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It is with great sadness that we let you know about the death of Mic Smith on 6th January 2018.

For those of you that did not know Mic, he was one of the original founder members of CAN then known as CAW  (Community Arts Workshop) in 1978 and a pioneer of the community arts movement in the North West.  He was a dear and much loved colleague during his time with the company leaving in the mid 90’s to work as an arts officer for Bolton Council.

Mic was a major force and talent as a visual artist working with communities.  In what was then a pre-digital age he made things. Mic could make and do anything. He could print words and images, worked with paint, wood, mosaics, textiles and just about any other material available. He worked with children, young people and adult communities, transforming spaces for community use, creating festivals, fireshows and other celebrations.   On secondment from CAN (then known as CAW) he also supported the setting up of other new community arts companies including Cartwheel Arts in Rochdale and Prescap in Preston.  He could apply himself to new skills and during his time at CAW he developed considerable expertise working with fireworks.

Mic worked throughout the North West but had a special relationship with the Ashton Under Lynne Youth and community services where he work on a wide range of community programmes. He was especially known for the environmental transformations he created with people such as the Hattersly precinct underground carpark which was turned into a stunning new youth centre- The Grand Canyon.

Mic was passionate about the arts and its positive influence for social change and a lot of his time with the company he was working with community organisations from trade unions and trades councils, tenants associations, play and youth organisations and activist groups who wanted to make a better life for their communities. He was also a great mentor to many people who he helped on their way and career paths.

I remember him as a deeply kind man, intelligent and curious about the world and a great human being. He had incredible patience and time for people.  I don’t think I ever saw Mic lose it!

Mic had been unwell for some time, following an operation and lived in residential accommodation in Rochdale. Sadly he had lost touch with many people in the last years of his life. Gerri Moriarty who kept in touch and saw him regularly says that ‘He kept his dry sense of humour and enjoyed an occasional beer with friends and his brother Adrian, who sadly also died a few years ago and that those of us who kept in touch with Mic will miss him very much’. Gerri has also written a blog remembering Mic.


Mic’s funeral will be held at 2.50pm on Wednesday 7th February at Rochdale Crematorium and afterwards at the Flying Horse in Rochdale Town Hall Square.

His funeral is being organised by his brother Chris and his good friend Tony Hughes who are keen to pass this information on to anyone that might have known him. I would appreciate it if you could circulate this information to any other potential people/networks that might have known Mic.

I am putting together a small archive of some of his work with CAN and if you have any photos or memories of Mic that you want to pass on - please let me know.

Cilla Baynes

Memories of Mic Smith


Steve Moffitt CEO for A New Direction

My memories of Mic are of a very gentle man, with a wry sense of humour and hugely generous spirit. He was quiet, thoughtful and I think in the 5 years I worked at Community Arts Workshop I only saw him lose his temper once. He had an extraordinary knowledge of the Northwest - an incredible memory for projects, people and a database in his head of where across the region to get a drill bit, hacksaw, raw plugs and masonry paint when needed. I remember being so excited when I got the job at CAW that I was working with the people who transformed an underground car park in Hattersley into an amazing multi-purpose beautiful functional and aspirational space - and I know Mic was the driving force to make that piece of work happen. He was hugely generous with his time particularly with the young people he worked with but also with the emerging new organisations and talented individuals who he supported to set them up and run them.  Whenever a project was about to go belly up Mic was always there to talk stuff through, find a solution - work out the problem and if necessary stay up all night to build a set. I remember the rattle of empty stella cans in the back of the Merc, journeys late at night after some project sharing driving across the M62 - his humour, his ability to laugh - and Mic had a great laugh. A warm human authentic laugh. He always told you when he thought something you had worked on was good. He was a quiet but lovely man and a great asset and contributor to those early days of Community Arts in the North West.

Howard Rifkin
Arts Consultant and one of original CAW founder members                                      

How very very sad to hear this news……..It is also very strange as only yesterday I was talking to my wife Su about something and a memory of a conversation I had had with Mic many years ago, came into the conversation and I hadn't thought about him for a very long time! He was, as you say, a deeply kind man, so generous with his time and always a calming influence at those times of stress!

Tim Ward
Circling the Square Ltd                

That is extremely sad news - thank you for letting me know. Please pass on my condolences to his family & friends.

