Ken Barlow

Ken Barlow

ken-barlow-key-chain-ebay.co_.ukAt the Granada Coronation Street Gift Shop in the 1990s, I dithered over souvenir key rings. Which character did I want? I finally chose Ken Barlow. He was a long term character and one I knew well.

Iconic characters like Ena Sharples I knew, but had no personal connection to. Those in the show right then, I didn’t how long they’d be around. But Ken – there was the emblem of the show, illustrative of its past and relevant to its future.

I lost the key ring a few years ago. But, I comforted myself, I still had Ken on my television five days a week.

He began the role in 1960 when the show began. A young man, thinking it would be a good gig for a while. Until the show ended or he was written out or decided to leave. None of those things happened.

Like a key ring, Ken Barlow became an essential. A character that you could count on to stay relevant, about whom people would not say ‘who’s that?’


Tent-Pole Family

Ken Barlow in front of photosIn time, he married and had children. And married and had children. The Barlows became the tent-pole family of Coronation Street, central and enduring. Thereby being the ones who provide continuity while other characters and families come and go.

That was not planned in the beginning on Coronation Street‘s part. Some soaps, American ones, began with two or three central families. They would provide the basis for stories that could continue over years and generations. Familiar characters, even family names, over time make a continuing serial continue.

Characters must come and go, due to actors’ choices and storyline directions. But the turnover cannot be total, otherwise it would be a different show every few years. And soaps are planned from the beginning without an end.

deirdre-greets-ken 2014

Coronation Street didn’t start with tent-pole families. It had a collection of residents who happened to live next door to each other on a small street. People moved in and moved out. Except for the Barlows. Ken’s parents and brother are long gone. But he stayed, and three more generations of Barlows have been added.

The wonderful pairing of William Roache and Anne Kirkbride as Ken and Deirdre gave plenty of scope to develop a multi-generational portrait of a family. They never dominated the Street to the exclusion of others, but they have been its keystone. Particularly Ken.

62 years on air

Tracy Adam and Peter upon meeting DanielCoronation Street celebrates its 62nd birthday today. In April 2022, William Roache celebrated his 90th birthday. He has been on Coronation Street since he was 28 years old. Little did he know! Now, he and Coronation Street hold Guinness World Records for their 62 years on television.

Someday he’ll leave the role. But I’ve stopped anticipating it. For future Coronation Street fans, Ken Barlow will still be known. A mainstay, a key character of the show’s past and, in his descendants, its present and future.

  • Spoiler! Have a look if you want to know what’s up with Ken right now.



I originally wrote this post April 10, 2017 when I feared Ken was a goner. Someone in his house bashed him in the head. But he survived and my post never made it out of draft format. It still is not needed as an elegy. Instead, amended, it is an anniversary tribute.

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