Announcing new call for submissions!

If you are interested in contributing to unmasked, or know someone who would be, check out our call for submissions here.

Unmasked is a zine filled with creative ideas from young people; a window into the thoughts, fears and hopes of a generation with a whole mountain of modern pressures that generations before have never known. A means of expression for budding artists, writers, photographers and poets. A means of realising they are not alone to those who read the pages. The title ‘Unmasked’ is a perfect fit.

The first two issues have seen a exciting and varied mix of ideas in print; from the thoughts of a young Asian British woman who stumbled accidently right onto the middle of an EDL rally, to personal insights into homelessness, body image and mental illness. We’ve had an impassioned feature on rappers, weirdo girl bands and tales of chasing Pokemon through the Northern streets; a tale about a love for the wilder side of British wrestling, and even a ghost story.

Now we are delighted to announce that unmasked has been so well received, funding has been awarded for four new issues. So we’re ready and waiting. Waiting to see what a new call to all those writers and image makers will bring to our inbox. Support is on hand to develop ideas if needed, to make the experience as accessible as possible. Don’t hold back. Let us know what’s behind your mask!

Unmasked is made possible by Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival; a festival created with a bequest by a Rochdale couple Annie and Frank Maskew. Annie and Frank wanted to spread their love of reading and ideas, literature and philosophy. We think they’d be thrilled with what their support is making happen.

Unmasked is part of the Generation Z strand of Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival. Check out issues 1 & 2 here. See


Let’s Eat Grandma

Here’s a little story about Jenny & Rosa and what they’ve been calling experimental sludge pop.

Starting out as old friends singing funny ditties to each other, their dueting led them to a contract with indie label Transgressive. Let’s Eat Grandma are my favourite band, and I just wanted to tell you about Jenny Hollingworth & Rosa Walton and what they’ve been calling experimental sludge pop.


When I first heard the name Let’s Eat Grandma I thought it was a reference to Little Red Riding Hood, so I was surprised to find out it was actually taken from a punctuation joke about a missing comma – get it? I bet that surprises you too. And that’s what Let’s Eat Grandma are all about – the unpredictable.

Jenny Hollingworth & Rosa Walton express every part of their personality in their music. They despise genres. In their world, they think that if you have to make a song in a certain style you cannot express yourself fully. Thoughtful and always thinking, they both claim that together they are misfits yet alone they are normal.

Often mistaken for sisters, the girls in fact share an abnormal bond as friends that they’ve felt ever since they first met in reception class when they were 4 years old. Their friendship outshines other bands like a million dollars to one dollar, but their unusual friendship is not exactly storybook. Rosa and Jenny say they either hang out just the two of them, or absolutely separately. At childhood parties the duo would sit completely away from the other kids, content in their own world.

Rosa and Jenny’s families moved away from each other when the girls were 7, but they kept the connection and now at 17 they are as close as ever.

Rosa and Jenny never planned a career in music – their little ditties were invented just for fun – but when musician Kiran Leonard heard what they were up to he passed the teenager’s tapes to his manager who quickly became their manager too.

Their debut album ‘I Gemini’ consists of 10 absolutely unique songs including Deep Six Textbook, Eat Shittake Mushrooms and Sax In The City. It’s one of the weirdest, most unique and special albums I have listened to.

Instead of being inspired by other artists, the girls prefer to take inspiration from news show talking about unusual types of fungus or murder documentaries. They’re not listening to Ariana Grande, Little Mix, Megan Trainer or Justin Bieber; you’ll find them tuning in to Mozart and Debussy which they pronouce DE Boosie.

Let’s Eat Grandma are not your normal teenage girls. The culture of their music shines along with their friendship and enlightens the whole music scene. Let’s Eat Grandma are quirky and unique. Though still at music college their music is like an unusual sonic flower with strange colours and a beautiful shape. Have a listen and see what you think of Let’s Eat Grandma.

See Let’s Eat Grandma at Manic Street Parade, Munich (27/10).


words Evie-May Taylor

REVIEW: NG 83 – When We Were B-Boys

Affectionately described by co-director Claude Knight as ‘Beat Coronation Street’, When We Were B-Boys is not just a retrospective documentary on hip hop culture and the B-Boy Movement of the 1980s, it is a humorous and often poignant look at the human condition. It’s a character study and the characters in question are as interesting as they come.

From Dancing Danny and his mother, to eccentric collector Electro Barry, to the tragic story of Lloyd ‘K.I.D’ McDevitt, found dead in a park aged 41, the film sheds some light on the people behind the movement – both the major and minor players. It explores the different ways they were affected by the culture that shaped their youth and how it continues to affect their lives and the lives of those around them even today.

