I didn’t for a moment expect that this would be something I’d have to write anytime soon; like the rest of the UK and the fans of Coronation Street worldwide, I remain reeling with shock and despair at the passing of Anne Kirkbride after the news broke yesterday evening.
Anne, renowned for creating and portraying one of Coronation Street’s most endearing, iconic and popular characters of all time, has passed away at the young age of 60, after a short illness. Her final, now poignant appearance was in October 2014, when she took a 3 month break. We all expected to see Deirdre back sometime soon; how awful then that the unthinkable is now the case: we will never see Deirdre Barlow on Coronation Street again.
Coronation Street yesterday lost its heart; the show has seriously missed Deirdre in her short absence and it’s inconceivable to imagine the Street without her now. But today that’s what her co-stars, colleagues, loved ones and legions of fans face up to.
Deirdre was, by far, my most favourite soap character of all time. Her trademark thick ‘sexy specs’, her hoarse cackle, her barbed quips, her shrill cries of ‘Tracy Luv!’ and ‘KEN! Do Something’ and the warmth that she brought to the Street made her a character of legendary status. While words such as legend and icon are thrown around a little too casually these days, there is no doubt whatsoever that Deirdre was soap royalty.
This was proven not once but twice when her two weddings to Ken were more viewed than the weddings of Prince Charles to Diana and then to Camilla which took place at around the same time. So popular was Deirdre that she was at the centre of Coronation Street’s highest viewed episode of all time when she reunited with Ken after her affair with Mike Baldwin was exposed. Even Old Trafford reacted to this storyline during a Man United V Arsenal match by letting the phrase ‘Ken -1 Mike -0’ overtake the scoreboard.
Even more memorable was the campaign to ‘Free The Weatherfield One’ The country, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, got behind Deirdre as she was wrongly incarcerated for a fraud that she did not commit. It became the most infamous soap story ever and for good reason. Deirdre was beloved by Coronation Street viewers: she was human, relatable, funny and warm. She made mistakes and had her foibles and that made her even more likeable. No matter how much she and Ken seperately tried to better their lives, they came to realise time and time again that the best they could wish for was each other. And now we will have to watch Ken lose his Deirdre on screen.
In recent years, Coronation Street really utilised Anne’s comic timing, using Deirdre as a fantastic character of comedy and adding some of the viper sharpness that mum Blanche passed down to her. The scenes of Gail throwing a Manchester tart in her face, Deirdre having a face off with an evil Welsh sheep and, what turned out to be her final scene, the trifle smashing were all geniously pulled off.
And, even to the end, Ken and Deirdre were showing everyone else how to pull off the dramatic scenes as they were embroiled in a classic Barlow row after Ken returned to the Street and into the midst of Peter’s troubles. But they always reconciled, no matter what came between them. And Ken without his Deirdre will be every bit as painful to comprehend as when Jack lost his Vera.
Clocking up 43 years as Deirdre, millions upon millions of viewers across the world will feel now that they have lost a true friend. Deirdre was in our living rooms week in and week out and we got to know a beautifully complex and thoroughly entertaining character. There will never be another Deirdre Barlow and certainly not another Anne Kirkbride.
As Annie would want, Coronation Street will go on post-Deirdre. But it will never, ever be the same again.
Today, is a sad day for the whole of the UK as we pay a final tribute to one of our best loved stars of all time. Anne Kirkbride: thaks for the laughs, the drama, the tears and the love for all things Corrie.
Remind yourself of some of Deirdre’s best moments here: http://metro.co.uk/2015/01/20/coronation-street-legend-anne-kirkbride-dies-the-best-moments-of-deirdre-barlow-5028318/
Written By Our Man In The North