Saturday, 31 January 2015

An evening with Corrie’s ‘New Generation’


This is my first blog since Anne Kirkbride passed away. Like all of us, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news and my condolences go out to her friends and family.

It is bittersweet that just a week before we lost Anne, one of Coronation Street’s longest-running actors, I was in Manchester meeting some of the newer recruits who will be at the centre of the action in Corrie this year. 


It all happened over pizza, bowling and karaoke (no pool) and was as surreal as it sounds. I arrived at All Star Lanes in Deansgate and was ushered into a room with a private bowling lane, loads of food and a free bar with cocktails on tap. I stuck to a liquid dinner of Brooklyn Lager.


We were put into teams for an icebreaking game in which I had to act out a classic scene in front of a load of Corrie stars! I was pleased with my portrayal of Richard Hillman murdering Maxine Peacock but sadly Corrie’s Casting Director was not there to see my work.

We were told we’d be able to interview the cast members for the first hour, after which everyone would be ‘off duty’. It was a bit of a free-for-all with the journos fighting to get their dictaphones in front of the most desirable faces first. It was fun to observe the scene and chat to people whenever an opportunity arose. 


Sean Ward (Callum Logan) was in particularly high demand. Female scribes were queuing up to get near him. I didn’t get a look in, though he did say hello later on because he remembered me from the roundtable interview at ITV Southbank last October – he’s a Top Boy, Sean and his charisma is both undeniable and enviable.

There was going to be a bowling league, so I was pleased Mary Taylor didn’t turn up. Down the alley, I hear she’s “a cranker of some renown” – unbeaten in five years! Luke Britton is no stranger to the lanes either, having recently taken Maria and Liam bowling. It was fitting then that the first person I approached was Dean Fagan.


I’m a big fan of Luke and I’m pleased to report that Dean is brilliant too. Before Corrie, he played Culture Club bassist Mikey Craig in the 2010 BBC drama Worried About the Boy, which also starred Douglas Booth and Mathew Horne and told the tale of Boy George starting out in Showbiz. I remember watching it. He also did a few “bits and bobs” on ITV and in theatre.

I asked about Kirk’s stag do, when Luke had a one-man rave in Ty’s living room. Apparently, Dean got “a lot of flak” for his dance moves, which were based on his mate who he DJs with. I told him I’d just blogged about The Haçienda and mentioned Luke’s dancing. “I felt I was right back there”, laughed Dean. Interestingly, Dean starred in a play about that whole scene. It was called Manchester Sound: The Massacre and ran for a month at the Library Theatre in 2013.

Dean explained how the play “compared the Peterloo Massacre of Manchester to the Haçienda scene”. It brought together two groups of idealists “trying to get out of the situation” they were in – searching for utopia but suppressed by the establishment. The play correlated the two eras (1819 and 1989) of Manchester’s history. Dean says, “it was a complicated context but we somehow made it work”. It sounds fascinating - they should bring it back! Here is a little video about the play, featuring Dean Anthony Fagan in the 80s clothes he might have worn to Beth and Kirk’s wedding if only Maria had invited him...


Luke and Maria haven’t really gelled yet – their dates keep going wrong and the bowling night is a case in point. Dean describes it as “a square peg in a round hole sort of thing” but thinks “there is something that connects them on a certain level”. Luke is quite young to take on father-figure responsibilities for Liam but Dean believes “he wants to prove himself as a mature man”. Although the backstory for Luke and Steph hasn’t been filled in yet, Dean senses that perhaps  “his dad wasn’t there”. Luke wants to be a responsible adult – which maybe “hasn’t been taught to him by his Dad”.

Dean is a Manchester lad and although he had done stuff before, Corrie was “the first job where (his) Mum and Dad shouted down the phone”. He is pleased with the reaction Luke has received. “He’s a nice guy – he’s just a lad, basically. He gets on with his job… he’s a relateable character and I hope that’s how he’s perceived”. That is certainly why I like Luke.