I have fond memories of working with Mic (and the CAW Team) during the early 80’s and will always be appreciative of the support, advice and friendship he showed me during those times.

Kooj Chuhan

Its lovely to see this photo of Mic especially since I have none of my own, and very sad to know he has now left us for good. I had lost touch with him over the years, but we worked together at Community Arts Workshop in the late 80’s and he was one of my very valued mentors along my own journey. Yes, he had a lovely dry sense of humour and he had an incredible passion for the work we were doing along with a healthy cynicism for the dominant powers both within the arts and beyond. He was an enormously committed arts worker who had an incredible humanity for those around him and for the issues that ordinary people face in the UK and across the world, and would support community-based political and campaigning organisations wherever he could. He helped me set up the Tameside Asian Music and Poetry project which later led on to me becoming the manager for BICA (Black Issues in Community Arts) at Tameside Council for ten years. That project and the direction I have taken ever since is in part due to Mic, he will always be remembered and his legacy will continue to be felt. May he have love, warmth, happiness and community wherever he may now be, many cheers to Mic!

Aldith Sinclair (nee Venair )     Atlanta,   Georgia.  

I worked with Mic for ten years at Community Arts Workshop at “The Old Tin School “.  I loved that building it was a maker’s dream land. For My first project, I had volunteered to work on the OPAG tour, a play scheme tour of Greater Manchester.   We had two teams of four artists – 2 visual artist / makers and 2 performance artists.

We spent a week designing, building and creating our characters for the tour. I was assigned to work with Mic Smith and Tim Ward to make the Big Juke box, the main character for the show. I had a ball learning how to choreograph, build and animate this huge soft sculpture- “The Big Juke”. That was the wonder world of community arts makers who could think of a fantastical idea  that would be created to be seen , heard or felt.

Mic was a maker, his visual arts skills knew no boundaries, painting a mural, mosaic, set design and making, rebuilding an environment for a community group. We worked with a diverse cross section of the Greater Manchester communities.  He dealt with me through my apprenticeship, hostile neighborhoods; I was not always what people were expecting when I appeared in person when being thrown in at the deep end was always up for the challenge.

He had to also deal with my loopy brain when I was pregnant. The timing was perfect?  CAW had landed a high profile project we had been vetted by the secret service and were working with a group who were preforming for the Queen. We also had a new client who would take us to China town restaurants for planning meetings. I had to mess up this arrangement with six months of morning sickness.  I could only eat after 10 pm. Mic would eat for the two of us. I have endless stories I could tell of the ten years with my “work husband”. I learnt so much, about the profession, he was a main player in the movement of community activism.

He will be greatly missed

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Art, Freedom and Protection

CAN will be contributing to this symposium and performance event on Art, Freedom and Protection, hosted by the Artist Protection Fund and The University of Manchester. We’re looking forward to being part of the conversation!

Please visit:


Celebrating Hidden Tales

October 2017 saw Hidden Tales, our powerful and inspiring 20-month partnership project with the Petrus Community, culminate in a unique digital art trail around Rochdale Town Centre and an unforgettable sell-out performance and film screening event at Touchstones Arts Centre.  The short films, which have been made as part of the project, are now viewable online at

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Launched in May 2016, with the aim of creating a voice for the profound narratives of Petrus service-users and volunteers; 18 months ago, our Creative Producer, Sara Domville, set-out on a journey to uncover the hidden lives, stories and experiences of Rochdale’s homeless community.

An intensive six-month programme followed, in which Sara worked closely with 52 participants in phase one of the project. Weekly workshops took place and slowly but surely stories and experiences began to be uncovered.

With a focus on art and creativity, participants explored digital story telling through writing, drama, animation, photography and video.  Mobile phone filmmaking workshops also took place with Manchester Metropolitan University and other opportunities, such as ‘Walk, Talk, and Record’, focused on the Rochdale landscape and sharing personal experiences of the local area.

The stories created through phase one were showcased as part of the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival at a Trailblazer event in October 2016. Audience feedback from the sold-out event was phenomenal, with comments including, “Amazing, so moving and inspirational” and “A wonderful event, very powerful.”

The juice for the second phase of the project flowed through a six-month creative writing workshop programme at The Vibe in Rochdale, and the production of eight video portraits, which explored the different challenges faced by the Petrus community.

