“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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They call it their passion project

“Moston and Harpurhey have had such negative headlines in the media,” says Josh, “we’re determined to give a voice to local people and show how powerful this community really is.”

I’m sitting in the back room of The Miners Community Arts and Music Centre with young filmmakers Josh Wilkinson and David Hall, aka Modify Productions. They’re telling me about the documentary they’re making about many of the community groups in this area.

“We don’t want to put our own spin on the film,” adds David. “There’s nothing about us in it. It really is a project by the community, for the community.”

As a photographer and writer, I’ve done a few passion projects myself: self-initiated pieces of work about a subject you feel strongly about. Because no one is paying you have the creative freedom to do what you like. Hopefully prospective clients like your approach and commission something themselves.

“Have you found anything that’s surprised you while you’ve been making the film?” I ask.

“I’ve grown up in Moston and hadn’t appreciated how much positivity there is about,” says Josh. “I can get the bus into town, look out on a grey day, and not realise how many little hubs of goodness there are about the place.”

Only just into their twenties, these two have known each other since they were 12. They were both in front of the camera before deciding to make a career of being behind it.

“We used to go to an acting class in Manchester together,” says Josh, “although my very first theatrical experience was with Moston’s MAD Theatre company up the road.”

David studied performing arts and was part of the National Youth Theatre in London. “It was only a couple of years ago that I started to branch out into media,” he says. “I just bought a camera and taught myself through books and videos on YouTube.”

I’m impressed. “You’ve learnt all your technical expertise from YouTube?”

“Pretty much, yes,” he says. “A few years back you’d have no alternative but to go to film school to get access to all the expensive cameras and editing suites. But now the technology is accessible and there’s a wealth of information online.

“There are still good reasons for going to university but the reasons are more to do with networking and making contacts.”

“And tell me about the name,” I ask. “Why are you called Modify Productions?”

“We came up with some obvious names for a film production company but, when we researched them, they were all taken,” says Josh. “We want to shake things up a bit, do it differently and the name came from that really.”

Josh and David are certainly clued up and I’m convinced they’re going to make a success of their production company. Already they’ve completed some promotional films for commercial clients and even won a competition for a short horror film. While they’re getting started they both still have part-time jobs but already have an eye on the future.

“In a few years time we’d like to be working on Modify full time,” says David, “maybe have an office in town and a group of creative collaborators around us. But we’d still be making our passion projects…”

“So when can we expect to see your Moston and Harpurhey film?”

“It’ll be premiered in March, just across the way,” says Josh, pointing to the Moston Small Cinema on the other side of the bar, “but we haven’t set a date yet. We’ve got a few weeks of editing yet, working out how it all fits together.”

As I switch my tape recorder off, Josh and David turn the tables. David sets up as I’m sat in front of an impressive-looking video camera, Josh fixes up some lights and within minutes I too am a subject for their documentary.

“So,” asks David, “what has struck you about Moston and Harpurhey as you’ve been writing the Another Music blog?”