John Harris

Journalist & Author

Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake: ‘You can’t avoid homelessness in Manchester. It touched us both’

When the musician and the actor met in 2014, they ‘clicked straight away’, bonding over a mission to bring back socially conscious art. They talk about shamanic rock stars, working-class guilt and how their spoken-word album about homelessness strives to be a modern Cathy Come Home

Back in the autumn of 2014, Johnny Marr was about to release his second solo album, go on tour and get down to writing his autobiography. Maxine Peake, meanwhile, was playing Hamlet in a feverishly received production at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester. Marr had seen her in the film Keeping Rosy and enthused to an interviewer about the rarity of a “British suspense movie”. He added that she was “a good advertisement for British actors”. Peake sent him a thank-you letter – written on paper and put in the post.

Some time later, they arranged to meet in a city-centre cafe. “I still remember being stood outside where we were meeting,” she says now, “being on the phone to my fella – and, literally, there were beads of sweat on my top lip. I said: ‘I’ll probably only be 15 minutes.’ And then five hours later, I emerged.”

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