Sara worked closely with the participants to develop their stories, and once narratives were evolved, a creative team, including award-winning filmmaker Mat Johns, designer Mark Brown and poet Martin Stannage, were brought on board to help bring the stories to life for an audience.

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After six-months of creative process and development, in October 2017, the Hidden Tales Digital Art Trail was launched around Rochdale Town Centre.  Revealing eight personal and inspiring stories of change and survival, the art trail of eight artworks, each featured a poem, a portrait and a QR code, linking to a series of breath taking short films telling each of the participants’ stories.

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On display in public spaces including Touchstones Art Centre, Rochdale Town Hall and Rochdale Pioneers Museum, Hidden Tales had a strong presence across the town centre, and succeeded in creating a visual platform for Rochdale’s homeless community to speak up and speak out.

With experiences of mental health, addiction and recovery being shared, Hidden Tales began to make an impact and spark conversation around important social issues. Along with the stories resonating and connecting with audiences, the media also responded, and participant stories were re-told in the press, including The Big Issue, Northern Soul, BBC Radio Manchester, Manchester Evening News and the Daily Mirror.

Commenting on the trail, Phil Foster, Deputy Coordinator at Petrus Community, said, “These stories are touching and honest portrayals of people overcoming challenges and show the importance of understanding and concern within our society.”. 

Sara said, “The stories told through the artworks are funny, sad and heart-warming. They find the best in people in challenging times, and by giving you a glimpse of humanity’s finest attributes – faith, strength, kindness and honesty – they stop you in your tracks.”

Along with the digital art trail, participants from the second phase of the project were given the opportunity to share their creative writing through a live performance of poetry and spoken word at Touchstones Art Centre on 17th October 2017, which also featured screenings of the eight short films.

Hosted by Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, in a sold-out venue, the event featured an inspiring and unique programme, and saw many of the participants get on stage and share their work in front of an audience for the first-time. The event demonstrated the power of performance and the ability of the arts to shine the spotlight on social issues.

James WhitlowHidden Tales event
Cilla Baynes, CAN’S Creative Director said: “The event was enjoyable and entertaining but crucially, it also made you think, and provided a reminder of the importance of speaking up and speaking out about issues which matter and affect so many of us.”

Over 20 months, Hidden Tales has given a voice to people, who otherwise would not have been heard. It has also seen over 100 people, who have survived life’s most challenging times, develop their creativity and skills, boost their self-confidence and self-esteem, and make new friends and connections, through a unique participatory arts programme.

Looking back and reflecting on the project, Sara said, “Creative expression can be transformative and Hidden Tales is proof of that. Fuelled by the challenges, beauty and richness of their lives, the project participants have embraced the arts to tell their story, and in doing so have grown as people and developed their self-confidence. I have huge respect for each and every one of them for having the strength to talk so openly and share their personal life experiences. Everyone has something to say and something to contribute, that’s what we are trying to show with this project.”

Phil Foster, Deputy Coordinator at Petrus, added, “We are absolutely delighted to have been involved in the Hidden Tales project, especially for our service users who really enjoyed taking part. Due to the nature of our work, we often hear the stories that nobody else hears and so it really is fantastic that Hidden Tales helped bring them to a wider audience.”

Each of the participants who took part in Hidden Tales had a different story to tell and together they have reminded us - in participant Andrew’s words - thatSociety tells everyone to put your blinkers on and walk your walk but there’s no actual number to all the good things that people are doing behind the scenes. Everyone has something to offer, everyone has a story and you never know unless you speak to them. By talking and telling each other our stories, we can be medicine for each other.”

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Find out more about Andrew’s story by watching his film at, where each of the incredibly moving films, which have been part of Hidden Tales are available to view online.

Hidden Tales has been developed by Community Arts North West in partnership with the Petrus Community, a charity working with people who are homeless or at risk across Rochdale, Rossendale and Oldham.

Thank you to everyone who has supported and been involved in Hidden Tales, with special thanks to the project participants for sharing their stories: Roger Kirby, Sister Noel, Gail Cowpe, Tanzeem Mahmood, Martin Tobin, Jimmy Weinowski, Andrew McConville, Emmanuel Bajiiji, James Whitlow, Charlotte Brackenbury, Karen Porter, Martin Tobin, Frank Kelly and Steven Bradley.

