Saturday, 8 April 2017

A new film with Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake is tackling class prejudice head on [VIDEO].

A new film is tackling the issue of class prejudice in the acting profession. And it's doing it with some big names. But while the industry is viewed by many as one of 'rags-to-riches' stories, the truth is very different.

Raising actor awareness

The Acting Class is produced by the film company Inside Film. It talks to struggling actors. Especially about the difficulties of not having the resources to "get in and get on in the industry". The project started after films makers, Deirdre O'Neill and Mike Wayne, were introduced to actor Tom Stocks on Twitter. He started Actor Awareness, a campaign to raise awareness of the issue of class exclusion in the acting profession. He was moved to do something when he couldn't raise the money to accept a post-graduate degree offer. And as O'Neill and Wayne told The Canary, Stocks inspired them to make The Acting Class:

We listened to Tom's story and were impressed by what he was trying to do with Actor Awareness. We had made a film previously documenting the condition of the working class in Britain which had used theatre as a way of telling these stories. So we were already talking to actors about their aspirations and how difficult it is to succeed. The Acting Classseemed a natural continuation of that.

Entrenched classism?

Research from the London School of Economics (LSE) backs up the idea that acting is a privileged profession. It found that 73% of actors came from the middle class backgrounds, but only 27% were working class. The analysis is even starker when compared to official statistics. These show only 29% of the UK are defined as having "middle class origins". And the difference in earnings was also pronounced. Because when people of the same age, ethnicity and gender were compared, working class actors reported earnings of £11,000 a year less than middle class ones.

O'Neill and Wayne said of the problem:

Such statistics indicate that there is a problem out there and it has multiple dimensions. These include the Londoncentric nature of the business and how incredibly difficult it is becoming for people to live in the capital. It includes how dependent actors are reliant on the bank of 'Mom and Dad', and how many professional services with fees attached you need to pay for to get in and get on. For those from working class backgrounds who do manage to get work, it is very difficult to sustain themselves while juggling with other more regular jobs.

As they get older and their financial commitments increase, gradually the day job takes over and the aspiration to be an actor has to adjust to the reality. This is all part of a much wider problem. It is becoming increasingly difficult for young working class people who want to do any kind of professional and/or artistic work thanks to government policies that are making the arts once again the preserve of the rich – a luxury item.

If I can make it here…

The idea of The Acting Class was to build a broad picture from people in different parts of the industry. They contacted educators, academics, artistic directors, the former Head of the Arts Council, and actors. And also included well-known faces such as Christopher Eccleston, Maxine Peake, and Julie Hesmondhalgh. All of whom are actors from working class backgrounds. O'Neill and Wayne said that these three were "able to build their careers in an earlier period where there was more support". And all three worry that if they were starting out now, they would be far less likely to succeed. As O'Neill and Wayne said:

There is a general agreement from the people we spoke to that success is currently linked to your financial resources. We have spoken to actors outside London and to actors who have given up, who could not continue with the hand to mouth existence they were leading. But just think about Eccleston, Peake, and Hesmondhalgh's comments. The cultural landscape would not be the same without the contribution of actors from outside the private school-Oxbridge nexus. How many other potential great actors are not now being given a chance because the barriers are getting higher?

A societal problem?

O'Neill and Wayne say the issue of classism in the acting industry is an important one. Because so often, the arts paint the cultural portrait of this country: whose voices are heard, whose stories are told, whose experiences and values get some sort of airing. And if the profession is dominated by the middle classes, then a:

vicious circle gets created where the more exclusive the people making the stories becomes, the more exclusive the people watching the stories on stage or on screen becomes.

And what this will do is stifle conversations and narratives; silencing the stories of many people who live in the UK. O'Neill and Wayne said:

It is important that there is diversity across the board in terms of class, race, gender, disability and sexuality. But we are going to struggle to get that diversity, especially in terms of race – given the correlation between race and poverty in this country – if people from working class backgrounds are being shut out. One of the things we have discovered is that people are much more aware and willing to acknowledge or at least try and address the problems of, say, ethnic minorities and gender than they are of class.

While today it would be quite unacceptable to have a white person playing Othello, it is quite normal for people from privately educated backgrounds to get to play working class characters. Now we appreciate that that is what acting is about, being someone you are not, but it is not reciprocal generally. There is much less opportunity for working class actors to 'act up'.

On the up?

