Actor Peake wants more direct action to stop the Tories

ACTOR Maxine Peake called for direct action against the government yesterday, as thousands plan to march on the Tory conference in a month’s time.

Her comments came ahead of a public rally in central Manchester, where Ms Peake will lead a string of celebrity campaigners including Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondalgh and presenter Terry Christian.

“Direct action is the only way to stem the constant ruthless attacks on our society by this arrogant and vicious system,” said Ms Peake.

“If we don’t stand up we will lose our most precious assets — assets that have been fought so long and hard for.

“The NHS, our public services, Legal Aid, the list goes on.

“We don’t have to take it, so we do have to stand up,” she added.

The meeting hosted by the People’s Assembly is expected to fill Manchester’s Central Hall, as hundreds signed up to attend.

The actresses and their fellow speakers will then help organise the Take Back Manchester protests planned for when the Tories come to town in early October.

Ms Hesmondalgh, who played TV’s most famous transgender character Hayley Cropper, said: “I want to be part of a creative movement, full of imagination, righteous anger and humour, that tackles austerity head on.

“I’m full of hope that there is a groundswell in our country that want a better, fairer society.

“Despondency is the best friend of apathy and the enemy of hope.”

The last People’s Assembly demonstration in June saw 250,000 people take to the streets of London.

A further meeting in London on September 14 will bring the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn together to speak on alternatives to austerity.


Manchester People’s Assembly welcomes Maxine Peake on Tuesday for anti action austerity week

This month’s meeting of the Manchester People’s Assembly is set to feature two very special guests: Julie Hesmondhalgh and Maxine Peake (pictured).

The renowned local actors/activists will be speaking and performing next Tuesday at the Central Methodist Hall on Oldham Street. A fiercely political event, its aim is to raise money for an ‘anti-austerity action week’, in protest of the cuts.
Speaking on a discussion panel will be Anthony O’Connor, head of fundraising for Manchester Cathedral, and Lynn Collins from TUC North West.

Booking is required, and while free tickets are available, the organisers request that those who can afford it plump for a paid ticket. A large percentage of the tickets have already gone, so it’s worth booking early. There will also be a collection of money and goods for the refugees in Calais. A full list of accepted items can be found on the Facebook page, below.

Tue 8 Sep, Central Methodist Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester, M1 1JQ, 7pm – 9pm, Free/£2.50/£5 tickets available,

Words: A. James Simpkin


Jeremy Corbyn: ‘Welcome to the mass movement of giving a toss about stuff’

Corbyn’s rally in Manchester on Saturday was attended by 1,800 people, including actors Maxine Peake and Julie Hesmondhalgh, as the leadership favourite revealed 13,000 people have signed up to volunteer on his campaign. But does he want to be prime minister?

On Saturday night Reid, along with actors Maxine Peake and Julie Hesmondhalgh, were among around 1,800 people to attend a Corbyn rally in the Sheridan Suite in the deprived Miles Platting area of the city. Earlier in the day the unassuming MP for Islington North had addressed a thousand-strong crowd in Derby and 1,700 in Sheffield. Eight-hundred of those couldn’t fit inside the Crucible theatre, causing Corbyn to perform twice, inside and out, before legging it to the station for his next engagement.

Actor Maxine Peake (Shameless, Silk, The Village) was among 1,800 attending a Jeremy Corbyn rally in Manchester on Saturday
Photograph: Barbara Cook/Barbara Cook/Demotix/Corbis


Maxine Peake supports the Women in Comedy UK Festival 2015

Actor Maxine Peake has joined our team of festival patrons. “I’m proud to be supporting the UK Women in Comedy Festival as a patron. A festival filled with laughter combined with feminist principles taking place in the North … what’s not to support!”


Trades Club: Maxine Peake raises £1,200 for Morning Star

Thanks to Peter Lazenby for this report and to Bev Manders for the photos

A packed benefit concert starring actor Maxine Peake, pictured right standing outside the Trades Club, raised £1,200 for the daily socialist newspaper the Morning Star on Saturday night at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.

The concert, which sold out within days of its announcement, was staged by the Calder Valley Morning Star Readers’ and Supporters’ Group.

Maxine Peake – well-known for her appearances in TV classics such as Dinnerladies, The Village, and Silk, and numerous film and theatre roles – is a Morning Star supporter from across the Pennines in Salford in Greater Manchester.

She read verses from Shelley’s epic poem Masque of Anarchy, which Shelley was inspired to write by the Peterloo Massacre, the attack by cavalry on August 16, 1819, on a crowd of 60,000 workers and families gathered for a picnic and meeting to hear speeches calling for electoral democracy.

Maxine Peake outside the Trades Club: photo – Bev Manders

Fifteen people were killed, and between 400 and 700 injured. An annual commemoration of the event has been taking place since 2007, attracting more numbers every year. The next commemoration is on Sunday, August 16, from 1pm to 3pm, at the site of the massacre in Manchester.

