Stalker Humanoids: The ERC, Maxine Peake & Lias Saoudi Interviewed has posted a brilliant new interview with The ERC, Maxine Peake and Lias Saoudi. Read it below:

The Eccentronic Research Council, Maxine Peake and Lias Saoudi get together with John Doran to talk tactile knobs, pop star crushes and the secret history of early electronic pop

All photographs courtesy of Al Overdrive

Inspiration can come from anywhere. One Saturday night a couple of years ago when Adrian Anthony Flanagan – a self-confessed “hypersensitive, manically depressed, melody infested wordsmith and psychic from Salford” – sat down in front of the telly with a beer, it hit him like a thunderbolt. While watching The National Lottery: In It To Win It, he saw Dale Winton ask one of the contestants what the Viking equivalent to Heaven was. After thinking about it for a few seconds, the bloke, who was from Rotherham, said in a broad South Yorkshire accent: “Valhalla, Dale.” Adrian smiled to himself and repeated it out loud: “Valhalla, Dale…. Valhalla Dale… VALHALLA DALE! I’m having that.”

Valhalla Dale is the name of the fictional hinterland at the edge of Sheffield where most of the action in Eccentronic Research Council’s excellent new album Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan takes place. Johnny Rocket is the frontman of a local psych band from Valhalla Dale called The Moonlandingz who dress in lederhosen and tinfoil and the album is told from the point of view of an obsessional fan of his, played by the sublime Maxine Peake.

The album is a glorious concoction of bewitching spoken word, Radiophonic synth wizardry, hauntological soundscaping, early electronic pop and magma hot psych rock brewed up by Adrian, Dean Honer (“a big bearded, synth yoda and analogue nerd from Essex” – Adrian’s words) and Maxine Peake (“a divine intervention and the greatest interpreter for my words I could have” – also Adrian’s words). The album not only deals with the horror of ending up with a stalker (something Adrian knows about from bitter first hand experience) but is also about the malign influence of social media and the reverberations of Thatcherism which are still being felt around the country today, two years after her death.

With its cast of grotesques and gallows humour, Johnny Rocket is like a Chaucerian epic retold by David Peace with music by Bruce Haack and The Focus Group for a music hall located in Hell. It’s the fourth great album in three years for the ERC but this one is the best yet – the care taken over the project is evinced by the fact there is even a full record by fake band, The Moonlandingz coming out on the same as the album (although you can buy it digitally from next Monday, March 16) via Fat White Family’s Without Consent label, and also features Lias Saoudi on vocals and Saul Adamczewski on guitar.

It was my pleasure to spend the morning with Adrian, Dean, Maxine and Lias recently to get the low down on this ace record.

How do you describe what music Eccentronic Research Council make?

Adrian Flanagan: Psychedelic ouija pop, avant audiophonic dub taxidermy… or something like that.

Dean Honer: I suppose we don’t try and sound contemporary or up to date. We hark back to stuff from the early electronic pop period. That would be one of our main influences. Things like Joe Meek, Bruce Haack, the Radiophonic Workshop and all of that gubbins.

What’s your go to Bruce Haack LP? The Electric Lucifer?

AF and DH: The Electric Lucifer.

Lias Saoudi: I’m a big fan of that record. It’s epic.

DH: It’s pretty mind-blowing the first time you hear it. I think Barry 7 from Add N To X played it to me when I was doing some work with them. Barry said, “I want to sound like this.” When he told me it was some geezer back in 1968 I couldn’t believe it.

Electronic music is like a secret history really isn’t it? You have all of these larger than life characters but you never really hear about them in the same way you hear about rock musicians.

DH: Why is that? I guess this music was happening in back rooms and not on stages. And people didn’t get it. Also it was coming out of the avant garde of the 1950s, out of musique concrete and tape manipulation. It was studio based music because of the size of the machines they were using. It wasn’t really until Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream started taking it out live but even then it was a big undertaking.

Dean and Adrian, how did you two meet?

DH: In 1999 I was rehearsing in a studio in Sheffield with the All Seeing I to practice for some live shows.

