Looking for Eric's John Henshaw - Oldham's shy star

PUBLISHED: 00:16 08 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:16 20 February 2013

Looking for Eric's John Henshaw - Oldham's shy star

Looking for Eric's John Henshaw - Oldham's shy star

Actor John Henshaw went from working on the bins to starring on stage and screen, as Paul Mackenzie discovered (eventually)

Actor John Henshaw went from working on the bins to starring on stage and screen, as Paul Mackenzie discovered (eventually)

Actors are supposed to be a self-obsessed egotistical bunch but for every rule theres an exception and in this case, the exception is John Henshaw. He indulges in none of the starry showbiz antics his profession is famed for - indeed, he would rather not talk about himself at all which makes arranging an interview with him rather awkward.

He doesnt want to meet at his Oldham home, or at the theatre where he stars in Peter Pan this month, in fact for about 48 hours hes at a loss to think of anywhere he would like to meet.

And then theres the subject matter: I dont want it all to be about me, he says. Can it just be about Peter Pan?

When I point out theres a limited number of things we can say about the show, he relents. It is, for the record, a musical show directed by David Fleeshman, and is on at The Lowry from December 8 to January 1 also starring Tom Law and Brian Capron.

He eventually suggests we meet at one of the hospices he is patron of, but says he wont be bringing along any pictures from the family album. I dont have any. I dont keep them.
So far so not-so-good.

Its not that hes being deliberately obstructive. He honestly can not understand what could be interesting about him.

Im just me, he says without a hint of false modesty. I just do what I do, bluster my way through and then go on and do the next thing.

And there are plenty of things he has done. Hes known now for roles in the film Looking For Eric and television programmes Early Doors, Born and Bred and GBH but he was a man of many parts before he turned to acting.

Born one of 12 children - I was just in the top half - he was brought up in Ancoats and left school as soon as he could to start bringing money in. It was just a case of having to go and get a job, he said. I went to be an apprentice motor mechanic, then a van driver. There was a discussion about overtime which became a bit of a stand off and I left.

It was the time when you could just walk into another job and I started driving a van, delivering stationery to shipyards and steel works. I was 19. It was a bit of fun but I kept getting lost - no sense of direction, you see.

I was a tyre verifier, a milk man, you name it, Ive done it all. It was just a matter of earning a few bob. I have a low boredom threshold. I wasnt exactly an angry young man, I just went from job to job.

I was sweeping the streets and working on the bins for 10 years around Manchester city centre. It was great fun I loved it, they were a great set of lads.

When a back injury forced him to find another job and he began to appear on our TV screens, notching up appearances as an extra in Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

I had a job delivering cars all over the country to keep body and soul together. I was skint for about eight years and I was doing little bits in Emmerdale, Coronation Street and wherever else I could. Then I got a part in The Cops and that was the springboard.

Ive never had any sort of career plan but I must have had something in the back of my mind because I stuck with it in spite of the hardships, rather than just going and getting another job.

Then I got a part in GBH with Robert Lindsay and I had a couple of lines as one of his minders and Ive been very lucky since then. Im earning a living. And working generates work. But there have been lean times, the recession hit this business just like it hit everything else - its feast or famine. I do get long periods where the phone doesnt ring and I think - well, thats it. Ill never work again.

Im just a big fat northern so-and-so, what you see is what you get, but fortunately there seems to be plenty of work for big fat northern so-and-sos. From time to time I see the lads I was on the bins with and I think theyre glad for me. I think they think its great to see one of their own getting away with it.

John, who has been married to Margaret for 37 years - Shes my rock. She never once said Stop messing about and get a proper job, even when we were skint - is also chairman of 24:7, an initiative which promotes new writing in Manchester. He is working on writing a TV script with a friend and occasionally sings in pubs around Oldham with his folk group.

And hes hoping the singing will put him in good stead for the musical numbers in Peter Pan. I wish it was a panto because you can mess about a bit more then, but David Fleeshman is directing it and Im sure hes going to do a great job.

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