How We Met: Vince Power & Anna Friel

'She has a beautiful, folky voice. It's her best-kept secret. If she ever gave up acting, I could put her on a bill'

Anna Friel, 36

After her break-out role as Beth Jordache on the Channel 4 soap 'Brookside', Friel has appeared in productions including a stage adaptation of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and roles in films including 'Rogue Trader' and, most recently, 'The Look of Love'. She lives in London with her daughter.

I met Vince's son Morris at my 18th birthday party. It was the first big party I had, as I'd just finished working on Brookside, having done 14-hour days since I was 16. Lots of people turned up, including friends of friends, such as Morris, who brought me tickets for the Phoenix Festival [which Vince ran] as a gift.

I arrived at the festival just as the Verve were playing "Bitter Sweet Symphony", and Morris introduced me to his dad, a big bear of a man with huge hands and a soft warm voice – and big hugs. He was wearing jeans and a shirt, and it surprised me as he didn't looked like a huge music mogul. He was like, "Watch yourself at your first-ever festival."

Vince gave me backstage passes and I was taken to the artist area, where Paul Weller asked me to introduce him on stage. I was like, oh my god. After that Vince invited me to the Reading Festival [which he operated during the 1990s], and I got a chance to see him in action, sorting out cock-ups and getting bands to appear on stage on time.

He's Irish and I'm from a big Irish family and when you're in England, that connection is strong. He's had lots of children and I'd go hang out with them, and then he'd come see my plays or visit me on the set of films.

He's got eight children. I've been at lunch with him and he'll stop everything to pick up the phone to speak to one of them. I've known his daughter Nell since she was tiny and now she's 21 and going to drama school, so I chat with her a lot about acting. I feel like part of his family and whenever I've needed advice, he has a way of looking at things in a matter-of-fact way that's really helpful. For instance, he recognised my need for privacy and calm [during Friel's break-up with the actor David Thewlis in 2010] and he let me and a friend take one of the cottages he has in St Annes.

He's very shy and when he has to have a photo taken, he wriggles and squirms. I tell him, we don't all adore having our photos taken, but there are ways to make it easier. For such a strong person, he's the shyest man.

When something knocks him down [Power's Music Festivals company went into receivership last year] he'll stop and do something else: he was selling antiques before he began doing festivals. We all fall on hard times but it's about the fight to get back up that counts. I'm excited about the possibility of going to [Power's Spanish festival] Benicassim, later this year, and after that, I can't wait to see what Vince does next.

Vince Power, 66

Following the success of his first London music venue, The Mean Fiddler, in the early 1980s, the Irish entrepreneur forged a £60m empire, opening a string of nightclubs and restaurants while running some of Britain's biggest festivals, including Hop Farm and Reading. His company Music Festivals went into receivership last year, though Powers continues to run a number of music festivals, including Benicassim in Spain.

I met Anna at the Phoenix Festival in 1994. I recognised her from TV when she came and introduced herself. We talked, had a beer and she stayed for the weekend. She even ended up introducing a band on stage.

There was a lot of chemistry between us, owing to the fact that her father is Irish and came to this country around the same time as me, and we had similar experiences. She was so positive and friendly, and after Phoenix, we hung out at some other festivals.

She's become busier as she's got older. I've visited her on film sets and seen her on stage. She's an amazing actress – she lives the whole thing. I went to see her in Breakfast at Tiffany's [at the Royal Haymarket] in 2009. She was great, though there was a little nude scene she was in, which felt a bit odd.

I saw her, too, when she was living in LA. We met at an antiques fair there. My first business was in antique furniture and we talk a lot about furniture now, as she has an eye for Arts and Crafts pieces – she had a lot of that in her old Kensington house.

I've not seen many of her films, but she's a great singer of Irish songs. Her dad is a good musician and I heard him play at her last birthday party. You can't stop the Irish from singing; they might have even sung together, I can't quite remember. I've listened to her sing a lot solo, though. She has a beautiful, folky voice. It's her best-kept secret. If she ever wanted to give up acting, I could put her on a bill, but I don't think she'd want to do that.

She understands the business she's in and copes with all the media intrusion that she gets. We all know the press want to cover stuff such as when she was seen out [drinking] recently. But that sort of coverage lasts about 15 minutes. What matters to her is doing the work. She used my cottage when she got a lot of press a few years ago over her break-up with David [Thewlis], to get away from it all.

Having kids gives you a sense of commitment and responsibility. When Anna had her daughter, Gracie, in 2005, we had a coffee and talked about it. I love Gracie. She's a beautiful, lovely child, confident and intelligent. She looks a bit like [her father] David. I've never stopped giving Anna advice about kids, though I wish I had taken some of the advice I've given her about business and relationships myself.

The Benicassim Festival runs from 18 to 21 July (fiberfib.com)

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