British Soap Opera

Coronation Street, the longest running and most successful British soap opera, was first transmitted on ITV on Friday 9 December 1960. Made by Granada Television, the Manchester based commercial company, the Street, as it is affectionately known, has been at the top of the U.K. ratings for over thirty years.

The programme is perhaps best known for its realistic depiction of everyday working-class life in a Northern community. Set in a fictional area of Weatherfield in a working class region of north-west England, it grew out of the so-called "kitchen sink" drama style popularized in the late 1950s. The series, originally called Florizel Street by its creator Tony Warren, began as a limited thirteen episodes, but its cast of strong characters, its northern roots and sense of community immediately created a loyal following. These factors combined with skillfully written and often amusing scripts have ensured its continued success.

From its opening titles with scenes of terraced houses there is a strong sense of regional and local identity which is echoed in the language of its characters. Set in a domestic existence of various homes, the pubs, the shops which are all set out to be part of everyday life, Coronation Street is imbued with a definite feeling of community. Through its account of supposedly everyday life, the programme shows a high degree of social realism. A close parallel is made between the fictional world of Weatherfield and the everyday world inhabited by its audience, whose loyalty is encouraged by the sense of close community, the predictability of plot and the regular transmission times.

The storylines of Coronation Street tend to concentrate on relationships within and between families rather than on topical or social issues as is the case with the newer soaps such as Brookside and EastEnders. Critics might argue that the celebration of a mutually supportive community has more than a touch of nostalgia whilst its fans would argue that the programme reflects shifts in social attitudes in Britain.

Early episodes were recorded live without editing, requiring a high standard of performance. This theatrical style of production has influenced the character of the programme resulting in a reliance on good writing and ensemble performance. For many years Coronation Street was produced on a studio set and shot on multi-camera with few exterior film inserts. The advent of the social realism soaps and introduction of light-weight video cameras have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of exterior scenes. The Street itself has been expanded to incorporate such filming with a specially constructed exterior set although interior filming is still multi-camera.

The Street, in common with other soaps, has always been noted for its independent and assertive women characters such as Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker and more recently Bet Lynch and Rita Fairclough. Even a more downtrodden character such as Hilda Ogden produced a huge amount of affection from the programme's audience. In contrast the men often seem weak by comparison. The viewer of Coronation Street is often encouraged to make a moral judgement on the behaviour of a particular character and it is generally the stronger women characters who set the tone. Tony Warren summed up the programme as "A fascinating freemasonry, a volume of unwritten rules....Coronation Street sets out to explore these values and in doing so, to entertain."

Only two characters have remained in the programme since its launch--Ken Barlow played by William Roache and Emily Bishop, nee Nugent, played by Eileen Derbyshire. However the programme has been the ground for many actors who have gone on to greater fame such as Davy Jones (later of The Monkees), Joanna Lumley and Ben Kingsley. The Street has also nurtured many novice writers such as Jack Rosenthal and Jimmy McGovern while the award-winning feature film director Michael Apted has also been part of the production team.

The deaths and departures in recent years of several well-established characters combined with the introduction of EastEnders, Brookside and the Australian soaps has resulted in a shift towards the lives of its younger characters.

The success of Coronation Street has resulted in a series of merchandising and promotional ventures by Granada, many of them focused around the soap's local pub and centre of gossip, The Rover's Return. By providing a secure economic base through high ratings, Coronation Street has enabled Granada to build a wide range of programmes. Because of the long-standing cultural ties and familiarity with the world it evokes Coronation Street has also built up a sizable audience in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

In 1989 the Street went from two to three episodes a week and in the autumn of 1996 this will be increased to four. Granada are confident that a more pressurised production line will not affect Coronation Street's reputation for quality writing. Instead it is planned to develop secondary characters more strongly. Coronation Street recently celebrated its 35th anniversary and tops the ratings with an average audience of 16 million. Its longevity and success are testament to the firm place it holds in the hearts of the British public.

