Our Manc of the Month series is back, but this time round, we wanted to do something a little bit different.
We all know that Manchester is home to plenty of special people, some born here and others drawn here, who have inspired and led us through tough times, so we decided to start a series that shines a light on those who should be celebrated.
In earlier editions, we had chosen to feature people who had an impact on our region in the recent weeks prior, but for this month, we want to cast our minds back and pay worthy tribute to an inspirational pair who are sadly no longer with us.
With International Women’s Day – a global holiday marked annually to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women – coming up on Tuesday 8 March, and Manchester getting ready to celebrate the females who have made our city what it is today, we cannot think of a better time to remember the careers of a duo who not only changed the comedy landscape for women, but changed the game entirely.
Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne truly left their mark.
Although born in London to Irish parents, BAFTA award-winning actress, comedian, and writer Caroline Aherne moved to Manchester at the age of two, was raised in Wythenshawe, went to school in West Didsbury, and kick-started her illustrious career on the city’s comedy circuit by performing as a collection of characters, before developing the iconic ‘Mrs Merton’.
Aherne developed her Mrs Merton character with Frank Sidebottom for his show on Piccadilly Radio, where she worked as a receptionist.
She made a number of television appearances as the hilarious character, before rising to prominence in 1994 with the mock chat show The Mrs Merton Show, where she was known for asking celebrity guests a series of outrageous fake questions – the most-memorable example being to the wife of magician Paul Daniels, Debbie McGee, asking: “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”.
Aside from the Mrs Merton character, Aherne was known for appearing on BBC comedy sketch programme, The Fast Show, and then cemented her place in the heart of us Mancunians when she co-wrote and starred as Denise in beloved Manchester-based sitcom, The Royle Family – which ran for three series from 1998 to 2000, and was a largely stereotypical portrayal of working-class family life at the turn of the millennium, with almost all of the episodes taking place in the Royles’ telly-centric living room and showing the hilarious conversations they’d have.
The Royle Family could not be a more perfect lasting legacy for Aherne, as it’s often included in the conversation when it comes to Britain’s best sitcoms, and was named in BFI’s 100 greatest British television programmes of all time.
Known for having an instantly-recognisable voice, Aherne narrated the Channel 4 reality television series Gogglebox from its inception in 2013 up until her death in 2016.
She passed away from cancer on 2 July 2016 at her home in Timperley at the age of 52.
2016 was also the year that the world tragically lost the multi-talented Victoria Wood, who, just like Aherne, had a wealth of strings to her bow as a comedian, actress, lyricist, singer, composer, pianist, screenwriter, producer, and director.
Born in Prestwich, and raised and educated in the Greater Manchester borough of Bury, Victoria Wood was struggling with self-confidence, identity, and her place in the world when she discovered a love for performing after her father gifted her a piano for her 15th birthday and she joined the Rochdale Youth Theatre Workshop later that same year.
Wood began her career in show business while she was undergraduate studying drama at The University of Birmingham in the 1970s.
Throughout her decorated and multi award-winning career that spanned over four decades, Wood wrote and starred in countless sketches, plays, musicals, films, and sitcoms, and she was particularly known for humour grounded in everyday life that included references to activities, attitudes, and products that are considered to be typically British, with eclectic live stand-up shows that were often interspersed with her own musical compositions that she performed at the piano.
Her very-own comedy variety sketch show, Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, aired on the BBC from 1985 to 1987, undoubtedly making her a household name and paving the way for her to become a mainstay on our screens.
But if you ask Mancs what Wood’s career highlight is, most would point to the cult-classic sitcom, dinnerladies – which ran for two series from 1998 to 2000.
Created, co-written, produced by, and starring Wood herself as Brenda “Bren” Furlong, dinnerladies is set entirely in the canteen of the fictional Manchester-based factory of HWD Components, features the caterers and regular customers as the show’s main characters, and was beloved for the fact that it depicted the lives, and social and romantic interactions of all of the staff.
Victoria Wood also sadly died of cancer on 20 April 2016 at her London home, surrounded by her children and former husband.
Although we’ve done our best to take you through the lives of these two late local legends and give a worthy nod to everything they went onto achieve throughout their careers from humble beginnings, it’s almost impossible to truly sum-up the impact that Caroline Aherne and Victoria Wood had and quantify just what they mean to the people of our proud city.
Their talents will always live on, and Manchester will never forget our comedy heroines.
Featured Image – BBC
Man uncovers long lost photos in charity shop depicting historic suffragette march
Whilst digging away in a charity shop, a man has uncovered a set of old Victorian era glass slides depicting what appears to be Women’s Sunday – a suffragette march held in London, organised by Moss Side’s own Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
Amongst a heap of slides that appear to be taken sometime around the early 1900s, one depicts a large group featuring women in the signature stripy hats worn by the protest group.
What’s more their new owner, Ray Newman, has even suggested that one of the photos may depict Emmeline Pankhurst herself.
Writing on Twitter, he shared a thread of the images with his followers: adding short commentary to each one.
One the photo in question, he comments: “If you zoom in on the woman in dark clothing seen looking towards the camera from between two PCs she looks like Emmeline Pankhurst, or am I fooling myself?”
Others have chimed in with suggestions as to the date of the photograph, with one writing: “The boater straw hats plus mutton sleeves equals c.1910.”