AF: And I was working in the rehearsal room upstairs. I worked in the office and let people in to use the studio. Dean was downstairs with his band The All Seeing I. At the time they had Phil Oakey, Jarvis Cocker, Roisin Murphy as members, and all of them kept on ringing the bell. It was really annoying because at the time I was trying to do some four track recordings but they were playing this really weird disco music really loud downstairs. I was like, “Fucking shut up!” And the doorbell would go again, “Fucking hell it’s Phil Oakey!” And then again, “It’s Jarvis… is The All Seeing I there please?” It actually got on my nerves so much that I thought if I burn down the building now I could become Sheffield’s number one musician overnight. But I decided to let them live instead.

But then Dean heard some of the tracks that I was doing. They were really crap… like Daniel Johnson or something. So Dean said, “Come to my studio and let’s do this properly.” He invited me down and there was no guitars there, only synths. And that was my first introduction to analogue synths. There were all these instruments that I didn’t know how to work. And I still don’t really. And straight away he was like, “I’m going on holiday. Here’s the keys to my studio. Get stuck in.”

When did you first start collecting analog gear Dean?

DH: I used to live in Essex so I was quite into Fad Gadget and Depeche Mode in the early 80s. I got my first electronic band together around about 1982 when I was 16.

Given that you’ve been making this music for so long, what do you make of the revival in fortune, so to speak, of the synthesizer?


Just say it…

AF: A lot of it is style over substance isn’t it? It’s like a fashion thing as opposed to using the equipment in an organic manner.

DH: I think a lot of younger kids are used to using computer programmes so when they get their hands on some real knobs…

LS: It’s nice to get your hands on some real knobs isn’t it?

AF: We’ve got a room full of ‘em here.

Maxine Peake: You wouldn’t want to get your hands on these knobs.

LS: No, I mean it. When you’re fed up of playing your guitar it’s nice to get your hands on some knobs.

DH: For kids who are used to using a mouse it’s good. If they get their hands on something that’s more tactile and more immediate, it’s a good experience.

LS: I think it’s easy to be cynical Adrian. Whether it’s fashion or not it’s a good thing that more people are getting into electronics.

DH: There are probably more synths being made now than there ever was. And they’re remaking all of the old classic ones.

LS: And they sound great. It’s really good to have that grit and irregularity in the music.

So how did the ERC actually start?

AF: I think it happened purely by accident. Me and Maxine were talking about Pendle witches and we decided it would be good to do something on that so we got together and had a day out in Pendle. We just drove round Pendle Hill all day. It was like the Villages Of The Damned x 12. Everyone we spoke to said they were related to one of the witches.

Maxine, how did you meet these two fine and upstanding gentlemen?

MP: I’m not on it anymore but I was having a little dabble on Facebook a few years ago. So one night I went to see Chrome Hoof at Islington Mill and I just put on my Facebook profile about how brilliant they were. And then I got this message from this guy saying, “If you like Chrome Hoof, you’ll like my band.” I was just like, “Yeah, whatever.” And then he said, “I’ll send you some tracks over.” So I gave them a listen and Adrian was like, “Do you want to come and be in a music video I’m doing with Candie Payne?” He was shooting a promo for ‘Are You One’ by his band The Chanteuse And The Crippled Claw on Kersal Moor in Salford. He brought one of those really cheap all in one rabbit suits. And he said, “Will you put this on and run round with a water pistol?” And I’d just completed four months of BBC telly, so I was at an all time low and feeling creatively drained because there isn’t much in the way of creativity in TV drama, so I said, “Yeah, why not.” And I had a really enjoyable afternoon in Salford. I remember it was hilarious. People were out walking their dogs but didn’t bat an eyelid at what was going on. I think that sort of thing must happen a lot on Kersal Moor. And then we just kind of kept in touch because we had a lot of music we liked in common. And I first met Dean when I went round to his studio to record 1612 Underture.

