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If you love the North, then Northern Soul is for you. Written in the North of England by Northern writers, Northern Soul is a celebration of culture and enterprise, from theatre, music, authors and art to heritage, small businesses, food and leading figures, as well as everything in-between.

Talking to people who work, rest and play in the North of England and scour the region for interesting stories, histories, ambitions and events. Want to read a carefully crafted article about an oddball museum or go behind the scenes of a leading institution? You can find that on Northern Soul.

Northern Soul chats to Duncan Craig, founder of Survivors Manchester about breaking the silence

Duncan Craig is probably one of the nicest men I have had the privilege of meeting. He’s compassionate, humorous and at the forefront of change in the way male survivors of rape and sexual abuse not only receive access to facilities and therapy, but are perceived and supported. As founder and CEO of Survivors Manchester, […] The post Northern Soul chats to Duncan Craig, founder of Survivors Manchester about breaking the silence appeared first on Northern Soul.

Duncan Craig is probably one of the nicest men I have had the privilege of meeting. He’s compassionate, humorous and at the forefront of change in the way male survivors of rape and sexual abuse not only receive access to facilities and therapy, but are perceived and supported. As founder and CEO of Survivors Manchester, Craig has taken an extremely painful and personal experience, and turned it into a positive, much needed resource.

Survivors Manchester is a survivor-led/survivor-run organisation that supports boys and men directly affected by rape, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Their work is concentrated on empowering men to make their own positive life choices, focusing on creating a safe space for them to work through issues, alongside providing support for friends and family.

“I’m a survivor,” says Craig. “Back in 2006, I was training to be a psychotherapist and what used to come up time and time again was something traumatic that had happened in [a client’s] past that they’d never dealt with. I’d go home and think, “there’s something interesting about that,” and I became over-fascinated in quite an unhealthy way.

“I was working with an 18-year-old lad,” he continues. “Who’d been abused by his uncle and ended up in the care of the mental health team. After I’d seen him, I went to my therapist and said, “there’s something about this kid that I can’t get out of my head”, and she asked what I thought it might be. Suddenly, I was hit with this tsunami of emotion, thoughts, memories, feelings, and it was at that point that I realised that’s where my over-interest in this subject came from, because I was a survivor.”

This spurred Craig to set up Survivors Manchester, not least because when he was desperately searching for support in the North West, he was met with a notable absence of services.

“The closest place that I could get support was in Wiltshire so I had to travel back and forth. I got a little bit of help from Manchester Rape Crisis on the telephone, but they only deal with women. I wish I could find the woman who helped me, because I used to ring her and she’d just speak to me, and she’d say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t work with men but just talk to me,” but she really helped me with some difficult moments.

“I contacted Survivors UK,” he continues. “And realised that I could only access support if I went to London. My doctor put me on a waiting list for 18 months but I didn’t want to wait that long. I wanted to do something about it right away.

“So, I guess with my experience, we started a conversation. I found several people who were professionals, and that have a skillset, and said, “Do you want to help me create an organisation?” I had £250 that I got out of my own bank account, which I still haven’t taken back, and it started off as a website which I built myself using Microsoft Word.”

Craig laughs at the memory and I’m reminded of GCSE IT lessons back in the early 00s. “I found a book in Oxfam on Oxford Road. It was literally Microsoft for Dummies. I built this website, bought a pay as you go mobile phone and started a charity.”

There are now 18 people working for Survivors Manchester across three separate locations and they have a turnover of just over £500,000.

“Last year we had a brand-new man ask for help every single day of the year,” reveals Craig. 367 people, to be precise.

“We have the very first male independent sexual advisors here,” states Craig. “We have an art psychotherapy group and one-to-one therapy. We have stabilisation work. We work in four different prisons.”

Is visiting prisons to work with survivors of sexual abuse a relatively new development?

