The story of Len Johnson, the greatest British middleweight never to win a title, features as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival and will play at the King’s Arms in Salford, 15-18 July.
Len, born in Manchester in 1903, learnt to box at the travelling boxing booth and from his father, a former sailor from Sierra Leone who settled in Manchester. With his "educated left hand and a slippery defence", he was considered Britain’s best middleweight of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Although he won the British Boxing Board of Control Northern area light heavyweight title and the British Empire middleweight title, he was banned from fighting for any of the official British titles because he was black. Denied the chance to ever win the British champion’s belt, he retired from the ring in 1933, toured the country with his booth and worked for the Civil Defence Corps in the Second World War.
Jarreau Benjamin, plays the title role in this story of a true working class hero, who fought for all regardless of race or creed, exposing the depths of racism inherent in British society. He is joined by Katie McArdle.
Len Johnson – Fighter is written by Colin Connor, directed by Nick Birchill, and produced by Lisa Connor, three of the team behind the adaptation of Jack Rosenthal’s screenplay The Best that won best fringe production 2013 Manchester Theatre Awards.
Musical Director Mark Simpson and Rising Moon Productions are looking for volunteers to be in the play as part of the community chorus. Volunteers should be aged 16 or over, no previous experience required, just a love of theatre and an interest in the play.
The Greater Manchester Fringe festival is held 1 – 31 July annually and this year’s patrons are writer Tim Firth, former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, comedian Justin Moorhouse and former ‘Allo ‘Allo star Arthur Bostrom.
Tim, who wrote the screenplay for Calendar Girls, said: "The fringe is the most important area of any art form because it is the arena in which risks are taken and challenges set."
Venues hosting a wide variety of events during July include: Apotheca, Three Minute Theatre, Band on the Wall, The Bay Horse, The Briton’s Portection, Castle Hotel, The Eagle Inn, Fab Café, Frog and Bucket, Gullivers, The Hatters Hostel, Kraak, Joshua Brooks, Lower Kersal Social Club, O’Shea’s, Salford Arms Hotel, Satan’s Hollow, Taurus Bar, The King’s Arms, The Marble Beerhouse, The Millstone, The Retro Bar, The Roadhouse, The Swan, The Vine Inn, Tiger Lounge, Town Hall Tavern, and TV21 Café bar.
For more details of how to volunteer for the community chorus email firstname.lastname@example.org.