AF: I asked her if she’d meet me on a moor in Salford, dress up as bunny rabbit and have a water pistol fight in exchange for a bottle of Thunderbird and a pickled egg. I forgot to bring the Thunderbird and the egg, so I paid her in rockabilly records and a signed photo of Pat Phoenix instead.

Who broached the idea of this day out becoming an album?

AF: We didn’t even know how it would pan out. We just said, “Let’s go to Pendle and see what happens.” We thought we might write something.

MP: [LAUGHS] Adrian said, “Let’s go away and write something.” So I said alright and thought, “Yeah, I’m going to think about this for a week or so and then crack on” but he just phoned up after a few days and said, “I’ve done it.” He’d literally done it in no time at all. He wrote loads and when I had a look at it, I thought, “There’s not even any point to me even having a go.”

So obviously Maxine you’re no stranger to reading out other people’s words. Do you have any boundaries or have you ever reached a point where you’ve gone, “I’m not reading this you idiot”?

MP: No. I’ve never had a problem with any of it. The only thing I was concerned about was upsetting Terry Duckworth. He’s played by an actor Nigel Pivaro who lives near to where I do and politically he’s brilliant. There was a line on 1612 that compared him to Nick Griffin and I was a bit worried because I didn’t want to upset him. Anyway, it was fine because I got a message back from a mate who works for the Salford Star – a brilliant left wing newspaper – saying that he didn’t mind at all.

What happened next?

AF: Once I wrote the lyrics I got Maxine to put down the words to tape. And me and Dean built it up round that from scratch, treating it as a soundtrack. We chucked in a couple of song-y things to break it up a bit.

I should say at this juncture that I like your singing Maxine. Why don’t you sing on more of the tracks?

MP: Because I don’t like my singing. I can’t sing.

AF: She doesn’t like it but I think she sounds like a Lancastrian folk princess.

MP: What I don’t mind is singing in character so maybe I’ll do a bit more of that in future.

AF: I think the first time we did ‘Another Witch Is Dead’ was in your back kitchen wasn’t it?

MP: Yeah. He was shouting at me, “Do it more like this!” And I was like, “I’ll be doing it a bit more like nobody in a bit if you carry on.”

AF: I was saying, “Imagine it’s the 1600s, you’ve never heard music before because there is no music. And imagine you’re living on gruel.”

MP: But to be honest, I didn’t know it was going to be an album.

AF: Yeah, it was because of Andy Votel. He heard about what I was doing from a mutual friend and phoned me up to ask me what I was doing. I told him I’d sign with him if he’d only put out one copy of the album in Witches Galore, the shop in Pendle we mention on the album. And he was like, “Definitely! That’s what we’ll do!” Because he thinks about the concept as opposed to selling records. It was his partner Doug [Shipton] who said, “Er… I think we’ll put out some CDs and maybe a few more vinyl copies for other shops as well…” I love Andy Votel. Great ideas. Great ears.

MP: Can you put that in a pull quote in the feature John? “Andy Votel… Great ears.”

AF: Andy Votel… Great ears but perfect testicles.

MP: And there wasn’t any discussion about us playing live either. Adrian just rang me up and said, “We’ve got an album launch show coming up.” And I was like, “You what?” The gig was hilarious. It was in this subterranean club in Manchester that used to be an abattoir.

Maxine, I’m doing a gig with Adrian and Dean in Sheffield in May. They’re doing synth music while I’m doing readings. Do you have any advice for me on how to deal with them?

MP: Deal with these two? Just ignore them John. JUST IGNORE THEM! Especially Adrian.

LS: Don’t let Adrian play his mind games on you John.

MP: He’ll start doing that, ‘I’m a slightly friendlier Mark E. Smith’ routine but just ignore him. And watch he doesn’t drag you into the crowd during the show…

AF: We played a kids library in Preston and I dragged her off the stage into the crowd and we sang and danced together.

Obviously, Dean and Adrian have played on stage many times before. How have you found it being the front person of a group Maxine?

MP: I don’t know how people do it. It’s a totally different art form to acting. It’s about presence isn’t it?

AF: But we think you’ve got it in spades. We think you’re one of the best front people in the country.

