ONE of the personal highlights of my career so far has been performing in Las Vegas and meeting some amazing, talented people there.
This week I’d like to introduce you to one of those artists, who I met at the Golden Nugget Casino, when he was just beginning to film the Fox Television reality show The Casino. He is an amazing talent who is doing a fantastic job at keeping my favourite genre of music alive and swinging!
Multi-award winning, platinum-selling, Canadian crooner, Matt Dusk has sold over one million albums, has three number one radio hits and four Juno Award nominations. Matt is a throwback to the crooners of yesteryear but with a cool, updated, modern twist. He effortlessly croons both new and original swing songs and he also pays tribute to the songs from The Great American Songbook.
He told me: "When I was a teenager, I was looking to classy older guys to aspire to be like. Here was Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, looking all dapper, havin cocktails, and hanging out with beautiful ladies as they crooned away. Who didn't wanna be like them?
“Frank Sinatra was definitely my favourite singer. I was lucky as a young lad I had the same register and voice as Frank. Finding karaoke cassettes instantly gave me an orchestra to sing along to. I could close my eyes and feel I was on stage with the best of the best”.
Before long Matt made the break from singing karaoke to hitting the stage.
He added: "I won a couple of talent competitions, then, as soon as I was at the legal age for drinking, I sent demo tapes to all the local bars and clubs. I was pretty motivated, I sent out like 25 packages, then I followed up with all the bar owners, and got weekly/weekend spots. By the time I was 21 I was doing about 20-25 shows a month”.
“Universal Music came a-knockin' and it started the worldwide touring. I was very lucky to have some great teachers along the way. Bob Fenton, who played with Billie Holiday and Chet Baker, taught me how to sing. I also had masterclasses with Oscar Peterson."
He lists his higlights as hanging out with Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra Jr and Harry Connick Jr.
Right now he is releasing an album called 'Sinatra' but more writing and recording are planned.
“I’ve never recorded these songs, so myself and 17 musicians went into a studio one day and recorded 18 tracks. All live off the floor. I was amazed at how good it turned out”.
I asked if he would like to tour the UK and he replied: "Of course! I had the opportunity to tour the UK with Shirley Bassey and Van Morrison. But I’ve never been to Ireland and it’s on my bucket list!”
I’d like to thank Matt for taking the time from his hectic schedule to share his story with my readers and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him every success with his latest album ‘Sinatra with Matt Dusk’.
You can learn more about Matt Dusk and hear his fabulous singing on his website mattdusk.com
As an actor, I take inspiration from the stars of the acting world. So when introduced to one of my acting heroes, one with a very special Trafford connection, I was thrilled.
Ian McShane, now residing in Hollywood, lived in Urmston between 1950 and 1960. He attended Canterbury Road Primary School before going on to Stretford Grammar School.
I asked Ian what he liked doing in Trafford and here’s what he had to say.
“I loved going to the Curzon Cinema and the swimming baths next door to it. I used to play football on the fields that are now the Urmston Bowling Club and play tennis on the courts that are still there in Crofts Bank Road. I also liked going to the dances at the Locarno in Sale.
"I was also a regular visitor to Old Trafford when my dad played for Manchester United from 1950 to 1955, and I still attend matches to this day."
I asked what his stand out moments were of his time in Trafford.
“Watching United play was always a highlight, but for myself it was when Stretford Grammar School did Cyrano de Bergerac and I played the part, which led to me going to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
"I still enjoy coming back and seeing my mother, watching United and having local meat and potato pies. That childhood taste still comes back to you. They say it’s the water."
I would be hard pushed to pick my favourite role of Ian’s. I loved watching the TV series Lovejoy and I admire his work on Deadwood and in the film series John Wick alongside Keanu Reeves. So instead, I asked him what his own highlights from his career to date are.
“Highlights are really for other people to pick and it’s always surprising, but if I had to choose I’d say my favourites are Battle of Britain, Disraeli, Jesus of Nazareth, Cheaper to Keep Her (I met my wife Gwen on that), Lovejoy, Sexy Beast, Deadwood, John Wick (about to start number 3) and American Gods (about to start season 2)."
Ian McShane is a fantastic actor and a really nice gentleman who I am very proud to know and I’d like to thank him for taking the time to chat to me about his memories of Trafford.
THIS week I’m chatting to one of my favourite television personalities - TV presenter, author, comedian, radio producer and actor Karl Pilkington.
I asked Karl about his memories of growing up in Trafford and here is what he had to say.
“I grew up on Racecourse Estate in Sale and then went to Ashton on Mersey secondary school where I struggled to understand most stuff before leaving with just a GCSE grade E in History”, said Karl.
I asked what does he like doing around Trafford?
He said: “Not much these days as I don’t live there any more. But I still have a wander around on Google Street View. I’m always looking at places I used to hang around, but it’s all changed. I noticed the other day that the Wagon and Horses has been knocked down on Cross Street. My mate said it’s been replaced by a Co-Op.
“Makes me feel old when places I knew disappear. I wonder if growing up in Rome keeps you feeling young and your memories clear because the buildings are standing there forever?
“I remember cycling all over the place with my pet magpie Maggie on my handlebars, only nipping home for a dripping butty for some energy before going back out again. I loved being on my bike.
“My favourite job was my paper round. I used to deliver to houses off Manor Avenue/Epping Drive and the posher houses near the Avenue. One morning I got up and found my bike had a puncture so I tried doing my round on a pogo stick. I was absolutely knackered. Pogo sticks are not a good mode of transport.”
How did a lad from Sale with an E in History become successful in the entertainment industry?
