Exploring the Past: Protest

Three teenagers investigate significant examples of protest by ordinary people near where they live that have helped shape the recent history of Britain. Each film pieces together contemporary interviews with archive material from the time to build a picture of why protesters took action and what they achieved.

Mathew from Lancashire looks into the Peterloo Massacre, which took place in Manchester almost 200 years ago. What began as a peaceful demonstration to improve parliamentary representation turned into a bloodbath as scores of men, women and children were killed or fatally injured. Matthew visits the national archives in Kew and discovers that the violence has a sinister explanation.

Sophie is from Jarrow on Tyneside, where in 1936, 207 unemployed men marched almost 300 miles to the Houses of Parliament to protest about poverty and unemployment. The Jarrow March became a key moment in British history, and as Sophie sets off on her own journey to discover its origins, she is shocked by the conditions faced at the time by the people of Jarrow. Despite the men receiving a cool welcome in London, the march paved the way for the introduction of the welfare state in 1945, with a promise never to return to the conditions of the 1930s.

Finally, Claudia from Guildford meets former students who took over the Guildford School of Art in 1968 in what became Britain’s longest ever student sit-in. She discovers how at the time students were at the forefront of major protest movements around the world, campaigning against the Vietnam War, racial discrimination and academic freedoms.

All three youngsters discover that despite the hardship and frustrations of the protesters, their sacrifices were not in vain.

You can watch the clip here.


Maxine Peake and Christopher Eccleston among stars backing Salford’s Working Class Movement Library against Tories

Inside a Victorian red brick library in Salford, Greater Manchester, lies a box of badges bearing slogans such as Fight Poverty Pay and Britain Needs a Payrise.

They sound current but are historic emblems, lying among dozens of other causes won and lost – against the Vietnam war, for CND, a 1993 Mirror ‘splat the VAT on heat’ campaign.

Walk further into the library and hand-stitched banners adorn the walls supporting causes like the East Bradford Socialist Sunday School. Beneath them, a display is dedicated to the mass trespass at Kinder Scout – an epic 1932 protest by ramblers in Derbyshire.

Welcome to the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) – as unique and eccentric a collection of books, art, documents, culture and struggle as you’ll find anywhere in the UK.

This Sunday the library, which holds trade union documents dating back to the 1820s, itself becomes a cause celebre.

After local Tory councillors attacked it in an election leaflet, its celebrity fans are mounting a defence. Actresses Maxine Peake and Sheila Hancock, and the former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce are performing a series of readings from some of the library’s legendary works.

Another supporter, former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, was on the posters but had to pull out through filming commitments. They all hope the Salford Stories and Radical Readings will raise both funds, and the library’s profile.

For Peake – who brought the entire cast of The Village to visit the library – the attack is just another way of undermining working class people.

“For anyone to criticise such an amazing establishment is disgraceful,” says Peake, 40, who lives locally. “It is just another attack on the poorer people in our society by the Government. Maybe there are things the Tories hope we don’t see.”

Originally created by book-loving husband and wife Eddie and Ruth Frow, the library outgrew their semi-detached home in Trafford by the mid-80s. Since 1987, Salford Council has housed it in a former children’s home. A trust has run it since 2007, but the council still provides free rent and a small grant. The rest of the £120,000 running costs comes from donations.

Royston Futter, 68, secretary of the WCML trustees, says: “The library is the only one of its kind in the world entirely dedicated to organisations and individuals whose whole aim in life was to better the lot of ordinary people.”

Eddie and Ruth Frow, an extraordinary pair of human beings, met in 1953 and discovered a shared interest in books and tennis. They weren’t rich, but they had an extraordinary passion for collecting books, filling the gaps in their library by touring the country in a 1937 Morris van with a tent in the back. The tent would be put up in a field near to the last bookshop of the day.

Ruth was a schoolteacher who spent the Second World War in a Fighter Command operations room. She spent the rest of her life fighting for peace. Eddie was a skilled engineer who said he’d lost all but one out of 21 jobs because of his union activities. He was a key figure in the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement.

