“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 start to believe in themselves.”

I’m led through the noisy main hall, out the back where the braver ones are having a kick-about, and down the ramp to the garage. Inside all is quiet and calm.

I’ve been looking forward to visiting the bike maintenance project at The Factory Youth Zone in Harpurhey for some time. It sounds like such a good idea.

In amongst the dozens of bicycles, all in different states of disrepair, three young women are working together with youth worker Heather and volunteer Mike on a couple of mountain bikes perched on maintenance stands.

“We’ve been going for about 16 months,” says Heather when I ask her how it all began. “We started from nothing, and all this place was full of junk.”

With donations of professional tools to get things going Heather explains they now have four fully-equipped workstations where young people work under supervision.

“Most of the bikes here have been donated by the police,” Heather says. “The young people sign up for a twelve week programme where they choose a bike and learn how to put it together with new components. As long as they try hard and respect the place, they get to keep the bike at the end of it.

“You’ll need new tyres for that,” she says, keeping an eye on one of the young women. “Do you remember how to do this? You put one side of the tyre on first, and then the valve…”

“But it’s more than just bike maintenance skills isn’t it?” I ask.

“This is a very able group,” says Heather, “but for others it’s about building self-confidence, communications skills and manual dexterity. Some young people think they can’t do it but once we spend time with them and they see we trust them with the tools then we get results.

“Some say they like the calm atmosphere and it’s more challenging than the activities they do in the main centre.”

Success, Suzanne and Victoria tell me they are all friends from Moston. Success has been working in the garage for three months and has already earned her bike. The others are just starting out.

“So you’re the expert?” I suggest.

She laughs. “What do you like about it?”

“I like helping my friends,” she says while adjusting a chain, “and I like making things, especially hard things. They are changing the tyres now and then we’ll start working on the gears.”

“So you look forward to your Monday evenings?” I ask.

“And I sometimes come down on Tuesdays to help my little sister in the junior session.”

At the next workstation volunteer Mark is helping Victoria with her rear tyre. “I’ve been fixing bikes at my Collyhurst house for years,” he says, “and lads would always come round. It’s a good way for kids to gain confidence.

“They think they can’t do things but, when you do it together, you can see them start to believe in themselves. There’s a connection when you’re fixing something together and it’s a good way of having conversations about other stuff.”

Once tyres and inner tubes are on and pumped up, the young women move on to the their gears. It’s starting to look complicated so I leave them to it.

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