Karl said: ‘I loved music as a kid. My mam always had the record player or radio going, so I heard a lot of music. I always dreamed of doing a radio show but my careers advisor sent me on work experience at Kwik Fit. The only thing I learnt there was that I didn’t want to work there after leaving school. I ended up using money I saved from my paper round and washing cars to buy a mobile disco set up, which I made some decent money through.
“Then my dad had a heart operation in Wythenshawe hospital and some lad came round the ward asking if anyone wanted a record playing on the hospital radio station.
“I asked him how he got a show on there and he said anyone can do it as it’s voluntary. I ended up doing a few shows.
“That led to me getting my foot in the door at Piccadilly Radio, where I eventually did the overnight show for a couple of years before being sacked for talking too much and not playing enough music.
“I ended up as a producer on the breakfast show before moving to London to work for Xfm for nine years.
“I was given to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to produce their show and that led to the podcasts and TV stuff. It didn’t all happen quickly for me.”
So what’s next for Karl Pilkington?
“I’ve finished filming a new series called Sick of It. After writing a few books about my travels around the world, (Idiot Abroad and The Moaning of Life) I thought I’d have a go at writing something for television with Richard Yee, who was a director on some of the Idiot Abroad trips."
When he’s not working, Karl likes to do little jobs around his house and garden.
He said: “I’ve just finished cleaning the decking. Once I’m done with this interview I need to clean the filters in the hot tub. I keep myself busy.”
I asked Karl to impart some of his famous wisdom for The Messenger’s readers.
He said: “I’ve heard there’s more chance of you dying on the way to buy a lottery ticket than there is of actually winning it. Is it worth the risk?”
I HAVE worked on our local soap Coronation Street on a number of occasions and always found everyone to be really friendly and professional and none more so than our very own Trafford local, Sally Dynevor.
Sally has lived and worked in Trafford for 30 years, her three children were all born at Trafford General Hospital and schooled right here in Trafford.
I asked Sally where she liked to go in Trafford and here’s what she had to say.
"Altrincham Market is wonderful. A real community space with a huge variety of food and drink and an exciting place to be and to meet people. The market started off a huge regeneration in Altrincham and it’s now a really vibrant place to be".
"We’re also really lucky to have Dunham Massey and Tatton Park on our doorstep and we’re lucky to have several great theatres within a short drive and we’re really looking forward to having the new Everyman Cinema in Altrincham later this year. Also, the entire Dynevor family are huge Manchester United fans."
I wanted to know how Sally got into the world of dramatics and how did Sally Dynevor become Sally Webster?
"From the age of 13, I knew what I wanted to do. I joined the Oldham Theatre Workshop and at 18 I moved to London and was accepted at Mountview Theatre School. Coronation Street brought me back home to the North.
"I’ve had the best time working on Corrie, I’ve been so lucky. There are so many highlights: Kevin and Sally’s ups and downs, some wonderfully dramatic, and funny, stories over the years, but now I’m really enjoying Sally and Tim’s relationship and I love it when Sally thinks she’s grander than she is, she’s such fun to play."
When not at work, Sally’s favourite thing to do is spending time with her family.
"I also love going for a run and listening to podcasts, going to the cinema and taking the dogs for walks. And boxsets. Lots of boxsets."
Sally and I both share a passion for supporting local charities and I have had the pleasure of performing for a few charities that are very special to her.
"I’m very proud to be patron of the Trafford-based Prevent Breast Cancer charity and its aim is to eradicate breast cancer for the next generation. I’m also a patron of Beechwood Cancer Care in Stockport, a wonderful charity."
I’d like to thank Sally for taking the time out of her hectic schedule to chat to me about her life here in Trafford.
THIS week I interviewed the stars of Gogglebox who fly the flag for Trafford - Tom and Julie Malone from Stretford.
I’ve met Tom and Julie Malone on a few occasions and they’re passionate about giving something back to the community by supporting charity events.
I asked them about their lives in Trafford and what they like to do.
Julie said: "As a family we like to watch TV and go out for the occasional meal."
"Me and Tom love spending time with our grandchildren and taking them to soft play areas and parks. We also like to go out to comedy nights and the Melville Pub. Our son Tom Jnr, who now lives in London, is either dancing, teaching dance, choreographing or going out socially. Our other son Shaun likes going out socially with his mates and the occasional game of football. He coaches football at Manchester United, for the mixed ability team."
It is obvious they are a close and loving family and I wanted to know more about what they love about Trafford.
Julie said: "We love living in Trafford. It's close to everything, lovely parks and play areas, shopping, cafes and close enough to the motorway and metro networks for going further afield. But the best thing about Trafford are the warm, friendly people."
Tom added: "I love to shop in the Arndale (Mall) and feel sad it’s being run down."
But Tom says that he doesn't shop, he just follows Julie around with a basket.
"I remember when it was all hustle and bustle", said Julie. "Especially at weekends. I like the Trafford Centre for clothes, presents and the cinema, but Urmston has a lovely shopping area too.Basically I just love shopping, especially at the bargain places on the retail park".
Being famous on TV means that people recognise the Malones when they’re out and about. I asked if it bothered them being stopped by strangers on the street?
Julie said: "We do get recognised and stopped when we are out and about. It's nice that people feel they can approach us and are so friendly. They usually ask about the dogs - especially Dave - the grandkids and the famous array of cakes. We don't mind in the least people stopping us for a chat. It means they can relate to us and see us for what we are - an ordinary family. People also like to commiserate with me for being married to a moaning, miserable Tom!
"We're just a normal, down-to-earth family with a love of dogs. We like the fact that people who watch the show see Rottweilers for the lovable family dogs that they are."
To finish, I cheekily asked them, 'who is your favourite rat pack singer?'
"Our favourite rat pack singer has got to be the guy from Trafford, but we can't remember his name now. He's very good though!", laughed Julie!
