Category Archives: Coronation Street

Royalty on The Street

Coronation Street has not been on the air as long as Queen Elizabeth II has been on the British throne. On December 9, 1960 when Corrie began, she had been queen for 8 years, 10 months and 3 days.

Since then, Queen Elizabeth has walked down the Coronation Street cobbles twice. In 1982 she went for the opening of the new outdoor set at Granada Studios. The second time was in 2021 when she went to the new MediaCity set for the show’s 60th anniversary.

Her two eldest children, Charles and Anne, have also visited Coronation Street. In April 2016 Princess Anne and 50 Commonwealth business and government leaders toured the MediaCity set.

Royals on set

In 2000, Prince Charles appeared in an episode – sort of. To mark Coronation Street’s 40th anniversary, they did a live episode. Earlier that day, Prince Charles came to unveil a plaque and meet and greet. One of the actors he met was Sue Nicholls, who plays Audrey Roberts. Their meeting was taped. During the episode, an on-set television showed a news item of Weatherfield city councillor Audrey Robert meeting the Prince of Wales.

Camilla visited the street in February 2010 as part of the show’s 50th anniversary year, and poured a pint in the Rovers Return. She wore a specially-made silver brooch of Hilda Ogden’s flying ducks.

Royal Events

Real-life royal events have been celebrated in the storylines of Coronation Street. The wedding of William and Kate in 2011 caused Mary Taylor to opine on royal marriage patterns. On the Queen’s 60th Jubilee, Coronation Street had a huge street party with everyone dressed up as a rock star. The Golden Jubilee in 2002 was marked with Roy’s attempt to reenact the Civil War on the Red Rec. For 1977’s Silver Jubilee, a street party with the theme of England through the ages. Ena Sharpes was Queen Victoria and Annie Walker was Elizabeth I. Of course.

But this Platinum Jubilee? I’ve googled like mad for spoilers. Lots and lots of drama this week. But nary a word about a street party or anything royal related. I hope Coronation Street is keeping something well and truly under wraps.

Maybe I’ll have to start watching EastEnders. They have a couple of guest actors in tonight’s UK episode. Charles and Camilla stop by the Platinum Jubilee party in Albert Square. The landlord of the The Queen Victoria pub says to them, “Welcome to your great-great-great-grandmother’s boozer.”

Upstairs Downstairs

It was long said that the Queen Mother was a Coronation Street fan. But nothing is known for sure. Camilla said on her visit to the set that she had watched when she was young and had started watching again. Disbelief at this was reported. “Can you imagine them watching Corrie at home?” an actor is quoted as saying. But why wouldn’t they? It’s a glimpse into other people’s lives, just like it is for the rest of us. And for them, it’s a glimpse at a way of life that they don’t see in their daily lives, just like watching Downton Abbey or The Crown is for the rest of us.

In the 2022 Queen’s New Year Honours list, William Roache was made an OBE. That’s fitting in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. His stint as Ken Barlow on Coronation Street is only 8 years, 10 months and 3 days less than Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

Veterans on The Street

Britain’s wars have been part of Coronation Street throughout its six decades. From the 1960s to 1990s, there were veterans of the World Wars and, in the 2000s, the war in Afghanistan. For the two World War veterans, the actors were informed by their personal experience.

Albert Tatlock MM

albert tatlock wikipediaIn the beginning was Albert Tatlock. Google him: “grumpy” is often in the first line. He was young Ken Barlow’s neighbour and friend. Grumpy, yes, and disparaging of the youth of the day. But he had his reasons. He had signed up with the Lancashire Fusiliers in WWI. On July 1, 1916, they went “over the top” at Beaumont Hamel. There were 57,000 casualties that first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Albert was 21 years old in 1916. So you can see why he might have got testy about young men of that same age, like Ken, whining about the existential angst of their 1960s world.

Albert’s war medals made appearances long after he had departed. He had left them to Ken. In 2014, Tracy sold his Military Medal, infuriating Deirdre when she found out. The medal was restored to the Barlow household, and so was peace.

Jack Howarth portrayed Albert Tatlock. He too was a WWI veteran of the Lancashire Fusiliers. He died in 1984, two months after his last appearance on Coronation Street.

