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2023 is going to be our year
Five young people plot their ascent
By Jack Dulhanty
We spent the first week of 2023 speaking to people across Greater Manchester about what they are planning to do this year — including local politicians, authors, cultural leaders and people you may never have heard of. We wanted you, our readers, to meet some of the people who — in large ways and tiny ways — are going to shape the year ahead.
You will read some of those stories in the coming weeks, but today we start with five young people, including an artist, an activist, a writer and an entrepreneur. They are all building on a 2022 in which they broke through in their fields or made an important step in their lives. And they all have a plan.
We asked them to let us in on their goals for 2023, big and small.
Goal for 2023: Find a work-life balance — and overthrow the Islamic Republic
“The first part of 2022 was very calm,” says Kiana, sitting in Cutting Room Square, Ancoats. “Then, since September, it’s been insane, because after the death of Mahsa Amini, that sparked a revolution, basically.”
Kiana grew up in Tehran and moved to the UK when she was 17. She has always been involved in activism against the Islamic Republic in Iran in one way or another, reposting social media campaigns, signing petitions. But after Amini, 22, died in the custody of the Republic's morality police — arrested for showing her hair — Iranians, particularly Gen Z women, were galvanised.
“Iranians inside Iran, as well as in the diaspora all over the world, started protesting and pushing against the Islamic Republic,” Kiana says. Alongside her day job as a software engineer, she began working with other Iranians in Manchester to raise awareness of the protests.
“I never really planned for it, I was kind of thrown into it by the demand. Seeing people in Iran dying, giving their life for freedom. It made me realise I had to do this, it doesn’t matter if I want to or not, it’s something I have to do right now. For my friends and family, and everyone else in Iran. As a human being, I have to.”
Kiana’s group, Women For Iran, has been pressuring the government to renounce the Iranian regime and shut down the centres it operates in the UK. Her work has focused on one centre based in Manchester, near Oxford Road. She has organised protests outside and spread awareness about its presence on social media. Directors of these centres have called protesters “the soldiers of Satan,” and said women removing their hijabs were spreading “poison”.
“The centre actually puts our lives in danger as Iranians [there have been reports of Iranian dissidents in the UK being targeted by the republic]. This centre is directly operated by the Islamic Republic and we walk past that everyday.”
Kiana’s group’s petition, which now has 36,000 signatures, looks to shut down the Islamic Centres of England, which oversees the Manchester centre and others across the country. Her goal for 2023, beyond the usual goals of a young professional (“I really need a work-life balance!”) is to see the centre closed, and “well, ideally, we would want to have overthrown the Islamic Republic”.
Laura Maw, 28
Goal for 2023: Start a writer’s club, and finally finish my book proposal
“I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions, because I can never keep them. But yeah, I’ve decided this year I’m just going to focus on my book proposal and try and get that finished.” The book, currently an assemblage of sample chapters and notes, will be a blend of memoir and literary critique, told through the eyes of female horror writers like Shirley Jackson and Edith Wharton, analysing the tropes of horror fiction.
“I would like to have, you know, written the proposal and sold the book, ideally. But if that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, I’d just like to work on something that I’m proud of.”
Laura’s writing includes pieces of criticism for Granta and the New Statesman. She spent most of 2022 preparing to move to Manchester from Bournemouth, where she grew up, and most of her time was consumed by the miseries of buying a house. “None of my friends had bought anywhere. I had never expected to buy anywhere at all, so everything was very new.” Being self-employed made it harder to secure a mortgage and the house had damp. Of course it had damp. “But like, I got there in the end so, it’s fine.” (The damp is still being rectified).
Yes, Laura is here (“well, I’m not actually there right now. I’m stuck at my parents house because of train strikes”) and 2023 will be the year she writes.
“Oh, and then the other thing — I met this writer/editor at Levenshulme Old Library, and we were just talking about setting up this kind of uncanny writer’s group [as in, a writer’s group dedicated to uncanny, eerie fiction], which I’m very, very excited about. Hopefully that’ll come off this year.”
“Do you have a name for it?”
“We’re still coming up with it. Because it’s surprisingly hard to come up with anything that doesn’t sound shit.”
Noor Hadid, 27
Goal for 2023: Make my TV debut, and have more quiet nights in
“In London, you’re a very small fish in a very big pond. In Manchester, you’re kind of a medium fish in a medium pond.” Noor is in her final year of study at the Manchester School of Theatre and she grew up in Whalley Range. Then she went to the capital to study medicine at King’s College London.
