Women campaigning against the way state pension changes have been handled received a boost with support from acting star Ian McKellen.
Members of the Wigan and Makerfield branch of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign secured the backing of the thespian and film icon at Wigan Pride.
We explained the raise in pension age and he told us to go on and keep doing it. It was lovelyJan Fulster
Ian, who has trodden the boards at Britain’s biggest theatres and appeared in smash-hit movie franchises X-Men and The Lord of the Rings, was happy to encourage Waspi to battle on after hearing about their protests.
The group is not campaigning against raising the age women collect their state pensions but criticises how it has been handled and is calling for fair transitional arrangements to be put in place.
Wigan and Makerfield Waspi co-ordinator Jan Fulster said: “One of our ladies managed to speak to him and he was completely up for signing the pledge.
“We explained the raise in pension age and he told us to go on and keep doing it. It was lovely.”
The Waspi campaigners also met up at the Pride festival with Leigh MP Jo Platt, a prominent supporter of the pension age protests alongside her fellow parliamentarians for Wigan and Makerfield Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue.
The recently-established Wigan and Makerfield group has enjoyed another boost as it secured its own venue.
Campaigners are now meeting at Wigan Youth Zone following a suggestion made by Mayor of Wigan, Bill Clarke, at a community day organised by the Rotary Club.
Jan says numbers are now increasing rapidly and it is hoped having a public venue will dramatically increase the impact of the protest movement.
She said: “We thought about 10 or 12 people would turn up but there were about 20. For the next meeting the Youth Zone has given us a bigger room.
“Getting a venue has been hugely helpful. It’s in the middle of town and it’s easily accessible. It has been absolutely brilliant.
“We now have more than 100 people in the Wigan and Makerfield group but there are 8,000 ladies affected in the area so it’s about getting the awareness out there.
“We’re also supporting women who are putting their complaints in to the DWP.”
The next Wigan and Makerfield Waspi meeting is at The Venue within Wigan Youth Zone on Tuesday, August 22 from 6pm until 8pm.
For more information about the group email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/groups/wiganwaspi