Percy Sugden

albert tacklock and percy sugden 1983 coronation street past and present wikiNear the end of Mr. Tatlock’s life on Coronation Street, a veteran of WWII moved into the street. Percy Sugden had been a cook in the British Army. Among his many observations on life, the best has to be: “When you’ve prepared spotted dick and custard for 150 of ’em under heavy artillery fire and not allowed one lump in that custard, you can do anything.”

Again, google him and “grumpy” pops up. He was and, again, with good reason when you compare the experiences of his youth with those of the young people of the 1980s and 1990s that he watched, and cheerfully criticized.

Bill Waddington played Percy. Like him, Mr. Waddington was a cook in the British Army in WWII. With his ukulele and comedy skills, he was also recruited into the Army entertainment troupes.

Gary Windass

In 2009, Gary Windass made a wisecrack to Gail’s father Ted Page about poppy sales being “a nice little earner”. Ted wasn’t pleased (viewers either, Corrie expected). But he explained enough about military life to interest Gary in it.

Not having regular, secure or legal employment, Gary signed up. He was sent to Afghanistan. He came home injured, after the vehicle he was travelling in was blown up. His mate, Quinny, was killed. Gary was traumatized, both about what had happened and about surviving.

Mikey North, who plays Gary, talked with veterans of Afghanistan before doing this storyline. What he learned from them showed in his portrayal. It brought it home, I think, for all of us who watched.

Jim McDonald

The news that Gary had been wounded reached the street when Jim McDonald was back. Those at the Rovers raised a glass to him and those who were killed. It’s fitting that ex-soldier Jim was there.

Jim was a Sergeant with the Royal Engineers. He had been stationed in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Jim is from Belfast. His time there, and in the army, was never talked about much. He’d occasionally talk about his “army muckers” and Jim raises a glassone of them would show up from time to time. I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning what it was like for him being British Army. Depending on how you look at it, he was part of a force that was either occupying or defending his own land.

Peter Barlow

Peter Barlow wikipediaAccording to his back story, Peter Barlow signed up in the Royal Navy when he was 15. That would have been 1980. The Falklands War was in 1982 but, to my knowledge, it’s never been said that he took part in it. He left the navy after 20 years service. He has talked about the navy and we’ve met some of his friends from that time. But I don’t think he saw action, at least not at sea.

War is not talked about much any more on Coronation Street, but that matches with real life. But every November poppies are on the lapels of pretty much everybody on the street. Again, like real life.

Remembrance Poppy an der Manchester Town Hall 2015 HH58 wikicommons
Poppy on front of Manchester Town Hall 2015 (HH58 Wikimedia Commons)

Johnny Briggs

Mike-Baldwin-1991-corriepediaJohnny Briggs died yesterday, February 28th, at the age of 85. For those who knew him as Mike Baldwin on Coronation Street, the world is a bit darker today. Mike Baldwin died 15 years ago, but knowing that he still lived in Johnny Briggs somehow made all seem as it should.

John Ernest Briggs MBE was born in Battersea, London in 1935. He started acting in his early teens. In 1976 he joined Coronation Street as Mike Baldwin. He left the show in 2006.

Mike Baldwin came to Weatherfield from London and set up the garment factory that eventually became Underworld. He was neither trusted nor liked by street residents, partly because he was from the south and partly because he was not particularly trustworthy. He was a chancer. He reinforced every negative stereotype of London that Northerners held dear. And he enjoyed doing it. So you, as the viewer, enjoyed it too.

Ken 1 – Mike 0

His opposite in ethos and ethics was Ken Barlow. Ken represented everything that Mike scoffed at, and Mike was everything that Ken Mike-Deirdre-Ken-1983-corriepedialoathed. So, of course, they became opponents in love too. Mike had an affair with Deirdre, Ken’s wife. Their triangle was a huge storyline in the early 1980s. So big that during a 1983 soccer game between Manchester United and Arsenal, after Coronation Street aired, a notice flashed on the scoreboard, “Ken and Deirdre reunited. Ken 1 – Mike 0”.

Mike compounded their personal antagonism by marrying Ken’s daughter Susan. When Mike and Susan’s grown-up son Adam Barlow returned to Weatherfield in 2016, he was a Glaswegian mini-Mike. Cigar in hand, attitude all over the place and an unerring sense of where the Scotch bottle was kept in Underworld’s office.

