(In)sane event


Organised by a group of students at the University of Manchester, (In)sane is an evening of fundraising on the 19th of March for Manchester’s 42nd Street, a non-profit mental health organisation for young people based in Ancoats. Taking place in Texture in the Northern Quarter, the event will be comprised of a variety of creative presentations, including original artworks, photography installations, testimonial pieces, poetry and live music. Each piece is inspired by people’s personal experiences with their own mental health, or the mental health of those close to them. This project aims to work against the statistic based, generic and often either misinformed or diluted ideas around mental health in the modern word. In this way, our testimonial approach aims to raise awareness for everyone who attends the event, and equally for those who participate. We feel that a creative platform is an ideal way to facilitate this dialogue, as allowing people to express themselves in as personal a way as possible aids positive didactic experiences for those who will likely encounter mental health issues in the future, forge kinship and work against the alienation which is often part and parcel with mental illness. We have asked our creatives to focus on, or centralise around ’hope’ to show that whilst mental illness can be incapacitating, our response to it can be truly empowering, aiming to maintain a positive outlook and to carry on in the face of such adversity.

This issue is hugely important to us all and we hope that you all come along to share in this powerful work with us, and to witness the overwhelming talent and honesty of the people involved.

Tickets cost £5 for students and £7 for adults, and can be bought at: https://www.skiddle.com/e/13144098/

The (In)sane Team


Happiness at HOME

Current Drama student, Sarah Faulkner sets off to find what HOME has to offer …

Photo credit: Chris Payne

Walking into the light, airy and contemporary foyer of the HOME theatre and cinema, my mission is to find out what is on offer that could tempt a student to get out of bed, the library or their local bar. It is a brisk 10 minute walk from the Manchester University campus to Tony Wilson Place, named after the creator of Factory Records and the iconic Haçienda night club, both of which defined and immortalised the Manchester music scene. When I get there, a statue of the German philosopher Friedrich Engels looks down, surrounded by modern bars, restaurants, and the smoked glass exterior of HOME. Engels published The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1845, based on observations made in Manchester. I briefly wonder what he would think of the city today.

On arrival I am greeted by Ally Davies, Engagement Assistant at HOME and as it turns out, alumnus of Manchester University’s Drama department. Ally has worked at HOME since it opened in 2015 and her job allows her to both indulge and share her love of film, working with the engagement team to deliver creative projects, courses and events, present special viewings and encourage new film makers to showcase their work. We chat about her experiences at UoM and achieving her MPhil until she reminds me what I am there for. “Tell me, Ally, what would make a student want to visit HOME?”. She takes a deep breath.

Ally starts with what there is to see. HOME specialises in contemporary theatre, film and art, including the annual Orbit festival which brings new work from theatre makers across the world to Manchester every September / October. Many bring their shows straight from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Another annual festival is PUSH, which showcases the best of North West talent. Held in the last two weeks of January, the festival includes performances, workshops and exhibitions. Ally tells me this, knowing that the festival coincides with the exam weeks at UoM. We both agree that a bit of fringe theatre is a great way to recharge those revision batteries. To find out what’s on throughout the year, go to: https://homemcr.org/theatre/ . Student tickets are £5.

If you love Film, HOME is the place for you. Unlike mainstream cinemas there is a great mix of new releases, classics, archive material, shorts, animation and documentary, avant garde film and television on offer. Where else could you see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Casablanca and The Life of Brian (with post-screening discussion) in the same week? There are international films to choose from, too. From time to time there are special film screenings with introductions and a Q&A panel made up of experts in the industry. To check out the weekly menu of amazing film, go to: https://homemcr.org/cinema/ . Student tickets are £4 before 5pm.

Art is free at HOME. Their ground floor gallery has contemporary exhibitions such as the upcoming premiere of the fiction film installation The Scar which ‘weaves together conspiracy, gangster, noir, politics, crash theory, fantasy and reality’.  Wall space on the first and second floors provides an opportunity for local artists to exhibit on a smaller scale. For more on art at HOME see https://homemcr.org/art/ .

I ask Ally if HOME has anything to offer students who want to get involved in the creative industry. After half an hour I am wondering how to fit it all into this blog. In other words, whatever you are interested in there is something for you. The HOME Young Creatives community has a constant stream of opportunities and activities, and Ally’s advice is to follow @HYCmanchester on Twitter to hear about things first or sign up to the newsletter .  Already in the diary is the weekly evening writing and performance workshop with Manchester’s spoken word collective, Young Identity. If you are an aspiring writer, poet or spoken word artist you can drop in, and it’s free. Participants have gone on to perform in the PUSH festival. Or you can book a free place on Show and Tell, a quarterly Saturday afternoon workshop with a group of Manchester’s creative and digital artists. There is an annual Digital Reporter Scheme that offers an 8 month programme of support and monthly training for those interested in a career in journalism. For new and aspiring film makers the quarterly film showcase Filmed Up offers the chance to submit work or apply to be part of the panel that decides which films will be shown. Ally tells me that the membership of this growing network includes students from MMU and Salford. There is more, so much more that you can get involved in, all of which can be found on HOME’s events page .