Saturday night’s concert at the Trades included contributions from local performers George Paterson, Karl Theobold and Jo, and Gareth Scott with Roger Burnett.

Speakers were Hebden Bridge resident Ron Taylor, who spends much time in Palestine supporting the Palestinian people, and Bob Oram, chairman of the management committee of the Peoples Press Printing Society, the readers’ co-operative which runs the Morning Star.

The Trades Club hosts events in support of the Morning Star regularly. The next is planned for November.


Peake wows Star benefit with Peterloo reading

A PACKED benefit concert at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire raised £1,200 for the Morning Star Fighting Fund on Saturday night.

Actor Maxine Peake headed a list of volunteer performers.

Ms Peake read verses from Shelley’s epic poem Masque of Anarchy, written in response to the Peterloo Massacre of August 16 1819, when sword-wielding cavalry charged a crowd of 60,000 men, women and children who gathered for a public meeting in Manchester to call for electoral democracy.

Fifteen people were killed and more than 400 injured. The dead and injured suffered sabre wounds, bayonet stabs and musket fire. The outrage sparked protests across Britain.

In 2007 a commemoration was held at the site of the massacre, and an annual memorial event has been held every year since 2007, growing in numbers each year. This year’s event is next Sunday August 16, from 1-3pm.The 1819 gathering involved workers and families walking to Manchester from more than 20 textile towns surrounding the city, for a meeting and picnic.

The annual memorial attempts to replicate the gathering, with feeder marches from the towns surrounding Manchester. This year participants are being invited to bring picnic food.

Saturday night’s concert at Hebden Bridge Trades Club included an address by Bob Oram, chair of the management committee of the People’s Press Printing Society, the readers’ co-operative which owns the Morning Star.

It was organised by Calder Valley Readers and Supporters group, with support from Bradford and District supporters group.


Actress Maxine Peake joins nuclear campaigners to mark the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks

The star of stage and screen joined supporters of nuclear disarmament in calling for an end to the Trident nuclear submarine programme at a gathering in Heaton Park

Peace campaigners gather in Heaton Park to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were joined by actress Maxine Peake.

Actress Maxine Peake joined peace campaigners in marking the 70th anniversary of the atom bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The star of stage and screen joined supporters of nuclear disarmament in calling for an end to the Trident nuclear submarine programme at a gathering in Heaton Park.

The event on Sunday – the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki – was organised by Prestwich and Whitefield CND.

Those who gathered observed a minute’s silence to remember those who died and renewed their commitment to campaigning for peace and disarmament.

Peace campaigners gather in Heaton Park to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They were joined by Chris Bainbridge, the ‘bard of Bury’, who read poems about cuts to public services, and by the Bolton Clarion Choir, who sang about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Rae Street, the vice-chair of Greater Manchester and District CND, said: “On this 70th anniversary, when Japanese survivors are still suffering, it is incumbent on us all to speak out again and again to call for the scrapping of the Trident system and an end to plans to replace it with even more costly and dangerous nuclear weapons.”


The Skriker: global warming, eco-fairytales, and science on the stage

Sarah Frankcom and Maxine Peake’s interpretation of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker retains its environmental relevance, but can it inspire audiences into political action?

Caryl Churchill’s postmodern play The Skriker is just about to begin its final week of a sold-out run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and its environmentalist message is as worryingly relevant today as when it premièred at the National Theatre twenty-one years ago. This has been a summer of headlines about record-breaking temperatures; according to scientists the Earth as a whole has experienced its hottest June and the hottest first half of the year since records began. The current climate crisis is entwined with a lengthy history of industrialisation, reckless ecological practices, and the environmental movement has been blighted by financial crisis, austerity, and a political and corporate denial of this global catastrophe. Global warming and climate change are unavoidable issues that permeate news media and increasingly fictional media.

‘It’s a clarion call …Maybe it will make people look at what we’re doing on a global scale and how wrong it is.’ – Maxine Peake

Bringing Science to the Stage

The revival of Caryl Churchill’s apocalyptic 1994 play The Skriker is being led by director Sarah Frankcom and actor Maxine Peake, who plays the shape-shifting titular character. The play anthropomorphises a damaged natural world in the form of an ancient folklore faerie – the Skriker – who reels off playful and often perturbing word association monologues reminiscent of the Northern political punk poetry of John Cooper Clark. It is a theatrical experience, an artwork, and a protest piece that is intended as a provocation rather than linear narrative work. Through movement, music, and a dense dialogue the play connects environmental and mental health issues, and compares a fractured world with individual and societal instability.

