These two objects are rare keepsakes produced for fans of the world’s longest running ‘soap opera’ Coronation Street. The badges are designed to be worn on clothing. Searching online has found no similar items. Were they a memento of a visit to the set of the show? The street sign is a replica of the one fixed to the wall of the fictional pub ‘The Rovers Return’. The sign has become a logo for the show and features on some of a variety of mementos. These include a full-sized iron street sign, mugs, calendars, Tee shirts, aprons, slippers and socks.
This drama series was launched by Granada on ITV on 9th December 1960. The term ‘soap’ is now applied to serials dealing with events in the lives of characters in a particular community. It originated from American radio dramas which were sponsored by soap manufacturers. The programme is based around the residents of Coronation Street, which is a cobbled, terraced street in the fictional town of Weatherfield, with the pub, The Rovers Return, at its heart. The inspiration for the town was Salford, which is ironic, for the show is now filmed at Media City in Salford. The series was, of course, originally broadcast in black and white and was aired twice a week. The early 1960s was a time when ‘kitchen sink’ realism featured in British Cinema and similarly Coronation Street portrayed a northern a down-to-earth, working-class community, but combined this with light-hearted humour and strong characters. Three strong female leads played a large part in the show’s success and they were in the show together for many years. They are shown in a section below. Just one character, Ken Barlow played by William Roache, has been in the show from the beginning until now (written August 2021).
The first episode to be transmitted in colour was on 24th November 1969 and the programme began airing six times a week in September 2017. At the height of its popularity the series regularly attracted viewing figures of between 18 and 21 million. The highest-rated single episode in the show’s history, attracting 21.40 million viewers, was broadcast on 2 January 1985, when the character, Bet Lynch, discovered she had been given the job as manager of the Rovers Return.
On Friday April 8 2005, seventeen million viewers tuned in to watch Ken Barlow remarry his ex-wife Deirdre. This was four million more than had watched the real-life Royal Wedding between H.R.H. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles earlier that day.
Prior to 1982, there were only three television channels for British viewers, so, understandably, with so many channels and streaming services now giving huge choice viewing figures are much smaller. Nevertheless, Coronation Street remains one of the programmes most viewed live. It is no longer broadcast six times per week. At the time of writing four half-hour episodes are broadcast on three evenings per week, with repeats on other ITV channels.
The BBC, no doubt influenced by the success of Coronation Street introduced its own ‘soap’ in 1985 and since then London-based ‘EastEnders’ and Coronation Street have been in competition for viewers and awards.
When a programme has an extended life, thinking up new and current story lines poses a real challenge. There are viewers who believe the ‘soaps’ have lost their charm and feature story lines that are too violent and nasty. Do you agree?