Hull Literature Festival 2001 8th - 18th November
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Jimmy Mc Govern
In conversations Private and Public
Hull Truck Theatre
Thursday, 15th November

Double Vision interviewed Jimmy McGovern at the Royal Station Hotel prior to his evening appearance at Hull Truck where he was in conversation with Rupert Creed.

Jimmy McGovern would appear to be the same person in private as in public - utterly honest, charming, modest and funny. I say 'appear' not to be cynical but because we are all our own editors, selecting the version of ourselves we wish to project. Jimmy is a white working -class Scouser ( his words ) who still lives in Liverpool despite his hugely successful TV and film screenwriting career. The likes of 'Priest' 'Liam', 'Cracker', 'Dockers' and 'The Lakes' have bought him offers from Hollywood but he's not interested. Liverpool has become his reference point for everything. He said he liked Hull because it reminded him of Liverpool - he compared the dock area and the evidence of poverty he saw on the streets of Hull to his hometown. He travels with his band of followers - friends and family who were there as part of the theatre audience in the evening to prompt him with questions and put him right when he got a date wrong! The spirit of Anfield, one of Jimmy's passions, had crossed the Pennines with him!

He was brought up in a large Catholic working - class family where money was tight. Not speaking until the age of eight, he lived in an inner world of his imagination. Winning a scholarship at the age of eleven he excelled in English at secondary school and, after leaving at sixteen, did a variety of jobs before landing his first commission at the Everyman Theatre. Given that one of his jobs was teaching I was puzzled as to the omission of how he became a teacher. Presumably some kind of further / higher education took place? Be that as it may, a job as scriptwriter on Brookside followed after a producer had seen some of his stage work. He was not to return to the theatre - finding it elitist and secretive, a club with rules he didn't understand.

Clips from Jimmy's television work that were shown during the evening demonstrated his incredible skill to convey meaning visually. The heroin addict in the chippie, the sweat on his brow like the droplets of liquid on the vinegar bottle he is staring at; the bereaved mother sniffing the sheets of her dead daughter; pathos when the older priest breaks down the door of the younger man's room and dislocates his shoulder so that the two end up in a cradled embrace. These scenes were not only riveting in themselves ( personally I could have watched more and had been looking forward to something from The Lakes) , but were then put into context and elaborated on by Jimmy in response to questions by Rupert Creed . Incidentally, Rupert was an excellent chair ( unlike some others in the Festival ) knowing just when to interject and when to let the talk run.

I've been a great fan of Jimmy McGovern's for a long time, always admiring his refusal to compromise ( "Always side with the oppressed" ) and, like many others, always excited by any new work with his name attached to it. Yet, because of the hard-hitting politicised nature of so much of his work, I had felt somewhat intimidated at meeting him. Surely he would make mincemeat of such a namby-pamby middle class wuss as myself? In fact, he was charm personified, acting as though it was an honour for him to be interviewed by Double Vision rather than the reverse. We drank tea, he talked a lot but listened too and, though confident in his talent, was engagingly self-deprecating admitting that he had originally not wanted Robbie Coltraine to be cast as Fitz, considering him completely unsuitable! There was a lot more he said about a lot of things, all delivered with characteristic passion, his hunched form gripping a cigarette in the one hand, a tea cup or pint in the other. My summary can only be a very pale reflection of what was a rich, colourful experience - a five fish event if ever there was one and another excellent presentation by The Writers Guild in association with the Literature Festival.

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