Amazon for Johnny Briggs autobiography
Tap for Amazon

Mike’s leaving story was one of the most emotionally moving in the show’s long history. In 2006, deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, he collapsed from a heart attack on the street. Ken Barlow was the only person there. He got down on the cobbles and gathered him in his arms. Mike’s final words were, “You’re finished, Barlow! Deirdre loves me. She’s mine.” A bittersweet, and heartbreaking, indicator of Mike’s present, and of his past.

Thank you, Mr. Briggs, for 30 years of Mike Baldwin. Condolences to the Briggs family, and the Coronation Street family, on your loss.

See Mr. Briggs’ obituary at The Guardian.

Corrie Street 27 Dec. 2020

Hens’ Revenge

The stars of the 60th anniversary episodes for me were Yasmeen’s hens. Especially the overhead shot of them pecking around Geoff laying splat out on the ground. They were alive and he was not: proper hens’ revenge for everything he had done to them and Yasmeen, and threatened to do.

I was horrified to hear Yasmeen testify that Geoff had cooked her favourite hen and served her up for dinner. Lock him up! Back on the street after she had been released from prison, he taunted Yasmeen by threatening the life of hen Emily. He’d barbecue her, he said. Lock him up!

Geoff gave Yasmeen one hour to go to her house and collect her stuff. When there, she went to the back yard to say hello to the chickens. But when she left them, she didn’t latch their coop door properly.

Yes, the whole time that she was in the house was dramatic. The power went out so she was in the dark, alone with no one knowing where she was. Would she manage to get her photos and whatever and get back out safely? Would Geoff sneak in and hurt her. But mainly, for me, would the hens stray and get hurt?

But they didn’t. Emily came into the house. Yasmeen saw her. She must have twigged that was odd, and therefore the coop must be open. But I guess she was distracted by the imminent danger posed by Geoff. By her not immediately going out and putting Emily back in and latching the coop, the chickens had freedom to go around the back yard. And witness Geoff’s demise.

Character or Plot

Plot-driven or character-driven? Chickens would simply stay on their roost and sleep after dark, open coop door or not. So plot-driven. But an upset in their routine, like someone opening the coop after they’ve gone to bed, can cause them to get up and see what’s going on. So it’s in character that they might wander out to look around. Or get up to check out the situation when someone thumps down on the ground right beside them.

Last mention of the hens was Sally saying she’d see to them. Sally? Wow, she and Yasmeen must have patched up their differences!

A visit home

It’s been two and a half years since I watched an entire week of Coronation Street. It was nice to see familiar faces and places. See new people, see changes made in living quarters. Catching up on stories, many of which hit their dramatic high point. Yasmeen and the story of Geoff’s abuse, of course. But also others involving individuals and the street itself.

The bulldozer threatening the buildings and the people in front of it. Ken’s Tiananmen moment, stopping the bulldozer by talking about his 81 years on the street and all the history in those cobbles. Abi, in a style reminiscent of Becky, taking over a digger and smashing everything it could reach (hence the power outage). Mary bringing her vuvuzela to the protest! Roy’s research abilities finding legal room to manoeuvre by getting the old brewery listed as a historic property. Rita giving developer Ray Crosby a dressing down about the Kabin and her years behind its counter – long before him and long after as well, laddie.

Yes, nice to see old friends and visit familiar places. And I looked for my own high point – my scene of the week – in their dramatic moments. But, at the end, I had to go back to what had made me catch my breath and think ‘oh-no’. And that was the Nazir hens. Maybe I’ll come back sometime to check on them. When, I don’t know.

Corrie Origin Story

Sixty years ago today, on December 9, 1960, the first episode of Coronation Street aired. Since then, its origin story has been told many times, many ways.

Granada_Studios_Manchester_geograph.org_.uk_GaryReggae-2005-wikicommonsHere is the story as told to me by the two people who had the idea for a home-grown serial for Northern England television.

In 1960, Harry Elton was a producer at Granada Studios. I talked to him by telephone in 1991. He was at his home in Ottawa, Ontario. Tony Warren was a young writer for Granada in 1960. I met him in Manchester in 1992. Although several months and thousands of kilometres apart, their stories meshed as if they were in the same room finishing each other’s sentences. So I wove the two together.

How it began

Elton: Granada was trying to develop local programming in accordance with government regulations about local content on the new private, commercial networks. I remembered the soap operas I had seen when growing up in Canada and later in Detroit. I knew that they were extremely popular, and that production costs were lower because the same sets could be used over and over and actors could be signed on long contracts.