ONE of my favourite television personalities is the multi-talented actor and comedian John Thomson.
John is best known for his portrayal of Pete Gifford in the ITV comedy drama Cold Feet. Another role of his that I love is his character Louis Balfour, the Jazz Club host with the catch phrase ‘Nice!’ in the BBC sketch series The Fast Show.
John used to visit Urmston regularly and was often spotted around Eden Square and when I organised the opening of Mulino Restaurant John was my first choice for the guest list. When speaking to him he is always very open and honest about his life, he is also a very humble and a modest man.
I chatted to John recently and asked him how he was getting on during lockdown and here is what he had to say.
“I’m doing okay with lockdown. I stopped drinking about 14 years ago and sort of put myself into a kind of lockdown. I don’t suffer from any mental health issues myself and I’m not an ambassador for mental health issues at all but I can understand why people might suffer from them whilst in isolation at home. I’m an actor and as such I’m not always working so I am at home a lot in between jobs. I have time on my hands, especially during lockdown and so I though I would start doing videos. I wasn’t sure about doing them, I’m no better than anybody else, but I do have things to say that some people might find useful. I’ve lived and have experience of certain things. So I put a video on my Instagram account, just a chat about my drinking and how I stopped and the feedback was really positive with lots of people asking me questions so I’m doing more of them and i’ll answer them and chat about other things too. So, It’s not so bad staying at home, it’s not like years ago when we didn’t have all the entertainment we have today. It’s a global thing though and I feel sorry for those in other countries around the world who don’t have all the comforts we have in the UK.
John had a great explanation, on why he stopped drinking, that I think is a great piece of advice for anyone who this might resonate with. He said: "I stopped drinking because when I controlled it I didn’t enjoy it and when I enjoyed it I didn’t control it! I’d just had enough and that was it."
I asked if he had any advice for our readers during these unusual times.
‘Yes, get yourself a set of jump leads! While we are all at home our cars aren’t going anywhere and I think it’s a valued reason if your asked why your out in the car that it is essential to give your car a run out for half an hour a week to maintain your battery. Otherwise everyone is going to come out of lock down and get in their cars and... nothing! So the person with a set of jump leads will be your best friend.”
I have a lot of respect for John Thomson. He is firstly, a really decent gentleman and he puts his family first which I really admire but he is also an extremely talented and versatile entertainer.
WHEN I first announced that I was to start writing a weekly column the first person to offer me some solid advice on column writing was Eamonn O’Neal.
Eamonn has been wonderful in supporting me over the years on his radio show and kindly featured me in his column at the time for my Charity Sinatra Centennial Concert.
Last week Eamonn made a lovely announcement so I thought it was the perfect time to interview him and share his wonderful news. I started as I always do with asking him about his Trafford connection and what he likes to do in the area and here’s what he had to say.
He said: “We’ve lived in Trafford for 25 years and our children have grown up and gone to the wonderful Trafford schools here. We live near the canal so we’re always walking or cycling along the towpath. We love the restaurant recently opened at the Waterside, Mano a Bocca. Lovely people and fab food. The theatre at the Waterside is fantastic and we go a lot for a variety of events”.
After a very busy and highly successful career in TV, radio and newspapers I wanted to know how he now fills his time?
“I’m still working full time as CEO of St Ann’s Hospice and I present a Sunday morning programme with Jimmy Wagg on BBC Radio Manchester. I don’t really have much spare time but I do play the piano accordion and I’m trying to make more time to make the best of that. Our grandchildren are the ones who keep us busiest!”
As well as his brilliant work with St. Ann’s, Eamonn is the patron of a few charities.
“I’m currently a trustee of three charities - The Dianne Oxberry Trust, The Salford Diocese and Caritas. I also support a number of other good causes but not as trustee.
“The Dianne Oxberry Trust was set up last year following the sad death of our friend and colleague. We’ve done some amazing work in the first year, thanks to the huge generosity of people who loved Dianne.”
Eamonn has just been appointed by The Queen as the next High Sheriff of Greater Manchester and will be installed on April 17.
The role of High Sheriff is the oldest secular title in British history and among the most ancient in the world, dating back more than 1,300 years. The sheriff represented the monarch, collected taxes, raised armies and was the rule of law across the county but as times changed so did the role.
“It’s a great honour to be appointed High Sheriff. It’s a one-year appointment and I’m the second consecutive Trafford resident to hold the office, Mark Adlestone having been High Sheriff 2019/20. It’s an opportunity to support the huge amount of great work done across the communities. I’m dedicating my year to everyone who volunteers.
“I’m very proud of being a Trafford resident and I hope I can continue to contribute to life in this fantastic borough.”
One of my passions is studying a form of acting known as Method Acting. I have taken many courses over the years, around the world, on different interpretations of the method and I sympathise with anyone who gets trapped in a corner with me in a discussion on the subject of different opinions and styles of the method as there would be no escape.
Method acting was originally brought to our attention by Constantin Stanislavski, and his technique has been interpreted by several great, master teachers like Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner to name a few. Famous actors who have studied this method include Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and James Dean.
So when I heard about one of our own, fantastic method actors starring in a new play called ‘Tinned Up’, which is a story full of heart and soul, about a family, friends, community and fighting for social issues, which is inspired by the Salford streets affected by demolitions, I jumped at the opportunity to have a chat with her to find out more about her and of course to chat about method acting.
Karen Henthorn, from Oldham, is a well-known actor of both stage and screen. She is also a hugely respected teacher of screen acting and runs regular screen acting workshops for MAP (Manchester Actors Platform) and Thinking Actors as well as being a private screen acting tutor. We arranged to have a chat over the phone so I could ask her about her new play but we ended up chatting about method acting for most of the call!