-Judith Jones


Coronation Street


Ena Sharples....................................... Violet Carson Elsie Tanner Patricia Phoenix Annie Walker Doris Speed Tracy Barlow Dawn Acton Florrie Lindley Betty Alberge Hilda Ogden Jean Alexander Bill Webster Peter Armitage Derek Wilton Peter Baldwin Janet Reid/Barlow Judith Barker Mavis Riley/Wilton Thelma Barlow Alec Gilroy Roy Barraclough Alma Sedgwick/Baldwin Amanda Barrie Harry Hewitt Ivan Beavis Denise Osbourne Denise Black Tricia Armstrong Tracy Brabin Maud Grimes Elizabeth Bradley Mike Baldwin Johnny Briggs Alan Howerd Alan Browning Minnie Caldwell Margot Bryant Liz McDonald Beverly Callard Martha Longhurst Lynne Carol Andy McDonald Nicholas Cochrane Rosie Webster Emma Collinge Linda Cheveski Anne Cunningham Vera Duckworth Elizabeth Dawn Emily Nugent/Bishop Eileen Derbyshire Debbie Webster Sue Devaney Betty Turpin/Williams Betty Driver Ida Barlow Noel Dyson Alan Bradley Mark Eden Judy Mallet Gaynor Faye Angela Diane Fletcher Jamie Armstrong Joseph Gilgun Bet Lynch/Gilroy Julie Goodyear Irma Ogden/Barlow Sandra Gough Steve McDonald Simon Gregson Fiona Middleton Angela Griffin Josie Clarke Ellie Haddington Ernest Bishop Stephen Hancock Christine Hardman Christine Hargreaves Daniel Osbourne Lewis Harney May Hardman Joan Heath Norris Malcolm Hebden Sean Skinner Terence Hillyer Renee Bradshaw/Roberts Madge Hindle Don Brennan Geoffrey Hinsliff Tina Fowler Michelle Holmes Albert Tatlock Jack Howarth Eddie Yates Geoffrey Hughes Nicky Platt/Tisley Warren Jackson Eunice Nuttall/Gee Meg Johnson Tricia Hopkins Kathy Jones Curly Watts Kevin Kennedy Concepta Hewitt Doreen Keogh Sarah-Louise Platt Lynsay King Deirdre Hunt/Barlow/Rachid Anne Kirkbridge Rita Littlewood/Fairclough/Sullivan Barbara Knox Raquel Wolstenhulme/Watts Sarah Lancashire Jim McDonald Charles Lawson Kevin Webster Michael Le Vell Jack Walker Arthur Leslie Nick Wilding Mark Lindley Leonard Swindley Arthur Lowe Dennis Tanner Philip Lowrie Elaine Perkins Joanna Lumley Jenny Bradley Sally Ann Matthews Gary Mallet Ian Mercer Des Barnes Philip Middlesmiss Sophie Webster Ashleigh Middleton Billy Williams Frank Mills (II) Reg Holdsworth Ken Morley Alf Roberts Bryan Mosley Lucille Hewitt Jennifer Moss Suzie Birchall Cheryl Murray Roy Cropper David Neilson Vicky McDonald Chloe Newsome Audrey Potter/Roberts Sue Nicholls David Platt Thomas Ormson Ester Hayes Daphne Oxenford Frank Barlow Frank Pemberton Ivy Tilsley/Brennan Lynne Perrie Terry Duckworth Nigel Pivaro Tanya Pooley Eve Pope Brian Tilsley Chris Quentin Ken Barlow William Roache David Barlow Alan Rothwell Alison Dunkley Maggie Saunders Fred Eliott John Savident Maxine Heavey Tracy Shaw Anne Malone Eve Steele Phyliss Pearce Jill Summers Jack Duckworth William Tarmey Percy Sugden Bill Waddington Ivan Cheveski Ernst Walder Tony Horrocks Lee Warburton Sally Webster Sally Whittaker Martin Platt Sean Wilson Gail Potter/Tilsley/Platt Helen Worth Stan Ogden Bernard Youens Brian Dunkley Benny Young


Stuart Latham, Derek Granger, Tim Aspinall, Harry Kershaw, Peter Eckersley, Jack Rosenthal, Michael Cox, Richard Doubleday, John Finch, June Howson, Leslie Duxbury, Brian Armstrong, Eric Prytherch, Susi Hush, Bill Podmore, Pauline Shaw, Mervyn Watson, John G. Temple, Carolyn Reynolds, H.V. Kershaw, Richard Everitt, David Liddiment


Granada Television


Dyer, Richard, et al. Coronation Street. London: British Film Institute, 1981.

Geraghty, Christine. Women and Soap Opera: A Study of Prime-Time Soaps. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.

Kilborn, Richard. Television Soaps. London: Batsford, 1992.

Nown, Graham, editor. Coronation Street: 25 Years (1960-1985). London: Ward Lock, Ltd. in association with Granada Television.


See also Soap Opera