Corona­tion Street hits TV sets

Mil­lions of view­ers tune in as the first episode of the work­ing-class do­mes­tic saga airs

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

ForBri­tish au­di­ences, 9 De­cem­ber 1960 was a mile­stone in tele­vi­sion his­tory. At seven that evening, with more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple star­ing at their sets, a brass band struck up a mourn­ful tune, the grainy black and white pic­ture showed a long street of ter­raced back-to­backs, and Corona­tion Street be­gan its record-break­ing run as the na­tion’s best-loved soap opera.

Corona­tion Street was the brain­child of a young Granada scriptwriter, Tony War­ren. In keep­ing with the so­ci­o­log­i­cal trends of the late 1950s, War­ren was keen to ex­plore work­ing-class life in the ur­ban north, a world al­ready be­ing trans­formed by post­war af­flu­ence.

“A fas­ci­nat­ing freema­sonry, a vol­ume of un­writ­ten rules,” be­gan his note on the new se­ries. “Th­ese are the driv­ing forces be­hind life in a work­ing-class street in the north of Eng­land. To the unini­ti­ated out­sider, all this would be com­pletely in­com­pre­hen­si­ble.” The point of his new show, he ex­plained, was “to en­ter­tain by ex­am­in­ing a com­mu­nity of this kind and ini­ti­at­ing the viewer into the ways of the peo­ple who live there”.

Yet although view­ers clearly loved the new soap, the crit­ics were not kind to Corona­tion Street. In the Mir­ror, one writer thought War­ren had fo­cused on the “wrong folk. For there is lit­tle re­al­ity in his new se­rial, which, ap­par­ently, we will have to suf­fer twice a week.” The pa­per’s main re­viewer, Jack Bell, struck a sim­i­lar note. Who, he won­dered, could pos­si­bly want this “con­tin­u­ous slice-of-life do­mes­tic drudgery two evenings a week”?

Elsie Tan­ner (Pat Phoenix) and her daugh­ter Linda Cheveski (Anne Cun­ning­ham) clash in the first ever episode of long-run­ning soap opera Corona­tion Street

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