboard and don’t miss what is set to be one of the best shows at the Royal Exchange this year!

The Ghost Train runs from 14th May – 20th June 2015. For more information and to book tickets click here.


Lorna x


Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange






The Lost Carnival is coming

We talk to organiser and Director of Wild Rumpus, Sarah Bird


I’ve been a fan of the Just So Festival for quite some time now, so when I heard that it’s little sister The Lost Carnival was coming to Burrs Country Park (Bury, 22/23/24/25 May 2015) I gave an enormous squeal!

We spoke to Sarah Bird, Co-Director of Wild Rumpus, the company behind these family festivals which can only be described as imagination explosions, to find out just how it all began. Sarah is pictured below (left) with Co-Director and friend Rowan Hoban.



Wild Rumpus


Standing on the verge of The Lost Carnival – taking place in Bury over the bank holiday weekend – it’s quite something to think that the partnership that has become so important to mine and Rowan’s lives only came into being  a few short years ago.

As we wander round the Burrs Country Park site where the event is all set to take place, telling the story of a once great carnival which strangely and mysteriously disappeared in 1915, and filled with incredible acrobatics, Balkan gypsy music,  mechanical contraptions and astounding sideshows – our initial playground conversations seem a lifetime ago.


lost carnival billboard


School mums and book groups


Our kids were at the same school, we were in the same book club, occasionally had lunch with the same group of mums, but we didn’t know each other that well when we decided to team up and set up a weekend camping arts festival for families.

It went something along the lines of:

Sarah ‘I’ve had an idea for a festival, where it’s all about families, playing, singing, dancing and creating together’

Rowan ‘Come on then, let’s do it.’

Sarah ‘Really?’

Rowan ‘Really. Here, I’ve already set up the website!’

Sarah  ‘Really? That was quick!’


Wild Rumpus


Wild Rumpus


The perfect mix of cautious and ambitious


We were incredibly naïve but also (it turned out later) the perfect mix of cautious and ambitious, practical and creative.

Our first venture, the Just So Festival, began small and has since become an annual extravaganza attracting thousands of families into the wild spaces of their dreams.




Lost Carnival


Lost Carnival


It wasn’t long before we took the big leap of faith that all such adventures seem to require, giving up our day jobs as bookshop manager and science co-ordinator at MMU. Our lives became ever more intertwined, running a marathon together, if only to allow us more time to hatch up our plans.


Never let your imagination get the better of you


If nothing else I’d say the lesson of our partnership is that you should never feel afraid to let your imagination get the better of you.

One of the things we said to the audience at the very first festival was that it would be what they made it, they needed to bring their singing voices, their dancing feet, their stories and their capacity for wonder. We wanted them to feel like it was their festival and from the get go they wowed us, they dressed up, they played, climbed, sang and danced their socks off.


Pendulum 1


The Lost Carnival


We are saying the same thing again with The Lost Carnival. Yes, we’ve worked our hardest and dreamed our wildest dreams in order to provide something special for them to turn up and enjoy, the real excitement, though, is the prospect that they will not only just turn up, but will do so determined to fully enter the extraordinary spirit of the event.

The Lost Carnival will appear in Burrs Country Park in Bury on the evenings of 22/23/24/25 May 2015. The carnival will be open from 4-9pm, with the audience entering on timed tickets.

Tickets cost £10 per person (under 3s go free). Carnival goers should dress for the weather, and wear sturdy shoes. Tickets are available at

See what else Wild Rumpus are planning including details of the 2015  Just So Festival and an incredible opportunity to release your inner wild thing at the Whitworth in Manchester in June


Competition time




We’ve got a family ticket to give away for The Lost Carnival, for the evening of Friday 22nd May for two adults and as many kids as you have (that are yours!). The event runs from 4pm – 9pm.


The Lost Carnival


All we want to know is if you ran away to join the circus, what would you be and why?

Pop it in the comments box below – but only one comment per person please.

Will it be Lion Tamer, Trapeze Artist or something different altogether.

So don’t be shy – tell us what you’d be?

Good luck!


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Wild Rumpus


By taking part in this competition you are agreeing to 4Manchester Womens Terms & Conditions for competitions and prize draws.


Competition closing date: 9pm Sunday 17th May 2015.