“It’s about four years old,” says Craig. “But it’s only in the last year that we’ve been doing one-to-one clinics. It’s about addressing things that people don’t want to address which is that there is a massive number of male survivors in prison.

“There’s a vast number of female survivors in female prisons, too,’ he adds. “And it’s all about not talking, not being able to deal with things, using violence, turning things inside of themselves, expressing their anger and frustration at the world externally, and then getting caught up in the criminal justice system.”

Duncan Craig, Survivors, ManchesterMany of the charity’s ambassadors work within a creative industry. Richard Gadd, who wrote and performed Monkey See, Monkey Do, which picked up an Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show in 2016, which was based around his own experience of sexual assault, and James Sutton who plays Jean-Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks, and portrayed an 18-month storyline depicting John-Paul’s rape and the subsequent aftermath.

Storytelling – and visual storytelling in particular – is the most powerful tool at our disposal for bringing about a change, and we’re seeing this more and more, particularly in Manchester. Does Craig think that by talking about these issues via the arts – be it telly, stage, radio, writing – it’s helping to create a dialogue about sexual abuse towards men?

“Absolutely,” he enthuses. “We’ve got to recognise that we haven’t taught men how to talk. The only time you get men together collectively is at a sports match or in the pub. Two places that you won’t be talking about stuff.

“Men don’t know how to talk because they’ve never been given permission to do so,” Craig continues. “We have to find new and creative ways [for men to express themselves] through art, creativity, storytelling, poetry, graffiti, music, all these things.

“When James [Sutton] was presented with the opportunity to do the rape story in Hollyoaks, we spent hours and hours on the phone, at home, sometimes in the pub, just talking. There’s parts of the Hollyoaks stuff that I can’t watch. He has managed to create me on film.

“I couldn’t sit here and express to you using words,” he explains. “But I could show you [Hollyoaks] and it would tell you so much more. Richard’s [Gadd] storytelling of his experience of being sexually assaulted is all about words and pictures. And then Charly [Lester], who is one of our other ambassadors, is a journalist, and she blogs and vlogs, so there’s a whole host of creativity. Charly has been doing some work with a couple of survivors helping them to write their story.”

The arts have immense benefits for those who are suffering with something that perhaps they can’t quite articulate. Putting pen to paper, or paint to canvas is a useful therapeutic method. I’m hugely interested in the way that creative writing is used as a tool of expression and the submissions on the Survivors website are incredibly emotive and honest. Is this something that Craig believes can be used a tool to ‘re-start’?

“Talking is about expressing yourself, and art is just a different way of doing so.”

Despite being CEO, Craig still ensures he has a clinical day each week.

“I can think of two individuals who I first suggested art therapy to and their reaction was, “but I can’t draw”. One of my clients rang me the other day and said, “I get it now. I totally get it.” A picture that he created allowed him to express something that he couldn’t say in words.”

I am a huge fan of the author Matt Haig who often writes and talks about mental health and maleness, and I wonder if Craig believes that society’s attitudes to gender roles and perceived notions of ‘maleness’ hinder a male survivor of sexual abuse in coming forward? And does he think that people like Haig, the ambassadors for Survivors, and the sharing of his own narrative (Craig has written for the likes of The Guardian and The Huffington Post) is helping change these perceptions?

“Every time I blog and I start unpicking my masculinity – I think it’s more than masculinity, it’s something about ‘maleness’ and I don’t know what that necessarily means, but there’s gender in there, there’s sexuality, there’s sex, there’s something about masculinity and femininity – I’m always fascinated by the comments that come back,” he reveals.

Sam Thompson, Survivors ManchesterRecently, one of the survivors helped by the charity staged a 48-hour DJ set. The marathon event was conducted by DJ Sam Thompson, who took to the decks for two days straight to raise awareness of male rape and sexual violence against men and boys. Having been a survivor of male rape last year, Thompson bravely spoke out about his experience and wanted to raise awareness of the work and support of Survivors Manchester.