MP: Ah, bless you love.

LS: It’s all about getting to the stage of where you’re not aware of what you’re doing any more. You have to know what you’re doing to begin with but then you have to get to a place where you’re not aware of what you’re doing any more. And then it will be entertaining for those watching. Even if it goes graphically wrong it will still be entertaining.

MP: We did that gig at Islington Mill and I started reading from that metalwork book… people were like, “Yeah! This is great!” It’s totally different. Like when I’m doing a play, I’ll get to the venue an hour before hand and sit in the dressing room and I won’t have a drink. With this it’s like, “Come on, let’s go and have a meal and have something to drink.”


Are there any parallels at all between being making an album like Johnny Rocket and appearing in a big hit show like Silk?

MP: No. [LAUGHS] It’s a different level of creativity. What I earn my living from – appearing on television – is not particularly creative which is why this was so welcome a thing to get involved in because you’re involved with a really great bunch of people who are creative because they really want to do it.

Is it maybe closer in spirit to when you work in theatre?

MP: Definitely.

Do Fat White Family have a pre-gig ritual? Do you all hold hands together and pray like in some weird suicide cult?

LS: We usually have a series of arguments that border on violence. And the atmosphere gets hotter and hotter as it gets nearer to the time to go on stage. For the hour before we go on stage I just pace up and down. I’ve usually got the runs. It’s a physical thing. I’m always fine as soon as I get on stage but before hand it’s a bit of panic.

I used to follow a band in St Helens called GNARL who used to punch each other in the face before going on stage.

LS: When you have those arguments before going on stage the shows are always good though. And then you go onstage and it’s great. If you go on while everyone loves each other it’s always rubbish but if you’re scathing of one another first it’s great.

How did the ERC and the Fat Whites hook up then?

LS: We met through you John.

AF: Yeah, I picked Champagne Holocaust by Fat White Family as one of my album choices in the Bakers Dozen feature I did for the Quietus. They invited me to hang out with them in Sheffield at one of their shows, we got on great. Then they invited me to come with them the next day to Manchester and I was mad enough to get in the van with them. Subsequently, they’ve had me DJing at shows before they go on. Dean and I then did a reworking of ‘Touch The Leather’ for them and this led on to The Moonlandingz. I love Saul and I love Lias, they are special apes.

LS: When Saul and I went up to Sheffield to do The Moonlandingz, it was just before we got signed. And then once we signed the label deal it was a no-brainer. Signing the ERC seemed like a sure thing.

So, Johnny Rocket is very funny but it also has a very serious and quite dark theme; that of stalking and obsessional behaviour. Can you tell me where this came from?

AF: I wanted to write something that talks about people who hide behind the safety of their computers, making other people’s lives a misery. I wanted to cover mental illness. I wanted to hold a mirror up to the listener themselves. And I wanted to write an LP for the music fan in us all.

Where did the idea come from though? Have you ever experienced an obsessive fan?

AF: It’s all written from my own experience. I had a stalker who would email me these bizarre messages. She would follow me in the street; turning up at shows and places I might be performing across the country, ingratiating herself with my friends, being a nuisance, pretending to be someone she wasn’t and generally creeping me out majorly for about six years.

You expect that kind of unwanted behavior, if you’re in a massive band but when you’re just a dickhead from Salford playing gigs to ten people in Liverpool (as I was back then), you tend to notice it more. It makes you feel really claustrophobic, unnerved, sick and vulnerable… It’s nice when people are really in to what you do but please don’t expect me to greet you at the door, or be courteous if you’re following me down the street, moving into the house round the corner from me and getting tattoos of badges I wear.

I’m aware that I’m possibly putting myself in danger by doing this, or that the person may even be very flattered that their behavioral patterns have influenced this album; but I just needed to get it off my chest and address it.