Supported by Arts Council England and The Granada Foundation.


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Rochdale’s homeless community speak up and out

People from Rochdale’s homeless community took to the stage at Touchstones on Tuesday 17 October, and performed to a packed-out venue to share their personal stories through poetry, music and a series of short films that can be viewed online at

Taking place as part of the Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival and hosted by Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, the event featured an inspiring and unique programme, which told real-life stories of strength, survival and self-discovery in life’s most challenging times.

The event was a culmination of Hidden Tales, a unique digital arts and performance project, in which Community Arts North West (CAN), has collaborated and worked with service-users and volunteers from Petrus, a charity working with people who are homeless or at risk in Rochdale, Rosendale and Oldham.

CAN’s Creative producer, Sara Domville said: “Over the last 18 months, I’ve seen the participants of Hidden Tales project grow as people and develop their confidence as artists. To see them get up on stage and perform so incredibly well in front of so many people was just brilliant and very rewarding. On behalf of Community Arts North West, I’m thankful to each and every one of them for having the strength to talk so openly and share their personal life experiences.”

With stories shared about mental health, addiction and recovery, the Hidden Tales event raised awareness and understanding around a range of important social issues, which are often misconstrued and misunderstood.

Sara Domville continues: “The event was enjoyable and entertaining but crucially, it also made you think, and provided a reminder of the importance of speaking up and speaking out about issues which matter and affect so many of us.”

The series of short-films screened at the event, which tell each of the Hidden Tales stories can be viewed online at The films can also be seen as part of the Hidden Tales Digital Art Trail live around Rochdale Town Centre until 28th October. The trail includes eight unmissable artworks, which are on display in public spaces, and feature a poem, a portrait and a QR code to the participants’ films.

Hidden Tales is supported by Arts Council England and The Granada Foundation



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Hidden Tales

Hidden Tales; Untold Stories from Rochdale's Petrus Community

Watch the films and experience Hidden Tales online, here:

Launching on Tuesday 3rd October and running until Saturday 28th October, the Hidden Tales arts trail reveals eight personal and inspiring stories of change and survival. The unmissable artworks, which are on display in public spaces around the town centre, each feature a poem, a portrait and a QR code, which link to a series of breath taking short films about addiction, mental illness, hope and resilience.

In the creation of the artworks, Petrus service users and volunteers shared their stories and worked closely with CAN’s creative team including Creative Producer, Sara Domville, award-winning filmmaker Mat Johns and poet Martin Stannage.  The result is a journey into eight remarkable real-life stories, which tug at the heart strings as well as inspire and make you smile.

Sara Domville, CAN Creative Producer, says: “Our partnership with Petrus is a long-standing one, so we’ve got to know many of the volunteers and people seeking their support very well, seeing many glimpses of humanity’s finest attributes – faith, strength, kindness, honesty - that stop you in your tracks. It was so important that ‘Hidden Tales’, in offering a platform for these stories to be told, did so on those terms, finding the best in people through challenging times. Placing the work outside a gallery space, making the videos available digitally, on-site in Rochdale and via mobile phone means that the sense of reality becomes intentionally acute.” 

Phil Foster, Deputy Coordinator at Petrus Community, said: “We are delighted to be taking part in the Hidden Tales project. These stories are touching and honest portrayals of people overcoming challenges and show the importance of understanding and concern within our society. We have worked closely with CAN to help give our service users and volunteers a platform to tell the world their stories and I hope that the people of Rochdale enjoy following the trail.”

The Hidden Tales digital art trail is free, no ticket required, and starts at Touchstones, Rochdale’s cultural centre, where visitors can pick up a map and follow the trail to find the rest of the artworks throughout the town centre, including the historic Town Hall, the Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre and the Pioneers Museum.

Along with the digital arts trail, there will be a Live Performance and Film Screenings of Hidden Tales at The Vibe, Rochdale on Tuesday 17th October. The afternoon of raw talent, spoken word, music and film, will be hosted by Mancunian wordsmith, Mike Garry, and takes place as part of the Rochdale Literature Festival.  Tickets are £3 and can be booked here.

Take a look inside the stories that feature in the Hidden Tales project and watch our trailer:

Find out more about Hidden Tales at:

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