Sunday, 31 May 2015

Anne Kirkbride's memorial - the view from a Corrie fan

Paul Lanagan is a Coronation Street fan and a very talented artist.

You can follow him on twitter @corrieart and he's also on facebook

Paul attended Anne Kirkbride's memorial service held on Saturday May 30 in Manchester Cathedral. He has very generously offered to write up a blog post for us to share here on the Coronation Street Blog.  

And so, it's over to Paul.  All photographs and images on this blog post are those created by or photos taken by Paul.

Anne Kirkbride, known to millions of TV viewers as Deirdre Barlow, passed away on January 19th 2015. The sad news was broadcast after that evening's gripping Coronation Street episode which had featured a dramatic minibus crash.

As an artist whose work is based on the programme and shared via Twitter, I was in the middle of a witty drawing showing Jurassic Park's T-Rex pushing the minibus over - but the news of Anne's death shocked and upset me so I started a new drawing which featured Deirdre's iconic specs shedding a tear onto the Coronation Street sign.  The image went viral and was shared by shocked fans far and wide.

Anne Kirkbride's funeral was a private affair however a public memorial was later announced to be taking place at Manchester Cathedral to give Anne's colleagues, friends, family and fans the opportunity to come together and acknowledge Anne's contribution to TV drama. 

Owing to space restrictions in the cathedral, only a limited number of fans were allowed access, prompting some to queue outside from dawn. I headed to the cathedral bright and early and saw that Corrie fans Brian Altman, Pamela Pinder and Elaine Davies were first in the queue for the memorial service.

Elaine, from nearby Prestwich, said, "I have appeared in Corrie as I sing in the choir and they've filmed scenes in my church, St Mary the Virgin. It was Peter and Leanne Barlow's blessing and I met Anne Kirkbride. She was lovely, very friendly."

Pamela, of Stockport, said, "I am here today as I just want to pay my respects to Anne Kirkbride."

Corrie fans Paul Lanagan (left) and Brian Altman (right)
Brian, 53, who had travelled all the way from Glasgow to attend the memorial, said, "I have been queuing since six o'clock this morning. I was devastated and never expected it. It was such a shock. Anne will be missed on screen by us all."

With many hours to wait on the cold north side of the church, fans passed the time by talking about their favourite Deirdre Barlow moments and the line: "Jelly shouldn't run, it should wobble!" was often heard, along with mentions of the famous Barlow AA meeting scene and of course Deirdre's affair with Mike Baldwin.

Brian, a self-confessed Corrie super fan, regaled the crowd with stories and anecdotes about the show. He said, "I have visited the Street's external set many times on the old Granada Studios Tour and I have all the merchandise - Tony Warren would be proud of me! If I ever win the lottery I'd like to have the cheque presented to me on the new Coronation Street set and I'd give a thousand pounds to each of the Corrie actors' chosen charities!"

While we all waited, I noticed that a pigeon was clucking about at the top of the steps next to the cathedral's door. Pigeons are of course Corrie icons and it made me smile as I waited, wondering what to expect once inside.

There was a very positive vibe amongst the crowd and the hours soon passed as journalists came and went. Fans were then led into the cathedral and took seats in the north aisle while Anne's friends and colleagues were sat in the centre. The church soon filled with the most famous faces from British television including, as expected, a whole host of Coronation Street actors, writers and production team, plus many other TV stars.

At times it felt intrusive to be there; most, if not all of those who knew Anne personally (especially husband David Beckett) were still visibly upset at their loss. Sat in front of me were three elderly ladies who were taken aback each time they saw a recognisable character such as Ken Barlow, Liz McDonald, Audrey Roberts and many others. The ladies were very much like Ena, Minnie and Martha - and as they sat there rolling off names of Corrie characters it reminded me that Anne Kirkbride, through her acting, had touched the lives of millions of people and it was only right that those should be allowed to remember and pay thanks to Anne for that.

The cathedral was full to capacity and clips of noteworthy Deirdre Barlow scenes were played on screens before the service started at half past eleven. The service was conducted by the cathedral's Sub Dean, Philip Barratt, and hymns were performed by Manchester Cathedral choir.

Actor William Roache MBE read a touching poem called "She is Gone" while actresses Beverley Callard and Elle Mulvaney gave moving tributes full of warm memories.

Corrie Producer Stuart Blackburn arriving at the cathedral
Corrie Executive Producer Kieran Roberts arriving at the cathedral
Corrie's Executive Producer, Kieran Roberts, and production crew members Paul Sparrow, Ciaron Hatzar and Stephen Polack also paid tribute to Anne. Kieran, echoed the same sentiments of all those who spoke about Anne, saying she was "a warm, talented and fun-loving lady" and "she was genuinely one of the most decent and honourable people you could ever wish to meet."

You can read more about the service and the readings here.

Musical contributions came from a recording of Il Dolce Suono performed by Maria Callas, a live performance of Caruso by tenor Tom Spence, and a beautiful performance of Mozart's Sonata in G by Roman Lytwynlw and James Ellis of Chetham's School of Music.

A powerful and personal tribute from Anne's brother John Kirkbride was read out by close family friend Philip Hampson. But the most poignant and emotional parts of the service came from Anne Kirkbride herself when personal video clips of the actress were shown on screen. One, which showed Anne playing "Oh Susanna" on the harmonica and scaring her cat, had everybody laughing out loud!

At the end of the hour long service we were told that some music had been chosen to make us smile just as Anne would have wanted. The famous EastEnders duff, duff, duffs echoed out across the cathedral but were soon drowned out by laughter as everyone rose to leave.

Having toasted Anne's memory with a glass of the aptly named "Annie's Fizz" in Jenny McAlpine's restaurant Annie's, I then spent the evening visiting the old Coronation Street set at the former Granada Studios site.

The place was deserted save for a few pipistrelle bats which swooped from the eaves of the Rovers Return.

As I sat on the cobbles on the darkened street reflecting on the day's poignant events, the voice of Deirdre Barlow echoed out from the speakers in the backyards of the Street: "Salford girl, marries a wrong un, then finds love in later life when a dashin' white sergeant sweeps her off her on the cobbles."

Anne Kirkbride is gone, but she will never be forgotten.

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Anonymous said...

What a Wonderful Piece, Well Wriien and what a lovely mannered patient young man. Thankfully Paul has great taste in life, like me he is such a great fan of Tony Warren's Coronation Street.
I am just so privileged to have been able to be apart of Anne's Farewell Service.
THANK YOU TO ALL THE ITV NETWORK, CAST, CREW, FOR SUCH A WONDERFUL DAY AND TO Anne's Husband David and Famly for allowing us the public in to attend this very special day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time and effort to share this with us! It's extremely well written and equally heart-felt.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Paul. It means so much to those of us who couldn't be there. I did light a candle yesterday in her memory. Corrie will never be the same.

maggie muggins said...

Thank you from Canada, Paul. I'm in tears again, but glad to hear that Annie was blessed to the very end with the love of family, friends and Corrie fans. Much deserved.

The music at the end of the service - such great soap humour!

Zagg said...

That was really great. Thank you for sharing with us.

Graeme N said...

Lovely blog post.

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