Cultural Life: Maxine Peake, actress

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The Independent Culture


After I saw the Bill Douglas film Comrades: A Lanternist's Account of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and What Became of Them, I wanted to know more about the director. Now I am reading Bill Douglas: A Lanternist's Account. I'm also reading Deborah Martinson's biography of Lillian Hellman, A Life with Foxes and Scoundrels; Hellman wrote the play A Children's Hour, in which I am performing. I also read Class Act: The Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl by Ben Harker. I am on the board of friends at Salford's Working Class Movement Library, and I went to the book launch there.


I watched Carol Morley's documentary The Alcohol Years, in which she returns to Manchester to find out who she was back in the 1980s. Marjorie Yates, who played my mum in Shameless, lent me a copy of the Terence Davies film The Long Day Closes, which she was in. I am trawling the back catalogue of his films now.


I like the DJ, producer and remixer Andrew Weatherall's compilation Sci-Fi-Lo-Fi. I bought Diana Dors's album Swingin' Dors. If I was on a desert island and was allowed just one album, it would be The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths. I am also a big fan of Patti Smith and Dolly Parton.


I saw Pinter's The Homecoming on Broadway with Ian McShane and Eve Best. It was a different take; light comedy rather than black humour. I saw Happy Days at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Fiona Shaw because I missed it at the National. This Brooklyn theatre is beautiful, with a faded grandeur that adds to the atmosphere.

Visual arts

I'm a big fan of folk and outsider art. In New York, I saw an Emery Blagdon (1954-86) exhibition. His machine sculptures made of wire, copper strands and other materials that look like junk were invented to heal the world from cancer; he believed they harnessed the earth's energy to heal.

Maxine Peake stars in 'The Children's Hour' at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester (0161-833 9833) from 5 March to 5 April