Oscar-tipped actor Eddie Redmayne shops at the Co-op. The evidence was all over social media recently. But would you be surprised to learn that one of our colleagues is also a screen and stage success?
Can Eddie Redmayne say he was the lead in three plays at the Théâtre De La Main D’Or in Paris? Probably not. And can he claim to have starred in virtually every popular small screen British drama or soap there is: Coronation Street, Emmerdale, The Royal, Casualty…the list goes on. Definitely not.
But John Dixon, aka John De Main, (forced to change his name when he found out there was another John Dixon in the Equity union) has.
However, this unassuming, quietly spoken and intriguing man is not the type to shout about it. He’s served our customers for the last 12 years in two Co-ops in his hometown of Marple. But his acting ambitions were there long before his life became one shared by screen and store.
“I’d done a lot of acting as a kid: shows, musicals, plays at school and was a member of the Manchester Youth Theatre. I got a lucky, lucky break when I was 19 with the lead role in ‘Kes’ as Billy Casper.
“What an amazing way to leave home, to get a starring role in a play in Paris. I grew up there really because it was such an amazingly important time. My fondest memories are of that period – it was the best time of my life really,” he smiles.
While John has also graced theatre stages in London and Manchester, his most notorious role was as ‘Luigi’ the Italian waiter in the dark, delicious comedy ‘The League of Gentlemen’.
“It’s my most famous role,” he says. “Every now and again, someone will ask: ‘Were you Luigi in the League of Gentleman?’ A bit weird when I’m stood behind the counter serving!”
So what drives John to delve into this sometimes fickle world where fame can sometimes be eclipsed by disappointment? “I just enjoy playing different characters, assuming different roles, becoming someone else.
“I suppose I’m not massively extrovert in normal life but it’s about coming to life in a role. I might come across as a bit quiet but I’ve actually played some real villains.”
So what’s the dream part? “I’m still waiting for that big break,” he explains. “It’s a difficult business but I keep the door open. There’s no such thing as a full-time actor. It’s a part-time job for Robert de Niro and Al Pacino! I’m happy working for the Co-op. The job allows me to fulfil other parts of my life.”
The only way is ethics
John’s happiness is helped by the fact that the Co-op does things differently.
“I like the brand. I like the ethical side of things. I do have a conscience and I think the Co-op fits with my politics and my beliefs in a way that other companies don’t.”
“I also work with a nice bunch of people. I can be myself here and enjoy the interaction with customers. That’s the best thing about the job. I’m a people person. I wouldn’t like to be in an office looking at a computer, I’d find it very dull and frustrating,” he laughs.
John’s store had a re-fit six months ago and is now one of the top 25 performing stores in the country. He says he’s noticed the shopping habits of the locals change since the refurbishment.
“People are bringing fuller baskets to the till. Some are in here every day and others come in five or six times a day because they only live round the corner. They’ll fill half a basket then come back later for what they originally came in for!” he laughs.
From Stockport to Santiago
The world may well be a stage for John and it’s one he wants to explore. His time in India 12 years ago was the start of a journey of discovery for him in every sense of the word.
“I borrowed some money from my mum and brother and went to India with nothing before I worked at the Co-op. I like the freedom of the place. It’s a very spiritual country. I’m interested in meditation so it’s great place to explore and investigate that.”
So how does he fit it all in? “I make time,” he says. “Meditation is a daily practice. It quietens and calms the mind. In the world we live in it’s more important than ever before.”
His next journey could certainly be his most important as he prepares to walk the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James), an ancient pilgrimage road from the South of France through the Pyrenees to Southern Spain.
“I’m really excited about it,” he smiles. “I’m going to meet some interesting people on that road. What’s interesting is that everyone you meet is going in the same direction to the same place.
“I think it’s going to be a fascinating road. There’s a lot of history on that road: popes, kings, queens, saints – all manner of people have walked it. I think it’s going to be one of the most special things I ever do in my life,” he says.
He doesn’t need to be an actor to convince us.