THIS week I’d like to introduce you to another community champion who is going above and beyond during this terrible pandemic.
Ezra McGowan runs a charity called The Forget Me Not Trust, providing food and essentials to the homeless all over the North West.
During Covid-19 Ezra has turned his attention to those who have been in isolation making sure they have food and prescriptions and are kept stocked up with essentials during their isolation.
He has been delivering tons in weight of food to food banks which helps to feed countless families across Trafford.
He also takes ‘Thank You Bundles’ to hospitals providing tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and chocolates for our front line NHS staff to enjoy during their long shifts.
I wanted to know what drives Ezra to do this and this is what he had to say.
“What drives me is my faith, also I genuinely get a kick out of seeing people happy and surprised when you do something for them. My dad used to say if you can’t do someone a good turn then don’t do one at all”.
“My family set up The Forget Me Not Trust for the homeless and under privileged in our community to help out whenever we could”.
I asked how locals could support his charity and he said: "People can get involved simply by supporting us it’s a very simple charity we just give people food and provisions".
“Every charity at the moment, when you put on the TV or walk down the road, wants your money. We don’t. People are as generous as they can be but they can’t always do it. We ask for some food and any provisions you can spare. In the winter months we are really grateful for clothing, sleeping bags and blankets. It doesn’t have to cost you because if you are cleaning out your wardrobes, cupboards or garage and have anything to spare we would be pleased to accept them”.
“Sometimes we do get donations of money and that goes on the items mentioned above. It’s that simple. We have no offices, staff or administration fees. It goes straight out to the people who need it".
“We have had some donations from Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s and we sometimes put our own money in to make it up if we’re low. Since the pandemic we’ve given out over three tons of food, it really is going out as fast as it comes in.”
“I’m also a member of the local Freemasons in Urmston and this is just what we do for others. In fact I have recently, very gratefully, received a £5,000 donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation which will be put to great use in the community".
Thank you Ezra for talking to me and also congratulations on receiving your Special Recognition Award from the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester this week!
This week I want to chat with you about someone who has supported me and been my rock for many years.
A lady who is always in the background and never seeks the limelight herself. My wonderful wife Val.
I have received many awards and recognition over the years for the charity and community work I have done but in this week’s column I’d like to shine a light on the lady who has made all that possible.
As the ‘front man’, people only see me and assume it’s all my own doing but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My Val has guided, supported and encouraged me in all my pursuits. She deserves every recognition for what she’s done for me and in turn for the community.
They say that behind every good man is a great woman, and God knows that I do try my best to be a good man but for Val, she is naturally without any effort at all a great woman.
Val has accompanied me to virtually every performance I’ve ever done, helping me set up my PA equipment, sound check, putting up with my odd one or two ‘artistic tantrums’, organised countless events, designed posters and adverts, acted as roadie, manager, secretary, general dogs body the list is endless.
To add to all that, she is also an amazing loving wife and mother to our sons and she runs a caring, loving and supportive family home. In fact I never submit my column to the Messenger without having Val casting her eyes over it first, so we can add proof reader to her list of jobs too.
So although I am the one stood on stage performing, it is only because I have my Val doing all the ground work beforehand.
Once everything is set up and organised I am a hundred percent confident that she has prepared everything for me to take the stage relaxed and ready to sing.
On top of all this she also works during the day for our NHS. Something you may not know about Val is that she has raised thousands of pounds herself for charity by creating lovely personalised, printed ribbon banners and lapel ribbons.
She has supported countless events such as the NHS, Kym Marsh’s Archie’s Footprint Ball and Denise Welch’s Magic Castle Ball to name just a few.
She doesn’t make any fuss about it, she just gets on and does it. Like I say she doesn’t seek the limelight.
So this week I’d like to publicly thank my Val for all she does for me personally, allowing me to pursue my charitable and community endeavours, for all she does herself for charity and for being an amazingly supportive wife who goes above and beyond what is expected from a partner.
She’s going to hate me telling you all about everything she does behind the scenes but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Thank-you Val.
In the Trafford Spotlight. Mr Jonny Spangles
DURING the Covid-19 crisis we’ve tried to look out for beacons of light such as Capt Tom who has united the country in love and hope with his fundraising for the NHS.
Here in Trafford we don’t have to look very far to see one of our own beacons of light! Urmston’s Jonathan Hindley who has gone above and beyond to see what he could do to help our community.
Jonathan, known as Jonny Spangles the DJ, is the director of Unit One Entertainments and has been a mobile DJ for over 30 years.
So I asked Jonny what he’s been up to and here’s what he had to say.