The winner will be the first name selected at random from all respondents. No purchase necessary. No cash alternative. The Editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Closing date is 9pm Sunday 17th May 2015. The winner will be notified immediately. Only one entry per person. UK entries only. No automated entries. Supporting ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions, loquax and  Competitions Time. If you are the lucky winner, your contact details will be forwarded to the providers of the prize, strictly for the purpose of fulfilling the prize and not for any other purpose.
Please note: Should you be notified as the winner, and you do not respond within 24 hours of our notification, we reserve the right to re-draw the winner.











The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Review – Children’s Touring Partnership at The Lowry


three stars


Our theatre reviewer Lorna expected to be in floods of tears, but none of the characters quite got her there.


Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride


Brought to the stage for the first time, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a Second World War tale of an unlikely friendship between two young boys.

Bruno, the son of a German Commandant finds himself and his family uprooted from Berlin to Poland for his father’s job promotion and desperately missing his ‘three best friends for life’.


In search of adventure and someone to play with, Bruno comes across a high barbed wire fence and on the other side of it, a boy his own age but much thinner and smaller called Shmuel.


Boy in the striped pyjamas


Shmuel tells Bruno there are hundreds more people on his side of the fence, all wearing scruffy blue and white ‘pyjamas’ just like him.

He tells Bruno how he was forced to leave his home and brought here with his family – ‘just like what happened to me’, Bruno remarks.

Bruno sneaks away from his house to see Shmuel as often as he can, and starts taking Smmuel food as he always seems hungry. In his naivety Bruno wishes he could be on that side of the fence too and have people to play with.


Boy in the striped pyjamas


With over 6 million Jewish and up to 5 million more minority groups killed during the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas should serve to bring a human aspect to those unimaginable statistics as it narrows in on the individual stories of Bruno and Shmuel as their friendship forms.

The staging is minimal and should also serve to let the powerful story break through.

However, sadly this adaptation does not seem to illicit the emotional response I expected it to, as it is difficult to empathise with any of the characters, even Shmuel.  It seems to scratch the surface but no character truly grips you – even my hatred for the Commandant was minimal as isn’t portrayed as dark or imposing enough.


Boy in the striped pyjamas


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, while a fictional novel, is a Key Stage 3 level school text for 11 – 14 year olds. Difficult as it must be to portray anything Holocaust related on stage and for a young audience to fully understand the horrors of the genocide, it is none the less important that there should be an accessible starting point. I just think this adaptation seems to be more on the safe side rather than provoking what may sometimes be challenging but none the less important questions of humanity and morality.

For more information about this production of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, click here.

Lorna x 


Photographs: The Lowry




Rebecca at The Lowry

Review – amongst the best we’ve seen


5 stars


Our theatre reviewer Lorna absolutely loved this production of Rebecca at The Lowry, giving it our top five star rating!


Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride


Daphne Du Maurier’s bestselling 1938 novel Rebecca is brought to life in all it’s wicked jealousy by Kneehigh Theatre Company.

The evocative staging brings to life Manderley, the looming estate by the sea which is home to Maxim de Winter and his young new wife Mrs de Winter II.



Penned by Du Maurier as ‘a study of jealousy’ Rebecca explores what it is like to be a second wife living in the shadow of first – all the more difficult given that the memory of the first Mrs DW is not easily forgotten, especially by the sinisterly devoted housekeeper Mrs Danvers.


Rebecca at The Lowry

Rebecca at The Lowry


Young, meek and inexperienced, seemingly the polar opposite to the vivacious and carefree original Lady of the Manor, wife number two struggles to see how she can live up to a life of running an estate and managing an army of staff.

She is soon to discover that not all is what it seems and that Rebecca’s shadow cannot loom over her indefinitely.

The play encapsulates both darkness and humour in just the right balance, with the comedic butler’s assistant Robert (excellently played by Katy Owen) sure to be a firm favourite with audiences.

While director Emma Rice’s vision for Mrs de Winter (Imogen Sage) to be portrayed as more than just the one dimensional victim/wife to a man/ female is achieved with stark clarity.


Rebecca at The Lowry

Rebecca at The Lowry


The sound and staging alone makes the play worth going to see. A challenging and brilliant set visibly energises the cast. While the musical accompaniments will have me humming twisted, dark sea shanties while dancing the Charleston for days to come.

If you love the novel you’ll love the play. If you’ve enjoyed the Hitchcock film version of Rebecca – and you’re not my boyfriend – then this is definitely one to see!


Rebecca runs from 7th – 11th April 2015. For more information and to book tickets, click here.