There used to be a time when bands, pop stars and screen stars seemed to live in some magical and unobtainable world; but now, thanks to social media, everyone is accessible. That’s because everyone’s a narcissist and no one more so than Joe public itself. Anyone with 50 followers on Twitter can think of themselves as having their own fan club. It’s a shame that when given that platform, all some people can do is share pictures of their dinner. Social media has created a monster out of many people; false stars with no discernible talent. Unless having a pretty face or gormlessly, re-tweeting other people’s opinions, has somehow become a talent in 2015. In many ways, I wish someone would destroy the internet, it’s filled with fuckwadery.

What about the rest of you? Lias?

LS: We’d get some at the Queen’s Head [FWF’s Stockwell pub HQ]. It took a long time for us to get signed because no one would touch us for quite a while. So for ages I was living at the Queen’s Head and when you live in a pub there are pretty much no boundaries between you and the outside world. So I’d be in bed sometimes with a nasty hangover and somebody would just walk in. I wouldn’t even know who they were and they’d just be stood there in my bedroom going, “Alright man!” They’d just be there in the pub staring at you. Outside of that, the last time we went on tour round England it was a bit weird – the whole thing had grown a bit and all of the venues were bigger and all sold out. So I’d usually hang out in the bar afterwards just to see who was about and have a drink, and on one night in the Black Country it was quite brutal… quite horrible. There was this gaggles of middle aged women that kind of attached themselves to me. It wasn’t in any way pleasant. And they were all really drunk going, “Oh I really love you…” And as soon as I said, “Look, I really need to talk to my friend here, they just switched, “You fucking cunt. You piece of shit. You’re so up yourself.” And I was like, “Ah right. So this is it now? Now I have to stay backstage after every gig?”

Does Saul get impressionable teenagers who have pulled out one tooth to try and look like him?

LS: There are quite a few kids who are into that communist chic thing…

There’s a real roughneck, partially feral Hasidic Jewish kid who lives round the corner from me who looks exactly like him. It freaks me out. He walks round the neighbourhood shouting at cars and spitting a lot. People cross the road when they see him coming. But he looks exactly like Saul but with a yarmulke and ringlets.

LS: Are you sure it wasn’t him? He goes in for a bit of a Jewish vibe sometimes.

Dean, what about you?

DH: When MySpace first started there was a Japanese girl who used to send [The All Seeing I] a lot of emails and messages that seemed to come from a dark place really. I had this sneaking suspicion she was emailing from a hospital.

How about you Maxine?

MP: No. I’ve got people doing blog pages and there are people who chart everything that I do but I think that’s quite sweet really. It doesn’t seem weird or dark. I think musicians get it different to actors. And also with actors I think it depends on the parts you play as well. It would be different if I was a Hollywood star. And I think it’s different depending on whether you’re a man or a woman as well. I think that perhaps girls tend to be more obsessional than boys… I don’t know… I could be wrong.

I want to flip the question now. Where any of you obsessional fans of musicians yourselves?

LS: When I was 15 it was Bob Dylan. Me and my girlfriend went to see him live at the Belfast Odyssey Arena and after he finished playing we waited around until everyone else had left. Up on the keyboard stand was the cup he had be drinking from, so we got on stage and took it. It was grapefruit juice. And she’s still got it in a decanter. We were like, “Wow. Bob Dylan’s cup. And it’s got his lip marks on it.” We had an argument on the way home about who was going to keep it.

AF: Adam Ant. When I was about seven. I remember going to the local social club with a stripe across my face and a scarf tucked round my trousers. I thought I was business. And these two older kids came up to me and said, “Are you gay?” And I didn’t know what it meant so I said, “No, I’m catholic.”

MP: My first obsession was with Paul Weller when he was in the Style Council and my sister used to tell me he looked like a Toblerone. And then it was the Stone Roses. I went to see them at Spike Island and when Ian Brown came on stage I had that kind of [mimics hyperventilating] reaction. I really shocked myself. I met him only recently and it’s funny how it doesn’t really leave you. A friend of mine who knew him said he’d introduce us but I had to beg him not to, “I don’t want to meet him – it’ll be too painful.” But then I did meet him and he was lovely.

Are any of the lyrics from Johnny Rocket based on real life experiences – like the night in the hipster electro bar in Liverpool?

