The week in good news: positive arts, charity darts and a letter from the heart


They say you can achieve anything if you’re determined to work for it and not let anything stop you from believing. In some cases, the pushing of limits and breaking of boundaries is necessary.

This week’s good news includes artists with learning disabilities fighting ignorance, darts players raising funds for a local charity, and a little girl whose passion for the environment inspired a national restaurant chain to ditch plastic straws.

Because Mondays don’t have to be blue.

Learning disabled artists to raise awareness

Photo: Helen Murray

Award-winning theatre company Access All Areas and The Lowry will present MADHOUSE re:exit this May – an immersive piece examining the experiences of five artists with learning disabilities and their isolation from society.

The groundbreaking production is part of Week 53 festival and will be the first major event at Barton Arcade’s new underground venue bringing innovative events to central Manchester.

The play brings political activism to theatre, drawing on the history of institutions, the government’s approach to support and austerity and what this means for people with learning disabilities today. With a history of fighting ignorance, five learning disabled artists will take the audience through a maze-like institution.

Acclaimed performance poet Cian Binchy, autism consultant on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, will also be involved, discussing his experience and the absurdities of the benefits system in the UK.

Seeing himself as ‘the UK’s oldest baby’, he will comment on how recent government cuts to support mean that he is constantly treated as a child, without the possibility of a meaningful career or relationship.

“People with learning disabilities aren’t listened to,” said Cian. “There isn’t the right support for people like me with milder learning disabilities. We used to be locked away in institutions for life.

“Now we’re just stuck at home, and in some ways it’s like our bedrooms have become like institutions because we’re stuck there with nothing to do. We’re just ignored, and treated like we don’t exist.”

Over two years, Access All Areas performance company have researched how previous generations of people with learning disabilities were treated.

MADHOUSE re:exit has built on the legacy of Mabel Cooper, a learning disabled resident of a long-stay hospital, who campaigned to have such institutions banned in the UK and pressed the button that blew up one of the last of these hospitals.


Darts match raises over £6000 for local charity

Last week saw world darts legends Michael Smith and Gary Anderson go head-to-head in a charity darts tournament, with proceeds being donated to Forever Manchester.

In a tense fifteen minutes, Gary Anderson, the Flying Scotsman and two-time PDC World Champion), and Michael Smith, who was the 2013 PDC Under-21 World Champion and has since won six titles on the PDC Pro Tour, put themselves to the test to see how much they could raise during this time.

£50 was donated for a Bullseye, treble 20 gifted the charity £180 and there were also pounds up for grabs for a double top and double 16. Having already raised £3,216 during the challenge, CarFinance 247, who hosted the match, upped the stakes and tasked the darts legends with doubling the donation if they both hit a chosen double – which they did.

The result was £6,432 for local charity Forever Manchester.

“It’s great when Manchester businesses back our charity – it all helps the city to become a better place for one and all,” said Forever Manchester’s chief executive Nick Massey, who hopes to fund more local projects with the donation.

Forever Manchester raises money to fund community activity across Greater Manchester. It funds and supports a huge range of activities that help young people, older people and disabled people, as well as homelessness, sports, environmental, education, and cancer support projects, plus everything in between.

The charity works with local communities to inspire and encourage projects that they want to see, to make their neighbourhoods happier, healthier and safer places to be.


Six-year-old girl receives Eco Champion Award

A six-year-old girl who inspired Pizza Express branches across the UK to ban plastic straws  received an honorary Eco Champion Award at Manchester’s Corn Exchange last week.

Last year, Ava James, who was aged just five at the time, wrote a heartfelt letter complaining that plastic straws “are very bad for animals” because “they get stuck in their mouths and noses”.

Her letter inspired Pizza Express to be one of the first chains to ban plastic straws from all of its 470 UK restaurants, as well as inspiring the Corn Exchange to review and reduce all its waste streams for all 13 venues.

“Pizza Express acknowledged the letter and that was the end of it as far as we were concerned, but then they contacted us in January saying they have plans to get rid of all the plastic straws in all the restaurants and asked if they could use Ava’s letter as their press release,” said Ava’s mother Andrea.

“It has been quite overwhelming since.”

“When we heard that Ava was visiting Manchester and planned to have lunch at Pizza Express we reached out to her to ask her if she’d be our first Eco Champion and learn how her letter had inspired not just Pizza Express but our entire scheme to review all our waste management practices,” said Corn Exchange Manchester general manager Liam Mooney.

“We plan to be plastic straw free by Christmas 2018.”


Do you know a story that would deserve a place in our good-news round up? Whether it is a grand gesture or simple acts of kindness happening in your local community, we’d love to hear from you!

Get in touch by emailing


For more stories like this, check our news page.

Why not follow #ILoveMCR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn? You can also send story ideas to

Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Charity Foundation raises vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. There’s a unique sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are making a real difference in the lives of others, especially those close to home.