It’s been a staple on the small screen for more than 60 years and was recently visited by the Queen to mark its delayed anniversary but not many will know that Coronation Street almost wasn’t called Coronation Street. The ITV soap was first broadcast on December 9, 1960.
Conceived by scriptwriter Tony Warren, created by Granada Television and shown on ITV, Tony’s first proposal of the soap was initially rejected. That was until the station’s founder Sidney Bernstein was convinced by producer Harry Elton to produce the programme for 13 pilot episodes.
Fast forward six decades and the risk was clearly worth taking as the show has since become a significant part of life in the UK, remaining on-screen three times a week and watched by millions of fans not only here in the UK but across the world with viewers in the likes of Canada often sharing their thoughts on the latest scenes on social media.
But the big question is, could you imagine it being called anything else? Well, the iconic soap started out with a different name as revealed by William Roache. The Ken Barlow actor has spoken about the name change in a new documentary dedicated to him ahead of his 90th birthday.
Happy Birthday Bill looks back at the soap star’s life and career on and off-screen with a glimpse into his home life in Cheshire, how he keeps fit, as well as a few appearances from Corrie stars both past and present – including a surprise reunion with his first on-screen wife Valerie, played by Anne Reid.
Discussing the soap, having been of its original characters making him the longest-serving actor in a television soap opera, Bill revealed: “It was called Florizel Street when we started rehearsing and everything. I remember coming in the room and saying Flor-aI-zel and a groan went up.”
He went on: “Apparently a lot of people had been not liking it and one of the cleaners had said it sounded like a sanitary detergent. So, the producer came in and said right, ‘I don’t care what name you’ve got, so long as it’s Coronation Street.”
Bill, who turns 90 on April 25, also shared how he was encouraged to take the job on Corrie by his agent. He said: “My agent persuaded me to come up and do the pilot. He said, ‘You’re not working, you’ve got nothing on, you might as well do it.’ And this is the contract. Wow, £21.”
The soap legend was also quizzed on whether he plans to retire. Asked about the secret to his success and still working at 90, he said: “I suppose I always feel like I’m learning. You know, people ask me if the younger ones ask me for advice and I say no, they’re all so good and confident that I feel I should ask them.
“I always feel I’m still growing up. I never feel grown up in life anyway. And then I’ve always got things to learn. Working with people like Chris Gascoyne and so many other members of the cast is so good. It’s such a privilege.”
He also said the ageing process is “just experiencing things as you go along. Doesn’t necessarily mean deterioration. That’s the sad thing, the collective consciousness of humanity says you live to 70 and start to deteriorate towards the end”.
He added: “If you genuinely believe that you’re deteriorating then you will deteriorate. But you don’t have to buy into that belief. People say ‘Oh, I’m a bit old for that’. Nonsense if you want to do something, it shouldn’t matter what age you are. Value your time as you get older. Enjoyment is the key. If you enjoy doing something, keep doing it.”