Classism is a controversial subject. Successive governments have claimed to focus on 'social mobility'. But the reality is often far from this, no matter what the profession or lifestyle. And in the acting world, it is perhaps even more obvious. As for most of us a day doesn't go by where we're not exposed to the industry. Be it on TV, film, radio, or online. And O'Neill and Wayne say that the industry is loathe to act:

What we have noticed is that people are quite resistant to discussing class and this is true not only within the profession but more widely. We have read recently that quite high profile actors from quite privileged backgrounds have been dismissing the problem. Very often when you raise the question of class barriers you get accused of being obsessed with class, as if drawing attention to the issue is part of the problem! But class is not just a set of unfortunate attitudes that will go away if we pretend that everyone is equal or has an equal opportunity. Class is institutional and entrenched in this society.

But with The Acting Class O'Neill and Wayne hope to start a conversation. One about a problem plaguing both the acting industry, and the world more broadly. It's refreshing to see classism being openly discussed; especially in an industry that impacts on nearly everyone's daily lives. As far as working class projects go, The Acting Class is one of this year's most exciting so far.

Watch the trailer of The Acting Class:

Monday, 27 March 2017


Christopher Eccleston in Brian Pern: A Tribute

Fifth and Ninth Doctor actors Peter Davison and Christopher Eccleston can be seen starring in the BBC Four comedy spoof-documentary, Brian Pern: A Tribute.

The episode broadcasts on March 29 at 10pm on BBC Four.

Christopher Eccleston reprises his role as music producer Luke Dunmore for the show whilst Peter Davison plays himself.

Previous episodes of Brian Pern have actually used 'classic' Doctor Who music and footage — with the 1984 episode Frontios being used to comedic effect in the spoof-documentary. The latest instalment also features another Fifth Doctor classic, The Visitation.

The forthcoming episode also stars: Suranne Jones (The Doctor's Wife), Tony Way(Deep Breath), and Jane Asher and Nigel Havers, both major guest stars in Doctor Who spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Brian Pern: A Tribute airs 10pm, March 29, 2017 on BBC Four

PLEASE NOTE: This show contains material NOT suitable for younger fans

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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Re: [badwolf] Former Timelord Christopher Eccleston is film group’s patron. [1 Attachment]

This is a great story.  I am so proud of him.  That is the cutest photo of him.  He does not live to far from that place.  He used to live near it with his family.

Sally Ann Price

On Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 12:54 PM, Virginia McGovern [badwolf] <> wrote:

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"Admirers of Chris's Bits."



Leigh film enthusiasts have pulled off a coup by unveiling one of the region's best-known acting stars as their community group's patron. Christopher Eccleston, best known for playing the ninth Timelord in Doctor Who, has given his official backing to Leigh Film and the Leigh Short Film Festival.

Former Timelord Christopher Eccleston is film group's patron Christopher Eccleston, who is the new patron of Leigh Film and the Leigh Short Film Festival ANDREW NOWELL Email 12:00Sunday 19 February 2017 Leigh film enthusiasts have pulled off a coup by unveiling one of the region's best-known acting stars as their community group's patron. Christopher Eccleston, best known for playing the ninth Timelord in Doctor Who, has given his official backing to Leigh Film and the Leigh Short Film Festival. The award-winning actor, who was raised not far from Leigh in Little Hulton, has appeared in a host of TV dramas and films as well as taken on top stage roles including Shakespeare's Hamlet. He is now the patron of the town's annual celebration of short, low-budget movies made by up-and-coming film-makers and the regular screenings of classic and non-mainstream films at The Turnpike Centre in Leigh. Leigh Film secretary Elizabeth Costello said: "We are so honoured at Leigh Film to have Christopher Eccleston as our patron. We have been working over the past four years on delivering quality community cinema and having Christopher, an award-winning actor, as our patron is amazing recognition for what we do and our ethos. "He was raised not a stone's throw away from Leigh and we believe he proves that with hard work and passion for what you believe in you can succeed. We are so honoured at Leigh Film to have Christopher Eccleston as our patron Leigh Film secretary Elizabeth Costello "It is hoped through Christopher's patronage that we at Leigh Film can raise the aspiration of young people in the borough to get involved in film and other associated activities." Now living in Worsley, Eccleston, has become one of Britain's most recognisable acting talents, with notable credits including his roles in hit films such as Shallow Grave, Elizabeth, 24 Hour Party People and 28 Days Later. Originally influenced by films such as Ken Loach's Kes and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, he studied at the Central Speech of School and Drama and first trod the boards professionally at The Old Vic in Bristol aged 25. Recent major roles including British series The A Word about autism and American drama The Leftovers. He is also known for his work on defeating dementia, currently featuring in Alzheimer's Research's new campaign, and Leigh Film hopes to work on this as its Afternoon Cinema Club aims to tackle social isolation and provide somewhere for dementia sufferers and their carers. For more information about the group visit

Read more at:

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Former Timelord Christopher Eccleston is film group’s patron.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Tuesday, 29 November 2016


Star date: 28th November 2016


Hundreds of people packed into Salford University's Maxwell Hall yesterday to hear Maxine Peake, Christopher Eccleston, Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Mike Joyce do Radical Readings from Salford's history and struggles.

