CULCHER: V Festival news – comedy acts announced

Posted on May 31st, 2015 by

V Festival logo

Top Comedy Acts Announced for V Festival 2015


This year’s V Festival looks set to be one of the best yet following the announcement of yet more comedy acts to the already impressive list of artists.

The festival, sponsored by Virgin Media, has added award-winning comedian Matt Richardson to the line-up joining headliners Frankie Boyle and Russell Kane in The Glee Club Comedy Tent.

Also joining the funny men is ‘An Irishman Abroad’ star Jarlath Regan, Suzi Ruffell, Tom Deacon, Luisa Omielan and Paul McCaffrey.

British stand-up comedians Kevin McCarthy and Mark Olver will keep the tent roaring with laughter between acts as the official MCs, introducing the world-class line-up.

Matt Richardson said: “Last year my V Festival sets were two of my favourites of the year and I’m really excited to be going back and hopefully seeing some new faces. It’s great that comedy is such a huge part of the line-up, I love performing at festivals and I can’t wait to get on stage for the 20th anniversary of V!”

Further additions to the bill include Simon King, Andrew O’Neill, Jen Brister, Gareth Richards, Marlon Davis, Prince Abdi, Danny McLoughlin, Craig Murray and Andy Robinson.

Making her second appearance at V Festival Suzi Ruffell said: “It’s an honour to be joining a tent crammed full of the finest comedy talent around. As a comedian, you’re usually on your own when on the road, so I’m looking forward to getting together with the rest of the line-up and watching them on stage too!”

Seann Walsh, Shappi Khorsandi, Nick Helm and Gary Delaney are also headlining during the festival weekend.

V Festival’s 20th anniversary weekend will take place on the 22nd and 23rd August, at Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Weston Park, Staffordshire.

Tickets are available to purchase online now, where the announced line-up can also be found.

CULCHER – Private Lives at The New Vic Theatre

Posted on May 28th, 2015 by

Private Lives at The New Vic Theatre

by Debra White

In today’s TV world of soap, Gogglebox and reality shows we Brits love nothing more than looking into other people’s living rooms to see how they behave and wonder what on earth they are going to do next. Private Lives, Elizabeth Newman’s version of the acclaimed 1930 Noel Coward play currently showing at the New Vic Theatre, fantastically indulges our inquisitive (some would say nosey!) and voyeuristic nature.

For a couple of hours we enjoy a sneak peek into the funny and dramatic lives of Elyot and Amanda – a rich, divorced couple who are unexpectedly reunited in France. Private Lives may be 90 years old, but the essence of the play could easily be straight out the pages of the gossip columns and fantasy world of celebrity we are obsessed with now.

It was a real treat to watch Private Lives at the New Vic Theatre. The entire cast were excellent, delivering incredibly convincing performances. Fiona Hampton’s portrayal of the smart, funny and feisty Amanda is particularly engaging whilst Niall Castigon (Victor) is brilliantly timeless in the third act.

The sets were stunningly simple and combined with the beautiful evening dresses and black ties, silk pyjamas, and Harry Long’s fantastic piano playing, they create an intimate atmosphere as if we are a peeping Tom gazing down upon a wonderfully decadent life far away from our own. Yet amongst this beauty and indulgence is some hilariously bad behaviour as emotions run high causing passion and tempers to flare.

Private Lives brilliantly shows that it does not matter where you come from, the dynamic nature of love and relationships is common to us all. However, the fact that it is set in the wonderfully sophisticated 1930s Deauville and Paris adds an extra element of spectacle that makes this play such a joy to see.



Posted on May 21st, 2015 by




Over a decade ago, a teenage Zoe Birkett won Pop Idol, and she showed just why last night at a packed Regent Theatre.

Birkett played the lead of Rachel Marron in the stage version of the 1992 film The Bodyguard that is appearing in Stoke for the next 10 days. Birkett passed the well-can-she-play-Whitney-Houston’s-part test with flying colours, as she and the cast belted out in super style well-known hits such as Queen of the Night, I’m Your Baby Tonight, Run to You, and one of the biggest selling songs of all time – and one that was probably written for Bojan – I Will Always Love You*.

Romantic thrillers are not exactly my cup of ale, and when the better half normally shouts that there’s one on the television, I would normally tend to go and creosote the fence (even at 10pm, and even though we don’t have a fence) or mend something that didn’t need mending, but I must admit that this was an absolutely cracking night’s entertainment.

We all know the story: famous-person-detests-normal-person-and-then-falls-in-love-with-normal-person, but I must admit, I much preferred this live stage version than its big screen counterpart. Although the famous scene when the scarf was sliced in two was absent. Shame, I wanted it to be one of those half-and-half scarves you see at the match for some unknown reason.

And it was no wonder there was a big tournout down Piccadilly last night, as the lead actor in the film (who played bodyguard, Frank ‘John’ Farmer) was, of course, played by Potteries legend Kevin Cost’na.

Dreadful, shoe-in puns aside, the national media always comes up with lines such as “it’s brilliant, a must see” or “blah blah…. was superb – the hottest ticket in town, etc, etc….” when a West End ‘smash’ comes to the provinces. But the hype is justified, here.

