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Friday, 03 July 2015

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Acting from the heart by former Corrie star Julie

Former Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh is used to giving powerful, heartrending performances.

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CLASS ACT: Actresses Rachel Austin, left, and Julie Hesmondhalgh outside Ewanrigg and Netherton Community Centre after performing Black Roses

Her recent screen death, playing the soap’s Hayley Cropper, hit national headlines.

And she was in Maryport and Workington this week in her powerful new role playing the mother of 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster, a young woman who was beaten to death in 2007 because she looked different.

The true tale formed the basis of the play Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster.

Julie, as Hayley Cropper, left Coronation Street recently in a controversial “right-to-die” plot line which ended with her taking her own life.

It was a tragic part for the actress but no more so than her latest project.

Julie said in Maryport on Wednesday that she had no choice but to play the part. “It was fate,” she said.

“I had two chance meetings with Kate, one of Sylvia’s best friends.”

She said Kate had told her of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation which had been set up by Sylvia.

Its aims are to create respect for and understanding of subcultures in our communities.

It also aims to criminalise attacks in the same way as homophobic or racist attacks are treated.

Julie added: “My husband and I were setting up a writing competition for kids and, because of the meetings with Kate, we decided to do the competition in memory of Sophie.

“As a result I became involved in the foundation and when the Royal Exchange theatre took up the play, Sylvia wanted me to play her.

“The other reason I was fated to play her was because we were born about five miles apart, although her accent is even thicker than mine!”

Following their Maryport performance Julie, Rachel and assistant director Alex Summers took part in a discussion.

Afterwards the two women spent a considerable time with members of the audience who had lost children.

This will be followed up next week by a further discussion led by Emma McGordon, who is doing community development work around the play.

This will take place at Ewanrigg and Netherton Community Centre at 6pm on Wednesday.

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