The ultimate free event of the year is naturally the University of Manchester Drama Society’s HIVE event which is being hosted in the first floor function room at HOME on Sunday 18th February. This marks a growing relationship with this amazing, thought provoking and iconic venue. Oh, and they do great food.

The University of Manchester appoints Maxine Peake as Honorary Professor

Maxine Peake_UoM Hon Prof of Performance and Lit - WEB
Photo by Jill Jennings

The University of Manchester is delighted to appoint Maxine Peake as an Honorary Professor of Literature and Performance.

As one of the nation’s favourite actresses, RADA-trained Maxine Peake has enjoyed a prolific career as a theatre, television, radio and film actress with many career highlights, including The Theory of Everything, Shameless, Dinnerladies, Three Girls and many other award-winning TV dramas and theatre productions.

The Bolton-born actress has also turned her considerable talents to scriptwriting.

Last month, she won plaudits from audiences and critics alike for her performance in an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Netflix series Black Mirror, in which she played the central protagonist.

She also recently joined the cast of the upcoming period drama about the Peterloo Massacre, directed by multi-award winning British director Mike Leigh.

“I’m thrilled to accept this Honorary Professorship in Literature and Performance at The University of Manchester, and to be invited to be involved in the education of our next generation of creative minds. I’m looking forward to working with the students, and hope to learn alongside them and see what we can achieve together.” Maxine Peake on Twitter

“Maxine’s decision to accept our offer of an Honorary Professorship is extremely exciting news for the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures and indeed the University,” said Professor Alessandro Schiesaro, Head of the School. “Our students and staff will benefit from her vast experience gained throughout a brilliant career, across the stage, film, TV and radio, coupled with her scriptwriting work and strong commitment to social issues.”

“As an icon within the city of Manchester and beyond, Maxine will be invaluable in helping the University to support the cultural growth of our city and region. We are looking forward to working with, and learning from Maxine in the years to come.”

Source: University of Manchester

Art, Freedom and Protection Event

A symposium and performance event, with Artist Protection Fund Fellows Silvanos Mudzvova, Farzane Zamen and Roua Alazzawi.

Friday, 26th January 2018, Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama – University of Manchester

Hosted by the Artist Protection Fund (US) and the Drama Department, University of Manchester (UK)

This half-day symposium and performance event will explore urgent issues of art, freedom and protection in times of global political turmoil. It will feature presentations from three artists awarded prestigious Artist Protection Fund (APF) Fellowships and currently being hosted in the UK – Zimbabwean playwright and activist Silvanos Mudzvova, in residence at the University of Manchester, Farzane Zamen, an Iranian musician, producer, singer and songwriter, currently in residency at CCA-Glasgow, and Iraqi filmmaker Roua Alazzawi, who recently completed her APF residence at Leeds Beckett University. The symposium will bring together artists, arts-activists, students and arts researchers across the city of Manchester, and further afield, interested in issues surrounding art, freedom of expression, political repression and activism. The symposium will provide an opportunity to consider some pressing questions relating to art, activism and international hospitality, such as—How can artists making work in times/places of political tyranny and crisis be protected and nurtured? What practical, ethical and political issues need to be considered when hosting vulnerable artists, and what new approaches developed? How can host organisations, and arts ecosystems in host towns and cities, work with threatened artists so as to ensure their well-being and nurture their artistic practice? What positive contributions might be made by the work of artists living outside their home countries to the resilience of cultures of democracy in those sites?

The Artist Protection Fund (APF) at IIE makes life-saving fellowship grants to threatened artists and places them at host institutions and art centres in safe countries where they can continue their work and plan for their future.  Sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and with the host-participation of arts institutions and organizations from around the world, the APF fills a critical unmet need by providing relief and safe-haven to artists for an extended period. Threatened artists from any field of artistic practice – such as choreographers, composers, filmmakers, interdisciplinary artists, musicians, performance and theater artists, traditional artists, visual artists, writers – may be eligible.