AF: Most of it is based on real emails I’ve received over the years and in the flesh experiences,yes. The whole scene that happens in a hipster bar in Liverpool, happened in real life, word for word-ish. The venue was the Korova Bar. A band I was doing at the time with some pals, for fun, played there. And the place burnt down after we played; literally the same night.

And what next for the ERC?

AF: With this album we want to go mainstream, I want to go on Later With Jools Holland. I want him to play ‘Moogie Woogie’ synth for us. And after that? Job Club, the grave or HELLO! magazine.


Maxine Peake looking towards 2015 after a record-breaking year on the theatre stage

AFTER a successful year which saw her break box office records playing Hamlet, Bolton actress Maxine Peake has more to look forward to in 2015.

The 40-year-old, who grew up in Westhoughton, will grace the London theatre stage in February before taking part in the 2015 Manchester International Festival and later teaming up with The Hobbit star Martin Freeman.

Biographical romantic drama film The Theory of Everything, which explores the relationship between physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife, hits cinemas on New Year’s Day with Maxine appearing as Elaine Mason, Hawking’s second wife.

She said: “I think it’s up for Golden Globes and tipped for the Oscars — I pop in at the end of that.”

On January 5, she will start work at The Royal Court, London, where she has been cast in Zinnie Harris’ How to Hold Your Breath.

Looking towards the rest of 2015 and Maxine is excited to be teaming up with The Hobbit and Fargo actor Martin Freeman for independent film, Funny Cow — the story of a female comedian’s rise to fame.

She said: “Martin Freeman is on board, which is amazing.

“I met him at the Baftas.

“It’s in the hands of the producers now.

“We are aiming for October.

“Fingers crossed it will go into production.

“It’s one of those roles, I thought, I could quite happily retire after I played this part.

“It’s the ultimate part.

“It’s set in the working men’s clubs in Sheffield, in the ’70s.

“I’ve always been fascinated by that. I grew up going to working men’s clubs”

Over the summer, she will team up once more with the Royal Exchange Theatre’s artistic director Sarah Frankcom, for the Manchester International Festival, following the success of performance of The Masque of Anarchy in 2013 and the recent run of Hamlet.

Although unable to reveal exact details, she did say they would start rehearsing at the end of May.

She said: “I’m doing some theatre and then the Manchester International Festival.

“I’m doing that with Sarah Frankcom.

“I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoy the festival, just the audiences.

“They are just really up for it. They’re a different crowd, you just feel they are on your side and they want to be entertained.”

In September and October, theatre-goers flocked to see the former Westhoughton High School and Canon Slade pupil play Shakespeare’s iconic role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

The sell-out run was extended and theatre fans even travelled from afar afield as America, as part of a trip to see Hamlet and other theatre shows across the country.

She said: “I was really surprised and really pleased because it was a bit of a gamble. You don’t know how it’s going to work out.”


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.


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


Which Northern Soul classics get Maxine Peake, Mani and others on the dancefloor?

As the new Northern Soul film hits the cinemas, we give you some hand picked tunes from Manc stars and people who worked on the film

NORTHERN Soul, the film, has finally hit the big screen after 10 years of hard work by its writer and director Elaine Constantine.

The mark the film’s release, we asked some famous faces from Manchester, themselves Northern Soul lovers, and some of those who worked on the film, for their favourite tracks.

“I still love Seven Days Too Long by Chuck Wood because it was the first northern soul record I ever bought on vinyl.”


Podcast: Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at Royal Exchange

Listen to the podcast below (Maxine’s interview is right at the beginning):

The hottest tickets for 2014’s autumn theatre season in Manchester are productions of Shakespeare from two of the region’s leading theatre companies.

The Royal Exchange Theatre production of Hamlet is directed by artistic director Sarah Frankcom starring popular stage and TV actress Maxine Peake in the title role. When we spoke to Sarah and Maxine with two and a half weeks to go before opening, this had already become one of the theatre’s most popular productions.

