Liverpool writer to compere Hyde Park

Liverpool-born screenwriter, novelist and sometime actor Frank Cottrell Boyce is preparing for the biggest 'show' of his career - as compere in front of a crowd of 80,000 taking part in the Vigil in London’s Hyde Park for the Pope’s visit.

With typical self-deprecation, when asked why he was invited to be one of the comperes alongside Carol Vordeman, he said: 'I really don’t know!  When Andrew Headon, of the English College in Rome, rang to say he was preparing the Pope’s vigil, would I like to be involved, I said yes right away.  I never asked why me, in case it was a case of mistaken identity!

'It was very exciting, to be asked by this important person from the English College in a late night call from Rome.  I thought it was so interesting, working with Carole Vordeman and so on, in front of 80,000 people.  How cool is that?  I‘ve been working on it for a while now.  We have a build-up of about an hour to the vigil, before the Pope arrives, very structured, to get people in the right frame of mind.

'There will be performances, such as dance and dramatic interpretation of the Gospels and Carol and I will be linking them together so they feel like the whole.

'The whole thing is most unusual for me and a bit nerve-wracking.  I’m very excited to have been asked. And to appear in front of 100,000 people - the most I have ever been in front of! '

Frank, who admits to being 'chuffed to bits' about the whole thing, is hoping all his family will be there, including wife Denise and their seven children.

It’s a far cry from his usual work, which has included working with film directors like Michael Winterbottom and Danny Boyce, including writing screenplays for Butterfly Kiss, Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People, Code 46 and adaptations of novels for the screen.

He has also written children’s fiction and his novel Framed was short-listed for the Whitbread Book of the Year and he has also written for episodes of Coronation Street and Brookside.  He wrote and staged his first original theatre production, Proper Clever, at the Liverpool Playhouse during the city’s European Capital of Culture year, 2008.

But perhaps it is fitting that this Liverpool-born son of an Irish Catholic family has this role at the Pope’s vigil, for as he says, his faith is important to him ,and 'it has never wavered.'  He said: 'Faith governs everything you do: it’s woven into everything that takes place in your life.'

He was born in 1959 in St Sylvester’s parish off Scotland Road, Liverpool and grew up in St Bartholomew’s in Rainhill.  His inspiration to be a writer came from Sister Paul at St Bartholomew’s School. He said: 'She got me to read stuff out, and she also read one of my pieces out to the class.  That helped me decide what I wanted to do.'

He was an undergraduate at Keble College, Oxford and completed a doctorate in English before his career as a writer took off.

He now lives in St Joseph’s parish in Blundellsands.

He says for him the most satisfying work he has done are his children’s books, especially Millions, based on his own screenplay for the film of the same name, directed by Academy Award -winning director Danny Boyle and starring James Nesbitt.

Millions, his children’s fiction debut, won the 2004 Carnegie Medal, and was described by the chair of the judges as 'a powerful fable for today’s young people.'  It formed an integral part of the annual Liverpool Reads campaign in his home city.

Frank explained: 'It was overtly Catholic and the response I got was really good because Catholics tend not to be evangelistic.

'As soon as I did that book ,everything changed because people wanted to hear people talking about their faith. There are loads of people hungry for this. So the message is, we shouldn’t be shy!'