There was this kid writing for Granada, Captain Biggles and other series. He had a way of hearing Manchester, Salford talk. I asked him to write a pilot and outline for a thirteen-week season, about life in the north. He went away, and came back with the first episode of Coronation Street.

Warren: I invented it out of sheer desperation… I was adapting [Biggles] novels of Captain W. E. Johns, which I found fascist and incomprehensible. I said to Harry Elton, let me write what I know about – show business. He said that’s the kiss of death for television… I said I know about the north of England. And more to humour me than anything else he said go away and come back in twenty-four hours with a show that’ll take the world by the ears.

Elton: I remember after the pilot was shown… they sat down to pronounce. The first man, who was an American variety person, said, That’s a soap opera! You don’t put that crap on at seven o’clock at night, you put that on in the daytime.

Corrie-St-1960-youtube.comCecil Bernstein [Granada co-founder] said, Harry, you’ve made a horrible mistake, and we can’t blame you because you’re a Canadian… North Country accents are the language of George Formby and Old Mother Riley. And whenever people hear it, they laugh. They’ll never take it seriously.

The general manager, who had been working with Korda in film, said, There’s not a single thing I like about that programme. I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the sets, and I don’t like the stories. Surely people watch television to be taken out of their dreary lives, not to have their noses rubbed into reality!

Warren: Harry Elton refused to be defeated… He set up monitors all round the studio. And he sent out memos to everybody from the chairman down to the cleaners and said, today at one o’clock, we will be showing two episodes of a home-grown serial that we believe in. We would like you to watch it and fill in questionnaires.

tv-times-16-dec-1960-ep-3-coronationstreet.fandom.comThe reactions in these questionnaires were exactly the same as the reactions have always been ever since to Coronation Street. The people either loved it or they loathed it, but they didn’t feel indifferently about it. The ones who loved it far outweighed the ones who loathed it. And so it was the people who got the show onto the air, not the powers that be! The people and a Canadian!

Elton: Just as all my distinguished colleagues felt that the show wouldn’t work, the critics, all of them I think… knocked the show. Television was important enough, and there were only the two channels, so that everybody wrote on it. It was in The Times, The Observer, The Guardian.

There was a young Canadian who was writing television criticism for one of the distinguished weeklies… He said, This is pap! This is what Lenin was talking about when he talked about religion – it was the opium of the people. Granada are now putting out this crap to make the working classes, who are the victims of British society, feel contented in their miserable lot. That Canadian’s name was Mordecai Richler.

Jump borders

corriepedia-on-twitter Corrie Origin StoryTony Warren wrote only those first thirteen episodes. But in those, he set the standard for the show. It was what he had written in a memo to the bosses at the very beginning: “A fascinating freemasonry, a volume of unwritten rules. These are the driving forces behind life in a working-class street in the north of England… The purpose… is to entertain by examining a community of this kind and initiating the viewer into the ways of the people who live there.”

He allowed for that examination because he was so adept at reproducing that world. Harry Elton said of Tony Warren: “His ability was to reflect the way people really talked, but with a sharp edge… Everywhere he went on buses he would have a pencil and a piece of paper and he would listen to people talk, and write down what they said… So he set the style… It was real people talking to each other about real problems… When you have that kind of reality, it has a universality about it that lets it jump over borders.”

Tony Warren said: “I couldn’t turn to the court pages of a newspaper without reading ‘She came from a Coronation Street-type background’. I remember a morning sitting on a bus, overhearing two women ‘Did you see it last night?’ I thought, I’ll never escape this thing!”

Harry Elton returned to Canada in 1963, where he worked in radio and television, including the CBC, and for the Canadian Museum of Civilization. His wife, Marguerite tony-warren-harry-elton-1995-corriepediaMcDonald, was the original host of CBC Radio’s political programme The House. Mr. Elton died in 2004 at the age of 74.

Tony Warren became a novelist, writing about the North of England and show business. He also was a consultant for Coronation Street, “the only person who is paid to watch it” as he delightedly told me. He died in 2016 at the age of 79.