“The first thing he did was go back to his girlfriend’s house and tell her what happened. They contacted the police but the first question he was asked was something about his maleness, something about his sexual orientation, when it’s not about that, it’s about the fact that a crime has been committed.

Craig continues: “He now realises that as a self-identifying heterosexual male, just how important his voice is. Other straight, young men have contacted Sam [Thompson] and asked to be put in touch with Survivors. We’ve also had emails coming directly to us.

“In him speaking out, and showing his maleness,” states Craig. “It paves the way for others to do that.”

Another of Survivors fantastic ambassadors is footballer Steve Walters who, in November 2016, broke years of silence when he spoke out about the sexual abuse he suffered by a football coach whilst at Crewe Alexandra.

“Before the footballers stood up and said, “I was sexually abused”, we didn’t have famous sportsmen who told their story,” says Craig.

Does Craig think enough is being done to stop sexual abuse happening in such institutions?

“Anyone that says sexual abuse isn’t happening in their arena, they need to wake-up. It’s a bit like when we turned the stone over in Rochdale and Rotherham, we had local authorities saying, “oh no, we don’t have child sexual exploitation”. I mean, straightaway I just think, get them sacked,” states Craig. “Of course, you do, everywhere does.”

So, how can the people of the North West support Survivors Manchester?

“We’re concerned by the number of refugees and asylum seekers who’ve been raped as part of torture, of war,” says Craig. “We are just about to open a new counselling suite in the heart of Longsight where we hope to engage with a diverse community.

“We also have to do some more stuff around supporting the friends and family of sexual abuse survivors and we need to start doing some more around prisons.”

Craig says that while he certainly doesn’t excuse the behaviour of all his clients in prison, “maybe there’s a reason why people end up in situations? If we deal with the root cause of someone’s offending behaviour, we would reduce reoffending.”

“People of Manchester, and the North West are always up for fundraising,” he says. “So, just getting the word out and talking about breaking the silence is important. We’ve got to have some difficult conversations.

He adds: “Doing things like asking your MP “what are you doing for male survivors in my area?” and asking local and educational authorities, “what are you doing to ensure the male in my life is getting as much support as possible?” is important.”

Just before I leave, Craig proudly shows me some of the art work created by survivors and is now displayed in the small reception area. It’s truly poignant and beautiful work. There’s something about seeing a visible creation, a solid entity, that hits home. Each of these pieces of art is a story, a person who has been helped because of the fantastic work of Survivors Manchester.

By Emma Yates-Badley

 

survivorsmanchester.org.uk

 

 

The post Northern Soul chats to Duncan Craig, founder of Survivors Manchester about breaking the silence appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Wed, 09 Aug 2017

It’s Just Not Cricket

As you may have already noticed, I like to big up women who play sport. Not only for potential spectators of all genders, but more specifically, in the hope that it’ll encourage other women and girls to have a bash. After all, sport is great, innit? But when things go a little awry, as sometimes […] The post It’s Just Not Cricket appeared first on Northern Soul.

As you may have already noticed, I like to big up women who play sport. Not only for potential spectators of all genders, but more specifically, in the hope that it’ll encourage other women and girls to have a bash. After all, sport is great, innit? But when things go a little awry, as sometimes happens, it’s important to challenge the institution. With that in mind, I’d like to tell you about something that happened last week amidst my sporting adventures.

I’d been asked to bump up the numbers for a women’s cricket team one weekday evening. Standard, right? It was an away game, at a well-organised, nice club who I understand do an awful lot for female cricket. The weather was typically grey and threatening with a touch of Manc spit but the umpires called it good to go ahead. Some of the men’s team had even popped down to watch the game with a pint. Amazing, I thought, the guys are giving the women some moral support.

But as the game bed in, it became apparent that some (but by no means all) of the male spectators were keeping a keen eye on proceedings. The threat of a downpour and the gentle mist of drizzle vexed them because if it got too wet, it could mean that our continued playing on the pitch could negatively impact their game which was set to go ahead the next morning.