“After the lockdown it affected all the pubs in the area and this in turn affected the quiz nights I ran on a Wednesday at The Garricks Head and Thursday at The Bent Brook. Within the week after the lockdown, we managed to continue the quiz nights via a live link. I informed all participants that I would carry out the quiz nights for free if they donated, so we could support our community, key workers and those that needed recognizing for the amazing work they do in our area. We have made donations to Trafford General - Flixton Girls school to make PPE - Nursing homes - Food Banks - Age Uk Trafford - Trafford domestic abuse - Trafford Veterans - Urmston Aid - Several Catering companies for ingredients to feed the homeless - Several individuals that are making scrubs”.
Jonny recently toured Urmston on a tricycle collecting donations and entertaining the community. I wanted to know how that came about?
“The whole thing came about off the back of the quiz nights and after we did a Disco On Dalton for our residents, which raised £2,500. We wanted to do something for our community and spread more happiness, hence the bike ride and we were totally blown away with raising £5,000 on the day. At the time of writing this has raised an amazing £15,483.
What’s next for your fundraising?
“We’ve confirmed that we are doing another Disco Bike ride to celebrate VE Day on the early Bank Holiday Friday (tomorrow) from 3pm till 7pm around the streets of Urmston, Davyhulme and Flixton. I am also in early discussions with a team of like minded event organizers and together we are organizing a FREE music festival in Urmston in 2021 called Unite Urmston”.
Jonny is a really decent gentleman with a huge heart. I’ll leave the final words to him.
“I am so lucky to have lived in Urmston all my life and do a job I actually love. To be surrounded by the most amazing people who support each other at these difficult times is priceless. The whole of our community has come together as one and united together. I could not wish for a better place to live than Urmston. Finally, I would not be where I am today, if it wasn’t for the fantastic support I get from my family and friends, especially my wife Jemma and my children, Ben, Lucy and Maisie”.
If you’d like to support Jonny, donate via paypal.me/jonnyspangles
In the Trafford Spotlight. Mr Craig Keatley aka Flipperkeatz
I’m sure you will all know of Craig Keatley aka Flipperkeatz. He’s often spotted walking around the borough wearing his now famous flippers and carrying a collection bucket for the Christie. So, following on from his most recent achievement and ahead of his next challenge, I thought I would invite him round for a cup of tea and a chat and put him under the Trafford Spotlight.
Craig was born in Cottage Hospital in Urmston and grew up in Davyhulme and Urmston before moving to Stretford where he now lives with his wife and family. He loves Trafford and is very keen to promote all the lovely places we have here.
It may seem an unusual pastime, walking around in a pair of flippers, so I asked Craig how it all came to be and what drives him to fundraise in such an unusual way and here is what he had to say.
“In the early 90’s I went to a one night only beach themed party at Yates and wore a pair of flippers for fun and the reaction was incredible. From their I went to Corkers nightclub and won a dance competition, still wearing my flippers!”
“It stayed in my mind for years, then in 2015 I had a mid-life crisis. I was now a working, husband and father and I looked back at my life realising it had flown by so quickly. What had happened with the time? I decided to do something else with my life, something a bit special, something to remember”.
“The first thing I did, in 2015 was a 200-mile bike ride, quite extreme, as I’d only ever cycled to work and back so I had to train quite a lot gradually building up the miles. 10 miles, then 20, 30, 50 and I built it up to the point where I did 130 miles in one day. That’s when I realised that I could do 200 miles”.
“I wanted to do it for something special so I decided to do it for the charity, Forever Manchester, a community-based charity that supports local charities throughout Manchester”.
“I set off on my bike from Corrie cobbles to Elstree TV Studios where Eastenders is filmed. I set off at 2pm and got there the following day at 10am. I loved it! Even though the training was hard and I hit brick walls, I overcome it, I would think about the charity and how much I wanted to raise and it kept me going. I raised from that bike ride £2,500 for Forever Manchester”.
I wanted to know how Craig Keatley became Flipperkeatz?
“I wanted to do something a bit wackier. I remembered the flippers from the 90s and Flipperkeatz just evolved. The first time I set foot outside in flippers I went from Corrie to just down the road three quarters of a mile, it was an amazing experience! There was a live BBC Breakfast broadcast about politics, everyone was there under a marquee. I didn’t know they were there and all you could hear was flip flop, flip flop. A journalist burst out laughing and from him it spread to about forty journalists all laughing, I remember it was raining slightly, so it looked really funny. I was mentioned on BBC Breakfast and they put me on twitter with my flippers. From that tweet someone donated a tenner. Then I realised that this would be something special.”