Coronation Street 60 Screen_Shot_2020 itvThe 2010 movie The Road to Coronation Street is a beautiful telling of the show’s origins . If you haven’t watched it, do (see below). The story told above is from Other Worlds, my book about British and American soaps . The week of 60th anniversary special episodes starts in Canada on CBC on Friday, December 18th.

Covid Corrie

Overnight, Covid-19 will hit Weatherfield. People who had been freely walking around Coronation Street without a corona care in the world will be masked and distancing themselves. Tonight in Britain, and soon in Canada, the residents of Coronation Street will be living like we have been.

Covid Corrie taping photo ITV standard.co.ukExecutive producer Iain MacLeod was on CBC Radio’s q this morning to talk about how the show is dealing with a pandemic that has outlasted their stock of episodes in the can. The virus, and all the precautions, will hit immediately. There’s nothing else they can do, he said. To have a build up to it would require extensive reshooting. So they are asking for a suspension of disbelief from viewers. As he said, the viewers know the reality, so should recognize that the show has little choice.

Taping in a pandemic

Corrie and all the soaps began making changes months ago as the pandemic became increasingly serious. Coronation Street cut back from six episodes to three a week. That bought time with already taped episodes spread over twice as long.

Older and at-risk actors were furloughed. Writers scrambled to explain their disappearance. Social distancing was instituted for actors. Camera people and editors scrambled to make it look as if people weren’t staying clear of others while they actually were.

Steamy romantic scenes stopped. Large crowd scenes stopped. But the show has to look like the show, and street life had to look normal. The constraints imposed by health precautions called for inventive production techniques. Camera angles, for example, could give an illusion of closeness between actors when they were actually far apart.

Production ceased for a couple of months. I think that is probably a first ever in its 60 year history. When work resumed, they decided to bring the pandemic into the life of the street. The distancing they had already been practicing would become part of the story.

Covid-19 production problems remain, however. Within the bubble of our family, we don’t need to stay distant and wear masks. But the actors playing members of a family don’t live together in real life. So camera and editing tricks still are needed to get around that. Stand-ins were used if possible. The real life mother of a child stood in for the screen mother in one scene, Cole said. A mannequin stood in for an actor in another.

The show will go on. But bringing reality in is a good thing, I think. Watching television, I find myself distracted when people are too close together. Get back, I think, don’t you know better! A soap is part of our daily lives, so it’s especially jarring to see its world so obviously at odds with our own. And maybe we’ll make a new game for watching: spot the Covid camera trick.

Corrie 10000

watching corrie 10000 photo-j-stewartI haven’t watched Coronation Street since June 2018. But I watched Thursday and Friday’s episodes. Episode numbers 10000 and 10001. I figured out that I’d watched regularly since about episode 3000. So I couldn’t miss these landmark ones.

Some of the people I didn’t know. Happens when you leave a neighbourhood for any length of time. But there are also familiar faces, beloved faces.

10000 Remembers

I didn’t count the references to Corrie history in the episodes. There weren’t actually 10000. But there were a lot. Right from the first shot. Girls playing ball on the street. Just like the opening shot in episode number 1.

The premise was a bus trip to Blackpool, taken to scatter Dennis Tanner’s ashes. Dennis was a character in the original Coronation Street. He returned several years ago, left, and now – offstage – died. So talk of him, of Elsie his mother, even his sister Linda still living in Toronto decades after leaving Weatherfield.

History, long ago and more recent, was packed in. Is it too much, I asked my husband. He has watched off and on but isn’t that familiar with the backstory. No, he said, it felt natural. Especially, he said, Rita saying to Ken “you’re the last one left now.” Yes, that is what you say of the end of a generation.

rita-behind-rovers-barAt the end of the day, Rita walked through the empty Rovers Return. Remembering everyone. Annie Walker, Bet Lynch – landladies, staff and customers of the heart of the street. As she said, they’re in the fabric of the place. We overheard their voices in her head. It worked beautifully.

Goodbye, old friend

Outside the Rovers, Ken and Eccles stood. He’d done a lot of thinking during the bus trip. He had made a decision: time to move on. “Goodbye, old friend.” Talking to Dennis? To us? “Finally it’s time to go,” he said as he looked down the street.

