Playing the starring role

As a girl growing up in Harrow, my Dad was a fireman and moonlit to pay the bills, a quart of cider to cure the blues – 17 years on the fire brigade, and on special occasions a visit to a tropical island via a bottle of Malibu for mum. As a family we were solid, we were happy, weekend trips to the countryside, holidays in a caravan in Felixstowe, family parties where everyone drank, the Welsh contingent sang and we all danced. I started dancing at the age of three, and found escapism in the characters I created, the costumes I designed, stitched together and wore to the nightclubs, I found I could get into from the age of thirteen, with my best friend a 5ft 10 Irish girl called Jacqui. There was no money for the drama school Dad wanted to send me to. The education I got on my adventures on the dance floor, the sex, the drama, the drugs, the music all proved to be the perfect training for meeting Mike, and what would become the role of a lifetime.

Candy Bar, Manumission mornings! Claire in a clinch with Manumission Girl Fabiola. Closing party.
Photograph by Noam Ofir.
Candy Crush on the bar! Manumission mornings!
Photography by Noam Ofir.

The below text is taken from one of Mike’s early journals, written before he started Manumission in Manchester. It is a little insight into his philosophy and the spirit that became Manumission.

Playing the Starring Role –

– Is about remembering that you count in the world. What you do or say is important. Remembering to say ‘thank you’ and ‘praising’ people for their efforts – makes people feel good, thanks to you – and that happiness spreads. I often like to think of a ‘viscous circle’ of happiness that I start every moment of every day when I am in contact with other people – when I smile at them, greet them or thank them. – and they go on to smile, thank or greet someone else – who in turn goes on… I’m sure that this happens. I like to think that sometimes when someone smiles at me, that it might be part of the cycle that I started earlier on that day. 

– Playing the starring role – I count, I’m not invisible 

– People say ‘No one is indispensable’ – but I say bollocks to that ‘everyone is indispensable’, everyone has their own special part to play in the world – and this is much bigger than their jobs – sure you can get someone else to do the same official things in a job. But man is not a machine, man has feeling, personality. There is so much more to a job than the ‘job’. I worked as an architectural assistant once, in a large office. I was one of many – each of us doing the same or similar ‘jobs’ but each of us gave different important things to the office environment – none of us could be replaced in terms of our effect on the others in the office – the fact that we could make them laugh or angry or frustrated – show them different ways of looking at life. Everyone has something to teach. 

Everyone can help to change someone else’s life for the better. Yet all of us could be replaced as ‘architectural assistants’ – without a second thought. 

– I count – I can stand in the high street and scream – people turn around and look at me – I’m in this movie – in everyone’s movie. I am the shining star in my movie, screaming co-star in a friend’s movie – and the screaming extra for half the town. Just think, wherever you are right now look who is around you in the office, on the train, in the park wherever you are even if you are on your own in your room – you can make some noise – scream, shout, smash things – ‘I’m here, I exist – I effect the world around me, each and every one of you, I count!’ – and its exactly the same with smiles and thank you’s – they show you you exist, that you count, people see what you do, listen to what you say. And what’s even better is the fact that they’re infectious – when you smile, you are smiled at, the more you smile the more people smile at you. Laughter too is infectious. Unfortunately, anger and hatred are infectious too. And they too do a ‘viscous cycle’ type of thing. I see it as my duty whenever I find myself being part of this cycle to stop the flow, and even change it to a happy loving cycle instead. 

Sharing the love. The Manumission philosophy in action.
Claire giving the thirsty boys a drink. Love the guy with the crooked cigarette! The club owner turned the taps off to stop people drinking the tap water. We would combat his dangerous miserly ways by giving water to those in need!
Photography by Noam Ofir.

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