“I wanted to do the Salford 10K in flippers, so I started training. It’s not a normal thing to see really, a man walking in flippers, it’s pretty random but having said that, I realised I was getting a buzz from it and I quite liked it. It evolved. Someone put a video of me on Facebook. It was me walking past Urmston train station. It received over 55,000 views in just five days with some really nice comments. I mean it does have a crazy element about it which I liked. I like to be a bit quirky and different. Especially when raising money for the Christie”.
I wanted to know that from all the various charities there are for people to support why did he choose the Christie?
“I’ve seen lots of people on social media and in life succumb to cancer. The Christie is iconic to Manchester, the north west and the whole country. So I decided to raise for the Christie. Flipperkeatz evolved in me into something a bit crazy really. Every time I went out in my flippers, I got every form of reaction. People got to know who I was and what I was doing, beeping horns and shouting well wishes. In the city centre you get more of the crazy angle which I really love”.
“In 2017 I did the Manchester half marathon after training hard by doing things such as going out of Manchester to train, to Fleetwood and also flipper walked to Lymm festival, 17 miles and again the money was coming in nicely and I kept getting incredible reactions from people. It’s the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done. So random that I received pretty much no trolling or nasty comments on social media, all good apart from once I got a bottle thrown at me near the Apollo theatre that just missed me, but that was it. I lifted up my flipper and the bottle sailed underneath; I never missed a step!”
“It’s all been a joyful, happy crazy time, I wanted to push myself, challenge myself and in doing so I’ve raised £7,500 for the Christie!”
So, what’s next for Flipperkeatz?
“Well, I set myself three challenges and have done 2 of them, this year so far”.
“Firstly, I wanted to run for 50 consecutive days and around 10 miles plus, each day. I only started running in December last year and have now covered 560 miles. To take up running and do that, I’m proud of myself. I’m a ‘fun runner’ and really enjoy it and often stop to take photographs of my favourite places in our local area such as the meadows etc. I love where I live. I ran the Salford 10K twice, two laps so 20K”
“Then of course the second challenge was the flipper walk from Anfield to Old Trafford, which I’ve just completed. Thirty-one miles and the last five miles was the most horrific ever, but I met so many people en route that I didn’t even know and I felt humbled. They were giving me food, drinks and ice pops. The secret to flipper walking is walking like John Cleese with flippers on, that is the technique and the only way to do it! You get used to it. My bunions are not caused by high heels, they’re caused by the flippers!!! I am the world’s only extreme flipper walker (now retired!) and I have walked over 850 miles in flippers”.
“The third and next big challenge from being Flipperkeatz is that I’m going to become Slipperkeatz. Appropriate for me as I’m approaching 50. I’m going to walk from the Christie hospital in Withington to the Blackpool tower, 50 miles in slippers – to embrace being 50! I’m going to find some really mad, crazy quirky slippers. I’m going to do it on the 28th September this year. I’m going to start training in normal footwear first then slip into my slippers! 3 days after that I’m 50! Age is no barrier, so I say anyone can do whatever they want. Hopefully my midlife crisis will end on 28th September!”
It has been an absolute pleasure to chat to Craig and I can feel the passion he has for fundraising. If you’re going to fundraise then why not do it in style! I wish Craig every success in the world and I really admire that he is so willing to go out and give his all to raise funds. It’s really admirable. Best of luck Craig.
If you would like to support Craig in his fundraising for the Christie then you can do so here: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/craig-keatley3
The very first ‘Trafford Spotlight’ is shining a light on a wonderful man who has spent his whole career, as an art teacher, right here in Trafford. He is also a man I am very proud to call my friend. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Mr Kevin (Elvis) Murphy.
I asked Kevin how he got into teaching art and here is what he had to say.
“I attended the Carlisle College of Art and Design; from there I went on to graduate from Edinburgh College of Art before gaining my teacher diploma in art at MMU. I think teaching is a very worthwhile career, encouraging young people’s talent and I got great job satisfaction from it. The vast majority of my students became good men. Wellacre was my first teaching job, straight from Uni, in fact before breaking up for the summer I secured a job at Wellacre. So, I went literally from my course to teaching”.
“I’d never heard of Flixton, but it looked a nice area, and I took the job, it was a very good choice. Wellacre had good staff and although boys will be boys and can be challenging at times, on the whole, they were good lads. So, I stayed my whole career at Wellacre, I held the positions of Head of year and Head of the art and design department during my time at the school”.
I asked him about life outside of the school.