Born in 1906, Eddie joined 10,000 demonstrators in Salford in 1931 at what became known as the Battle of Bexley Square – a march opposing cuts to unemployment benefit and the hated means test. He was arrested, beaten up by police and thrown into Strangeways for five months. His ordeal became part of Walter Greenwood’s 1933 novel Love On The Dole.

But while the couple fought injustice, the collection kept growing. By the mid-80s, their house was bursting at the seams. It was Futter who came up with the idea for The Working Class Movement Library when he was Head of Arts and Leisure at Salford Council.

The building is fittingly close to the Crescent, the pub where Karl Marx and Friedrich met in the 1940s. And only streets from Bexley Square.

When the library was set up, the Frows moved in too, perhaps because they couldn’t bear to live without their books. Eddie died in 1997, aged 90, and Ruth in 2008 at 85, but their legacy lives on.

For years, the WCML has had streams of visitors coming to consult its Spanish Civil War archive or to look at the protest crockery collection. So this month’s Tory leaflet saying the library had been receiving tens of thousands in public money even though people “cannot walk in and read material” hit a raw nerve.

Peake, who discovered the library when she was at Salford Tech studying performing arts, was livid. “The Library is a vital resource,” she told me this week. “People suffered and died for basic rights in this country – for the vote, for decent pay and living conditions and for unions to protect themselves against unscrupulous capitalist employers and victimisation by the ruling class.

“We can learn so much from history and again in these times where the working class are battling for survival we need to look back to learn, to question, to fight back and say no. For inspiration we need look no further than our own history and no further than the library.”

The Library is open to the public without appointment on Wednesday Thursday and Friday afternoons and the first Saturday of the month ( from January). Other times need to be by appointment.


Pre-Order tickets for Maxine Peake’s Hamlet Cinema Release

From its sell-out run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre comes this unique and critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s tragic Hamlet.

In this stripped-back, fresh and fast-paced version, BAFTA nominee Maxine Peake creates a Hamlet for now, giving a performance hailed as “delicately ferocious” by the Guardian and “a milestone Hamlet” by the Manchester Evening News.

Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most iconic work. The play explodes with big ideas and is the ultimate story of loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness.

Hamlet’s father is dead and Denmark has crowned a new king. Consumed by grief, Hamlet struggles to exact revenge, with devastating consequences.

This groundbreaking stage production, directed by Sarah Frankcom, was the Royal Exchange’s fastest-selling show in a decade. Alongside Maxine Peake as the eponymous prince, a number of other roles, including Polonious and Rosencrantz, are also played by women.

Hamlet is brought to cinemas by director Margaret Williams, whose Written on Skin for the Royal Opera House/BBC won the Gramophone Contemporary Award and the Diapason d’Or, and producers Anne Beresford and Debbie Gray, the team behind the highly successful cinema broadcast of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach.
Full price £20 / Concessions £15 / Members £13

Members’ priority booking now, on general sale from Tuesday 25 November.


Maxine Peake up for BBC Audio Drama Award 2015!

Doctor Who, Andrew Scott and Sir Ian McKellen are among those who’ve made the long-list for the 2015 BBC Audio Drama Awards.

The awards pay tribute to the cultural importance of audio drama with actors, writers, producers, sound designers and more recognised in the nominations.

Among those in the running are Sherlock star Andrew Scott and Edge of Tomorrow actress Charlotte Riley for their portrayal of two expert liars who meet in an ocular prosthetics clinic in Slipping. The drama itself is also up for Best Original Single Drama.

Silk star Maxine Peake has earned a nomination for her part in Pact, with Game of Thrones actress Ellie Kendrick giving her a run for her money in the Best Actress Award for How to Say Goodbye Properly.

Rob Brydon (Gavin & Stacey), Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing) and Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings/ X-Men) go head to head for Best Actor, while Toby Jones’s role as Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice sees him vying for Best Supporting Actor.

Doctor Who 50th anniversary adventure The Light at the End – which featured all the surviving actors to play the Time Lord, up to and including eighth Doctor Paul McGann – is among the nominees for Best Online/Non-Broadcast Audio drama.

