Speak Out

We are very excited to be launching Speak Out, a new collaborative project between Manchester International Festival, Young Identity and Xaverian College, set up to empower young people to ‘speak out’ on the issues that affect them most.

Over six weeks participants from Young Identity, MIF’s Young People’s Forum and Xaverian College will take part in online weekly workshops to explore the art of speech-writing and making.

The group will explore how to research, plan and deliver a powerful public address and hear from inspirational people who regularly speak out on issues from Black Lives Matter to Climate Change, about how they do it and what really makes an impact.

John McGrath, Artistic Director of Manchester International Festival, said – “Young people are leading change here in Manchester and across the World. We’re proud to support them in advocating for their rights, ideas and futures. It’s never been more urgent, or more necessary”

Shirley May, CEO Artistic Director of Young Identity, said – “At Young Identity, we believe it is really important that young people be given the opportunity to articulate what is on their minds, on a personal, local and global level. Speak Out is amplifying the voice of the next generation.

Antonio de Paola, Vice Principal of Xaverian College, said – “We are pleased to be supporting this fantastic initiative. It’s very important for us at Xaverian to involve our students in projects which help them to articulate their opinions confidently and eloquently.”


Reece Williams

Reece Williams is a poet, theatre producer and racial equality campaigner from Manchester. He is a trustee at Contact, an organisation dedicated to the engagement of young people through the arts, where he serves as the Chair of the Resources Committee. He is also a Peer Mentor for The Agency, a collaboration between Contact and Battersea Arts Centre that empowers young people from economically and socially deprived communities to create projects that foster change. Reece joined Young Identity in 2007, and has worked with the likes of Saul Williams, Kate Tempest, the Last Poets and the late Amiri Baraka.

Zena Edwards

Zena Edwards has become known as one the most unique voices of performance poetry to come out of London. She has been published in several anthologies, including Dance the Guns to Silence (flipped eye publishing). As a multidisciplinary collaborator, Zena has worked with internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer Akram Khan (XENOS), visual artist Theaster Gates (Soul Manufacturing Company), radical filmmaker Fahim Alam (Riots Reframed) and the Last Poets.

Colette Williams

Colette Williams has been active in community politics for over 12 years. She has been integral in the organising and hosting of community-led and -focused conferences –notably PAC45 Africa in the World and Women and Youth, which commemorated the 1945 Pan African Conference while also working towards equality, justice and recognition. With the late Deyika Nzeribe, she launched Mbari, a cultural programme that looked at issues from deaths in police custody to community assets and saw the launch of FADE2BLACK, Manchester’s Black film cinema. She led the successful campaign to return the Caribbean Carnival to its home of Moss Side; and was central in the organising of Manchester Black Lives Matter Stand in Solidarity, which saw more than 3,000 people march through Moss Side to the city centre. She is the Northwest Lead of the Black Activists Rising Against Cuts coalition.

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is an award-winning writer published in 22 counties. Raised as a Pentecostal evangelist, Jeanette published her first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in 1985 and later scripted it into a BAFTA-winning drama for the BBC. Jeanette has written novels, short stories, essays, journalism, TV scripts and documentaries, books for children, and numerous pieces about the visual arts –a particular interest of hers. She collaborated with Antony Gormley on LAND, five essays about his site-specific work for the Landmark Trust. Her work has been published in 22 countries around the world. Her most recent novel Frankisstein: A Love Story,was longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize. Jeanette is in the middle of writing a book of essays about AI and its impact on the human future, due to be published in 2021. Jeanette is Professor of New Writing at the University of Manchester, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy. As a working-class girl born in Manchester, she believes that art is for everyone – part of our mental health and daily creativity.

Shirley May

Shirley May is the Director of Young Identity. Shirley has supported many of Manchester’s young poets in their progressions from the projects she runs to their careers in the creative industries, and has worked in partnership with many of the city’s cultural organisations,including the Royal Exchange Theatre, Contact and the Lowry. Shirley’s own work has been published in several anthologies as well as in She Wrote Her Own Eulogy (Wrecking Ball), her debut collection. Shirley has performed at the Calabash Festival in Jamaica, the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York, the FIND Festival at the Schaubühne in Berlin and Tate Modern, her last performance before lockdown.

Steph Pike

Steph Pike has been a campaigner and political activist since the 1980s. She has been involved in many campaigns and protests and has delivered speeches at conferences and protest rallies. She is also a performance poet. Her poetry collection Pétroleuse is published by Flapjack Press.

Cover photo of Meduulla by Rami Mambwa

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