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'In Focus' is our monthly feature introduced to shine a spotlight on a local group or individual who are delivering necessary, interesting or impressive work in the community or across our city that is making a difference, helping our city move more and our residents to lead healthier and happier lives.
We’re always on the look out for our next feature – if you are or know of a group, individual, coach, community leader, talented youngster, supporting mentor or similar that’s making a difference, we’d love to be able to help provide some additional focus and raise awareness of all their great work. Get in touch with us at


For IWD2023, we spoke with Jo McDonald from local football club Manchester Laces for a look at the club, and first hand perspective of the changing representation in football, the barriers and obstacles still in place, and what the future holds.

How did Manchester Laces form, and when?
Manchester Laces was founded by Helen Hardy who had previously played for South London Laces. Helen wanted to experience the same inclusive and welcoming Laces environment after the move to Manchester. With the support of our London sister clubs and Manchester based co-founders, Manchester Laces was launched in April 2021.
Tell us about your club ethos
Manchester Laces is the first inclusive space for women, non-binary and transgender people in Manchester. 
Our ethos is based on kindness, support, equality and respect. We provide a fun, friendly, safe environment for people of any ability and background to play football. 
What do you love about football?
It’s a truly inclusive sport, anyone can play, regardless of ability and background and it doesn’t feel like exercise!
Football brings so much joy and being part of the team boosts physical and mental health, increases confidence on and off the pitch and brings people together. 
How do you value inclusivity and how does that drive what you do?
We want to provide a truly inclusive space for our community.
Football is for all and we passionately believe anyone who wants to play football should have access to a safe and inclusive environment where they feel welcomed and supported. 
We want to give everybody the opportunity to share the joy of football.
What are some of the barriers to improving female and LGBTQ+ representation in football?
Lack of opportunities, lack of access to safe spaces, previous negative experiences, external attitudes and prejudices have an impact on participation in football. 
We welcome everyone from the women’s, non-binary and trans community into the Laces family, whether they’ve never kicked a ball before or they’re an experienced player. 
The Alternative Football League (AF League) also offers a safe and friendly environment for women, non-binary and transgender people to play football, whatever their ability. Details can be found on the AF League website 
Ball Together Now is an exciting trans inclusive weekend festival of football for women and non-binary people which will be held in Manchester in July. Details can be found here
How has women's football changed over recent years, and where do you see the game in 10 years' time?
England’s incredible victory in the Euros this summer has propelled women’s football into the media spotlight and there has been huge interest from people wanting to try football for the first time or returning to football after not playing since school or university. 
Professional players are now household names and using their platform to grow the game in a sustainable way calling for better facilities, coaching, training and for equal opportunities in school sports and at grassroots level. 
The World Cup taking place over the summer in Australia and New Zealand and has the potential to raise the profile of Women’s football even further. 
In 10 years’ time, I hope to see huge leaps in equality in both the professional and grassroots game. With the Lionesses success, we are already seeing change and players receiving recognition and respect for their achievements. 
The lionesses have become wonderful role models and as demand grows to participate in football, more clubs and opportunities will be created. 
I hope grassroots football will be fully inclusive for all who want to experience the joy of football. 
How do people in Manchester get involved with the Laces and/or football more generally?
Women’s football is more visible thanks to the inspirational Lionesses and this has led to the exponential growth of the club. Details of our sessions can be found on our website.
The AF League as detailed above.
Contact Manchester FA to find the nearest club to you. 
Where can we catch the Laces? (Location, game days, training etc)
Details of our sessions can be found on our website. Or you can email us for details at

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Jo for taking the time to speak with us. Make sure to follow them on social media to find out more them;

We recently spoke with Mohammed Ali, who works for north Manchester based organisation Communities for All (Khizra Mosque). We asked Mohammed about why he walks, the work Communities for All do in the local area and how others can get involved. Read on to find out more...
1. Where do you walk in Manchester? 