There’s stiff competition in the comedy award genre with Marcus Brigstocke up against Milton Jones and John Finnemore for Best Live Comedy.

Radio 4’s First World War drama series Home Front has been nominated twice, as has The Divine Comedy starring John Hurt.

Alison Hindell, Head of Audio Drama says, “’I’m thrilled to see the range and breadth of audio drama productions available in the UK reflected in the long list and to see the contribution of so many hugely talented writers, actors and producers acknowledged in this way. Good luck to everyone as the judges make their decisions.”

Finalists will be announced on Tuesday 6th January 2015, with the winners revealed at a ceremony to be held on Sunday 1st February.

The BBC Audio Drama Awards long-list for each category is:

Best Actress in an Audio Drama

Maxine Peake in Pact
Anastasia Hille in Secrets of the Small Hours 
Francesca Annis in Golden Years: Friedrichstrasse 
Ellie Kendrick in How to Say Goodbye Properly 
Aisling Loftus in Educator 
Charlotte Riley in Slipping 
Heather Craney in Ambiguous Loss 

More here.

Pre-Order ‘The Village’ series 2 – to be released on 9 March 2015

You can pre-order the second series of ‘The Village’ by following this link.

Unfortunately there’s no DVD cover for it available yet. I’ll keep you updated once we know more.

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Thanks very much Alberta for emailing me! :)

Maxine Peake’s radio drama ‘My Dad Keith’ on BBC Radio 4

The BBC site for Maxine’s latest radio drama ‘My Dad Keith‘ is online now. Here’s a bit more informtion on the play:

My Dad Keith Written by Maxine Peake

Maxine Peake writes and stars in this tale of teenage angst, mid-life crisis and drumming.

The play debuts Mike Joyce the drummer from The Smiths in his first acting role.

Reaching her 40th birthday and with her grandad in hospital, Steph begins to reflect on her life, loves and the quest to find out who her dad was. As a teenager a fractious relationship with her mother pushes Steph towards her grandad and together they set out to piece together the clues to the identity of her dad. They come to a startling conclusion about him.

Steph loves drumming – on anything. She’s not got a drum kit but taps out her life using kitchen utensils and releases her tensions and worries on any surface available.

Directed By Michelle Choudhry.


The play airs on 28 November, BBC Radio 4 at 14:15.

BBC Radio 3 In Tune: Maxine Peake

EDIT: You can now listen to the podcast down below as well, hope you enjoy:

Suzy Klein is live from Manchester’s spectacular Central Library, with guests Sir Mark Elder who conducts Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony with the Halle Orchestra this week, and broadcaster Stuart Maconie who’s part of the 6Music Celebrates Libraries season which starts today. Salford based actress Maxine Peake also joins us fresh from her recent run as Hamlet, and reads a selection from the library’s Elizabeth Gaskell collection.

Plus live music from violinist Lucy Russell with Peter Seymour (harpsichord), and jazz singer Alexander Stewart accompanied by harpist Alexander Thomas.

Manchester Central Library is celebrating its recent re-opening: the historic building has been restored, refurbished and extended.


This post will be updated with a link to listen to the program on our site soon.

Maxine Peake & Mike Joyce: “It’s quite funny when one of your rock’n’roll heroes comes to your house with a box of his veg”

EDIT: Added another photo of Maxine and Mike :)

Maxine Peake, 40

After studying performing arts at Salford Tech, Peake was awarded a scholarship to Rada. In 1998, she got her break in Victoria Wood’s ‘Dinnerladies’ and has gone on to appear in TV series including ‘Shameless’, ‘Silk’ and ‘The Village’, while on stage she has won plaudits for her title roles in ‘Miss Julie’ and, last month, ‘Hamlet’. She lives in Salford with her partner

Just over two years ago I was looking to learn the drums for an audition. A friend had given me a script for a film slightly based on Frank Sidebottom and said that I should read it because it was all the music that I was into. I loved it and chased my agent about it, and was told there was only really one tiny part I could play, as Maggie Gyllenhaal was lined up to play the lead and that was a female drummer. I then got slightly obsessed with this tiny part. They said they wanted a real drummer so I thought, “Fine, I’ll learn to play the drums.”

