How Coro Street’s Sally Metcalfe is following in the footsteps of Deirdre Barlow.
Twenty years ago, a campaign was launched to release Coro Street’s Deirdre Barlow/Rachid from jail (‘Free The Weatherfield One’) after she was framed by Jon Lindsay and unjustly imprisoned for fraud. Will another rally, among supporters of Sally Metcalfe, now be needed to get her out of a similar predicament? James Rampton reports.
During her 32 years in Coronation Street, Sally Metcalfe has endured some bad times indeed. But surely she can rarely have been through such a terrible trauma as this.
Sally (played by Sally Dynevor), the former mayor of Weatherfield, is on trial, charged with fraud, bribery and money laundering after her supposed friend Duncan duped her and ran off with £40,000 donated to a fake charity.
So might we need to start wearing our “Free The Weatherfield One” T-shirts soon?
“Yes,” laughs Dynevor, “you definitely do. She needs all the support she can get at the moment.”
The 55-year-old actress outlines how Sally has been coping with jail life in the lead-up to the trial.
“She’s had her real ups and downs – she got beaten up. She hates it in there. Not to be respected any more, to have been the mayor and then end up in prison – the whole thing is a nightmare.”
But, Dynevor says, “The thing that’s keeping her going is that she knows she is innocent, so she believes she will get out. She believes in the British justice system.
“She’s a law-abiding and honest citizen. She thinks that once this goes to trial and they hear her side of the story, she can tell them the truth about what really happened and it’ll all be fine.”
Never a person to take things lying down, Sally comes to believe that she can effect change in the penal system.
“Sally isn’t one to sit back in prison,” Dynevor explains. “So in the weeks leading up to the trial, she’s been rallying the prisoners. “She wants to fight for prisoners’ rights. She wants to start a skills-swap scheme. “Jodie (one of the prisoners) teaches her yoga and she teaches Jodie how to sew, and all the women help one another to make the best of a really bad situation. “At this point, prison is all very new to Sally. She looks around her and thinks that it’s awful and not what she expected. So she wants to try to make it a better place for women, with yoga and meditation. The whole idea is lovely, but quite naive.” Dynevor proceeds to assess how Sally got into this sorry state. “I think she’s been a bit gullible. For a girl who has just stitched knickers for the last 20 years, to be handed the power to give a charity £40,000 is amazing. “She has been naive, but she was really trying to do something good. She says: ‘I’m snooty, pretentious and nobody likes me’. But in actual fact she’s trying to do her best and be a good person. So I do also feel really sorry for her.”
If she were to be handed a long jail sentence, it is doubtful that Sally would be able to handle it well.
After all, Dynevor recalls, “Sally once told Gail: ‘I’m middle class. I can’t go to jail. I need a decent roll of toilet paper’.”
For Sally, the prospect of a lengthy spell inside, “Is the worst thing. Not only are your privileges taken away from you and you are locked in a room without your family, but you have to suffer the shame of it.
“That would be horrible for Sally – everybody on Coronation Street knowing that she’d gone to prison. She wouldn’t be able to walk down Corrie again with her head held high, that’s for sure. She’d get really ribbed in Underworld when she went back.”
Dynevor has now been a resident on the Street since 1986. She reflects on what has persuaded her to stay so long.
“Everybody who leaves Corrie tells you it’s like a family. I’ve been here 32 years. I can’t imagine not being here. It’s the best job in the world in so many different ways.
“Great writing – funny and sad. As an actor, to get scripts where you pick them up and can’t wait for the next one is thrilling. I’d never get that anywhere else. And I live 20 minutes down the road. That’s another good reason.”
Before she leaves, the actress urges us one last time to prepare for a possible campaign to free Sally: “Get your T-shirts ready.”
“The thing that’s keeping her going is that she knows she is innocent, so she believes she will get out. She believes in the British justice system.”
– Sally Dynevor