Coronation Street's Deirdre Is Dead
Shocking news for all UK soap fans: it’s been announced this morning that Anne Kirkbride, who had played Deirdre Barlow in ITV’s Coronation Street since 1972, passed away last night at the age of 60 after a short illness.
The fourth-longest-serving character in one of the most popular and iconic programmes in British television history, Deirdre was responsible for some of the most important and – at the time – controversial storylines in the soap’s history. Her wedding to boring-but-reliable Ken Barlow in 1981 attracted more viewers on ITV than the station’s coverage of the Charles-Diana wedding earlier that year, but her subsequent affair with flashy factory owner Mike Barlow generated front page headlines across the country. The 1983 episode where Deirdre had to choose between the two was so important and newsworthy that a Manchester United – Arsenal game was interrupted while the scoreboard flashed; “KEN 1 MIKE 0”.
Deirdre’s relationship dilemmas became even more newsworthy in 1995, where a holiday fling with Moroccan waiter Samir which developed into marriage was one of the first real interracial relationship storylines in a UK soap. After Samir was murdered by racist thugs the day before he was about to donate a kidney to Deirdre’s daughter Tracy, Deirdre had an affair with her Indian boss Dev Ahahan, and was then wrongly jailed for fraud – which led to a ‘Free The Wetherfield One’ campaign in the media and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair offering to intervene on her behalf. Her second marriage to Ken Barlow was scheduled to happen at the same time as Prince Charles’ wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles; it beat the heir to the British throne in the ratings once again.
William Roache, who played Anne’s onscreen husband Ken Barlow, said: “I feel Anne’s loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.
“She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her. Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed.”