Coronation Street’s MP speaks up

Frank Allaun MP attacks those who have criticised Coronation Street, the twice-weekly serial. Meanwhile, the cast of Coronation Street visit Archie Street, in Mr Allaun’s East Salford constituency, which was the model on which the TV serial is based

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 28 May 1961

Frank Allaun

GRANADA’S Coronation Street is being sniped at by a number of viewers – to judge by readers’ letters in recent issues of TV TIMES.

It’s not true to life, complains a woman in West Wickham, Kent.

In the Coronation Streets of 1961 the women do not (like Ena Sharples) wear hair nets all day, says an Oldham viewer. No kindness among neighbours, says a protest from Lowestoft.

And from Walkden, Lancashire, comes this: “The show gives a bad impression of family life in the North.”

The majority of viewers, however, enjoy the programme and from personal experience I say the criticism is rubbish. For Coronation Street has close ties with my constituency of East Salford and I’m proud of it.

Those shots of terraced houses opening each instalment were taken in Archie Street, near Salford Docks, which the people there have since nicknamed Coronarchie Street.

I live with my family only a couple of miles away in Manchester and, like millions of other Northerners, we are all Coronation Street fans.

To my surprise, the programme is very popular in the South as well as the North. I am told that when it was screened at 7 p.m. it had the largest viewing public ever known for any item at that hour.

Even now, at its new time of 7.30 p.m., it is challenged only by the long-running series Emergency – Ward 10.

Why this tremendous popularity? Because it is so true to life.

These Coronation Street men and women are real people… people we meet every day of our lives. The dialogue, the events, the characters are are convincing. The acting couldn’t be more realistic.

In fact, viewers talk about the characters as though they were neighbours, not creatures conjured up by a scriptwriter.

The other day, as I travelled to the House of Commons by bus from my London digs, I heard two young secretaries talk about the show throughout the journey.

They were discussing what happened to Ena Sharples, Christine Hardman and the others in the previous night’s programme… for the serial reflects life not only in the North but in back streets in all parts of the country. Personally, I’m tired of the old drawing-room type of drama dealing exclusively with the small set who live in country houses. I’m fed up with plays in which working people are treated as morons.

I suppose this is one of the main reasons why I enjoy Coronation Street so much. It does not assume that because we speak with a Lancashire accent we are necessarily clots.

It doesn’t introduce the common man just as a bit of comic relief. You know the kind of thing so frequently encountered on the stage the housemaid who drops her aitches, and also the dishes. Nor does the show go wrong in the other direction by portraying workers pimps, prostitutes, crooks. Teddy Boys or “Room-at-the Top” types as so many contemporary plays do.

Coronation Street is populated by ordinary, decent people, of the sort who rally round to help whenever a neighbour is in trouble.

These Coronation Street folk are the real people of the back streets. With all their faults and virtues. The good and the bad. The wise and the foolish.

Such as Elsie Tanner. What a warm, lovable woman she is. A real human being.

Some critics say the characters are harsh and bickering. But, at times, aren’t we all? Tony Warren, the brilliant young creator of Coronation Street who lived for many years on the borders of Salford, portrays working people truthfully. I feel more attention will be given to their problems in future as a result of this programme.

One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The folk from our great industrial cities have been ignored for too long. They’ve never had a square deal. But maybe Coronation Street will help them to get one. Most of these rows of two-up-and-two-down houses were built at the time of Queen Victoria’s Coronation in 1837. Some are even older, and the conditions are a disgrace.

In 1961, in the age of space travel, automation and atomic energy, five out of 10 houses in Salford have no bath, no hot water and no inside toilet. Perhaps something will be done now that millions of people are meeting TV counterparts of these houses in their own homes twice a week.

As for the future, I’d like to see more of the Coronation Street people at their jobs. It would provide new scenes and fresh ideas, and help to give the series a new dimension.

I would like to introduce Tony Warren to a bunch of lively engineers, dockers, clothing workers, shop stewards and apprentices from Salford who would give him plenty of interesting themes.

And if their problems at work are treated as realistically and sympathetically as their problems at home, Coronation Street will grow greater still.

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