Hamlet runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester from 11 September to 25 October 2014. For more information, see


Maxine Peake wins Wigan Diggers Spade – and says it means more than an Oscar


Salford based Maxine Peake has received this year’s Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award from the Wigan Diggers Festival for her “outstanding contribution to socialism”. Maxine responded that “This award means more to me than any Oscar or BAFTA”.

The Wigan Diggers Festival – which happens next Saturday – is a top free open air event featuring loads of stalls, children’s entertainment, a beer tent and over a dozen musicians. It commemorates Wigan-born legend, Gerrard Winstanley, who led the 17th Century `Diggers’ movement, described by Tony Benn as the “the first true socialists”. The much coveted Spade is Wigan’s `own version of an Oscar’


Also, check out the other photos which were taken today here.

Maxine Peake overcomes her fear of Shakespeare for new Hamlet role

AS she prepares to take on the iconic title role of Hamlet, Maxine Peake admits she was “frightened to death” of performing Shakespeare’s work for a long time.

Now the Bolton-born stage and screen star is relishing getting her teeth into the part, in the ultimate play about murder and madness, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

The former pupil at Westhoughton High School said: “I remember going to Salford Tech, aged 16 to 18, and we used to have to do a speech, a dance and a song every couple of months and we were told, do not touch Shakespeare — none of you will be able to achieve it.

“So it was the thing that I was frightened to death of. And even at drama school, one thing I felt was slightly lacking at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) was that we didn’t do enough Shakespeare. In my third year, I never did a production so I was petrified of it.

“I played Ophelia at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 12 years ago and, yeah, I probably wasn’t that great.

“But I’ve not looked at Hamlet like it’s Shakespeare — it’s just a great play and a great part.

“There needs to be a sea change in the way people think about Shakespeare but I do think it’s a class thing.

“It’s still seen, in some respects, as elitist.

“I think things are starting to break down but, I was frightened to death of it for a long time.”

The 40-year-old, known for screen roles on shows including The Village, Silk, Shameless and Dinnerladies, is back working with the theatre’s joint artistic director Sarah Frankcom, following on from Miss Julie in 2012 and last year’s The Masque of Anarchy.

Speaking of tackling the role, previously played by actors including Sir Kenneth Branagh, Richard Burton and David Tennant, Maxine added: “It’s a he. We’re calling it a he but it is a she.

“I think it stemmed from after we’d done Miss Julie and we said, right, what’s next?

“I think we felt we just wanted to keep stretching ourselves. What next is a big challenge?

“And sitting down and looking at those big female roles, a lot of them had just been done so that’s not going to work.

“And it’s quite difficult because there’s not that many that stretch you like this role so why not?

“Men do it. There’s loads of all-male companies bobbing about, as if they’ve not got enough roles as it is.”

Hamlet will also see Maxine use skills not usually called upon for female actors, such as appearing in a fight scene with Ashley Zhangazha, who plays Laertes.

She said: “It’s proper full on. It’s a bit like a dream come true. I’m on stage and I’m doing a sword-fight and then I’m punching him in the head.

“You sort of go, yeah I get now why men get very over-excited about playing Hamlet because you do everything. Every emotional base is covered, physically. It is the ultimate part to play.”

Hamlet is at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from Thursday, September 11, to Saturday, October 18.


Maxine Peake has appeared in a number of television and stage productions including Channel 4’s Shameless, Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies and Craig Cash’s Early Doors.

In 2006, she portrayed the Moors murderer Myra Hindley in See No Evil: The Moors Murders.

The year after, she played Tracey Temple in the TV drama Confessions of a Diary Secretary, which told the story of John Prescott’s affair with his secretary.

January 2009 saw her appear in her first major feature film role, as Angela in the film Clubbed, and in the Channel 4 trilogy Red Riding.

In 2010 she played the lead character in The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.

A year later she again took the lead role of barrister Martha Costello in the BBC’s legal drama, Silk.

She starred alongside John Simm in the BBC drama The Village, depicting life in a Derbyshire village during World War I.
The 40-year-old was nominated for a BAFTA in the leading actress category for her performance.
The second series of The Village, set in the 1920s, is on TV now.