I thought it would have been brilliant for Luke’s street cred if the motormouth mechanic had gone through with the Carla Connor fling. “He could have done it”, says Dean – although I suspect the fact he didn’t says much more about Luke’s character than if he had. “It show a different dimension”, agrees Dean. Luke is one of my favourite new characters and Dean Fagan was a really top bloke.

Next up I chatted to Tisha Merry, who plays Luke’s on-screen sister, Steph. Tisha was lovely and Steph is another brilliant addition to The Street. Before Corrie, Tisha was in a BBC drama set on another street – 32 Brinkburn Street. She also did a few plays and short films. But with Corrie, she beams, “this is the big one – it’s very exciting”.

I love Steph’s P.M.A. approach to life. However, I put it to Tisha that she works far too hard. Nick “runs her ragged!” she laughs. I was keen to know whether Steph and Andy are in it for the long haul. Tisha likes Steph’s ability to empathise and the fact “she can separate herself from things and help people out”. She seems to be standing by her man who is not actually the man she thought he was.

Going back to Beth and Kirk’s wedding, there was a strange scene where Steph walked along the street dressed in a shell suit type number. It was very late 80s but Steph wasn’t going to the wedding! Tisha clarified this is Steph’s “gym/workout outfit” and she was on her way to V Court Fitness. She wore it in the cricket episode too. Tisha says she “would never wear” much of what lies in Steph Britton’s wardrobe but she picks out clothes that she feels fit the character.

It is always interesting to hear what it is like for someone new to The Street to go through the life-changing experience of being recognised wherever they go. “It’s really bizarre and I cannot get used to it”, says Tisha… but it is “fabulous” to receive positive feedback from fans. She must have received a lot of that since joining the show.


Equally lovely to talk to was the resplendent Sair Khan (Alya Nazir) who I bumped into at the bar. Earlier that afternoon, I had seen the crash episodes at a preview screening and one thing that caught my eye was how sparkly Alya’s dress was. Sair loved that outfit and feels it was “the perfect choice to dress her a bit more traditionally but with such a modern twist”. She sees Alya as “a girl who holds her culture and family very close to her heart”. And as a student of Fashion and Business, you wouldn’t catch Alya Nazir in something off the High Street!

It must have been cold during filming, though, because Alya was the only one not wearing a coat in the back of that bus. Sair didn’t want to cover up the dress but “really regretted that by day three in the freezing cold doing night shoots!”

Alya is young and ambitious and is certainly putting Sally Webster’s nose out of joint at the factory. I wonder if she will ever reach the upper echelons of management at Underworld. “She wants to own a business one day”, says Sair… “She wants to make her family proud”. The Awards Ceremony was “a symbol of her doing well at her job… helping to organise this big event”. Sadly, they never got there.

It was nice to hear that Sair is a massive fan of Corrie, which she thinks helped in her audition. She says “I knew who was who, I knew what was what and I knew what soaps are like”. Sometimes Sair wants Alya to be friends with characters that she really likes – Sally, for example – but says, “it’s fun being put against each other and fighting for this role at Underworld”.

I like Gary but am curious to understand why the terrible deed of breaking into Roy’s Rolls helped him win his way back into Alya’s affections. Sair reasons that “human beings are so complex… sometimes when you meet someone you can’t help that you like them”. She enjoys the fact it’s “a bit of a Romeo and Juliet scenario” of “two people that are from different worlds together… and it’s working”.

I had a brief chat with Qasim Akhtar who is a lot easier going than Zeedan Nazir! I remember Qasim from Shameless, the brilliant comedy-drama series set on a fictional council estate in Manchester. Corrie is “a bit different from Shameless”, he jokes – and he’s not wrong! Although, that said, I reckon Callum and his mates on the Paul Robeson Estate could handle themselves on the Chatsworth Estate.

Soap “wasn’t really the road (he) wanted to go down”, but the role of Zeedan came along and after reading the script and meeting everyone involved, Qasim says, “I fell in love with it and I just knew it was for me”.

