Coronation Street is celebrating an incredible 60 years on screen, and we’re feeling nostalgic.
We all know Corrie broke the mould, invented the modern soap opera and provided some unforgettable moments, but what are the most important events from its history that came to define the show?
Allow RadioTimes.com to take you down a cobbled memory lane through the six decades Coronation Street has been on air, picking a major moment from each that marked its evolution to becoming one of the most iconic TV programmes ever made…
The ’60s: episode one (1960)
Tony Warren’s vision came to life when the first episode was broadcast live from Manchester at 7pm on Friday 9th December 1960 to the north-west Granada ITV region (it was networked to the whole of the UK three months later). It’s depiction of working class life felt revolutionary in the early days of the medium, which largely offered light entertainment quiz formats and adventure-tinged dramas about cops and cowboys that bore no relation to real life.
The first episode introduced us to the Barlows, the Tanners, Annie Walker and Ena Sharples, among others. The street felt like a real place that had always been there, full of recognisable characters and situations delivered with wit and warmth. Despite the Daily Mirror’s unfavourable review declaring it was ‘doomed’, viewers were hooked and TV was changed forever, an entire genre and style of drama borne out of that moment.
The 10,000th episode in February 2020 began with a recreation of the first edition’s opening scene, featuring a group of kids playing outside the corner shop. This slice of northern life felt as and natural as it did on day one.
The ’70s: The murder of Ernest Bishop (1978)
By its second decade Corrie was a cultural institution with a fiercely loyal audience. When the soap’s most violent death to date occurred in the winter of 1978, hearts broke for long-time resident Emily Bishop when her husband was fatally shot in a raid and Corrie explored the darker side of life, proving it was moving with the times.
Gentle, God-fearing Emily was married to mild-mannered photographer/preacher Ernie, but their happiness was cut devastatingly short when he was gunned down at Baldwin’s Casuals factory (an early version of Underworld) by two armed thugs robbing the office safe. It was one of the most shocking, action-packed incidents to take place on the cobbles, and set the scene for many a subsequent siege.
The ’80s: Alan Bradley killed by a tram (1989)
This dramatic denouement to evil businessman Alan Bradley’s reign of terror created the template for future Corrie villains. Terrorised by her abusive ex Alan, Rita fled to Blackpool to escape his violent behaviour but he tracked her down. A chase ensued across a busy road, and the Bradley bully ran straight into the path of an oncoming tram and met a gruesome end.
It struck a huge chord with the public and formed a familiar story arc we’ve seen played out numerous times since – strong, but vulnerable, woman is targeted by sociopathic, seemingly charming man who destroys her life from the inside when she figures out his toxic true colours, before our heroine finds the strength to stand up to her tormentor and get her groove back. Richard Hillman, Pat Phelan, Geoff Metcalfe – they all owe a dastardly debt to Mr Bradley.
The ’90s: Free Deirdre (1998)
Recently widowed Deirdre Rachid was swept off her feet by dashing pilot Jon Lindsay, except he was a con man who worked in a tie shop and was framing her for fraud. Gullible Deirdre found herself banged up for Jon’s crimes, leading to a national outcry that launched a campaign to ‘Free the Weatherfield One’.
Famously, then Prime Minister Tony Blair got involved and demanded the miscarriage of justice be fixed, probably the first time a soap storyline had been discussed in parliament.
The ‘oos: Mike Baldwin dies in Ken Barlow’s arms (2006)
The street’s most famous rivalry reached a poignant climax when Mike Baldwin died in the arms of Ken Barlow. Cocky cockney legend Mike had been the thorn in sensible stalwart Kenneth’s side since the ’70s, and the pair spent decades fighting over everything – mainly Deirdre’s affections.
By this time the pair had gone from enemies to best mates, and Ken supported his former nemesis as he suffered from dementia in his later years. Cradling his confused friend as he was struck by a fatal heart attack on the step of his beloved factory, Ken wept as his sparring partner passed away. Truly the end of an era…
The ’10s: The tram crash (2010)
A decade ago Corrie was celebrating 50 glorious years, and pulled the stops out to deliver their most ambitious moment ever. As The Joinery restaurant opened (now Ray’s bistro) a fire broke out damaging the tracks on the viaduct above, causing a tram to crash into the street and creating huge devastation.
CGI, special effects, explosions – it was huge. As ever, the tradition of strong characters and stories remained at the heart of the modern spectacle, with three shock deaths, life-changing events for the Barlows, Websters and Dobbs clans, Fiz giving birth and Rita buried beneath the bon-bons as the Kabin collapsed. And part of it was live – just like the very first episode.