The Deptford Heritage Festival runs throughout February and in the middle of it is a new play called Liberty about the life of civil rights activist Kath Duncan, who fought for workers rights and freedom of speech from the late 1920s onwards. The play stars Celebrity Big Brother winner and Hollyoaks actor Alex Reid who plays Kath’s supporter Fred Copeman. Dave Cross caught up with Alex to find out more about this fascinating and important play.
Hi Alex, how would you describe Liberty?
Liberty is about the start of our human rights, our civil liberties. I know we still don’t have them for everyone, but because of Kath Duncan and people like her we can talk about freedom of speech and work towards that. I believe we should recognise Kath Duncan alongside other more famous activists.
What can you tell us about Fred?
Fred Copeman was, not quite a right hand man, but a firm supporter of Kath. Fred had quite a hard life, although I think he was happy. He was working class, relied on soup kitchens as a kid and joined the Navy as an adult. He was strong minded, but fair and although he was a very righteous man, he actually served some time in prison, which made him realise there was a better way to do things. He joined the Communist Party, but became disillusioned with that, mainly because of the way they were treating Kath. We really don’t know that much about any of these people, who were so important to our history and that’s the main reason for doing this play.
Did you know anything about the story of Kath Duncan before?
I’m fascinated by history and I believe you can find out so much about why we do things today by looking at the past. I didn’t know much about this part of modern history and nothing about Kath Duncan and Fred Copeman so I’m finding this a fascinating experience.
Do you think the story of Kath Duncan standing up to the powers that be for civil rights still resonates with audiences?
Yes, definitely this story is something that we can all relate to now. There seems to be a paradigm shift and young people especially are not believing everything they are told by the government. What Kath Duncan did was incredibly important for freedom of speech, even if we don’t all have it now.
People who know you from Big Brother, Hollyoaks or the tabloids, might be surprised to see you do something like this, is it important to you to do different kinds of roles and change people’s expectations?
It’s fair to say I’ve had a bit of a salacious past, but I think I’m finally beginning to leave that behind, by working at what I love, which is acting. I’m attracted to this play because it’s about standing up to injustice and that’s so important to me personally.
What else do you have coming up?
Straight after this I’m in another play in London called Die Mummy Die which is a melodrama set in the sixties and I play an undercover FBI agent, it’s very camp and funny. And then I’m in pre-production for a couple of film projects too.
Liberty runs from 14 to 28 February at Zion Baptist Chapel, Lewisham, tickets at ticketsource.co.uk
Deptford Heritage Festival
The Deptford Heritage Festival is a not-for-profit festival that raises money to tackle poverty in Deptford. Apart from the play Liberty it also features many other events including a festival bus tour, a history walk, plus talks and events about Robert Browning, the slave trade, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, Kath Duncan and more. Get full details and tickets via kathduncan.com.