The top class event was poignant, political and in parts hilarious, with Maxine Peake ending the day by explaining why it's so important to support the Working Class Movement Library... "If we don't learn from the past we end up with a future a bit like we've got now" she said, to thunderous applause. 

Full details here...

Radical Readings at Working Class Movement Library Salford Radical Readings at Working Class Movement Library Salford Radical Readings at Working Class Movement Library Salford 
Radical Readings at Working Class Movement Library Salford Radical Readings at Working Class Movement Library Salford 
click image to enlarge

So Maxine Peake is on stage, trying to get her tongue around a latter day poem by Radical Readings organiser, Royston Futter; a kind of re-working of an AA Milne poem but with added Brexit, Trump and Tories...

...There's a line about Cameron and Osborne but Maxine can't spit it out... "Ossbon...Ossbum...Arsehole" she laughs "They're all arseholes!"

The audience in the packed hall cheers her on. Despite two hours of readings about Salford's past political struggles and humour in misery, the radical spirit is definitely alive today – led by Maxine herself, Christopher Eccleston, Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Mike Joyce.

It's a fundraiser for the Working Class Movement Library and these top, top stars have given their time to aid the survival of an institution that archives in artefacts, books, banners and flyers the fights of ordinary people for a better life.

There's loads of readings of descriptions of old Salford society, from Walter Greenwood's `slumdom' stories of Black Bill Douglas and his child slave mill down Whit Lane, to Engels' documenting of the `conditions of the working class', to the opening chapter of Harold Brighouse's Salford-set Hobson's Choice, which is celebrating its centenary this year.

Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake read extracts from the opening chapter which talks of Salford's "over populated districts" competing with Manchester, and "human beings extraordinarily endowed with the will to live"...

Within the misery of poverty there was also humour, as extracts from the Ewan MacCollautobiography, Journeyman, witness - kids using prize pigs' tails as would-be willies to scare off the girls, and George Drummond, whose work colleagues at Cox's Foundry presented him with a plaque as the `champion farter of Salford 1921'.

Robert Roberts also looms large with A Ragged Schooling recounting the hilarious exploits of kids using Salford's (and the country's) first public library, brought back to life through the vivid narration of the on-stage actors (and ex-Smiths drummer, who's got definite talent as a voice artist).

Then there's the classics of local working class history, with stories of Peterloo, The Chartists and George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia, plus everyone paying homage to Ruth and Eddie Frow, the Library's ace founders.

All in all it was a bit of a perfect, special day – Salford, radicalism and the legends that are Sheila Hancock, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Mike Joyce, Christopher Eccleston and Maxine Peake, who ended the day explaining why it's so, so important to support the Working Class Movement Library...

"If we don't learn from the past we end up with a future a bit like we've got now" she insisted, to thunderous applause. 

*To learn more from the past go to the Mary Quaile Club event at the Working Class Movement Library this Saturday, 3rd December, at 1pm, for a film Looking Back at the Grunwick Strike 1976-1978 plus speakers from the Grunwick 40 Steering Group, and the Durham Teaching Assistants who are facing huge wage cuts and strike action now. See Salford Star article for further details – click here

For more details of the Working Class Movement Library see

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Saturday, 19 November 2016

Meet the unlikely screen star of the last days of coal mining as the demise of an industry is filmed.

Meet Big K, unlikely screen star of the last days of coalmining . Not Kellingley Colliery, which shared that title, but Kevin Rowe, who leads a cast of pitmen in a fly-on-the-coalface TV documentary. 

The Last Miners tells the story of King Coal's demise in Britain, through the closure of the last pit. 

Baccy-chewing Kevin, 55, a chargehand at Kellingley, North ­Yorks, kicks off the drama with a ­characteristically 
flamboyant song at the shaft bottom. 

"Are you ready for the northern calypso?" he asks his workmates. "We are," they chorus.

And off he goes:

"Hey, Mrs Micklethwaite will tha feed ma whippet?

Daylight comes, and I'm still down pit

I go down pub where I drink 10 pints

I think I'm getting plastered

I go back home and I beat my wife

Cos I'm a big fat northern b*****d!"

The lads applaud, and one says: " David Cameron may take our jobs but he can't take our sense of humour."

So starts another day of grafting 800 yards below the surface.

But no amount of hard work will save their jobs. The pit shut on December 18, 2015 – the death-blow of an industry that powered the industrial revolution and once employed more than a million men.

These are the last miners.

