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!

Our guide to Manchester

Find ideas of what to do this weekend

Follow us on Twitter @RedMagDaily


RedOnline – new Maxine Peake interview

Don’t miss out on this impressive, honest interview – you can read it right below:

To thine own self be true…

From her exciting new gender-swapping role as Hamlet, to the reason she won’t be defined by the baby question, Emma Jane Unsworth meets Maxine Peake and discovers a woman determined to defy convention.

As I’m nattering with Maxine Peake, it takes a while for me to appreciate the bizarreness of the scene. We’re in her trailer on the set of BBC drama The Village, deep in the Derbyshire countryside, where she’s shooting the final week of the BBC drama’s second series after an intensive 14 weeks. The trailer is large and slightly chintzy, decked out in floral fabrics and beech veneer. There’s a tiny toilet, a microwave and an unslept-in double bed. The blinds are pulled halfway down, letting in shafts of sunshine. Somewhere nearby, a generator thrums. It’s like a strange, American gothic film set all of its own.

Meanwhile, Peake is dressed in 1920s costume for her part as Grace Middleton, which saw her nominated for a BAFTA in 2013: a long-sleeved pink blouse, the high neck buttoned tightly. Her hair, dyed red for the part (‘I love being a ginger’), is pinned up in loose knots. The joy of this postmodern mash-up dawns on me as we chat about her weekend: DJing at a local club on Saturday, and ruined with a hangover for much of Sunday. ‘I play vinyl,’ she says. ‘I don’t do all that computer stuff.’

It’s something of a cliché to say that Maxine Peake is down to earth (and is it just because she has a Northern accent? More of which shortly). She’s universally loved and respected. She radiates an extremely comfy mix of honesty and warmth. Everyone wants to work with her right now. Peter Moffat, writer of The Village and Silk, the legal drama in which Peake starred as Martha Costello QC, hailed her ‘the best actress of her generation’. And because Peake has kept her accent, because she lives in a terraced house in Salford, because she shot to fame playing brassy northerners in shows like Shameless and Dinnerladies, there’s the temptation to pigeonhole her as some kind of working-class hero. But this is where you learn that Maxine Peake is someone who won’t be shoved in any old category.

‘I left the north when I was 21 to go to drama school in London, and I stayed there 12 years,’ says Peake, who turned 40 this summer. ‘I just woke up one morning and thought, I want to go back. People say, is it because you’re dead proud of being northern? And I say no, it’s just my home. It’s where I’m from.’

Peake spent her teenage years living with her granddad Jim in Bolton, a beloved mentor to whom she attributes her socialist politics. ‘I was in awe of him,’ she says. ‘Politically, he was so clued up.’ She joined the Young Communist League aged 18 and still has that fire in her belly. ‘For me, politics is about passion,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t matter what you know; it’s your actions that count. I meet people who say they’re socialists and that’s not what they carry out in their everyday life. As I’m getting older, I’m getting angrier. I remember my granddad saying to me before he died: Maxine, I was born in the biggest depression and I died in the biggest depression and I fought all my life for socialism, and we’re in a worse state now than when we started.’ She sighs. ‘That breaks my heart.’

In January this year Peake went to Bolton Socialist Club to accept an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism award – an honour she described as “better than a BAFTA”. And though her career has gone stratospheric, she isn’t dazzled by the glamour – quite the opposite, in fact. ‘I have to laugh when I get invites to the polo,’ she chuckles. ‘I’m like, have you seen me? My granddad would turn in his grave if he saw me hobnobbing!’

When I bring up next year’s general election, she grimaces. ‘I’ve always voted Labour because they’re the best of a bad bunch, but I’ve no faith in them. I worry if Labour don’t find a solution the Tories will get in again. I remember when New Labour got in. I was at Salford Tech studying drama and everyone was jumping up and down, and I was so upset I went to a phone box and called my granddad. He said, don’t worry, they don’t understand – they’re the same as the Tories, these lot.’

Peake hadn’t had the greatest start studying drama. ‘They said I’d never be an actress as I wasn’t gregarious enough. The other girls were all-singing, all-dancing, in sweat-pants and jazz shoes – and I turned up in dungarees and German para boots with a basin haircut,’ she laughs. ‘But I really think if I hadn’t had that tough time, then I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today, because it made me think, I’ll bloody show you.’