He had clutched a brochure for a retirement home all during the trip. Talked with Rita and Audrey about what he’d wanted sixty years ago and what had happened. The travel he’d wanted to do had consisted of moving from No. 3 to No. 1 Coronation Street. Maybe finally it was time to move a bit further away.

ken-and-eccles-go-homeAccording to Radio Times, he – character and actor – won’t be leaving Weatherfield. Still, I can’t imagine what saying goodbye would have been like for Bill Roache. He is Coronation Street, there since the airing of the first episode. It’s hard to imagine the show without him.

Ken and Eccles go in their house. The scene outside their door slowly fades from colour to black and white.

Then the credits. Current names roll over the background images of credits throughout the decades. A lovely tribute. But one that sailed right over CBC’s head.

corrie-10000-cbc-credits-photo-d-stewartLook carefully at the photo, the beautifully crafted Coronation Street credits are that tiny box in the middle at the bottom of the television screen. It’s a reason to watch on line. You can see the credits full size.

Why watch Corrie?

It’s been just over a year since I stopped watching Coronation Street. I still record it, and read the on-screen synopses as I delete episodes.

why watch corrie delete episodes screen photo dstewartHave I been tempted to watch? Yes. Some days when I just feel like flopping on the couch and not checking on the Donald Trump Comedy/Horror Hour. Or when the two line synopsis makes me curious. What’s happening with Carla, I wonder. But I have not watched even one episode.

I do think about the show and why it’s now okay with me to let it go. After all, Coronation Street has been an important part of my life. Having no profound thoughts of my own, I thought google it. See if there’s any new critical or analytic insights into the show and/or viewership.

Ask Google: “Why watch Coronation Street”

Below is the best of what came up on the first page.

nan was so excited print carakansala.comThis delightful print is by Cara Kansala of Grumpy Goat Gallery in Newfoundland. Tap for a larger view of it or go to carakansala.com to see more of her work.

Why watch in Canada, British guy asks

why watch in Canada Reddit questionThe poster on Reddit is surprised that Coronation Street is on prime-time in Canada. Tap to enlarge the image and you’ll be able to read the whole exchange. In short, the answer says that Canada is part of the British diaspora and therefore reminders of “home” are popular. I have no stats on it, but I’d be surprised if it was the reason most Canadian fans watch, even long-time ones.

twitter watch from beginningWell, you could watch from the beginning if you wanted to. Box sets are available. I don’t think they include every episode. But you could get a good sense of the show. Even in condensed form, though, it would be a very big project. And it probably has been done.

yahoo answer what kind of audience and why watchThese Yahoo answers made me laugh out loud. Especially “the kind of people who have lost the remote.”

“A half hour of my life…”

facebook comment hard to give it up“Hard to give it up after 45-50 years!” Maybe that’s still the best insight of all. You know the people. So no matter how silly they’re being, or boring, you stick with them.

At the top of the search results  page was Milo the dog on YouTube. For good reason. He could quickly and easily answer that thorny question of why we watch. So he can sing along with the theme music.

Weatherfield Brexit

future_homemakers_War-Ration-Book-NARA_ca-1943-FDR-Library-wikicommonsAre people in Weatherfield stockpiling water, tinned food and toilet tissue? They are in real life Britain, according to news reports. People fear shortages, due to goods tied up at customs when Britain leaves the EU. Entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge. You can buy a Brexit Box, a 30 day supply of freeze-dried food. At £295, they are moving briskly.

Since hearing about the Brexit Box, I’ve been imagining Kirk jumping on that bandwagon. What would he see as essentials for survival? But there’s no point in my going back to the Street in hopes of such a storyline. Coronation Street, Emmerdale and EastEnders decided in 2016 not to deal with Brexit, according to the Daily Star. Already all over the news, so not something their viewers wanted to see in their soaps as well.

emergencyfoodstorage.co_.uk_products brexit box
Brexit Box, from emergencyfoodstorage.co.uk – tins, packets, water filter and fire starter

Brexit stories

Perhaps saying nothing was the right decision. The Archers, a BBC radio serial on air since 1951, had its farming family talk about Brexit – like they would be. But complaints poured in: enough about Brexit in the news, didn’t want it in their show too.

And yet what a perfect venue for discussion of such a monumental decision. The Archers, Coronation Street and all UK continuing serials. Each is set in a different part of the country, each has characters who would be affected in different ways by staying in the EU or leaving. Fans know the characters well. Like their audiences, leaving the EU would benefit some and hurt others.

