Actor, writer and political activist, Maxine Peake was born in Westhoughton, Bolton in 1974. Her prolific and varied acting career across TV, film and stage, has established her as one of the country’s hardest working and best loved actors.
Maxine has appeared in many TV and film productions including Channel 4’s Shameless, in the lead role of barrister Martha Costello in the BBC’s legal drama Silk and The Village, depicting life in a Derbyshire village during the WW1. She portrayed Moors murderer Myra Hindley in See No Evil: The Moors Murders and in 2009 appeared in her first major feature film role, as Angela, in the film Clubbed. Maxine starred as Nellie in Mike Leigh’s 2018 film, Peterloo and as the eponymous protagonist in the 2018 film Funny Cow
Maxine’s authoritative but reassuring northern accent is always in demand for TV and radio voice over work.
Growing up in Bolton, Maxine’s beloved grandfather, Jim was a formative influence after her parents divorced when she was nine. It was Jim who encouraged her to pursue her acting, even when she was rejected by regional theatre companies and spent three years trying and failing to get into drama college before going to Rada at the age of 21. It was Jim who educated Maxine politically, instilling in his granddaughter his strong socialist values.
Maxine joined Bolton’s Octagon Youth Theatre aged 13, before a period at the youth theatre of the Royal Exchange in Manchester. She later did a two-year performing arts course at the Salford College of Technology. Maxine’s acting break came shortly after her time at Rada, landing the role of ‘Twinkle’ in Victoria Wood’s dinnerladies.
Maxine’s passion for the stage and in particular her long association with the Royal Exchange – where she is an a Associate Artist – has led to many memorable productions and acclaimed performances, including: The Children’s Hour in 2008, The Masque of Anarchy in 2012 for the Manchester International Festival, Hamlet in 2014 and as Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire in 2016. Most recently in 2018, Maxine starred in, and won critical acclaim for, the lead role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days and starred in The Nico Project as Velvet Underground singer Nico at the Manchester International Festival 2019, co-created by Maxine and artistic director, Sarah Frankcom.
Maxine wrote, directed and starred in the play Beryl: A Love Story On Two Wheels about the life of cyclist Beryl Burton, which was commissioned by the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2014. She also wrote a play the following year called Queens of the Coal Age for Radio 4 telling the story of Annie Scargill and three other women who tried to occupy a coal mine in 1993.
Maxine left London after living there for 13 years. She said that re-locating to Salford gave her the freedom to choose more risky roles and lower-paying jobs in theatre.
I moved back up North partly because of the city’s rich socialist history, Marx and Engels in the pub, the Working Class Movement Library, but also because the lower prices allow me to be more discerning about work. Salford lets me choose my parts more carefully (The Guardian, 2016)Maxine Peake, The Guardian, 2016
Maxine is a socialist, feminist and environmentalist. A tenacious campaigner on issues local, national and global. In 2014, she won the first Bolton Socialist Club Outstanding Contribution to Socialism Award, for using her work to oppose the government’s “crippling austerity measures”. In 2016 she featured in the Climate Coalition‘s short film I Wish For You to highlight climate change. She champions many charities, organisations and campaigns in an effort to encourage change for the greater good.
Maxine’s choice of the Working Class Movement Library as the location for the project photography, reflects her strong socialist values. A Friend of the library and Radical Reader, Maxine and fellow Manchester based actors have historically campaigned to raise the profile of the Salford library to guarantee its future as an important asset for the people of the region.
Photographer Rose Baylis reflects on Maxine Peake shoot
I was quick to volunteer for this shoot. I absolutely love Maxine Peake, she’s an amazing actress and we share similar political views, so it goes without saying, I was really excited to meet her. She was so down to earth and friendly… she soon put our pre-shoot nerves at ease.
The Working Class Movement Library is such a beautiful building with so much character – a real hidden gem. Although it was a bright day, the interior of the library was dimly lit with a mixture of natural and artificial light, this was a bit of a technical challenge. Careful adjustment of the camera’s ISO and white balance along with diligent editing, ensured the best image quality possible.
We photographed Maxine in a number of different spaces inside and outside the library to try to tell the story of her very personal relationship with the building – this I believe was a success.I really loved working on this shoot. Maxine was a joy… Who said never meet your heroes?
First published on the Greater Mancunians Blog, August 2021
For more photoshoots of Greater Mancunians – click here
The Meteor is a media co-operative, if you would like to find out more about joining and supporting our work – click here.
Sign up to The Meteor mailing list – click here.
Featured image and in article photography: Rose Baylis and James Taylor