1.30pm Arrival – tea and coffee (Foyer)

2pm Welcome – Jenny Hughes (UoM) + Alison Russo (APF)

2.15pm Presentation of artistic work of the Fellows, followed by a Q&A. Chair – James Thompson

4pm Break – tea and coffee

4.30pm Panel on Art and Sanctuary. Respondents include Alison Russo (Director, Artist Protection Fund, David Few (Manchester City of Sanctuary), Katherine Rogers (Exodus Creative Producer, Community Arts Northwest), Ruth Daniel (In Place of War) and representative from Music Action International (tbc). 5-10 minute presentations, followed by Q&A and responses. Chair – Alison Jeffers

5.30pm Close – with a performance of song

6.15-7.00 – Psychosis

A work-in-progress student showing of Psychosis, a new play by Silvanos Mudzvova, performed by Georgia Carney and Rebecca Hatch, and directed by Emily Oulton and Jessica Wiehler.


Further details

If you would like to attend this event, please email Jenny Hughes (jenny.hughes@manchester.ac.uk) to book your place. Please specify if you would like to stay for the performance.

The symposium and performance will take place at the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama. Directions to the building are available via the ‘Your visit’ section of the website.

Tea with Trans – what’s on (and off) the menu?

In this article, Lyndsay Muir talks about her project ‘Tea with Trans’…

In August 2017 I achieved a lifetime ambition, to be on stage everyday at the Edinburgh Festival. I’ve directed pieces, scouted for new work and been part of productions over the years, but only ever for a week or so. This year, as a member of the digital Adam World Choir, a chorus in the National Theatre Scotland’s production of Adam, I was present in ‘virtual form’ in every performance at the Traverse Theatre. If you watch my TEDx talk, based on and inspired by the work I have been doing as part of my part time Professional Doctorate in Applied theatre at Manchester University, there’s a clip of us and you’ll get a flavour of our extraordinarily diverse, yet historically invisible, community.

As well being a Prof Doc student, I’m also a Senior Lecturer at Bishop Grosseteste University, where I teach undergraduates on the applied drama honours degree course and also postgraduates who are trainee secondary drama teachers.

So I’m a researcher, an academic and have previously worked as both a qualified teacher in secondary school settings as well as a freelance applied drama specialist, usually in community settings, but also in professional training settings.

‘Tea with Trans’ as an applied theatre practice is an attempt to create a literal and metaphorical space in which meaningful human encounters can occur on a one to one basis, and within a café style social setting, such that there is a sense of multiple dialogues happening simultaneously.

And this is where a gentle, subtle, sophisticated activism and social art practice overlap, perhaps – I/we are ‘creatively orchestrating’ conversations, as Grant Kester would put it.

Kester’s examination of arts practices based on discursive exchange (Conversation Pieces, 2010) makes the claim that such ‘dialogic art’ has the potential for solidarity creation, solidarity enhancement and the counter hegemonic. The notion that dialogical works can ‘…challenge dominant representations of a given community and create a more complex understanding of and empathy for that community among a broader public’ (Kester, 2010) is one of the ambitions of tea with trans.

Maybe it’s useful here to say that I’m using trans as an umbrella term to encompass anyone and everyone who has a sense of a mis-match between their gender identity and how they were assigned at birth.

I’m guessing that most readers of this blog would be aware that it was only relatively recently, on the 14th February 2014 that Facebook provided 56 options for users to describe their gender identity ‘beyond the binary’ of male or female. Perhaps less well known is that Stonewall only extended its remit to include campaigning for trans equality in 2015?

Even less familiar to readers here, might be the requirement of the UK Gender Recognition Act 2004, which provides for full legal recognition of someone’s (so called) ‘acquired gender’ for a medical diagnosis that categorises gender dysphoria as a mental illness. A trans person who wishes to ‘officially’ transition has thereby to present a convincing case for their own mental illness, with attendant, almost inevitable stigma. This is one aspect of the act which is scheduled for review in 2018 but which has prompted a flurry of anti-trans media coverage.

But that’s probably not what we’d want to spend most of our time chatting about, over a cuppa, and would most likely come under the menu heading I’m happy to talk about…’ rather than ‘I enjoy talking about…’

I hope you find the talk interesting and enjoy the Adam World Choir clip at the end – please watch and share! And if you ever fancy a chat over a cuppa when I’m in Manchester…

Lyndsay Muir

Drama at university vs. Drama school

In this article, third year student Anna Merabishvili explores the difference between acting courses at drama school and her experience of a Drama degree at University of Manchester.

Anna (far left) and fellow 3rd year contemporary theatre-makers

There is a huge difference between studying drama at university and going to drama school, and it is important to know which one is right for you.

Drama school is purely vocational training, and it is intense. Lizzy Hammerton, who graduated last year with a BA in Drama at Manchester and went on to do a Masters in Acting at LAMDA, says, ‘the main difference is the contact hours; we’re in from 9:30 to 9pm doing classes all day…There is no academic work or writing and everything is practical based’. It consists of acting classes, and depending on the drama school, ballroom dance classes, singing lessons, sword fighting, etc.