Lorna x


Photographs: The Lowry via Flickr









Cirque Surreal The Voyagers

Review – Circus theatre that didn’t quite hang together at The Lowry


three stars


After a short break, our regular theatre reviewer Lorna is back – and this time it’s to review a performance that’s all tied up in knots!


Over to you Lorna ……

Lorna McBride


Cirque Surreal The Voyagers is described as a dynamic fusion of circus, dance, drama and comedy.

Leading performance artistes from over 10 countries have come together for the first time in this internationally acclaimed production, which follows the modern fable of five Voyagers travelling through space and time under powerful mystical lunar influences beyond their control.


While the artists and performers are undoubtedly fantastic in their own right, the show didn’t feel like it hung together well and it was very much like watching separate acts in a variety show.


Cirque Surreal


The concept of immigration and integration which started and ended the show felt very much like misplaced bookends rather than a comprehensive narrative woven throughout.

Having said that the show is geared for a primarily family audience and the children in the audience loved the comedy of the clowns and the daring elements of the other acts in equal measure.


Cirque Surreal


The aerial acts and acrobats were amazing and had me on the edge of my seat. It would be unfair to say that I was not impressed by the individual performers themselves, however having seen various circus performances elsewhere I feel that the performers were let down by the overall weakness of the ‘voyager’ concept, which just didn’t come through strongly enough.

Part of my issue may have been that I think that this type of artistry works best in settings other than a theatre with the stage at the front, as the more angles you can see the more you feel involved and amazed. While a more traditional Big Top setting is never fully in the round, the extra degrees it allows the audience, all add to the experience of appreciating how incredible the performers are at what they do.

I would recommend seeing Cirque Surreal if you have children and they’ve not seen anything similar before as an introduction to circus theatre.


Cirque Surreal runs from 2nd – 6th April. For more information and to book tickets, click here.


Lorna x


Photographs: The Lowry


Manchester Duck Race 2015

Ducking Good Friday fun


I love the Manchester Duck Race! The day when thousands of little yellow ducks are launched into the River Irwell just behind Spinningfields, jostling for position as they go.


Duck Race Banner


The last time I went the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, so the flock decided to swim upstream, which wasn’t at all part of the plan!



Manchester Duck Race


As usual, this year’s Duck Race will take place Good Friday (April 3rd). The race itself will start at 2pm.

There will be a whole host of activity set to take place across Spinningfields, to entertain families.

Now in its sixth year, it costs just £1 to enter a racing duck. Ducks can be bought online or on the day, with all proceeds going to local children’s charity Brainwave.

There will be six winners of the family race on the day:

1st prize: £150 Duck and Cover clothing voucher

2nd prize: Meal for four at Carluccios

3rd prize: Meal for four at Scene

4th prize: Tickets for a family of four to the Opera house

5th prize: Tickets for a Coronation Street tour for four

6th prize: BUMPER PACKAGE bouquet from David Wayman, meal platter from Nandos and a £10 voucher from Hey Little Cupcake.


Corporate race


The day also includes a corporate race, in which businesses sponsor and decorate foot high rubber ducks. All of which makes for quite a spectacle!



Decorated ducks on water at MCR Duck Race


Manchester Duck Race


A giant inflatable duck, sponsored by Duck and Cover clothing, will also take up residence on Hardman Boulevard, and there will be a number of additional activities including a hook a duck, cups and saucers, a safari train ride, chair-o-planes and a number of inflatables such as a bouncy castle and slide.

As well as the numerous restaurants on site, there will be several food vans selling the likes of candy floss, ice cream and hot food.

Bitter Twisted will be providing a VIP bar on the day as well as a bar for the general public on Crown Square, with a percentage of the proceeds donated to Brainwave.

For more information about the Manchester Duck Race, click here.


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Spinningfields, Alison Staples







Review – Anna Karenina

A bit confused – at The Royal Exchange


three stars


I can’t confess to having waded through Tolstoy’s 900+ page monster.


But I have read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. It took me a year, which I think shows that I’m not one to give up on something lightly.

The same Dostoyevsky declared Anna Karenina to be “flawless as a work of art” and even now it’s often described as the greatest novel ever written.

I had huge hopes for this adaptation by Jo Clifford of Anna Karenina, but unfortunately for me and several others with me on press night, it just didn’t quite manage to pull it off.

I was hoping to be as spell bound as I was by The Royal Exchange’s production of Orlando last year which was magical from it’s acting (Suranne Jones), costumes and staging to it’s music and dance. But I was left feeling a little bit sad and confused at such a missed opportunity.