She explained her process of feeling the emotions necessary for a role, for instance instead of pretending to be upset and crying, she uses her method acting techniques to recall a specific sad event from her own life and, although she is reading the words of her character, she is actually feeling the genuine sadness that she is recalling from her own past and the tears then flow naturally as they would in real life. It’s not an easy task but it’s her ability to apply these acting techniques so truthfully that make her one of the finest actors in the UK.
Karen has had many on screen credits over the years and you will have seen her on Coronation Street as Teresa Bryant and she also played Julie Haye in Eastenders. One of my favourite roles of Karen’s was when she played Social Worker Marissa Platting in Shameless. She has also appeared on Trollied, In The Flesh, The Booze Cruise, Heartbeat, the ITV drama Dark Heart and she’s just finished filming for Dawn French’s Glass Houses that will air in the Spring of 2020.
On stage Karen has appeared in some fantastic plays including Spring and Port Wine, for which she was nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award for best Actress in a leading role, War Horse, A taste of Honey, the Crucible, The Importance of Being Earnest and Wuthering Heights to name a few.
I asked Karen about her new play Tinned Up and here is what she had to say.
“So it’s really a robust and humorous juggernaut of a piece telling the story of the brutal treatment of a community fighting for their homes and for justice”.
Tinned Up runs from Tuesday the 24th of September to Thursday the 26th September at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre. It’s going to be a fantastic play with the chance to see Karen Henthorn, who is regarded as one of the best actors we have today starring in it, so don’t miss this opportunity to see it! You can get tickets by ringing 0161 624 2829 or by visiting the website www.coliseum.org.uk
Through conversations with various people in the entertainment business, one name kept cropping up again and again as one of the most decent, respectful and talented gentlemen in the industry. That name is Mr Reece Dinsdale.
Reece has not really engaged with the media over the years, preferring to let his vast body of work do the talking for him, so you can imagine how delighted I was when I spoke to him and he agreed to be interviewed by me.
If you mention his name to most people, they will automatically think of his roles as Matthew Willows in Home to Roost alongside the late, great John Thaw, or as the ill-fated Joe McIntyre in Coronation Street. However, there is so much more to Reece's illustrious career than just these two specific roles.
Reece is a time-served, award winning actor who, after training at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, went on to appear in many hugely successful stage productions, films, television dramas and radio plays.
My personal favourite screen role he gave, is that of John Brandon in the feature film I.D. His portrayal of the undercover policeman turned football hooligan showed us he was by no means just the typecast, light hearted, boy next door that television audiences may have assumed, but showed he could also play the raw, gritty, emotional roles that his stage audiences had already discovered. In fact, his portrayal of the role won him the Special Jury Prize (International Critics Award) at the Geneva Film Festival… and deservedly so!
To begin our chat I asked Reece if he had always wanted to be an actor.
“I didn’t want to be an actor at all… it wasn’t the done thing, as a working class boy from Yorkshire. I was literally press-ganged into a school play at the age of 12. The lad playing the leading role of Tom Sawyer had to pull out just a week before the performance, and so the directors picked me to fill in. They said I had a ‘cheeky face’. I wasn’t happy. However, I did it and, to my complete surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I realised I was quite good at something and decided to pursue it. Not a bad decision in hindsight. It was a completely alien world to my mum and dad, but they backed me to the hilt. I then got into drama school at 17 years of age… and the rest is history.”
I asked if he had ever visited our Borough of Trafford or the surrounding areas.
I’ve been to Trafford three or four times to watch my beloved Huddersfield Town play at Old Trafford, and I’m often at Media City, Salford Quays, doing plays for Radio 4.
My wife Val and I recently went to a play by Urmston Musical Theatre Juniors. What advice would you give those young people who may wish to pursue acting as a career?
"As a sometimes television director, and only if I’m asked, I tell the more inexperienced actors that there’s absolutely no alternative to working as hard as you possibly can. Without honing your craft, being extremely conscientious and professional; turning up on time, giving it your full attention, being prepared, you’re not going to get anywhere. The odd one or two get through the net without it, but it’s rare. Without that real hard work and drive, and talent of course, you’re not going to get too far. It’s also important that it’s enjoyable and that you find time to have a good laugh as well; to know when it’s time to play and when it’s time to work. I think a good mixture of the two is very useful. In short though, it isn’t a free ride. As my old dad always said… ‘You don’t get owt for nowt!’.
I’ve always thought of theatre acting as a very different technique to screen acting and I asked Reece what he thought were the main differences he found between the two.
“Well, in some ways they are two very different worlds and different techniques are required, without a shadow of a doubt. And yes, sometimes your work needs to be smaller, more subtle, working on television. But acting for both theatre and the screen has one thing in common… and that’s ‘truth’. The camera will know if you’re not really inside the character, if you’re not finding the moment, and likewise on stage (depending on the nature of the piece, of course), the audiences will know if you’re pushing it, not being truthful, if you’re not alive to the moment. The stage technique only differs in that you also need to get your words and emotions across to the back of the auditorium whilst keeping things (should the play require it) truthful and intimate. It’s a fine art, this acting lark, and can only be learned with time and experience.”
As briefly mentioned, Reece is also beginning to make a name for himself behind the camera. He has now directed a number of television dramas with great style and success; one of them winning a Royal Television Society Award. I wanted to know if he preferred directing over acting or vice versa and also is it easier for him to direct actors as an actor himself.
“I like them both equally. I am an actor, and that’s what I will always do, but the directing came out of the blue for me. I was playing a leading role in a ’Moving On’ story (for the Jimmy McGovern led series that I now direct) and the producer said to me that I really ought to direct. I’d never thought of it before, even though I know a lot of actors love to have a go at it. I just thought… right, here we go, here’s a golden opportunity, let’s take the chance, and if I’m rubbish then I’m rubbish and I’ll never have to do it again. Turns out I was half decent. I totally adore working with actors. I think they trust me, as they know I’ve walked the walk, so to speak. It’s a fabulous and hugely rewarding job and I absolutely love it!”