Independent film-makers Keo ­Productions were given unprecedented access to these unsung heroes of 
labour – well, they're singing now, louder than pit canaries. 

The story begins five weeks before closure and follows the fortunes of four miners: Kevin, alias "Jonesy", 49, a shift manager; Jack, 23, a fitter; Sheldon, 54, a supervisor and Andy, 22, a surface ­electrician. They're all made redundant, but make a new life for themselves.

Narrated by Christopher Eccleston , The Last Miners follows men riding four miles on a paddy train to the coal face, ripping "the black diamonds" with giant cutting machines and ­tackling ­nightmarish power breakdowns. 

They work in singlets soaked in sweat and shorts, ribboned with day-glo stripes.

The only light is from their headlamps.

Banter is frequent, but interspersed with real anxiety – they have a ­deadline to complete a huge coal cut to pay for their own redundancy.

This was the ­condition of a £4million loan from the Government to keep the pit open for a limited period. The money has to be repaid.

It's their ­determination to reach this production target, and ­commitment to each other, that turns an everyday story of work into a drama.

The documentary is shown on BBC1 in two parts, beginning on Monday. 

"They'll be bored stacking shelves," says Kevin. "These lads, they need some hard graft. It's good for the soul. We'll do it. We don't do the F-word – fail."

It's about the only F-word they don't use. There's no political correctness here.

In the last week of operation, men working the two-metre thick Beeston seam produce 40,000 tonnes of coal worth up to £200million – proof that Kellingley was still a viable pit. As the deadline approaches, the men work 12-hour shifts, and the toil takes its toll.

Ray Whitty, a 63-year-old miner who's worked at Kellingley for 47 years, falls in the shower. It's a heart attack, and he's given CPR by his workmates. Jack, who is quickly on the scene, says: "You could see the life had gone from his eyes."

Ray is taken to hospital, survives, and comes back for the pit's last day. Death is no stranger to these men – Andy's father Gerry died after being buried by 15 tonnes of rock in a roof collapse at Kellingley in 2011 .

Andy, who was training elsewhere in the pit at the time, says: "I always wanted to be a miner." A wall of his home is covered with photos of his dad.

On the last day of the last deep mine, the media are out in force (I was there, too). The miners had mixed feelings.

One says: "It's a shame they couldn't show the same interest about Kellingley when it was open as when it was closing. I don't mind publicity, but we could have been fighting to keep the pit open rather than ­celebrating it closing."

In the locker room, Sheldon passes by a heap of discarded uniforms, a poignant metaphor for the men who wore them and will never wear them again.

"That could be workers on the scrap heap," he observes dolefully.

But there is still a note of defiance.

"Kellingley is history – but the people who worked there are not."

The last piece of coal is carried out from underground, a trophy.

Then the final rites are ­technical: switching off the huge ventilating fans.

Amid emotional goodbyes, the last evening shift is sent home without going down. But it's not over until the fat man sings. Kevin brings down the curtain with another song.

"At the age of 16 years

With my father close to tears

When he swore to God never to send his son to the dark recesses of the mine

Where you're old before your time and the cold dust flies heavy on your lungs.

At the age of 55

I thank God I'm still alive

When the wheel above the hole no longer turns

And they finally close the hole where we fought for years for coal.

Never again will I go down ­underground."

They clap, and cheer, and gather round. They hug, and kiss, and wipe the tears from their eyes. But it's not quite the end of the story. The men start looking for work.

Sheldon is stir-crazy at home. Then, one day the phone rings, and he's got a job as a telecoms ­engineer on the railways.

So, no longer a miner?

"I'll always be a miner," he retorts to an interviewer who should know better. "You'll never take the coal dust out of my lungs."

Jonesy is taken on by a Mercedes dealer. Jack, ­demoralised by months on the dole, moved to County Durham to be with his girlfriend. He finally got a job as an engineer, and is about to become a dad.

Andy works for the National Grid. And after taking time out, Kevin trained as a handyman.

Success stories – if not the kind they sought. But what of the other 435?

Keith Poulson, National Union of \ ­official, says: "At least two thirds have found jobs, mainly manual. Lorry driving, buses, warehousing, but nothing like the industry they were in."

The pit may be gone but its legacy remains – like its twin towers that still dominate the local landscape. Demolition work is under way and the land is scheduled to become housing and industrial development.

Kevin has given up chewing tobacco, and is busy plumbing, laying floors, painting and decorating. "I'm actually loving it at the moment," he says.

Still, I hear a wistful note in the voice of the pit troubadour.

"I really love my new life. But I'd go back to being a miner in a flash – and 99% of the other men would do the same."

That will never happen, and we're all the losers.

  • The Last Miners, which is in two parts, starts on Monday at 9pm, on BBC1.

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