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Live: 50 Years of Coronation Street

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Coronation Street 50th Anniversary logo

© ITV

11.05: Welcome to live coverage of The Wonderful Wizards of Weatherfield, a Masterclass celebrating 50 years of Coronation Street.

11.08: David Liddiment hosts this session with panellists: Tony Warren, series creator; Gareth McLean, journalist at the Radio Times; Katherine Kelly (Becky McDonald); producer Phil Collinson.

11.15: Asked where Coronation Street came from, Warren explains: You would have to be a 19 year old immigrant without leave to remain to have a drama series commissioned. And that's how it should be, because I was once that immigrant. I was rather a sissified young boy.

The basic model of the houses in Coronation Street come from TW's maternal grandmother's road. His grandmother was a matriarchal figure. He discusses his pondering social status and gender identity sitting under the table at his grandmother's house; and feeling the outsider in a family environment looking in, seeing more and hearing more. "And that's what qualified me to write Coronation Street."

11.15: Warren explains that after an unhappy experience at school, he transferred to a more suitable establishment. He was told he was blessed and talented; the principal of the school "gave me a licence to be myself". After trying out as an actor, a casting director's comments about his height redirected him towards writing.

11.18: He wrote half an episode, "crashed into Granada", and said if they wanted to know the end, he should call. His success - and description in the press as Britain's youngest scriptwriter - resulted in him transferring to promotions, writing continuity links etc.

11.19: He was subsequently offered a £30/week contract for a year, with Granada owning everything he wrote. An incident with a filing cabinet (TW on top, naturally, vowing to not come down unless allowed to write about what he knew) - and previous failed attempts to sell other versions of the scripts - he combined a comic and dramatic version of his concept of a Street-based show.

11.21: "We must use real northern actors otherwise it would appear patronising," Warren told Granada.

11.24: We see a clip of BBC Four's upcoming look at Coronation Street's debut. Warren says the portrayal of the casting process of Violet Carson as Ena Sharples is accurate.

11.26: DL observes the speech on-screen was much faster 50 years ago. 48 pages per script in the early days of the series.

11.27: "We had to mine this very rich seam of talent we had that wasn't being used because they had the unfashionable accent," explains Warren.

11.29: On Corrie then and now: "It's the same mixture of goodies and baddies, it's the same mixture of comedy and tragedy. The pace of life has changed, the pace of the show has changed."

11.32: Tony Warren still has lunch with Phil Collinson, and points out that characters have kettles and coats that are unrealistically expensive for their lives.

11.33: Tony applauds Katherine Kelly's acting during the adoption storyline.

11.37: KK: "One of the most unique things about being part of a soap" is the dialogue with the writers. "The writers and the actors never officially meet." The writers have a meeting every three weeks; the actors are on the shop floor filming. The dynamic is one of receiving scripts, acting and adding in parts of the character - such as Becky McDonald's penchant for cider, with additions feeding back into the writing process.

TW: "Every performance is an audition for the writers."

11.39: Collinson explains that he and the writers spot things in performances that can give clues to a character's development. "We all sit in a big room and talk about the characters and where we want to take them next." A mix of long-term storyline discussions, ideas, pitches, but the most brilliant moment is where someone will pitch a story for a relatively new character because they got the idea from the screen.

11.40: Gareth McLean suggests Corrie is different because where other soaps work characters into predefined issues or plots, Corrie is character-led. "You believe in them as people. People identify with Becky's desire to be a mother… there's people going through that in the audience. There's a real authenticity to it and an honesty that people take to."

11.42: PC was a life-long fan of Corrie. When he was asked to produce the show, he watched old VHS tapes of the older episodes; "the most amazing thing about watching them is that it's absolutely the same show now and you wouldn't want to change a single thing about it."

11.44: "The great thing about Lancs is that there's never been anything wrong with getting on," explains Warren. "So we can follow the bosses home, with sympathy if necessary."

11.46: "More of the same," says PC about the 50th. "We're going to have a terrible night where a tram comes off the viaduct, causing devastation for just about every character."

11.50: Warren - on why women were strong and men less so: "In the very early episodes, because I'd had all that sexual confusion about what I was, I didn't recognise that straight men were any good at all. It took drink and drug recovery to realise they were made of the same stuff as I, just arranged in a different order."

11.51: Warren: "I love reality TV" because "it came along and said something new". "I'm watching reality programmes these days."

11.54: "Sometimes the tendency is to tell a story too quickly," cautions Warren. He adds that Collinson is "on the side of stretching, which I am". "I hope we'll tell more stories but over more time," adds PC.

11.55: "Nobody would have it," says Warren on why it took so long to have a gay character on screen. Warren explains that he had trouble with Granada at the outset: "We were illegal and faceless."

11.58: Warren on EastEnders: "Also from an original idea from Tony Warren." "It was a row of houses, around a square... anybody can bend a straight line. I had to keep my mouth shut but I can say it now... it's very easy when you've been shown how."

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