As Anna Windass pointed out in the café recently, Zeedan and Gary got on like a house on fire before the whole Alya thing. Their falling out “kind of annoyed” Qasim because he and Mikey North “had some good banter on and off screen”. He is hopeful though they will “bring it back together somehow”. He told me there is a storyline coming up at the builders’ yard with Zeedan and Tony, which “adds fuel to the fire” of Kal and Tony’s feud.


Next up was Oliver Farnworth, who we now know portrays Andy Carver rather than Gavin Rodwell. Oliver told me his Corrie contract is ongoing and he is currently signed up for a year. The public has warmed to this Andy guy. Oliver believes viewers have “been allowed to be onside from early on because they’ve been let into his lie”. He hopes Andy is “not a bad person” but someone who is “in a terrible set of circumstances and has started feeling for people around him”.  “We’ll see how long it runs”, he says.

Essentially, Andy doesn’t want to harm the guy who isn’t his Dad. Oliver finds the current limbo interesting and hopes that, dramatically, “there is a lot of mileage in it”. When the real Gavin Rodwell emerges, I can’t help but think we’ll have another Ryan Connor scenario on our hands, and Michael will stick with the son he has come to love.

Oliver Farnworth has been in Hollyoaks and has done lots of theatre but his last TV role before Corrie was the second series of Mr Selfridge. He played a Belgian refugee and regards it as “a turning point” in his career. He worked closely with Amanda Abbington (who played Miss Mardle) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He says, “She is an actor who I would aspire to be like in the future… I think she’s absolutely brilliant”.

Oliver is also full of praise for his current co-star, Les Dennis. Oliver admires his old school work ethic of “turn up, know your lines, do the job to the best you can and get on with it”. He observes, “the real, true, stars are the ones who on the first day go hiya mate, do you want a cup of tea?” With Les Dennis, he says, “it’s a level playing field and that to me was quite humbling”.


I also had a good chat with Daniel Brocklebank and was very impressed with the research he has carried out to enhance his portrayal of Billy the Vicar. He did this entirely of his own volition because as a gay man himself, he wanted to find out what might lead Billy – who we are to believe, has ‘lived’ – towards the Church.

Daniel has therefore spoken to a number of gay clergymen. I suggested he should have a word with Reverend Richard Coles, the former Communard who inspired the BBC Two sitcom Rev. It will be interesting to learn more about Billy’s history. He was enthusing to Sean about Berlin techno clubs the other night, so he must have hit it hard before finding God. There is a lot of potential for Billy and Sean and I look forward to seeing how it develops.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end of the night to get back to that London. I walked out of All Star Lanes and could see photographers waiting in the cold to snap some of Corrie’s newest stars. They must have been disappointed to see me!

The world of Weatherfield will certainly be poorer for Deirdre Barlow’s absence and it is sad to think that older Corrie characters will not be on our screens forever. However, Coronation Street – like life itself – moves on and it is entirely realistic that the people who make up a community will change over time.

The Corrie top brass have put a lot of faith in the ‘new generation’ over the last year or so. It was brilliant to meet many of these new actors and learn how much it means to them to be starring in our favourite show. I believe that the future is bright at Coronation Street.

By Martin Leay
Twitter: @mpleay 


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Coronation Street credit to crew member Mike Curtis

Last night's Coronation Street ended with a credit to the memory of Mike Curtis.  Mike Curtis was a props man who had worked on Corrie for a decade, and who sadly died this week.

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Where have you seen Steve McDonald's counsellor before?

If you're wondering where you've seen Steve McDonald's counsellor on Coronation Street before, then wonder no more.

The role of Steve's counsellor is played by actor Philip Martin Brown. Check out his website here.  His website says that he's only going to be in Corrie for two episode.

He has been in Coronation Street before, back in 2005 he played the role of Detective Inspector Pinnor, again for two episodes, investigating the murder of Tommy Harris.

Philip Martin Brown may be better known to fans for his starring role in Waterloo Road as Grantly Budgen. His filmography is listed on his website. His IMDB profile is here.

