Maxine Peake at the Miners Community Art and Music Centre

I’m a Dinnerladies fan. Twinkle’s my favourite character.

She was played by Maxine Peake and the chance to watch one of her films ‘Funny Cow’ at Moston Small Cinema followed by a ‘question and answer session’ doesn’t come along every day. I struck early and got a ticket.

Maxine Peake: Dinnerladies (Twinkle), Early Doors, Silk, Coronation Street, Peterloo, Hamlet, Funny Cow and many more. BAFTA nominee and UK Theatre Awards Winner. Smug’s the one with the beard.

The film was intense, shocking, realistic and brilliantly acted. Afterwards, Smug Roberts asked most of the questions and the audience needed no encouragement to ask theirs.

Maxine told us how she landed her role as Twinkle, about working with Victoria Wood, moving back up north and being around places she knew in Bolton. Hearing about her time at RADA was fascinating.

“It’s a real leveller” she told us. “In my year, there was a really good balance including lots of working class Northerners as well as people from places like Oxford and Cambridge. It was a really good mix; it reflected the business with someone from every walk of life, from every ethnicity.”

“One thing I admire about you is you’re not scared of voicing your opinion.” Smug commented.

“When you do a job you have to do publicity and you get asked all sorts of questions.” Maxine replied. “When I’m asked about how I feel I like to be open about what my feelings are. I never tell people what they should think; I don’t force my opinions on them.”The audience were smitten with her and so was I. She was very witty, warm and open. The whole evening was a pleasure.

She’d mentioning having to do publicity but Maxine wasn’t at the Miners on a cold November evening to promote her film. She was there to promote and raise funds for Lifeshare, a charity that helps meet the needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Manchester and Salford.

She wasn’t the only performer at the event either. We were also treated to a surprise live performance of ‘Human Touch’ by IORA (Holly Phelps). It’s available to download for a minimum £1 donation by clicking here  – all proceeds going to the charity.The evening at the Miners Community Arts and Music Centre raised a fabulous £1,300. To find out more about Lifeshare and the work they do, click here.

It’s nearly Christmas so thank you for taking the time out to read this blog.

For details of up and coming events at The Miners, including films at the Moston Small Cinema, check out their Facebook page.

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Christmas markets a la Moston: The Christmas Event

I’m a Christmas humbug at heart. A bespectacled ‘Grinch’. Winter’s for hibernating, staying in and keeping warm.  So I ask you: Christmas markets? What the hell are they all about? I don’t get it, never have.

To be fair it’s been a while since I went to one but this sums up my memory – drizzle, standing in muddy sludge, overpriced overheated wine, over loud people with overcoats on and over large feet, shoving and pushing, and me, tip-toeing away when everyone had their backs turned.I tried to swerve neatly past the Moston version. Maybe it’s not as busy or as much of a phaf to get to but you can’t turn up to these things in your PJ’s, slippers and fluffy dressing gown and expect to stay warm.

But the adverts kept coming. They looked really bright and colourful. “Mmmm, maybe.” I thought. “If I go to Asda I’ll just drop by for half an hour on my way back. Maybe.” At worst I could write a blog.

So, this is it….and never mind half an hour, I stayed half a day.

The weather was dull and overcast. It could have been brighter but at least it was fairly dry. Parking was easy, just over the road off Kenyon Lane. So far, so good.

There was plenty of food on offer, hot drinks, various stalls selling Christmassy things like cakes, home-made sweets, scented candles and other gifts, a tombola, a DJ and Father Christmas in a grotto. You get the picture.The hot chocolate was wonderful, not like the magma they serve in some well-known establishments. My dad will adore his rum truffles and I might just keep the vanilla scented soap for myself.

I didn’t win the raffle because I didn’t buy a ticket. Not on purpose, I’m just a bit dozy and missed them. I didn’t miss the glass of mulled wine and mince pie however. I was first in the queue for those. The children were giddy and polite; all the rubbish went in the bin and if there was any queuing to be done it was without everyone jostling for position.The singing group, or to be more accurate, young vocalists from North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) were absolutely brilliant. The DJ picked just the right stuff and everyone was in a good mood.What was lovely about it all, more to the point what kept me there so long, was the atmosphere. It was delightful. I spotted a few faces I knew and chatted to a few people I didn’t.

We all cheered when the tree lights came on. We cheered louder when the organisers stood together and we raised our glasses to them. They’d worked hard for months to make it happen and well deserved the applause.It was dark when I tip-toed away. The volunteers were working hard taking all the gazebos down and packing equipment up. If they’d turned and looked towards Kenyon Lane they might have seen a bespectacled Grinch grinning, clutching a bag of Christmas goodies and a free mince pie.