I am not generally in the habit of frequenting pubs at half-past eight in the morning, but the Men United Arms is no ordinary local.
This pop-up ‘watering hole’, (generally known as The Anchor, on London’s South Bank) is playing host to Prostate Cancer UK’s latest drive to bring people together in a ‘movement for everyone who believes men are worth fighting for’. I am in good company. Already gathered, and tucking into a hearty breakfast, are fellow actor Timothy West, who I worked with many years ago on Lynda la Plante’s Framed, And one of my all-time heroes, Kenney Jones, drummer from three of the greatest bands of all time in my opinion, The Small Faces, The Faces, and The Who!
Kenney, I find out, is one of the 40,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
Having lent my dulcet tones to the charity’s ad, I was keen to show solidarity with this drive to sign people up to Men United, which is 200,000-strong and growing, in a bid to ‘keep friendships alive’. On this morning the guys who appear in the ad are also reacquainting themselves at the bar. A blend of actors and “real blokes” affected by this disease, a few of them have struck up firm friendships through taking part. They’re nice guys who obviously relished the opportunity to help make a difference.
Like these gents, Men United is one team I am happy to support, without question. Sometimes we have to turn a blind eye to our friends little quirks and oddities, I know I did. My best mate is an Evertonian, Ian Hart, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Red.
I met Ian at junior school. We lost touch when we went to different secondary schools but got back together at Liverpool’s Everyman Youth Theatre in the late 70s. We became good friends very quickly and my big memory of Ian is missing the last bus home, counting our change to see if we could hail a taxi and singing Beatles songs at the top of our voices at one or two in the morning.
We both wanted to be actors, but we came from a musical town and we were always jealous of musicians. Ian was in a band for a while called The Pale Fountains who were just brilliant, a genius band. He played maracas and, I have to say, I envied him.
Then One Summer, a TV series on Channel 4, happened and we both got roles. It was the ignorance and arrogance of youth really. For a while we thought it would always be like that, then we realised it wasn’t and we had to work a lot harder.
After that we both came to London; I went to RADA and he went to Mountview, we’ve remained friends ever since.
Ian lived in LA for a long time so I didn’t see him as much as I’d have liked. We don’t live that far from each other in London now so we see each other once every couple of months. We also text each other constantly.
Ian is the link to my past. We have nostalgic conversations and we realise neither of us has changed – as long as we don’t look at photographs!
Both of us are now approaching an age not only where prostate cancer becomes more relevant, but also where men start to see less of their friends. That is why I was keen to support Men United. This notion of ‘keeping friendships alive’ rang true on many levels.
Meeting Kenney at the Men United launch was amazing. He’s one of my absolute lifetime heroes – and he’s a survivor of prostate cancer, thanks to research into drugs and treatments. And for me, Kenney’s the Men United message in action – last year, he got Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey back on stage together for a reunion gig in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.
And that’s exactly what Prostate Cancer UK wants us all to do: get your friends together and do something great to beat this horrible disease that affects one in eight men. Men United hits the spot for a lot of people and has got some top blokes in its team. 200,000 and counting – and I’m one of them.
Sign up at menunited.prostatecanceruk.org