Now I totally understand their frustrations, we all play sport for the love of it and no one wants a game called off. In fairness, we were all wondering whether the game would be paused but the umpire ruled that play continue.

Cricket, Hayley-Jane SimsHowever, it transpired that the group had already approached the club before the game to propose an ‘agreement’ – that the game should be called off at the first sign of rain to preserve the pitch for the next day, i.e. their game.

This is problematic not least because it isn’t part of the ‘bad weather’ rules of a cricket match, and subsequently begged the question was the game the following day considered more important? The answer? No, it was a league game, as was ours. Either way, the umpires were either none the wiser to the proposed agreement, or were rightly ignoring it.

A slight drizzle came and went in cycles and one particular gentleman was getting more and more perplexed. At one point, he hovered at the edge of the pitch to get the umpire’s attention in an attempt to persuade him to stop the game. But in the end, he didn’t want to be ‘the bad guy’. He tried to rope in another gentleman to fight the cause on his behalf, but the response was that whilst he understood his frustrations (we all did), he had to reiterate that the game in play was a league game just like their game tomorrow and ultimately, if the umpires deem it safe, then play continues. 

Eventually the rain set in a tad harder and the umpires called for the game to be paused to see if it would clear.

The home team, led by this group of male spectators, then sprinted onto the pitch to manoeuvre the covers. Ordinarily, this is when you see the covers being placed over the pitch currently in play to protect it until the game is either resumed or abandoned. This didn’t happen. Instead, the covers were placed over the pitch of the game due to be played tomorrow. The men’s pitch.Cricket, Hayley-Jane Sims

Being a cricket newbie, it took me a while to twig what was going on and when I did, I was astounded.

The game was still in play. It had not been called off and yet their actions meant our pitch was getting more and more wet and thus the umpires were forced to call the game.

The umpires objected to not covering the pitch in play but not enough to get the covers moved to the correct pitch.

It’s important to say that no one would object to the pitch being played tomorrow being protected after the current match was officially over. But the placement of the covers made sure that the game was called before the customary review. Whilst the weather wasn’t looking hopeful, cricket is a game of rules, and in this instance the rules were disregarded without giving fair chance to the game in play.

The club in question does an awful lot for women’s cricket. They invest a huge amount in nurturing new and existing female players, so I don’t think for one second that this was a representation of the attitudes of the club. However, this is exactly the type of behaviour that needs to be called out. It may seem innocuous to some, but the ultimate message of this whole do-da was that the men’s game is more important than the women’s.

Girls and women can therefore play sport, but only if it doesn’t impact the male game.

Cricket, Hayley-Jane SimsI must say it was right warming to hear several men, as well as the male umpires, vocalising their anger at the actions of this small group. It’s ace to know that as women playing sport, there are plenty of guys who have got our backs. But in this instance, the resistance just wasn’t strong enough.

It’s a shame, isn’t it?

I’m sure the gentlemen in question would be shocked to think that their actions were a display of disrespect, and, dare I say it, sexist. Would the same situation have unfolded if it was a men’s game being played that evening? Now that’s a good question that I’ll leave to you to ponder.

I believe what happened will be formally fed back to the club who will no doubt (I hope anyway) be equally unimpressed by what occurred. There is no point investing in – and nurturing – the female game if you’re not going to give equal respect to both sexes.

For women in sport to continue to progress we need to take it seriously. We should all be responsible for challenging behaviour, and ensuring that we provide a respectful environment irrespective of gender or ability. That’s what sport is about. Otherwise, it’s just not cricket.

By Hayley-Jane Sims

The post It’s Just Not Cricket appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Wed, 09 Aug 2017

Review: The Wizard of Oz, The Plaza, Stockport

As a Stockport resident, I’ve often walked by The Plaza on my way to the big ASDA, and wondered what it’s like inside. For me, it’s as iconic as the viaduct archways or the chimney protruding from the Hat Museum on Wellington Road South. I look out for the neon red and green lights of […] The post Review: The Wizard of Oz, The Plaza, Stockport appeared first on Northern Soul.