Hip-hop culture may have been born in New York a decade earlier, but the film takes us to Nottingham in 1983 when the B-Boys ruled the streets. It takes us to a world of boom boxes and breakdancing, crews and crazes. It takes us to Rock City and beyond. When We Were B-Boys is a raw and moving depiction of what happened to the B-Boys after the beat finally broke for good.

by Daniel Lamb as part of the Young Producer program



Dungeon Crawler: An Interview With Liam

Liam is a 15-year old lad from Rochdale. I sat down on the big leather sofa at Moss Street Youth Base to chat with him about video games and living with Asperger’s.

“Hmmm” – Liam ponders for a moment when I ask him the best thing about living in Rochdale – “Easy access to good takeaways,” he replies, with a cheeky smile. Liam is straight-talking but always has a warm sense of humour with his brief answers. I decide to ask him about his main interests. “Primarily science,” he says. “Also gaming & anime”.

His ultimate aim is to work as a doctor. He is currently in his last year of high school, about to move into college to do A-levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths. But in-between his studying, he still finds time for a blast of Enter the Gungeon, his current favourite video game.

Liam tells me that it is a “Dungeon Crawler” which I later learn is a genre of game that involves battling through a labyrinth environment, fighting monsters and collecting treasure. Liam tells me that Enter the Gungeon is based around weaponry, has a diverse setting and is very challenging.

Personally, I’m unfamiliar with the current crop of video games, but being twice Liam’s age, I do fondly remember the 16-bit era of the SNES and Megadrive. I ask Liam if he ever dabbles in retro gaming; “I have played the old Sonic and Ecco the Dolphin,” he replies. He tells me that he thinks video games have become better in this modern era due to more funds and better level design. My nostalgic heart doesn’t quite let me agree, but Liam does make a fair point – the gaming industry has grown massively in the last 15 years, technology has improved, and much more money can be pumped into the development of games. The 2D, low-resolution side-scrollers of yesteryear seem primitive when compared to the sprawling worlds and cinematic presentation of today’s titles.

When I ask Liam what his favourite genre is, his response is “Roguelike”. I have no idea what this means, but he explains that it is a style based on the 1980 video game, Rogue. According to Wikipedia, “Roguelike is a subgenre of role-playing video games characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated game levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and permanent death of the player-character.” I certainly feel like I’m being schooled on gaming terminology!

As well as enjoying a good challenge, Liam also enjoys the “power fantasy” element of video games. He is a big fan of the Just Cause series for this reason; “Flinging people off an airstrip in the middle of an ocean… It gives you that action-movie type of feeling!”

I feel that escapism is a big part of what makes video games appealing – the ability to play as an alter-ego and lose yourself in another world. We all have problems in our everyday lives that we sometimes need to get away from; Liam tells me that living with Asperger’s can sometimes be a real challenge. But what is Asperger’s? “It’s a higher functioning form of autism”, says Liam. “I’m more with myself than my environment. Generally, that’s the definition of Autism. A bit of an isolated feeling.”

Despite his struggle to sometimes relate to people around him, I can see that Liam is a well-loved member of the community at Moss Street Youth Base. He has an openness and humour about him, even when I quiz him on difficult topics. He tells me that the challenges of living with Asperger’s are, “Mainly social. Academically things are reasonably stable. If emotions are kept intact. But social issues don’t always allow for that.”

Having Asperger’s, like any form of Autism, can be challenging. But it can also be the thing that makes individuals unique, interesting and talented. Liam tells me that his Asperger’s gives him a different outlook than most of his peers, and means that he pays a lot of attention to small details. This certainly helps with his studies, and means that he picks up on things that other people miss.

But Asperger’s is not what defines Liam. He is a smart, sociable young Rochdale lad, a video game fanatic, and a hard-working student who is looking forward to a career in medicine. I for one wish him all the success in the world as he moves into college, and in all his future Enter the Gungeon sessions!


Words and interview Martin Stannage

In the heart of hate

What happens when a young Muslim girl stumbles into the heart of a town centre EDL demonstration?

I leaned nonchalantly against a brick wall. Remnants of frost glistened on the ground and I watched as my breath gently curled around my lips. Winter had always brought me a special kind of joy and I revelled in the dark and mysterious clouds that overshadowed the town.
“Come on Hana, hurry up!” my friend urged.




Smirking slightly, I conformed and followed as she bounded towards the town centre in a gleeful skip. Visits to the town centre had become customary for us and held many fond memories. The bustle of bodies, ensemble of noises and plethora of smells all perfectly aligned to become the beloved backdrop to our childhood. Every nook and cranny became deeply ingrained in my mind. It was my town – our town – and we were ready to visit again.