Earlier this year I auditioned to be a part of a community choir for The Skriker; an amazing opportunity to be involved in with a professional play at a prestigious Northern arts festival, and, I’ll be honest, the chance to be in close proximity to Maxine Peake who I have adored since she played Twinkle in dinnerladies. I planned to spend my summer as a science communication scholar by day researching the intersection of science and entertainment media
, and transforming into a singing underworld spirit by night. But in our first rehearsal director Sarah Frankcom explained that she and collaborator Maxine Peake would be reading the play as an environmentalist call to action, and responding to conversations in the media concerning capitalism and its impact on the natural world. The Skriker would be at the intersection: bringing science issues to the stage.

The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, in Arizona. Photograph: Alamy

As Peake explains:

with our world in constant environmental crisis and our survival options becoming increasingly narrow, Caryl’s play to me seems like the Earth’s last cry for help. It’s a fairytale turned nightmare, a warning and a premonition to our future survival on a planet that we have mercilessly exploited and abused.

The director, Sarah Frankcom adds that ‘one of the major drivers for looking at [The Skriker] again is the world it is set in, being a bit of a premonition about a world in environmental crisis, is the world we live in now.’

In preparation for the play the creative team and ensemble cast read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate
; the tension between wealth, health, and nature that underpins the book also clearly influenced this adaptation. Klein’s book was used as what Peake refers to as ‘a bible piece’ that influenced the play’s creative development but also its reception, with a excerpt appearing in the production’s programme alongside bio-art stills taken from the The Skriker trailer produced by Alice Dunseath. Klein’s climate change argument is historical, and she argues that if it had been addressed in the sixties when scientists first began to urgently raise the issue, or even in the 1980s and 1990s in the era when James E. Hansen gave his seminal Congress testimony on the crisis of global warming and the Kyoto Protocol was introduced, then perhaps climate change and global warming could have responded to without a need for economic revolution. Klein claims

We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets

As a physical embodiment of nature, Peake’s Skriker celebrates the inevitable end of humanity and its seemingly magical and misunderstood science and technologies. Frankcom’s interpretation of The Skriker is staged in a harsh industrial world with hazy city smog far from the ancient natural world recalled by the Skriker, where humans revered rather than poisoned the land. A cold metal and concrete set is utilised as a mental hospital, a housing estate, and a hellish underworld. Audience members sat on the stage level are part of the play forced to engage with this damaged force of nature and her menacing ensemble. The overwhelming banquet scene that takes place in the Skriker’s underworld kingdom revels in a loss of control and bodily pleasures that results in visceral self-destruction: a cannibal feast of human flesh.

This is not a natural faerie woodland fantasy but an apocalyptic reality where nature has become an actively vengeful force, an unseen menace. The play opens with a monologue where the Skriker rallies against the modern world and its destructive tendencies, and as the she cautions in a later scene, nature is fighting back:

Have you noticed the large number of meteorological phenomena lately? Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Drought. Apocalyptic meteorological phenomena. The increase of sickness. It was always possible to think, whatever your personal problem, there’s always nature. Spring will return even if it’s without me. Nobody loves me but at least it’s a sunny day. This has been a comfort to people as long as they’ve existed. But it’s not available anymore. Sorry. Nobody loves me and the sun’s going to kill me. Spring will return and nothing will grow. Some people might feel concerned about that. But it makes me feel important. I’m going to be around when the world as we know it ends. I’m going to witness unprecedented catastrophe.

…or should the audience bring the science?

Global catastrophe is a direct consequence of humanity’s disregard for the natural world. The Skriker, like Churchill’s 2002 play A Number that used cloning as a means to engage with the nature/nurture debate, does not directly comment on the science of global warming. Unlike other recently staged and revived science-based plays like Constellations, Copenhagen, and The Effect that are structured around scientific principles and medical dilemmas, The Skriker requires the audience to ‘bring the science’. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr’s book Science on Stage: From Doctor Faustus to Copenhagen
notes that audience members can fill in the scientific gaps, which allows for a focus on ethical dilemmas and catastrophic consequences. The Skriker integrates key ideas concerning environmentalism and dramatises the implications and issues for an audience who are regularly confronted by scientific stories about global warming in the media.

The Skriker is a form of science education; a starting point for discussions of the nature of global destruction. Audiences emerge from the immersive theatre in the round at the Royal Exchange Theatre more often than not confused by what they’ve seen. I’m in the play and it has taken me three weeks of performances to even begin to appreciate its complexities – we have had countless dressing room discussions to try to get to grips with this multi-themed play and its apparent environmentalist message. Peake explains
that the Skriker wants the women she seduces on stage to ‘help set the world on fire’ and convince them that ‘time is running out’ for this world, but the Skriker also seduces the audience into thinking the same thing, even if they can’t really articulate their thoughts when they emerge back onto the streets of industrial Manchester.

Amy C. Chambers is a science communication studies and visual culture scholar in The Science and Entertainment Laboratory at the University of Manchester.