Reece Dinsdale is a remarkably talented actor, a well-respected and admired director and, I’ve now found out for myself having been told by others for some time, that Reece is a genuine, honest and respectful gentleman. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to him and gain an insight into the man and his career.
I hope the reader will gain from this feature as much as I have. As his own career is testament to… his invaluable advice, his outlook on life, and the way he conducts himself as a man, makes him an ideal role model for our younger generation of up and coming actors.
Having just reached his 60th birthday, Reece tells me he will continue to grow and develop new skills as both an actor and director, and I personally hope to see him back on our screens soon… and, of course, I am sure he will never be too far away from the stage!
JIMMI Harkishin — aka Dev Alahan from Coronation Street — recently came to see Val and I, as he is soon departing on a holiday and will be away for a while.
We have been good friends for some time so it was nice to have a catch up.
Not one to ever miss an opportunity, I invited Jimmi to be interviewed for this column and he graciously accepted. This is my first interview of 2019 and I couldn’t be prouder that it’s with Jimmi.
I asked him how long he has been a cast member of Coronation Street and here is what he had to say.
“This is actually my 20th year at Corrie. My first appearance was on November 10, 1999, and I have loved every minute of it. I’ve been here that long that I am now an honorary Mancunian!
"Corrie bosses have very kindly let me have time off for two months to celebrate my 20th year, which I am very grateful for, so I am going to visit China and Japan”.
I wanted to know if there were any stand-out moments of his 20 years on the soap.
“Actually, today one of the writers reminded me of a story line she pitched about the Dev and Deirdre affair. That was really good fun to film with the late, great Anne Kirkbride. Wonderful memories”.
I know it’s a very busy schedule working on Corrie, long hours and mountains of scripts for cast members to learn, but I wanted to know what Jimmi does to relax when not filming or running through scripts.
“I love watching movies and going to the theatre. I am also an avid reader. I like to keep up with current affairs and I really love to travel”.
As this is a Trafford newspaper and my columns are all about promoting Trafford, I asked Jimmi, who lives just on the outskirts of Trafford, if he has any links to the borough?
“Not a lot of people know this but Weatherfield is in Trafford! So, Dev is a Trafford resident. So, I am a Traffordian! Is that a word? I have friends I visit in Sale and Altrincham and, of course, you and Val here in Urmston!
"The Trafford Centre is the only place to go for about six months of the year because of the Manchester weather! I am also a Manchester United supporter and was thrilled that I got to see George Best play at the end of his career, at White Hart Lane”.
Jimmi has recently become a grandfather, so I congratulated him on that and asked if he wished to say anything about that.
“Recently I became a grandfather to a perfect little boy, but I’m on strict instructions from my daughter not to post anything about him online anywhere. I’ll just say that I wanted him to be called King Cantona, but she wasn’t having anything to do with it!”
Jimmi has a huge heart and for the past 15 years he has been the patron of Baby Lifeline, which provides the welfare and support of premature babies.He also does a lot of work for The Christie, as and when he is able to do so.
I would like to thank him for his support over the years at our charity events and for doing this interview.
I hope you will all join me in congratulating him on his twentieth year at Coronation Street and wish him all the very best for his future.
I’ll leave the last word to Jimmi.
“Not a lot people know this, but Wayne Devlin is my favourite crooner!”
Writing this column each week has given me a lot of respect for writers and made me look at them in a whole new light. For me writing this column is pretty straightforward, in a nutshell I write about what I do, but for other types of writers, such as screenwriters it's no easy task having to create a whole new world and all the characters who live within it.
So when one of the most talented artists of the screenwriting world invited me to spend the day with him as his guest on his latest production 'Brassic' I jumped at the opportunity.
Although there are a lot of screenwriters doing amazing work in the industry, in my personal opinion, no one does this job better than the BAFTA and International Emmy winning screenwriter, Danny Brocklehurst.
Danny is one of the most well respected and admired screenwriters of his generation. He has written countless hit television drama series including Ordinary Lies, Clocking Off, Shameless, The Street, Accused, Linda Green, The Driver, Exile, The Stretford Wives, Sorted, In the Dark, Come Home, Safe and his latest hit series Brassic and it's on the set of Brassic Series 2 that I was invited along to spend the day with him.
When I arrived on set at Haigh Hall, in Wigan, I was warmly greeted by Danny, who is an absolute gentleman. He instantly made me feel welcome and at home on his set. He then introduced me to the on screen star and his co-creator of 'Brassic', Joe Gilgun.
Joe is quite a character and I defy anyone to not take to him instantly as I did. He is a very open and honest man who seems to say exactly what he thinks and feels and I liked that about him. Later, watching him work, I could see he has an artistic search for truth in even the most comedic of situations. You may remember Joe in Emmerdale portraying Eli Dingle and one of my favourite roles of his was when he played Woody in the film This Is England.
I asked Joe how he thought Brassic Series 2 was going so far and here's what he had to say.
"Well, Danny has taken the weight of series 2, he does the bulk of the work and I always annoy him. I know he's under enormous pressure and what I quite like to do is add to that! (laughs) But we're all mates, it's an amazing family we've got down here and I honestly, genuinely feel that series 2 is going to be better than series 1. We've hit the ground running again and we're so grateful to everyone, the crew, the extras, everyone who's involved because they're all amazing, every one of them".
I left Joe to get ready for his first scene as Danny showed me around the set and introduced me to the crew who I have to say, were all absolutely amazing, it was like watching one big happy family working together.