See also: Where have you seen?
Beth's mum, Diane the sofa woman from Hale Barnes, Mark the motorcycle medic, Mrs Waddle, Michael Rodwell's Aunt Barbara, Peter Barlow's cellmate Clelland, Carla Connor's solicitor Pauline Mansell, Pat Phelan, The Corrie clairvoyant, Eric's wife Doris, Audrey's date Henry, Lewis' friend Patrick,The Corrie Registrar, Marcus' friend Aiden, Kirsty's parents, Jenny Sumner, Corrie's prison Governor, Sunita's Aunties, Ken and Deirdre's pottery teacherTommy Duckworth,  Mrs Hargreaves who died in Audrey's salon, Sally Webster's fella JeffJoy Fishwick's investigator, Charlotte's Parents, Ken Barlow's grandson JamesKen Barlow's son LawrenceDr Matt CarterSaucy CharlotteIzzy's dad Owen Armstrong,The Corrie coppersColin FishwickTrevor the binmanConnie RathboneUncle Umed,Julie Carp's mumLuke StrongSophie Webster's boyfriendEileen Grimshaw's dadNorris' girlfriendGraeme Proctor,Molly's Aunty PamMaria's mum and dadGail's dadScary BrianTina's dadTony Gordon's henchmanLittle Simon Barlow

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Friday, 30 January 2015

Cherylee Houston writes Tinsel Girl play for BBC Radio 4

Cherylee Houston, who plays Coronation Street's Izzy Armstrong, suffers from the rare connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.  In her spare time she enjoys gardening and writing and she's written a play!

The play, Tinsel Girl, has been aired on BBC Radio 4 in 15 minute segments and you can listen to Tinsel Girl on the BBC iPlayer Radio here.


The drama is inspired by the adventures and experiences of Cherylee Houston and she plays the lead part in the play, a character called Maz.

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Corrie's Janice Battersby - indie rock's new icon

Sunderland Indie band Frankie & The Heartstrings are not just a great bunch of musicians and owners of the fab Pop Recs Ltd shop in Sunderland. They're also huge fans of Janice Battersby. 

This week, Frankie & The Heartstrings are on a tour of indie venues around the UK and tweeted that finally, one of their requests on the band's rider had been fulfilled. Yes, they finally got their picture of Vicky Entwistle as Janice Battersby!
Have a listen to the band's new single, it's a cracker.  And yes, I am a fan!



See also: From Wearside to Weatherfield, Sunderland's Coronation Street connections



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Fab Photo Friday - January 30th 2015

It's Friday again so it's time for this week's fab Coronation Street photo. Well done to those of you who correctly said that last week's photo was of Kasia Barowicz. This week we've got a returning character for you and one who was so evil most people were glad to see the back of her. Here are Jenny Bradley and Tanya Pooley.



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Spot the Corrie prop - January 30th 2015

Congratulations again this week go to AmandaB who correctly guessed that last week's table lamp can be found in fake-Gavin's flat.

We move away from lighting props this week and ask whereabouts on Coronation Street you would find this row of colourful candles.



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Preview of tonight's double Corrie - Friday 30 Jan

Friday 30th January
CALLUM PAYS MAX A VISIT. Katy takes Max to the café to give David a break. But whilst her back’s turned, Max runs out of the door. Outside Katy finds Max chatting to a stranger. The man introduces himself as Callum and assures Katy that he and Max go way back. What is Callum up to?
TOXIC TODD STARTS TO ENACT HIS PLAN. Eva confides in Todd that she and Tony are planning to view some flats behind Jason’s back and then when they find the right one, show it to Jason in the hope he’ll change his mind and allow Tony to give them the deposit. Todd listens, an evil plan forming in his mind. Knowing Tony and Eva are in the flat, Todd encourages Jason to pop home. As Tony and Eva pour over flat details, Jason walks in and demands to know what they’re playing at.
MADDIE AND NORRIS CLASH OVER CASH. When Norris short changes Maddie, she’s furious but Norris refuses to hand over the money, insisting she’s lying. Discovering the till is up, Rita returns the money to Maddie. Will Norris issue an apology?
ELSEWHERE Steve tells Michelle how he can’t forgive himself for the fact Sinead might never walk again. When Michelle later asks him to run an errand for her, Steve gets in his car but suffers a panic attack, admitting to Tyrone that he’s too frightened to drive. Chesney wades in and shoving Steve, blames him for Sinead’s injuries and demands some answers. Awash with guilt and self-loathing will Steve be able to defend himself?

