Photography by Katie O'Neill and Iqra Saied

Roy & Hayley Cropper (Image: ITV / Rex Features)

Julie's award winning performance in 'Wit', the portrayal of an American professor with aggressive cancer  (Image: Jonathan Keenan)

Diane Modahl MBE (nee Edwards) is one of Britain’s most successful 800m runners. She won a Gold Medal in the 1990 Commonwealth Games and followed this up with a further Silver and Bronze Medal.

Diane represented Britain in an impressive four Olympic Games, from 1988 to 2000 and was unbeaten for six consecutive seasons by any other British athlete over her specialist distance of 800m. As one of Britain’s most accomplished middle distance runners, she held the English, British and Commonwealth records for both 800m and 600m.

 

After retiring from athletics, Diane and her husband Olympic coach Vicente Modahl, established the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, a registered charity. Her early experiences as a young person from a deprived community, inspired her to establish a youth foundation to help those most in need.

DMSF champions young people from disadvantaged areas across the North West, enabling them to make the most of themselves in sport, education and employability.

 

Born in 1966, Diane grew up in Longsight, and trained at Sale Harriers from the age of 11. She won the 1984 English Schools 800 metres title in 2:05.7 and emerged as one of Britain's top 800m runners after winning the AAA Championships title in 1986 aged 20. 

 

Her career went from strength to strength until following a positive drug test, Diane was sent home from the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games in Canada by the British Athletics Federation (BEF). She was subsequently banned from competition. She engaged lawyers to make the case that the laboratory in Lisbon which tested her urine sample had major flaws in their processing. She won her appeal and the BEF lifted her ban in July 1995.

 

Diane and her husband Vicente wrote a book about their experiences, The Diane Modahl Story - Going the Distance. The case was ultimately heard in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords in London. All three courts stated in their summaries that Modahl "had never used any drugs and should be seen as being innocent of all charges for all future".

 

Diane returned to competition in 1996 going on to compete in the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games and going on to win a bronze medal in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games in 1998 before finally retiring in 2002.

 

After retiring from athletics in 2002, Diane and her husband Olympic coach Vicente Modahl, established the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation(DMSF) a registered charity. Her early experiences as a young person from a deprived community, inspired her to establish a youth foundation to help those most in need.

DMSF champions young people from disadvantaged areas across the North West, enabling them to make the most of themselves in sport, education and employability.

 

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham  asked Diane in 2020 to lead the Young Person’s Task Force’s engagement with young people and to listen to what they need as part of the COVID-19 recovery process. This involves direct engagement with young people and youth organisations as well as with colleges, training providers and business. The Task Force works with young people up to 30 years old.

 

To mark the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester, Salford University and UMIST conferred joint honorary degrees of Doctor of Letters on Diane Modahl. She was awarded an MBE in The Queen’s 2018 Birthday Honours List for services to Sport and Young People in the North West of England.

Julie at the National Television Awards 2014 (Image: Getty)

In 2015, Julie appeared in the BBC film Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, a television film about the murder of teenage goth Sophie Lancaster. She played the role of Sophie's mother, one which she had previously portrayed on stage. Julie is a patron of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

 

She is, with writer Becx Harrison and visual artist Grant Archer, co-founder of Take Back, a Manchester-based theatre collective dedicated to making script in hand rapid responses to the politics of austerity. The group formed in 2015, brings together a community of artists from Greater Manchester and beyond, united by a passion to make our voices heard and be a part of the change. 

I am really lucky that I live in Manchester which is such a vibrant and creative city with a tight artistic community and tight political community. 

Between 2018-2019, Julie performed in a series of highly acclaimed stage productions; The Almighty Sometimes, Mother Courage and There Are No Beginnings. In 2019 she published A Working Diary, a personal creative journal which begins in November 2016, with all proceeds from the book going to youth charity Arts Emergency. In 2021, she is planning to tour The Greatest Play in the History of the World around theatres in the north. Written by her husband Ian Kershaw, it’s a play about loss and loneliness and reaching out across time and space to find love and connection - a subject perfect for these times. Julie is currently filming The Pact for BBC, which will be broadcast in 2021. 

Julie is a passionate fundraiser and is a patron of a number of organisations which include: Trans Media WatchManchester People's Assembly and Reuben's Retreat. In 2019, she set up the group 500 Acts of Kindness, a fundraising community where 500 members donate a pound a week to give to an individual, group, family or organisation in need.

Julie captured the hearts of the British TV viewing public with her portrayal of Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street (1998-2014). Her character was involved in high-profile storylines, in particular her final and most controversial right-to-die storyline following Hayley’s battle with pancreatic cancer. Her final scenes were aired on 22 January 2014, the night she won a National Television Award for Best Performance in a Serial Drama, which she shared with her longtime co-star, David Neilson. Julie subsequently worked with pancreatic cancer charities to raise awareness of the disease, and was involved in a petition and attended a parliamentary debate on the subject in 2014.

THE SHOOT: Werneth Low Country Park, Hyde

On the edge of the Pennines with panoramic views across Greater Manchester - One of Julie's favourite walks close to her home in Broadbottom

Student reflection: Iqra Saied

This was my first photoshoot for the Greater Mancunians project. At first, I was feeling nervous about working with Julie, but she was compassionate and pleasant. Soon, I felt relaxed as we talked and got to know one another. It was brilliant to work alongside ex-student Katie O'Neill who advised and guided me on how to capture the perfect shots. The location - Werneth Low was beautiful, It provided magnificent panoramic views of Greater Manchester... a wonderful backdrop for my pictures. My final images successfully portray Julie's fun loving personality.

It was a privilege to work with Julie and Katie. I hope to get another opportunity to get to work on this fantastic project in the future.

Katie, Julie & Iqra

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© The Manchester College 2021

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