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Sherwood's Lesley Manville: 'I joined the picket lines during the miner's strike and was terrified!'

Sherwood Lesley Manville
Lesley Manville stars alongside David Morrissey (left) and Robert Glenister (right) (Image credit: BBC)

Lesley Manville has spoken of how she spent a week on the picket lines during the 1984 miner's strike and says she drew on the experience while filming new BBC One drama Sherwood

The six-part series is set in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, a deeply divided community that's still haunted by the scars of the dispute and is torn apart again by two brutal murders. 

As a bitter feud between the miners who supported the strike and those who went back to work threatens to resurface, DCS Ian St Clair (David Morrissey) and DI Kevin Salisbury (Robert Glenister) come under immense pressure to find the killers. 

The show brought back a host of memories for Lesley, who was in her 20s when the strike began in March 1984.

"I actually went to Barnsley as part of a group of actresses and writers who were commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre," she told us. "We were sent to go and interview a group called Barnsley Women Against Pit Closures. These women were really supportive of their husbands going on strike, but were also juggling with the realities of putting a meal on the table. I actually went to a picket line with these women and was at the heart of it all — I was terrified!" 

The star-studded show, which also features big names like Lorraine Ashbourne, Adeel Akhtar,  Joanne Froggatt and Phillip Jackson, is loosely based upon a pair of murders that were committed in Nottinghamshire in 2004. 

Lesley wanted to be sensitive of the families affected by those tragic real-life events, while also representing real ex-mining communities like Ashfield. 

"The show's writer, James Graham, grew up in Nottinghamshire," she explains. "I wanted to represent his community properly and be fair and thorough. James gave us all full characters with real dilemmas and I felt a lot of responsibility, because there are many communities living living with these tensions, still. It's a long time ago, but it still exists, so you've just got to tread carefully."

One part of the story Lesley particularly enjoyed telling was Julie's strained relationship with her sister Cathy (Claire Rushbrook), who married a miner who broke the strike and returned to work in 1984.

"Claire and I had met not long before on another show where we're also playing sisters," says Lesley. "We got very close, very quickly and we've become very deep friends now. Which was wonderful. I have two sisters and you just feel the pain of not being able to through a set of circumstances and also the pain of not being able to share an emotional life with with with somebody who should be so close to you."

Sherwood begins on BBC1 on Monday 13 June at 9pm

Sean Marland
Sean Marland

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.