Friday 30th January
STEVE AND SINEAD TRY TO LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Sinead’s depressed, convinced she’ll never walk again and will end up being a burden to Chesney. Beth assures her she’ll never be a burden and she needs to start thinking more positively. When Chesney arrives at the hospital with Agnes in tow, Sinead’s lifted to see her great grandmother. As Chesney sits on Sinead’s bed, he lays a hand on her leg. Sinead’s convinced she can feel something. Is she on the road to recovery? Meanwhile Steve attends his first session with the therapist. Initially he’s nervous but eventually he opens up and admits how he feels he’s let everyone down and blames himself for the minibus crash.
TODD’S POISON IS A BITTER PILL FOR JASON TO SWALLOW. Quickly covering the flat details, Eva makes out Tony gave her a lift back from town and she invited him in for a beer by way of thanks. Jason’s mollified. Jason confides in Todd how he found Eva in the flat with Tony and is convinced they were keeping something from him. Todd takes the opportunity to stir things and suggests it’s good they get on so well and spend so much time together. Jason mulls over Todd’s words, his jealousy growing.
MADDIE RUNS RINGS ROUND NORRIS. Sophie distracts Norris whilst Maddie picks up Norris’s mobile and dials the speaking clock. Norris remains blissfully unaware of their prank. Norris is furious to discover his mobile is connected to the speaking clock. Maddie and Sophie fall about laughing.
ELSEWHERE Anna and Owen row over his constant digs at Gary. Katy drops Max back with David and tells him about Callum’s visit. David’s uneasy.

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Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Wonder that is Craig


Ever since his very first line, I have been enamoured of Craig Tinker. His first line was in fact, ‘Tracy had a go at me because I ate all the cereal.’

Beth and her son were staying with Tracy in a house owned by Steve Macdonald. Living there, in fact, until Steve evicted them all.

‘Love me love my rat Darryl,’ would be Craig’s mantra. Of course, we have had the ‘Rat runs riot in The Rovers’ which is mildly amusing, but Craig didn’t really come into his own as a character until the fire at The Rovers for which Craig believed he was guilty, and thus also guilty for the deaths of Toni Griffiths and Sunita Alahan.  

Colson Smith pulled off several brilliantly successful performances. At his young age, he managed to convey guilt, fear and horror. He left his mum, Beth, and her then boyfriend Kirk, a note to say that he would like them to apologise to Dev on his behalf, because he had killed his wife. The psychology and behaviour of a teenager suffering an all-consuming guilt, was so convincingly portrayed by Colson, and so far, I do not believe I have seen a child act so well.

At one point, I was in need of being convinced that Beth and Craig ‘worked’ as mother and son. Craig seemed to have a refinement that his mum lacked. Now, however I think the pairing of the two was an excellent idea. Children do not necessarily reflect their parents.

There is something about Craig’s appearance, his bulk, for want of a better way of expressing it, which draws the viewer to him. His rounded face and his red hair also evoke a warmth in the viewer towards him created by the boy’s vulnerability, perhaps due to the boy’s less than perfect physique. You do not need me to remind you of the intense pressures on young people today concerning their appearance. For girls, they must be skinny, before anything else and for boys, the six pack is what they are all supposed to covet. Craig is not there yet.

All that said, about the superficial, the appearance, the right clothes and of course, trainers, Craig Tinker/ Sutherland (?) has a charm which cannot be bought in Top Man nor can it be achieved by the use of rowing machines, a treadmill or the lifting of weights.

Craig’s likeability stems from his innate charm and kindness, along with his gentle, mellifluous voice. His friendship with Faye, his ability to talk to almost anyone and his quiet confidence also serve to endear us to him. His delight at being able to help Tim produced his beautiful smile.