“I did three years there and then I dropped out. It wasn’t for me, it’s a very intense, high-stress field. I went to a very academic school and I thought medicine was what I wanted to do. Art wasn’t really a thing I knew about, culturally, and my school didn’t have a big art thing. So I kind of lost myself.”
She paused her studies, then dropped them to take a foundation course in drama, then moved back home during the pandemic and enrolled in Manchester. She made her professional debut last March at Hope Mill Theatre in Ancoats, in a production called Halal Hens, which follows a group of Muslim women on a hen party. That led to roles in plays at the Royal Exchange, Bolton Octagon and Oldham Coliseum, while she also juggled usher jobs at various theatres.
“I've sacrificed a lot of student life — sort of going out mixing with the cohort and stuff — just to get work. I think it's part of being older as well. I’m kind of like: ‘I want to just graduate and just start going.’” Her extracurricular workload has left her life balance a bit off kilter. “I just want to enjoy being at home a little bit more. I’ve not been able to do that, like I’ve been going on tour, going to rehearsals. So just, you know, having more nice, quiet nights in. I need more of them this year.”
She’s also aiming to make her TV debut, and graduate. Plus she’s taking on her first pantomime: Cinder’aliyah, the UK’s first ever Muslim pantomime, recently inducted into the panto archive. “It’s for Penny Appeal, which is a charity raising funds for the victims of the Pakistan floods, which is where my mum’s from. It's my heritage. So I really wanted to get involved.”
Brandan Nolan, 25
Goal for 2023: Get a bigger space for my vinyl record shop; stop being so self-critical.
“I mean, I can’t complain. Sometimes I’m too critical, and think I’d like to be doing better. But, it’s always growing.” Brandan started Sticky Black Tarmac at the tail end of 2021 when he was 23. It operates out of a stall the size of a particularly large toilet, in Walkden Town Centre in Salford. “I’m getting new customers, which I’m really grateful for because a lot of that just comes from other customers. I haven’t advertised too heavily myself.”
The shop’s name, if you’re wondering, is from That’s Entertainment, by The Jam:
Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes
Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume
A hot summer’s day and sticky black tarmac
Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were far away
That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment
“I was listening to it one day, and that song has a lot of vivid lyrics in it, and that one stood out to me. And sticky black tarmac is kind of like vinyl. Although obviously you don’t want your vinyl to be sticky.” Brandan plays vinyl all day, turning down some London Odense Ensemble while we talk: “that’s a bit weird to have on during an interview. It’s like jazz meets psych-rock”.
“I’m a music fiend,” he says. Before opening the shop he studied psychology and worked office jobs. He listened to music constantly and shared it compulsively. “I just love shouting about things that I think should be shouted about.” The office job he had was good, he could see the ladder open to him. “I was at about the best company I could be at,” he says “but if I wasn’t into it then, I wasn’t going to be into it at any point. And, I knew once I was in it [his own business] that there’s not really anything better I could do. Just putting records in people’s hands. Well, their ears.”
In 2023, Brandan wants to move to a bigger space. Somewhere he can open late and host acoustic nights. Wherever it’ll be, it’ll be out of the city: “it’s important to have these spaces, these things, outside of the city.” He also wants to be more patient, and a little less self-critical.
Riona Buthello, 25
Goal for 2023: Put on my first large-scale exhibition, travel more.
“So 2022 was the year I became a full-time artist. Before that, I was kind of just doing it on the side. It was the year I really started pursuing art. I got lucky, to be fair, I blew up quite quickly.”
Blew up quickly is putting it lightly. In the space of a few months, several of her oil paintings — usually of gloomy, rain-slicked landscapes with titles like “Crying whilst driving” — were garnering hundreds of thousands of likes and shares on social media. “It went insane on Twitter. And then it went insane on Instagram because all of these other accounts with millions of followers were reposting it.”
A self-trained artist based in Manchester, Riona says her work centres around “forgotten memories, just things that happen in everyday life you don’t pay attention to. I describe it as quite nostalgic and quite dark.”
By the end of last year, Riona had painted a vinyl album cover for The Alchemist, a world-famous producer based in California. “That was probably the biggest thing that happened to me.” Looking forward, she wants to collaborate with other artists, and exhibit her work on a much larger scale. How much larger? “So like, when people walk into the room, it's the only thing they see, and they're blown away by it. Because my paintings last year were really, really small. Like, super, super small”.
On a more personal level, she wants to travel more — something she had tried to do in 2022, random 24-hour stays in Belgium and so on — it helps with her artist’s block. When we speak, she’d just arrived back from Berlin: “That was kind of why that trip even happened, because I was just like: I can't think of anything to paint!”