I asked my friend, the DJ Marc Riley, if he knew anyone who could teach me and he said, “Oh, I’ll get someone to give you a ring.” I was walking in Salford’s Media City and my phone rang and the voice said, “Hiya, it’s Mike Joyce; I believe you want to learn to play the drums.” I nearly fell over the curb. I was such a huge fan of The Smiths, so it was probably one of the most surreal conversations I’d ever had.

I went over to Mike’s house as he has a studio downstairs with a couple of drum kits. He was brilliant; so passionate and such a wonderful teacher. He really made me wake up to the sense that it wasn’t about being a brilliant drummer, it was about selling it and performing. In the end, the job didn’t go my way but we really got on, so we stayed in touch and we’d go to gigs together.

Sometime later the [BBC 6 Music] radio producer Michelle Choudhry got in touch to ask me if I wanted to write a radio play about a woman who is into drumming. I’d seen Mike acting as himself in a little video, so one of my first thoughts was to get him in the play, which is called My Dad Keith. He acts and drums in it and he’s just brilliant. I certainly didn’t have to help him with the acting, anyway. I’ve seen proper actors more daunted than Mike was.

I ended up buying an electric drum kit so that I can practise on my own. I’ve tried to keep at it, although I haven’t played for a couple of months now. I heard that Mike’s been teaching some others to drum, too; he’s become the go-to drumming teacher. I think he had sort of put it to one side a bit so it’s great that he’s gotten back into it.

Mike and his lovely wife came to my 40th birthday in July. Mike has an allotment and he brought a big crate full of his veg as my present. That’s quite funny, isn’t it, one of your rock’n’roll heroes coming to your house with a box of his veg?

Mike Joyce, 51

In 1982, Joyce formed The Smiths with friends Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke. After the band broke up five years later, Joyce became a session musician for artists including Sinead O’Connor and Suede. He currently works as a DJ and broadcaster. He lives in Manchester with his wife

I’ve taught drums in the past but because it has to be quite intensive, I felt like I couldn’t take time off, so I didn’t really keep up with it.

But Marc asked me if I might teach a friend of his. I knew of Maxine and I thought it would be interesting to see why she wanted to play. She told me about the audition and I told her that obviously I couldn’t teach her to play drums in six weeks, but she seemed like she had a genuine interest in playing anyway, which helped. I thought, let’s just go for it.

It was great for me in terms of playing, because I was in semi-retirement and I just wasn’t feeling inspired. It was a nice catalyst for me to get playing again.

She came over and it was brilliant. I explained to her that it would be hard to learn in such a short period and it would have to be about 95 per cent acting, which Maxine is obviously pretty fantastic at.

I was trying to convey the idea that if someone doesn’t really have the technical wizardry and ability, they can make up for it in attitude. When I watch drummers, I always want to see energy. It’s not about the proficiency of the musicianship, I’m just into the vibe and excitement of it. With drums, it’s such a primeval thing.

I actually had a couple of lessons myself. It was while I was with The Smiths. Johnny and Andy were such fantastic musicians that I felt a little bit behind in terms of my capabilities, so I went to have a lesson with a guy in Stretford. I sat down and he said, “Your feet are wrong, you’re sitting wrong, your hands and wrists are wrong, and your arms are wrong.” I just felt like an idiot. It put an awful dent in my confidence. I had a natural way of playing, and that really affected it, so I tried to bring that into my teaching with Maxine; not to mess with her natural style too much.

I’ve seen lots of her television work and my wife bought us tickets for Hamlet [at the Royal Exchange in Manchester]. I’d never been to see Shakespeare performed in the theatre before. I had no idea what to expect but she was fantastic. I was in awe watching her.