Beth Sunderland, you are a lucky woman. No wonder you wear a C on your necklace.
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Meet the new Bethany Platt (Take Two)

Coronation Street have today unveiled their brand new Bethany Platt, as seen in this picture. She will be played by Lucy Fallon.  This is Lucy's first TV role.

Previously, the show was embroiled in awkwardness after the previous actress it cast in the role emerged as older than her casting agent had said she would be.

In coming weeks, Bethany will show up on the cobbles and be taken for drinks by Andy, who thinks she is older.  Having run away from life in Milan, Bethany's mum, Sarah, will have no choice but to follow her daughter to Weatherfield.

Relive the life of Bethany Platt, in pictures


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Julie Hesmondhalgh awarded Freedom of Hyndburn

Last night, Wednesday January 28th, our honorary blogger and talented artist Jo Blakely, attended presentation to ex-Corrie actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, who was awarded the Freedom Of Hyndburn.

Julie, who played Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, was described as "a wonderful ambassador" for Hyndburn by Councillor Ken Moss.

"The Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour we can bestow, and Julie Hesmondhalgh is most definitely a worthy recipient," he said.

You can read the official release at the BBC website.

Honorary blogger Jo, who is on twitter @PickledJo and has a website here, reports that:

"The evening started with a couple of speeches including one by the Hyndburn Mayor.  Julie then signed the book to become and Honorary Freeman of the Borough and was presented with a framed certificate and flowers..


Julie's speech was lovely, where she thanked everyone from her family, school, college, drama teachers, friends, pubs and local record shops.



Then there was a 'This is your Life' styled presentation and acts from some local schools including cheerleaders throwing each other into the air and doing back-flips, some 'Stomp' style drumming, a short play by pupils from Accrington Academy and Students from St Christopher's High School performing The Lion king.

The highlight was a group of young Am-Dram students doing The Life of Hayley Cropper in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Great little actors with a fabulous quirky script.

The show ended with Julie giving all the performers a fabulous motivational speech about keeping up their creativity, no matter what stands in their way.

A lovely night for a lovely 'local lass'. She gave away that she has a Lancashire Rose tattooed on her stomach, but it looks more like a rhododendron bush after having her 2 daughters!.

And my favourite quote of the night was that Julie has to be a believable actor to be a woman playing a man playing a woman."

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Anne Kirkbride's funeral takes place

Anne Kirkbride's funeral took place yesterday, Tuesday 27 January.

It was a small, private funeral and some of the Coronation Street cast attended.

Bill Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, together with Kate Ford (Tracy Barlow) and Bev Callard (Liz McDonald) were among those who attended to pay their respects.

Filming on the Coronation Street set was halted.  Floral bouquets have been left at the site of the new Coronation Sreet set in Manchester.



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Preview of tonight's Coronation Street - Weds 28 Jan

Wednesday 28th January
TONY AND EVA STRIKE UP A DEAL. When Eva laments to Tony how Jason reckons they can’t afford to  buy a flat, Tony offers to lend them a deposit. Eva’s thrilled but when she tells Jason he’s furious, insisting they’re not a charity case. Eva’s upset as she explains to Tony how Jason refused his offer.  Tony gives her a comforting hug as Todd watches on intrigued, forming a plan. Elsewhere when Tony  tries throwing his weight around in the shop, Tracy realises she needs to show him who’s boss. Using  her feminine wiles, she drags him into the back and seduces him. Returning from work will Todd  catch them in the act?
DAVID’S READY TO FIGHT FOR HIS RIGHTS. David worries that with Kylie gone, he has no parental rights over Max and Callum could take him away at a moment’s notice.
CRAIG GETS THE WRONG END OF THE STICK. As it’s Tim’s birthday, Craig and Faye offer to do his window jobs for him so he can have an early dart. But as they beaver away on Sally’s windows, they spot Sally and Kevin acting strangely. Having heard this Tim heads to No.4 intent on confronting Sally and Kevin. What will he walk into? Meanwhile Tim offers Craig a window cleaning apprenticeship.
ELSEWHERE In the café, Zeedan refuses to let Gary serve him. Michael’s nervous as he reveals he’s had a call from the hospital and his heart operation is in two weeks. Steph puts pressure on Andy to track down Michael’s real son in case Michael should die during his operation.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Soap Superstars

I started writing this on the day Anne Kirkbride died. When a few of the tabloids suggested that she was to retire from Coronation Street, I like other Corrie bloggers, started thinking about her impact on Coronation Street and television as a whole, and to ponder life without Deirdre.