“I also introduced some extracurricular activities for the Wellacre lads, weight training and I also instructed boxing. It was a great way to channel their energy and keep them out of trouble. Any lads who showed potential in boxing I advised to go Barton Athletic Club in Eccles, where I was a qualified ABA coach. Quite a few took my advice and became good boxers, Wayne Devlin being one of them! Good reach and nice left jab!”
Kevin is known locally in Urmston as Elvis Murphy, as he performs the songs of Elvis Presley at various open mic nights. I asked him how he got into the music scene, here’s what he said.
“I came into singing by accident, I’ve always loved music. I listened to the early rock and rollers like Eddie Cochrane, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis but especially Elvis Presley. I also enjoyed bands like The Small Faces, The Who and Bowie etc”.
“A Wellacre year 9 class were being a bit naughty, so I just started singing Elvis Presley, one for the money… they all shut up and listened, two for the show… they clapped. I told them that if they’re all quiet and behave, they’ll get another song at end of the lesson, and they did! Ex pupils will remember my rhymes too. If you talk, you walk. If you peck, you trek, if you make a fuss, you miss your bus. If a lad said that it’s against the law to be kept behind, I reminded him that if he was in my art room he was under Murphy’s law!”
“So I was in JP’s night club one night and the manageress asked me if I’d sing at her Cancer Research charity event, I told her that I wasn’t a singer and she replied, ‘but my son told me you sing at school’ and he told her I could do Elvis. So, I tried karaoke, I was nervous, terrified even, but I did a song and the small audience clapped! So I did the Cancer Research gig and it went well. I was then invited to a jam night, then a few weeks later I was asked if I had a band, as there was a gig for me at Flixton football club. I asked a local band called Joe and the Underdogs to accompany me and did the gig. About twelve years ago I also did some gigs with Wayne Devlin my ex pupil and close friend”.
I remember meeting Kevin again, as an adult, in the Melville pub in Stretford and we struck up a friendship. I always enjoyed his art lessons at Wellacre and he helped instil my love of art that I still have to this day. I’m very grateful to him for teaching me not just art but also boxing and for his loyal friendship. If Kevin is your friend then you have a friend for life. In fact, when choosing my best man at my wedding I thought who better than my ex teacher, my good friend and the person I knew would do me proud in the role and he really did.
Kevin and I also share a passion for charity work so I asked him a bit about that. He said.
“At Wellacre I did several charity assemblies and when I, as I call it, graduated from Wellacre, I invited Wayne to sing and along with other bands and we raised a large amount of money for Wellacre’s charity Afri-twin”.
In 2014 Kev was awarded one of the 40 faces of Trafford by Trafford borough council at a ceremony at the town hall. He was presented his award by the Mayor at the time Cllr John Holden. He was awarded for his contribution to the teaching profession. He is also the recipient of the Pride of Urmston Award.
Kevin says “You have good fortune in life and I think I was very fortunate that my first job in education was in Flixton at Wellacre Academy. I love living in Urmston. I enjoy how the town seems to be growing, there’s a good buzz, it has the nicest people in the world who are open minded, they live and let live, there’s no bigotry, no bias and everyone gets on. I love my home city Carlisle but love Urmston too!”
“There are nice people everywhere. I love four cities; Carlisle and Edinburgh where I studied, Manchester where I live and Kilkenny in Ireland which is my dad’s home town. They’re all places I’ve been involved with, and are very different but all wonderful. Actually, I love Liverpool too, I’ve sung there, in the famous Cavern where I was backed by a band called the Jailbirds, vocalist and bass was Drew Palmer, lead guitarist Sam Gorton, both ex Wellacre students and the drummer Duncan Crighton, was a former Urmston grammar student”.
To finish I asked Kevin what he is up to now and here’s what he said.
“I’m busy touring the USA, that’s Urmston, Stretford and Altrincham! Next year I’m off to LA, Lower Ancoats! I’m performing with groups of friends of mine in various venues. I now sing songs by Johnny Cash, Janice Joplin, Eddie Cochrane and a few others, as well as Elvis of course. Another great thing about the music scene is that I regularly meet ex pupils. I never cease to be amazed at the amount of musical talent there is in the area (including my favourite rat pack singer Wayne Devlin!)”
It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to Kevin (Elvis) Murphy and I feel very lucky to call him my friend. So over to you Kevin for the final word.
“I’ve always been very pleased that so many of my ex pupils come to shake hands with me and thank me for helping them. So a big shout out for all the ex-pupils and all the staff at the College of Knowledge, School for the Cool, Wellacre Academy!”