Breesha Maddrell


  • Job: Director,
  • Organisation: Culture Vannin, Isle of Man
  • Years in public service: 10

My grandmother/mother was a…

My paternal grandmother was a strong, kind woman with a superb sense of humour and a gift for storytelling. In spite of her love of books and poetry, she left school early to nurse her ailing mother. She worked in a draper’s shop and later put in the long hours as a farmer’s wife, a role she took great pride in. She always supported my education and ambitions, as she knew she had missed so many opportunities herself, particularly for study, through no fault of her own.

My mother worked as a teacher for most of my childhood, and instilled a love of learning in us all. She has a deep sense of fairness and encouraged us to speak up whenever we saw an injustice.

I have no doubt that these strong women in my life might have made different choices had they been born at a different time, just as I sometimes reflect on how different my life would have been if I had been born 100 years earlier. Would I have stood up to fight for the vote, for my right to education, would I have been allowed a career of my own? In so many ways, I’m grateful for the opportunities created all those decades ago – we should be inspired by them to keep striving for fairness.

Me in a nutshell

I am passionate about culture, creativity and community. We have a very special minority culture here in the Isle of Man, and I am lucky enough to be able to speak the Manx language, to sing and play traditional music and songs, and to write contemporary material within the tradition. Sharing music with others – whether as part of a group or performing to an audience – is one of the most important things I do, it’s where I find my voice.

I have written lots of tunes and songs in Manx, have made many recordings, and perform at festivals around the world.

It’s been interesting recently to see the development of the Fair Plé movement in Ireland, which addresses the gender imbalance in all areas of Irish traditional and folk music – recognising inequality and doing something positive about it is vital.

My academic background is both inter- and multi-disciplinary, and reflects my own approach to life – why should we be pigeon-holed when there are so many connections to be made across disciplines!

I have written about two key women in the Isle of Man’s cultural revival who also took that approach and were largely overlooked: Sophia Morrison, an expert on Manx folklore, and Mona Douglas, who took a truly holistic approach to the revival of Manx culture and to teaching it to young people.

My role

I am the director of Culture Vannin, a government charity tasked with supporting and promoting Manx culture. I started work as Manx Music Development Officer, facilitating grassroots projects within the community.

My current position focuses much more on leadership and the development of strategy, on working across government to support the growth of culture, arts, creativity and the creative industries.

I’m lucky to work with an excellent small team and a supportive board – together with our community partners, we have achieved more than we perhaps thought possible.

The phoenix-like story of the Manx language continues to inspire internationalist interest, and I’m delighted that Manx traditional music is now to be found on the very best stages around the world.

If I had a magic wand, what would I do to accelerate gender equality?

If I had a magic wand, I would open people’s minds to new ways of working together. We have to be unafraid of creating new structures if we want gender equality to become embedded in our culture, in our way of thinking – that is the change we need to see.

Anything else you’d like to say

People often forget that some women were given the vote in 1881 in the Isle of Man – for those not familiar with this story, it’s worth checking out:

And it doesn’t stop there. Emmeline Pankhurst’s mother, Sophia Goulden, was born on the Isle of Man, and her story and experiences undoubtedly shaped the suffrage movement in the rest of the British and Irish Isles:

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