One of the most famous faces of Britain’s Coronation Street has died at the age of 60. Anne Kirkbride will forever be remembered as Deirdre Barlow in one of the world’s most famous soap operas.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Died After a Battle With a Short Illness
The Manchester Evening News reports that Kirkbride was on leave from the show at the time of her death. She had been battling a short illness, according to the paper. On the day of her death, the Daily Mirror reported that it was unlikely that she would ever return to show. The spokesperson for the show told the paper, “Anne is currently on extended leave, but we are not aware of any desire to step down permanently from her role as Deirdre Barlow.”
The show’s Executive Producer Kieran Roberts said in a statement:
There are no words to describe the sense of grief we feel at Anne’s passing. 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.
2. Kirkbride Had Been a Heavy Smoker
She was a chain smoker throughout her life, which contributed to her famous husky voice. Her other trademark were her large rimmed glasses. She was a native of Oldham, close to Manchester, where Corrie is set. In 1993, the actress was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She beat that disease. Kirkbride received her diagnosis on the day of her mother’s funeral, reports the Daily Mail. Her character was also a heavy smoker, producer Kieran Roberts said in 2007 about the smoking on the show, “While we have a duty not to glamorize the habit, it would be realistic to see nobody smoking – but only a few regulars do.”
3. She Was on Coronation Street for 44 Years
Kirkbride joined Corrie in 1974 when she was 18 and remained with the show for 40 years. Her most famous storyline involved her affair the show’s anti-hero, Mike Baldwin, during the 1980s. Ultimately, her character decided to stay with her husband, Ken Barlow. The Barlow’s relationship was one of the most iconic in the history of the show. You can watch one of the most famous scenes from that period above.
William Roache, who played her on-screen husband, Ken Barlow, said in a statement about Kirkbride:
I feel Anne’s loss so personally having worked closely with her for over 40 years. She was such a loving and vibrant person. 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. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her. Coronation Street has lost one of its iconic characters and Anne will be greatly missed.
Her other famous stories involved her marriage to younger man, Moroccan waiter Rashid, in 1995, and her spell in prison in 1998 for fraud. Kirkbride’s storyline became a national sensation with even then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair chiming in and demanding for her character’s release. You can watch a news report from the time above.
4. Kirkbride Had Battled Depression
She battled depression throughout her life, something which was documented in her appearance on This Is Your Life in 1998. In a documentary on her life, Deirdre & Me, which was screened in 2012, she admitted that during her appearance on This Is Your Life, she was high on valium. In the doc, Kirkbride says the depression came after she beat cancer. She had been on a steady dose of anti-depressants since then, in the documentary she says, “I take one table every morning and it’s made such a difference. It was like I suddenly became the me I’d always wanted to be, the me that I’d never quite been able to get to – out of hear, whatever, I don’t know.”
5. She Got Together With Her Husband After Stealing Her From Another Woman
She was married, since 1992, to fellow actor David Beckett. The couple met on the set of Coronation Street, reports the Daily Mirror. It was Beckett who confirmed her death on January 19. She is also survived by her brother, John. She admitted in November 2012 that, like a soap opera, she stole Beckett away from his then partner when the couple got together in the early 90s. Prior to meeting him, in 1990, she had given up on men after a string of failed relationships.