It’s all about sharing

It’s Monday 10th July, 2pm, and I’ve just made it on time for the third Forever Manchester Big Meet. Today we’re at the Harpurhey Wellbeing Centre, very kindly hosted by Joan Tipping, sharing their facilities with us.

Forever Manchester’s Helen has the best greeting ever: tea, coffee, cakes and a smile! Also tucking into cake, or avoiding eye contact with it, are representatives from community groups across Harpurhey and Moston. Our resident blogger Len, coordinator of this blog, is here too with his camera.

These Big Meets are an opportunity for everyone to get together and share information with others and talk about local issues that affect us all. It’s amazing how much you learn in an hour or so.

They have to leave early so we start with young filmmakers David and Josh telling us how they started their film company, Modify Productions. As well as undertaking corporate commissions, they are passionate about capturing as much as possible of the work being done in the local community. This would culminate in sharing a community film at The Miners next year.

“Another blog for Len,” grins Helen.

As he has done for our other Big Meets, Anthony from Everyday People has a fab ice-breaker where he distributes picture sheets and we have to name the obscure TV programme or advert. We team up, work together and, with a few clues, all manage to get some right.

Next we hear from Lorraine and Donna from North Manchester Fitness, who tell us their all-inclusive group has been going for over five years. For the next 20 minutes they share the benefits of exercise with us meaning we participate in a little armchair aerobics… although Len, Donna and Anthony opt for 10 minutes on the floor. We look on, glad we sat at the back!

Exercise done, more carbohydrates are needed, so it’s back to the cakes and coffee before Mary tells us all about the amazing work they do at African Voice.

Next up David from North Manchester FM tells us they are looking for volunteer presenters. Forever Manchester are funding the community radio station to run a 10-week training course in radio presenting – good for those who like talking – most of our group then really!

Len also encourages us to write our own blogs for Another Music, so anyone who has anything they want to share can go for it – that should mean a lot of drafts going his way!

Finally, Helen thanked everyone, and everyone thanked Helen and Joan for providing the much needed refreshments. We all thanked each other for sharing all we can and empowering our community.

Follow our Facebook page for details of the next Big Meet.

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“We’re from North Manchester, we don’t normally get strings.”

“Can we just do it again? Big smiles. Give it 100% now. Then we’re going to get into our costumes and perform it to parents.”

Mad Theatre’s Creative Director Rob is firing encouragement at the nine young actors on the small stage in Manchester Communication Academy’s drama studio. Tomorrow is the big day. Now one final run through before tonight’s dress rehearsal.

Ten minutes later they all come off stage and I get the chance to ask Rob what it’s all about.

“We did some work with Seddons, the construction people, last year,” he explains. “We performed a piece about Manchester’s industrial past at some swanky do at the People’s History Museum in town.

“We must have done all right because they asked us to come back and do it again this year. This time to work with the Manchester Camerata and perform a piece about the city’s cultural history.

Rob tells me this year’s do is in the Whispering Room at Manchester’s Central Library. Mad Theatre will perform their tribute to ‘Madchester’ music accompanied by a string quartet, keyboard player and a percussionist.

Specially-printed T shirts, trainers and Stone Roses-inspired ‘bucket hats’ are handed out and the performers disappear to get changed.

“So I wrote a piece starting from when the Sex Pistols played at the Lower Free Trade Hall,” continues Rob, “fast-forwarding through the whole Madchester scene with a bit of Shelagh Delaney thrown in.”

I love Mad Theatre’s approach. Time and again they produce wonderful performances about real life, about things that matter. It’s very well done and a pleasure to watch.

“And what’s also been great,” says Rob, “is that, just like we do with our Forever Manchester partners in Harpurhey and Moston, we’re making a joint bid with the Camerata for a totally new project.”

Once the performers have changed and parents start to arrive for the dress rehearsal, I put my tape recorder in front of 15-year-old James. “You sing about the bomb?” I say.

“There’s a line in the Smiths’ song which goes, ‘If it’s not love, then it’s the bomb that will bring us together.’

“And, as young people, this performance been a really good way for us to express how we feel about the most recent Manchester bombing.

“It’s saying, there is nothing that’s going to stop us. We’re Mancs, we’re strong.”

“And what’s this been like?” I ask, nodding towards the string quartet.

“It’s been absolutely amazing because we’ve never worked with an orchestra before. It’s been eye-opening. Today is the first time we’ve performed live with them. Until now we’ve been working with a recording. It’s a real kick with the live performers.”

17-year-old Jake is tonight’s frontman. Apparently he fronts his own band too, at the music college he attends. Tonight he’s Johnny Rotten, Morrissey and Shaun Ryder, in quick succession. “Have you had to watch a lot of music videos to get into the roles?”

“No, not at all. I’m really passionate about Morrissey and the Manchester bands. This is the sort of music I listen to, so I know all the words.”

The parents have now arrived. Jake, James and the rest of the young people are back on stage as Rob finishes a short introduction.

With a nod to the musicians, Jake kicks them all off: “A one, a two, a one, two, three, four…”

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