I first met Mike Thompson at the first RiteTrax event in 2015, which brought together underground artists from across the city at Yellow Arch Studios. Since then, Mike, along with fellow directors, Joe and Adam, have been unrelentingly busy, managing to acquire a creative space, Plot 22 off Castlegate, whilst organizing the ever-popular community festival at Bole Hills in Crookes.

How did RiteTrax start?

I got arrested during my final exams at university. I still graduated and got my degree. I sought out something to do in prison and there was a lady there that ran literacy classes with the guys that had learning difficulties. She worked with an ex-prisoner who was in prison for selling pills, the same thing as me but on a massive scale. He’d done 18 years but he was in the jail, teaching the lads.  He was one of the first in the country to actually do it, so I sat down with those two and they said, “Do you want to work for us whilst you’re in here and we’ll keep you in this jail?” Within 10 or 12 weeks, I was on an enhanced wing working as a learning coach for prisoners with learning difficulties.

I used to run a thing called Artificial Constructs, a similar sort of thing to RiteTrax. We built up a bit of a following, but then I went to prison and it all fell apart. I was looking back on it and thinking I could definitely be the centre of a network for a lot of people, but get them all to support each other and build a platform for it. The aim was always to get a space and that came a lot earlier than I thought it would.

How did you turn this concept into reality?

When I got moved to an open prison, I ended up doing a business BTEC there, as well as counselling. I did a big mind map of RiteTrax, looking at different organisational structures, such as a community interest company and social enterprise. Then I went to the National Careers Service in the jail and they set me up with the Prince’s Trust Enterprise course.

What makes RiteTrax events different from others?

For me, the main thing was always about making it more than just another club night or club brand. Making it more interactive, so that if you went outside or to another room, there’s always something going on.

Now you’ve Plot 22, what are the future plans for the space?

The space has given us the chance to provide what we are as a platform. Before, our events could have been seen as trying to do too much in one night, but now we’ve got our own space, we’re in control. Going forward, we would love to get a permanent licence.

And it’s in the heart of an area that looks like it’s attracting a lot of investment at the moment.

Castlegate’s getting a lot of money pumped into it. We’re a big part of bringing people into the area and making it look smarter, a bit more cultured. We’re doing a street event on Friday 8 June with the Exchange Street Collective, which is us, Bal Fashion, Delicious Clam, Sadacca and Yorkshire Arts Space. We’re curating and putting on this free festival on the street. There’ll be live music, food stalls. That’s just about getting people into the area again.

ritetrax.co.uk

Wayne Hoyle