A love letter to Coronation Street as it turns 60

Coronation Street is gearing up to celebrate its 60th anniversary on our screens.

With around 200 deaths, 100 marriages and almost as many divorces spanning its 10,101 episodes, the fictional suburb of Weatherfield isn’t short on its supply of drama.

At a time when it feels like the real world is falling apart, we need Corrie more than ever.

The show’s warmth and familiarity has provided a constant source of comfort and entertainment during the pandemic and guarantees viewers a form of escapism as they submerse themselves into the lives of the characters on screen.

Watching Coronation Street always felt like coming home. Growing up in the North-West, it was practically a religion.

At 6.59pm we went through out pre-Corrie ritual; we’d gather in the lounge, TV dinners balanced on our laps, Grandad disconnected the landline as Grandma announced ‘Sit down, shut up, it’s on’ and we’d sit in silence until the ad break.

We weren’t alone. The National Grid often reported huge surges in electrical demand as viewers were left reeling from the show’s dramatic events and rushed to make a brew in the ad break.

After one episode in 2010, they experienced an 800MW surge which was estimated to be 300,000 kettles being turned on in unison. That’s what Corrie does. It unites people.

I joined the cast of Coronation Street in 2017 in the role of Nicola Rubinstein. Over the course of 18 months I had an affair, got pregnant, gave birth, got shot, survived and needless to say it was a time in my career I will never forget.

It was an honour to be part of such a national institution, and especially as an actor from Lancashire, it felt like a rite of passage.

Even if you claim to have never watched an episode, I guarantee you’ve heard of the Rovers and will somehow have been affected by one of the show’s storylines.

The societal impact of soaps is often underestimated. Yet with huge viewing figures and a familiarity that feels like you’re watching old friends, the show writers have the power to influence our culture in a way that no other art form can do.

They tackle ‘taboo’ subjects, making them part of the national conversation and giving permission for viewers to open up about their own experiences.

In an unpredictable, unreliable and unprecedented world, there can only be three certainties: death, taxes and Ken Barlow

In 2018, when David Platt’s male-rape storyline was aired, the Male Survivor helpline experienced a 1700% increase in calls. After character Aidan Connor took his own life, calls to a suicide prevention helpline tripled overnight.

It’s a testament to the writers of the show, who are skilled at balancing light-hearted entertainment with hard-hitting drama.

Corrie practically invented the ‘strong female lead’ with classic characters like Ena Sharples, and it portrayed the matriarchal culture of northern families, which I had never seen on TV before. The women I watched in period dramas were written as passive objects, but the women in Corrie ruled the roost.

With one of the most diverse range of characters on our screens, Coronation Street is home to Christians, Muslims, Hindus, taxi drivers, lawyers, female business owners and gay clergymen.

At a time when the ‘North’ is so often lumped into one category by Government ministers who rarely venture past Watford, Corrie breaks the inaccuracy of the northern stereotype.

The most memorable day of my life was the day I brought my family to visit the set of the show. Grandad was no longer with us, but I’d like to think that wherever he is, he’s unplugged the landline and tuned in to watch.

Grandma, who struggles to walk, had quite the traumatic ride over the cobblestones in her wheelchair, but when we paused outside the Rovers she turned to me and asked if I could help her to get out and walk through its doors.

She watched the very first episode when it aired in 1960 and hadn’t missed one since, and here she was, pulling herself a pint in the Rovers Return.

For 60 years, Coronation Street has brought a slice of working-class heart to front-rooms all over the country.

At a time when the nation has needed it most, the cast and crew have worked hard under enormous pressure and complicated restrictions to keep Weatherfield on our screens.

In an unpredictable, unreliable and unprecedented world, there can only be three certainties: death, taxes and Ken Barlow.

So let’s raise a glass of Newton and Ridley and toast to another 60 years of Corrie’s cobbled magic.

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