ITV soap Emmerdale has been named Best British Soap for the first time in the 18-year history of The British Soap Awards.
In total, Emmerdale picked up a total of five trophies, the same number as rival BBC soap EastEnders. Coronation Street took home four, while Hollyoaks and Doctors scooped one award each.
It’s been a high profile 12 months for Emmerdale with a helicopter crash last summer that earned both popular and critical acclaim, while a recent storyline that saw Aaron Dingle reveal that he’d been sexual abused by his father as a child received equally high praise.
Speaking on behalf of the cast, actor John Middleton, who plays Ashley Thomas, thanked the fans before paying a special tribute to actress Shirley Stelfox, who died in December 2015 after 15 years playing Edna Birch: “Not only was she wonderfully talented, she was also fiercely proud of the show. Her heart would have burst with pride tonight. As does ours.”
Actors who won big on the night included Emmerdale’s Danny Miller, who was named Best Actor as well as getting Best Male Dramatic Performance.
Accepting the Best Actor award, Miller thanked former producer Kate Oates and current boss Iain MacLeod before adding: “Soap actors and actresses are the hardest working bunch of actors in the business, as far as I’m concerned. We come in at seven, go home at seven, do 60 pages a day and we’re paid shite.”
Similarly, EastEnders actress Lacey Turner won both Best Actress and Best Female Dramatic Performance for playing Stacey Slater, who in the last 12 months, has been seen battling postpartum psychosis.
Taking to the stage, Turner – who came back to EastEnders in 2014 – thanked the exiting executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins for “letting me come home”.
Steve McFadden, who made his EastEnders debut as Phil Mitchell back in 1990, won the Outstanding Achievement Award (On-Screen), after losing out in the Best Male Dramatic Performance category earlier in the evening.
In a pre-recorded acceptance speech, McFadden thanked fans of the show, cast, crew and his own mum and dad as well as screen mum Barbara Windsor: “She’s an absolute pleasure to work with and a wonderful person,” said the screen hard man.
Co-star Adam Woodyatt, who presented McFadden’s award, said of his colleague: “He’s not just the best actor in EastEnders, but one of the best actors on British television.”
You can see a full list of the winners here.
The British Soap Awards can be seen on Sunday 29th May at 8pm on ITV.