A Hebburn man ended up on the Cannes red carpet after getting a role in one of the most talked-about films of the year.
Mick Laffey, 47, thought someone was playing a practical joke when he and fellow volunteers at Hebburn Town Football Club were offered the chance to audition for a role in Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake.
However, not only was the invite genuine, Mick went and bagged himself a role, despite having no prior acting experience. He played the part of a welfare benefits advisor.
The film, centering around problems with the UK benefits system, has gone on to win a host of awards, including at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, in France.
Mick attended with his father Billy Laffey – chairman of Hebburn Town – who secured a role as an extra in the film. Fellow Hebburn volunteers Ricky Bainbridge and Davy Gill were also involved in it.
Mick said: “The whole experience was unbelievable. I was so lucky to be given that opportunity. It was a privilege.
Chancers from Hebburn like me don’t get opportunities like thatMick Laffey
“When we got the email at Hebburn, we thought it was someone winding us up, or a scam. We were eventually invited to Newcastle to meet director Ken Loach, who said he had contacted us because he knew non-league football people had discipline about them, and were the right kind of people to be involved.”
Mr Laffey, a solicitor, added: “I still didn’t think any of us would get a part, but I got the role – despite everyone else I auditioned alongside being part of one agency or another.
“The whole thing was surreal, and we were invited out to the Cannes Film Festival.
“Me and my dad were on the red carpet, and it was absolutely unbelievable.
“Chancers from Hebburn like me don’t get opportunities like that.”
Mick described film director Loach as a “total gent”.
He said: “It was an absolute honour to be involved in a film directed by Ken Loach.
“He was allowing me to change things in the script and say things as I wanted. He was a total gent, and one of the nicest people you could meet.
“The reaction to the film has been outstanding. It’s incredible to think that I was involved in something like that. I’d have done it for free.”
As well as the Cannes premiere, Mick attended a premiere of the film in Newcastle.
On the horizon is a Hebburn premiere, which is taking place on Monday, January 2 from 8pm at Hebburn Sports and Social Club, in North Drive, Victoria Road West.
Tickets to the event cost £5 on the door, and Mick is also appealing for people to bring along donations to the Hebburn Helps foodbank on the night.
Organisers are hoping that over 1,000 items will be donated.
Hebburn Town recently had a similar collection at the club’s home game against Heaton Stannington, taking in over 500 items.
Mick added: “This is really important to us. If you see the film it will be to you too.”