Hazel Blears reveals cameo role in classic movie
By EWAN FLETCHER and KEITH BEABEY
Last updated at 21:09 26 May 2007
Labour deputy leadership candidate Hazel Blears was once centre-stage - as a child star in the classic movie A Taste Of Honey.
The kitchen sink drama's themes of social deprivation, single motherhood, race and sexuality could almost be a personal manifesto for the 51-year-old party chairman, who has made no secret of her working-class roots.
The 1961 film, starring Rita Tushingham as a 17-year-old who becomes pregnant by a black sailor, features a five-year-old Miss Blears as a pigtailed street urchin.
Cameo role: Hazel Blears was plucked off the street to be an extra in A Taste of Honey
Director Tony Richardson was filming in Salford, Manchester, where she grew up, and spotted her and her brother Stephen playing in the street outside their family's terrace home. He drafted them in as extras.
Miss Blears, now MP for the city, said: "The director wanted a couple of street urchins in the film and saw me and my brother playing in the street, asked me mum if we could be in the film and, being the proud working-class woman that she is, she made absolutely sure we had our Sunday best clothes on and were all scrubbed up.
"So, if you ever see A Taste Of Honey, right at the beginning, then you'll see two of the best-dressed urchins that you're ever likely to see.
Drama: Stars Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryan
"You can see me in the opening credits. I'm wearing a tartan skirt and am bouncing a ball.
"My brother, who is four years older than me, was one of the boys who sings the theme tune The Big Ship Sails On The Ally Ally Oh.
"I don't remember being paid. I don't think my parents were paid, either. We might have got some sweets."
Many people in the tight-knit neighbourhood were proud that their streets had been used as the backdrop of such a successful film.
But in truth, Tony Richardson - ex-husband of Vanessa Redgrave and father of Natasha and Joely Richardson - had chosen the area because of its poverty.
The film, which also stars Dora Bryan and won four Baftas, was shot near the Blears family home in Hancock Street.
The area was demolished in a slum clearance project in the Sixties and the site now lies beneath a dual carriageway.
Hazel Blears passed her 11-plus exam and became a solicitor, local councillor and finally the MP for Salford.
Her brother Stephen, meanwhile, went to the local secondary modern school and is now a Manchester bus driver.
The MP and her husband Michael Halsall live in a smart Edwardian house in a secluded tree-lined avenue in her constituency - which would have been considered posh by those living in Hancock Street.
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