We walk in the neighbourhood, all known parks and those unknown hidden gems in Manchester and surrounding

2. Tell us a bit about your walks - who do they attract, how far, how easy, or do you walk independently?
We have weekly walks open to all and include the local councillors and local partners and the community.  We also go out further afar and on special walks to enjoy green spaces and nature reserves and lakes with a bit  of scenery. It attracts young and old and open to all but with prior notice so we can make arrangements. We cater for the person walking and generally if need be go at the slowest pace if needed depending on those attended the walk. We can walk anything from 1km to 10km. From flat surfaces to more adventurous walks in the hills.   
3. What do your walkers get from the walks (benefits)?
Enjoyment, making friends/tackling isolation, socialising, better mental health and wellbeing, better physical health, trying something new and a good cup of pink tea or a soup.
4. What do you love about walking?
Meeting and getting out and about to benefit yourself and others, the great outdoors has so much benefits for everyone.
5. Anything else you want to share about your walks?   
It’s a great way for a healthy life style and exploring the local area and more. I would recommend to all and the best about think I like is walking which I found out is the walks are more enjoyable in the winter just as they are in the summer if not more so.  
We try report on fly tipping when and where we can, and we try invite local key people to join our walks. Also whilst on our walks we try to educate many of the people we come face to face with on how to report issues and easy methods to report such as using an app called ‘Fix my street’ along with offering on hands on help where needed. 

We visit the local businesses and discuss issues of concern and also it is a great way of meeting new people and meeting others on our walks which has many known benefits. We also bring services and councillors out to the people.

Contact info;
Name: Mohammed Ali
Tel: 01612056663
Twitter: @Communities4All

We asked Manchester based walking group 'City of Trees' a few questions to learn a little more about why he walks, the work City of Trees do in the local area and how others can get involved. Read on to find out more...

1. Where do you walk in Manchester?
We currently run a series of events mainly at Whitworth Park in Central Manchester.

2. Tell us about your walks

Our upcoming walk is open to the public and is for all ages. Walks such as these in the past have attracted city tourists, families, keen conservationists and amazing individuals that want to learn more about nature in order to make a difference in their everyday lifestyle. As these are site-based walks, Whitworth Park is regularly ‘passed by’ by commuters, university students and residents. We always aim to walk at a leisurely pace ensuring our participants get the chance to ask any questions about a specific part of the park or just stop and connect to nature, it has been useful to point out and highlight the importance of nature through sound, colour, smell. As this site is a public park, it has all the amenities to make it accessible for all. Access points are quite easily identified, there are pathways leading on to other facilities and we would say this walk would be very easy.

3. How do your walkers benefit from the walks?
The benefits of connecting to nature is dependant entirely on the individual, through our partnership with the Whitworth Art Gallery on the Natural Cultural Health Service programme. Our wellbeing surveys have highlighted that participants feel a lot better after the events but emotions can vary. Nature for sure has a positive effect on wellbeing, but there is also knowledge exchange, learning, empowering others to do better, sense of belonging and friendship!

4. What do you love about walking?
Walking on your own is positively peaceful, but walking as part of a group is even better. You get to meet new people, listen to the colourful memories and learn new things. Walking in itself especially within local greenspaces is incredibly rewarding, you’re getting exercise, sensory fun, fresh air and a great excuse to nip into a local café for a coffee and some cake?

5. Anything else you want to share about your walks?
Come join us on our walks, we have a brilliant team that are always happy to help or answer any questions regarding any upcoming walks. At City of Trees, we strive to make sure our walkers are happy when they leave and always aim to improve access for participants!

You can find out more information about City of Trees here, or find out more about the walk here.

We recently spoke with Taekwondo Machine, a Manchester Taekwondo Club based at Ten Acres Lane Sports Complex. We asked a range of questions to find out who they are, the work they do in the local area and how others can get involved. Read on to find out more..