Maxine Peake: More actresses should play male roles

Maxine Peake has said she hopes playing Hamlet will make it easier for women to fill male roles because Shakespeare’s female parts are “quite problematic”.

Peake will play Shakespeare’s Prince of Denmark at Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre in September and October.

Hamlet is “the ultimate part” and is more well-rounded than female theatre characters, the actress said.

The star of Silk and The Village said her Hamlet would be a woman who is “in touch with her more masculine side”.

Peake is currently in rehearsals, where she is getting to grips with the first theatrical fight scenes of her career.

“Yesterday I pulled a muscle in my armpit as Kevin the fight director threw me,” she said.

“It’s proper full-on. It’s a bit like a dream come true because I’m on stage and I’m doing a sword fight and then I’m punching him in the head.

“I get why all men get very over-excited about playing Hamlet because you do everything. Every emotional base is covered.

“It is encapsulating the ultimate part, where you get to stretch everything. You think, yeah, you don’t get that [normally].”

Peake appeared as Ophelia in Hamlet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in 2002 and played the prostitute Doll Tearsheet in the BBC’s Henry IV in 2012.

She said: “They’re always quite problematic, I find, the female roles in Shakespeare.”

It was not her intention “to do Hamlet and start a revolution” among female performers when taking the role, she explained.

But she added that other actresses needed “a bit of confidence” and to see that it was possible to take on male characters.

‘Extraordinary opportunity’

“And then you hope that in 10 years time that nobody questions it,” she said. “That’s just who happens to be playing Hamlet or Macbeth or Henry V – the right person for the role.

“Sometimes, as an actress, there have been male roles where I’ve thought, I could do that, I could get my head into that. Just because I haven’t got the appropriate genitalia doesn’t mean that I can’t understand that.

“And sometimes you get female roles and you spend a lot of time going, ‘I don’t get this woman’. So this opportunity has just been extraordinary.”

Other actresses have taken on Shakespeare’s great roles in the past.

Fiona Shaw played Richard II at the National Theatre in 1995 and Kathryn Hunter played King Lear in 1997. An all-female Julius Caesar was staged at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2012, and an all-female Henry V will be seen there in October.

Frances de la Tour was the last high-profile woman to play Hamlet in the UK, in 1979.

Hamlet ‘male and female’

Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom said: “Up until this century, there was a massive tradition of women playing this role.

“For a lot of really well-regarded female actors in the Victorian age and before, it was seen as being part and parcel of your journey and genesis as an actor.”

Frankcom said Peake’s Hamlet would be “a combination of male and female”.

“We’ve looked at gender as a spectrum rather than something that is either male or female,” she said. “Hamlet occupies different parts of that spectrum at different parts of the play.”

Peake said approaching the role as a woman had allowed her to see the play in a new light.

“Some of the things that I read initially as all the classist misogyny now are really potent,” she said. “It sort of flips it and you go, oh right, I forgive you Shakespeare now for this.

“This really works as a woman in touch with her more masculine side saying these lines. It feels right. Sometimes you go, oh my God, this was definitely written for a woman.”


Maxine Peake in conversation with Red’s editor-in-chief Sarah Bailey

Don’t miss this! Tickets are limited so be quick 🙂

Join Maxine Peake as she takes on the role of a lifetime, Hamlet, at the Manchester Royal Exchange

Red’s editor-in-chief Sarah Bailey will join Maxine Peake for a pre-show Q&A, followed by a buffet lunch in the surroundings of the stunning Great Hall before watching Maxine star in the title role of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET.

Date: Saturday October 11th 2014

Time: 12.30pm, Sarah Bailey in conversation with Maxine Peake; 2.30pm, matinee performance of Hamlet

Venue: Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7DH

Price: £40 (includes buffet lunch and a goody bag)

TO BOOK visit and use the promo code ‘redmag’.

Alternatively, call the box office on 0161 833 9833 and quote the promo code.

Tickets are limited so book fast!

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