It was mint. Go see it if you can. Cue derision from mates at the match on Sunday!

* Not true

The Bodyguard runs to 30th May at the Regent Theatre in Hanley

Hanley’s Cultural Quarter Opens its Doors

Posted on May 13th, 2015 by

Hanley’s Cultural Quarter Opens its Doors

Last Saturday, May 2nd, the Cultural Quarters in Hanley opened their doors to the general public. Venues such as the Sentinel, BBC Radio Stoke, the Regent Theatre, Victoria Hall and the Mitchell Arts Centre all welcomed visitors for a look behind the scenes.

As a newly trained Cultural Reporter I eagerly headed up to Etruria to the Sentinel Headquarters only to find that the big tower building had been demolished about 2 years ago, and the Sentinel had moved to Bethesda Street. After racing across town like Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and arriving somewhat late, I still received a friendly welcome from the Sentinel staff and Mrs. Astle, Head of Events and Special Publications, who gave us a very interesting tour around the building. What amazed me most were the archives, where you could find all the local history from the last few decades stored neatly in files.

Next I headed to BBC Radio Stoke, where I discovered the faces behind the voices that we all know and love. The BBC team is a jolly bunch, and I admire them for it, especially the Breakfast Show team Stuart George and Charlotte Foster, the weather presenter Rebecca Wood and the gardening presenter Terry Walsh. They make presenting seem so effortless, but seeing how it works in practice really made me appreciate our beloved BBC Radio Stoke even more.

My next stop was the Regent Theatre, where I was kindly offered the chance to swing from a rope on stage (I politely declined). In the sound and lights effect room, I had a go at changing my voice to the sound of a Dalek and tried my hand at light effects, which completely changed the atmosphere on stage. It was interesting to learn that the entire sound and light production now runs automatically from a memory stick. A week’s work of editing by cutting the tape can now be done in one hour. Also interesting was the fact that the stage managers use human counterweights to balance flying performers. So there are always some jobs out there folks!

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring day, and I would like to thank all the staff for being so friendly and informative. These venues really are the heart beat of the community.

David Conlon



Posted on May 5th, 2015 by



Spittle, sign language and scary looking humanoid figures with cutlery for arms are not what comes to mind when you think of ‘Fine Art’ but Smörgåsbord, the end of year show from this year’s students at Staffordshire University’s School of Art and Design, shows how diverse and creative the current students of Fine Art are.


There was an excited and energetic atmosphere at the Cadman Fine Art Building at Staffordshire University this evening as Year One and Year Two student artists displayed the results of their hard work this year. The word Smörgåsbord is Swedish for a type of hot and cold buffet – and there was certainly a wide range of art for visitors to feast upon. There was truly some fantastic work – in particular Sovereign, by Sonia Mirza, an intricate throne sculpture made of pottery plaster beautifully lit in a dark room, was visually stunning and enchanting; and Lydia Griffiths’ Sweet Repulsion installation – a combination of a video of her mouth dribbling spittle on to sweets now laid bare for the viewer in a decomposing rainbow of colour, challenged the viewer by being beautifully ugly.

One piece that attracted my attention from a Stoke point of view is Damien Massey’s Disgorge sculpture. This struck me as a symbol of art and creativity literally fighting its way out of the blank plates and bowls – bold potential in the heart of the Potteries striving to be unleashed and discovered, just like the burgeoning talent of these new artists on display tonight.

The Smörgåsbord exhibition ran from 1-2 May 2015 at the Cadman Building, Staffordshire University. For further information contact Amy Platts, Multimedia Press Officer, Marketing and Public Relations, E200, Blackstone Building, College Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DE. t: +44(0) 1782 292702, m: 07799341911, e:


Posted on May 4th, 2015 by




DUCK is two years old now, and we are celebrating by bringing out a FREE Summer Special PDF that we hope will have at least 20,000 readers……..



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Football: Danny Higginbotham, Mark Crossley & a current Stoke first teamer, all interviewed. Shedloads of ace Stoke City and football writing. Some of the very best you’ll find.
Lifestyle: Smoove and Turrell interview; The Farm’s Peter Hooton’s favourite 90 mins of music
Other: the Times chief sports photographer Marc Aspland talks to us; Review of leading comedian Stewart Lee’s gig
Clothes: the lads from the superb 6876 label talk about their favourite items of clobber
It will be the biggest magazine of its kind that this city has produced, and will be read extensively within the ST postcode and all over the UK, plus in 3 continents!
Deadline for adverts is June 10th.

Our rates? Get them by emailing us at



Posted on May 4th, 2015 by

cover 16  ORDER DUCK 16 – NOW!

Exclusive Jon Walters interview inside!

Clive Clarke and Andy Cooke talk about our Play Off 2002 win
No grounds for complaint – Feyenoord
Duck diaries – April
An extract from Danny Higginbotham’s autobiography
3 page Paul  Ware tribute                                                                                                            Simple Minds and Johnny Marr gig reviews
…and tons of ace writing on the things that matter!