Our Wonderful owner Jo was recently interviewed by the MEN. You can read the article below!
"From watching musicals on TV to putting on plays in her front room as a child, Jo Fisher had always dreamed of being on stage.
But having left school at 14 with no qualifications, she knew her chances were slim. It took years of hard work for her to finally achieve her acting aspirations – eventually going on to build her very own theatre.
“You’re never too old to start,” the 53-year-old, who lives in Whitefield, said. “Sometimes you could be watching the TV or reading something and that thing is going to change you forever.
“You can turn your life around if you have the sheer grit, determination and a want and need for it – even if you’re in your 30s or 40s.”
Jo’s love of theatre blossomed while growing up in Openshaw in the 70s. She would regularly perform plays in her living room with her friends and sell tickets to paying family members.
Aside from watching musicals on TV with her mum, she had no ties to the acting world but knew she loved plays and writing stories.
However, despite her passion for English literature, Jo was known as a “lovable rogue” at school and struggled with her studies. She ended up leaving full-time education at 14 with no qualifications.
“I was really bad at school,” she said. “The teachers loved me but they couldn’t engage me at all. I thought, ‘I’m going to leave’.”
Jo left school to work on a market stall before becoming a milkwoman in 1988 – supposedly the first milkwoman in Manchester.
But her entire life changed following a trip to Jamacia when she was 20-years-old. Jo recalls having an epiphany and realised she needed to follow her dream of becoming an actress.
“I went with my boyfriend and we were there for a month,” she added. “It was breaking my heart. I wanted to be an actress. I could have all the money in the world and I still wanted to be an actress.
“I hated myself and I was so unhappy. When I came back from Jamacia – I didn’t know how I was going to do it – but I knew I would be an actress.”
In 1993, Jo enrolled in a course at Manchester College so she could gain some GCSEs. By
chance, she spotted an advert for a BTEC performing arts programme. Despite needing qualifications for the course, she “begged and pleaded” college staff and was allowed to take the class.
Despite developing bell's palsy, a condition which causes sudden weakness in the muscles on one side of the face, Jo went on to go to drama school and graduated aged 30.
In 2005, she decided to open her own stage school – Footlights – going on to open 17 franchises in 20 separate locations and turning over £2m a year.
But over the last five years, Jo has decided to take her dream one step further by building her very own theatre from scratch. ‘The Empty Space’, located in MediaCityUK, was formerly an empty industrial unit.
It’s now a fully kitted out 155-seater theatre – holding its very own performance of Aladdin this month. The cast includes professionals from across the north west, including 22 local children.
“I’m the proud owner of a beautiful theatre,” Jo added. “The reception has been absolutely wonderful. Without Wyllie Longmore, the founder of the Arden School of Theatre believing in me, I wouldn’t have got this far.
“It’s ground-breaking in that it has been written by a woman, directed and produced by a woman and has a diverse cast of children in a local theatre."