Given that the Women’s Sunday protest was held just two years prior to this in 1908, it does seem possible that this incredibly old photograph has captured one of the biggest moments in the suffragette’s history.
The event, organised by Pankhurst’s WSPU, featured the organisation’s colours (purple, white and green) for the first time in public. In days leading up to the event, over 10,000 scarves in the colours were sold at two shillings and elevenpence each, whilst men donned ties in solidarity.
Held to persuade the then Liberal government to support votes for women, the march is thought to have been the largest demonstration to be held until then in the country – drawing around 30,000 women marched to Hyde Park in seven processions.
Of course, the photos not being dated or marked in any way, it is hard to know if these really are images of Emmeline Pankhurst and the historic march but there are quite a few people online speculating that it could well be.
Several have pointed to the seemingly large police presence (and one person claims to have counted eleven officers), suggesting that that could indeed point to it being a photograph of a large suffragette protest.
Elsewhere amongst the collection of photos, images show a stately home, school or institution with flamingos outside, what appears to be a boy scout troop or group of cadets armed with rifles, boaters on the water at Alexandra Park, and a number of people posing in period dress.
Writing above a picture that depicts an old British high street, Ray comments on how the glass slides are tricky to scan adding that he had to “do it with my phone against a bright white screen.”
He continues: “This is a high street… somewhere… c.1910, I’d guess. I can see a sign for an inn with an ‘excellent motor garage’ but can’t work out any more than that.”
Above another, he said: “A stately home, school or institution. There are statues of flamingos on the left. Definitely haunted. (House and slide.)”
Offering a fascinating look into a lost world, some of the images are over 100 years old and taken when photography was something of a new art form. Unlike today, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, to own a camera was something of a rarity – making these images even more intriguing.
If you would like to see the full thread of pictures uncovered by Ray, you can do so by clicking here.
Feature image – Ray Newman
Rugby legend, ultra-marathon runner, inspiration | Kevin Sinfield — Manc of the Month November 2022
It’s that time of the month again (no, not that one): it’s time to pick our Manc of the Month for November and while there were plenty to pick from, one man has stood out in the past few weeks.
Kevin Sinfield is the ex-rugby player turned coach, ultra-marathon-runner and mega-fundraiser from our very own Oldham who did something truly amazing earlier this month.
The 42-year-old former loose forward, who currently serves as a defensive coach for the Leicester Tigers in the rugby union, has gone from a Manc-born sporting role model to a national hero thanks to his extremely admirable charity work over the past couple of years.
This bloke is a machine.
Seven ultra-marathons in seven days
For anyone unaware of Sinfield’s latest exploits, the former Leeds Rhinos player and director undertook the immense ‘Ultra 7 in 7‘ challenge earlier this month, tasking himself with the ridiculous feat of running seven ultra-marathons in seven days.
To put that into context, a standard marathon measures just over 26 miles or 42 kilometres; ultra marathons regularly clock in at 50km or more. Sinfield is said to have covered more than 256 miles (approx. 417km), averaging more than 60km a day. Insane.
Finishing the series of ultra-marathons alongside his dedicated team of runners on November 19 at Old Trafford, just in time for the 2022 Rugby League World Cup final, he was met with rapturous applause from the crowd — and rightly so.
The ex-Rhinos and England international set himself the target of raising £777,777 for Motor Neuron Disease in honour of his former teammate and equally inspiring close friend, Rob Burrow. He went on to absolutely smash that goal, amassing an incredible £1.4 million in donations in just a week.
Moreover, just last year he put himself through similarly unimaginable levels of strain by running a 24-hour marathon for the first time, raising over £1m for MND in November 2021 alone.
Again, this man is utterly remarkable.
Covering more than double the distance he managed the last time around, raising a total of over £2.3m across his two 7 in 7 ultra runs, it cannot be understated how much he has done for more than five different motor neuron disease charities in just a few short years.
Even before his latest heroics, Sinfield’s contributions to motor neuron awareness and fundraising were recognised by the local ouncil alongside record-breaking rower and Oldham native, Frank Rothwell, who were both bestowed with the little-known ‘Freedom of the Borough’ award back in March.
As for this year’s ultra-marathon challenge, his route saw him trek all the way from Edinburgh, through various parts of Yorkshire and, finally, back down to his home county of Greater Manchester. Not even bathroom breaks could stop him.
Compelled to run and raise as much as possible to support the MND community and honour Burrow, who was diagnosed with the disease back in 2019, Sinfield has made it his mission to help raise awareness and fund research into the rare condition which affects the brain and nervous system.
Joined by peers like footballer Stephen Darby as well as late rugby union colleague and fellow MND suffer Doddie Weir, who sadly passed away just last week, these and many more who supported Sinfield’s campaign have done untold levels of good when it comes to highlighting the disease.
Since beginning his fundraising journey in 2019, Kevin Sinfield has now raised over £7 million for the Motor Neuron Disease Association (MNDA) and related charities through his ultra-marathons and other charitable efforts, a miraculous and potentially fortune-changing amount that could save countless lives.
This absolute hero has already helped raise in excess of £2.6m all told with this year’s Ultra 7 in 7 alone, but if you want to join the millions of people still donating then you can do so HERE.