Anna Karenina at The Royal Exchange



Even if you haven’t leafed through Tolstoy’s tome, most will know that it’s the story of Anna (Ony Uhiara), young wife, aristocrat and socialite who embarks on a passionate and scandalous affair with Count Vronsky (Robert Gilbert) which sees Anna shunned by Russian society. Consumed by paranoia she sees no alternative but to fling herself under a train.


Anna Karenina at Royal Exchange



Tolstoy’s face has been described as the face of every Russian at a time when there was great social unrest and revolution in the air. I was hoping for a production with a deep, dark heart which was as perfect and complex as a blood red rose, with beautiful sumptuous and imaginative costumes at juxtaposition with the earth of mother Russia.

Sadly I just didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the heat between the two main characters, whose contemporary dance routine left me feeling a bit uncomfortable. And while habitual worrier Levin (John Cummins), philandering Oblonsky (Ryan Early) and rigid government official Karenin (Jonathan Keeble) all provided comedic light relief which was well received, it left me confused as to just what this play was.

Confusion compounded by the fact that the cast play multiple characters, and that I suspect the performance is laced with oodles of symbolism that went over my head.


Anna Karenina at Royal Exchange


Having said that I did enjoy Gillian Saker as Levin’s wife Katy, whose story is the reverse of Anna Karenina’s, from heartbroken girl destroyed by Count Vronsky to dutiful and respectable wife living in the country. And that of young Anna – who whilst only on stage for only a moment, shone brightly.

It’s a tough call to distill such a massive work into a two hour play. I did really want to love it, but it just wasn’t for me.

Anna Karenina runs at The Royal Exchange from 19th March – 2nd May 2015.

For more information and to book tickets click here.


Alison x  (your 4Manchester Women Editor)


Photographs: Jonathan Keenan for The Royal Exchange









Tram tracks cycling survey

Have your say on cycling alongside or across the tram tracks


Love Your Bike, the cycling advocacy campaign co-ordinated by Manchester Friends of the Earth, has launched a survey to gather the experiences of people who have cycled alongside, close to or across Metrolink tram tracks [1]

Women riding bicycles


In December 2014, Love Your Bike again raised concerns regarding the designs of Metrolink tram routes at road junctions such as Southmoor Road in Wythenshawe. [2]

In 2012, Sean Sutton (the British Cycling Head Coach at the time) described the new tram lines near to the Velodrome as ‘death traps‘. [3]

Love Your Bike is concerned that where cyclists have crashed or been injured when cycling close to/across Metrolink tracks they do not report the incident because they blame themselves for their lack of cycling experience or skill.

But Love Your Bike believes that many of these incidents may be caused by poor designs. In January 2015, Transport for London (TfL) announced a junction-by-junction safety review of the Croydon tram network following a Coroner’s report that criticised “confusing” signage and layout of cycle lanes at the junctions with the tram network and warned more cyclists could die unless action was taken. [4]

In February 2015, Love Your Bike received a response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) asking for details of the number of people who had reported crashing on/near tram tracks.

Whilst, the number of reported incidents is still quite low, there has been a three-fold increase between 2013 to 2014 in both the number of incidents reported and the number of claims submitted for injuries and/or damages. [5]

Manchester Friends of the Earth Sustainable Transport Campaigner Graeme Sherriff said:  “We have launched the survey to ask the wider community to let us know their experiences of cycling across tram tracks in Greater Manchester.  If the design of Metrolink tracks, particularly at road intersections, puts cyclists at risk, we want to highlight this problem and work for improvements.”


1. Survey:  What is your experience of cycling across Metrolink tram tracks?  See

2.  Concerns with Metrolink tram routes: Statement to Manchester Cycle Forum.  See

3. Manchester Evening News. 19 November 2012. Olympic coach Shane Sutton, badly hurt in bike crash, says tram lines around Manchester Velodrome are ‘death trap’ for cyclists.

4. Croydon tram network to be reviewed in wake of coroner Selena Lynch’s warnings over death of cyclist Roger De Klerk.  See

5. Bicycle crashes and Metrolink : A Freedom of Information Act request and response. See

6. Love Your Bike is an award winning Manchester based campaign aiming to promote cycling and help make it an even more attractive, accessible and fun way to get around. Co-ordinated by Manchester Friends of the Earth, the campaign works in partnership with other like-minded organisations.



Alison x  (your 4Manchesterwomen Editor)


Photographs: Free Digital Photos




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