The characters’ history and circumstances provide a way to look at the economic, political and societal aspects of Brexit. Maybe it’s Liz popping over to Spain to see her son Andy, Underworld worried about getting materials, or the corner shop facing emptied shelves as the tinned beans are snatched up. What would the McDonalds, or Connors, think about the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the south? Having already been the target of racial abuse, would Alya fear further attacks?

Britons face these questions now, and uncertainty has caused divisiveness. It is a shame, I think, that Coronation Street has not laid out some Brexit scenarios for its characters The long arc storytelling of soaps is ideal for this.

How_to_build_a_fallout_shelter_NARA_FEMA-ca-1957 wikicommons
How to build a fallout shelter FEMA ca 1957

And unlike North American daytime soaps, British serials are part of personal and public discourse. If it happens on Coronation Street, it’s in the news the next day. Looking at Brexit through Dev’s eyes, or Carla’s, can only help get all aspects out there in a real but non-confrontational way.

Spotted Dick and Custard

Coronation Street is often criticized for showing a Britain of the past. For not reflecting the ethnic and socio-political diversity in what is no longer a nation of (white) shopkeepers, at their best during the war. Maybe this would be a time to use that to show that Britons have been through worse, and survived. That there was a UK before the EU. That immigration and diversity have always been part of the British Isles. Conflict too. But they did survive.

Maybe the oldies need to gather the young’uns in the Rovers. Have Rita lead a singsong of The White Cliffs of Dover. Ken can quote Percy Sugden: “When you’ve prepared spotted dick and custard for one hundred and fifty of ’em under heavy artillery fire and not allowed one lump in that custard, you can do anything.”

Third Generation

Tony Warren 1992

The Queen came to Coronation Street and she stood and chatted to me. I really couldn’t believe it. Because they’d just rebuilt the set. And I was standing there after she’d gone. I thought: how many writers wake up one morning and they think, well, I’ll write a show. I’ll have a pub at one end of the street and I’ll have a corner shop at the other.

And they live to see it built, first of all, in the studio in just lath and plaster. Then to see it built out on the backlot once and then to see it totally rebuilt. And my goodness, there’s the Queen of England walking down it. I was dazed by the whole thing.

Then this man came up to me and he said “have you got to the third generation yet?” And I thought go away! In fact, I thought much more strongly than that. I’ve just been talking to the Queen of England!

I suddenly realized, and I said, you know, you’ve just earned yourself a gold clock. He said, what do you mean? I said, well, there’s a gold clock for anyone who asks an original question about Coronation Street and that is an original one.

Elsie begat Linda who begat Paul Cheveski. Yes, we have got to the third generation. And where would you like the clock sent? He said, we’re not short of them at the Palace. And it was the Duke of Edinburgh!

Tony Warren with Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Street set 1982 corriepedia
L-R (facing camera) Bill Podmore, H V Kershaw, Denis Parkin, Tony Warren (backs to camera) David Plowright, Prince Philip, Denis Forman, Elizabeth II 1982 photo Corriepedia

Gold Clock Moment

Coronation Street creator Tony Warren told me, in 1992, about Queen Elizabeth opening the show’s new set 10 years earlier. About looking at it, his realm on the backlot of Granada Studios. And then, thanks to Prince Philip, thinking about the lineage of the characters he had created.

Tony Warren lived to see another incarnation of his street – larger and in a totally new area, but the same bricks and cobbles. In 2013 the new set at Media City UK opened. tony-warren and ITV tony warren building-Jtomlin1uk-2014-corriepedia

But it was still Tony’s realm, and his history. “I’m the only person here today who has been in four times to see the brand new set installed,” he told Ian Wylie (Life of Wylie). “Coronation Street hasn’t moved at all. It’s exactly where it always was. Which is wherever you want it to be inside your own imagination.”

Tony also saw the fourth generation added to his families. Not the Tanner-valerie-and-ken-barlow third generation twins-peter-and-susan-1965-maz79-corriepediaCheveski family, but the Barlows. Like Linda and her mother, Ken Barlow and his parents were in the very first episode. Sixty-eight years later, he is still there. So are his children – third generation – and his grandchildren – the fourth generation.

It’s three months since I left the Street. I miss it, yes, but my routine has shifted to fill the gap it left. Will I return? Not yet. I want to know that I will stay when I come back. I can’t just drop in for a visit.