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Late last year I was asked to help refresh the image bank for Mahdlo Oldham’s state of the art youth zone. Along with the other onside centres (Manchester, London, Chorley, Preston, Warrington, Wirral, Wolverhampton, Blackburn, Carlisle and Wigan), it is a great place to work- the infectious energy of the kids is really refreshing and it’s hard not to get swept up in the positivity of it all. I’ve now visited most of the youth zone sites and all of them have the same vibe: bright, vibrant, noisy, quiet, colourful and genuinely inspiring! My brief for this job was mainly to capture the kids engaged in key activities or with each other, nothing too cheesy or posed which suited me just fine.

The Zones are designed to give young people aged 8–19 years old (25 for those with a disability) ‘somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to'. Thousands have paid their subs going through the doors since it opened in 2012 but Mahdlo is a charity that relies heavily on the generosity of the community to keep the lights on and the equipment maintained.

Mahdlo’s facilities include everything from trampolines and gym to climbing wall and badminton courts all of which present their challenges in terms of photography but with a bit of added light I could freeze some of the movement and capture some of the enjoyment and concentration. Badminton is particularly difficult to photograph in an interesting way but with some perseverance I managed to get a good selection of shots.

...It’s not all about physical activity though, creative capacity is nurtured though art, dance and music classes amongst others. Once absorbed it was easy to get great candid shots as they quickly forgot I was even there.

The youth zones tend to have amazing boxing facilities and classes. When I was there the girls were being put through their paces in a Thai boxing class. Here the unhealthy get fit, bullies learn humility, girls are empowered and the timid find courage. The Banksy-esque Muhhamad Ali keeping an eye on proceedings. For most of these shots I just upped the ISO, happy to take the grain and not interrupt the flow of the class.

It’s probably fair to say that freindships play a big part in the Mahdlo experience. I had limited time so couldn’t capture more genuine candid moments but the kids were so full of fun that it didn’t seem to matter. For a more in-depth look at the inner workings of Mahdlo please visit Greater Manchester's Chamber of Commerce 53 degrees  featuring more of my photographs on pages 14 and 15.