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Photography by Warren Eyles

Micky Dacks is a writer, actor, artist, musician, ex convict and community champion. Born in Manchester’s St Mary’s Hospital in 1979, he grew up in various locations around the city before moving to Salford in 2000. Micky was a troubled young person who was excluded from every school he attended, experienced long spells of homelessness as a teenager, battled with drug addiction and eventually ended up serving a nine-month jail sentence. Whilst serving time in prison, Micky wrote a series of poems about his life growing up on the streets of Manchester and Salford. With the help of his probation officer and some creative friends, he was able to capture his experiences and write a full-scale, diversionary musical extravaganza - Innit! Micky is also the founder of I4YPC (Innit for Young People Charity).

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Micky was just nine years old when he turned to a life of crime, by setting fire to his local shop, with the shopkeeper still in it.  Having already been exploited, Micky didn’t fit in at school, always finding himself excluded – mainly through incidents involving aggression and an inability to regulate his emotions. Instead, he joined a Manchester street gang and was permanently excluded from the education system after being involved in a knife-related incident at his school.

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Micky hosts Prince William at the unveiling of the mural to murdered teenager Jessie James at Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse in November 2023 (ITV News)

On that same day, Micky blagged his way on to a coach that was sitting outside the school gate. He crept to the back of the coach and hid under the seats, not knowing where the coach was heading.  As it turned out, a trip had been planned for some Year 10’s to visit London and see ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ at the Palladium. Micky had never been to London and the teachers had no choice but to take him into the theatre. He describes his experience of walking into the Palladium as, “the single most beautiful, mesmerising, life-changing and life-affirming moment.” So, despite the amazing experience of attending the theatre, it did little to improve Micky’s world, until later in life.

Left roaming the streets, Micky often landed himself in trouble, spending time in front of magistrates, dipping in and out of the criminal justice system. He was also homeless for long spells in his teenage years, battling with drug addiction and was in and out of temporary hostel accommodation. His long career in the criminal world included drug dealing, assaults, criminal damage and deception – which eventually saw him jailed for nine months. That sentence was enough for Micky to realise the error of his ways and turn his life around.

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Being stuck in a tiny cell with no privacy, sharing with a complete stranger for anything from 14 hours – to sometimes 23 hours a day, was enough to make me never want to return.

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Since leaving prison, Micky’s been determined to turn the age-old narrative of ‘a leopard never changes its spots’ on its head and use his negative experiences of exclusion and living within the criminal justice system, to help steer young people away from a life following in his footsteps.

Micky had started writing poems in prison and when he was released, a probation officer helped him find his way by finding him permanent housing at Canon Hussey Court in Salford and the officer took time out to encourage and inspire him to pursue writing as a way of expressing himself. Micky joined a creative writing class, turned his poems into a play and then with a little help from some amazing people who showed kindness and belief in him, he wrote ‘Innit’.

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Micky outside Canon Hussey Court in Salford, where his cultural and creative journey began

After utilising the play to intervene with a group of anti-social teenagers at The Angel Centre in Salford, the manager offered Micky a volunteering opportunity and funded a training course in youth work and business skills. In 2002, he formed a community production company called ‘Innit Productions’ and he’s never looked back! Micky’s career in youth work has been far-reaching and has received much acclaim.

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I never intended to be a youth worker. It was one of those ‘it found me’ situations.  

After taking a sabbatical and travelling for a short while as part of his recovery following a car accident in 2010 that left him almost paralysed, Micky sought an education and with the merit of his work achievements, was accepted straight on to a master’s degree course in Edinburgh. “This really was a major turning point in my journey. I’d never received a formal education because I was too troubled to settle into the school routine. No teacher could reach me and with the way the curriculum was packaged and presented, I had no interest in learning”.

After his studies, he returned to youth work and with his newfound academic knowledge was able to research the true extent of the problem of rising youth violence. That was when he decided to bring ‘Innit’ back to life and that is why he founded I4YPC (Innit for Young People Charity). The charity encourages and inspires young people to express themselves through the Arts and education; providing life-changing opportunities, to help develop their skills and employability. Aimed to reduce the negative cycle of exclusion and prevent entry into the Criminal Justice System. I4YPC enabled Micky to bring a team together to help him develop ‘Innit’ and a whole new curriculum that could reach as many young people as possible.

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Micky's musical 'Innit' is based on his own experiences growing up as a teenager. It is a real-life, no holds barred story of Ashley Thompson, a teenage lad growing up on the streets of Salford who tries to stay on the straight and narrow. With a troubled home life, Ashley tries navigating love and loss, but with the added complication of being antagonised by the local gang who try and embroil him in their criminal exploits, eventually landing him a prison sentence. The Musical production made it's debut at the Lowry Theatre in 2023 to rave reviews. Matinee performance seats were made available free of cost to local young people who would otherwise never have a theatre experience. I4YPC have ambitious plans to tour the musical nationally in the next few years.

When Micky’s not working at realising his crazily ambitious plans, he loves practicing holistic therapies, visiting theatre and cinema, creating art, getting outdoors and making films and he can often be found on our TV screens playing the villain in major TV dramas!

The cast of Innit Musical on stage

Innit Musical - Lowry Theatre, 2023

THE SHOOT: Canon Hussey Court & The Angel Centre, Salford

Canon Hussey Court was Micky's first permanent accommodation after leaving prison. The Angel Centre became an important community base for Micky, where he began his volunteer youth support journey and where the musical 'Innit' was first conceived and developed.

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Student reflection: Warren Eyles

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We met up with Micky on a bright but chilly autumn afternoon outside Canon Hussey Court in Salford. I was feeling nervous about taking images at the start of the shoot, but soon calmed down once we started the photography. It was here where Micky first lived after coming out of prison. After photographing Micky here, we ventured on a walk to the nearby Angel Centre. He explained how this was an important location where he first volunteered as a youth worker and started to create the musical ‘Innit’.

I photographed Micky in the centre’s main community hall where he used to work with and alongside disaffected young people from Salford. The Angel Centre hall was a great location for the shoot because the room is so important in Micky’s story. The hall was dimly lit, so we used an LED wand to provide more even lighting without changing the atmosphere of the images. Micky was very easy to work with and very open to suggestions. We finished off the shoot outside The Angel Centre, capturing both Micky and the building. This was quite tricky as the sign was high up and we had to deal with several obstructions.

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Micky & Warren

I am very pleased with my final images. I believe that I have captured Micky’s warm and self-assured character. Working with Micky on this shoot has certainly boosted my confidence. I’m now looking forward to seeing one of my photographs displayed at the final Greater Mancunians exhibition in Spring 2024.

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