As a Stockport resident, I’ve often walked by The Plaza on my way to the big ASDA, and wondered what it’s like inside. For me, it’s as iconic as the viaduct archways or the chimney protruding from the Hat Museum on Wellington Road South. I look out for the neon red and green lights of its signage as my train pulls into the station, and know that I’m nearly home. So, when I heard The Wizard of Oz was showing at The Plaza, I jumped at the chance to head to the theatre.

Now, I don’t have any children, and there are none in the vicinity that I can borrow for an afternoon, so I decide to go it alone. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. I envied Dorothy’s adventure, and relished the fairy-tale ending. It was only when re-watching the film as an adult that I realised just how dark the film is at times (and then there’s 80s follow-up Return to Oz which I can’t even speak about. The Wheelers still haunt my dreams). The sepia tones of Kansas, the tornado, the disappointment that Oz was only a man and not a wizard, all that green make-up. But I suppose it’s like any well-loved tale, as an adult you begin to create subtext.

The Wizard of Oz, Stockport PlazaRegal Entertainment’s version captures the sheer delight and colour that fills my childhood memories of watching the film with my family and scoffing a big bag of sweets. 

The stage show is vamped up. While the main thread of narrative is still apparent, it does go off on a bit of a tangent. There are some slightly odd filler-moments, including a very bizarre ghost strip-tease where s/he removes his/her body parts, rather than clothes, and a glow in the dark train full of teddy bears. Even the kid sat next to me leans close to her friend and whispers, “bit weird.”

But then there are some delightful additions, including a musical interlude which descends into a fit of giggles when one of the actors slips on a patch of water onstage after another actor squirted the audience with a water pistol – much to the delight of all children, and the terror of all adults (what is it about the threat of water that makes adults cower in fear?).

The Wizard of Oz, Stockport PlazaThe kids are fully immersed in the action (and some of the more enthusiastic adults seem to enjoy a bit of audience participation) with shouts of ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘she went that way’. Pop-tunes are interspliced with the original songs which, although they begin to grate on me, are well received by the younger members of the audience who eagerly clap and sing along. Having said that, I do enjoy The Wicked Witch of the West’s (Cheryl Ferguson) rendition of Little Mix’s Black Magic, and the upbeat finale of Can’t Stop the Feeling which has everyone up on their feet.

The ensemble cast is impressive, and the girls obviously enjoy every moment of being on stage. Then there are the juvenile dancers who are, quite honestly, the most adorable munchkins I’ve ever seen. They are clearly having an absolute ball.

It’s a thoroughly enjoyable show and the cast are adept at entertaining little ones with great enthusiasm and comedy. And there’s some real talent there too. Not only do the cast need to sing and dance, but they’ve got to be funny. For me, the stand out performances are Maddie Hope Coelho as the sickly-sweet version of Dorothy – she can seriously sing (what is about Somewhere Over the Rainbow that almost brings me to tears every time I hear it?) – and Cheryl Ferguson as The Wicked Witch of the West. Ferguson’s comic asides (at one point she quips, “oh shut it, you wannabe Mancunians.”) booming voice and brilliant cackle make her perfect for the role. Obviously, there were some not-so subtle references to her career in EastEnders for the adults to chuckle at.

The Wizard of Oz, Stockport PlazaSimon Foster is great as the cowardly lion, clutching at his tail and roaring the famous line, “Put ‘em up. Put ‘em up” (although, I wasn’t a fan of his slating of a famous older female celebrity’s body for a quick – unnecessary – punchline) and Philip McGuinness and David Heath are equally as charming as The Tinman and The Scarecrow (I did miss If I Only Had a Brain from the original film which was my favourite as a little un). Olivia Sloyan plays Glinda with a good dose of humour to counteract the bubble-gum dress and sweetness. Oh, and – as a dog obsessive – I’ve got to mention the wonderful Buddy as Toto.