If only the big news last week was that she had retired. Still, I've started so I'll finish. Here's what I cobbled together...with a couple of personal memories to finish with.
 ***

They are a dying breed. That truly legendary type of soap star that comedians impersonate, fancy dress costumes are based upon, and for whom the nation goes into mourning after their inevitable TV demise. You know they've made it when they get a waxwork at Tussaud's and their own tv special: Goodbye Blanche, Goodbye Jack, Rita and Me...a celebration of both the actor and the character. Indeed Jack and Vera Duckworth mattered so much to the TV audience of Britain and beyond, that writers temporarily suspended reality, bringing Liz Dawn out of retirement and Vera back from the dead to collect her beloved Jack.

The superheroes of soap become the character they portray and whether on or off screen, Julie Goodyear is now Bet Lynch, Barbara Knox is Rita and June Brown from Eastenders is Dot Cotton - whether they like it or not. Just like to me, Julie Andrews will always be Mary Poppins - that's the character that stuck in my head, no matter what other roles she played later. Anne Kirkbride, in the same way, will forever be Deirdre Barlow. 

The secret to becoming a soap superstar is in part down to the type of longevity and work ethic you see less and less of in continuing drama. Just when we see glimmers of a new soap superstar in the making, such as Becky McDonald, played by Katherine Kelly for example, bigger, brighter opportunities are sent their way and it must be difficult, however loyal to a soap, to resist new challenges. We live in a different world, with greater opportunity and increasing numbers of media outlets shining a spotlight on talent.


This is the very opposite of why our soap superstars are elevated to almost mythical status. They tend not to crave limelight outside of work. They are rarely seen at award ceremonies or on television chat shows. Soap superstars go to work to earn a living and once the wig is removed and the makeup is washed off, they are mortal again. Anne Kirkbride once commented in a rare interview that her work at Coronation Street was just a job, and that she hadn't wanted to be an actress at all. How ironic that she became one of television's most recognisable and loved faces.

It tends to be a woman's thing - this soap superstardom. Think of Pat Butcher, Elsie Tanner, Ena Sharples, Dot Cotton, Bet Lynch, maybe even Bianca Butcher and a handful of others. Corrie, probably more so than Eastenders, is based around and would be lost without strong, troubled and formidable women so it makes sense that the women become the real stars. 

The future of soap doesn't necessarily depend on the new alumni of actors becoming superstars, but it certainly helps. Unique characters are Corrie's U.S.P. and it is funnier and generally more enjoyable when they stretch the boundaries a little with characters who are slightly cartoonish but with real world problems. The longevity is the key thing though. If a soap character is as familiar to you as a member of your family, chances are that you will root for that character and become invested in their storylines. We were certainly invested in Deirdre's, and Anne Kirkbride's death has hit us hard as viewers and fans.


We who write and read this blog didn't know Anne Kirkbride, but we loved her work and we will always love Deirdre. I was however lucky enough to meet her when I worked for Bev Callard, Anne's dear friend and familiar to us all as Liz McDonald. Anne would sometimes come in for a gossip with Bev. The two friends would sit in a quiet corner, have a good old laugh about who knows what, smoking away as if in one of those famous scenes from Corrie or the First Wives Club. Two soap superstars sitting in the corner giggling away, like any other pals having a laugh. This was one of the first memories that came into my mind when Anne passed away. 

