Maxine Peake at the Miners Community Art and Music Centre

I’m a Dinnerladies fan. Twinkle’s my favourite character.

She was played by Maxine Peake and the chance to watch one of her films ‘Funny Cow’ at Moston Small Cinema followed by a ‘question and answer session’ doesn’t come along every day. I struck early and got a ticket.

Maxine Peake: Dinnerladies (Twinkle), Early Doors, Silk, Coronation Street, Peterloo, Hamlet, Funny Cow and many more. BAFTA nominee and UK Theatre Awards Winner. Smug’s the one with the beard.

The film was intense, shocking, realistic and brilliantly acted. Afterwards, Smug Roberts asked most of the questions and the audience needed no encouragement to ask theirs.

Maxine told us how she landed her role as Twinkle, about working with Victoria Wood, moving back up north and being around places she knew in Bolton. Hearing about her time at RADA was fascinating.

“It’s a real leveller” she told us. “In my year, there was a really good balance including lots of working class Northerners as well as people from places like Oxford and Cambridge. It was a really good mix; it reflected the business with someone from every walk of life, from every ethnicity.”

“One thing I admire about you is you’re not scared of voicing your opinion.” Smug commented.

“When you do a job you have to do publicity and you get asked all sorts of questions.” Maxine replied. “When I’m asked about how I feel I like to be open about what my feelings are. I never tell people what they should think; I don’t force my opinions on them.”The audience were smitten with her and so was I. She was very witty, warm and open. The whole evening was a pleasure.

She’d mentioning having to do publicity but Maxine wasn’t at the Miners on a cold November evening to promote her film. She was there to promote and raise funds for Lifeshare, a charity that helps meet the needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Manchester and Salford.

She wasn’t the only performer at the event either. We were also treated to a surprise live performance of ‘Human Touch’ by IORA (Holly Phelps). It’s available to download for a minimum £1 donation by clicking here  – all proceeds going to the charity.The evening at the Miners Community Arts and Music Centre raised a fabulous £1,300. To find out more about Lifeshare and the work they do, click here.

It’s nearly Christmas so thank you for taking the time out to read this blog.

For details of up and coming events at The Miners, including films at the Moston Small Cinema, check out their Facebook page.

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“So, what’s your idea?”

Continued from “We help develop the ideas they feel passionate about.”

There’s an energy in the upstairs meeting room. An energy of three teenagers working away on their winning projects, bouncing ideas off their mentors and each other. Trish and I chat to each of them in turn.

For the youth, by the youth
“My business partner, Dublin and I were meant to be revising at home but instead we went into town. On the way we agreed that revising was no fun but if we didn’t get down to it we were going to fail. That’s when we decided to make a revision web app.”

Dapo and Dublin, already fluent in a number of computer programming languages, are taking their GSCEs in a few months time as well as launching their GSCE Maths Cloud App.


“Aren’t the big corporations doing this sort of thing already,” we ask, “why would two 15-year-olds from north Manchester be ahead of the game?”

“It’s for the youth, by the youth. We understand how young people want to learn.” says Dapo confidently before telling us how their videos and podcasts will cater for different learning styles. “You’ll earn points as you revise and they’ll be incentives, like gift cards and books.”

A beta version of the app has already been tested with 2,000 student visits each day. “We’ve had ideas before but we haven’t been able to see things through. The Agency has given us the proper training we’ve needed, we couldn’t have done this ourselves.”

Dynamic Beginnings
“It took a while to develop my idea but I knew I wanted to do something around music because I love it so much,” says Aneka. “I know it really helps people to write down or release feelings through music.”

“So, what’s your idea?” we ask.

“It’s a project consisting of 10 workshops ending with a showcase. It’s aimed at young people to build their singing and songwriting skills. They’ll do both group and individual work so that they get an all-round experience.

“The final showcase will be a chance to show what they’ve learned and what they achieved and they can choose to perform as a group or individually. The aim is to build up their confidence, prove what they can do and hopefully pursue music in the future.”


Aneka’s been busy organising the workshops so, had she enjoyed it and what were her plans?

“Oh yes, and, once I’ve finished my GCSE’s, I hope to continue with the idea and do another series of workshops in the summer. I’ll have more time to plan, a better idea of how much funding I’ll need and how to promote it better. I’ll know much more about what’s involved.”