This ‘I’ll show you’ attitude carried her through college, through RADA, through a broadcasting world and industry that still treats anything other than RP as a novelty, and all the way to the Manchester Royal Exchange this autumn and that traditional pinnacle of acting ambition: Hamlet. After a hugely successful run in Miss Julie at the venue in 2012 – her favourite role to date – Peake met with artistic director Sarah Frankcom to discuss what next. ‘We knew it had to be bigger in terms of concept,’ she says. ‘So I said, what about Hamlet?’ The next day Frankcom called Peake and asked if she was serious. ‘I said, let’s do it.’ Admitting she gets ‘very bored’ if she doesn’t stretch herself, Peake relishes the challenge of Hamlet: ‘Why should it be the preserve of men?’ In Frankcom’s production, there will be a female Polonius, a female Rosencrantz and a female Player King. ‘I’ve had emails from actresses saying thanks for doing this,’ says Peake. ‘But, lovely as that is, it wasn’t a feminist statement. I just thought, why not?’

That said, Peake is super-aware of the societal pressure on women to do and be certain things, despite her incidentally no-fuss look (‘I get angry about the way women are forced and bullied into what the male ideal is’). At a deeper level, too, she has found herself frustrated with expectations regarding her life choices. Like many famous women, she is constantly asked whether she wants children. ‘Men don’t get quizzed about their personal lives in the same way,’ Peake says. ‘No one says to a man, you’re 38 and you haven’t got children: why? You spend your life as a woman building your career, then, once you’re there, there’s a tiny window and all this pressure.’

In reality, Peake and her long-term partner Pawlo tried for many years to start a family, suffering two miscarriages and enduring a course of IVF. ‘I haven’t talked about those things before because they’re very personal and I didn’t want to be a spokeswoman for women who don’t have children,’ she says. ‘But when I did interviews, it was the first thing they asked about, like it was a conscious decision on my part to not have kids, and it wasn’t.’

Now, Peake is adamant she won’t be defined by not being a mother.
‘Paw and I have been down every avenue and it hasn’t happened,’ she says, ‘but there are other things to do. My own mum told me not to have children. She loved us, but she realised that because of us there were things she hadn’t done. I think women can feel ashamed, like they’ve failed or like they’re not a woman somehow if they don’t have kids, and that’s wrong. It shocks me that in this day and age motherhood still often defines a woman.’

Just before I leave she takes me on a tour of the set, leading me through the maze of white vehicles to a large shed. Inside, we pick our way over leads and wires to a huddle of chairs, the makeshift ‘green room’, where John Simm sits rehearsing his lines. ‘It’s non-stop glamour round here,’ he quips. A few metres away, the ‘bedroom’, where they’ll been shooting for the rest of the day, is packed with lights and cameras; boiling hot. Then she waves me off in the production car, and I look back to see a brilliantly modern woman (albeit in an old-fashioned long skirt and brown workboots): a woman who is at home in her own skin beyond the costume changes, who is keen to see where her own questioning takes her next. One thing’s for sure – we’ll all be watching.

Hamlet is at the Manchester Royal Exchange, September 11th-October 18th; The Village is back on BBC One this month

Join our exclusive event with Maxine Peake and Red editor-in-chief Sarah Bailey in Manchester

Find out what else is in the September issue of Red

Follow us on Twitter @RedMagDaily

I have the biggest respect for Maxine. Truthfully and frankly. Just wow! I wish more people shared her view towards women’s life choices so sincerely… also, the ‘I’ll show you’ attitude is something I want to emphasize. Great interview!


Maxine Peake: ‘Silk wasn’t axed. I always said I was going to do three series’

Maxine Peake has spoken of her sadness at Silk coming to an end earlier this year, but is adamant that it was not axed.

The actress, who played passionate QC Martha Costello in the BBC1 legal drama, has told TV & Satellite Week that she felt it was a shame that the series had drawn to a close after three series, but that it was the right time to bow out.

“People said that the BBC axed it, but it wasn’t axed. I always said I was going to do three series and Peter Moffat, the writer, has so much on too,” says the actress, who appears in the second series of Peter’s BBC1 period drama The Village from Sunday, August 10.

“I was sad though, especially because the response to the last series was great, and people kept stopping me in the street to ask about it so I won’t get people saying nice things to me any more! It is a shame too because Martha was a great female character and a bit of a role model because she was going out and doing her job and was bright, intelligent and driven.”

The series ended on a cliffhanger as Martha appeared to vanish into thin air as she walked away from Shoe Lane Chambers, leaving her terminally ill friend and clerk Billy Lamb (Neil Stuke) behind, but Maxine has her own theory about what might have happened next.

“People kept saying to me, ‘She wouldn’t have walked away from Billy and left him’, so I think maybe she crossed the road further down and came back!”