I am very sorry to tell readers of this blog of the death of my friend and former colleague Mic Smith, on 6th January 2018. Mic was a founder member of Community Arts Workshop (now CAN, Community Arts North West) and helped to set up Cartwheel Community Arts (now Cartwheel Arts) in Rochdale and PRESCAP in Preston. Mic was an acclaimed visual artist, specialising in murals, but was also well known for designing excellent fire-shows and fire-work displays in community contexts. He then worked for many years for Bolton Council as an Arts Development Officer. He was very much appreciated by all of us who knew that Mic had years of practical experience of working in communities as well as an understanding of what local authorities and other funders could offer cultural and community activists.
Mic had been ill for a long time, following an operation and lived in residential accommodation in Rochdale. He kept his dry sense of humour and enjoyed an occasional beer with friends and his brother Adrian, who sadly also died a few years ago. Those of us who kept in touch with Mic will miss him very much.
We are aware that many people who worked with Mic may have lost touch over the years and would be grateful if you could pass this news on to anyone who knew him. We are asking anyone who did work with Mic whether they might have photographs of him or of his work, or memories of him, which they would like to share with his family and friends. Please get in touch with me through this blog if you do.
Its lovely to see this photo of Mic especially since I have none of my own, and very sad to know he has now left us for good. I had lost touch with him over the years, but we worked together at Community Arts Workshop in the late 80’s and he was one of my very valued mentors along my own journey. Yes, he had a lovely dry sense of humour and he had an incredible passion for the work we were doing along with a healthy cynicism for the dominant powers both within the arts and beyond. He was an enormously committed arts worker who had an incredible humanity for those around him and for the issues that ordinary people face in the UK and across the world, and would support community-based political and campaigning organisations wherever he could. He helped me set up the Tameside Asian Music and Poetry project which later led on to me becoming the manager for BICA (Black Issues in Community Arts) at Tameside Council for ten years. That project and the direction I have taken ever since is in part due to Mic, he will always be remembered and his legacy will continue to be felt. May he have love, warmth, happiness and community wherever he may now be, many cheers to Mic!
Mic’s funeral will be held at 2.50pm on Wednesday 7th February at Rochdale Crematorium (details tbc) and afterwards at the Flying Horse in Rochdale Town Hall Square. Please do pass this on to friends and colleagues of Mic through your networks.
It was astonishing to see his face after so many years and to read such sad news. I recall him vividly from CAW’s early days and how he was so lovely, warm and talented. I can hear his distinctive voice now as I’m writing this.
I was lucky enough to work with Mic at Community Arts Workshop for much of the 1980s. I learnt so much from him about the visual arts and making things and the creative possibilities of integrating one artform with another. I can picture him now with a power tool or a can of paint in one hand, a toolbox in the other, file tucked under his arm and invariably a cig in his mouth. Among the many projects we did together was the setting up of PRESCAP in Preston, I found the travelling a real strain but sharing that with Mic made it bearable. Other memorable projects that Mic brought his talents to were the environmental project at Hattersley and the work to transform the interior of the Water Adventure Centre. Mic rescued me on many occasions during play schemes and youth projects where my cack-handed constructions threatened to collapse. From him I developed a lifelong appreciation for the wonders of the staple gun and gaffer tape. Mic was always keen to try new things and learn new skills whether that was how best to set things on fire and blow them up (with great glee) for Fireshows or how to play the stage villain in one of our touring shows. As other friends and colleagues have said, Mic was an enthusiastic, committed and hard-working advocate of community arts and cultural democracy. When he was in the full flow of a passionate argument Mic’s repeated use of colourful language to underscore his point was unparalleled. He was unfailingly kind and supportive and it was a privilege to have known him. Cheers Mic.
Thanks so much to those who have posted their brilliant memories of Mic, either here or on Community Arts North West’s website http://can.uk.com/. Mic’s funeral is on Wednesday 7th February at 14.50 at the Cemetery Chapel at Rochdale Cemetery, Bury Rd, Rochdale OL11 4DG, and afterwards at the Flying Horse in Rochdale Town Square. It was indeed a privilege to have known and worked alongside him.
Hi – my name is Mick Drake – I was at Sunderland art college with Mic and shared a room with him in our final year – we also shared many beers and games of darts! I visited him at the Leonard Cheshire Home but lost touch with him when the home closed down. Tried to get in touch with Adrian but didn`t know he had died. Shortly after we left college we had a joint show with Ken Payne in Newcastle called Art-a -fakts featuring Mics “road signs” including “Men kept from work”- this was before he went into community arts. I have many happy memories of Mic and am sorry I missed his funeral – he touched many people in his life and work and will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
One of the most amazing lovable humane people I ever met. I was SO lucky to work with him when he helped to set up PRESCAP with Cath Staincliff and Gerri Moriarty. A brilliant artist and designer. Kind, intelligent and unbelievably patient (with me especially) he was elastic enough to humour my batty ideas and help me put them into action, and talk about the results when they went wrong without ever patronising me. Or any one else. As mentioned above, His passion and commitment to the people we worked with – the downtrodden of this world – was unceasing. His dry humour and four letter words were characteristically wonderful. What a man. A great man. I’m very sad to hear of his passing.
Thanks for this,Ian. Mic is much missed.