Absentmindedly, we delved deeper into the town centre completely engrossed in our light hearted chatter about the festive season of winter. The smells, the sounds, lights, snow – we fell deeper into the rabbit hole – swirling in conversation till our surroundings became blurred……

I looked up abruptly.

Crowds of police officers surrounded us. Their neon jackets morphed together creating an impenetrable barrier around the area. At the heart of all this chaos there they stood. Rows of people shouting scattered chants. Ostentatiously, waving posters and banners plastered with ignorant, disgusting, slogans.

“End all mosques”
“Stop paedophilic muslins” (sic)
“Ban halal meat”

My eyes hit the ground. My heart began to race. Faster. Faster. Faster. A lump formed in my throat and I struggled to squeeze any words out. I jerked my head in my friend’s direction. It was in that moment we locked eyes and became aware of our position.
This wasn’t our town any more. It was theirs’.

Tears began to prick my eyes. I felt blood rushing to my face. The dark clouds suffocated me. I finally gave in and let silent tears slide down my face.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

That day remains locked in my memory. A buried minefield that will always be there. Racism used to lurk in the shadows; an unspeakable monster that only rarely reared its ugly head. It would cleverly cloak itself and lull me into believing it was not there at all. Until that day when I was surrounded by it, left right and centre.

As a society we boast about how far we have progressed; how accepting we are. We pretend that social inequality does not apply any more. Surely not now in our magical age of tolerance and understanding? To some extent it’s true, all around integration is evident but beneath the obvious surface lies the harsh reality. Racism is not simply an uneducated person spouting ignorant slurs; It’s the job opportunity missed due to your birth name. It’s being stopped by security due to your skin colour. It’s the look of discomfort when you speak your mother tongue in public. It’s having your culture appropriated as a novelty trend. It’s being told your natural hair is unfit for work.
Yet the worst of the list is having a person in a position of privilege ignoring your struggles and tossing it aside as it doesn’t affect them, and labelling it as a “thing from the past.”


words hana hussain

Ten Past The Tempest: Spoken Word by Testament

The Tempest has to be one of Shakespeare’s stranger plays. This year the show, ‘Ten Past The Tempest’ takes the renowned work and reimagines it – in a northern bus station. This is a gritty and startling re-telling, with all the mind-bending magic of the original.

The story is given its special twist by Testament, the acclaimed beatboxer and spoken word artist, who uses words to take us on a journey as dark as it is wondrous. His version was penned to commemorate 400 years since the death of the bard. He uses rap, beatbox, song and spoken word to transport us from the past to the present; from the world of Shakespeare to a grim, stark concrete bus station in a post-industrial north.

See ‘Ten Past the Tempest’ by Testament on 20 October 2016 at Hopwood Hall College Theatre Middleton as part of Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival.

No-one From Nowhere – 21 Pilots

What makes a super fan? Watching 21 Pilots at Leeds Festival the cult of the fan is on my mind.

“Where we’re from, we’re no one…” That certainly was not the case at Leeds Festival 2016 as the 20,000 capacity NME tent heaves from the front to the back, an excited buzz hanging over the audience in anticipation of the band that has captured the attention of so many people in such a short space of time.

On the face of it, it’s easy to look at the crowd at a Twenty One Pilots concert and say “that’s a dedicated bunch right there.” It’s completely obvious. However, as I’m standing in the crowd at Leeds Festival’s NME tent, crushed between groups of bubbling fans sporting red beanies, red eye shadow and shirts sporting the band’s logo all struggling to get to the front, it’s very apparent that there’s a lot more to the dedication the fans feel than meets the eye.

twenty one pilots

Despite fifty minutes being a relatively short time compared to the slots other bands had at the festival, it becomes clear very quickly it’s all band members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun need to have their audience in the palm of their hand. Throughout their set, Joseph comes across as a conductor, whether it be standing on a raised platform with his arms above his head as he guides the audience through the squealing synths and Dun’s breakbeats of explosive set opener ‘Heavydirtysoul’ or slowly swaying as the nuanced bassline of their hit song ‘Stressed Out’ rumbles throughout the tent, with the audience hanging on (and usually screaming) every word.

The question of what it is that makes this particular fanbase tick has stuck with me ever since I started listening to this band, and it was very prominent in my mind as I moved with the crowd, jumping and screaming every word back at the band (my voice still hasn’t completely recovered). And so, I decided to find out, by asking a handful of fans at the festival what it was about this particular band that meant so much to so many people.

Talking to a fan at the main stage prior to the band’s set, she points out that more often than not with the band, it’s not just the music, it’s the subjects that they tackle within the songs such as mental health issues and inner turmoil. She goes on to say that Joseph articulates his lyrics in such a way as to connect with the audience making them feel like they’re not alone, which she describes as “beautiful.” Her point is really driven home as I watch the huge crowd passionately belting all the words to every song.