I leave The Plaza feeling happy. It’s one of those days where the weather is changeable but luckily the sun is shining for the five-minute walk back to my house. Before I know it, I’m singing “follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road” a little louder than I initially hoped.

But that’s the point of these shows, isn’t it? To provide some fun family entertainment and cheer us all up. The Wizard of Oz certainly made me smile.

By Emma Yates-Badley

 

Wizard-of-Oz-New-Cast-ImageThe Wizard of Oz is at The Plaza, Stockport until August 12, 2017. More info: http://stockportplaza.co.uk

The post Review: The Wizard of Oz, The Plaza, Stockport appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Tue, 08 Aug 2017

Five Northern start-ups ready to take on The South

As someone who runs a start-up in The North, I know that there’s a lot of BS out there. Every firm with a bright website is disrupting some multibillion pound industry, or about to become the next Uber. The truth is that building a real business is hard work and many shiny start-ups barely last […] The post Five Northern start-ups ready to take on The South appeared first on Northern Soul.

As someone who runs a start-up in The North, I know that there’s a lot of BS out there. Every firm with a bright website is disrupting some multibillion pound industry, or about to become the next Uber. The truth is that building a real business is hard work and many shiny start-ups barely last a year. Fewer still manage to build a successful commercial operation.

But look beyond the hype, and what you’ll find are some exciting northern start-ups ready to go big and take on the might of their southern rivals. Here are five of the best from across the North.

Dizinga, Leeds Dizinga, Leeds

Think Not On The High Street, just a lot cooler. Dizinga is a Leeds-based marketplace for independent artists who design a range of products including artwork and apparel. They’ve gone a step further by handling the printing and distribution of the products bought through the site. Simply put, the artist does the creative part, and they do the rest. This allows the business much more quality control and should encourage customers to come back for more. Offering artists insight on customer search trends and keywords to help them design more commercial products is also very smart.

Big Bite Creative, Middlesbrough

Quiet and unassuming is a good way of describing Big Bite Creative. They prefer to let the quality of their work speak for itself. And with clients ranging from Blue Chips, Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, they’re clearly doing something right. This group of Teesside University graduates joined forces in 2011 to build what is now one of only ten WordPress.com VIP partners worldwide. Based in Middlesbrough’s Boho Creative Zone, the team also know how to give back, and are among the most active in growing Middlesbrough’s reputation as a creative hub.

bigbiteIgnite, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Many accelerators have come and gone. This one’s a bit like a tree powered by the world’s strongest fertiliser. Ignite plants itself in a city (starting with Newcastle) and grows, fast. The truth is that accelerators have a mixed-reputation, some being no more than corporate vanity projects, but Ignite is the real deal. The team behind Ignite are also known to be the nicest in the industry, and it’s fair to say that many businesses wouldn’t have flourished in the North without their help.

Ruler Analytics, Liverpool

Despite not being the sexiest of start-ups, this Liverpool-based firm is smart, solid and selling. Ruler Analytics measures what matters to help sales and marketing professionals better understand who is visiting their websites and which marketing channels are delivering the greatest ROI, a simple, but highly effective premise. Like a number of northern start-ups, Ruler Analytics spun out of a successful online marketing agency, Epic News Media.

Chromition-Logo-New2Chromition, Manchester

There’s some smart stuff happening in Manchester, and Chromition is one of the most intriguing businesses out there. This chemistry-focused start-up is developing next-generation optoelectronic materials…luminsheres, elecspheres and dielecspheres to be specific. The team is focused on turning their proprietary materials into commercial applications for next-generation technology. Chromition is one to watch.

By Michael Fotis

The post Five Northern start-ups ready to take on The South appeared first on Northern Soul.

Published on - Mon, 07 Aug 2017