Tributes paid to Coronation Street’s Deirdre, Anne Kirkbride

The cast of Coronation Street have led tributes to actress Anne Kirkbride, who played one of the soap’s best-loved characters Deirdre Barlow for 42 years. William Roache, who played on-off husband Ken Barlow, said she was “a loving and vibrant person” who would be “greatly missed”. Former Street star Johnny Briggs, who played Deirdre’s one-time lover Mike Baldwin, called her “a lovely girl”.ITV said Kirkbride, 60, died peacefully following a short illness.Julie Goodyear, who played the Street’s former pub landlady Bet Lynch, also paid tribute, calling her “one of the nicest and most professional actors I ever worked with”.”She had a wonderful gift of a completely photographic memory,” the actress recalled. “She could read an entire script just once and be word perfect.”Kate Ford, who played daughter Tracy, tweeted: “Heartbroken at the loss of my friend and beautiful on screen mummy.”She said Kirkbride was “the most crazy, funny 100 per cent human. My life was enriched by her.”Coronation Street cast members were sent home on Tuesday as filming was suspended. “People came into work to start filming at 8am this morning,” executive producer Kieran Roberts told BBC Radio 5 Live. “There was a real sense that people wanted to get on and do it for Annie.”But very quickly it became apparent that people didn’t feel they had the heart to go through with it today.”So we stood production down because we felt it was the right thing to do – for people to go away and think about Annie and pay tribute in their own ways.”Roache, whose character Ken was married to Deirdre twice, said Coronation Street had lost one of its “iconic characters”. “I feel Anne’s loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. You always knew she was there because her laugh was never far away.”She was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama,” he went on.”We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her.”ITV revealed on Monday evening with “great sadness” that Kirkbride’s husband David Beckett had confirmed the actress died peacefully in a Manchester hospital.The broadcaster said the programme’s cast and crew were all “deeply saddened” by the news. In the 1980s, one of the soap’s most famous storylines hinged on whether she would stay with Ken Barlow. She was married four times in the programme, twice to Ken.The popularity of her character was demonstrated when a real-life campaign was launched to “free Deirdre” when a storyline saw the character jailed in 1998.The campaign – the result of her character being duped into a mortgage fraud by fiance Jon Lindsay – was even backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair.”I remember being astonished that the prime minister had time to think about things like that,” said Coronation Street scriptwriter John Stevenson, who first met Kirkbride when she was 10.”She loved it. She couldn’t get over it. She was in fits of laughter to think this was being debated in Parliament,” he told BBC Breakfast.”You forget how much people get involved in the stories,.”Actor Nigel Havers remembers kissing Kirkbride when he played Lewis Archer in the soap.”It was like kissing an old friend,” he told the BBC. “It was great to do Coronation Street with her.”When you’re in a show like Coronation Street, you’re in everyone’s sitting room four times a week. When they suddenly die, it’s like losing a friend, for everybody. “She was a totally lovely person, she really was. The whole thing is really sad.”
Kirkbride started in Coronation Street in 1972 as Deirdre Hunt and became known over the years for her character’s large glasses and husky voice.Deirdre Barlow had been off screen after Kirkbride was give a three-month break by the show’s producers.Coronation Street’s creator Tony Warren said: “Anne was very easy to love. Her talent over the years made a massive contribution to Coronation Street.””There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne’s passing,” said Kieran Roberts earlier.”We know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow.”She will be greatly missed by the Coronation Street team who share happy memories of working with her.”We feel blessed and honoured to have known her. Our thoughts are with David and their family.”Ken Farrington, who played Billy Walker in Coronation Street for more than 20 years, told BBC News her death was “absolutely devastating”.”I’m still a bit shocked,” he said. “She had just tremendous fun and talent.””Anne has been a truly loyal servant to Coronation Street since joining the programme in the early 1970s,” said Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television.”She created a unique and unforgettable character in Deirdre Barlow and she’ll be greatly missed on and off screen.”Our sincerest condolences to Anne’s husband David and her family at this very sad time.”