In the early 1980s, I began volunteering at Community Arts Workshop, as CAN was known then. I then got some paid work on projects, and later a permanent job as a Community Music Worker. These first experiences were transformative for me. I learnt how to put together and lead major projects, such as the community play Spooky Boogie Bolton, and the fantastic Tameside Asian Music and Poetry Project. Over the years I’ve stayed in close touch with CAN as a supporter and freelance artist.
I returned to CAN for a year-long role as interim Artistic Director in 2007. The highlight of that year was initiating the ground-breaking Beating Wing Orchestra for the first Manchester International Festival.
Hugely influential, CAN has always remained grounded in communities; nurturing talent and cultural expression that is socially relevant and supportive of the issues faced and change needed by any community group. There are so many other artists who, like me, owe a great deal to CAN for being where we are now.
The ripples from CAN’s work are felt far and wide, each project inspiring both audience and participants, as well as influencing a wider network including policy makers. This vitality and importance simply cannot be overstated.