Tell us a bit about your club. What do you offer and when?
"Taekwondo Machine offers Taekwondo for the Community. We train every weekday at the National Taekwondo Centre, Ten Acre Leisure Centre in Newtons Heath. The club has been operating for over 10 years, providing lessons to all ages and abilities. We offer members a free trial lesson, it is a great way for the whole family to stay active. Our club includes sessions for children, adults and women only".
How do you work with the local community?
"Taekwondo Machine suffered hugely from the covid 19 pandemic with people unable to come to the centre and train. We reached out the local community through local schools and engaged with children from the local area and we were able to bring our membership numbers near back to pre-pandemic levels. This is a fantastic result as it shows the local people that surround our facility are deeply passionate about their children and involving them in enriching activities. With affordable membership costs, especially during the cost of living situation we find ourselves in, Taekwondo Machine enables these families to give their children the opportunity to learn taekwondo and enjoy the sport as well as making new friends and keeping fit".
How do you value inclusivity and how does that drive what you do?
"Taekwondo Machine proudly boats a diverse membership base and offers classes reaching out to everyone aged 5+. We boast inclusivity in our club be that background, gender, race, sexuality, or age, our membership base includes people of colour. Our members come from all backgrounds including mixed or multiple ethnic groups, black, African, Caribbean or black British, Asian or Asian British and other ethnic groups. We are proud to include members of the LGBTQ+ community and have members with disabilities, visible and non-visible. Our doors are open to everyone as we believe everybody deserves a chance to engage in Taekwondo and we will accommodate where possible".
How does your club operate effectively?
"We have a club committee made up of volunteers, some who actively train with the club and others who are more support based. We regularly hold committee meeting where all members are proudly recognised for the commitment and efforts over the past months. Achievements are announced in our club sessions and committee members are congratulated accordingly. Our committee currently stands at 6 members and we ensure at least one committee member is present at each training session. The input from out committee is paramount to the successful running of our club. The committee members are all DBS checked and are approachable for any member be it child or adult with any question or issue. They are familiar faces within the club and offer help and advice where necessary".
What are your highlights in the next 12 months?
"Taekwondo Machine are fortunate of have some top athletes competing at the National Taekwondo Championships 2021 and more recently 2022 with gold, silver and bronze medals being won:
- Anthony Simpson (Gold) 
- Ali Asef (Gold)
- Courtney Karmoh (Gold) 
- Molly Udal-Willams (Silver)
- Isabella Longden (Bronze) 
- Sienna Longden (Bronze) 
Beginners and advanced athletes have competed in competitor taekwondo club competitions and won numerous medals, including achieving 3rd place at the Ultimate Taekwondo competition in August 2022. Our club has been successful in receiving funding from Sports England and Manchester Active in 2021. The funding has been valuable to our club in helping expand our sessions to include women only classes and enable us to grow our generic classes allowing some beginners to progress to advanced classes".

We’d like to thank Taekwondo Machine for taking the time to speak to us, if you’re interested in taking up taekwondo or would like to find out more about what they do, please find their contact info below:

On 5-6 November, the 2022 WDSF European Breaking Championships take place at Belle Vue Sports Village.  Ahead of the competition, we spoke with Anton Phung. Anton, also known as bboy LB representing SMAC 19 is a national and international champion during his 20-year career as a breaker. He was the first North West Breaking Athlete to represent Manchester at the WDFS South Korea Olympics qualifier last week and will be seen competing at the WDSF European Championships in Manchester, Nov 5-6. Anton leads the breakdancing programme at the Manchester Youth Zone. Anton shared some insights on the new Olympic sport, how he got involved and how new people can get started. Read on to learn more!

What or who inspired you to get into breaking?
"The first time I saw Breaking was on MTV on TV in 1998 when I was still living in London, the track was Run DMC vs Jason Nevins- It's like that. Being a 9 year old kid, I was drawn to it but had no idea what they were doing or what it was. It quickly became my favourite music video and song for a long time. Fast forward 5 years, I now lived in Sheffield. A first generation breaker names MC Nige from Sheffield taught a short course of breaking at an after school club which I randomly attended. This lead to continuing it with Mc Nige outside of school at a youth organisation project at the Leadmill. Mc Nige was my biggest inspiration for a long time!"
Who are your favourite breakers (past or present)?
"Most influential breakers was inspired my journey in the past were; Physicx, Hong 10, Born, Remind, Cloud, Flea Rock, Luigi, Roxrite, Dyzee, Abstrak, Kerim Barouche, Maurizio, Poe One, Ken Swift. They are people who inspired me in the past and present".
What do you love most about breaking?
"The ability to travel doing something unique and connect with people who dont speak the same language but speak the same movement language as you".
Now an official Olympic sport for 2024, how do you account for the increase in recognition of breaking?
"It is a huge opportunity for Breaking to be highlighted on such a prostegious platform and to be recognised to the wider audience. I hope this will inspire the generations to come to be indulge in such an amazing dance/ sport!"
What advice would you give to someone new to the sport, and how’s the best way for them to get involved?
"Actively search for breakers in your local city, reach out to the community of breakers in UK and be ready to learn something special".
For someone new to breaking, describe the local / Manchester breaking community?
"The Manchester breaking community is very welcoming, always willing to help and a real sense of community. There are also classes where you can easily pick up breaking at all levels".
What does the future hold for breaking, where do you see the sport going, especially now it’s a recognised Olympic sport?
"I think Breaking will be the 'new' cool thing to the mainstream audience. Big brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and even Lacoste have already begun sponsoring athletes. It is going to be massive!"

Ahead of the European Championships, Anton and fellow B-Boy Kid Karam performed and taught local young people their skills at Manchester Youth Zone! Check out the highlights here!