Meet the ex-con who’s written a charitable musical homage to the streets of Salford

Innit Musical is at The Lowry this September and proceeds from ticket sales support young people across Greater Manchester

Micky Dacks is a man who inspires. He has written a musical set in Salford and he believes strongly that theatre and the arts should be for all. He crowdfunded to get young people into the theatre for the first time to see Innit, his musical which returns to The Lowry next month. Excluded from school himself when he was younger, he believes that these opportunities can change lives and he has set up a Creative Hub at The Lowry, filled with community art and crafts made by local people. We caught up with him to find out more about the show and some of the great work he does for young people.

A Salford-based musical is not something we see every day. Was that a driving force for you to write and stage Innit?

Well, why not…! If Liverpool can have a musical, so can Salford! It wasn’t the unique driving force, but Salford was the natural place for me to set Innit with the story being semi-autobiographical. I grew up in and around the streets of Manchester and Salford, so it’s what I know. Also when I came out of prison, I was housed in Salford and Salfordians proper took me under their wing. Without them, Innit wouldn’t exist – so it’s kind of like paying homage to the streets and the people I’ve known.

Do you feel with the rise of streaming and YouTube that Salfordians can see a version of themselves which mirrors them, as opposed to stereotype them? And is this important?

Salford is Salford – always has been and always will be and within that, they’ll always be stereotypes and those who break the mould, and Innit reflects this. There are characters in Innit who audiences will instantly recognise but then, without giving the plot away, the main character ‘Ashley’ challenges the stereotypes and shows the audience that a leopard can change its spots. So, without a doubt, there are some stereotypes in the play, you can’t hide from this. But Innit holds a mirror up to all aspects of Salford and allows the audience to reflect and make their own minds up.

You have local talent in this show. How was the casting process?

Thorough and rigorous! The whole process went on for 7 months because we wanted to find the right actors for the roles. We saw literally hundreds of talented actors and many of them were young actors looking for their first break. Each one of them brought something unique to the audition process and some really tough decisions had to be made along the way…which of course is never easy! But, I’m pleased to say that our tenacity and patience have paid off because the cast is phenomenal! We did the script read-through last week and wow…the energy around the table was mind-blowing!

You have crowdfunded to get local young people free tickets and give them access to the theatre. Why is that a passion of yours?

Because all young people should get to experience the exhilaration of live theatre but unfortunately, not all do. My first experience of live theatre was when I was getting kicked out of school. I managed to blag my way onto a coach which was parked outside school and little did I know, it was bound for the bright lights of London! When we got to the West End, the teachers had no choice but to take me into the theatre to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat…and as soon as I heard the overture….I was hooked! But it was too late for me by that point, theatre couldn’t change my life, I was already a made man.

Most of the young people we work with as a charity – mainly young males on the cusp of permanent exclusion – are desperate for the Arts but either haven’t had access to them or are too afraid to embrace them because they are pushed into sports like Rugby or Boxing – all the ‘masculine’ things they are told they should be in to. But actually, what we do is show them that the arts are for everyone and most of them end up wanting to perform! Sadly, most children that are permanently excluded from education end up in the criminal justice system, much as I did. I believe that past a certain point in a child’s development, it becomes extremely difficult to unpick the underlying causes of their problems, by which time it’s too late for intervention. 

What is it about this show that you feel might appeal to young first-timers?

Innit holds a mirror up to society and the young people who experience it can look at the characters and reflect on their own behaviours, gaining positive role models in the lead characters Ashley and Stacey. The show has a proven track record of helping young people to turn their lives around and make better choices…..that’s why we’ve paid for them to come and see it! If even just one young person who attends our matinee performances for free, is touched by the story and prompted to change the course of their lives for the better, then this production has had its intended impact.

Can people still donate to get young people into the Lowry, for maybe the first time to see Innit?

Yeah absolutely! The Crowdfunder isn’t running anymore but there are still many ways that people can make donations. The best way would be to visit our ‘Innit Creative Hub’ at Quayside, courtesy of MediaCity and Salford Loading. We have an art gallery on one side of the double unit which is full of young people’s and community art which we are exhibiting for them and selling, as well as crafts from local makers. The other side of the unit has been turned into Salford Coliseum Studio Theatre which is so exciting! We also have charity boxes in the unit, should people wish to donate. And you can visit our website here.

For newcomers to theatre and regulars, what does this show offer them? Why should they come along?

What doesn’t Innit offer!? A slice of reality, interlaced with humour, an eclectic soundtrack, and an array of funny and recognisable characters played by an incredible cast of exciting up-and-coming young actors (as well as a few older faces that you’ll recognise from the world of TV and theatre)…..what more could you want for a great night of entertainment? There really is something for everyone in ‘Innit’. The soundtrack has everything from Rap to Rock, Blues to Ballads….all of which get audiences toes tapping and clapping along through the performances and up on their feet by the end of the show!

We’ve just finished recording a brand-new song for the production, called ‘Ran Towards The Darkness’. It’s always been my dream to record the songs orchestrally and most recently, I was introduced to an arranger, Grant Russell, who has helped me achieve this. Using a string quartet, a brass section, drums, bass and a little bit of woodwind – it’s a perfectly fitting aspirational finish to an epic show, and there won’t be a dry eye in the house!

And where does the ticket sales money go?

People should also come along because they’d be helping a local charity I4YPC to support local young people – with every penny of the money made from public ticket sales going straight back into the pot to fund matinee seats for young people who might never have otherwise had that opportunity to experience theatre, to do so. 

I’m not sure there’s a better reason than this to come along!

Tickets for Innit Musical at The Lowry

Innit Musical is at The Lowry from 13th – 23rd September and tickets can be booked here.

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