Workshops are continuing at The Miners in Moston until April. Contact dynamicbeginningsmcr@gmail.com for more information.

Empowering young sportswomen
“My dream would be to get into Team GB as a pro boxer, says Faidat. “I box down at the Collyhurst gym – it’s a great place – but it’s made me realise how difficult it is for young women to get into elite sport.

“Boys have it easier. In pretty much every sport, there are scouts looking out for new male talent, but it’s not the same for girls. So my campaign is called EmpowHerr. I’ll be encouraging more girls into sport and, at the same time, encouraging scouts and elite players to support them.”

“So what will you do exactly?”

“I’ll be visiting schools, speaking to girls interested in sport and signpost them to different clubs. At the moment the aspiration amongst girls to get into sport is quite low. In areas like ours young people don’t often make it in elite sport, unless it’s football.”


Faidat tells us she’s planning a sports day for young women. “It’s called Powerherr Day and I’ll bring girls together from different areas to compete against each other – athletics, football, basketball – watched by scouts and supported by elite players from each sport.

“I’m trying to break down barriers. If I can get two girls into Team GB my job is done. That’s what I’m aiming for.”

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“We help develop the ideas they feel passionate about.”

Another Music writers Len Grant and Trish Beddow visit The Agency where young dreams really do come true.

He’s been running this project for five years now but Steve’s enthusiasm is still infectious. He’s seen how The Agency makes a difference to young lives.

Tonight is one of their regular Wednesday evening sessions at the Factory Youth Zone in Harpurhey and, before it all starts, I ask, “Can you describe what The Agency is?”

“We’re a youth entrepreneurial scheme,” explains Steve, “working with young people in Harpurhey and Moston to develop businesses, social enterprises, community projects: anything they’re passionate about and feel their community needs.”

Steve Vickers works for Contact Theatre in Manchester and The Agency is a concept developed in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro by a theatre maker and journalist. In Brazil the scheme is supported by Ford Motors in the US and works with hundreds of young people.

“In the UK, the Battersea Arts Centre runs projects in two London boroughs and next year we’re expanding to Cardiff and Belfast,” says Steve.

“There are other low income communities in Manchester, why did you pick Harpurhey and Moston to work in?” I ask.

“We have some history of working in this area. We took over the old Co-op in Moston for a week in 2011 for an arts workshop. And when we started there were lots of negative headlines – that horrible TV documentary was out – so we thought we could make a difference.”

Each autumn since then The Agency has recruited 20 young people to take part in a competitive process that ends up with three of them being given intensive mentoring – and £2,000 each – to realise their project.

“We work through an artistic methodology in the first three months,” explains Steve, “where they develop their ideas in preparation for a pitch to a panel of community leaders and industry experts.”

“How do you find the young people in the first place?” asks Trish.

“A lot of hanging out, at first,” says Steve, “and going into schools, lots of outreach. Now I employ some of the young people who’ve been through the process to help me recruit. They’ll have better networks than me.”

“What happens to those who don’t make it through the panel process?” I ask.

“That’s the hardest part,” admits Steve. “But there are options. They can join one of the funded projects and help with say, marketing; they can continue with their idea and we’ll signpost them other support; or they can try again next year and some have been successful with that.”

Over the past five years The Agency must have produced some amazing success stories. Steve falters when I ask him to choose just one to tell us about.

“Oh, there are many,” he says. “I can tell you about Aaron. He was passionate about computer coding. He set up and delivered a series of 12 workshops for other young people – each one packed – and went on to get a job at The Co-op’s head office. He’s now been funded by the Council to run more workshops and has a place at Oxford University.”

“So tonight, at this part of the process, you’re working with the three winners? Perhaps we can interview each of them?”

“Sure,” says Steve. “These young entrepreneurs are just about to start their delivery phases and we’ve been pairing them with experts in marketing, finance and branding. It’s their own journey but we help facilitate it.”

In a upstairs meeting room we’re introduced to Aneka, Dapo and Faidat. We tear each away from their laptops and discussions with tonight’s mentors to find out about their projects.

Read about their amazing ideas in “So, what’s your idea?”

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