Family, friends and Coronation Street cast members past and present turned out in force to pay their respects to Anne Kirkbride at a memorial service in Manchester Cathedral today.
Kirkbride died in January aged 60, after a battle with cancer. She had played the much-loved character Deirdre Barlow in the ITV soap for 42 years.
Husband Dave Beckett helped the Coronation Street team produce the service and was involved in every aspect of the celebration, including the choice of music and readings.
William Roache, who plays on-screen husband Ken Barlow, read a verse called She is Gone, which began: “You can shed tears that she has gone. Or you can smile because she has lived.”
William Roache arrives for the memorial service
Beverley Callard – Liz McDonald on the cobbles – said her “work sister” was “a stick of dynamite”, and recalled a failed attempt to get her into gardening. “We spent 11 and a half hours in her greenhouse one night but all we did was smoke fags and talk about the meaning of life. We did that a lot. We used to go for ‘a Chinese and a chinwag’, we called it, and talk about feelings and life. She was incredible.”
Elle Mulvaney remembered how her on-screen grandmother put her at ease on her first day on set with a cuddle: “Anne always had everyone laughing and groaning when she was singing on set at the top of her voice.”
Actresses Sue Johnston and Michelle Collins also attended the service
Executive producer Kieran Roberts said she’d forever be part of the Coronation Street family, and described her as “a very private person”. “We once asked her if she’d like to attend a prestigious BAFTA ceremony at the lavish Grosvenor House Hotel and without hesitation she replied ‘I’d rather stick pins in my eyeballs.’
“This was a typical riposte, which made us love her all the more, because the Annie we all knew never lost touch with her Oldham roots and remained down to earth with no airs and graces throughout her life.”
Helen Worth and husband Trevor Dawson were among the congregation
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Les Dennis, Sue Johnston, Michelle Collins, Helen Worth, Kym Marsh and Michael Le Vell were also in attendance.
Kirkbride made her debut on the soap in 1972 and was one of the four longest-serving actors. Her character was known for blending serious storylines – including affairs, divorces and the murder of her third husband Samir Rachid – with the humour she consistently brought to the show. She had been absent from the soap for a number of months before her death after being given a break by Coronation Street producers.
An exhibition of Kirkbride’s artwork was exhibited in the cathedral along with photographs of her as Deirdre and with her real-life family.