STAGE and screen star Maxine Peake paid tribute to her late step-grandfather and hailed an award for her contribution to socialism as “more than a Bafta”.
The 39-year-old was guest of honour at Bolton Socialist Club, Wood Street, in the town centre, on Friday to collect the inaugural award for Outstanding Contribution to Socialism.
Chris Chilton, the club’s membership secretary, said it recognises how Maxine has voiced her opposition to the Government’s austerity programme and its “crippling impact on thousands of ordinary people” through her work.
The former Westhoughton High School pupil said she was inspired by her step-grandfather, Jim Taylor, who used to attend the club and died at the age of 85 last year.
She added: “I’m really indebted to him. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for socialism.
“It opened everything up — music, the arts, I’m really grateful. He was a socialist right through to the end. He never stopped talking about it. He did not give up, he didn’t become bitter.
“He used to say to me, I was born in the biggest depression and I’m going to die in the biggest depression.
“It broke my heart that he never saw socialism in this country in his lifetime because that’s what he’d fought for.”
Maxine gave a reading from the Masque of Anarchy, which she performed in full at the Manchester International Festival over the summer.
It was written by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley following the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, when campaigners for democracy were charged by cavalry, resulting in the deaths of 19 civilians. The Silk and Shameless actress told the group: “I’m really honoured. I’m going to get really emotional now.
“I had a fantastic mentor in my grandad. It’s just part of my upbringing and part of me. This is more than a Bafta, I can’t believe it.”
Maxine, who was given honorary life membership of the group, told how she first became aware of politics aged nine, because of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the miners’ strike.
Last year, she wrote and performed in a Radio 4 play about the occupation of Parkside Colliery, by women led by Anne Scargill in 1994, and she also appeared on The Culture Show where she was seen exploring her socialist roots.
She added: “I don’t feel I put my neck that much over the line. I say what I feel.
“I’ve been told, maybe it would be easier to keep your mouth shut. I don’t know how you can do that when you feel so passionately about some-thing. Sometimes I wish I could be a bit braver.”
Songs were performed by Bolton Clarion Choir, Paul Blackburn and Nat Clare and the evening also raised more than £300 for the Gaza Women’s Education Fund.
Mr Chilton said: “We are delighted the evening has gone down so well. We just want to continue main-streaming these ideas that have been in the margins for so long.”
Audience member Charles Jepson said: “Maxine Peake says what many people think. There is hope but we have to fight to get it. She’s an inspiration.”