He then introduced me to some more of the cast, Michelle Keegan and Damien Malony who were both lovely and made me feel very welcome. It was also plain to see the huge respect they both have for Danny. After a good chat, Danny and I headed off to a quiet spot for a conversation, I wanted to know how he got started in screenwriting and here's what he had to say.
"I've always written stuff but you don't really think you can make a living out of it. As I was growing up I would always write stories but it was only as i got older I started to think is this something that I could pursue? So I put on a play in Manchester at the Green Room and I entered a Young Playwrites' competition and my play was one of the three that got picked and subsequently made, but I suppose the big break was, from that competition, a radio producer came down to watch that play and then bought it for Radio 4. So it felt great that for the first time ever someone was paying me to write".
"So I kept on writing scripts trying to get people interested but it's very difficult, it's a very difficult business to break in to and it took years. I was working as a journalist in all that time for the Manchester Evening News and the Big Issue and a little bit for the Guardian, So from graduating until I was around 30 years old I was a journalist but still writing in my spare time. My lucky bit, and I think you always need a combination of things like a bit of luck along with a lot of perseverance, but my lucky bit was when I was a journalist and I went to interview Paul Abbott about a show he was doing at the time and he was very chatty and I suppose I was cheeky but I told him about some of my scripts and I asked if he'd like to have a look, I don't suppose he really wanted to, but what he did do was pass them on to Red Production Company and they liked them and invited me to pitch ideas for Clocking Off, so I spent a lot of time thinking about it, pitched it and miraculously managed to get into Clocking Off, so that was really my first real big TV break I suppose.
As we were on set of series 2 of Brassic I asked Danny how the story of Brassic came about?
"Normally what I do is I come up with an idea and i'll go to Red Production Company and then try to sell it to Netflix or the BBC etc but that wasn't how this went. I'd just gone for a general meeting with a film company and they had just made 'Pride' which Joe was in and they said they've got this actor who is interested in doing a TV series and he's got some stories from when he grew up. They asked if I wanted to meet him and we met up in Manchester and we just started talking about this show and what it could be. I soon realised that this was a really great idea - I really liked Joe and I really liked the ideas he was talking about. That wasn't a TV show though, that was just ideas so it needed a lot of focus and a lot of shaping and that's exactly what we've done together. We've kept the tone of quite silly really but with a serious emotional underpinning and an emotional health thread running through it. A lot of the original stuff came from Joe's personal experiences and his friendships but as we go on we develop it out a bit and add things in, things that we just made up, sometimes on the spot. So it really has been a collaborative process between me and Joe and hopefully that will continue".
I wanted to know if he found it a challenge coming up with new ideas for a second series and does he feel there's any pressure with making it as successful as series 1 was?
"Well the good news is we'd done a lot of thinking about series 2 before series 1 went out so I'd done loads of writing on it, in fact I think we'd pretty much written all of it actually. So in a way I didn't know what the public's reaction to Brassic 1 was going to be as we were developing Brassic 2, so we just did what we wanted to do and cranked up the ideas a little bit but essentially It is the same deal. I think the pressure would be, if there is pressure, going into series 3 as we know then if people like it and you've done a lot of things already, you need to match that quality again and that's when it might start to get difficult".
So what can we expect in series 2?
"The first series ended with Joe's character Vinny faking his own funeral, so clearly we had to pick up on that for the start of series 2 really and then we've really taken everything that was in series 1 and pushed it a little bit further out there in terms of some of the story lines. It's all the same gang with the same tone. We want it to be similar as that's what people like but you've got to take it somewhere slightly different. It's always a worry, you hope it's as good as the first and you hope people will enjoy it"!
I really enjoyed my day on the set of Brassic 2 and look forward to it airing. Thank you Danny for having me as your guest for the day.
As a working class northerner with a love of the arts I know how difficult it is to break into the acting scene and make a career from it.
If you are not lucky enough to be able to afford schooling at such institutes as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in order to learn your craft then you can be left in a kind of no-man’s-land.
There is a big push going on in the industry at the moment to help working class actors get a foot in the door and help them fulfil their acting potential. So I really do take great encouragement from fellow working class northerners who are gaining major success in the world of acting.
One such actor is Salford born Steve Evets. Although Steve has been on the acting scene for quite some time, on both the stage and screen, he gained his ‘overnight success’ in the Ken Loach, 2009, hit film ‘Looking for Eric’ co-starring with the Manchester United legend Eric Cantona.
Currently Steve is starring in the Sky One, comedy drama Brassic alongside Michelle Keegan, Joe Gilgan and Damien Molony.
I invited Steve to the Trafford Centre for a coffee and a chat about his life and career and the first thing I noticed about him, apart from his great northern humour, is that he is a very real and down to earth person.
He dislikes the word ‘celebrity’ and sees his acting work as just that, work! So, we took our coffees to an empty table and sat down to have a chat and my first question had to be about working on ‘Looking for Eric’.
“Well that was a life-changing role! I went for an audition with Ken Loach and was asked to come back again and again and again. Each time we improvised, it got more and more intense and demanding and I had to stay in character for longer, but I loved it.
"They never gave anything away and at the end of it they said to me thank you very much. I left and waited about two weeks then my agent says 'Ken Loach wants to see you again'!
"So I think I had eight recalls for that role. I knew I was going to be in that film but I didn’t know what part I would get. I could have done about five or six different parts in it, that would have suited a person of my age, but Ken saw something in me and cast me as the lead role as Eric.
"I’ve got to say it pretty much changed my life really. It got me more work and it got me noticed. I got nominated for best actor at the European film awards. I didn’t win it, but the idea of someone like me, from Salford, being nominated for the best actor award doesn’t seem real, not where I’m from. I’m quite proud of all the work I do, I love my job, and I’d do it for nothing."
