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Award-winning actor Julie Hesmondhalgh to present 2014 Holyoake Lecture

Actor and campaigner Julie Hesmondhalgh will give the 2014 Holyoake Lecture in Manchester this October. The Holyoake Lecture is organised by the British Humanist Association (BHA) in partnership with Greater Manchester Humanists, and is part of the BHA’s annual series of events designed to inform the public about aspects of Humanism.

‘My shorthand for Humanism is “living a good life without religion,”’ says Hesmondhalgh. ‘I like the things religion gives you – of being involved in the world around you and having responsibilities to other people – but I think that can come from just being a fellow human being.’  Her lecture is titled ‘How I lost my religion and kept my evangelical spirit!’, and will cover a range of topics, including her journey from religion to Humanism, her acting career, and her campaigning and charitable work.

In 2013, fans of Coronation Street were gripped by a high-profile storyline where Hesmondhalgh’s character, Hayley Cropper, chose to end her own life because of her incurable suffering with pancreatic cancer. The storyline, which the BHA advised on, triggered an outpouring of grief across the nation and Hayley’s death was viewed by over 10 million people. Hayley’s moving humanist funeral ceremony also brought greater public attention to the lives and practices of millions of humanists like Hesmondhalgh around the country. The storyline won numerous awards, including Best Storyline, Best Single Episode, and for Hesmondhalgh, both Best Actress and Best Serial Drama Performance.

Hesmondhalgh’s ‘evangelical spirit’ has motivated her to become a tireless campaigner for charities and other causes. She has put her public profile to use on behalf of such groups such as DeBRA, The Albert Kennedy Trust, Trans Media Watch, Exodus Onstage, the Disability Rights Commission, and the BHA. Her role as Hayley has also inspired discussions around human rights and identity issues in households across the country, and is credited by some for triggering popular support for the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Assisted Dying Bill 2014.

‘Who doesn’t love Hayley Cropper?’ asked executive producer Kieran Roberts when announcing the character’s exit from the soap in 2013. ‘The character’s warmth and decency, spiced with a great sense of fun and adventure, have put her at the heart of Coronation Street.’ The same can be said of Hesmondhalgh herself: a much-loved public figure and a compelling speaker. Tickets for her lecture, which will take place on 16 October in Manchester, are now on sale on the BHA website.


To book tickets for the event, please visit

For further information or comment, please contact Sara Passmore on

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief.

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