Tara, a fellow fan of the band, reached out to offer her thoughts on the band and what they meant to her. She pointed out that the band and many of their songs represented “the two sides of you” as well as “accepting your dark side and learning to overcome it.” These two concepts have influenced the band’s most recent album, ‘Blurryface’ and its supporting tour, with Joseph’s on stage persona representing the battle between what we see on the surface and the alter-ego of Blurryface, the embodiment of all his anxieties and insecurities.

While awaiting the start of the band’s set, I spoke with another more mature fan embodying the cultish nature of the fanbase, sporting a dark colour scheme in his clothes and a red beanie, mirroring Joseph’s on-stage character while simultaneously proving that their appeal is not limited to strictly younger generations. He highlighted the positive, almost self-help attitude the band holds towards mental health issues, suggesting that it played a part in their rapid rise to the world stage, with lots of struggling people connecting to the songs and using them as a lifeline. In addition, he also brought a more straightforward point to the table.

“They’re just good at what they do, and when someone’s that good at what they do, you can’t keep them a secret forever.”

And as Joseph leapfrogs from his piano, fist clenched and punching the air while the twenty thousand fans scream in delight to the crescendo of a song, it’s hard to disagree.

words Will Walton

Hunting for the Baum Rabbit

“It’s haunted, Rochdale, y’know!” Who’s afraid of the big bad rabbit?

words Daniel Lamb, illustration Evelyn Taylor


Picture the scene. I am standing in the shadow of St. Mary-in-the-Baum at the bottom of Toad Lane in Rochdale. It is fast approaching the witching hour. The moon is hovering in the sky like a silver grin. I am cold. I am alone. I am waiting for a rabbit.

“Mark my words, it’s haunted, Rochdale, y’know.

An old man once said this to me while I was wandering through Rochdale one grey afternoon. His eerie proclamation came after he had just told me, apropos of nothing, about a Victorian woman he’d seen floating along the corridors of the Town Hall. Some might have laughed. Others would have dismissed the old man as crazy and got on with their lives. But I was more open-minded to his claims. After all, I knew about The Baum Rabbit.

It’s quiet out here in the churchyard and in the quiet I am remembering the tales I have heard about The Baum Rabbit since it was first brought to my attention some years ago. It would be easy to dismiss them as nothing more than silly stories, easy to call the whole thing an urban legend, easy were I not standing directly within its haunting grounds. Right now, while my imagination transforms shadows into spectres, I remember the stories. And I begin to wonder.

A ghost rabbit with fur as white as snow and eyes as red as blood that haunts the grounds of St Mary’s Church – the earliest account of the ghostly apparition seems to be the one included in Rochdale Past and Present: a History and Guide published in 1876. There, it is suggested to have been spotted nightly and said to be invulnerable to pellets or air guns.

‘The Baum Rabbit was seen at certain times and was held up as frightener of children. ‘The Baum Rabbit will get you,’ they used to say,’ Mrs. Mary Issacs, a retired schoolteacher, writes of the rabbit in her memoirs. ‘This, together with the litter of rusting cans, dog and cat dirt, paper, old rags and so on, and a peculiar feeling of isolation, gave the area a very sinister atmosphere, even in summer.’
“I’ve seen it, lad,” the old man told me, nodding hard, his eyes wide, when I asked what he knew about The Baum Rabbit. “Years ago, this was. Believe me. Rochdale is haunted.”

And so the legend persists.

But when was the last time it was seen? I had heard tell that it follows a cycle, appearing every 125 years, and before I left my house to go hunting I couldn’t help but wonder whether that cycle had come around again.

So I stand in the grounds of St. Mary’s Church and I’m starting to feel a little silly. I’m thinking about calling it a night. I start to leave the churchyard, but before I can reach the cobbles at the bottom of Toad Lane, I find myself glancing back.

I stare at the patch of grass for a moment.  Was that? Just a trick of the light, I think, and then disappear off into the night.

The Devil Speaks True

You are in almost total blackness; the characters before you appearing like ghostly shapes. You are wearing headphones so the sounds and words penetrate deep. The audio trickery and mix of video with live performance splinters your sense of reality until you succumb to the production’s own inner world.

The words are drawn from Shakespeare’s Macbeth – you are cast as Banquo as you trace his journey from the blood of the battlefield to ghostly banquet table. Add to that, the words of real servicemen who have risked their lives and seen comrades fall on modern battlefields, so even your sense of time shifts.

This is ‘The Devil Speaks True’. It messes with your head and your senses, but it’s the power of the words that stay with you.

Catch ‘The Devil Speaks True’ at Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival in October.