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.
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.”
‘Joseph’, however entertaining it may be, isn’t really a cautionary tale and does little to educate young people about ‘real-life’, nor does it have any influence in them making the right choices. 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.
“For anyone who wants a quick lesson in the reality of prison, let me tell you. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t scary, it’s certainly not the gritty stereotypes portrayed on your TV screens!
Merely being stuck in a tiny cell though, with no privacy, sharing with a complete stranger for anything from 14 hours – to sometimes 23 hours a day; that was enough to make me never want to return. You don’t get to choose that person. The toilet and sink are open plan, meaning I had to put up with the not so pleasant odours of another man for quite some time.
The only liberty I ever felt in prison, was the moment I walked through the gates and could smell what seemed like the freshest air I’d ever inhaled. That was the smell of freedom. That was the same feeling I felt when I experienced ‘Joseph’ at the London Palladium.”
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.
“I never intended to be a youth worker. It was one of those ‘it found me’ situations. I’d started writing poems in prison and when I was released, a probation officer helped me find my way by finding me a permanent housing solution and taking time out to encourage and inspire me to pursue writing and expressing myself.”
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’.
After utilising the play to intervene with a group of anti-social teenagers at a local community centre, 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.
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.
Studying towards an MA opened my world to researching and academic writing in a subject I loved – storytelling, using a language I love – English. I was taught how to analyse text and make cases, or arguments, for and against academic theories. I learned structure in a manner I’d never experienced before, and I enjoyed deconstructing texts.
Only by studying towards (and achieving) my master’s degree, did I come to realise the TRUE value of having an education and just how important it is that young people understand that value and embrace the opportunity and privilege of attending school.
During my studies, I returned to youth work and realised that the trajectory of exclusion amongst young people was rising, as were the statistics for youth violence.
Only with this newfound academic knowledge was I able to research the true extent of the problem, which is endemic in our system. That was why I decided that I needed to bring ‘Innit’ back to life and that is why I founded I4YPC – so that I can bring a team together who can help me develop ‘Innit’ and a whole new curriculum that can and will reach as many young people as is humanly possible.”
When he’s not working at realising his crazily ambitious plans, Micky 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!