Q&A with FM Women Speaker AJ Read
Wednesday 20th April will see the return of one of our most popular events; Forever Manchester Women.
So far the Forever Manchester Women events have raised over £6,500 to support female-led community activity across Greater Manchester.
2016’s instalments of the event will be kindly sponsored by local law firm, Slater and Gordon and the event on 20th April will be hosted at their offices on Mosley Street in Manchester City Centre.
AJ Read is Publicity and Engagement Manager for ITV in the North and attendees will be treated to her inspirational story which has taken her from children’s PR to one of the biggest moves in television when Coronation Street moved to Salford’s Media City UK.
We sat with AJ and asked her a few questions about Manchester, FM Women and her role at ITV…
What attracted you to Forever Manchester and FM Women?
I’m proud of this city and to be honest I like the fact that FM don’t preach at people they help – the approach of asking them what they need, offering advice and getting the project going is the right one. It’s the lack of ‘do it our way if you want this cash’ – and more the ‘how do you think you can help yourselves/how can we assist you’ that works for me. People don’t need to be made to feel humble or nervous because they want to ask for money to help a community project – they need to feel empowered to change their lives and their community, I believe FM does that brilliantly.
FM Women is a great idea to bring like minded people together to learn from each other’s experiences be it business or personal. If I’m honest it can sometimes feels like there’s a hidden agenda when ‘women’ is used in an event title etc – but FM women doesn’t feel like that, I doubt any of us join in the events for any ‘right on’ empowerment reasons – we’re there just to meet and help each other whilst helping FM. I see us as business people – who just happen to be female and given a forum to mix, grown and learn.
What do you love about Manchester?
I may be more Lanc than Manc but Manchester is my home city and I love it!
It’s small enough to be friendly yet big enough to be cosmopolitan (and still have real ale, black pudding and chips available!). Its northern grit never fails to make me smile – I love the attitude that we just get back up and keep going whatever gets chucked at us. The music, the history, the pride everybody has in the very bones of the place shines out, it’s not a cliché when Tony Wilson said we do things differently around here. Wherever I’ve lived in the world, when I’ve met a fellow Manc there’s an instant connection and joy about where we’re from and then you go straight in to tales of who you know, where you lived, what you did!
What’s one thing you’ve struggled with/has surprised you/you’ve enjoyed the most along your journey with ITV?
It’s 30 years ago this summer since I first worked for Granada whilst I was at college in Bury – looking back I’ve seen such monumental changes in the industry, experienced history being made and have got to work with some incredible, indeed legendary, people across radio and television. The last six years with ITV has been amazing, it’s given me the chance to work on some of the biggest milestones in British television from Corrie’s mighty 50th Anniversary to the move of ITV to MediaCityUK and the build of the new Coronation Street, projects I can never forget.
If I’m honest I suppose I probably struggled most with juggling the monumentally huge undertaking of our move project (over 5000 people touched it but the main ITV project team was half a dozen of us) alongside having a ‘real life’. It’s easy when there’s just you and the dog to forget about living and just work through, do everything, exhaust yourself and forget to take time out for family/personal life/health and get a grip on your inner ‘control freak’. At one point even the dog had to move in to my Mums just so we could keep going to make it all happen! That said – it was the most incredible project I’ve ever done and the end result, the day we revealed it all, is something that will stay with me a lifetime.
The thing I’ve most enjoyed is getting to spend time with some of the people I’ve met a long the way – truly great people who have made me question myself, learn a lot, hopefully become better at my job and given me confidence to believe in myself – I may be in my forties but I truly believe it’s the last six years that have shaped who I really am. That’s what comes of working on two of the biggest projects in the industry with the people that were by my side. There are two in particular who I will be eternally thankful for their guidance and support and their lessons and words will stay with me for always.
What’s strong and good in your community at the moment?
I’ve just moved back up to ‘Rammy’ [Ramsbottom] – as I was making the move the town suffered the worst floods for decades with homes ruined and people left in awful situations without insurance payouts etc. I was in awe of how everybody just got together, got on and sorted things – they used social media and online forums to ignore the television news drama and just steadfastly helped each other. So many people got involved, real northern terrier grit just getting on with looking after each other. One of the reasons I chose to go back and live there was because I wanted a sense of community and it felt like the place was underlining all my reasons for coming ‘home’ – I’ve never been so proud of where I live.
If you’d like to hear AJ’s full story, head to Forever Manchester Women on Wednesday 20th April 5-7pm.
Tickets cost £20, which includes a welcome drink and canapes and can be purchased using the ticketing form below or alternatively, you can be invoiced for your tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org