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In The Spotlight With Mike McGrother

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Stockton Musician Mike McGrother is well known in the local circle as front man for The Wildcats of Kilkenny, but he is also heavily involved with the North East community as Stockton’s Creative Partner. He tells Tilly Bailey & Irvine his story in the latest edition of In the Spotlight....

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Mike McGrother, aged 49 and proud Stockton resident.

As well as being the front man of The Wildcats of Kilkenny I am heavily involved in community work around the Borough. I am married with two wonderful daughters and live in Grangefield.

Tell us your career journey

I had always planned to become a Catholic Priest from the age of eight until I was 20. When I decided that I no longer wanted to follow that path, and after quite a difficult time in my life, I was persuaded to look at music as an alternative career.

I formed a band that used to play around Stockton High Street a lot – Highly Strung and that evolved into The Wildcats of Kilkenny in 1991. I also undertook a degree in music and used my skills to become musician in residence for Hardwick – creating street bands and carnivals. I worked on SIRF for a number of years and in local colleges and schools. I was responsible for bringing the UK’s first centre of excellence in performing arts to Stockton Riverside College and at the same time was seconded to help to re-open ARC after it had gone bankrupt. I then worked in schools across the North and into Europe developing alternative, creative approaches to education and set up large scale community projects.

This led me to be adopted as the Borough’s Creative Partner – a role which is all about empowering people to get involved in their community with positivity and pride.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career?

My biggest challenge is self-management! I am an adrenaline junkie and can’t - or won’t - say no very often. This can, and has, caused burnouts and episodes of depression which I openly share to try to help other people overcome their struggles.

What are your biggest achievements?

Professionally, I think my ongoing work commemorating the fallen soldiers of World War 1. The 1245 Sunflowers project has not only remembered the community of 100 years ago, but also brought us together and I have developed projects building empathy with those with mental illness and addiction; young people in care, refugees, elderly isolated and people struggling with PTSD. I think that project more than any provides us with a model of how we can learn from the past to inform a better, more inclusive future.

What did you want to be when you were at school?

As mentioned above – a Priest. I won an award for being the best Pray-er in Infant 2 and thought it was a sign!

What was your first job?

A postman. The Bishop wanted me to get some real life experience and so I got a job at Eaglescliffe Post Office. Then I went to work in a children’s care home and it was then that I realised I really wanted to have children of my own – hence making the difficult choice not to follow my vocation.

If you could have an alternative job, what would it be?

I have probably the perfect ‘job’ for me. I get to make people happy and, in my own way, make a difference to the world on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes it is hard making sure I can pay the mortgage and bills, but I feel lucky I have a wonderful life.

What did/do you love most about working in the North East?

It is a place full of ideas and people with a high work ethic, when given the chance. And I love the fact that we are and have always been pioneers across the world.

What did/do you love most about living in the North East?

Home is where the heart is. I just love everything about it!

What do you do in your down time?

I love to cook, drink too much wine and spend time with my family – although not as much as I should. I don’t really see what I do as work a lot of the time so sometimes it is hard to differentiate when I am ‘at work’ and when I am just living as an active member of my community.

What’s your number one piece of advice for anyone in business?

Go with your gut, heart and head and combine what you love with what you are good at. Be in your element!


"I was a man you don’t meet everyday."

Mike is also part of the Stockton Town Community Choir and has raised around £5,000 for the Finlay Cooper Fund by walking from Stockton to Saltburn for a Christmas gig as part of a “500 Smiles” cause. You can follow Mike on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Would you like to take part in our 'In The Spotlight' series? If you think you stand out from the crowd please email us with the following information:

Your full name, the business or charity in which you are involved and why you would like to take part.

If selected we will be in touch to interview.