My only other personal memory of Anne, although she wasn't directly involved, was when I was in a car with former Corrie writer Daran Little on our way to Blackpool for a day out (to Tussaud's incidentally). We set off on our way down the motorway. Daran was driving and his phone rang so he asked me to answer it. I said hello, and a familiar voice came back: 'Hello Annie?' sounding slightly confused. I know Anne had quite a deep sounding voice but I'm slightly less raspy shall we say. The person on the other end of the phone was Bill Roache and god knows how, but he'd called Daran by mistake expecting to speak to Anne. I had a brief but memorable chat with Bill, who I'd never met and haven't since, and after making it clear that I wasn't Anne, and that I didn't look anything like her, I presume he hung up and went to find his glasses to get the right number. I was then left with the unusual but amazing right to boast that for a split second, Ken thought I was Deirdre. 

I of course took it as a compliment...

@steviedawson 

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The end of a Corrie era?


Coronation Street and everyone connected with it has suffered a particularly traumatic start to the new year. Issues surrounding the casting of the new, grown up Bethany Platt have caused negative headlines, but far more importantly, the incredibly sad death of actress Anne Kirkbride has dismayed us all.

I didn't want to write about Anne passing away at the time and a week on from the news being made public, I still don't in any great detail. There have been plenty of superb tributes both on this blog and elsewhere across all forms of media. However, for some reason it has made me realise how fragile Corrie is. It's always seen as a powerful machine, trundling onwards as an unstoppable feature of contemporary British drama. It has an enviable history behind it and it shows no signs of slowing its pace, but I wonder if the central core of what makes Corrie "Corrie" is slowing being chipped away.

The exit of a pivotal cast member doesn't mean the end of Corrie. We have witnessed that on countless occasions in the past. Many household names have come and gone and each time it happens, headlines ask us if the soap can carry on. And of course it does, focussing on different angles and new characters. The beauty of a programme like Corrie is that it can regenerate as the need arises. The format is flexible enough to allow change while still providing the continuity regular viewers rely on. 

However it is not often that a character or actor departs who has entered the consciousness of the nation, not just avid Coronation Street viewers. The departures of characters like Annie Walker, Elsie Tanner and Hilda Ogden spring to mind, and more recently those of Betty, Blanche and the Duckworths. Each time it happens it is a huge wrench for all concerned, particularly if there is real life loss behind the on screen exit.

As a Corrie traditionalist, the fact that legendary characters are becoming an endangered species makes me sad. We don't often hear mentions of past glories and past characters these days and while it is important Coronation Street continues to move forward, while we do still see characters like Ken, Gail and Audrey, it would be brilliant if they name dropped Uncle Albert, Suzie Birchall and Alf Roberts a bit more often. It provides much needed continuity with the past and also makes proceedings feel more realistic. Families in the real world often reflect and reminisce about departed loved ones and while the current powers that be put a focus on family, it seems like a natural thing to expect. 

I worry that many people making television today put far too much effort into attracting young viewers. Talking about this recently with friends, we discussed how watching television has changed beyond recognition. Programmes like Coronation Street are watched most regularly by older people. The younger demographic do tune in, but perhaps not as loyally and definitely not as often through the traditional way. I think the majority of older Corrie viewers have watched for many years, just like my gran. 

They do remember the older characters and love hearing about them still. I'm not suggesting Corrie goes on a desperate mission to bring back past characters. Too often this move promises an awful lot and leaves a bitter taste. Too much had changed when Julie Goodyear returned as Bet and Philip Lowrie, while a welcome addition as Dennis Tanner, was woefully underused. The writers of today simply did not know what to do with him.

I think a renewed focus on more mature characters is very much needed in the Weatherfield of 2015. They are the ones who foster a sense of community and provide a stable backdrop for the high drama. Yes we still have Ken, Rita, Norris and Audrey but their appearances are increasingly fleeting. I loved Stephanie Cole's stint as Roy's mum Sylvia but as yet there has been nobody nearly as good to fill that gap. I hope Roy's new storyline with the widowed lady at the allotments is a good one but I think we need more. Like the wonderful Deirdre, they often provide the small yet memorable moments that stay with us long after the high drama and ratings grabbing stunts have faded away.

Follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82


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