When we were going in, I heard the bell to signal the start of the performance and my stomach started to go for her. It was like when you go on for a gig. I remember playing the Royal Albert Hall and a guy would say, “Ten minutes to stage time,” and I’d get so nervous. And so at Hamlet, I thought, “Will she hear that bell? Of course she will.” And I wondered whether she felt the same.

‘My Dad Keith’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 28 November at 2.15pm


HAMLET hits the big screen

Shooting has just completed on a film version of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s HAMLET, with acclaimed theatre and television actress Maxine Peake in the title role.

HAMLET will be distributed in the UK by Picturehouse Entertainment, one of the leading names in Alternative Content. It is envisaged that HAMLET will open in approximately 200 cinemas in the UK in March 2015.

In 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the British Council will lead an international celebration of the UK’s most well-known cultural figure. The British Council will engage audiences and learners internationally through modern and imaginative interpretations of Shakespeare’s work.

The unique and groundbreaking stage production – directed by Sarah Frankcom, Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre – played to sell-out houses throughout its run which ended Saturday 25 October.

Sarah and Maxine have a long and productive collaborative relationship, including their hugely successful MASQUE OF ANARCHY at Manchester International Festival. Maxine Peake was BAFTA-nominated for her performances in THE VILLAGE and HANCOCK AND JOAN and is also hugely respected for her performances in SIK, RED RIDING and as Myra Hindley in SEE NO EVIL.

The film version of HAMLET is directed by Margaret Williams and produced by Anne Beresford of MJW PRODUCTIONS LTD and Debbie Gray of Genesius Pictures. This is the team behind a number of projects including the much-praised film version of Britten’s opera PETER GRIMES ON ALDEBURGH BEACH. Margaret Williams is one of the leading directors in the field of stage-to screen; her film version of WRITTEN ON SKIN (Royal Opera House/BBC) recently won the Gramophone Contemporary Award and the Diapason d’or.

Producer Debbie Gray has had a major success in 2014 with the feature film NORTHERN SOUL which reached no 10 in the UK box office chart and no 1 in the DVD chart. Anne Beresford is known for her work combining music, dance and film for feature film and television as well as feature films such as MOUTH TO MOUTH starring Ellen Page.

The film version of HAMLET is supported by The Royal Exchange Theatre, Genesius Pictures, Quidem and the British Council. The Royal Exchange Theatre gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the following in the making of the film: Oglesby Charitable Trust, Old Trafford Consulting Limited, Martyn & Valerie Torevell and all those who supported the theatre’s recent Catalyst project, including public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


Maxine Peake heading for movies in big-screen version of Royal Exchange Theatre’s Hamlet

Shooting has now completed on a film version of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare’s 400 year old play

Maxine Peake’s controversial but critically acclaimed starring role in Hamlet at The Royal Exchange Theatre is to be released for the big screen.

A movie version of the Royal Exchange’s hit production has finished filming and is expected to be in cinemas by March 2015, shown in around 200 national locations.

The production enjoyed a record breaking run at the theatre after opening last September, and was forced to extend its original run by several weeks after tickets sold out for every performance faster than any show in the Royal Exchange’s history.

It hit the headlines after artistic director Sarah Frankcom announced Peake would take on the traditionally male lead role.

But the production also cast Rosencrantz, Marcellus and Polonius as women, with Gillian Bevan playing a thrilling and humorous Polonia.

Maxine Peake stars as Hamlet at The Royal Exchange

Hamlet finally closed on October 25 having received dozens of glowing reviews from local and national media.

The film version of Hamlet has been made possible due to the support of Genesius Pictures, Quidem and the British Council, as well as a number of private generous donations to the project. It will be distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment.

The movie will further extend the theatre’s strong bond with the Silk and Shameless actress, who is currently an associate artist at the Royal Exchange.

On her ongoing work with the Exchange, a spokesperson said: “Her role draws on her considerable talents as one of the nation’s best-loved actors and also as a writer.

“Over the next year it will include opportunities for her to get involved in the theatre’s pioneering work with community groups and young people – and work with young actors from across the city.”

Maxine Peake stars as Hamlet at The Royal Exchange


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