So how did a lad from Salford get into this acting business?
“Well, it was a long and arduous journey, I went to school in Salford and the idea of anybody going into the arts wasn’t even a thing, it was never even discussed because it wasn’t that world.
"I thought the arts were for middle class posh people and I wasn’t from that world. So I left school and went straight to work on the freight ships sailing around the world at 16, 17 and 18 years of age which really broadened my outlook a lot.
"But I always had this calling for the arts and I knew in myself I needed to do something about it. I did a foundation course in drama and we had to write, devise and rehearse our own shows for three different audiences, children, teenagers and older people and it was one of the best times of my life. We had a van and a trailer and we drove around doing gigs at community centres, schools and old people’s homes, anywhere really!
"That’s where I learnt my trade. I only had two things I needed to keep going and they were my telephone, with an answer phone, we didn’t have mobiles back then, in case work came in and the second thing was a car so I could get to auditions and actually get to roles. I wouldn’t eat sometimes as I could only afford to pay my phone bill and keep my car on the road. I had to do this to succeed. I took jobs in bars, shops and so on. I did everything I had to do in order to do what I wanted to do and I only really made it because I refused to go away.
"I was that determined. I joined the Actors Centre and I used their notice board to find work and join theatre groups. I think that every fringe theatre that was in Manchester in the 80s I probably worked for and it paid off, I think!”
I asked Steve what he is currently working on.
“There’s a film called ‘The Claimants’ in the pipeline which we’ve shot the trailer for and the director Paul Murphy who I’ve worked with before on Casualty and he directed me in ‘Death in Paradise’ which was filmed in Guadalupe in the Caribbean, which was a really nice job.
"So, me and Paul go back a bit and he’s put together this great idea for the film about a group of people who, when they hear their local pub is being shut down, all club together, they stage an accident and 28 of them get whiplash on a bus, it’s based on a true story! But as we speak I’m working on the second series of ‘Brassic’ which has been very popular with audiences”.
So, when not filming what does Steve do to relax?
“I love to spend time with my two grandchildren who are six years old and 15 months old. I love having fun and spoiling them and regressing to being a child myself to entertain them, which is actually quite liberating."
I’d like to thank Steve for meeting up with me and joining me in getting frothy coffee on our beards! We had a really good chat about my favourite subject of acting. I wish Steve every success in the world and look forward to seeing him on my screen soon.
You can catch Steve in the current series of ‘Brassic’, all episodes are on Sky One.
I AM aware that some of you might not be boxing fans, but I ask you to indulge me this week as I introduce you to a young gentleman, 23-year-old Hughie Fury.
He really is a gentleman with impeccable manners and great respect for everyone he meets, who has devoted his whole life to the mastery of his sport.
His dedication has taken him from gold medals as an amateur, to the professional game where he now holds the British title and aims to step up and claim a world title very soon.
I was recently invited along to the Team Fury Gym in Bolton to see Hughie and his father, who also happens to be his trainer, Peter Fury.
I have been good friends with the Fury family for some time, having also performed for them on a few occasions, so it was nice to have the opportunity to catch up with them both.
The thing I love about the Furys is the special relationship they have. It's obvious to all who speak to them just how much respect Hughie has for his father and you can also see the pride Peter has in his son.
Peter is one of the most respected trainers in the business, guiding Hughie to the British title with plans for world titles in the near future.
As both a friend of the Fury's and a fan of boxing I can't wait for that day!
When I arrived at the Fury gym, Hughie was in the ring sparring. Knowing what a polite young man he is it's hard to take in just how ferocious he can be in the boxing ring.
He has great skill and movement and immense power in both hands. It was also really something to see his father guiding him from the corner and seeing first-hand that father-son duo in action.
After his sparring, Hughie and I went for a catch up. I noticed straight away a definite change since I last saw him.
He's always been focussed and driven but there's a new and very serious confidence in him.
He seems every inch the world champion he aspires to be.
I asked him what it was like for him to have his father in his corner and this is what he had to say.
"He tells you straight how it is. If it's a bad day he'll tell you it's a bad day. If something's going right it's going right.
"He tells you straight how it is and that's the relationship we have in the gym. It's straight forward business", said Hughie.
I asked Hughie how he balances family life with boxing.
He said: "A lot of sacrifice and dedication. When in camp I don't speak to my family. I just have sparring partners and my Dad, that's it.
"I sacrifice all my family members and everything when in camp. Obviously my Dad is family but when in camp he's my trainer not my Dad!"
With regards to his future plans, Hughie simply stated: "I want the World Title next".
I for one believe that he will!
When not boxing, Hughie said: "I just like to chill really, you know when you're constantly in this business it takes over, it's hard to do anything else, boxing training is full time.
"That's my life, until you reach your goal you've got to stay dedicated. I want to take over the division and then defend the title and that's it, that’s the plan".
After our chat Hughie and I went on the punch bags where I was put through my paces. Ten minutes in I was exhausted. It made me realise just how much commitment Hughie puts in to his sport.
He is at the peak of physical fitness. It's total dedication and I personally really applaud that.
Here is a man with a dream and a goal that he has spent his whole life pursuing and he is well on his way, with his father in his corner, to achieving that goal.
People often think of boxers in a negative light, so having someone like Hughie in the sport really is a great thin.
I believe he is a fantastic ambassador for boxing and I hope the readers and all the Trafford community will join me by getting behind Hughie and supporting him.
Hughie Fury is a man who is committed to pursuing his dream and giving his heart and soul each and every day in order to become the next Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Next up for Hughie, a possible IBF World Title Eliminator with Kubrat Pulev, which I believe is in the negotiation stages.