This completely contrasts with the independent study hours that are given at university. It is normal to have days off, where you are expected to do work outside of contact hours. Classes consist of lectures, seminars and some practical workshops, and usually last no more than a few hours a day.

It is crucial to remember that drama school is for actor training, where the final goal is to get an agent. You do not get graded, but you are being trained professionally for that final showcase, where you will put your talent on show.

Hammerton described her experience at drama school as compared to university: ‘They’re training you for one particular job rather than just teaching you. So your main objective is to get an agent at the end rather than get a good degree’. In drama school, they are interested in your ability to play and use your imagination; academic thinking is not as important.

On the other hand, university is the place for you if you are unsure about what you want to do, or would rather work in other roles in the creative industries. Think about whether you would prefer directing, writing, producing, or perhaps working in backstage or management roles in a theatre? Overall, university is a lot more academic. Expect theoretical readings, and a lot of essay writing; there are practical courses but the amount of practical work you do is up to you.

For example, in third year, drama students are given a choice to do a 40 credit practical course, which are a big part of the degree. I am currently doing Contemporary Theatre Making, a new module run by a well-established theatre-maker Andy Smith. It is on three days a week, and we are given opportunities to act, direct, write, and contribute to every process. The final outcome is a performance, solo or within a group, which we will present in front of our peers.

That is to say that you can still be an actor if you choose to do a degree in drama. In fact, the University of Manchester Drama department prides itself of having several famous actor alumni, such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Jones, the latter of which recently came back for a Q&A. There is a well established drama society, which offers many opportunities throughout the year to act, direct, produce, write and be creative, allowing students discover the right path for them.

Both drama at university and drama school are great in their own way. It is about figuring out whether you are sure about a career in acting. Even with a degree, a postgraduate course at a drama school is always possible, or perhaps at university you will find something else that you are passionate about.


Windows of Displacement

Carlie Hedmann, Drama student and fan of Manchester’s contemporary performance scene, opens a window onto Word of Warning…

“Personal stories, ancestral memory and the shifting politics of diaspora. An urgent story of the past, present and future told through dance, song and word.”

A stunning display of strength, agility and grace, I had the pleasure of witnessing Akeim Toussaint Buck performing his autobiographical solo performance, Windows of Displacement. A staggering piece, the audience accompanied him on his journey from Jamaica to England, tracking his trials and triumphs along the way. A part of Word of Warning’s Autumn/Winter season, inviting audiences to see developing performances and pay what they decide, it is just one example of the sensational performances that you can see every week in Manchester, if you know just where to look!

A mixture of contemporary dance, spoken word and song, Toussaint-Buck charted his journey and his struggles as he took the transformation from an immigrant, a child, in country full of strangers, with even stranger entry requirements, to a citizen, with an accent straight out of the heart of Bradford. Yet, he also managed to delve into something universal: the movement of people and all the ethical questions, issues and changing (and often difficult) attitudes that follow immigrants. Commissioned by the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and supported by Arts Council England, using just his body, a spotlight and a few choice projections, he created a spectacle.

Every ounce of his dance training visible, Toussaint-Buck transformed from a child, to a bellowing solider, a fragile pensioner and back to himself with a just a few subtle movements. Sweat dripping off his body within the first few minutes, you could feel his passion as he kicked, flipped and spun through the air again and again. He effortlessly connected with the audience from the get go, his easy going nature making the moments when he spoke directly to us not so much a break from movement, but a moment to connect on a further level. He even went as far to teach us a Jamaican Mento (folk song) which we came back to throughout on his command, accompanying him in key moments in his life. It is hard to convey a sense of what he performed that evening. It was a piece with a deeply personal passion unlike anything I had ever seen before, taking us all around the world, all through time, whilst we never left our seats.

Yet, its impact on me should not have been a surprise. Since I came to Manchester last year, I have been a eager fan of WTF Wednesdays and the Word of Warning season. Word of Warning, run by Tasmin Drury of hÅb, and supported by a whole host of performance spaces (including the Lowry) has a whole plethora of performances at your disposal, all for the price you decide to pay. Take this season as an example. It included solo performances, live art, a ‘micro-marathon’ called Emergency featuring 30 artists, actors and dancers and a two day ‘rent’ party, where the audience can chose to pay in money or food, for the chance to dance along side the artists in a “21st century, austerity Britain, black, gay, immersive musical in a real block of flats”.

Windows of Displacement is just one example of the theatre that Manchester offers students. Opera, musicals, ballet, solo performance – there really is everything. Most offer student discounts, with tickets as low as £5! As shown by WTF Wednesdays and Toussaint-Buck an incredible performance doesn’t even have to be expensive; it’s just a click away.