Then perhaps he will get his shot at the title against the current holder Anthony Joshua!
Thank you so much Peter and Hughie for inviting me into your gym, which was a great experience.
I wish them both all the very best.
HIS week I had the pleasure of interviewing BBC Radio’s Connor Phillips, from a safe distance of course.
Connor is from Jonesboro in South Armagh, around six miles from Newry, where he went to school. He is also matchday host at Hotel Football, here in Trafford.
He does a phone-in show every Saturday and Sunday on BBC Radio Manchester and I wanted to know how he got into presenting.
He said: “I did a drama degree at Queens in Belfast and three years on the West End with the National Youth Theatre so I initially thought I’d be an actor or possibly a drama teacher, which I also did briefly. I had always been the bloke who would get up in front of a crowd with little or no nerves (like much of my family). I had a job as a barman part-time and the DJ failed to turn up one night and I had to jump in and do some holiday resort style drinking games. This led to a job as a night club / party DJ. A few years in and I saw an ad for a community radio station. I did a training course there and was given my own show. Within six months I was approached by former Radio One legend Bruno Brookes and asked did I fancy a job with his radio company. "
His career has seen him work as a MTV presenter and earn a Sony Radio Award nomination. He has also appeared with RTE in Ireland and worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran and Tom Jones.
Connor added; “I got off on the wrong foot with Amy Winehouse as she’d been on a long tour and I was an interview towards the end of this. She wasn’t in the best of moods when we met. We had a few strong words and things eventually got going and it was one of the most memorable interviews I did. She even sang for me - just the two of us in a room. We kind of became friendly after that and we met up a few times when she came to Ireland."
Asked if he had suffered any major mishaps s on air, he said: "Taking 13 separate radio stations off air all across England and Scotland at the one time is right up there.
"I was presenting a network show across England and Scotland at the time. I hit the wrong buttons so many times it took everything off air and for quite some time. I’m still here though.”
Connor's show has stayed on the air as his bosses have "literally offered us every option to make sure we are safe".
"Each studio is kitted out with cleaning equipment, wipes and alcohol gels and individual microphone covers," he added.
And in a message to our readers, he said:
"Stay safe everyone. Thoughts are with anyone who has been affected by this horrible time. I hope we see the light at the end of the tunnel soon and that when this is all over we realise the brilliant things in life we have that we take from grated."
Thank-you Connor for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat and I’m sure our readers will join me in wishing you every success for your future.
As regular readers will know, I like to do celebrity interviews every now and then.
I also like to shine a spotlight on those who work behind the scenes and therefore don’t always get the recognition that they deserve.
So this week I would like to introduce you to a lovely gentleman with a strong Trafford connection and a man I am very proud to call my friend. The BBC’s Chris Brindley.
I asked Chris about his connections to Trafford and here’s what he had to say.
“I live in Flixton with my wife and 3 children (all boys) aged one, three and six. I’ve lived in Trafford for almost 9 years (previously in Sale and Timperley) after moving up from London with the BBC in 2011. I was born and grew up in Birmingham”.
Chris is also a Governor of Sale Grammar School and a Trust Board Member of a multi academy trust which encompasses Tyntesfield and Bollin primary schools.
He said: "I’m really passionate about education and believe each child should be given the best chance to excel in whatever they are good at whether it be maths or music.
“I’m the News Editor for BBC Manchester. I lead the news team, programmes and social media. I spent a number of years at BBC Radio 5 live which I loved, but I passionately believe in local radio as it is so close to the audience and is part of the community it represents outside that London bubble, so moved back to BBC Manchester about 18 months ago”.
So I asked him what is an average day like at the Beeb?
“A lot of my time is taken up by deciding and commissioning the stories we cover, managing reporters and presenters, recruitment, making sure we are being fair in our coverage and most importantly championing Greater Manchester and the people who live here.
What do you love most about your job?
“I love so many things about this job. It’s hard work, but also lots of fun. From giving people a platform to tell their stories to developing new talent. I really believe in taking people to the heart of the stories that are important to them. Last year we embedded a reporter with Greater Manchester Police for 3 months to find out what pressures the police were under on the frontline (this coverage has just won 2 awards). We also gave homeless people a voice with a 5 months campaign and for arranging for THEM to interview Andy Burnham about what he was doing to tackle the issue. (This also recently won an award).
Fundamentally news is about storytelling and giving people a voice about the things they are talking about, whether it be politics or Love Island”.
Chris is also responsible for Mike Sweeney’s Children in Need Extravaganza at the Lowry theatre every year, where a host of big name celebrities give up their time to perform for the charity live on the radio.
I wanted to know how Chris got started in this business?
“I had a week’s work experience at Pebble Mill in Birmingham when I was 16 which led on to holiday work and then whilst I did my degree I worked part time reading the sports news.
Then over a number of years I worked my way up from a reporter and producer in local radio to a Senior Producer/Deputy Editor at BBC Radio 5 live and now back at BBC Manchester as News Editor.
The honest answer is I talked a lot and had lots of ideas!”
To finish I asked Chris what he likes most about our area?
“I love how much of a buzz Urmston and Flixton has got over the last few years. From great new restaurants like Mulino to welcoming bars like the Prairie Schooner. It’s so friendly”.
Anything else you’d like to add?
“I also want to give a big shout out to all the staff and teachers at the schools I’m on the board of. Sale Grammar, Tyntesfield and Bollin.
They all work so extremely hard and are so passionate about putting children first and supporting them as individuals, and not just as one size fits all students.
Plus, my team mates at Flixton Tennis Club must also get a mention. The new season awaits and my serve is on fire, but my forehand needs work!”
I’d like to thank Chris for chatting with me about his work and our area and I wish him and his family all the very best.